Dustin Long

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Long: Hall of Fame moment is special for father and son

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CHARLOTTE — Sleep has not come easy for Doug Yates in some time.

It has only gotten worse lately.

He can’t stop thinking of his father, Robert, who battles liver cancer. Robert has undergone chemotherapy, but at one point doctors said they weren’t sure what how to treat the 74-year-old former NASCAR team owner and engine builder who was selected to the 2018 Hall of Fame Class on Wednesday.

That helpless feeling of not solving a problem counters what Robert and Doug have done all their lives. If there was an issue with an engine, they worked harder and longer until they fixed the matter.

This they can’t.

While Robert Yates undergoes experimental treatments, Doug is there to help take care of his father. There are bad days, Doug says, wincing.

“What I see is a man who is broken down and built back up because he is watching his father,’’ said Whitney Yates, Doug’s wife. “Sometimes (Robert) is so sick he can’t do anything and Doug is there.’’

They are more than father and son. They share a treasured relationship not every boy and his dad experiences, their bonds woven early and strengthened with each day together.

Doug fondly recalls sleeping on a cot in a race shop when he was about 5 years old while his father worked on an engine through the night. They traveled to races together. Doug reminisces of a trip to Richmond where his father, tired from work, told his son, then 12, to take the wheel while he slept. Yet, when a deer ran across their path, it was Robert who asked his son if he saw that.

They often went to the race shop together. Although family, Robert was still the boss. He would be hard on his son at times, but Doug cherishes even those memories.

Robert was only teaching his son what it took to succeed. Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett won two Daytona 500s and Davey Allison won another for Robert Yates Racing. Jarrett won the 1999 Cup championship with the team. As an owner, Robert Yates won 57 Cup races and 48 poles.

Now, Doug is the boss. He oversees the “vision” his father had of the Roush Yates Engines shop, which powered Kurt Busch to a Daytona 500 win and Ford teams to four other victories in the season’s first 11 races.

“He wants to make (his dad) proud,’’ Whitney said of Doug. “He’s always trying so hard.

“Doug is always moving the bar. I think Robert is so proud of that.’’

While Doug does what he can for his father and the family business, he couldn’t control what happened at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The past three years Robert, Doug and the rest of the family came to the Hall of Fame to see if Robert would be selected. Five are chosen each year. Robert ranked sixth in votes received twice, just missing enshrinement.

Robert Yates reacts after he is announced to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Each time, Robert said the voting panel got it right.

“Selfishly, I didn’t think so, but he did,’’ Doug said. “That was a lesson for me. Everything happens for a reason.’’

As Wednesday approached, Doug Yates’ anxiety grew. It was worse Wednesday morning and throughout the day.

As Doug walked into Hall of Fame, ahead of his father, he conceded he was “nervous.’’

He also was prepared.

Doug stocked multiple tissues in the pockets of his slacks.

“If he didn’t make it, I was going to break down,’’ Doug said of his father making the Hall of Fame. “If he did, I was going to break down.’’

Robert also felt nervous.

“If I don’t get in,’’ Robert told himself before the announcement, “that’s the reason to work real hard to be here next year to get in.’’

The family didn’t have to wait long to celebrate.

Robert Yates, who received 94 percent of the vote, was announced first.

“Wow,’’ Doug said. “I’m glad that’s over.’’

His father, sitting a row in front of Doug, reached back. Doug leaned forward. They held hands. 

After that it was a matter of relishing what had happened as four other men — Red Byron, Ray Evernham, Ken Squier and Ron Hornady Jr. — were selected to join Robert Yates in the next Hall of Fame Class.

Doug stay composed throughout. He wiped his eyes once.

When the ceremony ended, Robert Yates reached his arm around wife Carolyn and embraced her.

“My family means so much to me because they allowed me to work night and day,’’ Robert Yates said. “Do I love engines? Yes, whether one cylinder, two cylinders, six or 12 or 24. I love engines.’’

That passion led him to this moment.

“I feel like I could take a jack,’’ said the former jackman.

“I don’t know if I’ll sleep tonight.’’

Doug Yates will.

His father will be in the Hall of Fame.

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Long: 2018 schedule provides big test for one track; other musings on changes

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For all the talk about Indianapolis’ move to the last race before the playoffs or Charlotte’s road course event, the track that will face the most scrutiny from Tuesday’s 2018 schedule announcement is Richmond International Raceway.

Although the racing has been better when the track hosted day races, Richmond will go back to two night races next year and its September event moves into the playoffs after serving as the cutoff race since 2004. 

The change comes at a critical time for Richmond, a favorite among drivers but a track that has seen waning fan interest — thus the flip-flopping from night to day back to night events to please a fanbase that wants good racing but doesn’t want a sunburn. The spring crowd, no doubt affected by unseasonably warm temperatures in the 80s, was disappointing.

What makes the schedule change more critical for the track is what could be next. International Speedway Corp., which owns the facility, has slated Richmond as next for upgrades after Phoenix Raceway’s $178 million makeover is completed late next year.

While crowds have thinned at all tracks in the last decade, Richmond has seen its seating capacity cut from 110,000 in 2009 to its current capacity of 59,000, according to ISC annual reports. The 46.4 percent decline is the largest percentage capacity reduction among ISC’s 12 tracks that host Cup events.

The question becomes if the crowd continues to thin — even though Richmond is a day’s drive for nearly half of the U.S. population — will it be worthwhile for ISC to make the investments to the track? Or would it be better for ISC to invest in another of its facilities?

Something that could help Richmond is what will take place this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The track’s upper groove is being treated by the same PJ1 TrackBite compound used at Bristol to improve the racing.

What’s unique is that the compound is applied to an asphalt track instead of a concrete track such as Bristol. If it entices drivers to use the high lane for part of the race, that will be significant. The challenge is that as the race moves into the evening and cooler temperatures, the bottom groove will be the fastest way around.

Richmond seemed to have a good solution when it sealed the track from 1988-2002 but hasn’t done since. The time seems right to do something to the track with two Cup night races. 

Drivers say that the best racing is during the day when conditions are the hottest. That’s not the most enjoyable conditions for fans. So fans who wanted night racing back at Richmond will get it for both events.

Fans should be careful what they wish for because cool, evening temperatures are not conducive to the best type of racing.

DAYTONA CHANGES

Another alteration to the schedule is that Daytona 500 qualifying and the Clash will be held on the same day, Feb. 11, a week before the 500.

It’s a nice move to tighten the schedule, but why can’t more be done?

Does Daytona need to be held over two weekends?

“I would say certainly we talked about a lot of things,’’ said Jim Cassidy, NASCAR vice president of racing operations when asked about shortening Daytona Speedweeks. “But when you kick off the season with your biggest event of the year, and you have a number of races to support that kickoff of the season, Daytona has a portfolio of races that commands a number of weeks. I think our fans look forward to spending a lot of time in Daytona in the month of February.

“Certainly there’s consideration around the race teams, the amount of time they spend. But when you talk about the biggest event of your season, it certainly warrants a couple of weeks based on what we have from a content standpoint.”

I’m not convinced. I think you could compress it into one week and make the week more entertaining.

Here’s one possible way how:

Tuesday: Cup haulers park in garage.

Wednesday: Cup teams practice and qualify. Truck teams park in garage.

Thursday: Cup teams compete in the Duels. Xfinity teams park in garage. Truck teams practice.

Friday: Cup teams practice. Xfinity teams practice. Truck teams qualify and race. Cup teams in the Clash practice.

Saturday: Cup final practice for the Daytona 500. Xfinity teams race. The Clash is held an hour after the Xfinity race ends.

Sunday: Daytona 500.

A doubleheader with the Xfinity Series and the Clash the day before the Daytona 500 creates more reasons for fans to be there for the weekend.

Maybe there’s a better way, but the point is cut a weekend out of Speedweeks and that can give teams a break at some other point in the season (or just start the season a few days later).

As the sport looks to be more efficient with its race weekends — Pocono, Watkins Glen and Martinsville each will have qualifying a few hours before the race in the second half of the season — cutting a weekend out of Daytona only makes sense.

Also, watch for more two-day Cup weekends if the experiment works this year.

INDY THE RIGHT RACE BEFORE THE PLAYOFFS?

Indianapolis taking the spot as the final race before the playoffs raises some questions.

When Richmond was there, at least many more teams had a chance to win. At Indianapolis, those that can win are fewer. Typically, the best teams excel at Indy because they have the best aero and engine packages. That’s not something a smaller team can overcome as much as it can on a short track.

The notion of an upstart winning their way into the playoffs is less likely at Indianapolis. Those who need stage points in a last-gasp effort to make the playoffs will have to gamble. Truthfully, that could make Indy more dramatic in some ways. Paul Menard won the 2011 race on a fuel gamble, but such payoffs are not likely to happen often and then what you are left with?

Something to consider is that the Xfinity cars will race there in July with restrictor plates and other modifications. If those changes enhance the racing, then it would make sense for the Cup cars to go with something similar. If NASCAR can get its cars to make passes like the IndyCars (there were 54 lead changes in last year’s Indianapolis 500), then you’d have something worth talking about.

If that doesn’t work, maybe you’re left with the tradeoff that Richmond gives the playoffs two short tracks.

A NOVEL IDEA BUT WILL IT WORK?

Charlotte’s roval for the playoffs will smack of desperation to some, and they wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. Still, one has to applaud the sport and the track looking for a different way to entertain fans. Sometimes, the greatest rewards come after the greatest risks.

While drivers will race on the infield road course, they still nearly will race all the way around the 1.5-mile track. If the action on the road course section mimics what fans see at Sonoma or Watkins Glen, then this will be a good move. If not, what then?

Charlotte’s format will present challenges for crew chiefs in setting up the car, but the key is going to be action. Few people go to races to watch the crew chiefs. It’s about the drivers. And it will be about contact on the road course.

SAME OLD, SAME OLD

Even with all the changes to the front half of the playoff schedule, three of the final five races are on 1.5-mile speedways.

Cassidy said NASCAR isn’t as concerned about that.

“I wouldn’t get too hung up on the number of intermediate tracks because I think what you’ve seen, if you want to focus on the back end of the playoffs, focus on the racing that we’ve seen at intermediate tracks, each of the intermediate tracks as kind of taking shape from having its own distinct personality from a racing standpoint,’’ he said.

“I think you saw that at Texas this year with the changes they made, again, a vision to change things up on that side, and to create a different racing dynamic at a mile‑and‑a‑half track.

“What you saw at Kansas a couple weeks ago kind of speaks for itself.

  “And then I don’t think you could argue that Homestead has provided some of the most compelling racing you could ever imagine to bring home a championship.’’

Miami is the best 1.5-mile track and has produced some good racing in the season finale. Nothing wrong with it where it is. Kansas has had its ups and downs but did have 21 lead changes earlier this month in what was viewed as an entertaining race. With its new track surface, we’ll see where Texas goes from its race in April.

If all three can provide entertaining racing and allow drivers to move through the field instead of being stuck in a line, then they should stay in their spots. But if they can’t do so, then NASCAR should not be afraid of making further changes to the playoff schedule.

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All-Star Race will remain at Charlotte in 2018

Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images
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NASCAR confirmed that the All-Star Race will be held again at Charlotte Motor Speedway despite more of a push from competitors and others to move the event.

Criticism was raised after last weekend’s 70-lap event featured only three lead changes. Kyle Busch took the lead on the restart to begin the final 10-lap stage and went on to win. It marked the fourth time in the last five years the All-Star winner led every lap in the final stage. In 12 All-Star Races at Charlotte since the track was repaved, there have been two lead changes in the final five laps.

Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations, was clear in a call with reporters Tuesday that the All-Star Race is set for Charlotte.

“We’ve finished our discussions for ’18,” he said. ” We’ll begin looking at ’19 and beyond in the near future.”

The All-Star Race debuted at Charlotte in 1985, moved to Atlanta in 1986 and returned to Charlotte the following year. It has been held at Charlotte ever since.

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NASCAR announces 2018 schedules for Cup, Xfinity, Camping World Trucks

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NASCAR announced the 2018 schedules for its three national series and they include significant changes in Cup.

The season will begin with the Clash and Daytona 500 qualifying taking place on Feb. 11. Previously, those events were held on separate dates. The Clash moves to from a Saturday night to Sunday afternoon. Daytona 500 qualifying will precede it.

The Daytona 500 moves to Feb. 18 – its earliest date since 2010.

The Richmond spring race moves back to a Saturday night race after having been run on Sunday this year.

The playoffs will see a big change.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway will host the cutoff race for the playoffs on Sept. 9. The playoffs will open Sept. 16 at Las Vegas. Richmond, which had been the cutoff race since 2004, moves into the playoffs and will be on Sept. 22, a Saturday night. The first round ends Sept. 30 at Charlotte on the track’s oval and infield road course. Dover moves to the first race in the second round. The final six races of the playoffs remain unchanged from this year.

2018 MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES SCHEDULE

Date                 Site

2/11                  Daytona International Speedway (Clash / Daytona 500 Qualifying)

2/15                  Daytona International Speedway (Duel)

2/18                  Daytona 500

2/25                  Atlanta Motor Speedway

3/4                    Las Vegas Motor Speedway

3/11                  Phoenix International Raceway

3/18                  Auto Club Speedway

3/25                  Martinsville Speedway

4/8                    Texas Motor Speedway

4/15                  Bristol Motor Speedway

4/21                  Richmond International Raceway

4/29                  Talladega Superspeedway

5/6                    Dover International Speedway

5/12                  Kansas Speedway

5/19                  Charlotte Motor Speedway (Monster Energy All-Star Race)

5/27                  Charlotte Motor Speedway

6/3                    Pocono Raceway

6/10                  Michigan International Speedway

6/24                  Sonoma Raceway

7/1                    Chicagoland Speedway

7/7                    Daytona International Speedway

7/14                  Kentucky Speedway

7/22                  New Hampshire Motor Speedway

7/29                  Pocono Raceway

8/5                    Watkins Glen International

8/12                  Michigan International Speedway

8/18                  Bristol Motor Speedway

9/2                    Darlington Raceway

9/9                    Indianapolis Motor Speedway

9/16                  Las Vegas Motor Speedway

9/22                  Richmond International Raceway

9/30                  Charlotte Motor Speedway

10/7                  Dover International Speedway

10/14                Talladega Superspeedway

10/21                Kansas Speedway

10/28                Martinsville Speedway

11/4                  Texas Motor Speedway

11/11                Phoenix International Raceway

11/18                Homestead-Miami Speedway

  

2018 NASCAR XFINITY SERIES SCHEDULE

Date                 Site

2/17                  Daytona International Speedway

2/24                  Atlanta Motor Speedway

3/3                    Las Vegas Motor Speedway

3/10                  Phoenix International Raceway

3/17                  Auto Club Speedway

4/7                    Texas Motor Speedway

4/14                  Bristol Motor Speedway

4/20                  Richmond International Raceway

4/28                  Talladega Superspeedway

5/5                    Dover International Speedway

5/26                  Charlotte Motor Speedway

6/2                    Pocono Raceway

6/9                    Michigan International Speedway

6/17                  Iowa Speedway

6/30                  Chicagoland Speedway

7/6                    Daytona International Speedway

7/13                  Kentucky Speedway

7/21                  New Hampshire Motor Speedway

7/28                  Iowa Speedway

8/4                    Watkins Glen International

8/11                  Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

8/17                  Bristol Motor Speedway

8/25                  Road America

9/1                    Darlington Raceway

9/8                    Indianapolis Motor Speedway

9/15                  Las Vegas Motor Speedway

9/21                  Richmond International Raceway

9/29                  Charlotte Motor Speedway

10/6                  Dover International Speedway

10/20                Kansas Speedway

11/3                  Texas Motor Speedway

11/10                Phoenix International Raceway

11/17                Homestead-Miami Speedway

  

2018 NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES SCHEDULE 

Date                 Site

2/16                  Daytona International Speedway

2/24                  Atlanta Motor Speedway

3/2                    Las Vegas Motor Speedway

3/24                  Martinsville Speedway

5/4                    Dover International Speedway

5/11                  Kansas Speedway

5/18                  Charlotte Motor Speedway

6/8                    Texas Motor Speedway

6/16                  Iowa Speedway

6/23                  Gateway Motorsports Park

6/29                  Chicagoland Speedway

7/12                  Kentucky Speedway

7/18                  Eldora Speedway

7/28                  Pocono Raceway                     

8/11                  Michigan International Speedway

8/15                  Bristol Motor Speedway

8/26                  Canadian Tire Motorsport Park

9/14                  Las Vegas Motor Speedway

10/13                Talladega Superspeedway

10/27                Martinsville Speedway

11/2                  Texas Motor Speedway

11/9                  Phoenix International Raceway

11/16                Homestead-Miami Speedway

 

 

Las Vegas, Richmond part of 2018 playoff schedule; Indy moves to cutoff race

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NASCAR’s playoff schedule will look significantly different in 2018 with a new race leading into it and all three first-round races new.

For the first time since it was put on the schedule in 1994, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will move from its summer spot to Sept. 9 and be the final race before the playoffs begin.

The Brickyard 400 will lead into a revamped first round that will see the playoffs begin for the first time at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sept. 16. The playoff opener will be the second race at Las Vegas, which got the date from New Hampshire Motor Speedway. 

Richmond International Raceway, which had been the final race before the playoffs since 2004, moves into the playoffs and will be the second race in the opening round on Sept. 22, a Saturday night.

Charlotte Motor Speedway will be the cutoff race in the first round on Sept. 30, but that race will be competed on the track’s roval— combining its oval and infield road course

The changes dramatically alter the type of tracks in the 10-race playoff, which will still end in Miami on Nov. 18.

There will be one road course (Charlotte), one restrictor-plate track (Talladega), two short tracks (Richmond and Martinsville), two 1-mile tracks (Dover and Phoenix) and four 1.5-mile tracks (Las Vegas, Kansas, Texas and Miami).

The race at Chicagoland Speedway moves from September to June.

The final 11 races of the 2018 season will be:

Sept. 9 — Indianapolis Motor Speedway (final race before playoffs)

Sept. 16 — Las Vegas (playoff opener)

Sept. 22 — Richmond

Sept. 30 — Charlotte (oval/infield road course – end of first round)

Oct. 7 — Dover (start of second round)

Oct. 14 — Talladega

Oct. 21 — Kansas (end of second round)

Oct. 28 — Martinsville (start of third round)

Nov. 4 — Texas

Nov. 11 — Phoenix (end of third round)

Nov. 18 — Miami (championship)

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