Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Photo by Samuel Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

NASCAR on stage racing: ‘Definitely here to stay’

1 Comment

A senior NASCAR executive reiterated the sanctioning body’s support for stage racing but noted potential changes will be examined for next season.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, made the comments Monday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Asked about the status of stage racing as NASCAR nears the midpoint of the season for its national series, O’Donnell said:

“Definitely here to stay. We’ll sit down with the same group that kind of came up with that concept. We really liked what we’ve seen, and the industry does as well, the strategy that is playing out.

“The things that will be on the table, do you add one (stage), do you look at the different stages in terms of lengths, the number of caution laps, maybe starting the second stage from Lap 1 instead of kind of eight laps in versus caution laps counting or maybe take those off the backend. A lot of those things will be on the table for us but continue to be real enthusiastic how those are playing out.’’

The only change with stages in Cup this season was NASCAR’s decision to add a fourth stage for the Coca-Cola 600, the sport’s longest race of the season.

NASCAR announced last week it was adjusting the stages for the Xfinity race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The stages will end after Lap 30 and Lap 60. Previously, the stages were to have ended after Lap 25 and Lap 50. The change was made after consultation with teams on expected fuel and tire runs.

 and on Facebook

Stage lengths announced for next month’s Xfinity race at Indianapolis

Getty Images
1 Comment

The stage lengths for next month’s Lilly Diabetes 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race have been announced.

The scheduled 100-lap event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be held Saturday, July 22, with a scheduled start time of 3:30 p.m. ET.

The race, which will feature the use of restrictor plates for the first time, will be televised on NBCSN.

Stages 1 and 2 for one of the biggest races on the Xfinity Series schedule will be 30 laps apiece, while the final stage will be 40 laps, according to NASCAR.

“Following the previously announced updates to the competition package for the NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Indianapolis, NASCAR will issue a rulebook bulletin that updates the stage lengths for the race,” Scott Miller, NASCAR Senior Vice President, Competition, said in a statement.

“As we have with every race, we worked with teams on expected fuel and tire runs for the event, and have determined that stages ending on Lap 30, Lap 60 and Lap 100 will provide the best race for fans,” Miller added.

Kyle Busch swept last year’s race weekend at IMS, capturing the Lilly Diabetes 250 Xfinity race and then following the next day with a triumph in the Brickyard 400. The latter was Busch’s most recent points-paying win in the Cup Series.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Aric Almirola looks to be back in No. 43 car in July

Leave a comment

MOORESVILLE, N.C. — Aric Almirola says he hopes to be back in a car next month, returning about two months after he suffered a T5 compression fracture in a May 13 crash at Kansas Speedway.

Almirola told NBC Sports on Tuesday that doctors were encouraged by what they saw in a scan of his vertebrae last week. He is scheduled to have another scan June 28. That will give doctors a better idea of when Almirola can return to driving the No. 43 for Richard Petty Motorsports.

He’s hoping it will be New Hampshire (July 16) or Indianapolis (July 23), if not sooner. Darrell Wallace Jr. is driving the car until Almirola returns. Wallace finished 26th Sunday at Pocono in his first race in the car. Regan Smith drove the No. 43 for three races, including the Monster Energy Open, before Wallace took over the ride.

Almirola was injured May 13 when his Ford slammed into Joey Logano’s Ford with such force that it lifted the car’s rear about 6 feet in the air before it slammed to the ground. Almirola was kept overnight in a Kansas City hospital before returning home.

He is undergoing laser therapy, massage therapy and swimming as part of his rehabilitation. His range of motion has returned, as he exhibited Tuesday by swinging his arms high above his head and squatting — things he couldn’t do after the accident.

Almirola said the bone split all the way around. The laser therapy helps regenerate that area. Swimming also works his back and helps with his range of motion.

The key, Almirola admits, is not doing too much during his recovery.

“You want to start doing everything you used to do,’’ he told NBC Sports. “I feel great standing here. I want to go up in the gym and I want to grab the 60-pound dumbbells and go sit down and start bench-pressing, but I can’t do that. I feel like I could right now because there’s no pain. I physically can’t do that. The torque on my back, the load on my spine, I can’t take that right now.

“I have to be aware of what my limitations are because I don’t want to set myself back. I’m doing so well in the recovery process. It’s about getting my range of motion back, getting my mobility back, getting my cardio back. I’m going to have to slowly work on my strength until the bone is all the way healed because I don’t want to re-injure or do something to slow down my recovery and put myself four to six weeks further behind.’’

Almirola also has been getting help from his children, Alex, 4, and Abby, 3. They’ve made sure he’s not exerting himself too much.

“We’ve been going on a month of telling them, ‘No, daddy can’t do that, I’m sorry my back is hurt,’ ‘’ he said. “Now, they’re just accustomed to it. I think it’s going to be weird for them now when my back is actually healed.

“Now, they’re so used to not getting a piggyback ride upstairs because my back is hurt. Now, they automatically respond, ‘Oh daddy, don’t pick that up, your back is hurt.’ ‘’

Almirola can’t wait until he can pick his children up.

“It will be awesome,’’ he said. “I miss that.’’

Watch the above video for Marty Snider’s interview with Almirola.

NASCAR America: Legendary announcer Ken Squier gets you ready for Sunday’s big day of racing

Leave a comment

Sunday is the biggest day of the year in motorsports, starting in the morning with the Monaco Grand Prix. Then, at Noon ET, it’s the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500. The final part of the racing tripleheader is NASCAR’s longest race of the season, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2018 inductee  Ken Squier gives you a great primer for what promises to be a memorable day around the world (see video above).

Also, check out the video below as NASCAR America paid tribute to Squier’s long career announcing the sport.

Indy President: Indianapolis and NASCAR are ‘about the oval’

Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
4 Comments

INDIANAPOLIS – Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles confirmed to NBC Sports that discussions were had about shifting the Brickyard 400 to the road course before the decision was made to keep the NASCAR Cup Series on the 2.5-mile oval

The track’s NASCAR weekend shifts from late July to Sept. 9 next year. The track will host the final Cup race before the playoffs begin.

Boles said Wednesday that the road course was considered an option but rejected for multiple reasons.

“As fans know and as we know and as NASCAR knows, the Brickyard 400 over the last several years has struggled,” Boles told NBC Sports. “We believe to continue to make it viable and frankly to grow it, we had to look at everything.

“We actually had a conversation about the road course in February in Daytona. Mark (Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., INDYCAR and IMS parent company) and I met with the folks in NASCAR in New York City. We talked it through.

“Ultimately, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is about the oval and NASCAR is about the oval. What makes this race special for the drivers is they get to drive on a track that Ray Harroun ran on, Wilbur Shaw won on, and you can recall the names that meant something to this sport.

“We felt committed to making the oval work.”

It was the heat, Boles said, that was the primary factor for the move to the fall. Boles noted the customer feedback from annual surveys and said that more than the racing product on track, heat was an overriding complaint.

“We survey our fans after every year,” Boles said. “The one thing we hear more than anything, the biggest complaint about the Brickyard 400 is the heat in the middle of the summer and you can’t shade this place. You can’t add more shade. The heat is the number one factor. We would make a move to move it out of the heat.

“Now we’ve moved it to an event where they will crown their regular season champion and they will set their 16 drivers for the playoffs. For us, that is another talking point.

“This addresses the number one concern that our customer has. The second or third, depending on the year, is that the race is just a race and doesn’t have real meaning to the rest of the season, so now we’ve also addressed that concern as well.”

One concern that arises from a September date is the potential of going head-to-head with the Indianapolis Colts. The NFL traditionally releases its schedule in April, so NASCAR will know whether the Colts are in town on Sunday, Sept. 9 well in advance.

Boles and IMS are already working toward an amenable solution.

“We completely understand it’s NFL season, and we’re in a city where the Colts are,” he said. “So we have begun those conversations, even ahead of announcing this with the folks at the Colts, so we can do the best we can to limit the weekends we go head to head with the Colts in this market.”