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Kevin Harvick: Current state of Truck Series schedule ‘makes me mad’

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Not long after NASCAR unveiled the 2018 schedules for its three national series, Kevin Harvick went on a rant about the current state of the Camping World Truck Series schedule, saying “it makes me mad.”

“The Truck schedule is racing at a ton of the wrong race tracks,” Harvick said Tuesday on his weekly SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show “Happy Hour. “They should be back at Louisville (Motor Speedway), they should be back at some of these grassroots race tracks. The Truck Series should be helping us build our grassroots program, from Late Models on up, by having a Truck race there.”

With NASCAR trying to find ways to win the hearts and minds of new fans, Harvick believes the Truck Series, which debuted in 1995, is an unused tool for strengthening the sport’s fan base.

“In order to help our sport to produce from the bottom up, we have to help figure out how to get the grassroots program where they need to be and that’s what we need to be using the Truck Series for,” said Harvick, a 14-time Truck winner and former Truck team owner. “Go to these grassroots race tracks and guess what? That’s where the Trucks need to be racing because they’re going to put 10 to 15,000 people in the grandstands every week to watch these races because they’re unique events.”

“They don’t want to show up on a Friday at Dover (International Speedway) and watch these trucks drive around the race track because they’re going to show up on Sunday to watch the Cup cars. Take the trucks somewhere where everybody wants to see them, because there’s short tracks across the country that want to see them.

“Sorry, I’m on a rant. It make me mad.”

Harvick’s thoughts about reaching fans are in addition to those made by Kyle Larson earlier this year about how NASCAR should encourage its stars to race at short tracks in smaller series.

Harvick is doing a variation of this later this season. He will competes in the K&N Pro Series West race at Sonoma Raceway the weekend of the Cup Series race on the road course.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver broke into NASCAR via the Truck Series in the first year of its existence. He made his debut in 1995 at Mesa Marin Raceway in his hometown of Bakersfield, California.

Of the 18 tracks the series competed on in 1995, it still races at only three – Martinsville, Phoenix Raceway and Bristol Motor Speedway.

“The Trucks should be opening up in January like they used to at Tuscon Raceway Park or the Copperworld Classic when it was at Phoenix,” Harvick said. “Let the Truck Series start our season in January so they can have exposure on TV by themselves. If the Cup guys want to go out there and race, that’s fine. Let them go race. Because that’s going to help put fans in the grandstands.

“Myself and Greg Biffle and Ron Hornaday and Mike Skinner, guess what? We’d never make to it to Cup racing, Truck racing or anything else that we do because we wouldn’t have been on TV if they didn’t have ‘Winter Heat’ and all these different series. In order to produce young stars and expose them to the public you have to start them from the grassroots level up.

“You can’t keep lollygagging along with the Truck Series at these race tracks and expect people to show up.”

Harvick cited the lack of SAFER barrier at short tracks as an excuse given for why the Truck Series doesn’t race at more short tracks.

“Let’s figure out a way to help these tracks get soft walls if that’s what it takes for them to get a Truck race,” Harvick said.

Next year, the Truck Series will have 23 races beginning on Feb. 16 at Daytona International Speedway and ending on Nov. 16 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The biggest change to the schedule is the Truck Series loses it standalone race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in September. Instead, the Truck Series will visit the track with the Cup and Xfinity Series twice on March 2 and Sept. 19.

The March 2 race in Las Vegas gives the Truck series three straight races to begin the season. For the last three seasons, the series competed at Daytona and Atlanta before going quiet until late March at Martinsville Speedway and then taking another month off until an early May race at Kansas Speedway.

From 2012-14, the series held no races between Daytona and Martinsville. Atlanta was added the week following Daytona in 2015.

The Truck Series’ Dover race moves from early June to May 4 next year, which shortens the break following the Martinsville race. The series will not be returning to New Hampshire Motor Speedway as the track loses one of its NASCAR weekends.

The Truck Series will now only have four standalone events in 2018: Texas Motor Speedway (June 8), Gateway Motorsports Park (June 23), Eldora Speedway (July 18) and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (August 26).

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Bump & Run: Should some Cup races have more points than others?

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Parker Kligerman and Steve Letarte, who will be on today’s NASCAR America from 5:30 – 7 p.m ET, joins Nate Ryan and Dustin Long to answer this week’s questions.

With a maximum 70 points and eight playoff points available for this weekend’s Coca-Cola 600, should NASCAR look at some of its top-tier races having more points than most races next year? If so, what races should those be?

Parker Kligerman: I am torn here, as I understand the reasoning. I understand the intention. My problem is that the sport has already added numerous changes to the points structure this year with the addition of stages and playoff points. Now making a race worth more just because it is longer doesn’t work for me. In an era of NASCAR, in which I applaud them for being so open and progressive, I fear this is where I draw the line. This race should not have four stages and should not be worth more points. 

For example, in the IndyCar Series, they made the Indy 500 a double points event in addition to having almost a full race worth of points up for grabs in qualifying. Therefore, a bad two days in Indy could effectively end your championship hopes, which makes no sense to me. Why should one race be able to make or break an entire year-long championship? 

I know this is not the case in NASCAR, but it reinforces my point. No single race should have a larger impact on a championship than the other when it comes to a points value. 

Steve Letarte: I will go on record as saying that I was not a fan of an added stage for the 600 for the simple fact it wasn’t added in January. I think we need to stop changing. I think we have generated stage racing and it has been a great improvement. I do think the 600 needed another stage, just not this year. I really think we should have run an entire season and then evaluated it. The 600 perhaps could get an extra stage. The Daytona 500 could get an extra stage. The Brickyard, while it’s not a 500, another stage probably wouldn’t hurt that. I do think the night race at Bristol.

Nate Ryan: I think the Daytona 500 certainly will get consideration for extra stage points, and it should. The Southern 500 and the night race at Bristol also should be on this list. (This also would be a very good idea if it coincided with shortening other races on the schedule.)

Dustin Long: Yes. The Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600, Southern 500 and Martinsville spring race (since the other is in the playoffs) should have more points than other races. That is a restrictor-plate track, 1.5-mile track,. 1.366-mile track and a short track. Instead of adding extra stages for some of those races, NASCAR could make stage wins worth 15 points instead of 10 points.

Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer are in the top 10 in the season standings but have yet to score a points victory. Who will be the first among that group to win?

Parker Kligerman: It is easy to immediately gravitate toward the most recent winner in the series, being Kyle Busch at the All-Star Race. But I wouldn’t be so quick to count out Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 team. They seem to be good in the speed department and, therefore, just need to execute. Lastly, Chase Elliott has to be thinking that surely there is a victory lane reserved for him in the near future, as it just seems absurd he has not won a race yet. My pick is Kevin Harvick. 

Steve Letarte: I think it’s a tossup between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harivck. I think that they have moments of brilliance between the two of them. Kevin Harvick, in my mind, he won at Atlanta. He did everything he was supposed to do but win the race. Kyle Busch has had the same sort of thing with untimely cautions. I think it’s between Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, but I will say that the entire list will win before the season is out.’’

Nate Ryan: Kyle Busch seems ready to score the breakthrough for Joe Gibbs Racing, and Kevin Harvick would be next on the list. I think there’s a good chance that any of those on the list could win Sunday. In the past three years, the Coca-Cola 600 has been the winner’s first victory of the season.

Dustin Long: Kevin Harvick has four top-five finishes in the last five points races, signs that his Stewart-Haas Racing has gotten past many of the issues with switching to Ford. It’s time for this team to win and it will soon.

The 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame Class will be selected this week. Name two nominees you think deserve to be in this class and why. 

Parker Kligerman: On NASCAR America a couple weeks ago, Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett made a case for Robert Yates to be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year. And it made me realize he was right. When you break the sport down, the most important part of a motor vehicle is the engine, it is what makes it a motorized vehicle. So when you look at the importance of engines in this sport, you must look at the people who made those engines a reality. Therefore my first pick goes to a man who at times pushed the limits of what many people thought to be physically possible with a pushrod V8 – Robert Yates. 

My second pick goes to an absolute legend – Red Byron. Not only was he the NASCAR Cup Series’ first champion but a WWII veteran as well. His B-24 plane was shot at and he injured his left leg. But this wouldn’t be enough to hold him back from racing, where he pushed and pushed to find a way to be able to retrofit the car for his injury. He succeeded and became a champion. A veteran, a champion, a never give up attitude. What more could you want from a Hall of Famer? 

Steve Letarte: This is the easiest question every year until this year. Every year I see the class, there are two or three names that jump out to me as guarantees. When I look at this year, I see a class of Hall of Fame worthy nominees, all that I feel will end up in the Hall of Fame, but in what order should they go? I’m glad I’m not in that room. I could make a case for Davey Allison, but you have to argue what could have been. I can make the argument for Ray Evernham. I can make an argument for Red Farmer, Ray Fox, Ken Squier, Robert Yates. The list goes on and on.

Nate Ryan: The first two on my ballot will be Ray Evernham, whose influence and innovations as a crew chief are nonpareil, and Red Byron, who should be in by virtue of being the first premier series champion.

Dustin Long: Ray Evernham was a game changer. The garage often had to respond to what Evernham did, whether it was with the pit crew, strategy or what he did to the car. Robert Yates was one of the premier engine builders who also went on to have success as a car owner. His success in two disciplines and how the engine company that has his name on it remains powerful, shows his impact even today.

Burton: Think big but go small — It’s time to move the All-Star Race to its hard racing roots

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The All-Star Race should be unique and offer something different from the rest of the schedule.

So next year, let’s make it one hell of a race. A knock-down, drag-out short-track show unlike any other.

We’re going to South Boston Speedway.

Or any relevant short track within a day’s drive of the Charlotte area.

This will add a new measure of excitement to the All-Star Race. It’s good for the overall health of the sport while restoring its grass-roots passion as well.

I’ve watched teenagers in Late Models put on amazing shows at these short tracks.

A NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at South Boston Speedway. (Tom Whitmore/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Imagine if race fans had the chance to see Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick at a three-eighths of a mile oval. Imagine a one-day show in which the pole-sitter spins a wheel from 1 to 12 after qualifying, and that determines the starting spot. Imagine if a $1 million prize was posted at a track that’s smaller than anything on the Cup circuit.

The cars will have too much horsepower, and that’s awesome.

They will weigh too much, and that’s awesome.

They will be sideways trying to get the rear tires to hook up, and that’s awesome.

The restarts simply will be fabulous.

When you can put drivers in situations where they really can get aggressive, how is that possibly wrong?

We would be delivering what the fans say they want: Hard racing, drivers working their guts out, and racing with something big on the line.

Drivers are doing all that now at Charlotte, but it’s hard to see some of those things at a 1.5-mile track.

You don’t need to improve the race by changing the format. You can do it by changing the venue.

A place like South Boston will challenge all the drivers and teams with a race that will be completely different than what you see the following week even though the rules are the same.

There will be no crazy formats. The reason those are needed is the racetrack, and a smaller racetrack helps eliminate the need for those rules to ensure good racing while embracing the history of the sport.

As a native, I’m naturally partial to South Boston, Virginia. But you could put the All-Star Race at a different short track every year, creating a process in which tracks lobby to hold the race. This would be great for some small-town economies but more importantly it would be great for the enthusiasm about the Cup Series.

The longtime fans who like the racing at North Wilkesboro Speedway again – this is a way to honor those traditions.

Bring in temporary grandstands to seat about 10,000 fans. This would create an incredibly difficult ticket to get, and that would help bring more excitement and enthusiasm for the fans to be there.

It’d be like the successful Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora, except this would be 10 times what you see there because it’s Cup.

It would bring big names to places like South Boston Speedway – imagine Virginia native Rick Hendrick entering the gates there. Or Chad Knaus, a future Hall of Fame crew chief.

It’ll be fun to watch and fun to do for the teams as a one-day show. Practice for a little more than hour, line them up and go. Drive to the track on Saturday morning and head home by midnight.

If there’s a downside to this idea, it’s one less event at Charlotte Motor Speedway, a track that’s just down the road from my house that I love.

But Speedway Motorsports Inc. executives Bruton and Marcus Smith would understand this concept. They have shown the utmost commitment to embracing NASCAR’s lower levels by running the K&N and Modified series at their tracks. They have promoted the youth of our sport.

I believe if Bruton and Marcus Smith looked at what’s best for the sport, they wouldn’t like to give any race up, but they gladly would participate because they have NASCAR’s best interests in mind.

They understand as well as anyone that if the fans are excited about the All-Star Race, that will make them more excited the next week to buy tickets for the Coca-Cola 600. The All-Star Race has historical significance at Charlotte. You generally don’t want to disturb tradition, but if you can help the overall health of the sport, you do that.

I understand that to some this idea is absolutely nuts but step back and consider the potential.

Taking today’s big-time drivers, teams and modern race cars to tracks that helped build the sport from the ground up. Embracing the hard-core fan and the roots of the sport and rewarding them.

This is no gimmick. It’s joining the past and the present to enhance the future.

A unique event and a unique facility producing the one thing that everyone wants, one damn good All Star race unlike any other.

What Drivers Said after All-Star Race

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Kyle Busch earned his first All-Star win Saturday night. He and others in the race had much to say about the event at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

KYLE BUSCH — Winner: “It’s the All-Star Race for one and for two, we’ve never won at Charlotte in a Cup car so we finally achieved that goal tonight and won the All-Star race and won a million bucks, so there’s reason to celebrate and to celebrate big. Can’t say enough about Adam Stevens (crew chief). You have Adam Stevens and these guys in the pit box and you can rely on them all day long. I had to do that tonight. You know we weren’t quite the fastest car, but we made the right changes when it mattered most. We made the right moves when it mattered most and we got the most out of our night tonight and got here to victory lane. Feel so relieved, alluded, proud and excited all in the same time.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 2nd: “My pit crew has been awesome all year and I don’t want to take anything away from them. We came down pit road the leader and three people passed us, that was pretty much the difference there. But, in 10 laps, track position is huge. We just didn’t have it there at the end. We had the best car out there, for sure. In traffic I thought it was really good. I thought we had it most of the race but that’s how racing goes. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. But I think we had a really fast car today. We’ll go onto the 600, that’s a long race, and try it again.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 3rd: “When you’re the second-place car, you can’t jump the leader. But everybody in the second, third, and fourth row is going to jump and do what they can to roll-up on the situation. So, I was really hopeful of old tires and being on the bottom. They’d be able to hold that lane back, especially Kyle (Busch) and how good he is on race starts. And it just didn’t happen. He got in there. I had a decent start. They weren’t able to push me and get me going. And I had a couple of shots at him. He wasn’t handling too well at the start of the run, but I just drove too hard.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 4th: “You’ve got to do something special in the Monster Energy All-Star Race. We did everything at an A-minus tonight. The pit stops were good. The car was good. The restarts were good. The calls and adjustments were good. Nothing stood out as excellent.  I love the format.  Monster did a great job with this traditional format. Having the option tire I thought was really neat for the crews to use and everybody used them before that last round, how about that.” 

Jamie McMurray – Finished 5th: “The racing was great. The restarts were awesome. It’s interesting how the tire strategy worked out where no one had the greens at the end because track position was so important. I got us behind with missing my pit stall on our qualifying because our car was probably a little bit better than where we finished.  But, pretty pumped for next week. I thought we were the best car on the long run, even though you only had 20 laps tonight, but next week we will have lots of that. So, yeah, I’m really excited.” 

Kevin Harvick – Finished 6th: “We just didn’t put it together there when we came down pit road. We got behind and at that point you don’t have enough laps to make it up.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 7th: “I was happy we made that last round. I guess I was the only car of the open guys to make it to the last round, so that was kind of cool. Just hard to start in the back and expect to move that far forward. Had a good car, though, I was happy about that.  Hopefully, we can take some of that toward next week.” 

Joey Logano – Finished 8th: “We had to just shoot for the fence doing anything we can do to try to make our Shell/Pennzoil Ford a little faster. It was just slow. There are no better words for it. I feel like we kind of got screwed up as soon as practice started and we had issues with our brakes. We had a bad qualifying effort because of that, which set us towards the back. We didn’t practice our car either, and we couldn’t make it any better and it showed in the race. We weren’t very quick at all and we couldn’t pass cars and couldn’t move around the race track. We’ve got a little bit of work to do for next week.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 11th: “You can’t pass anywhere.  It’s not great track conditions, to be honest with you. We had to try something to get our average up or try to win a stage and that’s what we tried.” 

Clint Bowyer – Finished 13th: “It was a good try. Track position is key and you try to do something to get track position and you don’t have the upper hand. They’re better than you on that deal. I think if we would have had tires and started up front, we’d have been hard to handle tonight. We were a good car all night long, it’s just this format and the way the race is. You can’t complain about it because it is what it is. It’s the All-Star Race and everybody wants to be a part of it, it’s just unfortunate that your hands are tied.”

Matt Kenseth — Finished 20th: “It’s pretty disappointing. I thought like tonight, even though we only ran 20 laps, our performance was better. As we made a couple of passes I thought we were keeping pretty good speed, beating everybody except for the leader right there. It was encouraging. I felt like we were going to run better but it’s just kind of the way the year’s going. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Just got to ride it out until it turns.”

Kyle Busch wins first NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte and $1 million

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Scratch one more off Kyle Busch’s bucket list.

The 2015 NASCAR Cup champion won his first career NASCAR Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, capturing Saturday’s Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race.

In his 12th All-Star Race, Busch led all of the 10 laps in the final stage to take home the $1 million winner’s check.

Kyle Larson, who won the first two stages of the four-stage event, finished second, followed by third stage winner Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch and Jamie McMurray.

Sixth through 10th were Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin.

MORE: Results, stats for the Monster Energy All-Star Race won by Kyle Busch

Busch becomes the fourth different first-time All-Star Race winner in the last four years, is the 16th different winner in the last 19 All-Star races and is the 23rd different winner in the event’s 33-year history.

And while it was an exhibition, non-points race, it was the first Cup win for any Joe Gibbs Racing driver in 2017.

“There’s reason to celebrate and to celebrate big,” Busch told Fox Sports 1. “We weren’t quite the fastest car, but we made the right changes and the right moves when it mattered most and got the most out of our night tonight and got here into victory lane.”

Keselowski was the only driver of the 10 that qualified for the final 10-lap winner-take-all stage to stay out on-track and not pit to start the final stage in the lead position. But Busch made quick work of Keselowski and streaked onward to victory.

Larson won the first two stages, leading all 40 combined laps. However, when Stage 3 began, Clint Bowyer and Ryan Blaney were at the front of the field, and Larson was third when the green flag fell.

Jimmie Johnson took the lead from Bowyer on Lap 42 and held on to win Stage 3, setting up the 10-driver final stage, which featured Larson, Johnson, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott and defending All-Star Race winner Joey Logano.

With so much money on the line, drivers were both aggressive and cautious from the opening green flag of the 70-lap event. There were no crashes in either of the first two 20-lap stages.

Late in Stage 3, Ryan Newman took his car to the garage after banging fenders with Denny Hamlin, who continued on.

In the All-Star Open that preceded the night’s main event, Bowyer and Ryan Blaney won the first two stages, while Daniel Suarez was the overall Open winner, putting all three drivers into the All-Star Race.

And Elliott was named as the winner of the fan vote, putting him into the 20th and final All-Star Race position.

HOW KYLE BUSCH WON: Patience, which isn’t always one of Busch’s strongest suits, was the key to his win. He did just well enough in the first three stages and then roared from third to the front of the field before even reaching Turn 1 in the final stage and remained in command the rest of the way.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Larson had one of the best races of his career. Sure, he didn’t win, but his two stage wins and finishing second showed Larson likely will be a factor to deal with in next Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Matt Kenseth’s night ended after Stage 1 with an oil leak (finished 20th). Ryan Newman’s banging fenders with Denny Hamlin cost him a chance to race in the final stage (finished 19th). Dale Earnhardt Jr. fought a loose race car all race and finished 18th out of 20.

NOTABLE: Jimmie Johnson came into Saturday night as the only multiple All-Star race winner, with four wins in the last 18 All-Star races, but couldn’t hold off Kyle Busch in the final stage.

STAGE 1 RESULTS (Laps 1-20): Pole-sitter Kyle Larson led all 20 laps to win and earn an automatic berth in the final 10-lap, winner-take-all segment. Kyle Busch was second, followed by Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski.

STAGE 2 RESULTS (Laps 21-40): Kyle Larson continued to dominate, leading all 20 laps to win Stage 2. Jimmie Johnson was second, followed by Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch and Jamie McMurray.

STAGE 3 RESULTS (Laps 41-60): Jimmie Johnson took the lead on Lap 42 and held on to win the stage. Kevin Harvick was second, followed by Larson, Kurt Busch and Jamie McMurray.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “I could see a million dollars (go) out the windshield. I just drove too hard.” – Third-place finisher Jimmie Johnson on being unable to hold off Kyle Busch on the final restart.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Coca-Cola 600, the longest race each season, takes place next Sunday, May 28, also at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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