Thursday, Dec 07
NASCAR wraps up “10 Days of Thunder" at the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway. Over the 10 days, fans saw action from the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Xfinity, and Camping World Truck teams in the Sprint All-Star Race, North Carolina Education Lottery 200, Hisense 4K TV 300, and the Coca-Cola 600. Here are five takeaways from the Charlotte Motor Speedway weekend:
·      Day vs. Night: Over the ten days, fans saw all but one-day race. The races that were run during the daytime hours seemed to be the most entertaining of the whole ten days. The Coca-Cola 600, which was run during the night, saw a dominating performance. Although Charlotte Motor Speedway prides itself in having night races, maybe it is time for Charlotte Motor Speedway and TV to consider making one of the races at Charlotte during the day. The aero package is great, but I believe it is lacking the factor of the heat of the day.
·      Aero Package: During the Sprint All-Star Race, the 2017 rules package was tested. Honestly, it produced some of the greatest racing so far this season. Teams have officially gained back some of the downforce that NASCAR took away during the 2016 season. NASCAR announced test changes to the 2017 rules package in an effort to take more downforce off, but it will be tested at Michigan and Kentucky before the final rules package is determined. 
·      Monkey off the Back: The monkey that was on Martin Truex Jr. has came off. He had a dominating performance in the Coca-Cola 600. Usually if Truex is dominate throughout a race, something happens that causes him to ultimately lose the race. Kenseth and Truex have released the monkey off their back. Who will be the next driver to have the monkey taken off their back?
·      Kyle Busch: Busch was determined to win this weekend at Charlotte since it is one of two tracks he has not won on. However, he will have to wait until October to take Charlotte off this list. Busch was not a factor during the weekend at Charlotte. Will he win at Pocono to bring this record down to only Charlotte? We will have to wait and see next weekend.
·      Weather: Weather plagued the 10 Days of Thunder in the Charlotte area. All-Star Weekend saw a busy racing schedule on Sunday. For the Coca-Cola 600, Tropical Storm Bonnie was planning its attack on the Charlotte area. Although it rained on the morning of the 600, it turned out to be a beautiful and windy day for racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Hopefully Mother Nature will be kind to Charlotte when the series returns for the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
What are your takeaways from the 10 Days of Thunder at the Charlotte Motor Speedway

The NASCAR Sprint Cup, Xfinity, and Camping World Truck Series completed a triple-header weekend at the Monster Mile, Dover International Speedway for the AAA 400 Drive for Autism, Ollie’s Bargain Outlet 200, and the Jacob Companies 200. Here are five takeways from this past weekend in the first state:

  • TV: Fox Sports 1 was home to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, while the NASCAR Xfinity Series was on FOX. The Verizon IndyCar Series was on for the same time slot at the NASCAR Xfinity race. Was the plan to try to compete with IndyCar and ABC? What was wrong with the 12 pm Eastern start times for the Xfinity Dash4Cash Heats? These are the questions to be answered. The XFINITY Series, however, did beat out the .8 TV ratings with IndyCar with a 1.1.
  • Matt Kenseth: Lady Luck has finally turned her ear of bad luck away from Kenseth, who scored his first win of the season. This win makes for all four Joe Gibbs Racing teams to be in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. It will be interesting to see how many more wins Kenseth and Joe Gibbs Racing can receive.
  • Dover: In general, this was probably one of the best races at Dover in awhile. When I am watching a race, I want to be surprised by who won. I want to be able to not know who will win. As always, you should not change the channel because you should expect the unexpected when it comes to live sports.
  • Young Guns: It was amazing to watch Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, and Kyle Larson all have the chance to battle for the lead. It was refreshing to see new names at the top of the leaderboard on Sunday. If they are the future of NASCAR, then the future is bright for NASCAR.
  • Restarts: The racing events at Dover in the NASCAR Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series had its fair share of restart issues. In Friday’s Camping World Truck Series race, Cole Custer was penalized for jumping the restart. On Saturday’s Xfinity Series race, Elliott Sadler was penalized because he was being “pushed” on the restart and beat the leader to the line. Restarts seem so 2015, but they still continue to be an issue in 2016 among rookies and veterans. Hopefully, drivers will be able to control the starts/restarts better.

What are your takeaways from this past weekend’s events at Dover International Speedway?

On Monday, Brian France, NASCAR Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, joined Dave Moody on SiriusXM Speedway, in an important visit to discuss topics facing NASCAR today. France covered a wide range of topics without holding back his position. 
The first topic of conversation was lugnuts. Earlier in the day, NASCAR announced a new rule where teams must have five lugnuts on each of their tires post-race. If they fail to do so, they will be penalized. “There’s all types of things that teams are obligated to get right with their individual cars. Our job is that whenever there is a safety improvement to make or policy to enhance things, we will just do that. It is as simple as that. Our whole system is based on safe and competitive racing. If we can make an adjustment to make things safer, we will,” stated Brian France, “In terms of loose or tight, we obviously have a lot of technology now to where we can monitor that. We obviously have a deterrent system of putting penalties in place. We will get the policy and rule right where safety is always at the forefront.”
When asked about the Tony Stewart fine, France stated, “Tony’s very aware of how we approach the criticism of the sport and the product of the racing itself. We are the most liberal of any sport in terms of allowing drivers to express their views. We want drivers to express themselves. We are thick-skinned.”  
France went on to talk about heat races in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. “I think it is a work in progress. I liked some of the things I saw. I think we are going to continue to look at it. This is our effort to listen to fans, drivers, and teams to see if we can make all the formats better.”
The final topic included a stance on North Carolina’s H.B 2, France stated, “We have been very clear about this from day one when the law was announced. We did not think it was appropriate. We did not care for it. We did the same position in Indiana, although that was a religious based law. Both of these laws fall under what we think are discrimination. With that said, our job is to take a lot out of the communities, taking and giving back. I have spoke to the governor myself. We have worked backchannel in expressing our views. We are very clear about that. We hope that they will change that law. There is no ambiguity where NASCAR stands. When it comes to discrimination, you can expect us to take a firm stand on that.”

Atlanta Motor Speedway… What comes to mind when you hear those words? A race plagued by weather? Boring? SMI’s next demise? For me, I hear the words abrasive and tire management. That is what happened this weekend for the Folds of Honor Quick Trip 500. It was an exciting race that went 209 laps caution-free at the start. Drivers were on wheel, turning right to go left.

Ed Clark and his team at the Atlanta Motor Speedway did a better job this year marketing the event compared to last season. Clark and his team had more time to market the event to the Atlanta fan base, which struggles to support their own sports teams. The weather was something that plagued last year’s Folds of Honor QuickTrip 500. The “Chamber of Commerce Weather” for the race weekend was a factor for many of the fans in attendance for the weekend. Attendance for the event was better than the year’s prior. Fans loved the new ticket packages being offered by Atlanta.

I was able to attend the double-header on Saturday between the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series and Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race. All three races were filled with great unknown. The first ever use of the new caution clock for the Camping World Truck Series, and the new low-downforce package for the Sprint Cup Series were used for the first time at Atlanta.

On Saturday, fans were treated to the second edition of the NASCAR Double-Header at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The NASCAR Xfinity Series race was considered “boring” to the fans around me in the stands. Kyle Busch won for the first time at the Atlanta Motor Speedway ending the win streak of Kevin Harvick at the 1.54-mile track. Fans were treated to the battle of Kyle Larson trying to close the gap on Kyle Busch in the final laps. After the Heads Up Georgia 250, fans had roughly thirty minutes to reprogram their scanners, reapply sunscreen, and refuel on beverages and food.

The Great Clips 200 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway was a rather eventful race. Trucks that were dominate throughout the whole race crashed allowing John Hunter Nemechek to capture his second career Camping World Truck Series win. The caution clock expired twice during the race. Fans enjoyed the idea of the caution clock because without it Matt Crafton would have continued his dominance at Atlanta. Fans cheered when the caution clock expired for the first time on lap 28. At the beginning of the race, the time remaining on the caution clock was not available on Sprint Vision, but after about 10 minutes, fans could see how much time was remaining. The second caution clock provided for an “amazing restart”, according to some fans.  Matt Crafton and Daniel Suarez were turned coming off of the second turn by Suarez’s teammate, Christopher Bell, red-flagging the race. Fans cheered when Crafton and Suarez were able to walk away, and booed when they saw that Christopher Bell caused the accident. When it looked like Bell was on his way to victory, he had a tire go down and he hit the wall coming off the fourth turn. The impact to the wall was loud enough where fans with scanners could hear the impact. Fans were excited when John-Hunter Nemechek held off Cameron Hayley to win.

Atlanta Motor Speedway does a good job of getting fans to renew their tickets for the next season. When a fan renewed their tickets for 2017, fans were able to receive a QuickTrip Gift Card, Spy Sunglasses, and a Brookstone tool. Fans who renewed are placed in the AMS Insider’s Club. This club allows for fans to have preferred parking in the front three rows of the unreserved lots of the speedway, a coupon book up to $40, and over 750 exclusive prizes. I was an AMS Insiders Club Member for this weekend. I was able to go into race control and the Performance Racing Network Booth as one of the prizes. Fans were able to see how a radio broadcast works from the booth perspective, and how race control is run during the event.

The Folds of Honor QuickTrip 500 showed a great step in the right direction for the low-downforce package. Tire management was key in the race and drivers were forced to manage their tires with perfection. After about 35 laps, drivers were planning their stops to get four fresh Goodyear tires. Drivers were able to pass throughout the field, no matter where they were on the speedway. The leader was not able to run away with the lead in clean air. Drivers were able to battle for the lead, unlike other 1.5-mile events. NASCAR Overtime also played a role into the race. However, I had to explain to some fans about the new overtime line. The anti-climatic finish allowed for Jimmie Johnson to win. Fans were amazed that the drivers with dirt backgrounds struggled with the new package. Cars that were fast in practices throughout the weekend, struggled during the race.


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