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Hair today, gone tomorrow: Ryan Blaney to sport new haircut this week

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Ryan Blaney‘s long mane and mustache will be history this week.

“This will definitely let me know the season is about here and you have to start looking like a professional,” Blaney said Tuesday during a break in the Goodyear tire test at Texas Motor Speedway.

So how did his hair get this way?

“I thought it looked good,” said Blaney, who moves to the No. 12 Cup team at Team Penske this season from the Wood Brothers. “I had a mustache for a cruise. I just decided to keep it, and I decided to keep it for this test, but it will all get cleaned up Friday. I actually have an appointment to shave this and cut my hair off.”

Well, not all off, of course.

But it will be much shorter, mirroring the look of Team Penske drivers and employees.

Blaney was asked if he was sad to see his long hair soon gone.

“It’s just hair,” he said. “It’s facial hair. It’s dead skin that grows out of your head. It’s nothing anything too major. I actually laugh at fans that give me a hard time whether I’m going to cut it or not. It’s just hair. There’s a lot more important things out there, but it’s funny to see the reactions. You can cut anything off that you want and it’s not going to change (me). Personality-wise I’m going to be the same person but just look a little different.

“It will be interesting not having hair touching my neck all the time. It will be a lot less work. I don’t know if you know how much work it takes to have long hair. I actually don’t really like it. It’s almost gotten too much for me. So it will look different. But I think I’ll stay the same. I’ll still be Ryan.”

The tire test concludes today. Chase Elliott, Aric Almirola and reigning series champ Martin Truex Jr. also are participating.

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Goodyear signs extension with NASCAR

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HOMESTEAD, Florida — NASCAR announced Saturday a multi-year renewal with Goodyear for the company to be the series’ sole tire supplier. The deal goes through the 2022 season.

The move wasn’t in doubt with NASCAR and Goodyear having previously done tests for the 2018 season. Goodyear has been the exclusive tire supplier for all three of NASCAR’s top series since 1997. Goodyear has been a race tire supplier for NASCAR since 1954.

“We proudly join Goodyear in celebrating our renewed and longstanding partnership,” said Brent Dewar, NASCAR president, in a statement. “For more than half a century, NASCAR and our teams have trusted Goodyear tires. Our partners’ commitment to innovation and excellence plays a key role in our unyielding pursuit to deliver the best racing product in the world.”

Goodyear’s current five-year deal was set to expire after this season.

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Cup championship crew chiefs worried about tire allotment in Miami

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A 2015 Cup championship trophy sits in crew chief Adam Stevens’ office so he can see it every day.

“I kind of like to be reminded every time I come to work what we’re racing for and what the hard work we put in day in and day out and night in and night out and through all the grind of the season what it’s all for,’’ Stevens said.

He seeks another championship trophy with his driver, Kyle Busch, among the four racing for a title in Sunday’s season finale in Miami (3 p.m. ET, NBC).

The challenge for Busch and Stevens will be more than Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski for the championship. Stevens and other crew chiefs are concerned about the tire limits this weekend.

Cup teams will be allowed nine sets for the race plus the set they use in qualifying. Last year, teams had 12 sets available plus they could also use a set from practice.

Fewer sets of tires could mean more difficult decisions for crew chiefs, especially if there are a number of cautions.

“I think it changes a lot,’’ said Rodney Childers, crew chief for Kevin Harvick.

Kevin Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)

Childers noted that in 2014 when he and Harvick won the title, they used 11 sets of tires in the 400-mile race.

“I don’t feel like there’s enough tires,’’ Childers said of the allotment for Sunday’s race. “The last thing you want to do is run out of tires with 40 laps to go and not be able to do anything or race for a championship at the end. I’ve been trying to push a little bit, see if we can’t get an extra set for the race.’’

Teams were allowed fewer tires in half of the playoff races this season compared to last year. NASCAR cut allotments for some races after examining tire usage by teams with Goodyear. NASCAR sought to have the number of sets available closer to what had been used in previous races.

The concern among crew chiefs is that tires could be critical because how much they wear at Homestead-Miami  Speedway. Greg Stucker, Goodyear director of racing, notes that the track has become one of the highest wear tracks on the circuit.

That’s just one of many concerns crew chiefs have entering the weekend. Paul Wolfe, crew chief for Brad Keselowski, has additional worries. His team has struggled to find speed in the playoffs. Keselowski has finished ahead of Truex twice in the first nine playoff races but neither were at 1.5-mile speedways, the length of Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Keselowski has been slower than Truex and Harvick in green flag speed and on restarts in all four of the playoff races on 1.5-mile tracks this season.

“We’ve just got to go down there and make speed,’’ Wolfe said. “That’s kind of as simple as it is. I feel good about what we’re bringing down there. I don’t know if it’ll be enough, but I’m proud of the effort that we’ve put in.’’

Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn arrive as what some will view as the favorite with seven victories this season, including six on 1.5-mile speedways. Pearn is fine with that role. It’s much better than in 2015, when the team entered the season finale as an underdog.

“I think at that point we were just thrilled to have made it, and I think we didn’t really know what to do,’’ he said. “It was like a dog chasing the car, we finally caught the car and we didn’t know what to do with it. 

“This past year and the year before we really tried to take more time and get ourselves prepared for Homestead itself. So I think, obviously, we won’t see that until this weekend, but it’s been in our mind for a long time, and really trying to get ourselves prepared for this race and probably have put more emphasis on it than we would have if we hadn’t have gone through what we did in 2015.’’

Rain, rain go away – it won’t be a problem next fall at Charlotte with rain tires

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CONCORD, North Carolina — The rain that was a bane of NASCAR fans Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway will be anticipated next year.

While rain delayed Saturday’s Xfinity race and the threat of it moved the start of Sunday’s Cup race up an hour, rain next year won’t be as much of a problem.

With NASCAR racing on the track’s roval, rain tires will be available for both series a year from now. It’s a decision NASCAR made a couple of weeks ago, Stu Grant, general manager of worldwide racing for Goodyear, told NBC Sports.

“There was some debate about whether or not we should run rain tires on the roval because of how much you run on the bankings and the speed you may or may not have,’’ Grant said. “There was some due diligence on whether or not rain tires should be run. A lot of modeling, a lot of simulation and it looks like the speeds are going to be comparable to Watkins Glen and NASCAR has made the call, yeah, Goodyear go ahead and have rain tires available for this race a year from now.’’

The rain tires will be the same tires available at other road courses that NASCAR races.

Goodyear also will have rain tires at an Oct. 17-18 test on Charlotte’s roval with Chip Ganassi Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing and Furniture Row Racing.

Grant said the test procedure will be the same as other tires tests but admits this will be different since this is a new track for teams.

“The banking that you run here adds a whole different element from a car setup standpoint,’’ Grant said. “It’s different than trying to set up the car for a road course at Sonoma for example. We’re going to learn a lot about the tires and the compound necessary to come here with a good race tire, but the teams are going to learn a lot about how to set the car up properly.’’

The base tire for that test will be the tire combination that is run at Watkins Glen.

“The issue for us is to figure out what is the right compound to marry that road course construction with the asphalt on the road course and the oval pieces,’’ Grant said. “We have purpose-built a number of test tires to make sure we have the right combination.’’

One change that helped Goodyear was the addition of the chicane on the backstretch of the oval to slow cars before entering Turns 3 and 4. Cars will exit the road course portion in Turn 1 and run on the oval through Turn 2 and the backstretch before reaching the chicane.

“If you look back, the original layout, it did not have the chicane on the back,’’ Grant said. “Think about it, you come out of (Turns) 1 and 2 and all the way down the backstretch and through 3 and you can generate some pretty high speeds. It’s difficult to be able to get any kind of a comprise on the car or the tire that allows you to get through the super slow part in the road course and have the durability and the suspension settings on the car to be able to get through Turn 3 at high speeds.

“The chicane was added on the backstretch to slow the entry into 3 and allow you to run a proper road course setup on your car, a good road course tire and run rain tires.’’

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Goodyear tire info for NASCAR weekend at Charlotte

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This weekend’s racing action at Charlotte Motor Speedway marks the second of five 1.5-mile tracks that make up half of the 10 tracks in the NASCAR Cup playoffs.

That’s why Goodyear has placed so much emphasis on 1.5-mile tracks, particularly Charlotte, which has held four different tire tests there since late 2014.

Because the 1.5-milers play such a big part of the playoffs, the tests are to develop the best compounds for Chicago, Charlotte, Kansas, Texas and Homestead.

For places like CMS, Goodyear develops tires that incrementally increase grip through various tread compounds. The tires that will be used this weekend are also designed to run cooler to enhance durability and performance.

“Charlotte has really been a proving ground for our speedway tire development throughout the years, not only because it is in the backyard of most NASCAR teams, but also because this type of track represents a big part of the schedule,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing.

“It is well known that NASCAR has been moving to a lower downforce setting over the past several years, but what goes along with that is the fact that the teams continue to develop their race packages to gain most, if not all, of that grip back,” Stucker added. “That means that we have to keep up with the sport and continually test and assess what we see at every race to keep in front of those developments.”

GOODYEAR TIRE NOTES

Fast Facts for October 6-8, 2017 at Charlotte Motor Speedway

  • Tire: Goodyear Eagle Speedway Radials
  • Set limits: Cup: 4 sets for practice, 1 set for qualifying and 9 sets for the race; Xfinity: 7 sets for the event
  • Tire Codes: Left-side — D-4698; Right-side — D-4732
  • Tire Circumference: Left-side — 87.44 in. (2,221 mm); Right-side — 88.70 in. (2,253 mm)
  • Minimum Recommended Inflation: Left Front — 19 psi; Left Rear — 19 psi; Right Front — 54 psi; Right Rear — 50 psi

Notes from Goodyear: Teams in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series will run the same tire set-up at Charlotte this week. This is the same combination of left- and right-side tires that teams in both of these series ran at Charlotte in May. … While this right-side tire code (D-4732) is unique to Charlotte, teams in these two series will also run this left-side code (D-4698) at Kansas in two weeks. … As on all NASCAR ovals greater than one mile in length, teams are required to run inner liners in all four tire positions at Charlotte. … Air pressure in those inner liners should be 12-25 psi greater than that of the outer tire.