INDIANAPOLIS— As the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series finished the Fifth Annual Eldora Dirt Derby from Eldora Speedway on Wednesday, there were many claims that the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series should look at special events like the Trucks have at Eldora.
For Denny Hamlin, the question pops out of whether or not the infrastructure is there to compete at tracks like Eldora. When it comes to infrastructure, Hamlin is talking about the garage area, amenities at the track for sponsors, and the amount of equipment the traveling circus brings to each event.
Hamlin would love to see the Cup series return to places like North Wilkesboro and Rockingham, but sees it as not feasible for today’s NASCAR.
“I think the truck series carries one certain amount of circus to it. With the Cup series, it is times 10. It would be tough as much as the Cup series has grown to bring that traveling circus to short track somewhere to be able to put on a show that makes sense, organized,” said Hamlin. “Does Eldora have timing and scoring loops or not? Probably not. When it gets down the nitty gritty of the Cup races and we are arguing who is leading at the line at this point or that point. How does that work with a track that doesn’t have scoring loops. I know Wilkesboro doesnt’t. That’s what I mean by infrastructure.”
When it comes to amenities, Hamlin looks at what each track can bring to a sponsor and ultimately the fans.
“Its tough to get these sponsors to come to these race tracks unless the amenities are about here (Indianapolis) or Daytona. You wanna have really nice everything. It seems like some of those old tracks got phased out because they were antiquated,” said Hamlin.
Hamlin commends tracks like Phoenix Raceway and Richmond Raceway for upgrading their facilities to be the best for fans and sponsors.
“I like to see the new updates to tracks like Richmond. That’s state of the art. It’s going to bring a lot of new eyes and hopefully sponsors to those type race tracks,” said Hamlin.
Two Day Shows
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series could have easily had a two day show at Daytona International Speedway.
All the series did on Thursday afternoon was have two practice sessions. On Thursday, over half the teams did not even make a lap in the second and final practice session for each series, both sessions ran for 55 minutes.
The final Cup practice saw 19 drivers make a lap while the Xfinity Series had only 16 drivers made a lap.
On Friday, teams arrived at the track for qualifying that began at 2:00 p.m. EDT. NASCAR could have easily had one practice session of 90 minutes on Friday morning to save teams some money during the race weekend. Teams could have spent an extra day at home and save costs on hotels and travel.
The sanctioning body and teams should look at ways to reduce the race weekend down to two days in an effort to save on costs.
The overtime line came into effect in the Coke Zero 400 and the Coca-Cola Firecracker 250. However, uproar from the line came during the Coca-Cola Firecracker 250.
When the green flag flew in NASCAR Overtime, the field had to reach the overtime line located towards the middle of the backstretch. Before the field reached the line in the Xfinity race, they were already wrecking. By the time the caution lights were illuminated, the field had already crossed the overtime line. That caused an uproar among fans and media about the delay.
After an explanation from NASCAR, the delay was ultimately deemed a human error. The delay was approximately two seconds. The delay was caused from recognizing the crash, calling the caution, and illuminating the caution lights.
Should the overtime line be updated? NASCAR is currently looking at overtime procedures to implement in the 2018 season.
Little Teams That Did
Racing at Daytona and Talladega are always good for the underfunded teams in NASCAR. The draft and restrictor plate racing is the cause of performance for these teams.
In the Xfinity Series, little teams that did include but are not limited to include Dakoda Armstrong (P3), Jeb Burton (P4), David Starr (P5), Ross Chastain (P6), and Joey Gase (P10).
In the Cup Series, little teams that did include, but are not limited to include Michael McDowell (P4), Brendan Gaughan (P7), Corey LaJoie (P11), and Matt DiBenedetto (P13).
For these teams, a good finish at the track does wonders to their budgets and their future.
Joey Logano And Locking Bumpers
In the NASCAR Xfinity Series, teams are forced by NASCAR to not be able to lock bumpers at restrictor plate events. If two teams lock bumpers, both teams will be given the black flag and penalized with a pass-through penalty.
According to Wayne Auton, Logano is a master at riding that fine line of bumping and locking the bumpers. That difference is so small and subtle that NASCAR has a hard time determining if it is a locking of bumpers.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.— When it comes to racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, being consistent on the track is an important factor.
For Michael McDowell and Leavine Family Racing, the Coke Zero 400 from Daytona International Speedway. A fourth place finish extended their streak of consecutive top-25 finishes to seven. McDowell and the team also earned their best finishing individually and as a team on Saturday.
McDowell qualified in the 23rd position, but reported no issues to the car at the beginning of the race. When the first caution flag flew, Todd Parrott, crew chief, brought McDowell down for tires only and then would bring him down during the competition caution for fuel only just six laps later.
With the strategy from the pit box, McDowell and Leaving Family Racing scored their first stage points, where he finished sixth.
The second stage began with McDowell being forced down pit road to avoid a wreck entering into the tri-oval. For the team, they were able to get a caution a couple laps later to assess the damage they may have received from entering pit road at a high rate of speed.
After fixing damage, McDowell worked his way to the top-10, but avoided a wreck. However, McDowell was unable to score stage points in the second stage.
When the third stage began, McDowell was able to avoid numerous wrecks. With 50 laps remaining, Parrott called McDowell pit road to fix a tire rub and to gather enough fuel to the finish. When the final caution flew and sent the race into NASCAR Overtime, McDowell restarted fifth. He worked his way up to second, but fell back to the fourth position.
"It was a great run for us. Really building off the Daytona 500 where we were in the top-five and ran out of gas. We really had a fast car. The boys did a great job. It wasn't without trouble. We were around a lot of the carnage out there. There was just a lot of hard racing out there tonight,” said McDowell after the race. “Three-wide, bumper-to-bumper all night long. It is great to have a top-five. Really excited about that. Coming to the white, I thought I might have had a shot at it. But Ricky and I were just too far out and those cars behind us had a big run. Very thankful for the opportunity. We have great people. They are relentless. They work hard. Everybody back at the shop. ECR power under the hood, that helps."
With his fourth place finish, McDowell moved up in the points standings to 25th.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.— With the win in the Coke Zero 400 from Daytona International Speedway by Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Ford Performance has won six of the last races at either Daytona or Talladega.
For many teams, beating any of the Ford drivers at a restrictor plate event is crucial. Brad Keselowski, Stenhouse Jr., and Clint Bowyer discussed the power of Ford Performance this weekend at Daytona. That success is also attributed to the power of Roush-Yates Engines.
“I think that every year we see seem to see different cars and teams and manufacturers have strengths and weaknesses. I think we’re starting to see at this point and time in the season where the Fords have distinct strengths and weaknesses. Probably more that we’ve seen in the last four or five years with the manufacturers. The Fords right now are the best cars on the speedway tracks for a number of reasons. One of which is the power in their engines is very strong a the higher rpms. And with the current gear rules and current engine packages at Daytona and Talladega, the engines sustain higher rpm for the duration of running in the pack,” said Keselowski. “And I think with the bodies, the Ford body on the Gen 6 car lends itself to well to the restrictor plate tracks with having high-efficiencies with respect to its drag characteristics. I would agree that the Fords have some strengths right now on the restrictor plate tracks and probably behind on the other race tracks. Like anything, if your golf game is good on the greens and not good on the driving range you have to make the putts. So the Fords are doing a good job at that. I would like to see it be a little more balanced out with our strengths and weaknesses but with the current landscape that’s where it is right now.”
“Let me just say this: Those Roush Yates engines are phenomenal. Doug does such a great job, puts a lot of emphasis on this plate stuff, takes a lot of pride in it, and he should. Those things run amazing. They take a beating out there. At the end of that thing, I was overheating, blowing water, doing all the things that you know are going to happen when we get like that. I mean, I was pushing him all the way down the back straightaway all the way through 3 and 4. It was just kind of one of those deals,” said Bowyer in his post-race media availability. “We were up against the wall, and I was shoving, and the water temperature was pegged and blowing water. But it's just -- those things are phenomenal. It's amazing any of these engines make it through this stuff. I'm just blown away if you really think about it and look at the mechanics of what those on in them things each and every week, you're looking back at last week, all the rpms and everything that turns, I'm just proud to have that Roush Yates power under our hood.”
“I think it's really strong. I think obviously qualifying showed that our Ford Performance cars are really strong, and I think I kind of echo what Brad said maybe on the broadcast before the race is the high RPM tracks we feel really, really good at. I feel like that's why we run the top of the racetracks, a lot of the racetracks we go to, and the engine package, the bodies, everything is just working really well for the speedways,” said Stenhouse Jr. “And then we work well together. We all practice together, and it was nice to be able to use your Ford teammates throughout the race to keep us up front, and even -- all the Fords, David Ragan's car was fast there. He's a good speedway racer. So we feel like we've still got work to do on other racetracks, but it's nice to capitalize on -- when you have the opportunity to, and that's what it's all about. The fastest cars don't always win at speedways, but it's nice that we've been able to capitalize on that for Ford, for Roush Yates, and particularly for Roush Fenway.
With the dominance of Ford Performance at restrictor-plate tracks, can anybody stop them when Cup heads to Talladega in October? That is a question that will be interesting to watch.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.— Bringing a new tire to compete at Daytona International Speedway proved it’s challenges for drivers.
Goodyear brought a new tire compound that was supposed to provide more grip for drivers. The tire provided grip for stability, not speed. However, there were numerous tire issues during the weekend.
On Thursday during the opening minutes of NASCAR Xfinity Series practice, Spencer Gallagher had a tire go down in the middle of the draft, sending himself and Cole Custer to a backup up car.
In the Coke Zero 400, five drivers reported tire issues. The most vocal was Kevin Harvick, who stated over his radio that the tires were “crap.”
Tire issues were the main cause of some of the cautions on the track. However, the problem was not because of issues with the tire, but because of fender rubs.
Because of the nature of drafting, the fenders were pushed in from the beating and banging in the draft. Despite claims from driver’s about the tires, Goodyear saw no issues with the tire they brought to the track.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.— David Ragan came so close to scoring the victory at Daytona International Speedway in the Coke Zero 400, but was shuffled back to the sixth position on a late-race restart in NASCAR OT.
Ragan was leading the race when the race restarted on lap 162, but Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. had the dominate car and shuffled Ragan out of the lead.
His sixth place finish at Daytona was his best finish since a fifth place finish at the Martinsville Spring race in 2015.
Despite a sixth place finish, Ragan admits he didn’t have the speed when he was out front:
“Our car didn’t have speed up front. Our car drove really good which allowed me to stay in the throttle and really push cars. We had a little damage to our right front fender too. It just didn’t go as it needed to,” said Ragan.
Despite being on the front row on the final restart, Ragan estimated the run by Ty Dillon, but underestimated the charge from Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Michael McDowell.
“I really thought that if we could clear the 13 (Ty DIllon), we would be in good shape. I didn’t know the 17 and 95 had that good of a run. My car wasn’t good on the bottom either. It liked to run that middle and top. I just didn’t want to let anybody get on my outside.
Despite his recent records at Daytona, Ragan was pleased about his run:
“If it was Thursday and you said ‘Hey, we will give you a sixth place finish,’ I would probably would have took that coming to Daytona. My record hasn’t been that great the last several years. I have been caught up in wrecks. I haven’t been able to finish these races clean. To be that close its bittersweet, but I can handle it,” said Ragan.
Ragan understands defeat. In 2011, Ragan lost the Daytona 500 on a late race restart to Trevor Bayne. Ragan will think about it but believe losing this race is nothing.
“I lost the Daytona 500 down here. Losing the Coke Zero 400 that ain’t nothing. I will think about it tonight and tomorrow a little bit. I can think about it and smile.”
Ragan currently sits 28th in the Cup series points standings, 438 points behind Kyle Laron, but 41 points ahead of Aric Almirola, who sits 30th in points.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.— For the second time in a row at a restrictor-plate event, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was victorious in the Coke Zero 400 from Daytona International Speedway.
“Wow, these guys. I kept my Talladega car and told them to build a new one. They build the Fifth Third Ford that was really fast. We won the Firecracker 400! This is awesome! I have been coming here since 2008. I actually came in 2006 one time with Bobby Hamilton Jr. and it is cool to put it in victory lane and get our second win this year. I love it! Thank you to the fans for coming out here. Everyone at NASCAR. What a great weekend. America. 1776. We are the champs!,” said Stenhouse Jr. post race.
It only took Stenhouse Jr. seven races to win his second career Cup race. This was Stenhouse Jr.’s seventh top-10 of 2017. This marks the 137th victory for Jack Roush at the Cup level. This marks Ford’s eighth Cup win of 2017.
Clint Bowyer finished second after contending for most of the race at the front of the field
“Wow, what a night. A fun race. Our Mobil 1 Ford was strong. I got shuffled out on that second stage and that bummed me out. I wanted those stage points. It wasn’t that big a deal because I knew that we had a hot rod to get back up front. Man, it’s just every man for himself. You’re beating and banging Both sides are ground off my car. Good night. This bridesmaid deal sucks. I want to win. We’re in this business to win. That’s what Tony and Gene pay me to do. I’m proud of everyone on the Mobil 1 Ford team,” said Bowyer.
Paul Menard was “Mr. Where did he come from?” tonight at Daytona. Menard was able to finish third at Daytona.
"We really didn't want to hang out in the back, but we got involved in a wreck really early and once you get back there, it is really hard to get back up to the front. I was just waiting for something to happen at the end of those stages. We weren't in the top-15 so I just bailed out of the pack for the stages. I had a really good handling car from yesterday in the draft practice,” said Menard. “All weekend long it handled really well. I knew it would race really well tonight. Bowyer gave me a hell of a push that last lap. I wasn't very good at leading, being the first guy in a line. With Ricky (Stenhouse) breaking the air, I couldn't run off to the start/finish line. We just have to keep doing this. If you run in the top--five you put yourself in position for wins. We definitely had a shot tonight, I just couldn't get a run off of turn four even with Bowyer pushing me. I just didn't have the run I had the lap before. I thought we had a chance to win this one, just couldn't get the run."
There were 33 lead changes among 16 different drivers. The caution flag flew for a record 14 times for 51 laps, while the red flag was displayed once. The average speed was 123.986 mph. This became the longest Coke Zero 400 at three hours, 17 minutes, and 12 seconds. The margin of victory was 0.213 seconds.
Kyle Larson leads Martin Truex, Jr. by 18 points in the standings.
Next up for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is a trip to Kentucky Speedway for the Quaker State 400. The race will be broadcasted on NBCSN and Performance Racing Network beginning at 7:30 p.m. EDT on July 8th.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.— With three red flags and nine caution flags during the Coca-Cola Firecracker 250, finding that mojo was difficult to come by.
Once the race completed the second stage, drivers ratcheted up the intensity and made moves that were not seen during the first two stages. Dakoda Armstrong and Elliott Sadler discussed the flow of the race:
“A little bit. The race was pretty weird. With all the rain, everyone was kinda calm, for the most part. There really wasn't a big wreck until the end. Everybody was willing to ride more in the first two stages. I think the rain played a part in that. It was kinda restarting the race from the beginning every time. I feel like that was the best I’ve seen the field do as far as being aggressive and moving and not just tearing up stuff. It was kinda weird the way it played out, it probably helped everyone’s nerves. For me, we were ready to get it over with. We knew this could hurt us or help us. Luckily, we were on the good side of it,” said Armstrong.
“It just seemed short to me because you start-stop-start-stop. I think everybody was kinda calm until we knew that we got to lap 60, the next weather rain would end it because we knew we had to get everything ready for Cup. Cars started getting more aggressive. I saw bump drafting a lot more, more side drafting, more three-wide. The first half of the race was calm. Everybody knew once we got to lap 60, things had to change. You kinda saw that,” said Sadler.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.— For the second week in a row, William Byron was able to score the victory in the rain-marred Coca-Cola Firecracker 250 from Daytona International Speedway.
Byron was sent to the back of the field at the beginning of the race and then in the middle of the race due to issues with the splitter, but was able to work his way to the front to win at Daytona.
"Man it's awesome. These Daytona fans are really cool. I came here for a Daytona 500 when I was a kid ... this is so cool to win at Daytona. I can't even imagine it. These guys brought a great JRM car and hopefully Dale can get it done (tonight). This is is really cool for our team and just really proud of everybody," Byron stated to NBCSN.
This is Byron’s first victory at Daytona International Speedway. He was also the highest finishing rookie in the event.
After running up front and narrowly missing a couple wrecks, Elliott Sadler finished second. Sadler was also able to score a stage point by winning the second stage.
“The Chevrolet was fast all day. We won a stage. We finished second, ah. A 1-2 finish for JRM is a really good day for us,” Sadler stated to NBCSN after the race.
Being in the right place at the right time payed dividends as Dakota Armstrong finished third.
“We had some damage. A good day for us surviving. Two good weeks in a row for us. Good momentum for us going into the points. Everyone’s working hard, it was awesome. Good day for our whole team,” Armstrong stated to NBCSN.
Jeb Burton, David Starr, Brennan Poole, Joey Logano, Joey Gase, Brendan Gaughan, and BJ McLeod rounded out the top-five.
The Coca-Cola Firecracker 250 was delayed twice by rain and then once for cleanup on the track. The caution flew nine times for 35 laps. There were 18 lead changes amongst 10 different divers. The time of race was two hours, 13 minutes, and 56 seconds. The average speed was 116.476 mph. Blake Koch and Sadler won the first two stages.
Sadler extends his points lead to 59 points over Byron.
Next up for the NASCAR Xfinity Series is a trip to Kentucky Speedway for a Friday night spectacular, the Alsco 300. The race will air on NBCSN and Performance Racing Network at 8:00 p.m. EDT.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.— With just 11 laps complete, the rains began to fall at Daytona International Speedway during the Coca-Cola Firecracker 250 for the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
NASCAR tried their best efforts to dry the track, but the rain was no match. With 11 laps complete, Blake Koch is the current race leader. Ben Kennedy is second, Brennan Poole is third, Matt Tifft is fourth, and Daniel Hemric rounds out the top-five.
The Coca-Cola Firecracker 250 will be run on Saturday at 12:00 p.m EDT on CNBC.