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Kevin Harvick: Current state of Truck Series schedule ‘makes me mad’

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Not long after NASCAR unveiled the 2018 schedules for its three national series, Kevin Harvick went on a rant about the current state of the Camping World Truck Series schedule, saying “it makes me mad.”

“The Truck schedule is racing at a ton of the wrong race tracks,” Harvick said Tuesday on his weekly SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show “Happy Hour. “They should be back at Louisville (Motor Speedway), they should be back at some of these grassroots race tracks. The Truck Series should be helping us build our grassroots program, from Late Models on up, by having a Truck race there.”

With NASCAR trying to find ways to win the hearts and minds of new fans, Harvick believes the Truck Series, which debuted in 1995, is an unused tool for strengthening the sport’s fan base.

“In order to help our sport to produce from the bottom up, we have to help figure out how to get the grassroots program where they need to be and that’s what we need to be using the Truck Series for,” said Harvick, a 14-time Truck winner and former Truck team owner. “Go to these grassroots race tracks and guess what? That’s where the Trucks need to be racing because they’re going to put 10 to 15,000 people in the grandstands every week to watch these races because they’re unique events.”

“They don’t want to show up on a Friday at Dover (International Speedway) and watch these trucks drive around the race track because they’re going to show up on Sunday to watch the Cup cars. Take the trucks somewhere where everybody wants to see them, because there’s short tracks across the country that want to see them.

“Sorry, I’m on a rant. It make me mad.”

Harvick’s thoughts about reaching fans are in addition to those made by Kyle Larson earlier this year about how NASCAR should encourage its stars to race at short tracks in smaller series.

Harvick is doing a variation of this later this season. He will competes in the K&N Pro Series West race at Sonoma Raceway the weekend of the Cup Series race on the road course.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver broke into NASCAR via the Truck Series in the first year of its existence. He made his debut in 1995 at Mesa Marin Raceway in his hometown of Bakersfield, California.

Of the 18 tracks the series competed on in 1995, it still races at only three – Martinsville, Phoenix Raceway and Bristol Motor Speedway.

“The Trucks should be opening up in January like they used to at Tuscon Raceway Park or the Copperworld Classic when it was at Phoenix,” Harvick said. “Let the Truck Series start our season in January so they can have exposure on TV by themselves. If the Cup guys want to go out there and race, that’s fine. Let them go race. Because that’s going to help put fans in the grandstands.

“Myself and Greg Biffle and Ron Hornaday and Mike Skinner, guess what? We’d never make to it to Cup racing, Truck racing or anything else that we do because we wouldn’t have been on TV if they didn’t have ‘Winter Heat’ and all these different series. In order to produce young stars and expose them to the public you have to start them from the grassroots level up.

“You can’t keep lollygagging along with the Truck Series at these race tracks and expect people to show up.”

Harvick cited the lack of SAFER barrier at short tracks as an excuse given for why the Truck Series doesn’t race at more short tracks.

“Let’s figure out a way to help these tracks get soft walls if that’s what it takes for them to get a Truck race,” Harvick said.

Next year, the Truck Series will have 23 races beginning on Feb. 16 at Daytona International Speedway and ending on Nov. 16 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The biggest change to the schedule is the Truck Series loses it standalone race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in September. Instead, the Truck Series will visit the track with the Cup and Xfinity Series twice on March 2 and Sept. 19.

The March 2 race in Las Vegas gives the Truck series three straight races to begin the season. For the last three seasons, the series competed at Daytona and Atlanta before going quiet until late March at Martinsville Speedway and then taking another month off until an early May race at Kansas Speedway.

From 2012-14, the series held no races between Daytona and Martinsville. Atlanta was added the week following Daytona in 2015.

The Truck Series’ Dover race moves from early June to May 4 next year, which shortens the break following the Martinsville race. The series will not be returning to New Hampshire Motor Speedway as the track loses one of its NASCAR weekends.

The Truck Series will now only have four standalone events in 2018: Texas Motor Speedway (June 8), Gateway Motorsports Park (June 23), Eldora Speedway (July 18) and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (August 26).

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NASCAR America live at 5:30 p.m. ET: 2018 NASCAR schedule revealed, Slugger Labbe

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs for 90 minutes on NBCSN from 5:30 p.m. ET to 7 p.m. ET.

Carolyn Manno hosts with Parker Kligerman in Stamford, Connecticut while Steve Letarte and Greg Biffle join the show from Burton’s Garage.

On today’s show:

* We’ll reveal the 2018 NASCAR schedule and hear from NASCAR Executive VP Steve O’Donnell. We’ll get his take on the changes to the schedule and what they mean to NASCAR going forward.

* Crew chief Slugger Labbe talks to Marty Snider to discuss his midseason departure from Richard Childress Racing. He’ll explain what led to this decision and what might be next for his career.

* Two-time Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso and last year’s Indy 500 champion Alexander Rossi join NASCAR America, as the two prepare for Sunday’s running of the Indianapolis 500. To get us ready for the big race, Parker Kligerman will hop into the NBCSN iRacing Simulator to show what it’s like to navigate the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, IndyCar-style.

* My Home Track: 50 States in 50 Shows heads out to the Land of Enchantment, New Mexico. It’s home to the legendary Unser family and site of today’s featured track, Cardinal Speedway.

Just a reminder, the 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame Class will be revealed live tomorrow on NASCAR America, coverage begins at 5:30 ET. On Friday, we’ll preview the biggest day in motorsports with reports from Monaco, Indianapolis, and of course, Charlotte. It’s the NASCAR America Motorsports Special at 3:30 ET on NBCSN.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, you also can watch it 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 5:30 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

NASCAR America: How the wind impacts racing at Kansas Speedway

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This weekend’s Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway will be the first points race of the year under the lights.

But the night-time atmosphere won’t be the only thing that influences teams as they prepare for Saturday night’s race. The wind that circulates around the 1.5-mile track also will be a factor.

“The best thing to do about the wind is understand it,” NASCAR America analyst Steve Letarte said. “Be very clear in your notes, be very clear as a driver which direction the wind is coming. There’s not a lot of personality to Kansas versus a Texas or Atlanta. … The corners are reasonably close for loading and grip purposes. Normally, your balance issue really is the wind.”

Greg Biffle addressed how the wind influences strategy in qualifying.

“You’re sitting there looking at a flag, I’m asking the spotter what direction is the wind,” Biffle said. “It is so critical now. I remember we had a practice where the wind’s blowing across one direction. We go to qualify later in the evening and it’s blowing in almost the opposite direction. It can catch you off-guard because you have to enter the corner slower, turn down earlier.”

Watch the video for the full discussion about how racing at Kansas changes at night.

NASCAR America: How effective are penalties in deterring teams from crossing the line?

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This week Aric Almirola‘s No. 43 team became the latest to lose its crew chief to a multi-race suspension and lose driver and owner points for an infraction in post-race inspection.

Almirola’s penalty and those levied against Brad Keselowski‘s team, were over very small variances found in laser inspection.

On NASCAR America, analysts Steve Letarte and Greg Biffle discussed whether the tough penalties handed out by NASCAR actually keep teams from crossing the line when it comes to the rule book.

“You start the race with a certain amount of tolerances,” Letarte said. “The fans need to understand, the post-race inspection already has tolerances built-in. They understand you have raced the car. They have given a bigger variable.”

After a large amount of infractions last year, NASCAR said  “enough” and made larger tolerances and stiffer penalties, said Letarte, who believes they are proper deterrents.

“It’s the perfect balance of a small news cycle, we’re going to talk about the 43 this week, by next week there’ll be something new,” Letarte said. “It’s not a huge shock wave through NASCAR, which penalties used to be. Yet that 43 car is going to feel that penalty all year long.”

Watch the video for the full discussion about penalties.

NASCAR America: Greg Biffle: After years of ‘hanging on,’ Roush back in Victory Lane

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One person who is missing out on the improvements made by Roush Fenway Racing this season is Greg Biffle.

Biffle, a NASCAR America analyst, parted ways with the team after the 2016 season following a tenure that began in 1998 in the Camping World Truck Series.

Biffle went winless in his final three seasons with Roush.

“It was really tough to be there the last three or four years,” Biffle said on NASCAR America. “Everybody knows in this sport it’s up and down … Times change, things change. We’ve been through that cycle three times at Roush. I was hanging in there, hanging in there, hanging in there for the next cycle. I just felt it was right around the corner. ‘This could be our year, this could be our year.’ And we could just not put together the people, the right format, the right structure. We just kept hanging on.”

Watch the video to hear Biffle share what his final meeting with Jack Roush was like when he left the team.