Goodyear hasn’t talked with NASCAR about rules changes in Chase for the Sprint Cup

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LOUDON, N.H. – A Goodyear official said there hasn’t been discussions yet with NASCAR about using a lower-downforce package in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Greg Stucker, the director of race tire sales for the tire supplier, said Goodyear would need to know within the next week if NASCAR wanted to use a softer tire to match a lower-downforce package if it were implemented for the Sept. 20 race at Chicagoland Speedway that will open the Chase.

“I think we’d have to sit down and look at it pretty hard and see what our options would be,” Stucker said when asked what might happen if NASCAR wanted to use a lower-downforce version. “We haven’t had that serious conversation yet because that really hasn’t been proposed to us.”

It’s possible that Goodyear could bring the tire it already confirmed for Chicagoland race with the current rules package during a test this week.

Last Saturday’s race at Kentucky Speedway marked the debut of the lower-downforce approach, but there wasn’t time to build a tire intended to match the package. It seemed to matter little as green-flag passes spiked by 132 percent.

Some drivers have lobbied for a softer tire with lower downforce so they can enjoy more comfort, grip and stability in making passes. But there seemed no problems with the durability of the “unmatched” tire at Kentucky.

“If you look at how Kentucky went and the level of grip vs. the level of downforce, you could extrapolate to say that Chicagoland would probably be similar,” Stucker said. “I think we’d probably want to go back and confirm that and look at that briefly.”

The lower-downforce package will be used again Sept. 6 at Darlington Raceway for the Southern 500. Goodyear is building a softer tire for that race after being able to test with the new rules last month. That compound produced more grip and slightly faster lap times that virtually matched the speeds produced with the current downforce rules.

The Darlington change was made with about 10 weeks of lead time. Stucker said Goodyear prefers to have about three months to manufacture the more than 1,000 tires that are needed for a Sprint Cup weekend.

“Obviously we’ve pulled the trigger on a few (races) a little sooner,” he said. “We can adjust with that. I’m talking about the ideal world, you just like to plan accordingly. We always like to factor in about 90 days, but things are moving kind of quickly here. We’re trying to be as flexible as we can. We’re trying to put the plan on notice there could be changes, and we need to react as we can.”

Stucker confirmed that Goodyear tested a softer tire with the lower-downforce package at Chicagoland but encountered blistering problems with the right side after 20 laps.

“We simply were a little too soft, a little too hung out,” Stucker said. “That’s not going to be the package that’ll work for Chicago in that configuration.”

Stucker said Goodyear wouldn’t built two sets of tires – one for the current rules and one for lower downforce – to extend the deadline for choosing between them.

“I think everyone understands by the nature of how much product we have to produce, and the time it takes to produce them, we’re not as flexible as everyone else is,” he said. “I think everybody recognizes that. We’re trying to move things around and be as flexible as we can. So, we’ll react as we need to. I think everyone would like to have those data points.

“I think we have Kentucky, where we had a minor grip improvement, but in everybody’s eyes, maybe that wasn’t ideal from a grip perspective. But maybe it was. Now we go to Darlington and add that grip back. We’ll have two really good data points with that configuration.”

NASCAR Clash heat race lineups

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LOS ANGELES — Justin Haley, Kyle Busch, Christopher Bell and William Byron will start on the pole for their heat races Sunday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. 

There will be nine cars in each of the four heat races. Here’s a look at each of the those heat races.

Clash heat race starting lineups

Heat 1

This heat has four drivers who did not make last year’s Clash: Alex Bowman, Aric Almirola, Chris Buescher and Ty Dillon. Almirola starts second, Bowman third, Buescher eighth and Dillon ninth. This heat also has defending Clash winner and reigning Cup champion Joey Logano, who starts fifth.

Heat 2

Richard Childress Racing teammates Busch and Austin Dillon start 1-2. This race has five former champions: Busch, Kyle Larson (starting third), Kevin Harvick (fourth), Martin Truex Jr. (fifth) and Chase Elliott (eighth).

Heat 3

Toyota drivers will start first (Bell), second (Denny Hamlin) and fifth (Tyler Reddick). Ryan Blaney starts last in this heat after his fastest qualifying lap was disallowed Saturday.

Heat 4 

Byron will be joined on the front row by AJ Allmendinger in this heat. The second row will have Ross Chastain and Bubba Wallace.

The top five in each heat advances to Sunday night’s Clash. Those not advancing go to one of two last chance qualifying races. The top three in each of those races advances to the Clash. The 27 and final spot in the Clash is reserved for the driver highest in points who has yet to make the field.

Justin Haley tops field in Clash qualifying

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LOS ANGELES — Justin Haley posted the fastest lap in Saturday’s qualifying for the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Haley will start the first of four heats on the pole after a lap of 67.099 mph (13.413 seconds). The four heat races will be held Sunday afternoon, followed by two last chance qualifying races and then the Busch Clash on Sunday night.

Clash qualifying results

“I feel pretty confident about where we are,” Haley said. “I’m not sure why we’re so good here.”

The top four qualifiers will start on the pole for their heat race.

Kyle Busch, who was second on the speed chart with a lap of 66.406 mph, will start on the pole for the second heat. That comes in his first race with Richard Childress Racing after having spent the past 15 seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Christopher Bell, third on the speed chart with a lap of 66.328 mph, will start on the pole for the third heat. William Byron, fourth in qualifying with a lap of 66.196 mph, will start on the pole in the fourth heat race.

The pole-sitters for each of the four heat races last year all won their heat. That included Haley, who was third fastest in qualifying last year and won the third heat from the pole.

Ty Gibbs was not allowed to qualify because of unapproved adjustments his team made while making repairs to his car after the door foam caught fire during practice. NASCAR deemed that the Joe Gibbs Racing team made adjustments to the car not directly related to the damage.

Ryan Blaney‘s fastest qualifying lap was disallowed after he stopped the car in Turn 4 and turned it around and to go back to the backstretch and build speed for his final lap. NASCAR disallowed the time from that final lap for the maneuver.

Section 7.8.F of the Cup Rule Book states: “Unless otherwise determined by the Series Managing Director, drivers who encounter a problem during Qualifying will not be permitted to travel counter Race direction.”

The top five finishers in each of the four 25-lap heat races advance to the Clash. The top three in the two 50-lap last chance races move on to the Clash. The final spot in the 27-car field is reserved for the driver highest in points not yet in the field.

Chase Briscoe, AJ Allmendinger in first on-track conflict of the season.

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LOS ANGELES — The first on-track conflict of the 2023 NASCAR Cup season?

Did you have Chase Briscoe and AJ Allmendinger?

They made contact during Saturday night’s practice session at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the Busch Light Clash.

Busch Clash practice results

Briscoe explained what happened from his point of view.

“(Allmendinger) was slowing down so much on the straightaway to get a gap (away from other cars),” Briscoe told Motor Racing Network. “I felt like I was beside him pretty far down the straightaway. I got in there a little hot for sure, but, honestly, I thought he was going to give it to me since we were in practice. Went into (Turn) 3 and he just drove me straight into the fence. Definitely frustrating. … Just unfortunate. We don’t have a single back-up car out there between the four of us at SHR. 

“Definitely will set us behind quite a bit. Just chalk it up in the memory blank.”

Asked what happened with Briscoe, Allmendinger told MRN: “He ran inside of me, so I made sure I paid him back and sent him into the fence.

“It’s practice. I get it, I’m struggling and in the way, but come barreling in there. I just showed my displeasure for it. That’s not the issue. We’re just not very good right now.”

Earlier in practice, Ty Gibbs had to climb out of his car after it caught on fire. Gibbs exiting the car safely. The Joe Gibbs Racing team worked on making repairs to his No. 54 car. NASCAR stated that the car would not be allowed to qualify because of unapproved adjustments, modifications not directly related to the damage.

NASCAR will not race at Auto Club Speedway in 2024

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LOS ANGELES — Auto Club Speedway will not host a NASCAR race next year because of plans to convert the 2-mile speedway into a short track.

It will mark only the second time the Cup Series has not raced at the Southern California track since first competing there in 1997. Cup did not race at the track in 2021 because of the pandemic.

Dave Allen, Auto Club Speedway president, also said Saturday that “it’s possible” that the track might not host a NASCAR race in 2025 because of how long it could take to make the conversion. 

MORE: Details for Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum 

NASCAR came to the Fontana, California, track during the sport’s expansion in the late 1990s that also saw Cup debut at Texas (1997), Las Vegas (1998) and Homestead (1999).

Auto Club Speedway begins the West Coast swing this season, hosting the Cup Series on Feb. 26, a week after the Daytona 500. The series then goes to Las Vegas and Phoenix the following two weeks.

Auto Club Speedway has been among a favorite of drivers because of its aging pavement that put more of the car’s control in the hands of competitors. 

Allen said that officials continue to work on the track’s design. It is expected to be a half-mile track. With NASCAR already having a half-mile high-banked track (Bristol) and half-mile low-banked track (Martinsville), Allen said that a goal is to make Auto Club Speedway stand out.

“It has to make a statement, and making sure that we have a racetrack that is unique to itself here and different than any of the tracks they go to is very important,” Allen said. “Having said that, it’s equally important … to make sure that the fan experience part is unique.”

Kyle Larson, who won last year’s Cup race at Auto Club Speedway, said that he talked to Allen on Saturday was told the track project likely will take about 18 months. 

“I don’t know exactly the extent of what they’re doing with the track, how big it’s going to be, the shape or banking and all that, and I love the 2-mile track, but I think the more short tracks we can have, the better off our sport is going to be,” Larson said.

With Auto Club Speedway off the schedule in 2024, it would mean the only time Cup raced in the Los Angeles area would be at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. NASCAR has a three-year contract with the Coliseum to race there and holds the option to return.

Sunday’s Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum marks the second year of that agreement. Last year’s inaugural event at the Coliseum drew about 50,000 fans. NASCAR has not publicly stated if it will return to the Coliseum next year.