NASCAR executive says Talladega qualifying likely will feature two cars on track at same time

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Qualifying will have a different look this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, as NASCAR debuts its new format for restrictor-plate tracks.

Instead of group qualifying – which has drawn some concerns since it was implemented at those tracks – NASCAR will go with a revamped version of single-car qualifying.

NASCAR likely will have two cars on the track at the same time for qualifying, Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s executive vice president and chief racing development officer, said during his weekly appearance Monday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

That way, O’Donnell noted, there could be one car running on the backstretch and one on the frontstretch at the same time. By separating the cars, the trailing car will not benefit from any aerodynamic advantage.

NASCAR announced the change last month after drivers complained at Daytona in February about accidents in group qualifying. Clint Bowyer blasted NASCAR after he was involved in a crash with Reed Sorenson during qualifying that collected three other cars. Tony Stewart ripped the format on Twitter, calling it a “complete embarrassment for our series.’’

A six-car crash during Xfinity qualifying added to the concerns. Tanner Berryhill, who was involved in that accident, stated on Twitter that he didn’t enter the following race at Atlanta because the team had been in a financial crunch and that “the new qualifying format killed any chance we had of racing this year’’ by losing out on the chance to make the race and the large payday at that event.

O’Donnell said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that the new format gives drivers better control of their fate in qualifying.

“When you look at superspeedway racing, when we had conversations with the garage area, and you really determined that through no fault of a driver, there’s potential that an accident could take place – they could have the fastest car on the track and really through no fault of their own through an accident could fail to qualify for a race,’’ O’Donnell said.

“When we looked at that, especially in Daytona, that’s a circumstance we wanted to try to avoid if we could. We’re able to put this together, which is a little combination of (single-car and group qualifying) and puts it more in the driver’s hand for a superspeedway, which we like to see.’’

Here’s the format for qualifying that Sprint Cup and Xfinity teams will do at Talladega this weekend:

  • Qualifying will consist of two rounds.
  • Order of qualifying in first round will be determined by a random draw.
  • Competitors get one timed lap per round.
  • More than one car can be on the track at the same time with each vehicle released by NASCAR in a predetermined interval.
  • First round determines starting spots 13th to 43rd.
  • The 12 fastest cars advance to the second round and have their speed reset.
  • There will be a 10-minute break between the first and second round.
  • Only adjustments allowed to the car during the break – adjustment of tape and use of a cool-down unit.
  • The order for the second round is from slowest to fastest based on first-round speed, thus the fastest car in first round will go last.
  • The top 12 starting positions will be based on the car’s lap in the second round.
  • NASCAR will impound each vehicle after its qualifying lap.

NASCAR America Fantasy League: 10 best at Texas in last three seasons

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Last year’s championship finale was as predictable as any NASCAR race can be.

Seven of the top-10 finishers qualified among the top 10. Eight of them finished among the top 10 in both stages and only one – Ryan Newman in 10th – failed to finish that well at the two breaks.

The top-three finishers all led significant portions of the race with Martin Truex Jr. pacing the field four times for 78 laps, Kyle Busch leading four times for 43 laps and Kyle Larson up front four times for 145 laps.

For the most part, these were the same drivers who were fast in practice, so this week’s NASCAR America Fantasy Live roster should be heavily influenced by the drivers with the best 10-lap averages.

Qualifying will also be important, but there is no reason to automatically discount a driver who starts outside the top 10. Last year, Chase Elliott advance to fifth from 18th on the grid while Joey Logano finished sixth after starting 19th.

1. Kevin Harvick (three-year average: 3.00) Playoff
Harvick has been as close to perfect as possible at Miami. Since the track went to its current configuration in 2003, Harvick has missed the top 10 only once (2007). In the 10 races since then, he has seven top fives, including the last four. He won the championship on the strength of his 2014 victory and is one of the best bets to do so again.

1. Kyle Busch  (three-year average: 3.00) Playoff
There are many signs pointing to this week being a two-man battle between Harvick and Busch. Las Vegas odds makers have had them as co-favorites most of the week at 2/1, they’ve dominated the 1.5-mile tracks with Harvick winning four times and Busch three. Their three-year average at Homestead are identical. Unless something happens to slow one of them down, the race and championship will come down to these two. 

3. Kyle Larson (three-year average: 3.33) Non-Playoff
It is unfortunate that Larson failed to make the Championship 4 because he will be part of the battle for the win this weekend. He enters with three consecutive top fives including a second in 2016 and a third last year. In four years of NASCAR’s current knockout format, a non-playoff driver has never won this race, so history could be made this week.

4. Joey Logano (three-year average: 4.67) Playoff
Logano is this week’s dark horse to win the championship. He has not been nearly as dominant on 1.5-milers as Harvick, Busch or Truex but he does have a couple of things in his favor. 1) He has had the luxury of preparing for Miami for three weeks since winning at Martinsville and 2) he has not finished worse than sixth in his last three starts at Miami. 

5. Matt Kenseth (three-year average: 7.33) Non-Playoff
It has been easy to disregard Kenseth’s statistics in 2018. His most recent runs on a given track were with Joe Gibbs Racing and the No. 6 at Roush Fenway Racing has struggled with both him and Trevor Bayne behind the wheel. Last week’s seventh-place finish at Phoenix changed that. Now that he knows how to get to the top 10, his Miami record of five consecutive results of eighth or better is suddenly meaningful.

MORE: Rotoworld Fantasy Power Rankings

6. Chase Elliott (three-year average: 8.00 in two starts) Non-Playoff
There is a old adage in racing that states drivers must first lose races in order to win them. The same is true of championships – and under NASCAR’s current rules, that also applies to simply making the Championship 4. Elliott has been eliminated in the Round of 8 in the past two seasons. Elliott knows he has been one of the strongest performers during the playoffs and if not for the poor start that Chevrolet endured at the beginning of the season, he might be one of the challengers if he had started winning earlier in the year. 

7. Denny Hamlin (three-year average: 9.33) Non-Playoff
Hamlin will be on most fantasy radars because of his five race top-10 streak at Miami. He has not earned a top five there since 2013, but that year he won his second race on this track. His first came in 2009, so there is still some hope that he will keep his streak of winning every year since he was a rookie in 2006 alive.

8. Jamie McMurray (three-year average: 10.33) Non-Playoff
McMurray is another driver who would like to close the season on a high note. He has not announced his plans for 2019, but he knows he will not be with Chip Ganassi Racing next year and with most of the major rides spoken for, he may not have another opportunity to win. Two of his last four attempts on this track ended in fifth-place finishes. The other two were a pair of 13ths. 

9. Austin Dillon (three-year average: 12.33) Non-Playoff
Dillon has come on strong in the last two weeks. His 10th at Texas and eighth at Phoenix is the first time this year that he has earned back-to-back top 10s. At Miami, he has a current streak of three top 15s without a top 10. With a little luck and some track position, he could close out the year with three consecutive strong runs.

9. Jimmie Johnson (three-year average: 12.33) Non-Playoff
Johnson has already shown what he will do for a win. It didn’t matter that he might miss the playoffs when he sailed into the final chicane at the Charlotte Roval and it won’t matter that the Championship 4 are battling for the Cup this week. If Johnson can sniff the lead, he is going to do everything he can to get to the checkers first. 

14. Martin Truex Jr. (three-year average: 16.33) Playoff
Truex may have won last year, but he has not been overly impressive at Miami in recent years. That was his only top 10 in the past four seasons, which suggests he has his work cut out for him this week if he wants to beat Harvick and Busch.

Bonus Picks

Pole Winner: Hamlin has won two of the last three poles at Miami. He will not be front-of-mind for most fantasy players this week and that could be a blessing in disguise. While most of the competition makes a safe pick like Harvick, Kyle Busch or Truex, someone willing to take a little risk could reap a huge benefit.

Segment Winners: Last year, the top-four finishers each swept the top five at the end of the stages. Meanwhile, there were only two drivers who earned stage points before falling out of the top 10 at the checkers (Clint Bowyer was 10th in Stage 1 before finishing 12th; Kurt Busch was seventh in Stage 1 and sixth in Stage 2 before losing two laps in the final segment and finishing 22nd). That suggests this week’s stage winners will come from among the drivers who impress the analysts most in practice.

For more Fantasy NASCAR coverage, check out Rotoworld.com and follow Dan Beaver (@FantasyRace) on Twitter.

UPDATED: Entry lists for NASCAR weekend in Miami

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NASCAR heads to South Florida for the season finales for the Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series. Here are the preliminary entry lists for each series:

Cup – Ford EcoBoost 400 (3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC)

Thirty-nine cars are on the entry list for this race, which will determine the Cup champion.

BJ McLeod will drive Rick Ware Racing’s No. 51 Ford.

Tanner Berryhill is entered in Obaika Racing’s No. 97 Toyota for the second week in a row.

Click here for the entry list.

 

Xfinity – Ford EcoBoost 300 (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

Forty-five cars are on the entry list for this event.

Click here for Xfinity entry list

 

Trucks – Ford EcoBoost 200 (8 p.m. ET Friday on Fox Sports 1)

Thirty-two trucks are on the entry list for this event.

Mike Harmon is now entered in Beaver Motorsports’ No. 50 Chevrolet

Click here for the Truck entry list.

Championship weekend schedule for Miami

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After 10 months, the NASCAR season comes to an end this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series all end their seasons on the 1.5-mile track.

Here’s the full weekend schedule with TV and radio info:

(All times are Eastern)

Friday, Nov. 16

7 a.m. – Truck Series garage opens

8:35 – 9:25 a.m. – Truck practice (No TV)

10 a.m. – 8 p.m. – Cup garage open

10:05 – 10:55 a.m. – Final Truck practice (No TV)

11 a.m. – 8 p.m. – Xfinity garage open

1 – 2:20 p.m. – Cup practice (NBCSN, Motor Racing Network)

2:35 – 3:25 p.m. – Xfinity practice (NBCSN)

3:45 p.m. – Truck Series qualifying; single truck/two rounds (Fox Sports 1)

5:05 – 5:55 p.m. – Final Xfinity practice (NBCSN)

6 p.m. – Truck Series driver-crew chief meeting

6:10 p.m. – Cup qualifying; multi-car/three rounds (NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

7:30 p.m. – Truck Series driver introductions

8 p.m. – Ford EcoBoost 200; 134 laps/201 miles (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Saturday, Nov. 17

8:30 a.m. –  Xfinity garage opens

10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. – Cup garage open

11:35 – 12:25 p.m. – Cup practice (NBCSN, MRN)

12:35 p.m. – Xfinity qualifying; multi-car/three rounds (NBCSN)

1:40 p.m. – Xfinity driver-crew chief meeting

2 – 2:50 p.m. – Final Cup practice (NBCSN, MRN)

3 p.m. – Xfinity driver introductions

3:30 p.m. – Ford EcoBoost 300; 200 laps/300 miles (NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Nov. 18

9 a.m. – Cup garage opens

12:30 p.m. – Driver-crew chief meeting

1:50 p.m. – Driver introductions

2:30 p.m. – Ford EcoBoost 400; 267 laps/400.5 miles (NBC, Championship 4 simulcast on NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

NASCAR America: Rodney Childers’ suspension takes some of No. 4 team’s ‘edge’

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Kevin Harvick‘s No. 4 team will be without its mastermind atop the pit box this weekend during the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Rodney Childers, the team’s crew chief, will complete his two-race suspension stemming from a penalty after the Texas race two weeks ago.

MORE: Rodney Childers can celebrate with team if Kevin Harvick wins title

In Childers’ place will be long-time crew chief Tony Gibson.

On NASCAR America, Kyle Petty and former crew chief Ray Evernham discussed how Childers’ absence will impact Harvick’s quest for a second Cup title in the best season of his career.

“I think without Rodney Childers there it takes a little bit of that edge away from the 4 car for Kevin,” Evernham said. “Because no matter how good Kevin is, he can’t control and see everything from inside that car. … There’s just a lot of intangible stuff that a crew chief makes a decision on that Rodney won’t be able to see.”

Watch the above video for more.