Thursday, Dec 07

In a race that was not good for many chase drivers, Elliott Sadler prevailed to win the VisitMyrtleBeach.Com 300 from Kentucky Speedway, his third win in 2016. Sadler will advance to the Round of Eight in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Chase.


“We’ve fought through a lot tonight. I’m a bit emotional right now. Ive been in the hospital the past week with mom, watching her fight through a lot of pain and suffering. She leads so much by example. These guys [the team] are my hero. We had a 10th to 15th place car, at best. We had to really take our time and work on it,” said Sadler in a post-race victory lane interview.


Daniel Suarez was the second place finisher in tonight’s race. “We missed a little bit in the middle of the race. We came back there at the end. A little bit tight. I feel like we were the fastest car out there tonight.”


The first half of the race began with Erik Jones setting sail as the rest of the field battled for position.  When the leaders hit pit road during the competition caution, that flew on lap 25, Ty Dillon won the race off pit road. When the race was restarted, they only went one lap before a spin by Justin Marks. As the race went green, Dillon, Suarez, and Jones continued to stay within striking range of each other, but E. Jones was able to regain the lead and set sail on the field. The third caution flew for Matt Waltz, whose car caught fire on pit road. The field could not go two laps before an extensive caution period to clean up the oil dropped by Waltz on the racing surface. When the race returned to green, the field went four wide at the front with Ty Dillon taking the lead. However, the caution came out two laps later due to a blown motor by Timmy Hill. The field was under caution as the race reached halfway after another spin by Marks that involved Chaser Brandon Jones. Dillion, Darrell Wallace Jr., E. Jones, Suarez, and Brennan Poole were the top-five drivers at the halfway point.


The second half of the race began under caution with Dillon as the leader. However, when the green flag waved, E. Jones regained the lead, but Darrell Wallace Jr. took the lead shortly after. The caution flew for another chaser, Ryan Siege. At this point of the race, E. Jones continued to race on the left side tires he initially started on. The caution flag flew again a couple laps after the restart for another spin by Marks. The race went green two laps before Suarez spun Sam Hornish Jr. to collect chase driver, Justin Allgaier. On the restart, Matt Tifft was slapped with a restart violation. After a series of cautions, Brendan Gaughan led the field on a long green-flag run. After a 42 lap green flag run, the caution flag returned for Derrick Cope. A new track record was recorded as Josh Berry went into the wall after two laps of green flag racing. After barely one green flag lap, the caution flew again as E. Jones and Dillon made contact and hit the wall. T. Dillion and his team were unable to return to the track by NASCAR for working on the car under red conditions. The red flag was displayed for five minutes and 34 seconds. T. Dillion was not able to return to the track after jacking the car up under a red flag. The race resumed with four laps to go. Sadler took the lead from Blaney and set sail to the victory holding off a charge by Suarez.


Tonight’s 300 set a new track record of 12 caution flags, breaking the previous record of 10 cautions in a race set in 2010.  64 laps were run under caution. The average speed of the race was 106.751 mph. The time of race was 2 hours, 48 minutes, 37 seconds. The margin of victory was 0.246 seconds. There were 16 different lead changes among eight different drivers. E. Jones, who finished 28th, led the most laps at 100.


Sadler has advanced to the second round of the chase. Suarez holds the second position eight points behind Sadler, Brendan Gaughan is third 14 points behind, Ryan Reed is fourth 16 points behind, and Wallace Jr. rounds out the top-five in points 16 behind Sadler.


Next on the schedule for the Xfinity Series will be the Drive Sober 200 from Dover International Speedway on October 1st. Motor Racing Network and NBCSN will have all the coverage from Dover beginning at 3:00PM EST.

Erik Jones outlasts his teammate to score the pole in the 300 from Kentucky Speedway.  Jones had a speed of 187.207 mph. This is his eighth pole of the season. Joe Gibbs racing has swept the front row for all 1.5-mile speedways this season.


The first round began with a track that had been sitting under the Kentucky sun all day. When the green flag for the session flew, not many drivers were not in any hurry to get on track. Turns three and four were washed down after last night’s ARCA race. There were no major incidents in the first round. Suarez was the fastest in the opening round at a speed of 186.580 mph, E. Jones was second fastest at 185.103 mph, Darrell Wallace Jr. was third fastest at 183.107 mph, Ty Dillon was fourth fastest at 182.630 mph, and JJ Yeley rounded out the top-five at a speed of 182.494 mph. All 12 drivers of the chase advanced to the second round. Timmy Hill will be the lone driver who does not qualify.



Unlike the first round, the second round of qualifying began with a plethora of cars going onto the track. The second round went without incident. E. Jones was at the top of the board with a speed of 186.761 mph, Suarez was second with a speed of 186.625 mph, Ryan  Blaney was third with a speed of 185.707 mph, Hornish Jr. was fourth with a speed of 185.065 mph, and T. Dillon rounded out the top-five with a speed of 184.565 mph. Chase drivers who did not advance to the final round were Brandon Jones who will start 14th, Blake Koch who will start 15th, Ryan Reed who will start 16th, and Ryan Sieg who will start 19th.


The third and final round saw cars strive to hit the track. The third and final round concluded a qualifying session that went without incident. E. Jones was the fastest. Suarez will start second with a speed of 186.425 mph, Elliott Sadler will start third with a  speed of 185.829 mph, T. Dillon will start fourth with a speed of 185.561 mph, and Hornish Jr. rounded out the top-five with a speed of 185.420 mph. Brennan Poole, who will start in the 11th position, was the slowest of the chase drivers with a speed of 183.867 mph.


The 300 will begin at 7:30PM EST on Performance Racing Network. NBCSN will go on the air beginning at 8:00PM EST.

In just the last week, NASCAR has launched “Kids Drive NASCAR”, an initiative to bring in the younger race fan. NASCAR, in collaboration with its speedways, have announced several programs to help families come to the racetrack.


The first announcement was made at the NASCAR Hall of Fame with the first ever all-kids press conference. Before attending to the media, the announcement that kids aged 12 and under starting in 2017 will have the opportunity to attend NASCAR Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series races for free was made via Facebook Live. 


"There really is no other experience like attending a NASCAR race in person, and that’s especially true for kids," said Jill Gregory, NASCAR senior vice president and chief marketing officer. "So many children have become lifelong NASCAR fans because their parents brought them to their first race, and this new ticket offering makes it even more affordable for families to create memories that will last a lifetime." 


This program unifies all NASCAR sanctioned tracks in their efforts to reach a younger audience. 


The second announcement in “Kids Drive NASCAR” week was the launch of an app called “Acceleration Nation”. Acceleration Nation will provide learning materials for use in schools across the country with lessons focusing on aerodynamics and energy. NASCAR partnered with Scholastics to develop the first motorsports based Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education program. The app will provide a digital experience featuring racing-related games, activities, and interactive ways to learn about NASCAR. The app is available in the App Store and Google Play.


NASCAR also announced that the chase races at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway will be featured on Snapchat’s Live Story. Fans will be able to use Snapchat to show the world their NASCAR raceday experience through video and photos. The Live Story has been featured in 2016 for the Daytona 500 and the May race at Talladega Superspeedway, which set records for social media engagement for NASCAR.


"There’s no experience in sports quite like attending a NASCAR race, especially during the Chase,” said Gregory "Snapchat’s Live Story coverage provides young audiences with a unique, behind-the-scenes look at the real Chase race experience, through the lens of our fans and drivers."


NASCAR announced a continuing partnership with Nickelodeon with the return of “NASCAR Hammer Down” hosted by Karysn and Kennedy Elledge, granddaughters of Dale Earnhardt Sr. There will be eight, 15-minute episodes ranging from driver interviews, goofy antics among drivers, and behind the scenes insight into the technology used in NASCAR. The show will air regularly on Fridays at 9:30pm (ET/PT) during Nicktoons’ NickSports TV block. NASCAR Productions produces the show.


"Kids are a huge part of our sport, and we are excited to deliver a program like NASCAR Hammer Down to a very important audience for NASCAR," said Zane Stoddard, NASCAR vice president of entertainment marketing and content development. "The personalities of Karsyn, Kennedy and our drivers combined with the NickSportsaudience, creates the perfect avenue for us to connect with a new generation of potential NASCAR fans.


Going off of NASCAR, Speedway Motorsports Inc. continues their efforts in working for the fans by providing select children’s tickets to be priced at $10 each to Cup Series events at its speedways beginning in 2017, with the purchase of an adult ticket.


“Coming to the races should be about fun, not finances,” said Speedway Motorsports’ president and CEO Marcus Smith. “Now, a parent can get his or her child through the gates for an entire weekend of NASCAR events – including qualifying night, a Camping World Truck Series and XFINITY Series race and a Cup Series race – for just $10. This is one of the best, if not THE best, family values in all professional sports.NASCAR fans have passed down their passion for motorsports from generation to generation for decades, and through this new Fans First initiative, we’ll continue that legacy by introducing young fans to the sport and engaging them for years to come.” 

International Speedway Corporation will continue to allow the individual tracks to make their own decision on youth ticket prices at Cup events.

The “Kids Drive NASCAR” initiative is just the start of the efforts by NASCAR and its tracks to attract the younger fan.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup, Camping World Truck, and Xfinity series have wrapped up their respective events at Michigan International Speedway and Road America for the Pure Michigan 400, Road America 180, and the Careers for Veterans 200. Here are five takeaways from this weekend’s events:

  1. Schedule: On Saturday, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race was delayed by rain, and was ran during the Xfinity Series event at Road America. This was a nightmare for fans who wanted to watch both events. Motor Racing Network broadcasted the race from Road America, and will replay the Truck race sometime this week. Even if the events were ran at their respective times, there was a small window for fans to switch to events barring the first one get placed under a red flag. I understand that the events were held in two completely different venues, but it was a logistical nightmare for fans. TV probably played a role in the start time of the events, but hopefully it will be looked at scheduling wise to allow fans the chance to watch both races.
  2. First Time Winners: This weekend was a first in NASCAR history. All top-three national series experienced first time winners. Brett Moffitt in the Trucks, Michael McDowell in the Xfinity Series, and Kyle Larson in the Cup series. It is pretty cool, in my opinion, to be witnessing so much history happening in 2016. This makes me excited for the future of this sport, the sport I love and grew up on.
  3. 2017 Aero Package: The aero package that is expected to be used in 2017 needs some work. Kentucky and Michigan 2 provided lackluster racing, which resulted in a snoozefest, in my opinion. I wish this test was going to be used at track like Darlington because it has an abrasive surface, unlike Michigan and Kentucky. The first Michigan race where this package was used provided some fantastic racing, but it failed to produce in the next two events it was used in. I applaud the sanctioning body for trying to make the racing great again, but there needs to be some look on this package tested out.
  4. Road Course Racing: I absolutely love road course racing. Although the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series is finished with road course racing, fans get to see the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Mosport in Canada next weekend. Road course racing is some of the best of the season. Names in the Xfinity Series were certainly made over the past month with the three road course races and short tracks. Hopefully, we will continue to see the resurgence of road course racing. Every road course provides its own challenges, which is something that some ovals need!
  5. Youth Movement: The future of NASCAR is bright. Three of the top-five finishers in the Pure Michigan 400 are and were rookies within the past three years. We are beginning to see the changing of the guard to a new youth movement. “Kids Drive NASCAR” is a huge youth initiative started by NASCAR to attract the younger fans to the sport that many of us grew up on. I applaud NASCAR for their continued efforts in trying to reach a younger demographic. Much to the demise of the “older” NASCAR fans, you have to embrace change in order to keep the sport relevant. I applaud the efforts by the sanctioning body in trying to keep NASCAR relevant.

What are your five takeaways from the events at Michigan and Road America?

Michael McDowell holds off his teammate Brendan Gaughan and saved enough fuel to win the Road America 180 Fired Up By Johnsonville. This is Mcdowell’s first career win in NASCAR competition in 94 starts. This is Richard Childress Racing’s third consecutive victory in Road America.


“Its  just huge. I am so thankful and very blessed. I thank all my guys back in Michigan with Circle Sport Levine Family Racing for letting me be here. They know how bad I wanted a victory at Road America. Just thankful to do it. This is awesome,” said McDowell in a post-race victory lane interview.


“Our South Point Chevy was great all day. Michael McDowell and his Richard Childress Racing Chevy was awesome all day. Three years in a row where RCR has won at Road America. I love this racetrack. It didn’t matter if it was rain or dry, Im the only guy that wants it wet, but I don’t care either way. I love this track,” said Brendan Gaughan post-race. 


The first half of the race was under dry, but foggy conditions.The opening laps of the race were dominated by Alex Tagliani. Erik Jones flat-spotted his tires and was on pit-road early, but received a lucky break as the caution flew for Garrett Smithley, who spun on the frontstretch. Cars began to hit pit road around lap 10 to help with fuel strategy. Kenny Habul went behind the wall due to a broken axle, but returned to the race. Justin Marks, who was running in the top-three, received a penalty for speeding on pit road during the first cycle of pit stops. As the second caution fell, teams began to evaluate their strategies for the remaining portions of the race. At the halfway portion, Tagliani lead McDowell with Kelly, Marks,and Suarez rounded out the top-five as teams were logging laps in preparation for the second half of the race.


The second half of the race began with McDowell passing Tagliani. A light sprinkle of rain began to fall around lap 25, which brought out the third caution. Many teams went with “slicks” instead of the rain tires due to the nature of the cell near the track. Kelly collided with Elliott Sadler, who collided with Brendan Gaughan, as they exited the pits for the weather caution. Tagliani, who dominated the opening half, made contact with McDowell racing for the lead and dropped back to 28th. Teams began to tell their drivers with 10 laps remaining to begin saving fuel if a late race caution pulls the race into overtime. The teams who took fuel became excited as the caution flew for Alon Day, who became stuck in the gravel pit. McDowell dominated the second half after Tagliani’s spin earlier in the second half. 


McDowell scored the victory, Gaughan was second, Brennan Poole finished third, Suarez fourth, and Ryan Reed rounded out the top-five.


The Road America 180 saw six lead changes among four different drivers. McDowell led the most laps at 24, Tagliani led 17 laps, E. Jones led 5 laps, and Gaughan led two laps. The race saw six cautions for 13 laps. Three cautions were for accidents, two cautions for debris, and one caution for weather. The time of race was 2 hours, 36 minutes, and 20 seconds. The average speed was 74.573 mph. The margin of victory was 0.534 seconds. The race went a total of 48 laps.


The Chase grid remains the same after Road America. E. Jones holds the top seed over Suarez and Elliott Sadler. 


Sadler holds a 47 point lead over Suarez, a 50 point lead over Allgaier, a 57 point lead over Ty Dillon, and a 63 point lead over Gaughan. 


Next up for the NASCAR Xfinity Series will be the VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 from Darlington Raceway, a Labor Day weekend spectacle. The race will be on NBC and Motor Racing Network beginning at 3:30PM EST. 


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