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Offseason plans vary for many NASCAR drivers

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At the conclusion of Friday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards banquet in Las Vegas, the 2016 offseason will officially begin.

That means it’s time to relax, right? Not so for some drivers.

Rookie of the Year Chase Elliott had a simple answer when asked about his plans: “Get away.”

Kyle Busch hopes to do the same. With his son, Brexton, still not old enough to completely understand Christmas, Busch hopes the family has at least one more year to get away.

“Stay away from home, not necessary set up a tree, all that,” Busch said. “Next year, that will be a big Christmas year.”

Austin Dillon will be going away, and soon. After making his first Chase for the Sprint Cup and participating in Champion’s Week activities in Las Vegas, Dillon said next weekend he’ll be taking his No. 3 team hunting in Texas.

Another driver who also enjoys the outdoors, Martin Truex Jr., also has some trips planned.

“I went and did a little bit of boat racing this past weekend, that’s one of my hobbies, so I got to do that,” Truex said. “Got some hunting trips planned, and looking forward to Christmas, my favorite time of the year. Hopefully spend a few days back home with the family and enjoy all that.”

Of course, racing won’t be completely forgotten this offseason.

Kyle Larson has already been back to victory lane and will have many more chances. Larson is gearing up for sprint car races in Australia as well as the 2017 Chili Bowl.

“I ran a dirt midget race last week and won (the Turkey Night Grand Prix), that was good,” Larson said. “Looking forward to all that and kind of also looking forward to relaxing.”

A few drivers, however, are looking forward to staying home.

Joey Logano said he’s going to have a “normal person Christmas” and is looking forward to seeing his family. He jokingly apologized for not having anything exciting going on because he’s not big into going out.

“I think most people stay home and see their family, or if not, they probably should see their family at some point,” Logano continued.

As for the championship team from Hendrick Motorsports, crew chief Chad Knaus is also looking forward to the downtime. Mostly so he can let the accomplishment of winning seven championships sink in.

“I’m looking forward to this winter,” Knaus said. “I’m going to spend some time with my wife. Go do some snowboarding, maybe hit a vacation spot or two and I’m thinking at that point I’ll really start to enjoy it.”

Knaus and the rest of the NASCAR community have 85 days to enjoy their free time before engines fired for the 2017 Daytona 500.

Follow @KellyCrandall

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.

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.

 

Follow @JerryBonkowski

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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