Wednesday, Apr 27
The NASCAR Sprint Cup and Xfinity teams wrapped up a weekend at the .75-mile Richmond International Raceway for the Toyota Care 250 and the Toyota Owner’s 400. Here are some takeaways from this weekend’s events:
· Cup Drivers in Xfinity: Dale Jr. won the Toyota Care 250 on Saturday afternoon holding off many Xfinity Series regulars. However, there was no backlash about the victory for Jr. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver did not receive any backlash like there would have been if Kyle Busch had won the race. It is not a Sprint Cup driver in the Xfinity Series problem for most fans, but a Kyle Busch problem. If you are going to complain about one Sprint Cup driver, then you should complain about them all.
· Tony Stewart: It was great to see the return of Tony Stewart on Sunday in the Toyota Owner’s 400. He experienced some struggles, but was able to overcome them for a 19th place finish. When he got out of the car, he stated that he “could go for another 800 laps.” Hopefully, Stewart will continue and improve on this performance throughout the season. NASCAR is much better when Stewart is around.
· Tires: Goodyear brought a softer tire this year to Richmond. There were no tire issues throughout the race weekend. Enabling a tire strategy with the other strategies being played, called for a great race on Sunday.
· Day vs Night: When Richmond announced that their spring race would return to the day, it was received greatly by fans. It allowed for many younger fans to be brought to the speedway. There seemed to be younger fans in the stands on Sunday than normal. I believe all tracks who have two events should have one day and one-night race, if they have the MUSCO lighting.
· Last Lap Pass: The last lap pass on Sunday between Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch was typical short track racing. It was apparent that there were no team orders in place from Coach Joe Gibbs. This pass was completely different from what we saw at Kansas and Martinsville last fall. This is typical short track racing, and I hope to see more of it. Would you rather have teammates racing for the win or parading around?
What are your takeaways from Richmond International Raceway?
Monday, Apr 25
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.”
Tuesday, Apr 19
The NASCAR Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series have completed their first trip to the .533-mile Bristol Motor Speedway. Here are five takeaways from the Food City 500 and the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300:
· Heat Races: Back in January at the NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte, NASCAR announced that the NASCAR Xfinity Series will participate in heat races in the Dash4Cash events in 2016. This was a great first run of this style format. However, the heat races need to be worked on because there was no excitement in the heats. Qualifying should not happen when we use this format. There were no eliminations which made the races lackluster. In order to divide the field into the two heats, NASCAR should use the average speed of practice to divide the field or have slips of paper in a hat labeled 1 or 2, and whatever number you draw, that is your heat. I know this is the first run of this format, but it is obvious something needs to change to add more drama and excitement. We need the “Norm Benning Moments”.
· Tires: The tire combination used at Bristol has not changed. Goodyear needs to try to bring softer tires. Drivers were complaining that the tires were making it hard to pass. In the Food City 500, we saw couple of drivers who had melted beads when they wrecked. That is not a Goodyear issues, but a setup issue. It is not a tire problem when only a couple of drivers experience problems.
· Old vs New Bristol: This ever going debate continued into the weekend. For me, they are both the same. The only difference between old and new Bristol is the racing line. In Old Bristol, drivers would race the bottom lane and the top lane would be hard to pass. New Bristol has the same idea, but the racing groove is on the high lane. Drivers say that the racing is better on “new” Bristol. Does our debate come from how many wrecks were experienced on each configuration? Honestly, that seems to be the issue.
· Matt Kenseth: Matt cannot seem to catch a break this season. He is always running up towards the front, but something always happens to where he cannot finish where he started. The other Joe Gibbs Racing cars have won a race, leaving Kenseth as the only driver to not have done so. Hopefully, the tide will turn for Kenseth and his JGR team so that Coach Gibbs will have all four of his cars into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
· Solid Finishes: The Food City 500 saw some unfamiliar names in the top-10. Trevor Bayne, who finished fifth, had his best career finish since he won the 2011 Daytona 500. Matt DiBenedetto, who finished sixth, has an amazing story and created a new career best finish at Bristol. Clint Bowyer, who finished ninth, has struggled throughout much of the season with HScott Motorsports. Short tracks should now be considered the great equalizer, just like plate tracks. Martinsville also had some new names in the top-10. Will Richmond provide the same?
What are your takeaways from the events at Bristol Motor Speedway?
Saturday, Apr 16
Erik Jones wins the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 and the first Dash4Cash event for the NASCAR Xfintiy Series at Bristol Motor Speedway. Jones was able to spoil the Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson Show on the final restart. Jones becomes the first NASCAR Xfinity regular to win this season. He also is the first driver to clinch a spot in the Xfinity Series Chase. This is Jones’ third victory in 33 NASCAR Xfinity Series starts. Jones was able to win from the pole position. Kyle Busch finished second, followed by Larson, Austin Dillon, and Justin Allgaier. ‘
An emotional Erik Jones explains how he ran his race at Bristol. “It was a great day overall for us. We started off the race really good, and as the race went on we got shuffled back there to third, then on a restart back to fifth It’s funny to think back to those little moments where you’re racing people so hard that those little spots we gained at the end of the day were really what made it happen on that last restart. Pretty proud of all these guys. We’ve grown a lot since Daytona to get to this point, and to get a win here. Beating the 18 and the 42 was a really big day for us, and pretty cool to be the first Xfinity regular to get a win.”
An unhappy Kyle Busch explains his top-five run at Bristol. “I don’t know. Our car was one of the best, if not the best there on that one long run where Larson got by me. That was the race. I don’t know why, but I was getting too tight. On pit road, I was hoping my guys could get it back for me, but we didn’t. You can’t pass here. It used to be a racetrack you could race around three-wide and pass, work traffic really well, and have some fun. Now, it is just frustrating, aggravating.
A disappointed Kyle Larson, who led the race high of 94 laps, explains his performance at the .533-mile oval. “It was pretty fun. I was too loose in the heat race, but it was nice that we had that little break to make adjustments. We probably got ourselves a little too tight for that first run, but that’s still really good long run speed. It really hurt my short run stuff for maybe 10 to 15 laps. Had a lot of fun up there through traffic. I was able to get past Erik (Jones) for the lead, and then probably led like a lap or two when Kyle (Busch) got by me. I just followed his tracks through lap traffic. We got into some really heavy lap traffic, and I jumped to the bottom and he got pinned on the outside, then I got to the lead. That last run where he (Busch) was quite a bit better than where I was. I was doing all I could to stay calm and patient. He ran me really clean. I didn’t want to see that caution because I knew I could probably hold him off in traffic. I knew I was tight on the short runs. I still should’ve won, but I did a really bad job on that restart. I did a really poor job those last three laps. I’m pretty disappointed in myself, and probably won’t forget about this one for quite awhile.”
In the first 50 lap heat, Erik Jones won and led all the laps. The caution flag failed to fly in the heat. Jones and Allgaier would become the two drivers from the first heat to be eligible for the Dash4Cash prize.
In the second 50 lap heat, Austin Dillon won and led all the laps as well. The caution flag also failed to fly during the heat. Joey Logano had problems that followed him into the heat where his car was popping in and out of gear. For the main, Logano had a bungee cord on hand if the problem persisted. Ty Dillon and Daniel Suarez were the two drivers who became eligible for the Dash4Cash Prize.
The first heat race saw an average speed of 121.047 mph, time of race of 00 Hrs, 13 Mins, 16 Secs, and a margin of victory: 0.831 Seconds. The second heat saw am average speed of 120.977 mph, a time of race of 00 Hrs, 13 Mins, 15 Secs, and a margin of victory: 1.414 Seconds. The main event saw an average speed of 93.829 mph, the time of race was 01 Hrs, 08 Mins, 10 Secs, and a margin of victory of .416 seconds. There were three caution flags for 23 laps. There were 10 lead changes among four different drivers.
Daniel Suarez holds the points lead over Erik Jones by six points, followed by, Justin Allgaier (-8), Elliott Sadler (-10), and Brandon Jones (-19). Inspection from Bristol Motor Speedway was all clear with the cars of Erik Jones and Justin Allgaier being taken back to the Research and Development Center.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series will head to the Richmond International Raceway for the Toyota Care 250, the second installment of the Dash4Cash.