Ryan: Three thoughts on the Sprint All-Star Race


1 – Clean air is king at Charlotte: For the third consecutive year in the Sprint All-Star Race, the winner led all 10 laps in the final segment. It’s a simple equation: Take a 1.5-mile track whose asphalt hardly has degraded since being repaved in 2006, add 20 aero-sensitive race cars that are prissy in traffic but handle like a slot car out front and throw the green for a 10-lap dash to a $1 million payday. The result is predictable: If you’re not in the first three rows, you don’t have a chance of winning. Brad Keselowski, whose chances were shot when he sped out of the pits trying to claim the lead after the mandatory four-tire stop, said even starting second Saturday beside winner Denny Hamlin wouldn’t have been enough to win. “Whoever gets the clean air with this format, and this rules package, is going to drive away,” Keselowski said. “We’ve seen that for the last three years and with this particular car, it’s probably even more so. I thought (Kurt Busch) and (Kevin Harvick) were probably two or three 10ths faster than everybody without clean air, and it doesn’t matter.” This has been the refrain at Charlotte Motor Speedway for nearly a decade, and it’s likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future. It’s NASCAR’s call whether this is the right venue to host an event that is billed as a no-holds-barred, slam-bang affair. But if nonstop action in short spurts is what defines an All-Star Race for stock cars, Charlotte Motor Speedway would seem less than conducive to producing it.

2 – No room for error: The All-Star Race is built on a reputation of reckless abandon, but the pathway to victory lane permits few mistakes. Hamlin overcame a speeding penalty in the pits before the third segment because his average finishing position, pit crew and first pit stall (from winning the pole position) lifted his No. 11 Toyota back into the lead for the final restart. But the emphasis on maintaining position prevented others from overcoming errors. Kevin Harvick qualified 20th, starting last in an event where a top-five finish in every segment was critical to post a strong average finish, and it was too big a hole despite having the fastest car in the field. Keselowski led a race-high 49 laps but was doomed by the speeding penalty. Kurt Busch got snookered by Hamlin on the last restart and finished third despite having a car fast enough to lead 24 laps. It’s laudable that a prestigious event demands precision and perfection, but it also is commendable to reward the guys with the fastest cars for hanging it out.

3 – It’s hard to spin in Sprint Cup: This was the eighth caution-free All-Star Race and the first since 2008, and it wasn’t because drivers weren’t flirting with danger. Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano and Jamie McMurray each made impressive saves after their cars went sideways. Over the course of 150 laps the past two days at Charlotte, there was only one yellow flag for a spin (JJ Yeley in Friday’s Sprint Showdown). On one hand, it’s a testament to the ability of NASCAR’s stars, but is it also a commentary on the current rules package? Is it just that much easier for a highly skilled driver to control a car through a skid with less horsepower?



NASCAR Pinty’s Series to compete on dirt for first time in 2020

NASCAR Pinty's Series
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NASCAR’s continued embrace of dirt racing will continue in 2020 with the Canada-based Pinty’s Series.

The series announced on Friday a multi-year deal that will see it compete on a dirt track for the first time next season at Ohsweken Speedway in Ontario.

The event on the 3/8-mile track will consist of practice, time trials, qualifying heats, and a 100-lap feature event to be run at 9 p.m. ET on Aug. 18.

The series follows in the steps of the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series and its yearly visit to Eldora Speedway, which began in 2013. It also joins the ARCA Menards Series West, which has held a race on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Dirt Track the last two seasons.

“Next year is the 25th anniversary of Ohsweken Speedway,” said track owner Glenn Styres in a press release. “It will be amazing to see NASCAR stock cars racing around this place. This is a great chance to show the world what a first class facility we have here in Ohsweken.”

“Pinty’s has a long history in motorsports and whether it’s our NASCAR Pinty’s Series venues, Short Track Nationals at both Jukasa in Canada and Bristol in the USA or our investment in Pinty’s All North Racing on MavTV, we know our target audience lives for authentic experiences.” said Anthony Spiteri of series sponsor Pinty’s Delicious Foods in a press release.. “Taking the Pinty’s Series to the ever popular Ohsweken Speedway combines the best of the best in teams, drivers and venues. I suspect a few surprises for our fans as well!  August can’t come quick enough.”

Joey Logano set to test Next Gen car today, Tuesday at ISM Raceway

AP Photo/Mike McCarn
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Joey Logano will become the second Cup driver to test the Next Gen car when he hits the track today and Tuesday at ISM Raceway.

This test of the car, which is scheduled to debut in 2021, follows the session that took place Oct. 8-9 at Richmond Raceway by Austin Dillon. Logano will drive the same car that Dillon did. That car was prepared by Richard Childress Racing.

Logano explained what he was looking forward to with the new car:

“Just understanding, for one, just some durability stuff but also understanding what works and what doesn’t. I’d like to, once we get to some point, I’d like to make some longer runs just to kind of see where things go. There are so many differences with the car that we need to understand.

“I think it’s still very much in the beginning of the process. I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to getting back in a race car.

Logano said he was “curious” how the car would drive with the independent rear suspension.

“I think that will be interesting to say the least,” he said.

The next text for the car is scheduled in January at Homestead-Miami Speedway. That will mark the car’s first test on a 1.5-mile track.

Rain washes out Snowball Derby, rescheduled to Monday

Five Flags Speedway
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Rain has postponed the 52nd Snowball Derby Super Late Model race from Sunday to Monday at 5 p.m. ET/4 p.m. CT at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida.

Track officials tried several times to dry the track, only to be met with recurrences of rain.

Even with the rain issue, one bit of significant news was announced: the track is granting a special provisional exception and expanded the race day field from its normal 36-driver field to 37 drivers. The reason: veteran racer David Rogers was presented with the Derby Dedication Award for his 32 previous starts in the Snowball Derby.

Monday will make Roger’s 33rd career start in the annual pre-winter event, breaking a tie with legendary driver Red Farmer for most starts in the race.

Rogers has had a challenging year, having battled and then overcoming lymphoma. Monday’s rescheduled race will be the Florida resident’s first start behind the wheel since he was officially declared cancer-free.

“David’s Snowball Derby dedication has been unmatched in the history of this race,” Five Flags Speedway owner Tim Bryant said in a statement.  “We felt like being in this race served as real motivation for David in his battle with cancer this year, and we wish him the best of luck in today’s race.”

Also, driver Justin Bonnett, grandson of late NASCAR star Neil Bonnett, is recovering in a Mobile, Alabama hospital after undergoing surgery to repair a broken leg and treat burns to his face, hands and body. Bonnett was involved in a crash and subsequent fireball created by a fuel cell that broke away from a fellow competitor’s race car during Saturday night’s Snowflake 100 race at Five Flags Speedway.


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UPDATED: Neil Bonnett’s grandson seriously injured in fiery crash

Photo courtesy Justin Bonnett Racing official Facebook page
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The grandson of late NASCAR Cup star Neil Bonnett was seriously injured in a crash during Saturday night’s Snowflake 100 late model race at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida.

Justin Bonnett suffered a compound fracture of the fibula and tibula and burns to his hands, face and neck in a fiery wreck that prompted him to be transferred to a hospital in Mobile, Alabama, according to a post on his team’s Facebook page.

According to various media reports, Bonnett was running 26th on Lap 54 when he was unable to avoid and made contact with the spinning car of Jarrett Parker.

Driving the No. 12, the same number his late grandfather carried for much of his Cup career, the younger Bonnett’s car was engulfed in flames after the fuel tank on Parker’s car became dislodged and caught fire, spilling fuel and flames across the racetrack. Here is a video of the incident, courtesy of Joshua Nelms, who shot the video, and Sidedrafting Productions, which posted it.

Bonnett’s car came to a stop on the apron between turns three and four, where he was quickly pulled from his car by safety crews, who also extinguished the fire. The race was red-flagged for a lengthy period of time afterward.

According to media reports, the 26-year-old Bonnett was taken by ambulance to a local Pensacola hospital, where he was briefly treated before he was airlifted to a hospital in Mobile.

It was upon arrival at the Mobile hospital that it was determined Bonnett would undergo late night surgery, according to several posts on his Facebook page, written by his aunt and Neil’s daughter, Kristen Bonnett Ray.

Later Sunday morning, Bonnett’s aunt posted this update on his condition:

Justin Bonnett still lives in Hueytown, Ala., home of the famous “Alabama Gang,” of which his grandfather was part of, as well as Bobby and Donnie Allison, Red Farmer, Jimmy Means, the late Davey Allison, Hut Stricklin and David Bonnett, Justin’s father.

The Snowflake 100 was a preliminary race for Sunday’s main event, the 52nd annual Snowball Derby. The 300-lap race starts at 2 p.m. ET.

Here are several additional posts on Bonnett’s wreck from social media:


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