Westward Ho! How NASCAR teams are handling a three-week stretch of endless travel

1 Comment

With Sprint Cup teams facing one of their longest western swings, a symphony of logistical planning is under way to handle the transport of cars, crew members and equipment.

Virtually every team in NASCAR’s premier series will send additional haulers to meet their primary 18-wheel transporter to swap out its cars after Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for next week’s race at Phoenix International Raceway. After the March 15 race at Phoenix, the same swap will occur with more trailers to ship fresh cars to Fontana, Calif., for the March 22 race at Auto Club Speedway.

There will be lots of variance, though, on how and where teams make those swaps and how they handle their team members’ schedules. Here’s a breakdown of the plans for some NASCAR organizations:

–Hendrick Motorsports: Team members will return after the race at Las Vegas (the No. 5 Chevrolet of Kasey Kahne will be testing for Goodyear at Charlotte Motor Speedway March 10-11). After the Phoenix race, most of the team members will stay out west for the Fontana race.

–Stewart-Haas Racing: The primary haulers for the team’s four cars left Tuesday morning for Las Vegas. Three more transporters will leave the team’s Kannapolis, N.C., headquarters Friday and swap out cars and equipment Monday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (the process will be repeated the following Sunday night at Phoenix after that race).

With the exception of the No. 4 team of Kevin Harvick (which is testing March 11 at Charlotte) and No. 41 crew chief Daniel Knost (whose wife is expecting a baby next month), team members will travel directly from Las Vegas to Phoenix. Knost and Harvick’s team will fly Thursday morning on a chartered plane to Phoenix from North Carolina.

After the Phoenix race, SHR will fly all of its crews back to North Carolina. They will fly Thurs., March 19 from Concord, N.C., to Ontario, Calif., for the Fontana race.

Chip Ganassi Racing: During the Las Vegas-Phoenix-California swing, the team will be providing its crew members with the option of staying out west rather than commuting to its home base in Concord, N.C. It’s expecting to swap out its cars twice in Phoenix.

Joe Gibbs Racing: Will keep most of its team members out west during the swing. JGR also is renting warehouse space in Phoenix where its cars can be prepared.

–Roush Fenway Racing: Teams will travel back to North Carolina after races as usual. The team will swap cars and equipment in Las Vegas for the Phoenix race and in Phoenix for the Fontana race.

Richard Childress Racing: Trailers will swap out cars for the Phoenix race in Vegas and for Fontana in Phoenix. Most of the road crews will stay in Las Vegas, drive Thursday morning to Phoenix and fly back to North Carolina before heading to Southern California.

The team estimates it will log more than 97,000 miles between all of its haulers over the next three weeks.

Richard Petty Motorsports: Team members will commute from North Carolina during the swing (the No. 43 team of Aric Almirola will be testing March 10-11 at Charlotte).

Between the races at Phoenix and California, Almirola and Sam Hornish Jr. are headed to team owner Richard Petty’s ranch in Wyoming for a team bonding trip.

JTG Daugherty Racing: In a team release, A.J. Allmendinger said his smaller single-car team will keep its crew on the West Coast during the three-race swing. “Being out there for three weeks is good for one reason and that’s cost,” Allmendinger said. “When they stay out away from the race shop, we legitimately only have maybe 10 to 12 people back in Harrisburg (N.C.) getting cars ready.

“I know they have had to work really hard the last few weeks leading up to this week trying to get everything as close as possible for the next three weeks so we are not behind when we get home. It’s tough on them knowing they are not going to get to see their families for three weeks. It’s good and bad. It’s a part of it.”

NASCAR viewer’s guide for Charlotte Roval

0 Comments

Sunday provides a final chance for drivers to advance to the Round of 8 and keep their Cup championship hopes alive.

Talladega winner Chase Elliott is the only driver who has advanced to the next round. That leaves seven spots available going into Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Roval (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Chase Briscoe holds the final transfer spot by a tiebreaker over Austin Cindric. At least for now.

William Byron is 11 points behind both drivers, but Hendrick Motorsports will appeal Byron’s 25-point penalty from Texas on Thursday. Should Hendrick win and Byron get those points back, he would move into a transfer spot.

There’s just part of what to watch for in Sunday’s race.

Favorites to be No. 20

This season remains tied for the most different winners in series history at 19, but there are a few candidates who could become the 20th different winner this year on Sunday.

Among the favorites to do so:

Ryan Blaney, who came close to winning last week at Talladega, won the inaugural Cup race at the Roval in 2018.

Martin Truex Jr., who has four career Cup wins on road courses, still seeks his first victory of the season.

Michael McDowell, who is coming off a third-place finish at Talladega, has had a career-high 12 top-10 finishes this season, including top 10s in each of the last four road course events this year.

Will history repeat?

Last year, the four drivers eliminated after the Roval were Kevin Harvick, Alex Bowman, Christopher Bell and William Byron.

Harvick was eliminated in the first round this year, but Byron (-11 to the cutline) and Bell (-33) are in jeopardy of being eliminated in this round again. Bowman stated Tuesday that he will miss his second consecutive race because of continued concussion symptoms. He will be among the four eliminated from title contention.

Bowman missed last weekend’s race because of concussion-like symptoms suffered at Texas. A decision on if he’ll be able to race at the Roval will come later this week.

Will chaos continue?

Consider what some of the former Roval winners have endured on their way to the checkered flag:

In 2019, Chase Elliott drove into the Turn 1 wall on a restart while the leader. He recovered to win.

In 2020, Elliott overcame a loose wheel to win for the second year in a row.

In 2021, Kyle Larson won after his team changed batteries and put the alternator belt back on.

Could a similar fate be in store for this year’s winner? Or will they have a cleaner day?

Entry lists

Thirty-nine drivers are entered including IndyCar driver Conor Daly, former Formula 1 driver Daniil Kvyat, former 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller and former 24 Hours of Daytona winner Joey Hand. JJ Yeley will drive the No. 51 for Cody Ware, who stated that he would skip this event because of his ankle injury at Texas the footwork needed on a road course.

Charlotte Roval Cup entry list

The Xfinity entry list includes 41 drivers for 38 spots. Among those joining the series regulars are IndyCar driver Marco Andretti and former F1 driver Daniil Kvyat.

Charlotte Roval Xfinity entry list

This week’s schedule and forecast

(All times Eastern)

Saturday, Oct. 8

Forecast: Partly cloudy with a high of 66 degrees. No chance of rain during the Xfinity race.

  • 10 – 10:30 a.m. — Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)
  • 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. — Xfinity qualifying (NBC Sports App)
  • 12 – 1 p.m. — Cup practice (NBC Sports App, USA Network coverage begins at 12:30 p.m.)
  • 1 – 2 p.m. — Cup qualifying (USA Network, NBC Sports App)
  • 3 p.m. — Xfinity race (67 laps, 155.44 miles; NBC, Peacock, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Oct. 9

Forecast: Sunny with a high of 64 degrees. No chance of rain during the race.

  • 2 p.m. — Cup race (109 laps, 252.88 miles; NBC, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

 

Hailie Deegan to make Xfinity debut at Las Vegas

0 Comments

Hailie Deegan announced Tuesday that she will make her Xfinity Series debut Oct. 15 Las Vegas Motor Speedway on NBC and Peacock.

The 21-year-old Deegan is in her second full-time season in the Camping World Truck Series. She finished a career-high sixth in that series last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

She will drive the No. 07 car for SS Green Light Racing with Jeff Lefcourt.

 

 

Alex Bowman to miss Charlotte Roval race

0 Comments

Alex Bowman announced Tuesday night on social media that he will sit out this weekend’s Cup playoff race at the Charlotte Roval.

Bowman said on social media: “I am continuing to make strides in my recovery to make sure I can return to competition at 100%.”

This will be the second consecutive race he will have missed because of concussion-like symptoms after his crash at Texas Motor Speedway.

Noah Gragson will drive the No. 48 car this weekend for Bowman.

“Alex’s health is our first priority,” said Jeff Andrews, president and general manager of Hendrick Motorsports, in a statement. “We’re focused on supporting his recovery and seeing him back in his race car when the time is right. Alex has a long career ahead of him, so we will invest the necessary time and take our guidance from medical experts. We’re putting no pressure on him to return before he’s 100% ready.”

Bowman will be one of the four drivers eliminated from title contention Sunday.

Also Tuesday, Cody Ware announced that he will sit out this weekend’s Cup race at the Charlotte Roval, as he continues to recover from the ankle injury he suffered at Texas.

NASCAR Power Rankings: Chase Elliott leaps to the front

0 Comments

A slick late-race move by Chase Elliott carried him to Victory Lane Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway — and back to the top of the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings.

Elliott is the only driver with five victories this season. No one else in the playoffs has more than two (Tyler Reddick, eliminated from the championship hunt, has won three times).

Elliott, already qualified for the Round of 8 with his Talladega win, will be among the favorites in Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (2 p.m. ET, NBC).

Here’s how the rankings look approaching the end of the Round of 12:

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. Chase Elliott (No. 3 last week) — Elliott’s power move to win at Talladega was quite impressive and gave him four top-five finishes in the past 10 races. Clearly, he has re-established himself as the championship favorite.

2. Denny Hamlin (No. 1 last week) — Hamlin drops a spot despite a strong run (20 laps led and finishing fifth) at Talladega. Count him in the hunt for an elusive first championship.

3. Ryan Blaney (No. 8 last week) — Blaney simply will not go away despite continuing as the playoffs’ only winless driver (not including the Texas All-Star Race). He was victimized by Chase Elliott on Sunday at Talladega, finishing .046 seconds short of victory and a push into the next round.

4. Kyle Larson (No. 2 last week) — Superspeedway racing generally is not Larson’s strong point. He finished 18th Sunday despite leading eight laps and being in the front group much of the day.

5. Joey Logano (No. 4 last week) — Logano had an unusually poor performance at Talladega. He was involved in an early-race accident and struggled much of the rest of the day, finishing 27th.

MORE: Elliott celebrates, Logano laments

6. Ross Chastain (No. 7 last week) — Chastain tied Aric Almirola for most laps led (36) at Talladega and has been consistent as of late with three finishes of seventh or better in the past four races.

7. William Byron (No. 5 last week) — Byron’s worst news last week came off the track as he was penalized by NASCAR for dumping Denny Hamlin under caution at Texas. He finished 12th at Talladega.

8. Chase Briscoe (No. 9 last week) — Briscoe is quietly making the case that he could make the Round of 8 and challenge for the title.

MORE: Winners and losers at Talladega

9. Daniel Suarez (unranked last week) — Suarez maneuvered through the Talladega draft with style and came home eighth. He has three top 10s in the past seven races.

10. Christopher Bell (No. 6 last week) — Bell had a rough day at Talladega and will be looking to Sunday’s race at the Roval for redemption.

Dropped out: Tyler Reddick (No. 10 last week).