Photo: Jimmie Johnson

NASCAR’s cycling craze grows but not every driver ready to wear spandex

Leave a comment

Clint Bowyer laughs at the latest craze in the NASCAR Cup garage.

Cycling.

“It’s just a fad,’’ Bowyer told NBC Sports. “It’s just like anything else, I mean, it really is. It’s so funny.

“I go to the shop and I see all these bikes hanging on the bike rack and we’re talking three, four, five thousand dollar bikes sitting there that you know damn well, they’re not going to be riding for long. Nobody enjoys that. So it’s a fad.

“It’s going to go away, and that’s when you’ll be able to pick up a good deal on a really nice bike and go through the fad yourself. But there’s no way in hell I would ever let anyone see me in that spandex.’’

That’s what Dale Earnhardt Jr. thought. He hitched a ride in a vehicle through the Atlanta Motor Speedway infield earlier this season before getting on his bike outside the track so no one would see him in spandex.

Now, Earnhardt enjoys cycling, promotes it and doesn’t mind being seen in spandex.

“I didn’t like working out at a gym, running on a treadmill, all that stuff’s real boring,’’ Earnhardt told NBC Sports. “Couldn’t really find anything that I liked to do. And so I picked up cycling. It’s a lot of fun.

“We go out and ride at all the stops on the NASCAR circuit, and we see part of the country that we … never take the time to see. It’s really beautiful. And it doesn’t feel like working out. It doesn’t feel like an exercise. We’re just cruising along on our bikes.

“We’ll ride for an hour-and-a-half or two hours, it goes by pretty quick. There’s never any moment in the experience where I’m going, ‘Man, how much longer do we got?’ And you’ll ride 20 to 30 miles, get off the bike, you’ll burn 800-1000 calories in a two-hour period, and you’ve had fun. And you feel great!’’

Earnhardt is among many drivers in the Cup garage cycling. They include Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray and Trevor Bayne.

Road cycling has evolved in the sport. Drivers and crew members previously went mountain biking to get their exercise.

“We used to meet on Tuesday afternoons all the time and ride and you got to meet a lot of new people, and then it kind of expanded (from) there to riding road bikes,’’ Kenseth said of he and crew chief Jason Ratcliff.

“It’s a good way to get out of the motorhome on the weekends and see a lot of the different areas around the race track that I never really explored before and keeps you in great shape.’’

While they’re not on the level of Tour de France riders (NBCSN’s coverage continues at 6 a.m. Wednesday with Stage 17), it’s still about being in shape in the car. Temperatures are expected to be in the low 90s this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The high for Sunday’s race (3 p.m., NBC) is expected to be 89 degrees, making it among the warmest temperatures for a race this season.

Cycling, along with the rest of his workouts, helps Johnson with handling such conditions and more.

“I’ve learned a lot of great things from a nutrition and hydration standpoint to take to the car, and some probably know I’m pretty sensitive to hydration,’’ Johnson told NBC Sports. “I’ve had some issues over the years, and I’m thankful that I have this knowledge because I think I would have many more episodes, but truthfully there is so much more from a mental aspect. Learning to fight for something, the discipline it takes to stay fit at a high level.

“It’s a very stressful job and to get on the bike and be with my friends and socialize and stay fit has been good on a lot of levels. Not just the obvious physical ones.’’

Some drivers have taken their bike riding further. Johnson, Kenseth and McMurray rode in a 102.7-mile bike race in May from South Carolina to Mt. Mitchell, which at 6,684 feet is the highest point east of the Mississippi River, in Western North Carolina. McMurray finished in 5 hours, 58 minutes. Johnson rode with former Tour de France racer George Hincappie and both finished at 6:01. Kenseth completed the ride in 6:32.

Still, not everyone is sold on cycling, like Bowyer and Ryan Newman.

“I don’t quite get those guys and the amount of money they spend on whatever it is, a 32-ounce bicycle, when all they’ve got to do is just go on Craigslist and get a Schwinn or something like that and pedal half the distance and twice as hard and get better workouts,’’ Newman said.

“I offered back at Talladega weekend to get a Moped and cut the air for Kenseth and those guys just to kind of give them a little draft, some drafting partners, you know? But, they haven’t taken me up on it. So, I’ve just been enjoying fishing and a little bit of the outdoors. My workouts consist more of doing physical activities and sweating than paying money for a bicycle just to coast downhill.’’

Extra miles @monstermile with @jimmiejohnson @dalejr @chaseelliott24

A post shared by Trevor Bayne (@tbayne6) on

 and on Facebook

Cup Playoff Grid: Denny Hamlin becomes 11th driver to qualify for Cup postseason

Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images
Leave a comment

After repeat winners at Daytona and Kentucky, Denny Hamlin became the latest driver to win his way into the Cup Series playoffs Sunday at New Hampshire.

Hamlin, with his first victory of the season, is the 11th driver to clinch a spot in the 16-car field for the playoffs.

He would be the 12th if not for Joey Logano‘s Richmond win being encumbered due to an inspection failure.

If the postseason began this weekend, the drivers getting into the 16-car field on points would be Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer and Matt Kenseth.

With his win, Hamlin has seven playoff points. That puts him eighth on the playoff grid among those who have clenched a playoff spot. He is ahead of Kurt Busch (five playoff points), Ryan Newman (five) and Austin Dillon (five).

In the graphic below, drivers in green are in the playoffs on wins. Drivers in yellow would be in on points and drivers in orange would not make the playoffs.

and on Facebook

New NASCAR President addresses start times for Cup races

Getty Images
9 Comments

The debate of when a Monster Energy Cup race should begin reignited this weekend on social media after some complaints by those in the sport and a response Monday by new NASCAR President Brent Dewar.

Sunday’s Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway marked the first of five consecutive races that have listed start times of 3 p.m. ET.

Clint Bowyer posted a tweet shortly after Sunday’s race that simply read “3:00 starts suck!”

Samantha Busch, wife of Kyle Busch, tweeted Sunday that she was not a fan of later start times but asked what fans thought.

Dewar, promoted to NASCAR president last week from his role as chief operating officer, addressed the matter Monday on “The Morning Drive’’ when asked about possible changes to the schedule beyond 2018.

Dewar mentioned that the schedule was an example of collaboration with NASCAR’s partners, which includes TV networks, and noted that “there were tradeoffs that we needed to make both for broadcast, tracks, teams, etc.

“We did some later start times this year and some in the industry have not liked that, but it was important to interact with our West Coast audience,’’ Dewar said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Still our largest audience is California, and 1 o’clock starts is too early for them on the West Coast. So we’re trying to find the right balance of that. But yes, I think you’ll see more innovation to make it a win-win for the industry. We will do it together as an industry. It won’t be unilateral on NASCAR’s part.’’

Last year, 12 of the 36 Cup points races had start times listed as 1 or 1:30 p.m. ET. This year, there are three such races.

Last year, five Cup points races had start times listed as 3 or 3:30 p.m. ET. This year, there are 13 such races.

The remaining Cup races scheduled to start before 3 p.m. ET are all in the playoffs:

(All times listed are Eastern)

Sept. 24 — New Hampshire … 2 p.m.

Oct. 1 — Dover … 2 p.m.

Oct. 8 — Charlotte … 2 p.m.

Oct. 15 — Talladega … 2 p.m.

Oct. 29 — Martinsville … 1 p.m.

Nov. 5 — Texas … 2 p.m.

Nov. 12 — Phoenix … 2:30 p.m.

Nov. 19 — Homestead … 2:30 p.m.

Among the comments made on social media Monday about the start time and Dewar’s comments:

 and on Facebook

Martin Truex Jr. leads second Cup practice at New Hampshire

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Pole-sitter Martin Truex Jr. topped the speed chart in the second NASCAR Cup Series practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the Overton’s 301.

Truex posted a speed of 131.338 mph in 35 laps around the track.

Filling out the top five were Kyle Larson (131.333), Jimmie Johnson (131.184), Chase Elliott (131.162) and Brad Keselowski (131.071).

Larson posted the best 10-lap average at 130.624 mph and was followed by Kyle Busch (130.372), Elliott (130.045), Clint Bowyer (130.012) and Truex (129.786).

Johnson recorded the most laps in the session with 60.

Click here for the full practice report.

 

Eleven Cup teams to lose practice time at New Hampshire

Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
1 Comment

Kyle Larson and Clint Bowyer each will sit out 30 minutes of Saturday’s final Cup practice for failing inspection before last weekend’s Monster Energy Cup race at Kentucky Speedway, NASCAR announced Friday.

They are among 11 Cup teams and seven Xfinity teams that will miss practice time this weekend because of inspection issues at previous events.

Four Cup drivers – Landon Cassill, Gray Gaulding, Cole Whitt and Michael McDowell – will each miss 15 minutes of practice in today’s practice session, which runs from 11:30 a.m. – 12:55 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App. Each is penalized for being late to inspection before last weekend’s event at Kentucky.

Five Cup drivers – Kevin Harvick, Erik Jones, Chase Elliott, Jeffrey Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr. – each will miss 15 minutes of Saturday’s final practice session. Each is penalized for failing inspection before last weekend’s race at Kentucky.

In the Xfinity Series, the cars of Ben Kennedy, Michael Annett and Blake Koch will be held 15 minutes for failing inspection before the Kentucky race.

The cars of BJ McLeod, Carl Long, Brennan Poole and David Starr also will miss 15 minutes of practice. Each had penalties that were deferred from Kentucky.

The Xfinity teams will miss time during today’s first practice, which is scheduled to go from 1 – 1:55 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App.

 and on Facebook