Speedway Digest Staff
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Brett Kressley continues to be the point leader in the T.P.Trailers NASCAR Modified division at Grandview Speedway as he makes strides toward his first Modified title. The popular racing talent has been consistent all season and has four feature wins to his credit that has earned him 2600 tallies giving him a 79 point edge over defending and 11-time champion Craig Von Dohren. Jared Umbenhauer sits in third spot with 2324 counters.
In the T.P.Truck Equipment Sportsman division Kenny Gilmore continues to use his consistent performances, despite no feature wins, to hold on to the top spot. Gilmore has a total of 1847 points while Dylan Hoch holds on to second with 1620. Brian Hirthler, defending champion, is third with 1523 points.
And in the new 602 Sportsman division Dylan Hoch, with two feature wins, has taken over the point lead from Glenn Strunk. Hoch, a winner this past Saturday, has 700 points while Strunk is just 16 points behind. Ryan Grim is third with 656 tallies.
Nine Saturday nights of NASCAR racing, part of the Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series, have been presented with over 130 racers having earned points.
Outlaw Series Enduro racing along with Vintage racing will be the attraction on Friday, June 18th at 7 p.m.
This Saturday June 19th the Wingless Super Sportsman make a rare appearance as part of a Father’s Day Weekend tripleheader that will also feature the T.P.Trailers Modifieds and T.P.Truck Equipment Sportsman. Adult admission for this special show will be $18. The Meet & Greet session that night will include Modified racer Dillon Steuer, Sportsman talent Chris Esposito and Wingless Super Sportsman standout Steve Wilbur. And since it is Father’s Day the first 50 dads through the spectator gate will receive a free gift. The youngest and oldest dad will each receive two free passes.
Saturday night racing closes out on June 26th with T.P.Trailers Modifieds, T.P.Truck Equipment Sportsman and Outlaw Series Vintage Racers. Another great tripleheader card of racing. Adult admission is just $15. The Meet & Greet features “The Ultimate Underdog” John Willman with his Modified, Sportsman racer Dylan Hoch and a Vintage racer to be announced. It gets underway at 5 p.m.
And on Tuesday, June 29th another exciting Thunder On The Hill Series featuring the Pennsylvania 410 Sprint Speedweek with the Hodnett Cup paying $10,000 to win plus 358 Modifieds.
Grandview Speedway PR
NBC Sports revs its engines on its portion of the 2021 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series this weekend with NASCAR’s return to Nashville at Nashville Superspeedway. Over three days, NBC Sports will present more than 12 hours of practice, qualifying and race coverage for Cup and Xfinity Series on NBCSN.
NASCAR Cup Series coverage will get underway at Nashville Superspeedway with the final practice session Saturday at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Coverage on Sunday gets underway with qualifying at 11 a.m. ET. Countdown to Green pre-race coverage begins at 2:45 p.m. ET, with the green flag slated to wave shortly following 3:30 p.m. ET. NBCSN will present post-race coverage at 7 p.m. ET immediately following the checkered flag.
Global country music superstar Brad Paisley and NASCAR on NBC analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. will serve as hosts of pre-race coverage on Sunday from the Peacock Pit Box on pit road at Nashville Superspeedway. In addition to hosting pre-race coverage with Earnhardt Jr. at the Peacock Pit Box on Sunday, Paisley’s new song, City of Music, based on the city of Nashville, will be featured during race coverage throughout the weekend. Click here for NBC Sports’ video bumper with theme and click here to listen to the entire song.
NBC Sports’ lead NASCAR race announcer Rick Allen will call both the Cup and Xfinity Series races this weekend from Nashville Superspeedway alongside Daytona 500-winning crew chief Steve Letarte, 21-time Cup Series race winner and “The Mayor” of NASCAR Jeff Burton and Earnhardt Jr. Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast, and Parker Kligerman will serve as pit reporters.
1999 NASCAR Cup Series champion Dale Jarrett and auto racing icon Kyle Petty will be joined by NBC Sports’ Jac Collinsworth from the front of the starting grid during pre- and post-race coverage on NBCSN on Saturday and Sunday. NBC Sports motorsports reporter Rutledge Wood will provide on-site reports and share stories about the return of NASCAR to Nashville throughout the weekend.
Live coverage from Nashville begins on Friday with an hour-long NASCAR Xfinity Series practice at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Qualifying is presented on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. ET. Countdown to Green gets underway at 3 p.m. ET, leading into race coverage at 3:30 p.m. ET. Post-race coverage will begin at 6 p.m. ET.
The official home of the NASCAR Championship and Playoffs, NBC Sports will once again present the final 20 NASCAR Cup Series races and 19 NASCAR Xfinity Series races in 2021, culminating with the Championship at Phoenix Raceway on Nov. 6-7. Click here for more information on NBC Sports’ 2021 NASCAR coverage.
- Brad Paisley: In addition to hosting pre-race coverage with Earnhardt Jr. at the Peacock Pit Box on Sunday, Paisley’s new song, City of Music, based on the city of Nashville, will serve as the theme song of NBC Sports’ race coverage throughout the weekend. Click here for NBC Sports’ video bumper with theme and click here to listen to the entire song.
- NASCAR Returns to Nashville: NBC Sports motorsports reporter Nate Ryan pens and narrates an essay detailing the return of the NASCAR Cup Series to Nashville following 37 years. Sunday will also mark the first-ever Cup Series race at Nashville Superspeedway.
- John Carter Cash: Country singer John Carter Cash, the only child of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, narrates the opening tease for NBC Sports’ coverage in Nashville.
- Trey Kennedy: As part of a new NBC Sports content series called Up to Speed, comedian Trey Kennedy, who has a social media following of over 10 million, will be on-site to experience and showcase the event in the Music City across his social media platforms.
- NASCAR Pick ‘Em: NBC Sports’ free-to-play game, NASCAR Pick ‘Em, features a weekly contest for each NASCAR Cup Series race. NASCAR Pick ‘Em is available for download now on the NBC Sports Predictor app powered by PointsBet (available in the App Store and Google Play Store) and at com/Predictor.
- Play by Play: Rick Allen
- Analysts: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton, Steve Letarte
- Pit Reporters: Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast, Parker Kligerman
STUDIO COVERAGE TEAM
- Hosts: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Paisley (Sunday)
- Front of the Grid: Jac Collinsworth, Kyle Petty, Dale Jarrett
- Specialty Reporter: Rutledge Wood
HOW TO WATCH
- TV – NBCSN
- Streaming – NBCSports.com and NBC Sports app
|Fri., June 18||NASCAR Xfinity Series Practice||NBCSN||4 p.m.|
|Sat., June 19||NASCAR Xfinity Series Qualifying||NBCSN||12:30 p.m.|
|NASCAR Cup Series Final Practice||NBCSN||2 p.m.|
|Countdown to Green – NASCAR Xfinity Series||NBCSN||3 p.m.|
|NASCAR Xfinity Series Tennessee Lottery 250||NBCSN||3:30 p.m.|
|NASCAR Xfinity Series Post-Race||NBCSN||6 p.m.|
|Sun., June 20||NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying||NBCSN||11 a.m.|
|Countdown to Green – NASCAR Cup Series||NBCSN||2:45 p.m.|
|NASCAR Cup Series Ally 400||NBCSN||3:30 p.m.|
|NASCAR Cup Series Post-Race||NBCSN||7 p.m.|
NBC SPORTS’ NASCAR COVERAGE
NBC Sports is the official home of the 2021 NASCAR Playoffs, covering the race for the NASCAR Cup Series & NASCAR Xfinity Series championships. NBC Sports’ NASCAR programming also includes races from NASCAR’s regional touring series; annual events such as the NASCAR Awards and NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony; and original programming across NBC Sports platforms.
NBC Sports PR
Derek Kraus is set to compete in his first race at Nashville Superspeedway, as the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series makes its return to the 1.33-mile D-shaped oval on Friday.
Nashville will mark the first race with Thorogood featured as the primary sponsor on the McAnally-Hilgemann Racing No. 19 Toyota Tundra driven by Kraus.
The excitement has been building this year in anticipation of this weekend’s big NASCAR tripleheader at Nashville Superspeedway. It will mark the first NASCAR Cup Series race at the revamped Tennessee track and the return of the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the Camping World Truck Series.
The Camping World Truck Series will kick things off with the Rackley Roofing 200 on Friday night. The track hosted 13 truck races from 2001 to 2011. The series visited annually from 2001 to 2009 and twice each season in 2010 and 2011.
The Xfinity Series will race on Saturday, making its return to the track it visited 21 times from 2001 to 2011.
Like most drivers in the series, Kraus will be making his first start at Nashville Superspeedway. Only a handful of series drivers entered in Friday’s race competed there previously.
The Nashville race is the second of three consecutive weekends of racing for the Camping World Truck Series. It follows a visit to Texas Motor Speedway, in which Kraus finished 13th. From Tennessee, the series heads to Pennsylvania – for a race at Pocono Raceway on June 26.
CeCe Winans, Luke Combs, and Priscilla Block, among Nashville Superspeedway’s June 18-20 NASCAR tripleheader weekend special guests
Twelve-time Grammy winner CeCe Winans, multi-platinum award winning country superstar Luke Combs, and Music City rising stars Priscilla Block and Brandon Lay will be featured as part of Nashville Superspeedway’s dignitaries and entertainment during the upcoming June 18-20 NASCAR tripleheader weekend, track officials announced today.
CeCe Winans, a lauded gospel singer with a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame and more than 5 million records sold, will deliver the invocation on Sunday, June 20, representing Nashville Life Church, prior to the inaugural, sold out “Ally 400” NASCAR Cup Series race (2:30 p.m. CT, NBCSN.)
Luke Combs, who The New York Times calls, “the most promising and influential new country start of the last five years,” will serve as the grand marshal for the “Ally 400,” the first NASCAR Cup Series race in Nashville Superspeedway’s history and the first in Middle Tennessee in 37 years. The Asheville, N.C., native is a multi-platinum, ACM, CMA, CMT and Billboard Music Award-winning artist who continues to top the charts with 11 consecutive No. 1 singles, including his most recent, the Platinum-certified "Forever After All." The reigning 2019 and 2020 CMA Male Vocalist of the Year will return to the stage this fall for his massive headline arena tour, featuring a special new in-the-round stage design, and will perform his first headline stadium show at Boone, N.C.’s Kidd Brewer Stadium on Sept. 4.
Priscilla Block, a 25-year-old social media sensation, will sing the national anthem before the “Ally 400.” Block’s debut single, “Just About Over You,” has reached the top 40 in country airplay charts after it was crowd-funded by thousands of her fans on TikTok. After the song’s success, Block was signed by Universal Music Group Nashville’s Mercury Division in September 2020.
As previously announced, Chris Janson, a Grand Ole Opry member and popular singer of hits “Buy Me A Boat,” “Good Vibes,” “Done,” and “Fix a Drink,” will perform an on-track pre-race concert at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, June 20 before the “Ally 400.”
Country music legend John Anderson, who has produced almost two dozen studio albums and more than 40 charted singles, including top hits “Straight Tequila Night,” “Swingin,” and “Money in the Bank,” will join Janson on stage during his pre-race show on Sunday.
Brandon Lay, a Jackson, Tenn., native and EMI Records Nashville singer/songwriter, will perform the national anthem prior to the “Tennessee Lottery 250” NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Saturday, June 19 (2:30 p.m. CT, NBCSN). Lay’s top singles include “Speakers, Bleachers and Preachers,” “Yada, Yada, Yada,” and “For My Money.” He has toured with acts such as Kenny Chesney, Dierks Bentley, Cole Swindell and Old Dominion.
Brenna Bone won the recent “NASHCAR Superstar” Sweepstakes fan vote and will sing the national anthem prior to the “Rackley Roofing 200” NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Friday, June 18 (7p.m. CT, FS1). This singer/songwriter, made her way to Nashville from her hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania, and has just released her newest single “Want It Like That” across all streaming platforms.
Other highlights of Nashville Superspeedway’s weekend dignitaries and entertainment include:
- Bernard Pollard, a nine-year NFL veteran, and former member of the Tennessee Titans from 2013-14, will wave the green flag as the Honorary Starter for the “Ally 400” on Father’s Day.
- Shea Ralph, a seven-time national champion as a player and coach and current Vanderbilt University head women’s basketball coach, will serve as the Honorary Starter for the “Tennessee Lottery 250” on Saturday, June 19.
- RV campers, Thursday through Saturday, will be provided evening entertainment courtesy of “Rhythm & Racing presented by Ford.” Local singer/songwriters will tour the Geico Campgrounds in a Ford F-250 stopping to perform a 20-to-30-minute set of music. On Sunday, Rhythm & Racing will be parked near the FanZone for all to enjoy. Scheduled performers include Chris Ruediger, Cooper Alan, Ashley Cooke, Alexander Kay, and Thomas Mac from The 615 House, Chancie Neal, and Joe Denim.
- The popular Bear Hollow Wood Carvers will be in the FanZone all weekend with carvers turning ordinary piece of wood into amazing treasures. Auctions of their prized pieces will take place Saturday and Sunday at noon at their FanZone display.
- FanZone demonstrations by the Monster Energy/Keith Sayers Freestyle Motorcross and the Unknown Industries Harley Stunt Show who will be putting on an awesome show and display of motorcycle skills, burnouts, and other exciting stunts.
- See a full list of Nashville Superspeedway’s race weekend dignitaries below.
Tickets are available for the “Tennessee Lottery 250” NASCAR Xfinity Series race and the “Rackley Roofing 200” NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race. Fans can order tickets for the June 18-19 events by visiting NashvilleSuperSpeedway.com or calling 866-RACE-TIX.
Richmond Raceway & Federated Auto Parts Rename NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Race to Federated Auto Parts 400 Salute to First Responders
To recognize the 20th anniversary of 9/11, Richmond Raceway and Federated Auto Parts will remember and honor the victims of the fateful day in our nation’s history by renaming the fall NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race to the Federated Auto Parts 400 Salute to First Responders.
“On a day we come together to cheer NASCAR’s best, we’ll also unite as one nation and sport to recognize 9/11 victims and first responders at Richmond Raceway,” said Richmond President Dennis Bickmeier. “We are grateful to our long-time partners at Federated Auto Parts for working together to remember and honor those impacted by a day we will never forget.”
When the date of this year’s fall NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Richmond was announced, NASCAR and Federated Auto Parts recognized that this event would be the appropriate time to remember and honor the victims and heroes on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. The Federated Auto Parts 400 Salute to First Responders will allow the industry and fans another way to pay tribute and say thank you to all of the first responders throughout the country who risk their lives every day to serve and protect others.
“At Federated, we knew it was appropriate that we honor the memory of the victims of one of the worst days in our country’s history and honor those who put their lives on the line that day,” said Phil Moore, Senior Vice President, Federated Auto Parts. “We will never forget the bravery of the police, firefighters, and ordinary citizens who ran into those burning buildings 20 years ago. Since then, first responders continue to provide essential services to our country, especially during the challenging months of the pandemic. Honoring them all during the Federated 400 is a way for us to show our gratitude.”
Earlier this month, Richmond Raceway announced it will open its grandstands and FanGrounds to full capacity with no restrictions for the NASCAR Playoff Race Weekend on Sept. 10-11. The track’s 75th Anniversary season will conclude on Saturday, Sept. 11 with the Federated Auto Parts 400 Salute to First Responders at 7:30 p.m. and the Go Bowling 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race featuring Dale Earnhardt Jr. at 2:30 p.m. Grandstands will also be fully open for the Virginia is for Racing Lovers 150 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race on Friday, Sept. 10.
“We are excited to be able to have the fans return to Richmond Raceway for the Federated Auto Parts 400 Salute to First Responders,” said Moore. “We are looking forward to seeing our members, customers and vendor partners in attendance for an exciting weekend of racing and hospitality. We will also host a group of first responders as our guests so they can experience the race firsthand and participate in race-day activities. As always, we want to thank Dennis Bickmeier and the entire staff at Richmond Raceway for helping make our race day experience a first-class endeavor.”
Virginia-based Federated Auto Parts has been the entitlement sponsor for the fall Cup Series race at Richmond since 2012. The Federated Auto Parts 400 Salute to First Responders will also be the 30th anniversary of the fall Cup race being held under the lights at Richmond.
Fans can purchase a single ticket for Saturday’s doubleheader with the Go Bowling 250 Xfinity Series race with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the Federated Auto Parts 400 Cup Series Playoff race. Tickets are also available for the Virginia is for Racing Lovers 150, the first Whelen Modified Tour race at Richmond since 2002. NASCAR tickets can be purchased via phone at 866-455-7223 or online at richmondraceway.com.
Richmond Raceway PR
Looking back a decade ago, Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway completed what many thought would be its final NASCAR Xfinity Series event. The 300-mile race on July 23, 2011, was won by Carl Edwards and featured just five drivers who are fulltime competitors in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2021 – Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Brad Keselowski, Austin Dillon, Aric Almirola, and Kyle Busch.
In addition to the drivers who raced that day, four others have competed at 1.333-mile concrete oval during their careers who race fulltime today – Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Matt DiBenedetto, and Michael McDowell.
When it comes to life, in general, and especially auto racing, it’s never good to say never. After a 10-year hiatus, not only is the Xfinity Series returning to Nashville Superspeedway, along with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series that used to compete there regularly, but the NASCAR Cup Series will be making its debut at the concrete oval during Sunday’s Ally 300.
Busch, driver of the No. 18 PEDIGREE Foundation Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), has not only had extensive racing history at Nashville, he knows his way to victory lane there, as well. The two-time Cup Series champion competed in three different series at Nashville – Xfinity Series, Truck Series and the ARCA Menards Series. He made his Nashville debut in 2003 and brought home the victory in his only ARCA start there. He was also two-for-two in both his Truck Series starts, with both wins coming from the pole in 2010 and 2011. The 2010 win also happened to be the first-ever victory for his own Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) team.
Busch has the most experience at Nashville in the Xfinity Series, having started 10 races there from 2004 through 2011 and scoring four top-five finishes, including a 2009 victory in his JGR Toyota.
In addition to the vast Nashville Superspeedway experience on Busch’s resume, Busch and the No. 18 have their first chance to experience the homecoming of sorts for primary sponsor PEDIGREE and the PEDIGREE Foundation, whose Nashville-area headquarters are just up the road from where racing will return this weekend. Busch’s PEDIGREE Foundation Camry paint scheme will feature adoptable dogs from the Nashville area.
As part of the collaboration, Mars Petcare’s BETTER CITIES FOR PETS Program and PEDIGREE Foundation will host adoption events in Nashville and Charlotte, North Carolina, during the race weekend and will cover all adoption fees for any pets that find loving homes from June 18 to 20. To promote the events, Busch will visit the Humane Society of Charlotte to meet a series of adoptable pets before heading to Nashville for the race weekend. Fans can learn more about how to help by visiting pedigreefoundation.org.
So as Busch heads to Nashville to compete in the historic first race there in NASCAR’s top series, he’s hoping he’ll have an advantage over the competition with his prior experience there as he attempts to become the first driver to win a Cup Series race at the tricky concrete track in his doggone return to Music City.
Thirty-six races in its 36th year of operation. The 2021 DIRTcar Summer Nationals Late Model Hell Tour is finally here.
Alongside the DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals, setting out on their 11th season of competition, the Summer Nationals Late Models kickoff the tour this Tuesday night, June 15, in Indiana at the quarter-mile Brownstown Speedway. $5,000 is on the line for the Late Model Feature winner, while the new tour minimum $1,500 will go to the UMP Modified winner.
Week 1 Schedule
Tuesday, June 15 | Brownstown Speedway | Brownstown, IN
Wednesday, June 16 | Peoria Speedway | Peoria, IL
Thursday, June 17 | Kankakee County Speedway | Kankakee, IL
Friday, June 18 | Tri-City Speedway | Pontoon Beach, IL
Saturday, June 19 | Fairbury Speedway | Fairbury, IL
Sunday, June 20 | Plymouth Speedway | Plymouth, IN
Don’t forget – each and every Summer Nationals and Summit Modified event will be broadcasted live this summer on DIRTVision presented by Drydene. Get a FAST PASS subscription today and watch the 2021 Hell Tour unfold wherever you are.
Here are the drivers to watch for and the storylines to follow in Week #1…
WHOLE NEW BALLGAME – The Summer Nationals and Summit Modifieds both take on a new championship chase format to decide this year’s champions.
The Late Model tour will take a driver’s best 31 finishes over the 36 races scheduled into the points standings, meaning championship chasers will either have some of their worst finishes dropped or be able to sit some race out, depending on the number of races that are completed by season’s end. For their efforts, a new points fund system has been implemented that could award the champion a potential $36,000.
For each race completed above 25, an additional $1,000 will be added to the champion’s check, making the potential for $36,000 to be awarded to the victor.
The Modifieds will stick with their $5,000-to-win championship check and take each driver’s best 12 finishes of the 36 scheduled, breaking away from the traditional eight-best finishes.
SQUIRREL ON DEFENSE – Four-time and defending Summer Nationals Late Model champion Brian Shirley gets set to defend his title in the kickoff at Brownstown Tuesday night.
Shirley, of Chatham, IL, is coming off a solid showing at Eldora Speedway this past weekend, where the DIRTcar Late Models ran four consecutive nights in back-to-back Dirt Late Model Dreams. Shirley made all but one Feature and posted a week-best finish of fifth on Wednesday night.
In last year’s kickoff at Brownstown, Squirrel dropped out 21 laps in while running sixth with apparent mechanical issues. However, he’s shown his prowess with the tour at the quarter-mile before, with one win that came back in 2008 – ending a then seven-year tour absence from the facility.
CHASING FOURTEEN – There’s only two drivers on the DIRTcar UMP Modified scene with ten national points victories or more at this point in the season. One of them is the defending DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals champion, Nick Hoffman.
Hoffman, of Mooresville, NC, won his second consecutive and third overall Summit Modified championship last year on the back of 13 Feature wins in 24 races – tying a record he set the year previous. This year, he shoots to break that record by reaching 14 Feature wins. He’ll have 36 opportunities to get it done, compared to only 28 scheduled races last year.
He’s coming off a stellar weekend at Eldora as well, piloting a DIRTcar Late Model for Mahomet, IL-based Hatcher’s Motorsports. Hoffman qualified for all four Dream Features he attempted, posting two top-10 finishes over the four-day stretch.
STAND UP 10 – A feeling of relief ascended over the Eldora Speedway grandstands and pit area Friday night as Jason Feger emerged unharmed from his wrecked racecar after a vicious crash in Turn 1.
Feger, of Bloomington, IL, made heavy contact with Kyle Strickler and was sent flipping wildly, badly damaging his MB Customs #25. Fortunately, he was able to pull out a backup car and finish the weekend, which he will start his 2021 Summer Nationals campaign with on Tuesday.
The 2010 Hell Tour champion claimed two victories on the circuit last year and looked very strong since making the switch to the MB Customs Race Car.
ON TOUR – Several drivers on both the Late Model and Modified side of the tour have revealed their intentions of following at least the first week of the schedules – many of which are expected to follow the tours in their entirety.
Late Models: Brian Shirley, Bobby Pierce, Tanner English, Devin Moran, Ashton Winger, Bob Gardner, Billy Moyer Jr., Taylor Scheffler, Joe Godsey, Tim Lance and Tim Lance Jr.
UMP Modifieds: Nick Hoffman, Hunt Gossum, Kyle Hammer and Steven Brooks
DIRTcar Series PR
Trackhouse Racing PR
It is testament to the optimistic disposition of human beings that few sporting events are designed in such a way as to be improved by, or even unhindered by, bad weather. All throughout history, it seems, we have been organising, planning, and creating sports which, in the overwhelming majority of cases, go off much better in those blissful conditions which all too often elude us. And, while some sports certainly fair better than others – for instance, baseball has long since held a reputation for the speeds with which it declares rainout, while soccer and football tend to press on until lightning begins to bear down from above – rain clouds continue to represent an impending sight on the horizon for the majority of sportsmen and women.
To those who know little about the sport, NASCAR represents something of an anomaly. With no hard balls to worry about in squally winds, nor any metal golf clubs to keep track of in lightning storms, the uninitiated could be forgiven for assuming that, provided some amendments are made in order to account for stopping distances, the sport could carry on relatively unaffected by a bit of rain. In reality, however, it is far more complicated than that – and, right now, rain is causing a major disruption to auto racing across the United States.
Just last month, at the opening race to the NASCAR Cup Series at the 3.426-mile Circuit of the Americas in Austin, officials called the race to a close due to heavy rain conditions which, while the dark clouds and wet skies had been looming over the racetrack even before the drop of the green flag, proved to be too much for even the wet weather tires.
The decision to call off the race was, for that reason, a controversial one. Rather than simply deferring the green flag or postponing the entire race altogether, officials elected to go ahead with the race despite conditions being sufficient to cause numerous crashes, spin outs, and, in the end, earn itself the red flag.
It has, by some, been dubbed one of the biggest catastrophes in NASCAR racing – so what’s next for the sport? Read more below.
A Wider Impact
Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr, Cole Custer, Joe Gibbs and Michael McDowell are just a few of the names involved in collisions and spin outs during the disastrous race, with Harvick dubbing the decision to proceed with the race as, “The worst decision that we’ve ever made in our sport that I’ve been a part of”.
The decision threw into sharp relief quite how dangerous the sport is – particularly when officials are at loggerheads with the elements.
Beyond the track itself, the impact was felt far and wide. It is only in recent years, for instance, that the sport has garnered a much wider following on gambling sites, owing to a relatively new ruling from SCOPUS that enables more than a small handful of states to enable sports betting.
In effect, this move created a healthy, fresh wave of interest in NASCAR – meaning, of course, that the spotlight is on this sport more than ever before. With the sport featuring heavily in site promotions and bonuses, every aspect of the cars, the drivers, and the courses is under heavy scrutiny by gamblers and bookies alike.
Couple this with the fact that the sport’s wet tires are famed for their inability to match the resilience of, say, F1’s wet tires, and inclement weather’s influence over the NASCAR continues to grow starker.
The decision to fly the red flag and end the race ahead of time was, in and of itself, a controversial one. While many felt the decision to start the race in the first place was misguided – and more still recognized the need to end it ahead of time – some accused officials of contriving a win for Chase Elliott.
The twenty-five year old driver, who had never before won a rain race – nor a race at the Circuit of the Americas – happened to be in the lead when the second red flag dropped. The controversy stems from the fact that Elliott was projected to run out of fuel ahead of the checkered flag – or would have faced an untimely pit stop ahead of the final laps.
Put simply, the red flag prevented Elliott from being forced to make that decision – for which both options could well have lost him a number of places in the race – and enabled him to achieve another victory, whether or not tactics supported it.
Will Officials Stop Taking a Wholly Reactionary Approach to Rain?
Whatever side of the ‘controversy fence’ you stand, there’s no denying that this race represents a pivotal moment for NASCAR, by virtue of its ability to exemplify a core issue that extends from officiating to the cars themselves: an ongoing and potentially disastrous underestimation of wet and inclement conditions.
It is, of course, worth noting that history repeated itself at the Circuit of the Americas. In October of 2020, the Xfinity race posed equally treacherous conditions – featuring near unrelenting rain, pooling water, and a red flag that lasted close to an hour – and led to a string of complaints from drivers and fans alike. At the time, officials stated that they would learn from their mistakes and ensure that driver safety was not compromised to such a degree in the future.
Of course, then May’s race at the Circuit of the Americas happened.
So, while it may well be too soon to make our minds up just yet, there is every chance that rain will continue to pose the greatest enemy to NASCAR racing – and the officials, whose indecisiveness stirred up buckets of controversy, their own greatest enemy.
Owing to the number of collisions, we can rest assured that a great deal of caution will be exercised over the next race that happens to coincide with substantial rainfall – although whether or not that newfound caution lasts in the coming months and years is left to be decided.
The first-ever NASCAR All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway was an eventful night for fans as the brightest stars in the sport battled for 100 laps in temperatures that approached triple digits. Ryan Newman was able to run up front for an extended period in the middle of the event, but ultimately finished 20th in the All-Star event.
A random draw set the field for the event, held for just the third time outside of Charlotte Motor Speedway, and Newman began the day from the 14th position. A caution on the first lap of the event stacked the field up and Newman would be shuffled towards the back of the pack, where he ultimately finished the first of six scheduled rounds in 18th.
Track position would prove to be crucial throughout the day, with high temperatures making passing difficult throughout the field. With no yellow flags in the second round, Newman would finish 19th. A full field invert gave the Wyndham Rewards team its first shot at running up front all day, starting third for the third round of the race.
The clean air gave new life to the handling of the Wyndham Rewards Mustang, and Newman held his ground for the duration of the stage to finish fifth. He would continue the strong run in the fourth round, the final 15-lap run of the night, finishing 10th.
The longest round of the day saw the field lined up by cumulative finishing position in the first four rounds, with Newman lining up 16th for the 30-lap run. Newman would hit pit road just two laps later for the mandatory 4-tire green flag stop in the round, with the field running various strategies until a caution with 11 to go in the round came out for a spin by the No. 42 car. Newman suffered minor damage in the incident, and would finish the round in 17th.
A final pit stop on the night gave Newman four fresh tires to work with, but the handling on his Ford Mustang faded as the sun set, and he ultimately finished 20th.