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Casey Mears likely to split 2018 between NASCAR, Global Rallycross and Stadium Super Trucks

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Casey Mears still plans to compete part-time in NASCAR in 2018, but he’s also looking to expand his racing horizons.

The veteran NASCAR driver told The Checkered Flag recently that he also expects to race in the Red Bull Global Rallycross series, as well as Robby Gordon’s Stadium Super Trucks series.

“Right now I’m talking to a few NASCAR programs to do maybe limited stuff,” Mears told The Checkered Flag. “I don’t have anything that would be a full-time ride in a NASCAR series.

“I’ve been speaking with Robby Gordon in the Stadium Super Truck program. I think that’s a really cool up-and-coming-series and I’d definitely like to be involved with the GRC. It looks like a lot of fun.

“I think there’s enough difference between all those that it could leave room for doing a bit of both so we’ll see how it works out.”

Mears did not race in the Cup Series in 2017, having lost his ride at the end of 2016 to Ty Dillon in the No. 13 Geico Chevy. He has amassed 488 starts and one win (2007 Coca-Cola 600) in his Cup career, along with 13 top fives and 51 top 10s.

However, he did compete on a part-time basis in 2017 in the Xfinity Series, making 14 starts, with season-best finishes of ninth place at both Richmond and Road America. He also has 107 Xfinity starts with one win, 16 top fives and 34 top 10s.

Former NASCAR driver Robby Gordon banned from racing in Australia

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Former NASCAR, IndyCar and off-road star Robby Gordon has been banned from racing in Australia after a weekend on-street incident in the town of Darwin.

According to Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, Gordon performed a couple of burnouts on the main thoroughfare (Mitchell Street) in Darwin.

When Australian racing authorities found out about the incident, of which a video is contained in the Daily Telegraph’s online story, they banned Gordon from racing in the country.

Gordon owns and operates the Stadium Super Trucks Series, which has become very popular in Australia. It’s unclear if Gordon’s situation will impact the series from returning to the country for scheduled future competitions.

“We had a truck on display, I asked the two security guards, ‘Hey, you think I could flip a couple of doughies (donuts)?’ They said, ‘I don’t care’,” Gordon said, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Local judge Richard Coats did care, telling Gordon, “It’s one of the busiest streets in Darwin, I don’t believe the professional driving skills are an excuse. I wish I could take away your professional license, but unfortunately I don’t have the power to do that.”

Gordon was cited by local police for several driving offenses, including driving in a dangerous manner. He was fined $4,000 after appearing in Darwin Local Court on Monday.

Coats said he “would have considered sentencing Gordon to jail time for the stunt if he had been in trouble before.”

Less than 24 hours after the on-street display, Gordon finished second in a SST race at Darwin’s Hidden Valley Raceway, which was part of the weekend’s V8 Supercars race there.

Citing the incident and charges against Gordon, the Confederation of Australian Motorsport (CAMS) – which oversees racing competition in the country – said it indefinitely will keep Gordon from obtaining a competition visa on health and safety reasons.

“With CAMS actively engaging more than ever with local communities, government, and corporate Australia to grow and promote our sport, so-called ‘hoon’ behavior on public roads is not reflective of our values, nor our member base, and will not be tolerated,” chief executive Eugene Arocca said in a statement.

Arocca added, “It is unfortunate that such actions have taken place after an otherwise professional and well organized event at Hidden Valley Raceway, and such behavior is not reflective of the organizing committee of that event or Supercars.

“We are disappointed that this incident is not demonstrative of the requisite level of professionalism demanded by modern motorsport.”

Gordon downplayed the incident after his court appearance, telling local media in Darwin, “I think I did two doughnuts … not to make excuses, but maybe less than 5 kilometers an hour (just over 3 mph).

“Obviously the wheels were faster than that, but I did two doughnuts and put it back on the trailer.”

It’s unclear if Gordon legally will challenge his banishment.

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Ex-NASCAR driver Robby Gordon’s Stadium Super Trucks part of Trucks/IndyCar weekend at Texas

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Friday night, Texas Motor Speedway will play host to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with the winstaronlinegaming.com 400 race.

There will also be a different kind of truck taking part in the four-day IndyCar/NASCAR weekend, one that will do things a Camping World Truck can only dream about doing.

Robby Gordon (l) and Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage.

Remember Robby Gordon, former NASCAR and IndyCar driver? He’s gone on to create — and races in — one of the fastest growing motorsports series in the world, the Stadium Super Trucks (SST) series. The series will have two races at TMS on Saturday and one race Sunday.

Check out Gordon giving Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage and several Dallas-Fort Worth area reporters on one kind of wild ride that likely will have some of the Truck Series’ drivers envious.

Long: Bristol could signal new era of short track racing

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BRISTOL, Tennessee — Drivers walked out of Bristol Motor Speedway after Monday’s Cup race smiling.

No fisticuffs. No frowns. No frustrations.

Bristol isn’t back to what it once was — a single-groove, shove-your-mother-out-of-the-way track — and may never be, but its two-lane racing left many drivers as wide-eyed as children.

The question now is did fans enjoy what they saw?

Short track racing has always had its charm with a history of beating and banging followed by driver confrontations. It was here where Jimmie Johnson, of all people, stepped out of his wrecked car and flipped the bird at Robby Gordon. This also was the track where Jeff Gordon once shoved Matt Kenseth after a race.

It’s moments like those why some people call for more short tracks in the series and a few still clamor for the return of North Wilkesboro. Of course, that will never happen.

Never. Forget about it. Stop talking about it. Move on.

Instead, is the new chapter of short track racing being set now? Might it be two-wide racing?

A different tire allowed drivers to run on the outside — the outside! — at Martinsville and pass on what has always been a one-groove track that required more fender than finesse.

Now comes Monday’s race, the second with the PJ1 VHT compound applied to the lower groove to add grip. The intent is to make the bottom groove the preferred line and force everyone there to create that bumping and banging to pass. It succeeded early before drivers began venturing up the track and worked in the top groove.

So instead of Martin Truex Jr. bumping Johnson out of the lead as they dueled with about 50 laps to go, they ran side-by-side. Johnson ran high and Truex ran low.

“It was a fun race track,’’ Martin Truex Jr. said after leading 116 laps but finishing eighth because of a late speeding penalty on pit road. “It was a blast.’’

Johnson also called the racing “fun” after earning his 82nd career Cup win.

“It is so fun to just duel it out,’’ Johnson told NBC Sports in Victory Lane. “To be at a track where aero isn’t as important, you can get in there close to people, lean on them, push on them, really race hard. It was a total blast.’’

It wasn’t just those running at the front all race who had a good time.

Ty Dillon, who finished 15th, felt the same way.

“I don’t know what the fans thought, but I think all the of drivers liked to be able to have that top and bottom, where if you’re car is good on the bottom, you can pass there, and if it’s good up top, you can make moves up there,’’ he told NBC Sports. “I enjoy this type of racing.’’

One thing drivers hate is being stuck behind a slower car. That’s what leads to contact and this is a contact sport — at least that’s what NASCAR Chairman Brian France has said. For many fans, that’s what they want to see on a short track.

Still, it was hard not to be thrilled with the racing in the final 100 laps where drivers ran multiple lanes challenging for the lead or spots near the front.

“I think you’re going to have bad-ass racing at Bristol no matter what you do,’’ Joey Logano told NBC Sports as he smiled. “This is the coolest place we ever come to. It’s fun. It’s grueling. It’s tough on the drivers. I think it puts on a great race for that reason. I don’t know what you do to other tracks.’’

Former driver Tony Stewart has an idea.

“Martinsville needs to be paying attention,’’ he told NBC Sports. “This (traction compound) will work at Martinsville as well. This is proof of it. It will work. The whole thing is getting the equation right. You do too much, you make that groove faster than the other one. It’s a battle back and forth of how to keep the lanes even.’’

If a tire helps create a second groove at Martinsville and a compound does the same thing at Bristol, is there more that can be done for other tracks, including Richmond, New Hampshire, Phoenix and Dover, among others?

Possibly.

Next month, the All-Star Race will have two tire compounds. The additional compound will be a softer tire that provides more speed but wears quicker.

If this test works well, a softer compound tire could be used in future races, providing what competitors hope is a back-and-forth movement on the track, creating action for fans.

“I don’t think we would have ever ended up with an option tire if the (driver and team) councils and RTA and all this collaboration didn’t start two years ago,’’ Johnson said. “In a couple years, I don’t know exactly the timeline, in a few more years, we’re all building trust and faith in one other in understanding how this stuff plays out, we’re going to hit on some stuff that’s going to work really well, between maybe stuff that’s on the track or maybe option tires. 

“We’re getting close to creating the right racing environment.’’

Is the “right racing environment’’ side-by-side? It certainly looks like it could be headed in that direction.

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Chip Ganassi and Felix Sabates have concerns about Kyle Larson racing sprint cars, Indy 500

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Last September, not long after he won his first NASCAR Cup Series race, Kyle Larson was asked on the NASCAR on NBC podcast if he’d talked with owner Chip Ganassi about competing in the Indianapolis 500.

“He always told me to worry about winning your first Cup race ,” Larson said. “I would love to run the Indy 500 at least once.”

As of Sunday, Larson has two Cup wins driving the No. 42 for Chip Ganassi Racing.

But according to his team owners, they would prefer that he stay away from extracurricular racing outside stock cars.

Minority co-owner Felix Sabates said if Larson raised the subject of the Indy 500 this year, the answer likely would be negative.

“No, I don’t think so,” Sabates said Monday night on “The Late Shift” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “It’s a different kind of racing all together. Kyle would probably be one of the few guys, like Tony Stewart, because he ran (an) open-wheel car for a long time, he could adapt to it.

“But no need for him to go take a risk of hurting himself just for one race. It just doesn’t work.”

One of Larson’s other hobbies is returning to his roots and competing in sprint car races whenever he can. CGR reportedly allows him to compete in 25 sprint races a year (with the next coming Wednesday at Placerville Speedway). But Ganassi said to USA Today Sports he’d be more comfortable if Larson no longer indulged in that form of racing.

“Let’s just say this: I do get concerned when he wants to do that,” Ganassi told reporter Brant James. “I would say I’d be much happier if he said he wanted to go play golf. But also, at the same time, I don’t want to slow him down. If he thinks that makes him better, OK, great. If he thinks that’s slowing him down, I would think he would stop it. But for now, he thinks it makes him better.”

Stewart participated in “The Double” of competing in the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 twice in his career, in 1999 and 2001. In the second attempt, Stewart competed for Ganassi at Indy and finished sixth.

Since 1994, only four drivers — Stewart, John Andretti, Robby Gordon and Kurt Busch — successfully have attempted “The Double.”

When Gordon attempted it for the first of five times in 1997, he competed in both races for Sabates’ SABCO Racing.

But at the time, Gordon wasn’t competing full time in either the Indy Racing League or NASCAR. He started 20 of 32 Cup races that season.

Larson is currently on top of the Cup point standings following his win at Auto Club Speedway. He assumed the points lead for the first time in his career after three consecutive runner-up finishes following his near-win in the Daytona 500.

The 24-year-old driver is in his fourth full-time Cup season with Ganassi. But Larson was teasing a possible attempt at “The Double” as early as December 2015.

Last May, Larson visited Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Ganassi on the first day of practice for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

Still winless in NASCAR at the time, Larson allowed himself an even bigger window when it came to prerequisites for entering the race.

“It would be incredible to start the 500 someday in the future … but it’s more up to the guy on my left (Ganassi),” Larson said. “Maybe after I win a Cup race, or two or three … or maybe a championship … I can run the Indy 500.”

With or without Larson, this year’s Indy 500 will be run on May 28. Larson can be seen in his full-time ride later in the day in the Coca-Cola 600.

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