NASCAR drivers, owners, teams react to enhancements to points system

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NASCAR drivers, crew chiefs, team members, owners and officials shined a positive light on the new enhancements to the points structure across all three series that were announced Monday.

The enhancements will impact all three series, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Here are some excerpts from those that took part in the announcement from Charlotte, as well as reactions from social media:

NASCAR vice president Steve O’Donnell: “It’s the right time to make enhancements … it’s a great example of the industry coming together for the fans. … Every race matters and winning is more important than ever.”

Denny Hamlin: “There are no off weeks. Every single race matters. Every lap of every race matters. From our standpoint, you always felt a bit relaxed after you got a race win. Now with each accomplishment, getting points, through a stage win, or race win, each makes your road to Homestead a little bit easier. That’s what it’s all about.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: “I love the fact the bonus points will carry through the playoffs to the last round. Everything you do will help for the playoffs. The stages are going to help bring excitement for drivers and fans. Last year, I was driver and a fan, I was in a unique position. There will be a lot to watch as these crew chiefs try to figure out the strategies to obtain the most points. Fans should be excited.”

Brad Keselowski: “More chances to win, more chances to perform and more spotlights. … We’re going to race to a new level that we’ve never seen before. … I’m really pumped about this. To me, this is NASCAR. Look at how our races were formatted in the 40s and 50s: it was endurance, long races. Teams now are so smart. If we created motorsports from scratch today, this is how would we do this.”

Jeff Gordon: “I definitely think this is going to enhance experience of competitors and fans at home. … It (discussion of the new enhancements) was a pretty amazing experience and what came out of it is a balance of what fans are asking for and make it more exciting.”

NASCAR ON NBC analyst Jeff Burton: “When a race fan buys a ticket, that fan deserves to see a race that impacts the championship. Win and you’re in is awesome, but it took them off the hook a bit. If you incentivize these guys … it makes them want to race that much harder. This is an enhancement. When races matter, the fans win.

Steve Newmark, president of Roush Fenway Racing: “Crew chiefs and team members are chomping at the bit to get to the track.”

International Speedway Corporation president Joie Chitwood: “Every race, every lap means something, whether you have a TV viewer or someone in the stands. … We can never sit back and think we’re good enough. I think this group did a great job of coming up with something unique and I think our fans are going to be very excited in this coming season.”

Speedway Motorsports Inc. president Marcus Smith: “This is really for the fans.”

Team owner Jack Roush: “I believe this is part of the natural evolution of our sport as we continue to enhance the product on the race track. The enhancements are a result of unprecedented collaboration between the teams, NASCAR, broadcast partners and drivers, and in direct response to what the fans have expressed a desire for. Stage style racing has a strong history throughout many levels of motorsports, and I’m personally excited to watch as the new strategies play out during the upcoming season.”

Indianapolis Motor Speedway president J. Douglas Boles: “The new race format will make the Brickyard 400 and the entire Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series more exciting by making every stage of the race important. With every point critical to a driver’s championship chances, the changes will ensure spirited competition during each and every lap. The stages will also offer an opportunity for our fans to hear strategy insights during breaks in action, instead of having to wait until the race has ended. Winning the Brickyard 400 has always been important to the drivers and with more points on the line throughout, it will be an even more thrilling event!”

Team owner Richard Petty:

“Since NASCAR started, there has always been change. The world changes and you have to change with it. This new format just adapts to the current and next generation of fans. It’s something to help create more excitement during the races. You have to put on a good race, a good show where people want to watch at home and enjoy coming to the track. Having two additional winning moments is a good step in that direction to keep the drivers competitive and fans excited throughout the race and season. As an owner, I’m fine with it. I have the same rules as everyone else. That’s fair. We just have to figure out how to be the best under this format.”

Here are some comments from social media (we’ll continue to update):

 

 

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Ryan Preece is fastest in final Xfinity practice Friday at Kentucky

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Ryan Preece soared to the top of the speed chart in the final Xfinity practice Friday night at Kentucky Speedway.

Preece covered the 1.5-mile oval with a top speed of 181.629 mph. He hit that speed on his first of 38 laps run during the session.

Justin Allgaier was second (180.777 mph), followed by Spencer Gallagher Jr. (180.114), Tyler Reddick (179.832) and Daniel Hemric (179.712).

Sixth through 10th: Matt Tifft (179.665), who was fastest in the first practice session earlier in the afternoon, William Byron (179.605), Brennan Poole (179.581), Sam Hornish Jr. (179.521) and Brandon Jones (179.521).

Five of the 12 Xfinity playoff contenders ended up in the top 10: Allgaier, Hemric, Tifft, Byron and Poole.

Others playoff contenders on the speed chart were Elliott Sadler (12th, 179.194), Ryan Reed (16th, 178.944), Cole Custer (17th, 178.838), Brendan Gaughan (19th, 178.453), Blake Koch (20th, 178.159), Michael Annett (21st, 178.124) and Jeremy Clements (25th, 176. 286).

Qualifying for Saturday night’s VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 takes place at 5:30 p.m. ET, with the race set to take the green flag at 8 p.m. ET.

Click here for the full speed chart from the final Xfinity practice.

Starting lineup for Sunday’s ISM Connect 300 NASCAR Cup race at Loudon

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Up until this season, Kyle Busch wasn’t necessarily looked upon as a prolific qualifier.

He earned a career-best three poles in 2013 and 2014.

But that’s nothing compared to 2017, as Busch earned a career-best eighth pole Friday for Sunday’s ISM Connect 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

It’s also his second consecutive pole, having won the pole for last weekend’s playoff-opening race at Chicagoland Speedway.

Kyle Larson was next and will join Busch on the front row Sunday.

As for the other 14 NASCAR Cup playoff contenders: Denny Hamlin (134.763) was third, followed by Ryan Blaney (134.720), Chicagoland winner Martin Truex Jr. (134.188), Kevin Harvick (134.108), Kurt Busch (133.985), Kasey Kahne (133.966), Matt Kenseth (133.589), Jamie McMurray (133.680) and Jimmie Johnson (131.989).

Of the top 12 qualifiers, 11 are playoff drivers. The only non-playoff driver was Erik Jones (eighth, 133.971).

As for the other five playoff contenders, Brad Keselowski was 13th (133.422), Chase Elliott (133.357) was 14th, Austin Dillon was 17th (133.133), Ryan Newman was 18th (133.007) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. qualified 24th (131.628).

Click here for the starting lineup.

 

Kyle Busch gets past Kyle Larson to take Cup pole at Loudon

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In a battle between Kyle and Kyle, it was Kyle Busch who emerged with the pole for Sunday’s ISM Connect 300 Friday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The younger Busch brother was the only driver over 135 mph, taking his 27th career Cup pole with a speed of 135.049 mph.

“Just went out there and gave it what she had,” Busch told NBCSN. “It certainly would be great to finish this out in victory lane on Sunday.

“We knew we were going to have a shot for the pole, just didn’t know if we were going to get it. For as ugly as that session looked or felt from my vantage point, it certainly worked out.”

Busch has now won the pole for the first two playoff races, having won the pole last week at Chicagoland.

What’s more, this is the most prolific season of qualifying for Busch in his career: this is his eighth pole in 2017, most of all drivers in the Cup series and his most in a single season. His previous mark for most poles in a single season was three in both 2013 and 2014.

As for the other Kyle, Kyle Larson, he qualified on the outside of the front row with an effort of 134.911 mph.

“I feel overall that my lap was pretty good,” said Larson, who finished second in the July race at New Hampshire. “The 18 has been real fast, especially in qualifying all year. For us to be second to him is not bad.”

Denny Hamlin (134.763) was third, followed by Ryan Blaney (134.720), Martin Truex Jr. (134.188), Kevin Harvick (134.108), Kurt Busch (133.985), Erik Jones (133.971), Kasey Kahne (133.966), Matt Kenseth (133.589), Jamie McMurray (133.680) and Jimmie Johnson (131.989).

Of the top 12, 11 are in the NASCAR Cup playoffs. The only non-playoff driver was Jones.

As for the other five playoff contenders, Brad Keselowski was 13th (133.422), Chase Elliott (133.357) was 14th, Austin Dillon was 17th (133.133), Ryan Newman was 18th (133.007) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. qualified 24th (131.628).

Elliott and Johnson both wrecked their primary cars in the Cup practice session earlier in the day.

While Johnson was able to get back on-track for that practice session with his back-up car, Elliott qualified cold with his back-up, unable to get back on-track during the morning practice.

Joey Logano did not take a qualifying lap after failing pre-qualifying inspection four times. Logano will start last (40th position) in Sunday’s race at NHMS, which he considers his “home track.”

Click here for the full qualifying grid.

Matt Tifft fastest in first of 2 Xfinity practices at Kentucky Speedway

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Matt Tifft ran 25 laps during Friday afternoon’s first of two NASCAR Xfinity Series practice sessions at Kentucky Speedway.

But it was just one lap that mattered the most, as Tifft (180.427 mph) emerged from the 55-minute practice as the fastest in the 36 cars that took to the track.

Brian Scott was second (179.253 mph), followed by Ryan Preece (178.465), Brandon Jones (178.288), Justin Allgaier (178.271), Ben Kennedy (178.136), Elliott Sadler (177.573), Tyler Reddick (177.544), Spencer Gallagher Jr. (177.503) and Brennan Poole (177.381).

Interestingly enough, only four of the top-10 were playoff contenders. The seven-race Xfinity playoffs begin with Saturday night’s VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300.

There will be one more practice session today from 6:30-7:25 p.m. ET.

Qualifying and the race are Saturday.

Click here for the full practice speed grid.