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Parker Kligerman’s big idea for repaving Texas? Redo the track, too

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An Open Letter to Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage

Dear Eddie:

I believe we have met. I’ve walked across the driver introduction stage for numerous races at your track (including my Sprint Cup debut in 2013). Your racetrack always will have a soft spot in my heart. I love it. Therefore, I am sorry about the unfortunate way Mother Nature has treated your racetrack this year.

It was a herculean effort by your team and NASCAR to get in the race Sunday. Kudos! The track’s porous, worn-out surface has become as stubborn as the damage mercilessly pounded upon it by Father Time. Through those efforts the other night, there were whispers through the garage of a dreaded word whose very utterance can cause consternation amongst drivers.

Repave.

I know you understand this, as you told reporters, “I know they are going to hate it.” Which is true.

Another repaved, “D”-shaped, 1.5-mile race track doesn’t leave much to mystery. No downforce package, tire compound or tire dragger will deliver some surprise improvement to the racing. We’ll be complaining nonstop about running around the track on a knife’s edge. The racing will be an aero fest, and the winner will get out in victory lane and remark, “Phew, that was a handful, but we survived those crazy restarts and were able to get that crucial bottom line.” It will be the most expensive re-air of a show we have seen too many times.

But why does it have to be this way? I have an idea.

One of my favorite sayings lately is, “In uncertainty, there is opportunity.” Its origin is unknown, but it’s probably my overly optimistic-to-a-fault attitude. If the world was burning, my mom is convinced I’d be saying, “Well I was feeling a bit cold, this is nice.”

But I believe there is serious opportunity here. For a long time, I’ve wondered why racetracks and racing series developed figurative boxes for competition – whether it’s the designs of cars or the shapes and sizes of racetracks. Try as I might, though, I haven’t found any rules for building a racetrack.

The fact is racing isn’t curing disease, or solving third-world debt. Its sole purpose now is to entertain.

Entertainment knows no bounds, and the only constant is that it isn’t. It comes in billions of different forms. There are 7 billion people in this world and just as many definitions of what entertains them. As an incredible and very entertaining promoter, you already know this, Eddie. From crazy advertisements to elaborate prerace shows to an HDTV so large, it could double as apartment housing in New York.

Entertainment never has been more readily available, either. People have it in the palms of their hands on a 6.5-inch screen.

So why do we need to repeat the obvious when we inevitably repave Texas Motor Speedway?

Let’s what the catchy No Limits” slogan suggests and break the boundaries. If “everything is bigger in Texas,” the track that bears that great state’s name should be no different.

Let’s stop Jimmie Johnson from getting out of his car and saying “With the same tire, we were able to learn a lot for Miami” (as he did this past weekend). Let’s avoid the comparisons with recent repaves at Las Vegas, Kentucky and Kansas.

This is Texas, let’s build a racetrack and that will apply only here!

The Idea

Three years ago, I wrote a piece on “How not to design a great racetrack” that criticized the current crop of tracks built around the world. All are designed on computers under the watchful eyes of engineers who spend their lives staring at computer screens. The results are boring, lifeless and unusually expensive parking lots.

The greatest tracks were built by a man and a bulldozer (Mosport in Canada) or in the interests of avoiding a minnow pond (Darlington Raceway). We might have moved past this era, but it doesn’t mean we should be any less imaginative with track design.

Let’s use the Internet, engineers and social media to our advantage.

I always have wondered why we couldn’t get crazy and unique with track design, so let’s start with Texas. Take the sweeping, wide-open third and fourth turns and reshape them narrowly like Martinsville (while keeping Turns 1 and 2 the same). Imagine cars that brake and downshift three gears every lap and then accelerate through the gears on the frontstretch. The drivers truly will earn their money, and fans will get something you can’t see anywhere else.

OK, maybe you don’t like that. So how about a right-hander on the backstretch? Similar to the old Trenton racetrack in New Jersey, though this right- hander would be severe enough that the engineers would have to compromise on the setup of the race car for rights and lefts.

You want to get rid of “rear-end skew” and aero? There is your answer.

Or have a track where the top line next to the wall has a half– groove that is banked 8 degrees more than anywhere on the track. That would create a super treacherous line, but it would offer a sizable advantage in speed — if you dare risk hitting the wall!

There is no reason to re-create the past. Let’s be creative!

The Execution

So which do we choose?

Here is where we get so very Texas and 21st century all at once. We use modern technology to create five simulations of the new track. It would take iRacing roughly less than two weeks, and their versions would be incredibly lifelike.

We offer a free demo with a Sprint Cup car and five proposed versions of the new track. Fans around the world would be able to download all of them. They test it, and we do a series of votes to determine which they love most.

We will do races involving NASAR drivers, too — Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski and others will race fans on the different versions. Eventually, a winner will be chosen, and in a nationally televised special, we will announce the winner of the first track built by the fans and NASCAR industry in the history of the sport.

It’ll be the first track built with one goal: To entertain.

By truly embracing “No Limits,” Texas will usher in a new era of race-tracks. And I’ll look forward to walking across that introduction stage to offer you my congratulations on a track built by the fans … for the fans..

Sincerely,

Parker Kligerman

NASCAR fines No. 6 Xfinity Series team crew chief for lug nut violation

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Only one penalty has emerged from this past weekend’s racing action at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

NASCAR announced on Thursday that the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Xfinity Series Ford Fusion, driven Darrell Wallace Jr., was found to be in violation of:

Sections 10.9.10.4: Tires and Wheels (lug nut not properly installed).

The penalty to crew chief Seth Barbour was a $5,000 fine.

There are no penalties against Wallace, team owners and Barbour will not be suspended.

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Full schedule for NASCAR Cup, Trucks this weekend at Martinsville

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The three-race West Coast Swing is over and NASCAR returns back east for this weekend’s racing action at Martinsville Speedway.

The half-mile, paper-clip shaped oval celebrates its 70th year of operation this weekend. Martinsville is the oldest track on the NASCAR circuit, opening in 1947.

The NASCAR Cup Series will hold its STP 500 on Sunday. The Xfinity Series is off this weekend, while the Xfinity Camping World Truck Series races for the first time in nearly a month, since March 4 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Here’s this weekend’s NASCAR schedule with TV and radio information.

All times are Eastern.

Friday, March 31

9 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. – Cup garage open

11:30 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. – Cup first practice (Fox Sports 1, Motor Racing Network)

11:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. – Truck garage open

1 – 1:55 p.m. – Truck first practice (FS1)

3 – 3:55 p.m. – Truck final practice (FS1)

4:35 p.m. – Cup qualifying (multi-vehicle, three-round) (FS1, MRN)

Saturday, April 1

7:30 a.m. – Truck garage open

8:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. – Cup garage open

10 – 10:55 p.m. – Cup second practice (FS1, MRN)

11:05 a.m. – Truck qualifying (multi-vehicle/three rounds) (FS1)

1:15 p.m. – Truck driver/crew chief meeting

1:30 p.m. – Cup final practice (FS1, MRN)

2:30 p.m. – Truck driver introductions

3 p.m. – Alpha Energy Solutions 250 Truck race (250 laps, 131.5 miles) (Fox, MRN, Sirius/XM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, April 2

8:30 a.m. – Cup garage open

12 p.m. – Cup driver/crew chief meeting

1:20 p.m. – Cup driver introductions

2 p.m. – STP 500 NASCAR Cup race (500 laps, 263 miles) (FS1, MRN, Sirius/XM NASCAR Radio)

Stewart-Haas drops appeal, Knost to fill in for Childers as Harvick crew chief at Martinsville

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Daniel Knost – former crew chief for both Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick – will fill in as crew chief for Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Fusion team for this weekend’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

SHR chose not to go forward with its appeal of a one-race suspension penalty against Rodney Childers, Harvick’s regular crew chief. Childers will sit out this weekend and pay a $25,000 fine after being penalized by NASCAR for an unapproved track bar assembly in post-race inspection March 19 following the Phoenix race.

“Basically we got in trouble for a part that was drawn a certain way and didn’t appear that way on the car,” Harvick said in a media release. “The way that NASCAR works now is you submit drawings for pretty much every part on your car. It has to meet certain specifications and that part didn’t meet it, so Rodney’s going to get to go on vacation this week.”

Harvick was also penalized 10 driver points and the No. 4 team lost 10 owner points for the infraction.

Knost is SHR’s director of vehicle dynamics. Previously, he was Busch’s crew chief for 33 races in 2014, including working together to earn a win at Martinsville in April of that year.

Knost then moved to Patrick’s team as crew chief for the last three races of 2014 and the entire 2015 season.

Harvick has one career win at Martinsville (spring 2006). But he’s struggled in the last two races at the half-mile, paper clip-sized oval, finishing 17th last spring and 20th last fall.

“I know this is probably one of the most painful weeks for (Childers) to go on vacation because Martinsville really hasn’t been our best track,” Harvick said. “… We push things and that’s what I want them to do. I want them to push everything on that car.

“Sometimes you’re going to get in trouble, but those guys have been the best in the business for the last three years. It’s kind of like growing up as a kid – sometimes you get in trouble and you have to suffer the consequences.”

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Xfinity Series Spotlight: Daniel Hemric on racing his wife, his ‘Alter ego’ and sleepovers with Dillon brothers

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As a kid growing up in Kannapolis, North Carolina, Daniel Hemric spent a lot of time with brothers Austin and Ty Dillon.

Nights were filled with games of hide-and-seek, paint ball matches and dreams.

Having first encountered each other on the Bandolero circuit, the aspiring race car drivers would stay up late into the night, conspiring about their racing futures.

“I remember sitting there talking about ‘Man, what would we do if we ever made to the top of NASCAR? Or just made it to NASCAR?’,” Hemric told NBC Sports. “Here we are trying to figure it out.”

They figured it out together, as the three have risen through the ranks of NASCAR with Hemric usually one step behind the brothers.

Hemric is now teammates with the Dillons at Richard Childress Racing, which is owned by their grandfather. While the Dillons are now both in the Cup Series full-time, Hemric is five races into his rookie campaign in the Xfinity Series driving the No. 21. His move comes after two seasons in the Camping World Truck Series, with the last season at Brad Keselowski Racing.

Though there are many veteran drivers at RCR he could consult, the 26-year-old rookie usually seeks out the Dillons.

“My crew chief Danny (Stockman) and Austin and Ty have all worked together in the past, so they have a little bit of communication there that helps me break through with Danny,” Hemric said. “Stuff that Danny’s asking or expecting of me is stuff he’s asked of them. It’s easier to go to those guys and really lean on them because they’ve been through the exact situation I’m in.”

That communication led to Hemric, who is seventh in the point standings, qualifying on the front row for last weekend’s race at Auto Club Speedway.

This Q&A had been edited and condensed:

Daniel Hemric with Darrell Wallace Jr. in the garage at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

NBC Sports: What was your first car?

Hemric: A ’95 Honda Civic, green.

NBC Sports: What kind of green? There’s good green and then there’s bad green.

Hemric: I’d say it’s probably a mix. I wouldn’t pick it for any other car if I had to have it. My mother bought the car brand new in ’95. She gave it to me and I still drive it up and down the road. … I’ve upgraded, I have a little nicer car for special occasions, but my little Honda still treats me right.

NBC Sports: Have you ever named a car, whether it be a street car or race car?

Hemric: Absolutely. I’ve had two of those. My Legends car was obviously very special to me, kind of helped me put my name on the map and her name was Sue. … We had a long-running joke with a guy I was teammates with back in the day, his mom was always a sweet lady. After we named the car we started winning a lot of races and it stuck. The other one I had a late model that I had a bunch of guys pitch in and build, a bunch of different owners were involved and the car was all white, white everything. Ran a couple races, won a couple races with it. Whenever I stripped the car and rebuilt it, went back and everything was exactly the opposite color. Everything was flat black, everything was black out. It took on the name “Alter ego.” Went on to have a lot of success with that car as well. Maybe that’s the thing, I need to start naming these stock cars.

NBC Sports: If you were to race in the Cup Series night race at Bristol, what would your intro song be?

Hemric: People probably wouldn’t believe me if I said this, but I’m actually into some old school rap. There’s an old Yung Joc song called “Hear Me Comin’.” I feel like that’s the proper language for a Bristol night race. (Writer’s note: “old school” apparently means 2006 these days.)

NBC Sports: What’s on your bucket list that’s not related to racing?

Hemric: With being more heavily involved in golf and snowboarding, I’d like to go to Vermont or somewhere more exotic snowboarding with a lot of fresh snow, that would be really cool. Playing golf in some really cool places. Pebble Beach. I know a lot of people that have played there, so maybe go play there a couple times is something I’d like to knock off the list.

NBC Sports: What’s the most emotional reaction you’ve had to a sporting event that wasn’t auto racing?

Hemric: Here recently, within the last few weeks,we got to go to one of the top five majors of tennis and I’ve never followed it, never seen a tennis match, didn’t know the rules. Here we are pretty much sitting front row at this tennis match. To feel the intensity and what these guys are playing for, Roger Federer wound up winning the match, but to be able to all of a sudden go from not a fan, not know anything about the sport to watching these guys do battle … was just an overwhelming experience. These guys laid it on the line. Just pure emotion. I thought that was a really cool experience.

(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

NBC Sports: Who was your favorite driver growing up?

Hemric: Dale Earnhardt, no doubt. … Being from Kannapolis, North Carolina, it was kind of an obvious pick for me. With DEI being right down the road, with that being the pinnacle of the sport, I didn’t know anything else. My dad was a follower, all my family. It was one of those things that got kind of pushed down. As I began my own racing career and I got to choose a number, the number was three. As I started racing go karts heavily, the guy that I always pulled for, that kind of carried with me growing up.

NBC Sports: Do you remember the first time you saw your face or name on merchandise?

Hemric: The first couple of years of Truck racing, I didn’t have a whole lot of stuff. I had been out of town racing and I got got back from a Truck race late one night. My wife (Kenzie Ruston), she raced as well, she was coming from a race. We met at our house at like 3 a.m. in the morning and there’s a box on the porch. And I’m thinking, ‘What did you order now?’ She says ‘I didn’t order anything.’ We get inside and open the box up and here’s a compete (cardboard) standup of myself in this box. I unfolded this thing and it was so random, unexpected. Draw Tite, the sponsor that was a big part of my career at Brad Keselowski Racing, just sent it to me saying ‘We think this is probably the first one you’ve ever had, hope you enjoy it.’ It’s a very awkward tease that we have in our house. We try to put it in the spare bedroom so when people stay over, it tries to spook them when they open the door.

NBC Sports: Your wife races too?

Hemric: Yeah, she grew up racing as well in Legend cars. She ran a couple of ARCA races and super late models (and three seasons in the K&N Pro Series East. She’s a former member of NASCAR Next). She’s kind of on the retiring path currently trying to keep up with me. She’s a heck of a driver herself, that’s how we met.

NBC Sports: You’ve actually raced against her?

Hemric: Yeah, we actually ran numerous races against each other, a couple of times in the super late-model ranks. Her claim to fame is that she was the only female ever to win a super late-model race at Lucas Oil Raceway Park in Indianapolis. I can’t remember how it went down, but I was third, Ryan Blaney was fourth and Chase Elliott was fifth, somewhere in that order. That’s her go-to whenever you ask ‘Have you ever beat Daniel?’

Previous Xfinity Spotlight Q&A’s

Justin Allgaier

Darrell Wallace Jr.

Michael Annett

Ryan Reed

Brandon Jones

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