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A new date for 2012 Daytona 500

  Brian Vickers: first race back, after some nine months on the sidelines (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   The new NASCAR season is barely underway, and Joie Chitwood, new boss of Daytona International Speedway, is already cranking up for the 2012 Daytona 500 – Sunday announcing the sport's kick-off event will be a week later than usual, Sunday Feb. 26. 
   Chitwood and NASCAR's Steve O'Donnell made the announcement, pointing to the National Football League's proposed season expansion to 18 games, which could move the planned Feb. 5, 2012, Super Bowl. The NFL could also be eventually planning an extra round of playoff games, pushing that sport into NASCAR's own window.

   However, the main reason for the Daytona move appears to be to accommodate Fox TV, by eliminating the current off-weekend in mid-March – the weekend where the Atlanta 500 has long been scheduled….until NASCAR moved that Sprint Cup date to Kentucky Speedway this season.
   In something of a twist, the National Basketball Association will play its All-Star game Feb. 26, 2012, in nearby Orlando. That event will be televised by Turner TNT.

 Fox TV reports last Sunday's Daytona qualifying was up significantly from 2010, with a 2.0 rating, meaning 3.3 million viewers.

  The Daytona midway, just outside the fourth turn tunnel, is more impressive than ever this season, with even more lavish displays.
  Indeed, there is a different, distinctly more upbeat than the last few years….for whatever reason. Why, Joie? "Hey, I'm a promoter," Chitwood says with a laugh.
  One of the prime promotions this SpeedWeeks is the Transformer movie tie-in, the latest iteration of the robot genre first seen in a 1984 TV series, part of a toy-inspired (Hasbro/Takara) marketing link.
   The twist – a NASCAR-Chevrolet tie-in.
   And the NASCAR-inspired Chevy-Transformers have been on display here on the midway. The three are wow-ed up versions of the Juan Pablo Montoya, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Sprint Cup stocks. In the movie they're 'the wreckers,' some kind of commando unit.


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