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Cup Series race in cards for Eldora Speedway?

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Since the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ smashing debut at Eldora Speedway in 2013, speculation has sprouted about whether the Cup Series could be molded to the short track.

The better question might be whether the historic half-mile clay oval, which opened in 1954 and was bought by Tony Stewart in 2004, could be retrofitted to meet specs of playing host to NASCAR’s premier series without altering its character.

“Would a Cup race work? Yes,” Eldora Speedway general manager Roger Slack said on the NASCAR on NBC podcast. “But at that point, you’re having to make alterations to the facility. Say a full pit road. How to do that and not compromise nearly 65 years of the Eldora legacy?”

The track also lacks a SAFER barrier because the soft-wall technology is designed to be anchored and mounted on an asphalt surface. Slack also said the dirt and mud that would be slung into its crevices would hamper the SAFER barrier’s efficacy because it wouldn’t flex in the intended manner to cushion impacts.

“If there was an option to do it that worked on dirt, in all likelihood, we’d be the first place to go and install it purposely for a dirt track,” he said. “There’s a motorsports safety council (that is) trying to take a look at it.”

There also could be space concerns about handling the fleet of 18-wheelers that transports the Cup circuit around the country.

“It’s not just 40 haulers” for the teams, Slack said. “It’s at least 100 haulers, and you have to have room for 100 semis.”

After the truck’s debut, Stewart lobbied hard for NASCAR to bring the Xfinity or Cup Series to the track, but he has been less vocal the past three years.

“If you can take the trucks and make them work here, the Cup and (Xfinity) cars aren’t a big stretch,” Stewart said in 2014. “It’s definitely feasible. It’s just a matter of is that something they want to do?”

Slack believes the Xfinity Series wouldn’t work as well as trucks because its costs would preclude dirt-track moonlighting, and it wouldn’t offer the star power of Cup.

“The trucks are different, they look different,” Slack said. “It’s something our local dirt racers can raise some money and get into the show. That makes it unique enough where it still works. I don’t think Xfinity would work as it is.”

But there is strong evidence that a Cup race would be a major draw. Using Late Models provided by dirt track teams, Cup stars raced in the annual Prelude to the Dream at Eldora from 2005-12.

“Would a Cup race work there? Yes,” Slack said. “Would it work in the middle of the week? Yes. Would it work financially? Yes.”

So is there any hope of putting it on the front burner for NASCAR?

“They don’t return my normal calls, let alone those ones,” Slack said with a laugh about NASCAR officials.

In the meantime, the track is happy to have become one of the crown jewel events on the truck schedule.

“You really have to respect the truck guys,” Slack said. “They work their guts out. A lot of them are not making very much money, struggling to be there, and they come and bring a truck built for asphalt and race it on dirt. And they are extremely appreciative we have the event.”

During the podcast, Slack also discussed:

–The top-secret test in 2012 with Austin Dillon and Stewart to ensure the trucks would work on dirt;

–The renaissance and resurgence of dirt racing and its appeal;

–What it’s like working for Tony Stewart.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the AudioBoom embed below or download and subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts 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.

Danica Patrick has a Daytona 500 team: Premium Motorsports

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The first piece of the “Danica Double” has been fully confirmed.

According to the Associated Press, Danica Patrick will drive the No. 7 Chevrolet for Premium Motorsports in next month’s Daytona 500. The AP reported that the car will be locked into the field through a charter and will receive engineering support from Richard Childress Racing.

Patrick entered NASCAR driving the No. 7 for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series from 2010-12. For the Feb. 18 race, she also will be reunited with crew chief Tony Eury Jr., who helped guide Patrick to her career-best NASCAR finish of fourth in a 2011 Xfinity race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The car will be sponsored by GoDaddy, which announced last week that it would sponsor Patrick in both this year’s Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500. Patrick has yet to reveal which team she will drive for in the Indy 500, which will conclude her racing career.

She already has made history in both events.

As a rookie in 2005, she became the first woman to lead the Indy 500 before taking fourth (and became the highest-finishing female in the race’s history with a third in 2009).

In the 2013 Daytona 500, she became the first woman to win the pole position and lead a race in NASCAR’s premier series.

New details of road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway

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CONCORD, North Carolina — The Sept. 30 Cup race on Charlotte Motor Speedway’s road course will be on a slightly altered 2.28-mile circuit.

The race, which airs on NBC, will serve as the conclusion of the first round of the playoffs. It is the first road course race in the 14-year history of the playoffs.

The alterations shorten the original 2.4-mile, 13-turn layout of the circuit. The track is now 2.28 miles and 17 turns after the removal of two of the last three infield turns. There will be more than 35 feet of elevation changes between Roval Turn 4 – the lowest point in the track – and Roval Turn 9, the highest point.

A chicane has also been added to the backstretch right before the entrance of Turn 3 of the oval. The track is adding 440 temporary rumble strips.

The distance for the race will be announced at a later date.

NASCAR held a test on the road course last October with Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Daniel Hemric and Jamie McMurray. Busch suggested the elimination of those turns in order to “speed up the track.”

“There are a lot of slow sections with Turns 5, 6 and 7,” Busch said. “Those are good rhythmic corners. … (But) a 3,500-pound car going 35 mph too many times isn’t too exciting.”

Truex was part of Monday’s presentation and gave his thoughts on the change.

“The lap times were so long that we were going to be looking at a race that was, I don’t even know how many hours,” Truex said. “Way too long. Basically taking out those two turns cut out quite a bit of lap time off the laps. It’s more so like a regular road course like Watkins Glen … we’ll be in kind of that realm.”

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, said that the race could be held at night if pushed back for various reasons. The race is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. ET.

“We’re working with the track who we believe will have something in place,” O’Donnell said. “Goodyear will be ready with rain tires if we had to make some adjustments.’’

There will be a Goodyear tire test in March and an open test for Cup teams in July.

O’Donnell said NASCAR is “comfortable” with the current layout of the course and that no changes are expected to be made following the tests.

NASCAR on NBC analysts Dale Jarrett and Jeff Burton took a few laps around the new layout and shared their thoughts on Facebook Live.

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ThorSport Racing partners with Ford in Truck Series

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ThorSport Racing has partnered with Ford in a multi-year deal in the Camping World Truck Series, the team announced Monday.

The team’s announcement comes a week after it revealed the mutual decision to part ways with Toyota.

“With 23 years in the NCWTS, we look forward to our new partnership with Ford Performance in NASCAR,” team owner Duke Thorson said in a press release. “Our pursuit of wins and championships remains at the forefront of our objectives.”

ThorSport, based in Sandusky, Ohio, had been paired with the Toyota for six years, winning two titles with Matt Crafton.

“We’re excited that ThorSport Racing has decided to switch to a F-Series truck for the 2018 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance Motorsports in a press release. “ThorSport is a proven championship-level team in the series, and we look forward to providing them the aero and simulation technical support that will ensure they remain at the top level of the Truck Series.”

In 2017, Brad Keselowski Racing fielded the only two full-time Ford entries in the series. That team shut down following the end of the season.

Crafton will be returning to ThorSport for his 17th season – and 14th consecutive – with the team. The rest of the team’s driver lineup will be announced at a later date.

The Truck Series season begins Feb. 16th at Daytona International Speedway.

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D.J. Kennington to attempt to qualify for Daytona 500 with Gaunt Brothers Racing

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Canadian driver D.J. Kennington will try to qualify for the Daytona 500 with Gaunt Brothers Racing for the second year in a row, the team announced Monday.

Kennington, a native of St. Thomas, Ontario, will drive the No. 96 Toyota sponsored by Lordco Auto Parts and Castrol.

The team, sponsor and driver combination made the 2017 edition of the race, making Kennington the first Canadian driver to compete in the Daytona 500 in 29 years.

Kennington started 28th and finished 36th following a multi-car crash at the start of Stage 2.

“Last year was an awesome experience for my sponsors, Lordco and Castrol, and me,” Kennington said in a press release. “We knew once it was over, we wanted to do it again. (Team owner) Marty (Gaunt) and everybody at GBR is pulling out all the stops for us this year. I’m looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of the Lordco/Castrol Toyota Camry and seeing the difference a year makes.”

The 40-year-old driver has five Cup starts with a best finish of 26th in last November’s race at Phoenix.

Gaunt Brothers Racing does not own a charter, meaning Kennington is not guaranteed a starting spot in the Feb. 18 Daytona 500.

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