Monday, Jul 04

CONCORD, N.C— With the announcement of the suspended operations of Red Horse Racing, Kyle Busch was adamant on Friday that things need to change in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) for it to be viable.

According to Busch, Kyle mentioned the it takes $3.2 million per season to run a fully competitive team in NCWTS, while advocating for reducing the costs.

“Our cost is 3.2. That's how much it takes to run a full operation of a truck team, and that number should be around 2, and how to get it lower, there's some engine talks I know and some body talks I know, but we're hitting it, but we're only hitting it about a half a million by doing that,” said Busch.

What is the biggest cost for teams? It is the people.

“Your biggest expense is your people, and that's where it all comes from. But as far as our model goes, it does work right now thanks to the support of Toyota, thanks to the support of the (Noah) Gragson with Switch, and the Myatt Snider’s and the Bubba Wallace's sponsors and Erik Jones' sponsors and the people like that that we've had over the course of the years that were able to make it all work.”

As Cup guys own teams in NCWTS, it is not about the money. There are many challenges for people like Busch and Brad Keselowski, who fields two teams in NCWTS.

“To really make it work and to drive your costs down, you have to have three teams, and even four teams makes it even better, but we're not to the point yet where we're ready to grow because we still need to develop our third team and make it a strong force to be reckoned with each and every week,” said Busch. “But once we get to four teams, people are mad at us because then we're too good, people can't beat us, whatever you want to say, so people are mad that we're overtaking the sport, which all we're trying to do is continue to help and build it, but there's a double‑edged sword in anything that I do anyways, so we just keep working on it, keep trying, and make it work as best we can for us."

With the 2018 schedule being released this week, people like Kevin Harvick have advocated that the NCWTS moves more to a “grassroots” schedule, something that the series was built on in its early inception.

"I would definitely enjoy that model of going back to those race tracks. Now again, how you accomplish that and how you get that done, that's for people a hell of a lot smarter than me to figure out, but I would certainly enjoy seeing the Truck Series go back to Tucson, or even around here, go to Motor Mile, go to some of these short tracks that you can put 10, 15, 20,000 people in the stands for an exciting truck race because in all honesty, that's the crowd count that you're getting at a mile‑and‑a‑half anyways, so pack the place, make it look good, and put on a good show for the fans and go back to some of the roots of short track racing that these drivers are coming up from, that the trucks came from, and Friday night shows, Saturday night shows, whatever it might be at some of these cool short tracks, and I think you'll put on a great show, you'll have the fans come out and support that. It's just how to make the model work. There's TV money involved, there's sanctioning agreements involved, there's all kind of too much behind‑the‑scenes BS that I'm not smart enough to figure out, but hopefully somebody can be smart enough to figure it out. Maybe this guy can figure that out,” said Busch.

The question was raised about if going to these smaller tracks would be a challenge and how would it work.

"Well, you just said it right there. If we make less money you're digging our grave, so the sanctioning agreements can't be for any less money, that's for sure. We actually need them to be for more. In order to cut our costs, we need to be able to make more money or compete for more money to race for more winnings. If you cut our winnings out, you might as well just say goodbye. You know, there's a problem in that fact right there, too. You know, it's just ‑‑ it's about trying to get the butts in the seats,” said Busch. “That's what matters most. If South Boston packed the place every single time and made money and NASCAR made money, the teams made money and all of us would still be going there, so there's obviously something that was missing, and I don't know what that was. But to figure that out and to be able to pack some of these short tracks and to put the trucks back on some of those standalone events, it's all about exciting moments, exciting racing, having some rooting and gouging, and it's probably worth having fights in the pits. That's what it all comes down to, and you know, we'll see if any of that happens."

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. also chimed in about the importance of the truck series and XFINITY series.

“Yeah, we moved our Truck team up to the Xfinity Series to make another team there. When I was in the series we went to South Boston and places like that and I miss watching those races. They were great races. I don’t know if the business model works to be able to go back and undo everything we’ve done, but I’d rather tune-in and watch them run the beach or the fairgrounds. Man!  I’d love to go run a Xfinity race at the fairgrounds, in our cars. That would be at the top of my list if it was on the schedule,” said Earnhardt Jr. “I run Richmond and Bristol. That’s the only ones I’m running this year because that’s the only short track action you can find. But, the 1.5-miles just aren’t that fun. We run too many of them for it to be fun. We rarely run the short tracks. So, you try to get as much of that as you can. Not everybody is the same. This is just me talking. I don’t know if all the drivers like short tracks that much. But, I would certainly tune-in.”

Busch believes that the interest and sponsorship are just not there for the Trucks.

"I don't know what Brad's (Keselowski) scenario is. You'll have to ask him. I do believe that I have heard that he puts money in himself. I know that I put money in myself. You know, I wouldn't say that the model is working for us. I just think that we're content with the amount of money that we are spending,” said Busch. “That makes it worth our while. There just aren't any big sponsors. There aren't any Fortune 500 companies I think besides M&M's, Mars, with Pedigree now that's joining us with Todd Gilliland with Pedigree to be on our truck, and it's just not ‑‑ there's not enough people on TV, there's not enough people in the stands. The sponsorship just doesn't come. They just don't care, and that's the most frustrating part of it.”

After qualifying on Thursday night, Harvick expounded even more on the initial comments he made on his radio show "Happy Hours" on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. 

“I can’t walk anywhere and not have somebody talk to me about the Truck Series schedule.  I think it’s something that a lot of people want to say and haven’t said, but I think it’s definitely time to look at the grassroots sides of things and I think the Truck Series is a grassroots division.  If you could just for example take it somewhere like Nashville Speedway and pair it up with the All-American 400 and put the All-American 400 in Nashville back on the map with a Truck Series race with some SAFER barriers, get the city of Nashville involved and that’s just one race.  I think it would be very interesting and I feel like that regionally is a big touring race.  You go up to Oxford, Maine, but getting the TV to these cars and these local racers and these people and the enthusiasm that it brings to a local market, that’s what the Truck Series does," said Harvick. "When you look at Eldora and you look at the road race in Canada, you look at these one-off events and every one of them are well attended, every one of them are exciting and well attended.  We need events and I think it’s a great way to reinvest from the bottom up in different facilities and you could sit here and name a bunch of them, and what better way to show them you care than by putting soft walls up at the race track somehow and some way to get the cities involved and the race track and work on getting those sanctioning fees down and get them to places where they can knock the fenders off of each other and put on a great show, much like they do at Eldora.  I mean, it’s got 20-some thousand people there every time we show up and everybody loves watching on a Wednesday night.”

When asked how it works, Harvick quickly went on how TV funds most everything in today's world. 

TV money is still how everyone survives.  That’s the reason a lot of these race tracks take these Truck races now because the TV money went up, so there’s a reason that they want to keep them.  But there are ways to make all of this work.  Everybody doesn’t need to have their hand out, they need to be thinking from the bottom up and how do we make this better?," said Harvick. "You look at some of these historic, just really great short tracks across the country.  I’m not saying we need to take them from Daytona or Phoenix or some of these other places, but there are some places that they don’t need to be going and I think it would be interesting to revive the Copper Classic and start the season with the Trucks out there and see the sprint cars show back up and TV is gonna be there to cover it, so now you can film all these races and put these guys on TV.  All of a sudden there’s TV there and they can get better sponsorship, so there’s a lot of things that you could do and, like you say, it has to be something that everybody buys into that is worried about making money.”

What can be done? That is something NASCAR and teams are looking to fix.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series returns for the second week in a row to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Coca-Cola 600, the sport’s longest race and the nightcap on one of the biggest days in all of motorsports. The race will consist of four stages each of 100 laps.

40 drivers will arrive in Charlotte to compete for 40 spots on Sunday night. Carl Long was scheduled to attempt to qualify, but with the chance of impending rain in the Charlotte area and being short on people with the Xfinity car running this weekend, he withdrew.

Earlier in the week, Charlotte Motor Speedway announced that they would be placing VHT, the sticky substance used in the low groove at Bristol, on the high line in the corners. Officials at the track have also ran the tire dragon over the sticky substance. Officials believe this move will help the high groove come in during the 600, something that did not happen in the All-Star Race.

The Coca-Cola 600 will also feature the addition of a fourth stage. Each stage will be 100 laps.

“The stage racing format is delivering more dramatic moments over an entire race, fueling tremendous racing action this season,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “With a fourth stage added to the Coca-Cola 600, the historic event will have another layer of strategy for teams, and even more excitement within the race for fans.”

This will be the 58th annual Coca-Cola 600. There have been 45 different pole winners at Charlotte. 49 different drivers have made their way into victory lane. Only 16 drivers have won from the pole with Martin Truex doing so last year in the same event. Truex Jr. also set the race record at 160.655 mph in 2016. Kurt Busch set the qualifying record in 2014 at 198.771 mph.

Teams will be allotted four sets of tires for practice, one set for qualifying, and 11 sets for the race. Goodyear is bringing the same tire compound as last season.

Drivers are excited about 600 miles at Charlotte and the chance to honor our nation’s heroes.

“This weekend is more than racing – it's a time for Americans to remember and pay tribute to our military service members who gave their life so we can enjoy our freedom,” said Truex, who is the defending champion of the Coca-Cola 600. “As I learn the courageous background of 2nd Lt. John Yates during his time in Vietnam he is without a doubt a true American patriot.”

“I think you saw from the All-Star Race that track position is going to be key. But we will have longer green-flag runs Sunday and handling will come into play,” said Clint Bowyer, who is looking for his first win in 2017. “We had a really good car last week. If we could have gotten out front in the All-Star Race like we did in the Open, then we would have been tough to handle.”

"Charlotte is a big weekend for us," Chris Buescher said. "We need to come out here and be competitive. This is our fifth 1.5-mile track this season. We’re starting to get an idea of where our intermediate track program is at, and what needs to be done to improve on it. We’ve got to come out and get the job done. This team has been working really hard. We’ve been coming out with better racecars, and we’re headed in the right direction. We get a lot of families from employees in the shop that are able to come out to the races at Charlotte (Motor Speedway) and it’s really special and important to be able to go out and run well for not only the guys on the road every weekend, but for everyone in the shop too."

Cup teams will have one practice session beginning at 2:00 p.m. EST on Thursday, May 25th with qualifying set for 7:15 p.m. EST. Friday will be a “dark” day in Charlotte. Action will pick up on Saturday with two practice sessions slated for 9:00 a.m. EST and 11:30 a.m. EST. The Coca-Cola 600 will be broadcasted on FOX and Performance Racing Network on May 28th at 6:00 p.m. EST.


CONCORD, N.C-- Going into the Monster Energy All-Star Race, the talk was about the new “option” tire that Goodyear was bringing to help spice and liven up the All-Star Race. According to Goodyear, the “option” tire was supposed to fall off drastically after six to eight “at-speed” laps. However, the option tires balanced out with the primary tires during the short 20 lap segments.


Before the first stage began, Daniel Suarez, Ryan Blaney, and Chase Elliott ran the “option” tires in an effort to gain track position. Suarez started from the 19th position, but was the only driver to make the most gains using the option tires in the day time. Suarez gained eight positions in the opening stage.


Although Suarez gained the most positions with the tires, many drivers only saw a gain of one to two positions using the “option” tires.


With the option tires, came a strategy NASCAR could not have imagined.


Between the second and third stages, Mike Bugarewicz, crew chief for Clint Bowyer, put on two “Prime” tires and two “option” tires on the car. On the radio, Ryan Blaney was furious about what had transpired with Bowyer. Per NASCAR, the move was totally legal. The move was legal because the team had put on the four “sticker” sets of the “option” tire before leaving two on the race car. Bowyer was able to get off pit road in the first position, but once the race restarted, he quickly fell to the back.


“It was a good try.  Track position is key and you try to do something to get track position and you don’t have the upper hand.  They’re better than you on that deal.  I think if we would have had tires and started up front, we’d have been hard to handle tonight,” said Bowyer, after he was eliminated. “We were a good car all night long, it’s just this format and the way the race is.  You can’t complain about it because it is what it is.  It’s the All-Star Race and everybody wants to be a part of it, it’s just unfortunate that your hands are tied.”


Brad Keselowski tried to play a similar move in the break between the second and third stage. However, the move he made was deemed illegal. When Paul Wolfe and the No. 2 team put the “option” tires on, they came back down pit road to put the “prime” tire back on the car after two laps under the caution. NASCAR told the team that they would be unable to use the “option” tire. Keselowski had to run the race on his last set of primary tires. The team missed two lug nuts when the placed the “option” tires on.


Definitely a tough finish tonight for the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford. We had loose lug nuts after the second stage and having to come back down pit road to tighten those definitely altered our strategy. We just have to regroup this coming week and be better for the 600,” Keselowski stated post-race.


After the race, drivers assessed the “option” tire based on a longer run compared to a short run.


“They weren't bad.  I mean, the trend of handling from my car was the same on the yellows versus the greens.  I didn't see a huge shift in trends over the run and balance change.  So it just had a bit more grip and went faster for a short period of time.  I think it ended up in the same spot as the yellows did,” said Jimmie Johnson, who finished third on Saturday night.


The run that I was the leader, Jimmie was on the options, I felt like he closed on me to about the six‑ to eight‑lap mark, then I started pulling back away. The run that I was on the green tire, there was a lot of us on the green tire.  I was kind of at the speed that they were at,” said Kyle Larson, who finished second. “We were catching Jimmie, who was on the regular tire. I don't know.  Everybody's cars drive differently and stuff.  I felt like the handling of it stayed pretty good, though, throughout the 20 laps.  I don't know how the lap time looked 'cause I was battling people, so I wasn't really looking at my dash to see what I was running. Yeah, so I don't know.”


Although the initial test of the option tire was not up to par, it could potentially be used in points-paying events after more research and development.

CONCORD, N.C-- After a daring move to go three-wide on the start of the final 10 lap shootout, Kyle Busch went victorious in the Monster Energy All Star Race. Busch was able to sweep the weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway by winning tonight and the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 last night.


“It’s the All-Star race for one and for two, we’ve never won at Charlotte in a Cup car so we finally achieved that goal tonight and won the All-Star race and won a million bucks, so there’s reason to celebrate and to celebrate big. I can’t say enough about this team, everybody on this M&M’s Camry, this M&M’s Caramel Camry this week. First race, first win for those guys. Being a whole new product and being on the shelves here in May, it’s a whole new launch and a whole new program and it’s here to stay, so everybody pick up your caramel,” said Busch. “Can’t say enough about Adam Stevens (crew chief). You have Adam Stevens and these guys in the pit box and you can rely on them all day long. I had to do that tonight. You know we weren’t quite the fastest car, but we made the right changes when it mattered most. We made the right moves when it mattered most and we got the most out of our night tonight and got here to victory lane. Feel so relieved, alluded, proud and excited all in the same time.”


This was Busch’s 12th attempt to score an All-Star victory, and his first victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.


After dominating the first two stages, Kyle Larson was able to finish in the second position after losing some track position in the third stage by going to the “option” tires.


“My pit crew has been awesome all year and I don’t want to take anything away from them. We came down pit road the leader and three people passed us, that was pretty much the difference there. But, in ten laps, track position is huge. We just didn’t have it there at the end,” said Larson. “We had the best car out there, for sure. In traffic I thought it was really good. I thought we had it most of the race but that’s how racing goes. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. But I think we had a really fast car today. We’ll go onto the 600, that’s a long race, and try it again.”


Being a silent contender for most of the night, Jimmie Johnson was able to win the third stage and finish third overall in the All-Star race.


“When you’re the second place car, you can’t jump the leader. But everybody in the second, third, and fourth row is going to jump and do what they can to roll-up on the situation. So, I was really hopeful of old tires and being on the bottom. They’d be able to hold that lane back, especially Kyle (Busch) and how good he is on race starts. And it just didn’t happen. He got in there. I had a decent start. They weren’t able to push me and get me going. And I had a couple of shots at him,” said Johnson. “He wasn’t handling too well at the start of the run, but I just drove too hard. I could see a million dollars out the windshield and I just drove this Lowe’s Chevy way too hard in the corner a couple of times and gave up some ground. We learned a little bit tonight and we’ll come back next week and have some more fun.”


Drivers will return to Charlotte Motor Speedway on Thursday to begin preparations for the Coca-Cola 600, the sports longest race. FOX and Performance Racing Network will have the coverage on May 28th beginning at 6:00 p.m. EST.

CONCORD, N.C— Clint Bowyer, Ryan Blaney, and Daniel Suarez will transfer into the Monster Energy All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway based on their victories in the stages.


After starting from the pole position, Bowyer led all 20 laps in the opening stage. He had a 3.653 second lead over Blaney at the start-finish line.


In the second stage, Blaney led the field to the green to led all 20 laps. Blaney beat Chase Elliott by 0.203 seconds.


In the final 10 lap stage, Landon Cassill was the race leader, but was punted by Elliott before the first turn. Daniel Suarez assumed the race lead, but Elliott was pass Suarez with four laps remaining. The caution flew as Erik Jones went through the grass in an effort to pass Suarez and Elliott. Suarez won the final stage by 1.039 seconds over Austin Dillon


The winner of the fan vote was Chase Elliott.


The Monster Energy All-Star Race is set to go green shortly after 8:00 p.m. EST on Fox Sports 1 and Motor Racing Network.


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