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Jeremy Clements: Hawkeye system will keep big teams from doing ‘trick stuff’ to get ahead

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Jeremy Clements and his family owned Xfinity Series team been doing a lot of “running around” in the weeks leading up to the 2018 season.

Clements’ team has been “burning some gas” as they get their No. 51 Chevrolet compatible with NASCAR’s new Hawkeye inspection system, which will debut at Daytona International Speedway.

“Coming from a small team, going to that (Hawkeye system), we’ve been to that of course (at the NASCAR Research and Development Center),” Clements said Saturday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Front Stretch.” “Our cars all failed like first time, each time. We had to go back to the body guy. He had to take another swing at it and he got her fixed up. It’s definitely been tough at first to be honest. We don’t have any of that stuff.”

Ryan Newman said at the NASCAR Media tour that Richard Childress Racing spent $350,000 to install its own Hawkeye inspection rig at its shop in Welcome, North Carolina.

The process includes 17 cameras and eight projectors that will produce a 3D model of the car. That is then compared to the CAD model of the car to determine how far away it is from the tolerance.

Without anywhere near the kind of funding RCR enjoys, JRC has trekked to NASCAR’s R&D center to become familiar with the process.

MORE: Friday Five details new pit road rules

But unlike most teams, Clements’ isn’t based in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area and neither is their body specialist.

The team’s shop is based out of Spartanburg, South Carolina, a 75-mile trip one way from Charlotte. The specialist is near RCR’s shop, which is roughly an hour northeast of Charlotte.

“He’s up a good ways,” Clements said. “We’ve been running around a lot lately. My guys have been working a lot of hours and going back and forth. It’s been a problem for sure, but I think it’ll get better for sure. Too early to tell right now … It’s going to take it a few races to get all sorted out.”

When it is firmly established, Clements believes it will “level the playing field” for small teams like his, which earned its first NASCAR win last year at Road America and made the Xfinity playoffs.

“I don’t think they (big teams) can do all the trick stuff they were doing,” Clements said. “Now I’m sure they’ll figure out other ways to do other things, but that’s the name of the game.”

The new inspection process isn’t the only new element NASCAR has introduced that Clements’ team will have to adapt to.

NASCAR is limiting the number of pit crew members allowed over the wall during pits stops from six to five. It has also mandated the use of standardized pit guns over a guns created by teams.

Clements sees the standardized pit gun as significant move that will help his team.

“That’s good because that was getting kind out of hand,” said Clements, who estimated the team must pay $300 to rent a gun. “Only drawback to that is just, I hate to say it, but the money we got to spend for that.

“We’re trying not trying to spend in every direction, but that’s the only negative to that part. But I like that the guns are supposed to be all equal because they were definitely getting out of hand.”

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Podcast: Front Row Motorsports explains how it improves with smaller budget, unique sponsor deals

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Running a Cup Series team is not a cheap endeavor.

One person who knows this is Jerry Freeze, the general manager of Front Row Motorsports.

Owned by Bob Jenkins, the two-car team runs the No. 34 of Michael McDowell and No. 38 of David Ragan and has a technical partnership with Roush Fenway Racing.

Freeze sat down with Nate Ryan on the NASCAR on NBC podcast to discuss how FRM works with smaller budgets and its unique business-to-business sponsorship deals through Jenkins’ trucking company, MDS Transport, and restaurant business, Charter Foods.

Freeze calls Love’s Travel Shops, which sponsors half the races on McDowell’s car, a “textbook example” of such a deal. Their partnership began in 2013.

“Bob owns a trucking company with about 300 over the road truck on the road,” Freeze said. “They’ve got to get fuel somewhere. That’s kind of how the Love’s Travel Shop deal started for us.”

Freeze describes it as a “slightly smaller scale” version of the relationship between Team Penske and Shell.

Unlike larger teams, Front Row doesn’t yet have an optical scanning station at its shop like the one cars are inspected with at the track.

“We went into it thinking, ‘We’ll never need to have one of those, NASCAR’s got one, we can go over there whenever we want,'” Freeze said.

The team also relies on the scanner located at Roush Fenway Racing. But it’s a challenge to take cars to Roush, with its shop in Concord, North Carolina, about an hour away from Front Row’s in Statesville.

Buying its own scanner is beginning to look like a “necessary evil” for Freeze, who said he’s heard it would cost $300,000.

“I think if you’re really going to try to optimize the car through each step of what you do, that might be the way to go,” Freeze said.

When it comes to becoming more competitive, Freeze and Jenkins have been encouraged to invest more resources and money into the team by moves NASCAR has made to lower costs, including requiring teams to use engines in multiple races, spec radiators and the controversial common pit guns.

“It put it in a place where, yeah, it’s still pretty tough for Front Row to get to, but it’s not as high as it use to be,” Freeze said of the engine rule. “With spec radiators, we were spending $9,000 for radiator in the past. Now a spec radiator is, I don’t know, a third of that.”

Freeze also addressed the future of one of the team’s three charters, which is leased to TriStar Motorsports this season.

“You can’t do that forever with the way the rules are set up,” Freeze said. “We’ll have to make a decision, either we’ve got to operate (it) ourselves or maybe we sell it to TriStar some day, I don’t know. … Even though we weren’t in a position to run three cars and we’re still not today, it’s kind of nice to have in your pocket just in case something came along that was just phenomenal and we needed one.”

Click on the embed above to hear the podcast. It also is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play and Stitcher.

August Cup race at Michigan to be called Consumers Energy 400

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The Aug. 12 Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway will be sponsored by Consumers Energy as part of a multi-year deal, the track announced Thursday.

Consumers Energy is Michigan’s largest energy provider, providing natural gas and/or electricity to 6.7 million of the state’s 10 million residents.

The company takes over for Pure Michigan, which sponsored the race from 2011-17.

“We are excited to expand our collaborative relationship with Consumers Energy,” said track president Rick Brenner in a press release. “We strive to work with Michigan-based companies like Consumers Energy who continue to give back to the community. We are looking forward to working together to provide our guests an awesome experience each August for many years to come.”

Consumers Energy will also sponsor the inaugural MIS Charity Dinner on June 9 and the track’s 50 Years of Racing Exhibit in the fan plaza for both of the track’s race weekends.

The MIS Charity Dinner, which benefits the Henry Ford Allegiance Health Foundation Patient Immediate Needs Fund and the MIS Cares Fund, will feature a strolling dinner, dessert and drink stations, live and silent auctions, music, a photo booth and more. The event will also feature a question and answer session with Dale Inman, Rusty Wallace and Leonard Wood.

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Weekend schedule at Richmond for Cup, Xfinity

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NASCAR heads to its third short-track race of the season this weekend at Richmond Raceway.

Kyle Larson won the Cup race at Richmond last fall and Joey Logano won there last April.

Here is this weekend’s schedule at Richmond:

(All times Eastern)

FRIDAY, APRIL 20

7 a.m. — Xfinity garage opens

8 a.m. – 9 p.m. — Cup garage open

8 – 8:45 a.m. — Xfinity practice (No TV)

9:40 – 10:25 a.m. — Final Xfinity practice (Fox Sports 1)

11:05 – 11:55 a.m. — Cup practice (FS1, Motor Racing Network)

12:35 – 1:25 p.m. — Final Cup practice (FS1, MRN)

4:05 p.m. — Xfinity qualifying; multi-vehicle/three rounds (FS1)

5:10 p.m. — Xfinity driver/crew chief meeting

5:30 p.m. — Cup qualifying; multi-vehicle/three rounds (FS1, MRN)

6:30 p.m. — Xfinity driver introductions

7 p.m. — ToyotaCare 250 Xfinity race; 250 laps/187.5 miles (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

SATURDAY, APRIL 21

1 p.m. — Cup garage opens

4:30 p.m. — Driver/crew chief meeting

5:50 p.m. — Driver introductions

6:30 p.m. — Toyota Owners 400 Cup race; 400 laps/300 miles (Fox, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

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NASCAR America: Short tracks are Clint Bowyer’s favorites

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It was a question that needed to be asked, although the answer was not a surprise to anyone. What is Clint Bowyer’s favorite type of track?

“Short tracks are obviously my favorite,” Bowyer answered. “I think they’re probably everybody’s favorite. That’s what we grew up doing. That’s probably where we feel most comfortable.”

“I love back-to-back short track races because the drivers don’t have time to forget about who they’re mad at,” Steve Letarte interjected.

But Bowyer’s love of short tracks is not limited to Martinsville, where he snapped his long winless streak earlier this year. He is even more excited about coming to Richmond Raceway this week.

“I feel like Richmond is the perfect-sized race track.”

Bowyer went one step further, suggesting there is a way to add more tracks like Richmond to the schedule.

“I feel like, some of these mile-and-a-half tracks, we need to just use as parking lots and build Richmond in the infield,” Bowyer said.

For more of what Bowyer and Dale Earnhardt Jr. had to say about short track racing, watch the video above.