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Kligerman: How Is NASCAR doing? I don’t know (but turning left doesn’t make me dizzy)

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In reference to my fervent love of racing and cars, my dad always told me growing up that “You don’t want to be the person at a dinner party with only one thing to talk about.”

Racing and cars were all I talked about and all I cared about. But as much as I brushed it off at the time, I must admit he was right. I heeded his advice and now can talk fluently about many different racing series and NASCAR.

At least, I think that is the case, because that’s all anyone wants to talk to me about.

Whether I’m at a dinner party or a basement bar in Brooklyn, when the conversation lulls, the topic becomes racing. No matter how hard I try to shift the conversation, to no avail, I will end up answering, “So do you ever get dizzy going in circles for hours?”

And I am not complaining. This is to be expected, being one of possibly one who races and works in NASCAR and auto racing … and lives in the greater New York metropolitan area. This isn’t a topic many in the area are given a chance to broach, let alone converse with a living, breathing person about it.

And it shows, when the next most popular conversation pieces are, “What would happen if you went right?” “Do you pee in the car?” “How fast do you go?” “What’s the fastest you have gone?” “If an F1 car raced a NASCAR, who would win?”

“Is it even hard to drive in NASCAR? I drove my road car ‘X’ over the speed limit, and it wasn’t hard.”

Close your eyes for a second, and you could be excused for thinking you actually were in a 3rd-grade career day. Most of the time, I relish the opportunity to convince a potential new fan on the merits of auto racing, as if it’s instruction straight from the Bible to spread scripture.

Except I’m trying to spread the gospel of speed.

But there are times I would rather lop off one of my big toes. Usually, it involves a young man who is convinced that money is the only gospel in life. So he works 13 hours a day inside a cubicle on a high floor in Manhattan, living off antacid and ADHD pills and usually under the all-encompassing job description of “finance,” which is a direct byword for “insecure, Excel sheet drone.”

This guy will make horrible NASCAR joke after joke until I do what is advisable in any situation of this type: Knock him out. (Kidding. I walk away and buy myself a drink.)

But lately, a very intriguing question has been recurring: “How is NASCAR doing?”

And it’s spoken in the same reverential tones reserved for inquiring about an absent relative. As if I’ll respond, “Well, they got their latest checkup, and all is well there! They also recently lost their dog, but he was very old so it wasn’t terribly sad. They will love to know you asked about them. I’ll send your regards!”

The thing is, NASCAR is not a living being. It’s an organization of thousands. A traveling circus roaming the continental United States like a cast of gypsies all with different acts and goals. To cover everyone under one broad brush would be ill-advised at best.

But I know what is meant by those who ask. This type of person has read the articles. They’ve heard the rumblings and seen the TV ratings. Their cousin was a fan and no longer is. They had a connection to it that peaked in the heyday of  2005. And since then, they haven’t paid attention. They admit to being a bit naive. They want the God’s honest truth.

I want to give them the truth.

So I bring up all the reasons to be optimistic. I mention there is massive support on social media, that everything is cyclical, that autonomous cars are too far away to affect the sport. The Daytona 500 was sold out. There still are sponsors signing on for millions. But eventually they stop me and say, “Oh, OK, I just heard that…” and I reply, “I know what you’ve heard. It is what is.”

The reason they cut me off is they know I’m lying to them.

The truth is, I don’t know. No one knows. If someone did, then I hope they would use that type of power to cure cancer, or end global hunger. And add that you would have to identify what exactly are the underlying reasons, which seems an impossible task in itself.

Ask any number of people, whether fans or those working in the sport, “What are the biggest challenges facing NASCAR?” And you will receive exactly that many different answers.

So especially for someone such as myself who makes a living off of the sport, it would seem odd to be so ill-informed, to not have it all figured out. But not when you realize that in my line of work, you have the shelf-life of an avocado.

I love race cars. I love cars. I love auto racing in all shapes and forms. I’ve come to realize I don’t care if millions of others care or four others care. But I always will be excited by a manic finish such as we had at the Daytona 500 this year.

I always will feel a sense of euphoria from a whiff of racing fuel. The more I simply focus on my enjoyment level, and less on how many others also enjoy it, the more I actually enjoy it.

Therefore, I am going to start answering the question “How is NASCAR doing?” with “Great! Everything’s great.”

So then I can get back to letting the naive know  that believe it or not, you do not get dizzy driving in circles.

 

Stats, Results for Truck Series race at Iowa Speedway

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John Hunter Nemechek led the final six laps to win the Camping World Truck Series’ M&M’s 200 at Iowa Speedway.

It’s his second win in two weeks.

Nemechek beat out Johnny Sauter, Brandon Jones, Grant Engfinger and Christopher Bell.

Click here for race results.

Johnny Sauter keeps Truck points lead, John Hunter Nemechek in eighth

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With his Stage 2 win and his second-place finish in the M&M’s 200, Johnny Sauter retains his lead in the Camping World Truck Series standings leaving Iowa Speedway.

Sauter has a 42-point lead over Christopher Bell.

Completing the top five is: Chase Briscoe (-76), Matt Crafton (-95) and Ben Rhodes (-123).

With his second win in two weeks, John Hunter Nemechek moved from ninth to eighth in the standings, 153 points back from Sauter.

Click here for the full points standings.

John Hunter Nemechek wins at Iowa, second Truck victory in a row

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At one point going four-wide on a restart with seven laps to go, John Hunter Nemechek drove from fourth to first to win the M&M’s 200 at Iowa Speedway.

It is Nemechek’s second Camping World Truck Series win in two weeks after an emotional victory at Gateway Motorsports Park. It is his fifth career win.

Nemechek passed low on Chase Briscoe and Johnny Sauter into Turn 1 and cleared them on the backstretch a lap into the final run. The No. 8 team changed four tires during the final caution. Sauter, who led 72 laps, did not pit.

“All year we felt really good about this whole stretch,” Nemechek told Fox Sports 1. “Gateway, Iowa and Kentucky. Hopefully we can go to Kentucky and make it three in a row.”

Driving the same truck he used to win last week, Nemehcek had to pass Sauter, Briscoe and Noah Gragson on the restart.

The top five was Nemechek, Sauter, Brandon Jones, Grant Enfinger and Christopher Bell.

Stage 1 winner: Christopher Bell

Stage 2 winner: Johnny Sauter

MORE: Race results

MORE: Points standings

WHO HAD A GOOD NIGHT: Brandon Jones’s third-place finish is his season best and first Truck top five since 2015 … Christopher Bell earned his sixth top five through nine races … Grant Enfinger earned his fourth top five, but it came at the expense of teammate Matt Crafton, who he caused to crash to bring out the final caution … Jesse Little finished ninth for his first career top 10 in his 11th start.

WHO HAD A BAD NIGHT: Ben Rhodes, Kaz Grala and Austin Wayne Self were in a wreck with three laps left in Stage 2 …. Ryan Truex’s night ended with 33 to go when he brought his truck to pit road for an engine problem. He finished 20th … Matt Crafton backed hard into the outside wall with 15 laps to go after being tagged by his teammate, Grant Enfinger, on his left-rear quarter panel. It is his first DNF of the year. Crafton finished 19th … Harrison Burton and Justin Haley crashed in Turn 4 coming to the checkered flag. Burton placed 11th; Haley 10th.

NOTABLE: The race was red flagged for 12 minutes and 26 seconds to clean up fluid from the three-truck crash at the end of Stage 2.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “That’s me. Four tires. That’s the man right there. Fire Alarm (Services). What do they want? They want a win and we got them one.” – Gere Kennon, crew chief for John Hunter Nemechek after winning the M&M’s 200.

WHAT’S NEXT: Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 at Kentucky Speedway at 7:30 p.m. ET on July 6 on Fox Sports 1.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s farewell tour begins at Sonoma with service dogs named in his honor

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To commemorate Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s career and his final start at the track, Sonoma Raceway gave the driver a gift he doesn’t have to take home and will benefit others for year to come.

During his Friday press conference, the track surprised Earnhardt with three Labrador Retriever puppies. Named “Dale,” “Junior” and “Amy” – after his wife – the puppies are being given to the organization Paws as Loving Support (PALS) Assistance Dogs.

Donated by Micons Labradors and Fieldstone Labradors and sponsored by the track, the puppies will be trained to help children with disabilities in the Sonoma community.

“I’d like to thank the track for their investment to make this happen,” Earnhardt said. “It really warms my heart. Amy is going to be excited but sad she is not here. We do love dogs and making a difference in people’s lives. I’m excited to maybe come back and see how the dogs are doing.”

Sonoma is the first track Earnhardt is racing at for the last time since he announced his retirement plans in April.

The puppies will take part in PALS thorough training process, including time with incarcerated youth twice a week, before being matched with a child with a disability and his/her family as a service dog or placed with a professional as a facility dog.

PALS Assistance Dogs trains dogs to help children with disabilities including Autism, Down syndrome and mobility impairments. Some are placed with professionals working with children with special needs as facility dogs. In addition, Courthouse PALS dogs provide emotional support and comfort to victims and witnesses of violent crimes before, during and at the conclusion of a trial.

“Dale has such a huge following among our fans and we wanted to find a way for his legacy to carry forward locally, well beyond his days as a driver,” said Steve Page, Sonoma Raceway president and general manager. “These three puppies – Dale, Junior and Amy – will make a meaningful difference in the lives of young people in the North Bay for years to come.”

On race day, 10,000 “Thanks, Junior” hand-held fans will be given out and the No. 88 will be written in the sky by the Patriots Jet Team.

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