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Charlotte weekend schedule: NASCAR Cup, Xfinity action

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Make sure you have plenty of coffee and energy drinks this weekend, as Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 is the season’s longest race on the NASCAR Cup circuit.

The 400-lap, 600-mile race begins just before dusk and continues late into the evening on the 1.5-mile oval at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Martin Truex Jr. won last year’s 600 in record-setting, dominating form, leading 392 of the scheduled 400 laps.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has never won a 600 – let alone never won a Cup race – at CMS, is looking to win in what will be his second-to-last Cup race at his home track before he retires at season’s end.

Charlotte has been a tough track for Earnhardt. In 33 previous starts, he has zero wins, just six top-5 and 12 top-10 finishes. His best finishes to date have been a pair of third-place showings (fall 2004 and spring 2015).

Kyle Larson comes into the race still atop the points lead and is looking for his first win at Charlotte. So, too, are guys like Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney and others.

Here’s the complete weekend schedule (all times are Eastern):

Thursday, May 25

11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. – Cup garage open

1:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. – Xfinity garage open

2 p.m. – 3:25 p.m. – First Cup practice (Fox Sports 1)

4 p.m. – 4:55 p.m. – First Xfinity practice (FS1)

6 p.m. – 6:55 p.m. – Final Xfinity practice (FS1)

7:15 p.m. – Cup qualifying (multi-vehicle, three rounds) (FS1, Performance Racing Network)

Friday, May 27

Track and garages are closed

Saturday, May 27

6:30 a.m. – Xfinity garage open

7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. – Cup garage open

9 – 9:55 a.m. – Second Cup practice (FS1)

10:05 a.m. – Xfinity qualifying (multi-vehicle, three rounds) (FS1)

11:15 a.m. – Xfinity driver/crew chief meeting

11:30 a.m. – 12:20 p.m. – Cup final practice (FS1)

12:30 p.m. – Xfinity driver introductions

1 p.m. – Xfinity Hisense 4K TV 300 (200 laps, 300 miles) (FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, May 28

12:30 p.m. – Cup garage open

4 p.m. – Driver/crew chief meeting

5:20 p.m. – Driver introductions

6 p.m. – Coca-Cola 600 (400 laps, 600 miles) (FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

 

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NASCAR America: 50 States in 50 Shows: New Jersey

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After a week of NASCAR America returns today with the next edition of “50 States in 50 Show,” with a look at the state of New Jersey, which is the home of Martin Truex Jr., Hall of Fame nominee Ray Evernham and the subject of today’s segment, Wall Stadium Speedway.

The 1/3-mile speedway is located in Wall Township, which is about 40 miles east of the Trenton.

Evernham called into NASCAR America to discuss the track, which has been hosting races since 1950.

“Growing up on the Jershey shore, there was a lot of stock-car racing in that area,” Evernham said. “That was a pavement track and it was a Saturday night place to go. .. The racing was great. It’s because of the banked track. There was a lot of dirt tracks and flatter tracks around there, but at the time Wall promoted that it was banked just like Daytona (International Speedway).”

Watch the video for more from Evernham, Truex about the track.

 

 

Staff picks for All-Star Race

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Here’s a look at who the NBC Sports staff is picking to win tonight’s NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Nate Ryan

Kyle Busch. The Charlotte homestand already is off to a great start for the truck race winner who will start second tonight.

Dustin Long

Martin Truex Jr. He won last weekend at Kansas and keeps the streak going.

Daniel McFadin

Kurt Busch started Monster Energy’s tenure as the Cup Series title sponsor by winning the Daytona 500. He wins the first Monster Energy sponsored All-Star Race for his second win in the event.

Jerry Bonkowski

Joey Logano won last year’s All-Star Race. Saturday night, Brad Keselowski keeps the trophy in the Team Penske trophy case with his first all-star win.

Tonight’s All-Star Race at Charlotte: Start time, weather, TV/radio info

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Jimmie Johnson seeks to extend his record of wins to five in the All-Star Race tonight, while a number of drivers, including pole-sitter Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski, seek their first win in this event.

Here are the particulars for the race:

(All times are ET)

START: Triple Crown winning jockey Victor Espinoza will give the command for drivers to start engines at 8:07 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 8:16 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 70 laps in four segments around the 1.5-mile track.

SEGMENTS: First segment is 20 laps. Second segment is 20 laps. Third segment is 20 laps. Final segment is 10 laps.

ALL-STAR RACE SPECIAL RULES: 

  • The field will be trimmed to 10 cars for the final 10-lap segment. The winner receives $1 million.
  • The winner of each of the first three stages will lock up a spot in the final stage provided they remain on the lead lap after the third stage.
  • The cars with the best average finish in the first three stages will make up the remaining spots in the 10-car final stage.
  • Those 10 cars will be lined up by average finish of the first three stages and given the option to pit. Exit off pit road determines the starting order for the final stage.
  • Each team will have one set of option tires to use at their discretion. Teams that choose to put on these tires to start the final stage must start behind those that choose to start that stage on regular tires.
  • Only green-flag laps count in the final 10-lap segment.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: The Cup garage opens at 1 p.m. The drivers meeting is at 2:30 p.m. Driver introductions are at 7:38 p.m.

MONSTER ENERGY OPEN:

  • Command to start engines at 6:07 p.m.
  • Green flag scheduled for 6:15 p.m.
  • Race features three stages: The first stage is 20 laps. The second stage is 20 laps. The final stage is 10 laps.
  • Winner of each stage advances to All-Star Race
  • Final spot to All-Star Race goes to fan vote winner.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Calysta Bevier will perform the Anthem at 8:01 p.m.

TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race at 8 p.m. with its coverage beginning at 5:30 p.m. Motor Racing Network will broadcast the race on radio and at mrn.com. MRN’s coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com site predicts 83 degrees at race time with a 2 percent chance of rain.

LAST YEAR: Joey Logano passed Kyle Larson with two laps to go to win last year’s race. Brad Keselowski finished second and Dale Earnhardt Jr. placed third.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for All-Star starting lineup

Toyota executive: Low downforce, not new car bodies, root of early season problems

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A Toyota Racing Development executive says the manufacturer “not sweating the numbers in terms of wins” after 11 races in the NASCAR Cup season.

David Wilson, president of TRD, also said NASCAR’s new low downforce package is more to blame for the lack of wins than Toyota’s new Camry bodies, which debuted a new nose design this season.

“Overall, we’re pleased with its performance,” Wilson said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s Tradin’ Paint. “I know when we came out of the gate a little slower than normal, human nature is you point to what’s different. ‘Well, they’ve got that new Camry.’ Honestly guys, that’s really not been the biggest contributor. I think adjusting to the lower downforce stuff; our aero program the past couple of years has been so strong and the amount of work we put into more downforce, more downforce, more downforce.”

Through 11 races, Toyota has two Cup wins, both coming with Furniture Row Racing’s Martin Truex Jr., at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and last Saturday at Kansas Speedway.

Toyota’s flagship team, Joe Gibbs Racing, hasn’t visited victory lane since last fall’s race at Texas Motor Speedway with Carl Edwards.

While Truex leads the series in stage wins with five, Joe Gibbs Racing only has four combined stage wins among its four drivers.

Also, all four drivers — Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Daniel Suarez — have combined for just seven top fives.

Wilson’s observation of the impact of the lower downforce package goes back to last season when the series tested a variation of this years’ lower downforce package in both Michigan races and at Kentucky Speedway.

In those races, JGR only recorded one top five (Carl Edwards, Kentucky) and four top 10s. Truex added a fifth for Furniture Row Racing. The Gibbs’ teams earned 46 top fives in all of 2016.

“When NASCAR cuts a thousand pounds or so off (the car), it kinds of eats into our competitive margin we spent so much time and energy building up,” Wilson said. “We’re working on a number of things. Mechanical grip, we need our cars to turn through the center of the corners a little bit better and just aero, not just downforce.”

Hamlin said two weeks ago at Richmond International Raceway that it would take more than a month for Joe Gibbs Racing’s problems to fixed.

“Some things are going to take a long time for us to get better at, but I’m very confident that when push comes to shove, we’re in September starting the (playoffs), we should be hopefully back where we were, if not better,” Hamlin said.

With the next points race a week away, there are only two Toyota teams in the top 10 in points. Truex is second, 44 points behind Kyle Larson. Busch is seventh, 150 points back. Denny Hamlin the next highest Toyota driver in 12th.

“We tend to get a little frustrated because we set the bar so high,” Wilson said. “Coming off the past two seasons, we have good cause to set that bar pretty high as we ran pretty darn well.

“What we have to keep in perspective, we’re leading a lot of laps. It’s one thing if we’re not bringing the wins home at the end of the day when we’re not leading laps. It’s another when we’re leading a lot of laps, we’e just not closing. We fall victim to whether it’s a pit miscue or just bad luck. We’re not sweating the numbers in terms of wins. We’ve won as many stages as any manufacturer. Just not enough of the third stage.”

The top Toyota teams of Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing – which are part of a technical alliance – have led 1, 367 laps. Truex (536) and Busch (521) lead the series.

“On the whole, we feel pretty good about where we are,” said of the Toyota program at the All-Star break. “This next stretch, we said to ourselves before Kansas, this is a very important part of the season because we’re going to hit these tracks where we’re going to come back during the playoffs.

“So Kansas, Charlotte, Dover and that’s going to be obviously important that we do well and are able to keep our performance high, because those are going to be somewhat predictive of our playoff performance.”

The Charlotte and Dover races have swapped spots on the schedule. Last year, Truex dominated and won the Coke 600 and Kenseth then won at Dover. Toyota didn’t visit victory lane again until New Hampshire with Kenseth, six races after Charlotte.

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