NASCAR’s Mike Helton on judging high-drag aero package at Indy: ‘We’ll take time’’

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NASCAR officials will not rush to judge the performance of the high-drag aero package used in Sunday’s Brickyard 400 although drivers complained about its impact on the race.

NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton said Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive’’ that officials will “take time” in assessing the package.

The high-drag package was intended to increase passing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Sunday’s race featured 16 lead changes – one more than last year’s race but the second fewest since 2011. Also, NASCAR statistics showed that there were 587 fewer green-flag passes in Sunday’s race as compared to last year’s event, which did have 16 more green-flag laps.

Matt Kenseth called the package “terrible.’’ Kyle Larson said it was “really bad.” Winner Kyle Busch said “you don’t want to feel like you’re going off into the corner and you’re going to crash every time.’’

Helton was more reserved in his comments about the package.

“We’re digesting the signs from it,’’ he told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The fans and the industry saw the race unfold as we did. There were certainly some components, the balance of competition, the opportunities that this package presented for the drivers to perform were of benefit, but we’ve heard the expressions of some of the drivers that didn’t like some of characteristics of the project.

“We can absorb all the of the science and the data we collect, including talking to the industry, the drivers, the crew members and the competition departments of the teams and the car owners to take all of that now and absorb it. That’s part of the reason we created this specific package for Indianapolis – to see the characteristics of it, knowing that there are a lot of personalities in the garage area that have different opinions … but it’s on NASCAR to come up with the one that we put in front of the fans on each individual racetrack each weekend. So, we’ll take time.’’

The package is scheduled to be used again next month at Michigan International Speedway. NASCAR used a low-downforce package at Kentucky Speedway earlier this month and will use that package again for the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Labor Day weekend. Drivers lauded the low-downforce package after the Kentucky race.

NASCAR is using races instead of test sessions to try different packages because races provide a chance to run the setups with all 43 cars on the track in situations a test can’t duplicate.

Helton said NASCAR is making these changes “to build the most competitive type of motorsports we can build. We want our product on the racetrack to be pleasing to the fans and that means close competition.’’

 

Updated entry lists for Cup, Truck at Martinsville

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Here are the entry lists for this weekend’s races.

Cup – STP 500 (2 p.m. ET Sunday on Fox Sports 1)

Thirty-six cars are entered for the sixth Cup race of the year. D.J. Kennington is listed in the No. 77 Spire Motorsports entry.

Jeb Burton is entered in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 52 Ford.

Click here for the entry list.

Gander Outdoors Truck – Martinsville 250 (2 p.m. ET Saturday on Fox Sports 1)

Thirty-nine trucks are entered. Those also entered in the Cup race are Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon and Ross Chastain. Bubba Wallace is entered in AM Racing’s No. 22 truck.

Click here for the entry list.

NASCAR America Motormouths at 5 p.m. ET with Bubba Wallace

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America presents Motormouths airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Rutledge Wood hosts with Kyle Petty and they’ll be joined by special guest Bubba Wallace.

Fans will have the chance to call into the show to ask questions.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Indy 500 analyst role part of looking forward for Danica Patrick

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It’s been 10 months since Danica Patrick last competed in an auto racing event and she is completely fine with that.

Patrick was last seen in a cockpit in last May’s Indianapolis 500, part of her mini-retirement tour from racing that also included a run in the Daytona 500.

Now she’ll be back at the track, serving as an analyst for NBC’s broadcast of the 103rd Indy 500 on May 26.

It will be an interlude to her post-racing career.

“I really don’t miss racing,” Patrick said during a teleconference Wednesday.  “I’m really happy. I selfishly set out (with) the intention I wanted to travel a lot. I’ve definitely done that. Also working on my other businesses.”

Without racing, Patrick is able to look over her “Warrior” clothing line and her Somnium wine. She’s also been a host of ESPN’s Espy Awards show.

“I’m not a look-back kind of person, I’m a look-forward (person),” Patrick said. “This is something that’s part of looking forward. This is something totally new and different for me. It’s coming at a place where I have a lot of history, but it hasn’t been my job, which is why I’m going to work really hard to make sure I’m ready, like anything else I do that’s different.

Since retiring, Patrick said she watches racing “when I can.”

“I’m not going to lie, I’m happy doing what I’m doing,” Patrick said. “It’s allowed me new opportunities like this.”

This won’t be the first time Patrick has served in an analyst role for a race. She did the same for some Xfinity Series race broadcasts in the last few years of her NASCAR career.

“It’s very good to have had that experience,” Patrick said. “Obviously I was giving my driving experience sort of perspective and that insight, which is something I’m going to be doing again. But it was a guest spot.

“This is firm and established, part of a small team of two with Mike (Tirico) and I. I think there’s going to be a lot more preparation involved, I’m going to need to know a lot more information.”

Patrick said there will be one difference in her Indy 500 experience this year compared to the eight times she competed in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

“I didn’t purposely look at the buildup of the day,” Patrick said. “I didn’t want to see the fans rolling in, all the pomp and circumstance. I really liked to keep it quiet. I wanted to just walk out there and have it be the event, not let myself get built up too much in my head with nerves, just the platform, the iconic event that it was, the millions of people. I just wanted to stay focused and go do it.

“This time, I’m sure I will see the buildup. I’m sure I’ll see the place fill in and turn from a quiet, peaceful, magical place, (and) at the shot of a cannon it’s going to start unraveling. That will be a cool perspective for me that I purposely haven’t really watched closely.”

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Bubba Wallace entered in Truck race at Martinsville

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AM Racing announced Wednesday that Bubba Wallace will drive the No. 22 entry in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series race Saturday at Martinsville Speedway.

AM Racing tweeted: “In an effort to advance the performance component of our program, we will be putting a different Chevrolet driver in the seat of the No. 22 Chevrolet Silverado for Martinsville Speedway this weekend.”

AM Racing stated that Wallace “has been selected with very specific objectives regarding program feedback and development. His record at the track speaks for itself.”

Wallace, who will be on Wednesday’s NASCAR America (5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN), has two wins in four starts in the Truck series at Martinsville. He won there in 2013 and in 2014. Both times he won driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Austin Wayne Self had driven the No. 22 entry in the first three Truck races of the season. He finished ninth at Daytona and followed that with a 27th-place finish at Atlanta and a 15th-place finish in Las Vegas. He is 12th in the points.