NASCAR schedules critical meeting for 2016 rules

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JOLIET, Ill. – NASCAR will hold a meeting with drivers, crew chiefs, manufacturers and Goodyear next Friday in New Hampshire to help chart the course for the 2016 Sprint Cup rules package.

“I think (the rules will) be finalized,” Goodyear general manager of worldwide racing Stu Grant told NASCAR Talk in a Saturday interview at Chicagoland Speedway. “It should be a good session to say here’s where we are going to make sure we’re on the same page.”

After receiving rave reviews at Kentucky Speedway and Darlington Raceway, it’s expected the low-downforce package assuredly will be implemented next season at 1.5-mile superspeedways (which comprise the bulk of the schedule with 13 of 36 races).

Grant expects much of Friday’s discussion to focus on whether the low-downforce package also would be used at short tracks (Richmond International Raceway, Martinsville Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway) and the bigger ovals (Michigan International Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway).

The low downforce package is intended to reduce the emphasis on aerodynamics, theoretically enhancing drivers’ ability to pass because their cars aren’t as glued to the asphalt. Aerodynamics typically play less of a role on short tracks, but there was chatter last Saturday after a mostly lackluster regular season finale at Richmond International Raceway that low downforce would work on the 0.75-mile oval.

“The driver feedback is even at a place like Richmond, you can feel the aero effect,” Grant  said. “Obviously, the shorter the track, lower speeds, less aero comes into play. But off Darlington, they have said they would have liked that package at Richmond.”

The low-downforce package earned positive feedback during a two-day test this week at Kansas Speedway.

“The car feels so much better to me,” said six-time series champion Jimmie Johnson, one of four drivers in the tire test. “I’m excited for ’16, and hope that we’re going to peel a bunch more downforce off the cars like at Darlington and Kentucky.

“(The Kansas test) was the first experience I had where the softest and fastest tire was the one Goodyear wanted to use. Uusally they’re saying we’re going to take a step back from the one everybody loved, and they were all about it. They loved the fact it fired off fast and had a ton of drop off. I think we’re getting into a situation where Goodyear will be more comfortable taking softer tires to the track.”

Indeed, Grant said Goodyear is a “big fan” of using low downforce more frequently.

“It brings tires into play and takes aero away,” he said. “We were really happy with the results we had (at Kansas). We’re big fans of taking the air away. The stress on the tire and loads run for years has been tough at these fast tracks. Take some of the load off the tire, and it gives us more freedom to design. I like that.”

Goodyear will begin production on its NASCAR tires by the end of October for next season’s Daytona 500 (though that race wouldn’t feature low downforce). It has scheduled further 2016 testing within the next month at Phoenix International Raceway and Atlanta Motor Speedway and also will test at Homestead-Miami Speedway in December and Las Vegas Motor Speedway in January.

Saturday NASCAR schedule at Talladega Superspeedway

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Both the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series will race Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway.

Cup cars will start the day’s action by qualifying for Sunday’s playoff race, followed by the Truck playoff race and then the Xfinity playoff race.

Talladega Superspeedway (Cup, Xfinity and Truck)

Weekend weather

Saturday: Sunny. High of 78.

Saturday, Oct. 1

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 9:30 a.m. — Truck Series
  • 1 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 10:30 a.m. – Noon — Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series race (94 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 4 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (113 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Talladega Xfinity starting lineup: Austin Hill wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Austin Hill will lead the field to the green flag Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway after scoring his first career Xfinity Series pole.

Hill won the pole Friday with a lap of 182.036 mph. He will be joined on the front row by fellow playoff contender Ty Gibbs (181.981 mph).

MORE: Talladega Xfinity starting lineup

Playoff drivers will start in seven of the top eight spots. The exception is Sheldon Creed, who will start third after a lap of 181.870 mph. Hill and Creed give Richard Childress Racing the first and third starting spots.

Justin Allgaier (181.529) qualified fourth and Brandon Jones (181.305) completed the top five. Noah Gragson, who has won four races in a row, starts sixth after a lap of 181.134 mph and is followed by playoff drivers Josh Berry (181.052) and AJ Allmendinger (180.932).

The Xfinity Series race is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network.

Talladega Truck starting lineup: John Hunter Nemechek wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — John Hunter Nemechek will start on the pole for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race.

Nemechek earned the pole with a lap of 178.767 mph.

Nemechek is one of four playoff drivers starting in the top six: Chandler Smith (second, 177.732 mph), Zane Smith (fourth, 177.061) and Ty Majeski (sixth, 176.744). Majeski clinched a spot in next month’s championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.

MORE: Talladega Truck starting lineup

Also qualifying in the top five were Carson Hocevar (177.068) in third and Matt Crafton (176.960) in fifth.

Failing to qualify are Tim Viens, Spencer Boyd, Jason White and Natalie Decker.

Saturday Talladega Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather

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The second race of the opening round of the Xfinity playoffs takes drivers to Talladega Superspeedway.

Noah Gragson secured his spot in the next round by winning last weekend at Texas. Ryan Sieg holds the final transfer spot. Riley Herbst is the first driver below the cutline, one point behind Sieg. Also below the cutline are reigning series champion Daniel Hemric (-8 points), Brandon Jones (-12) and Jeremy Clements (-28).

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:09 p.m. … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:21 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3:30 p.m. … The invocation will be given at 4 p.m. … The Brookwood High School choir will perform the anthem at 4:02 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 113 laps (300.58 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 25. Stage 2 ends at Lap 50.

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 4 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 3:30 p.m. on USA Network. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 78 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Noah Gragson won and was followed by Jeffrey Earnhardt and AJ Allmendinger.