charlotte motor speedway

Aric Almirola cleared to race this weekend at New Hampshire

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Richard Petty Motorsports announced Wednesday that doctors have cleared Aric Almirola to race this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Almirola has been out since suffering a T5 compression fracture in a May 13 crash at Kansas Speedway. He was expected to be out eight to 12 weeks.

Almirola received approval after a test Tuesday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“It felt great to be back in the racecar yesterday,” Almirola said in a statement. “After racing in the Monster Energy Series for five and a half years, it got to be routine, and I took it for granted. When something gets taken away from you at a moment’s notice like that, it has certainly made me appreciate my passion for racing and my desire to compete at this level. The thrill of running 200 miles per hour in a stock car was something that I had honestly lost a little bit. After being out of the car for eight weeks, the passion is back, now more than ever.
“Physically, I felt great in the car and had no pain associated with the injury during (Tuesday’s) test. I’d like to sincerely thank all of the medical personnel that have helped me through this process, my family, my friends, my team and all the fans that supported me. I’m very grateful to Bubba (Wallace), Regan (Smith) and Billy (Johnson) for all of their efforts subbing for me both on and off the track. I’m excited to get back to racing against all my friends and peers in the Monster Energy Series.”

Regan Smith filled in for Almirola in the Monster Energy Open during All-Star weekend, the Coca-Cola 600 (finished 22nd) and Dover (34th). Darrell Wallace Jr. drove the car at Pocono (26th), Michigan (19th), Daytona (15th) and Kentucky (11th). Billy Johnson finished 22nd in the car at Sonoma.

Four-time Olympic medalist to explore different aspects of NASCAR for NBC Sports

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Ato Boldon, a four-time Olympic medalist and 10-year NBC Sports track and field analyst, will join the NASCAR on NBC broadcast team as a features contributor for this season.

NBC broadcasts the final 20 Cup races of the season, beginning with the July 1 race at Daytona International Speedway. NBC also broadcasts the final 19 Xfinity races of the season, beginning June 30 at Daytona.

Boldon will make his NASCAR on NBC debut July 1 at Daytona.

At Daytona, Boldon will be embedded with the die-hard NASCAR racing community. He will  report on what makes NASCAR fans so loyal to their drivers. Boldon will experience the infield firsthand, and will look back at what it was like to race on the packed sand of Daytona Beach where the sport first began.

In addition to his role at Daytona, Boldon will contribute to NASCAR on NBC’s coverage of four additional races during the 2017 season, including Cup Series races at Bristol Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Reporting assignments will include serving as a NASCAR hauler driver, joining Joe Gibbs Racing’s pit crew, and becoming a driver himself, when he takes the wheel of NBC Sports’ on-track car to experience piloting a 750+ horsepower stock car on 20-degree banked turns.

“As an athlete, broadcaster, and lover of speed and adrenaline, I’m eager to experience the fascinating intricacies of NASCAR,” said Boldon. “It’s an amazing opportunity to bring fans even closer to the action, and I hope to bring a perspective that viewers have not previously seen.”

Boldon had his first taste of NASCAR last year during a ride along with NASCAR on NBC analyst Jeff Burton at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Boldon’s hot laps around the 1.5 mile oval can be found here.

Boldon, who joined NBC Sports Group in 2007, serves as NBC Sports Group’s lead track and field analyst. Boldon has covered four Olympics for NBC Sports, including the 2016 Rio Olympics, 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, 2012 London Games, and 2008 Beijing Games.

In 1992, Boldon represented Trinidad and Tobago in the 100m and 200m competitions at the Barcelona Olympics. At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Boldon won bronze medals in the 100m and 200m events. Four years later, at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Boldon won a silver medal in the 100m, and a bronze in the 200m.

Legislation could help Texas Motor Speedway to lure All-Star Race, season finale

Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images
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Texas Motor Speedway could become a player for the NASCAR All-Star Race or Cup season finale with legislation making the track eligible for money to help bring those events there.

H.B. 3294 was filed Monday without Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature. It becomes effective Sept. 1.

The measure updates the law. It makes the track eligible for funding should it ever get the All-Star race or season-ending championship race. The money comes from the state’s Major Events Reimbursement Fund, which provided millions to help lure the 2017 Super Bowl.

An event has to be listed to be eligible for funding. Texas Motor Speedway previously had not been listed in the law.

“It’s just going to give us a tool, should we choose to use it, to give us an opportunity to pursue some events in a way that have probably never been pursued in NASCAR before,’’ Eddie Gossage, president of Texas Motor Speedway, told NBC Sports. “Don’t know that we’re ever going to use it, but at least it’s something we’ve got in our tool kit that I don’t know anybody else in motorsports has.’’

NASCAR awards its races to tracks. There isn’t a bidding process as there is for a Super Bowl or NCAA Final Four. The 2018 Cup schedule has been set with Charlotte Motor Speedway scheduled to host the All-Star Race for the 33rd time in 34 years. The 2018 schedule has Homestead-Miami Speedway hosting the season finale for what would be the 17th consecutive year.

NASCAR has five-year sanctioning agreements with tracks that go through 2020.

Gossage said that it was his understanding that its two Cup race weekends were not eligible for such funding from the state, so the track sought to have the All-Star Race and championship finale added as part of the legislation.

Events the measure lists as eligible for funding include all-star games for the NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball, and Major League Soccer, a national championship college football game, a World Cup soccer game or tournament and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association National Finals Rodeo, among others.

The Major Events Reimbursement Fund is controlled by the governor’s office. There is a formula that determines what each event is eligible to receive. The fund is supported by state and local sales taxes, auto rental tax, hotel and alcohol state taxes.

The Associated Press reported that the 2017 Super Bowl in Houston was eligible for $25 million and the 2016 U.S. Grand Prix Formula One race in Austin, Texas, was eligible for $26 million.

Gossage said the track has not had any discussions with NASCAR seeking the All-Star Race or season finale.

Charlotte Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway are both owned by Speedway Motorsports Inc., so moving the All-Star Race would have to be approved by Marcus Smith, president, chief executive officer of SMI.

“Ultimately, it’s Marcus’ decision as to whether to try to use it, and I honestly can’t tell you what he would say,’’ Gossage said. “He’s president of the company and that’s all eight speedways. He’s got to make decisions that are in the best interest for the company. That’s going to be tough particularly when the company is based in Charlotte and we’re talking that one of these events is a Charlotte event.’’

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Jimmie Johnson says NASCAR should continue to use traction compound on tracks

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DOVER, Del. — Even though the traction compound used last weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway had minimal impact, Jimmie Johnson said that NASCAR should continue to try it at tracks where it is needed.

NASCAR did not use the traction compound PJ1 Friday at Dover International Speedway. The compound has been used at Bristol and Charlotte. Last week marked the first time the compound had been used on an asphalt track. It was added to the upper groove in the corners after the All-Star Race had three lead changes in 70 laps.

I think that the traction compound is the next thing to try,’’ Johnson said Friday at Dover. “And I’ve said this a lot of times: The garage area has been forced to make a lot of changes to create competition or honestly, parity. And it’s just crazy for us to think when we have cars running the same speed, all 40 cars within such a small window of time, that we can expect any passing on the race track. So, we need other lanes on the track to pass.

“We need tires that wear out to create comers and goers. So, with that, I didn’t see anything negative from the traction compound. We’re learning. Do we wish it provided more side-by-side racing? Sure. It’s a tricky track in general. I didn’t see anything negative that came from it. If a track owner/operator isn’t willing to resurface and kind of redesign, then why not? I think there is something to try here and we will figure it out if we keep playing with it and we keep trying it and develop the process.”

Johnson said that applying the compound might work in Turn 3 at Pocono Raceway — where the series heads next weekend. He compared it to the asphalt patch that was added there in 2008. Drivers adjusted their line to run through that patch because it provided extra grip.

Johnson admits PJ1 won’t be effective at some tracks because there’s not enough room off the corners for drivers to run side-by-side. So it likely wouldn’t be effective in every turn at Pocono, particularly Turn 2, the tunnel turn, which has a narrow racing line.

Johnson said the traction compound didn’t work as well at Charlotte because the track already provides enough grip.

“At Charlotte, there’s not much wear,’’ said Johnson, who ran out of fuel while leading with two laps left in last weekend’s race. “You put traction compound down on a grippy surface to start with; you’re just adding a little bit more grip to a lot of grip. But if the bottom doesn’t have much to start with and you reward the guys on the outside with a considerable amount of grip, then you’re going to have a better chance of competitive passes and side-by-side racing. So, again, it’s something that we have to develop.’’

Matt Kenseth, who finished fourth, said he didn’t notice much of a difference with the compound at Charlotte.

“It seemed like the middle groove was the best groove most of the day,’’ he said. “I kept my track position most of the day, so I never really got passed a lot and I really didn’t pass a lot of cars.’’

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NASCAR America: Is a fuel-mileage win more luck or skill?

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One of the most difficult ways to win — or lose — a NASCAR Cup race is when a driver’s car is running low on fuel.

Does the driver give up track position to pit and get enough go-go juice to reach victory lane, or does he gamble, hoping he has enough left in the tank — when just as often there isn’t enough.

Austin Dillon saved fuel in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and won his first career NASCAR Cup race. Jimmie Johnson, who looked like he’d win at Charlotte, gambled and ran out of fuel with two laps left. That’s a perfect example of the dichotomy of a fuel mileage race and result.

But Dillon’s fuel mileage win has sparked a debate in the NASCAR community. On Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America, Dale Jarrett and Slugger Labbe explained why it’s ridiculous to call the win luck.

And Jarrett’s and Labbe’s thoughts could very well prove true again on Sunday in Dover, where fuel mileage races are a frequent occurrence.

Click on the video above.