Saturday, July 18, 2015

First topic at first NASCAR drivers council meeting: 'What makes a good race?'

   It sounds like a simple question, but history shows the answer is far more complicated and varies by perspective: "What makes a good race?"

   According to Dale Earnhardt Jr., and confirmed through other attendees, that was the first topic of the first NASCAR drivers council meeting last month at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. 

   The reason?

   "For the last probably 10 years we didn’t even know what a good show was. The drivers had an opinion what a good show was, NASCAR had an opinion what a good show was and it might not still be the same thing," Earnhardt said Friday in an interview at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
   To address many of the issues facing the sport, Earnhardt said drivers and NASCAR all had to get on the same page as to what each was trying to accomplish. The first starting point was a logical one.
   "The two sides might now be the same, but they were never in a room together years ago. So, we can sit there and talk about aero packages and what kind of racing it might present and now we’re seeing these packages get implemented on the race track, which is pretty crazy," he said. "I never ever thought that they would go allow us to run this low downforce package. I just, we wanted it and asked for it and asked for it and it really never got any legs."
  When the discussion ended on the first topic did drivers and NASCAR find their views on what makes a good race were different?
   "I think so. NASCAR I think wants pack racing and drafting and passing. Tons of passing, tons, tons - if they could pass every straightaway at speed that would a great show for NASCAR, which it would be great to watch," Earnhardt said. 
   "I think the drivers' opinion of what a great show is, is a bit old-school. Something from the '80s and the '90s. Not necessarily in the fact that fifth place was a lap down, because that stuff is not going to happen these days because the sport is too competitive. But off-throttle time, guys sliding around, tires wearing out, tires not making a fuel run, having to really take care of it.That's the kind of thing we want to encourage."

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Kevin Harvick takes home 2015 ESPY award for 'Best Driver'

   Reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick’s dominating year on the race track earned him an ESPY for ‘Best Driver’ Wednesday night at the 23rd annual ESPY Awards show presented by ESPN. 

   Harvick triumphed over 2015 Indianapolis 500 champion Juan Pablo Montoya, 2014 IndyCar champion Will Power, 2014 Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton and 2014 NHRA champion Erica Enders-Stevens for the win.

   Last season, Harvick earned five victories, six runner-up finishes and 14 top-five finishes en route to his first Cup title, clinched in walk-off fashion in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway with one of his five wins. Harvick also set six track qualifying records and earned a series-best eight poles.

   Harvick’s career includes 90 wins across NASCAR’s top three series – Cup, Xfinity and Trucks. Now in his 13th year, Harvick joins a list of stock car drivers who have won the title of ‘Best Driver’ since the awards began in 1993 including Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Bobby Labonte and Dale Jarett.

Monday, July 13, 2015

How to compare Kentucky Speedway's passing grade Saturday night

  Sprint Cup Series drivers were overwhelmingly supportive of the new aerodynamic rules package that debuted in Saturday night's Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.

   In addition to the glowing comments, however, NASCAR had a significant amount of recent data from which to compare that backed up the positive comments. 

   Here's a look at how Kentucky has fared in the passing game since its Cup series debut:

   Track History - Green Flag Passes
   Race Date            Total          
   7/11/2015            2,665              
   6/28/2014            1,147      
   6/30/2013            1,650      
   6/30/2012            1,849      
   7/9/2011              3,216      

   Track History - Green Flag Pass for Lead
   Race Date            Total          
   7/11/2015            22          
   6/28/2014            12          
   6/30/2013            6             
   6/30/2012            9             
   7/9/2011              19          

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Could NASCAR's safety solutions have applications to other professional sports?

   As NASCAR begins its investigation into Monday's last-lap wreck during the Coke Zero 400 that tore a giant hole in the frontstretch catchfence at Daytona International Speedway which left five fans injured, it's possible any new solutions that arise could be applied to other professional sports.

   Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR's executive vice president and chief racing development officer, was asked Tuesday about the work being done on any 'next-generation' catchfence solutions and whether something new was on the horizon.

   O'Donnell opened the door to searching for new technologies that could be applied to any sport with a playing field.

   "I think the catch fence, first and foremost, is there to obviously keep the car from going through, and I think it did that. I think the next iteration that we would look at, it may not be a fence make, but what are the new technologies that are out there," he said.

   "I think this is an area for all sports to look at, with anything either flying away from a playing field or a racing surface. If we can lead in that area, we want to do just that. I wouldn't make it specific to a fence. There could be a lot of new technologies that we could look at collectively with the tracks to make some improvements in that area."

Monday, July 6, 2015

Fan videos of Monday morning's horrific crash at Daytona

   Here's a collection of videos taken from fans in the grandstands at Daytona International Speedway of the last-lap crash in Monday's rain-delayed Coke Zero 400:


Sunday, July 5, 2015

Rico Abreu scores his first NASCAR victory

  Rico Abreu made a name for himself wheeling an open-wheel car on dirt. It hasn’t taken long to get acclimated to stock car racing on asphalt.
   In only his seventh start, the 23-year-old from St. Helena, Calif., earned his first NASCAR win Saturday night in the K&N Pro Series East race at Columbus (Ohio) Motor Speedway. Abreu, who stands 4-foot-4, was born with achondroplasia, a genetic disorder that is a cause of dwarfism.

   With his victory in the NAPA 150, Abreu continues his breakout year that saw him with the prestigious Chili Bowl Nationals sprint car event, make his first stock car start in February, sign with HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks and win his first Coors Light Pole Award in the previous K&N Pro Series East event at Langley Speedway.

   Abreu captured his second Coors Light Pole Award in a row earlier in the evening at Columbus, but it was the decisive pass for the lead that he made on Lap 115 that ultimately delivered his first victory. Abreu just beat Grant Quinlan to the finish line. In his K&N Pro Series East debut, Quinlan battled for – and swapped – the lead eight times with Abreu throughout the 150-lap event. 

   Abreu is following the path that his friend and fellow Californian Kyle Larson – now a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competitor – took in transitioning from dirt to asphalt. Larson’s first NASCAR victory came in his sixth career K&N Pro Series East start in 2012 en route to the championship that season.

   William Byron, who finished 14th Saturday, retained the championship lead by 20 points over Hill with seven races complete.

   The NAPA 150 will be telecast on NBC Sports Network on Friday at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Brian France on franchising: 'It's in our best interest to have healthy team owners'

  Could some form of franchising be in NASCAR's not-so-distant future?
   In an appearance Wednesday afternoon on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NASCAR Chairman Brian France seemed to open the door to some sort of franchising model for NASCAR teams that would provide invested team owners with equity outside of the car parts and machine tools that fill their respective shops.

   Asked by Sirius host Dave Moody for his take on the status of talks on the issue, France said, "It's in our best interest to have healthy team owners who have the best opportunity to field quality race teams. That's a goal that we've had for a long time. That remains. In any way we can do to benefit that business model and create more opportunities for ownership, for example, whatever we may be, all of those things are what are being discussed. It's not a new direction. We are taking a little bit more of a formal look at that. Whatever we can come up with that benefits our team owners, their business models and creates a healthier and more competitive NASCAR, that's in our best interest."

   Asked how far along the talks are, France said, "These are complicated matters. They aren't new. What is different a little bit is that we're formalizing these discussions so we can accelerate these ideas. Directionally, in our best interests of course to make sure our team owners are healthy. They've said they have a lot of challenges right now. We're listening to that because they are one of the most important stakeholders in NASCAR."