Long: NASCAR’s decision to change rules for Kentucky race right move


In the middle of the season, in a race to make the Chase, in a points event of all things, NASCAR is changing the game.

New rules, new race, maybe even a new winner who could alter who competes for the championship and who doesn’t.

NASCAR could have – should have one can argue – tried these changes in last month’s Sprint All-Star Race where there weren’t any points on the line. Instead, NASCAR will implement new rules for the July 11 race at Kentucky Speedway (which can be seen on NBCSN).

For all the fuss by the fan base and worries about how this might impact their driver, NASCAR made the right decision to experiment.

Admittedly, it’s hard to argue that a season with 10 different winners in the first 15 races is one that needs changing, but ask yourself what have been this year’s most memorable moments on the track? Can you come up with more than two or three quickly? Can you come up with even that many?

Great side-by-side racing produces dramatic moments that leave fans buzzing. Yet, with cars running nearly identical speeds and aerodynamics playing a larger role, it’s hard for drivers to run side-by-side to create that drama and contact that comes with it.

source:  NASCAR more than any other sport needs those duels. Not just one or two but many.

But NASCAR wasn’t getting them. Lead changes are down in 12 of the first 15 races this season compared to races at the same tracks a year ago. Only twice this season has the winning pass come with less than 10 laps left.

The changes at Kentucky – smaller spoiler, smaller radiator pan and a splitter with less overhang – will reduce downforce on the cars. The goal is to make drivers let off the gas in the corners to create more passing. And those tight battles fans crave.

Appeasing fans is critical because NASCAR faces a challenge unlike some other professional sports. Most people become a basketball, football or baseball fan because of a team in or near their city. Those fans were around it at an early age, likely even played one or all of those sports.

All of NASCAR’s major Sprint Cup teams are based in Charlotte, N.C. – other than Furniture Row Racing, which is in Denver, Colo. When NASCAR comes to a venue, it’s making either its only appearance or one of just two appearances a year. Compare that to the local NFL team that has eight home games or the NBA team with its 41 home games or the Major League Baseball team with its 81 home games.

NASCAR swoops in like the circus, then is gone just as quickly. While in town, the show needs to be outstanding. One can say that the racing in the middle of the pack is good. That’s nice but most people are focused on the front. They want to see drivers dodge and parry for the lead not 20th.

NASCAR understands that the racing can be better. Officials know that now is the time to act instead of waiting eight months for the start of a new season to make changes. If the tweaks at Kentucky work, maybe the rules will change for other races, maybe even some Chase races.

Kentucky is a good place to try this. There hasn’t been a pass for the lead in the last 10 laps in any of the previous four Cup races there. The track’s four Cup races average 15 lead changes a race but saw only 12 last year and 11 the year before.

Maybe the rule changes can reverse those trends.

While NASCAR will examine what takes place that weekend, Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, knows the true gauge on the changes will come elsewhere.

“I think ultimately,’’ he said, “that’s up to the fans.’’

If the rules package at Kentucky doesn’t win fan support, NASCAR should be willing to try again this season. The sport needs to make the racing better as soon as possible.


NASCAR Cup Series results: Ryan Blaney wins at Charlotte

NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600
Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images

CONCORD, N.C. — Ryan Blaney outran William Byron over the final miles and through several restarts to win Monday’s 600-mile NASCAR Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Blaney thus ended a 59-race winless streak and qualified for the Cup playoffs.

Following in the top five were Byron, Martin Truex Jr., Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick.

Charlotte Cup results

Ryan Blaney wins NASCAR Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway

NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600
Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images
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CONCORD, N.C. — It was the longest wait for the longest race, and it ended on a very long day. And it marked the end of a long winless streak.

Ryan Blaney sprinted away from William Byron in the closing laps of Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and ended a 59-race winless streak.

Byron finished second and was followed by Martin Truex Jr., Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick.

MORE: Charlotte Cup results

Blaney pushed through several late-race restarts and held on to finally write finish to a frustrating losing string. The win marked the first time long-time team owner Roger Penske has won both the Indy 500 and Coke 600 in the same year.

“You start to get to feel like you can’t win any more when you don’t win for a while,” an emotional Blaney told Fox Sports after the race.

Following the lead of his Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden, who won Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 and went into the stands to celebrate with fans, Blaney ran into the CMS frontstretch grandstands after grabbing the checkered flag.

Contender Kyle Larson lost control of his car on a restart with 26 laps to go, starting a crash that also involved Joey Logano, Ty Gibbs and Christopher Bell.

He had maneuvered his way through a web of crashes and outran Byron, whose team kept him in or near the front with a string of fast pit stops.

The race was postponed by rain Sunday and was delayed by showers Monday. Rain had soaked the track most of the weekend, postponing the Cup and Xfinity Series races and cancelling Saturday night’s Cup practice and qualifying. Monday’s forecast was better, but the weather refused to cooperate. Rain interrupted the Xfinity race, which started at 11 a.m., and another shower stopped the Cup race during the second stage.

Charlotte Motor Speedway, which advertises itself as “America’s Home for Racing,” had become America’s home for raining.

Blaney, 29, scored the eighth win of his career. He last won at Daytona International Speedway in August 2021 and had posted four runnerup finishes during that span.

A mid-race collision between Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin left their cars seriously damaged and their feelings hurt. They were racing in close quarters on lap 186 when extended contact between the two cars sent Hamlin hard into the wall, resulting in major front-end damage. Elliott’s car sustained serious rear damage.

Hamlin said Elliott had a “tantrum” and that he should be suspended for the next race for what Hamlin called “a right rear hook.” Elliott denied intentionally wrecking Hamlin.

A few laps earlier, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski crashed.

The third-stage win went to Blaney. Following were Reddick, Truex, Byron and Ty Gibbs.

Chris Buescher won the second stage, leading Kevin Harvick, Keselowski, Joey Logano and Gibbs.

Byron won the first stage, leading a three-way battle with Christopher Bell and Blaney on the 100th lap. Bell was second, Blaney third, Reddick fourth and Truex Jr. fifth.

A crash involving Bubba Wallace and Aric Almirola resulted in the drivers having a tense red-flag discussion. Almirola shoved Wallace before the altercation was broken up.

Stage 1 winner: William Byron

Stage 2 winner: Chris Buescher

Stage 3 winner: Ryan Blaney

Who had a good race: Ryan Blaney had the day’s fastest car and held off a following herd over the final miles. … William Byron was strong throughout the race but couldn’t challenge Blaney at the end.

Who had a bad race: Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson had a tough day in his third race of the year. He lost control of his car in Turn 2 74 laps into the race and slapped the outside wall. He lost a lap in the pits and ultimately finished last. … Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin had top-10 cars but both left the race after a controversial collision near the halfway point.

Next: The series moves on to World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois for a June 4 race at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott involved in big crash at Charlotte


CONCORD, N.C. — Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott were involved in a big crash midway through Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and each blamed the other.

Elliott’s car slapped the outside wall near the start-finish line, and his car made contact with Hamlin’s Toyota, sending Hamlin slamming into the wall. The front end of Hamlin’s car was smashed. Elliott’s Chevrolet also was damaged.

Both drivers parked for the evening, and neither was happy.

Hamlin said Elliott had a “tantrum” and said he should be suspended from next week’s race.

“I got right-rear hooked in the middle of the straightway,” Hamlin said. “Yes, it was a tantrum. He shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

Elliott had a different view.

“The 11 (Hamlin) put me in the fence, and once you take the right sides off these things it’s kind of over,” he said. “Once you hit the wall in these things, you can’t drive them any more.”

Elliott denied intentionally hitting Hamlin, saying the crash was “unfortunate circumstances.”

Brad Keselowski hit the rear of Elliott’s car after the initial contact between Hamlin and Elliott.

After the crash, Hamlin tweeted data in support of his contention that Elliott drove into him.




More rain postpones conclusion of Charlotte Xfinity race


CONCORD, N.C. — Despite an improving forecast, rain continued to plague NASCAR and its drivers Monday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The twice-rescheduled Xfinity Series race was stopped twice because of weather Monday after finally getting the green flag, and the conclusion of the 300-mile race was postponed until after the completion of Monday’s rescheduled 600-mile Cup Series race.

Forty-eight of the race’s scheduled 200 laps were completed before weather and the impending scheduled start of the Cup race intervened.

When (or if) the race resumes Monday night, it will be broadcast by FS2, the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

After 48 laps, Ty Gibbs, John Hunter Nemechek and Justin Allgaier are in the top three positions.

Gibbs won the first stage.