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Five drivers to watch at Texas Motor Speedway

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Keep an eye on these drivers this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

Jimmie Johnson

After his win at Martinsville secured his place in the Championship 4, one may think Johnson can afford to relax. But when you have Kevin Harvick and all four Joe Gibbs Racing drivers still vying for their own Championship spot, keeping the hammer down is the only option – and a fifth consecutive Chase race win at Texas by Johnson would increase the pressure for all of them. Johnson leads all major categories at Texas, including wins (six), top fives (14), top 10s (20) and laps led (1,023).

Matt Kenseth

He is also coming into this weekend with momentum. Since finishing 11th at Texas in April, Kenseth has posted six consecutive top-10 finishes on 1.5-mile tracks. He’s also led over 100 laps in two of the last three races – that includes the most recent race on a 1.5-miler at Kansas (116 of 267; finished ninth) and last week’s race at Martinsville (176 of 500; finished fourth).

Martin Truex Jr.

Among the top drivers on 1.5-mile tracks this season (two wins, 817 laps led, 8.2 average finish), Truex looked poised to win at Texas back in April when a late-race decision to stay out instead of pitting for fresh tires backfired. And in last year’s Chase race at Texas, a loose wheel and power steering issue knocked him from contention in the closing laps. He would seem to be due.

Carl Edwards

Kyle Busch may have won at Texas earlier this year, but it can be argued that either Truex or Carl Edwards should’ve won based on performance. In Edwards’ case, he dominated the middle stages of that race until a loose wheel forced him to pit, fall a lap down, and then come back for a seventh-place finish. That was his fourth consecutive top 10 there, but only a win will likely erase his 32-point gap to the cut line and send him on to Miami.

Brad Keselowski

Keselowski has also been stout on mile-and-a-halves this year with victories at Las Vegas and Kentucky, plus a 10.4 average finish across all nine races on this type of track. Considering what he’s been through at Texas recently – the 2014 pit road brawl with Jeff Gordon and his dominant performance last fall dashed by Jimmie Johnson – a win here would mean a good deal to him.

 

My Home Tracks: New Mexico’s the Land of Enchantment and home of Cardinal Speedway

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The state of New Mexico is known more for IndyCar racing, with the Unser family being the state’s favorite sons.

Al Unser won four Indianapolis 500s, brother Bobby three and Al’s son Al Jr. a two-time winner (this weekend’s 500 marks the 25th anniversary of Little Al’s second 500 triumph).

But there’s a strong grassroots racing scene in the Land of Enchantment, particularly in the far southeast corner of the state at Cardinal Speedway, a half-mile dirt track in the little town of Eunice.

NASCAR America continues its My Home Track series of 50 states in 50 shows.

Wednesday, we visit New York state.

2018 NASCAR schedule changes: EVP Steve O’Donnell breaks it down (video)

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On Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR America, NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell joined us to discuss the NASCAR Cup schedule changes in 2018, including running a road race at Charlotte and having Indianapolis be the final race before the playoffs.

“I’m real excited about these changes,” said O’Donnell, who cited unprecedented cooperation between NASCAR, its teams, drivers and sponsors to reach agreement on the schedule changes.

Among the key changes: Las Vegas will kick off the 10-race playoffs in 2018 (Chicagoland Speedway, which will have hosted the last seven playoff openers, will return to its more traditional race date in early July/late June and serve as a run-up to the Coke Zero 400 in Daytona.

Several other changes include:

  • The fall playoff race at Charlotte will move up a couple weeks in the schedule and also incorporate competition on both the infield road course and part of the speedway itself.
  • After 14 years as the deciding race to qualify for the NASCAR Cup playoffs, Richmond International Raceway will now become the second race of the playoffs.
  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway will see it’s Brickyard 400 go from late July to become the final qualifying race for the playoffs in early September. While still in the rumor stage, there’s a lot of talk that IMS may change the race to something akin to its Verizon IndyCar Series Indy Grand Prix race in mid-May, where half the race is run on the infield road course and the other half on the traditional racetrack surface.

Catch up on all the changes in the above video.

Tony Stewart pulled over by state trooper, but it’s not for speeding

Photo courtesy Damein Cunningham Twitter account
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Retired NASCAR Cup driver and team co-owner Tony Stewart was stopped by an Illinois State Trooper over the weekend near DeKalb, Ill., about 90 minutes west of Chicago.

But before you think Stewart was stopped for speeding by Trooper Damein Cunningham, he wasn’t.

Rather, Cunningham pulled Stewart over for improper lane usage, although exactly what the infraction was is unclear.

After getting a verbal warning, Stewart gladly posed with Cunningham for a selfie, which the trooper promptly tweeted out.

“Just pulled over NASCAR LEGEND Tony Stewart on I-88 in DeKalb, IL, what you think I got him for? #NASCAR #ISP”

But according to the Chicago Tribune, Cunningham’s bosses apparently didn’t have a sense of humor about the incident or realize the good PR it meant for the Illinois State Police.

That, or they’re not Stewart or NASCAR fans. They ordered Cunningham to delete the tweet, which he did.

It’s unclear what Stewart, who was stopped on his 46th birthday, was doing in the Land of Lincoln.

But his luck went from bad to worse a few hours later. According to USA Today, Stewart and others were stuck in an elevator in a Madison, Wisconsin hotel for about 20 minutes before being rescued by firefighters.

We can just imagine what the elevator riders talked about while trapped.

How much do you want to bet Stewart said, “Man, do I have a story about a cop that I have to tell you.”

Cunningham then posted another tweet on Sunday after attending church services.

 

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All-Star Race will remain at Charlotte in 2018

Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images
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NASCAR confirmed that the All-Star Race will be held again at Charlotte Motor Speedway despite more of a push from competitors and others to move the event.

Criticism was raised after last weekend’s 70-lap event featured only three lead changes. Kyle Busch took the lead on the restart to begin the final 10-lap stage and went on to win. It marked the fourth time in the last five years the All-Star winner led every lap in the final stage. In 12 All-Star Races at Charlotte since the track was repaved, there have been two lead changes in the final five laps.

Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations, was clear in a call with reporters Tuesday that the All-Star Race is set for Charlotte.

“We’ve finished our discussions for ’18,” he said. ” We’ll begin looking at ’19 and beyond in the near future.”

The All-Star Race debuted at Charlotte in 1985, moved to Atlanta in 1986 and returned to Charlotte the following year. It has been held at Charlotte ever since.

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