Michael L. Levitt

NASCAR on NBC podcast, Ep. 70: The 2018 Camry

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It’s a common practice for automakers to make next year’s model available in showrooms with a few months remaining in the previous year.

But racing next year’s model a year ahead of time?

That’s why it’s notable that the debut of the 2018 Camry in the NASCAR Cup Series occurred roughly seven months before the production version is on sale to the public.

“What’s unique is we made the decision early on to bring this to the track before the cars are being sold in the showrooms,” Toyota Racing Development president David Wilson said on the latest edition of the NASCAR on NBC podcast. “That’s very aggressive. Normally, the cadence is to wait until Daytona 2018. The reason was we were so enamored with the new car. The styling was so spectacular.

“We decided to take this on, and it’s a tremendous burden on ourselves and the team partners because we were developing this car, running this in the wind tunnel, months before the public would see anything.”

The development of the 2018 Camry, which was kept under heavy wraps for months leading up to its 2017 Daytona 500 debut, was the subject of the latest NASCAR on NBC podcast.

Wilson explained the competition side of fine-tuning the car in the first half of the podcast, while Calty Design Research’s Kevin Hunter and Ian Cartabiano explained how the car was developed in the studio.

Hunter and Cartabiano both worked on the Camry street car before moving to the racing version.

“The TRD guys allow us to throw out the first ball,” Hunter said. “We give them what we think it should look like, a good rendition based on the parameters. They absorb and decide what’s good and what’s bad.

“There was a real strong ambition to make this car really cool and keep the production car identity. It’s the most sculptural race car to date.”

Cartabiano, who grew up a Bill Elliott and Davey Allison fan, working on a stock car was a dream come true.

“This was the job I always wanted,” said Cartabiano, who has worked on seven production vehicles for Toyota. “Having the opportunity to design a new Camry and coming back to the home studio and make a new NASCAR version. To design and draw and make a race car that’s not just a sketch but really well thought out, that’s a really cool challenge, which makes it fun.”

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the AudioBoom embed below or download and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes by clicking here. The free subscription will provide automatic downloads of new episodes to your smartphone. It also is available on Stitcher by clicking here and also can be found on Google Play, Spotify and a host of other smartphone apps.

 

Atlanta Motor Speedway to delay repave at least a year

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The cries of drivers have been heard. Atlanta Motor Speedway will not repave its track as previously scheduled. Instead, track officials will evaluate the surface following the 2018 race there.

Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns the track, had planned to have the track surface repaved beginning in late March. It would have been the first repave there since 1997.

Engineers examined the track after the March 5 race to determine if the track surface could last another year with modest repairs. Track officials also consulted with Goodyear and others.

“There’s no question that the surface is worn out, but probably the most powerful lobby this side of Washington, D.C., was the biggest influence,” Ed Clark, president of Atlanta Motor Speedway, told NBC Sports of the drivers. “They kind of put the pressure on. I understand.”

After winning there, Brad Keselowski made his pitch not to repave the track.

“Drivers hate repaves,” he said. “We want to see the surfaces last as long as they can.  But the reality is nothing lasts forever, and this surface has made it a really, really long time, 20 years, I think, this season, and they should be really proud of that.

“My hope is they can get another year or two out of it, and I understand if they can’t, and you have to kind of leave it to their expertise and so forth.”

Clark said that work will need to be done to the track before next year’s race.

“The worst part is down the frontstretch in front of the grandstands,” Clark told NBC Sports. “There’s a lot of issues there. We’re actually going to have to cut a few areas and patch … to make it last through 2018. We consulted with Goodyear on that. They don’t think, as long as it is on the straightaway, it is a big issue from a tire standpoint.”

Clark said that the track surface will be sealed in October and should have the patching done before then.

“Let them go ahead and slip and slide one more time in 2018,” Clark said.

Clark said that while anything can change, he doesn’t foresee being talked out of a repave job too many more times.

“You have to see how the weekend goes and what happens,” Clark told NBC Sports. “We had to patch some places after the Saturday events this year, small places. Hey, if we could go two more, great. All you’ve got to do is walk out there and look at it. It is absolutely worn out. But if the drivers say, hey our choice is to race on this surface as it is.

“There comes a point (when a repave is needed). We do have a few drainage issues we do need to correct, some other things when the time comes. Right now, we’re going to get through 2018 and evaluate and see if that is the time or when is it.”

Clark said that when the track is repaved, Goodyear has expressed interest in having two test sessions to determine the proper tire for that 1.5-mile track instead of the customary one because of the track’s challenging surface.

Clark warns that with the excitement of Tuesday’s news, the day is still coming when the track will have to be repaved.

“I can’t see this going two more seasons, maybe only one,” Clark said.

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NASCAR America — My Home Track: 50 States In 50 Shows — Arkansas

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On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, we continued our series of My Home Track: 50 States in 50 Shows as our trucks rolled into Arkansas!

We visited two short tracks in the state that produced President Bill Clinton and Basketball Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen.

Plus we talked to NASCAR Hall of Famer and Arkansas native Mark Martin about racing in his home state.

NASCAR America: Is there cause for concern with Jimmie Johnson’s performance thus far?

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It’s no secret that Jimmie Johnson is off to a slow start in 2017.

The defending and seven-time NASCAR Cup champion has a starting average of 21.8 and a finishing average of 18.8 in the first five races of this season.

He has just one top-10 finish (ninth at Phoenix), along with 34th at Daytona, 19th at Atlanta, 11th at Las Vegas and 21st Sunday at Fontana.

And let’s not forget he’s 17th in the NASCAR Cup standings heading to one of his strongest tracks, Martinsville Speedway, this Sunday.

On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, we discussed this: After such a slow start to the season, is there a cause for concern over Johnson’s performance?

NASCAR America: Mark Martin is definitely a Kyle Larson fan

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On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin shared his experience of racing in his home state of Arkansas, as well as the excitement he feels watching  Kyle Larson compete in the Cup series.