“It can be fun when it’s going well,’’ said Cassill, who will make his Cup season debut this weekend in the No. 00 for StarCom Racing. “That place, if you’re car is not handling well, you can end up going backwards and just by the time you’ve got some clear race track the leader is right behind you. So it can be frustration. I tend to like Martinsville.’’
Kligerman calls racing in the pack at Martinsville Speedway “the most aggressive racing I’ve ever been a part of in my life.’’
Jeff Burton said: “It’s … one of the hardest race tracks we go to period because you have to do it lap after lap after lap and it’s so easy to get, quite simply, just really, really mad at the guy you’re racing with because he’s hitting you and he’s banging on you.’’
Cup drivers have their description of the track. See what NASCAR America’s analysts and Cup drivers have to say about the track that hosts Sunday’s Cup race in the video above.
Each time NASCAR returns to Southern California and races at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, there is a distinct Hollywood connection.
Actors and entertainers come out to the race – some in official capacities, others just as regular fans – while NASCAR drivers often head to Tinseltown in their off-time to hang out and rub elbows with some of the biggest celebrities.
On Thursday’s NASCAR America, host Leigh Diffey asked analysts Parker Kligerman and NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett about the sport’s connection with Hollywood, as well as what drivers might be Hollywood-like in their own ways.
Here are the topics they discussed and excerpts of their answers:
Who would be NASCAR’s version of Hollywood’s leading men?
Jarrett: “This is easy in my opinion. It has to be Kevin Harvick. When you look at the leading man and who’s on top and everybody wants to be like in that role, it’s Kevin Harvick. He’s doing his very best to stay on top. He’s the man that’s there right now.”
Kligerman: “I’m going with Kyle Busch as the leading man. He’s right behind Kevin Harvick, is the leading man at Joe Gibbs Racing and the leading man at Toyota, and I just believe he’s had the performances to be that leading man and has the personality to command the screen, if you’d give him a chance.”
Who’s the next big thing in NASCAR?
Jarrett: “The man that just got slapped with a 25-point penalty, Chase Elliott. Going back the last two years, we’ve been talking about when will get that first win? When will it happen. But I foresee that coming in the very near future.”
Kligerman: “Erik Jones in that 20 car. We saw some sparks of brilliance from him last season in the 77 car. I remember when he raced Kyle Busch and beat him in the Snowball Derby and he beat Kyle Busch. Kyle said, ‘That guy is the next me,’ and a lot of people think that (Jones) will be the next Kyle Busch.’”
Who’s the best character actor in NASCAR?
Jarrett: “There’s a lot of characters out there, for sure. I’m going to go with Ryan Blaney. He has everything you’d look for in an actor, the personality, the good looks, all of that. But along with it, he’s very, very talented. You have to have all of that to fit this role, I believe, and Ryan Blaney is doing his part single-handedly.”
Kligerman: “Kyle Petty. No, I’m just kidding. I’m going to go with Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. He has great personality, we saw the Daytona 500 weekend and some of his antics off the track. I love following him on social media, he’s a very funny guy. I just think he’s full of enthusiasm for the sport, he enjoys what he’s doing, he enjoys his chance and is relishing it, and I believe the performances will match his personality.”
Who isn’t really standing out right now?
Jarrett: “Our reigning champion, Martin Truex Jr.? He’s exactly that. Nothing flashy at this point but being very solid. Going from winning a championship last year and then trying to go out the next year and try to make things happen … I just think they’re trying to get their legs under them after having that great championship offseason and trying to get back to that championship level that they’re accustomed to.”
Kligerman: “Aric Almirola. I just believe this guy has been given a new lease on life and getting a chance at a top-caliber organization like Stewart-Haas. We’re seeing a little hint of that performance, but it’s going to take a little more to eclipse that teammate of his, Kevin Harvick, who obviously has been the leading man.”
Who’s the villain this year?
Jarrett: “Kyle Busch has been fantastic in his interviews the last couple of weeks after finishing second to Kevin Harvick. But I can assure you this man is ready to explode if he finishes second, especially to Kevin Harvick, this weekend.”
Kligerman: “I’m going to go with the most hated man on NASCAR Reddit, and that’s Denny Hamlin. For whatever reason, he finds a way to rile up the fan base on the Internet, whether it’s what he does in the car, what he tweets or what he says on TV, he plays that villain role nicely at times and has the performance to back it up.”
Tony Stewart is coming off a milestone weekend as an owner, with four cars finishing in the top 10. In his second full season outside of the car, how has his transition been from driver to owner and what is his impact on the team?
The hottest driver & crew chief join the show. Kevin Harvick looks ahead to his participation in the K&N Pro Series opener on Thursday, and Rodney Childers discusses how the No. 4 team has found so much success this season.
Fontana marks the end of the West Coast trip for NASCAR. Will Kyle Larson continue his recent dominance at 2-mile tracks? What other drivers can make some noise at Auto Club Speedway?
Our SOCIAL PIT STOP takes a look at how drivers are spending their final weekend on the West Coast including one driver’s first Laker game.
Ryan Preece found plenty of success in the Xfinity Series last season with four top-five finishes in his 4 races including his first career win. We’ll hear from the 27-year-old prior to his first race of the season.
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.
NASCAR begins a West Coast swing in Las Vegas this weekend. We will look ahead to the action in the desert and discuss how race teams will approach the weekend now that the track will be part of the playoffs. Marty Snider hosts and is joined by analysts Steve Letarte, Jeff Burton and Parker Kligerman. Show airs at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
On today’s show:
We’ll have an in-depth and personal conversation with Kurt Busch, and Parker Kligerman continues our analysis when he jumps in the NBCSN Race Simulator – with Jeff Burton alongside – to give us an iRacing look and evaluation of Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The No. 22 team is looking for a new perspective after a difficult finish to last year. Dave Burns talks with crew chief Todd Gordon about their start to the new season.
Jeff Burton breaks down the evolution of Atlanta winner Kevin Harvick. How has he developed from his feisty, younger driving days to a more mature leader and a champion of the sport?
If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, you can also 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.
As the Daytona 500, the most watched and anticipated race of the NASCAR season, drew to a close, the results sheet showed what many of us expected: The new, large group of brash, seething, success-starved young drivers didn’t disappoint and took center stage in NASCAR’s biggest show.
Meanwhile, that same week on the other side of the racing world …
The principal of Williams F1 Team, Claire Williams, was dealing with the brash media and defending the merits of her own set of very inexperienced and young drivers for the 2018 Formula One World Championship.
And both events represented the polar spectrums of the most feared word in racing (and a four-letter word in my book): Funding.
Last season, Williams, one of the most historic teams in Formula One, announced the signing of an unheralded 18-year-old named Lance Stroll. Many casual fans asked “Who?” and the PR machines drummed up all sorts of lovely attributes about the young Canadian. But as with most things in racing that make you utter “Huh?” you need only follow the money.
Lance Stroll’s dad is a billionaire and by many reports agreed to provide to the team (and I am not exaggerating) a staggering $40 million U.S. paperbacks to make his son the new rookie driver at Williams. (Some had reported $80 million, but this is thought to be an exaggeration).
Throughout the world, the uproar wasn’t deafening but more nuclear explosion. “Silver spoon” didn’t suffice in this case. It was more being “born-with-sole-ownership-rights-to-Facebook”-spoon.
And yet one year later, Williams F1 Team said, “au revoir” to popular veteran Felipe Massa, who left for his second attempt at retirement. That left the team with only Lance Stroll, who had a respectable but by no means blistering debut season.
Williams had a decision: Who do they put beside the most garish display of a pay driver in the history of the sport?
The team had tested veteran Polish driver Robert Kubica, who is thought to be one of the most talented in the sport. He had driven for the likes of the factory BMW team and won. He was Renault’s star driver until February 2011 when he was doing a rally race in the offseason and had a horrific crash that partially severed his right forearm.
But through the years he had worked tirelessly to prove he had rehabilitated enough to come back to F1. And in this off-season, it looked like this would be the case. One of the most remarkable comeback stories in the sport’s history was about to come to fruition. He had tested with Williams and maybe lacked a bit of speed, but by all accounts, he had the veteran savvy to help this once-great team try to assemble the building blocks to its former glory.
But come Feb. 15th when Williams launched its new car for the 2018 season, Claire Williams wasn’t answering how excited she was to have Robert Kubica. She was maligning the term “pay driver.”
Williams had chosen another rookie who had a lot of experience in lower formula’s and was respectable but also was known to have another massive amount of personal funding: Sergey Sirotkin
As Claire remarked “It’s nothing new in F1 that drivers come with money, and thank goodness that they do. It would be incredibly naive for anyone to make that statement, saying ‘He’s just a pay driver.’ It’s great if a driver has financial interests from partners. It’s great for the team. It’s great for the driver.
“This is an expensive sport, not just F1 but at the grassroots level as well. We’d miss out on so much talent coming into F1 if drivers didn’t have financial backing supporting them through the junior formulae, and bringing them into F1.”
She would continue defending Williams’ decision: “I think the terminology or the vocab used around pay drivers is wrong. It’s inappropriate, and it’s unnecessary, and it puts negativity around a driver that we just should not be doing in this sport anymore.
“There are commercial issues of course, but we make our driver decisions based on talent, based on what Paddy [Lowe]’s engineering team needs in order to take this team forward, not about any potential financial backing that they have.”
And the fact is, I have to agree with her.
As sponsorship is becoming increasingly harder to obtain, F1 budget numbers have won the space race to Mars (waving as they pass Elon Musk). Any sane person would have made the same decision. When the difference may be losing a couple tenths or being in financial hardship, she made the right decision.
But I am not convinced no matter how much PR drivel is shoveled my way that the two best drivers available in the world are driving for Williams F1 Team.
The pay driver argument will continue all season for Williams, as it has for decades in racing. And it may continue to get worse unless something is done to restrict the cost.
But in NASCAR, where sponsorship has become a very tough game, the top level somehow is being graced with a serious amount of young very talented racers being selected based on merit. And they showed this during the incredible race that was this year’s Daytona 500.