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Kligerman: Here’s an All-Star idea — go back to being truly stock and showcase the showroom

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Ever since I can remember, I have loved cars.

My mom once said I was barely out of the delivery room before I had a model car in my hands, and no one’s really sure where the car came from.

Through my childhood, the fandom would grow to an outright obsession. Culminating at the age of 9, when we got cable and I found Speedvision. A cable TV channel dedicated to racing and cars.

I was hooked. Not only had I found a channel about cars, but I discovered a sport that used cars.

If you could have bottled my sense of euphoric, enchanted and full-throttle fate, it wouldn’t just sell. It would solve first-world depression.

Which brings me to this year’s All-Star Race, an event that I see fighting its own feelings of dread and depression.

It made its debut in 1985 as an additional “fun race” to drum up more exposure for the sport’s biggest early investor, R.J. Reynolds, and its Winston cigarette brand.

It always has been a race about winning because that is what pays – and it does pay handsomely. This year’s winner will pocket an unadulterated and fully taxed $1 million.

But that has been its selling point for too long.

Since 1985, it has undergone an umpteen amount of changes. Over the past 32 years, it has had 13 race formats. And I guarantee there is no one on this planet who can remember what each of those 13 formats were. If they do, shall I suggest seeing the sun sometime?

And this year, to celebrate the newest Monster backer in the sport’s storied history, we get a new format that pays tribute to the 1992 format. Which isn’t to be confused with the 1998–2001 format that had the same segment lengths.

But there is another addition that has me quite excited.

Tires!

Yes, Goodyear and NASCAR have collaborated to offer two options of tires in this race. Which I actually am quite excited about and foresee its introduction into the points races as a tantalizing future.

This is all swell and delightful.

But none of it makes me feel like the day I found Speedvision.

Therefore, in an era in which it seems racing worldwide is unopposed to breaking the molds of the staid and repressive mid-aughts, I have an idea that could be just the thing this All-Star Race needs, and it won’t be found on a psychiatrist’s prescription sheet.

The cure is in the very thing that got me into this sport in the first place: Cars.

I am talking stock cars. The cure for the All-Star Race is to remove the very devices we use each and every weekend. To take the drivers and teams out of their comfort zones and learn who is truly the All-Star of driving stock cars?

Imagine for one day a year the very best drivers in the world racing the same cars that the fans might arrive to the track in via an Uber driver.

Let’s not pay tribute to 1992 with a format. Let’s pay tribute to the sport’s roots and its foundation with the very premise Bill France built it upon.

“Common men in common cars could appeal to common folk en masse.”

Now before you start poking holes in the idea with words such as safety, fairness and equivalency formulas … without getting too technical, I have an answer for most of your questions.

Let’s start with the cars.

The Ford teams obviously will use the 2017 Ford Fusion, specifically the Ford Fusion Sport model, which will be the most powerful of the bunch. Its twin-turbocharged V6 produces 325 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque, but it also weighs the same as a small planet.

Which should line up nicely with the yet-to-be released 2018 Toyota Camry. Expected to carry over the same V6 of the 2017 Toyota Camry XSE, it will have roughly 268 HP. Therefore if it’s anything like its predecessor, it will weigh considerably less than the Ford Fusion. Which means it might be at a disadvantage in raw speed but could make that up in the corners.

This brings us to the Chevy teams. The current Chevy SS is a muscle car, through and through. With a diabolically powerful V8 and performance design, we simply could not allow it to compete.

The SS also has been discontinued, and in 2018, Chevy will need to have a new car. The current Malibu looks to be a great fit with a turbocharged 4-cylinder pumping out 250 HP, which would be the lowest of the three. It also comes in the lightest at a whopping 800 pounds less than the Ford Fusion.

So without any upgrades or changes, we clearly have a closely aligned field of cars.

Now how would we make them safe enough and keep the cars close to stock?

We could have the NASCAR R&D center and a couple engineers from the manufacturers figure out how to put our current carbon fiber seats and other safety technology into the cars. Keep everything but the driver’s area as stock as possible for weight reasons and validity.

Obviously we would remove the glass windows and replace them with the current material used for the race cars.

Next we would have a road tire designated by Goodyear to put on all three cars, and boom: We are off to the races.

But you might ask, “Can we possibly race these cars around the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway oval?” Well I think we could, and it probably would be amazing, but it could be a bit more dangerous than any of us would like to admit.

So in an effort to seem even remotely sane, we could race Charlotte’s quarter-mile infield oval, where the speeds will be considerably slower. And then hold a second race on a version of the road course.

I think no matter what, there should be two races: One on an oval, one on a road course of some sort. Maybe even a street course in Uptown Charlotte around the Hall of Fame? The options potentially are endless.

Lastly, I know at least one keen reader probably is ripping out their hair screaming “COST!”

Well, I think the manufacturers could find a way to make this financially viable. Add in there would not be any tuning or engineering. The only thing you can change on the cars? Tire pressures.

So you see, I have it all figured out. The manufacturers win by getting their current technology one big event annually in the public eye. The drivers will win by having an All-Star event that is crazy enough to simply be fun. And the fans win with an event that truly would be one of a kind.

Sadly, we all know this will not happen. Putting aside the funding or the complexities, a massive problem is that in the coming years the road cars that birthed the NASCAR genre will be engulfed by computer-controlled self-driving features.

These would have to be shut off or removed to make this concept work, which would cause the marketing whizzes to have a coronary. Thus, there is no way in this modern world that this would come to fruition.

Which is a shame, as this race could use a boost to its stock. And current stock cars might just be the answers.

Toyota executive calls Truck Series ‘critical step’ in developing drivers

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A Toyota Racing Development executive says that the manufacturer would accept a spec engine in the Camping World Truck Series, noting how valuable that series is for the development of drivers.

David Wilson, president of TRD, made the comments Friday on “Tradin’ Paint” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

NASCAR tested a spec engine for the Truck series multiple times last year and it is expected to be optional this season.

Wilson admits the spec engine idea has raised concerns among manufacturers.

“It is a little bit of a sensitive issue with all the manufactures,’’ Wilson said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Arguably the biggest single piece of (intellectual property) in any car or truck is the engine, so certainly that’s important to us.

“By the same token we understand the bigger picture. We have been working with NASCAR, all the (manufacturers) have been working with NASCAR to make sure that we keep this series going because here’s the bottom line — while our motivation to run in Trucks has changed over the years, it remains an absolute critical step in how we as an industry develop drivers.

“The leap from ARCA or K&N or Super Late Models straight to Xfinity, that’s too big of a leap. You need a step and that Truck Series is a very important step. You look the drivers that have come through just in our camp — Erik Jones, Christopher Bell, Daniel Suarez — that experience in the Truck garage has been absolutely critical in preparing them to be successful in Xfinity and ultimately in Cup. We’re going to continue to take a big picture approach with the Truck Series and work with our friends at NASCAR. If there are some spec engines that have to be under a Tundra hood, so be it, we’ll be OK.’’

Last year’s Xfinity champion and rookie of the year, William Byron, ran a full season in Trucks in 2016. Erik Jones, the 2016 Xfinity rookie of the year, ran 17 Truck races before his Xfinity debut. Daniel Suarez, the 2017 Xfinity rookie of the year, had run only one Truck race before his Xfinity rookie season but he also ran 13 Truck races while competing in Xfinity that first year.

Those young drivers also illustrate Toyota’s emphasis on new talent. But with only five seats — four with Joe Gibbs Racing and one with Furniture Row Racing —  with Cup teams partnered with TRD, Toyota is having a hard time finding spots for all its drivers.

Wilson said the manufacturer remains committed to developing drivers.

“It’s a commitment that Toyota has made to NASCAR and to motorsports,’’ he said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “We enjoy a tremendous amount of value. NASCAR is simply a phenomenal place for us to race. This is part of our payback.

“We feel like we have the social responsibility to give back to the series. We know we’ll lose as many of these young guys and gals as we’ll be able to keep because we simply won’t have enough seats for them. That’s just simple math. It’s already been proven out by William Byron (who raced for Kyle Busch Motorsports in Trucks before moving to Chevrolet in Xfinity and now Cup). We’ll be racing against William, who used to be in a Toyota.

“Bottom line this sport still benefits. As I’ve said before, getting to know these young kids and getting to know their parents at a young age and as they’re coming up in the sport, I believe that will pay dividends. These kids can have a career that spans decades. Who’s to say that we won’t cross paths again? By us building that relationship early on, showing them who we are … the responsibly we have to their well-being, I think it’s a sound investment.’’

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WATCH: Sneak preview of the Hall of Fame induction at 8 p.m. on NBCSN

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The NASCAR Hall of Fame’s ninth class of inductees won’t be remembered so much for the imprint left on the record books as on the revolutions in stock-car racing.

In a video essay that will be shown during tonight’s induction ceremony (which will begin at 8 p.m. on NBCSN), Robert Yates, Ray Evernham, Red Byron, Ken Squier and Ron Hornaday Jr. are saluted as much for what they achieved as how they accomplished it – and their lasting effects on the machines and people that they touched.

–Yates’ ingenuity with engines ranked him among the greatest engine builders. But along with the wins and championships, he also imparted life lessons and knowledge to the apt pupils who are carrying on his successful legacy.

— A crew chief with three Cup championships and 47 wins, Evernham transformed how races and teams were managed, from innovative car designs to clever tire strategies to finely tuned pit crews.

–As the premier series’ first champion, Byron raced with a special brace connecting his leg (which was injured in World War II) to the clutch pedal, embodying the self-determination and grit of NASAR.

–“The Great American Race” was coined by Squier, whose pitch-perfect wordsmithing helped make him a broadcasting legend whose dulcet tones described some watershed moments in evocative and remarkable detail.

–Four championships made Hornaday synonymous with the truck series, but he indirectly played a role in eight Cup titles, turning his couch into “Camp Hornaday” for fellow California natives and budding stars Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson.

You can watch the video essay above or by clicking here.

Tune in at 8 p.m. for TV coverage of a ceremony that should feature special moments and some surprises.

The Hall of Fame ceremony also can be viewed via the online stream at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 8 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

The moral choice that Kyle Larson made in the closing laps at Miami

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CHARLOTTE – Every NASCAR driver has a code of ethics, and the closing laps of last season’s finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway presented a quandary for Kyle Larson.

If you can’t pass two title contenders with a championship on the line, does discretion become the better part of valor in choosing to pass neither?

It did for Larson, who reflected on his most recent Cup race this week.

With eventual champion Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch dueling ahead of him in the final 20 laps, Larson elected to stay in third place and let them settle the title instead of passing Busch and then taking a shot at Truex with his No. 42 Chevrolet, which led a race-high 145 laps.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver, who has led the most laps at Miami the past two years, said his only option in vying for a victory would have been having the consistent speed to assure he could overtake Truex and Busch.

“I think there were some laps I was faster than them,” he told NBC Sports during a Tuesday announcement to announce DC Solar as an expanded primary sponsor in Cup for 2018. “I obviously didn’t want to affect the outcome of the race. The only negative part of the (playoff) format is when you’re not in the final four, you can’t race your hardest.

“I don’t know if I would have won. I think I could have got to second and potentially the lead. I wanted to pass both of them quickly. I didn’t want to pass Kyle and then stall out for three laps and have him be upset or whatever.”

Indeed, Busch was upset with another driver, expressing frustration that he believed Joey Logano blocked him while trying to take fourth after the final restart.

Though Larson made a conscious choice to avoid separating Truex and Busch, he also dispelled the notion that he still wasn’t trying to muster the speed to win.

“I was driving my ass off,” Larson said. “Obviously, I ran into the wall a few times trying to pass them or get the run to pass both of them quickly, but I could never get it going. So no, I didn’t let (Truex) win or whatever. I was still racing hard.”

Larson, who scored a career-best four wins last year, seemed a good bet to be racing for a title until an engine failure at Kansas Speedway. After a busy offseason of racing sprint cars around the world, a refreshed Larson returned to his team’s NASCAR shop this week and ready to reset his focus.

“I don’t even think about NASCAR until now,” he said. “I feel like today is Day 2 of my offseason. I’m just now getting back into the swing of things.

Larson is enthused about a Jan. 31-Feb. 1 test of Chevrolet’s new Camaro at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (“You can kind of get an idea of how the start of your season will be there.”) before heading to Daytona International Speedway for Speedweeks.

“Last year, I didn’t know we were going to be that good, and then we started the year off really good, and we maintained that consistency and competitiveness,” said Larson, who led the points standings after the fourth through 11th races of the 2017 schedule. “I hope that we can do that again. I feel like when you get close like we did last year, it pushes everybody to be as good or better than what we were.

“I expect that we’ll be contenders again, but it’s hard saying with the new body and stuff like that. I’m sure there’ll be growing pains throughout it, but I definitely feel we have an extremely smart group of people who can do what it takes to get our cars better every week to have a shot.”

Daytona International Speedway releases Speedweeks schedule

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Daytona International Speedway has released the schedule for Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck teams for Speedweeks.

Cup teams will have one practice of 1 hour and 20 minutes for the Clash (down from 1 hour, 50 minutes for Clash teams last year).

Cup teams will have five practices for a total of 4 hours, 10 minutes in preparation for the Feb. 18 Daytona 500. Last year, Cup teams had seven practices for a total of 6 hours, 25 minutes before the Daytona 500. The two Cup practices the day of the Duel qualifying races have been eliminated this year.

Xfinity will have the same amount of practice as last year. Camping World Truck Series will have one more practice this year for an extra 1 hour, 20 minutes of track time this year.

Here is the track schedule for Speedweeks.

SPEEDWEEKS SCHEDULE

*subject to change

SATURDAY, Feb. 10

10:35 – 11:55 a.m. — Practice only for teams in Advance Auto Parts Clash

1:05 – 1:55 p.m. — Cup practice (for all teams)

3:05 – 3:55 p.m. — Cup practice (for all teams)

4:45 p.m. — ARCA race

SUNDAY, Feb. 11

12:15 p.m. — Daytona 500 qualifying

3 p.m. — Advance Auto Parts Clash

MONDAY, Feb. 12

No track activity

TUESDAY, Feb. 13

No track activity

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 14

No track activity

THURSDAY, Feb. 15

11:35 a.m. – 12:55 p.m. — Camping World Truck Series practice

2:25 – 3:25 p.m. — Camping World Truck Series practice

4:35 – 5:25 p.m. — Final Camping World Truck Series practice

7 p.m. — Can-Am Duel 1

9 p.m. — Can-Am Duel 2

FRIDAY, Feb. 16

12:05 – 12:55 p.m. — Xfinity practice

1:05 – 1:55 p.m. — Cup practice

2:05 – 2:55 p.m. — Final Xfinity practice

3:05 – 3:55 p.m. — Cup practice

4:30 p.m. — Camping World Truck Series qualifying

7:30 p.m. — Camping World Truck Series race NextEra Energy Resources 250

SATURDAY, Feb. 17

9:35 a.m. — Xfinity qualifying

12:05 – 12:55 p.m. — Final Cup practice

2:30 p.m. — Xfinity race PowerShares QQQ 300

SUNDAY, Feb. 18

2:30 p.m. — Daytona 500

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