Revamped Daytona gets rave reviews from Ganassi and drivers

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While most other NASCAR drivers and teams won’t see the finished Daytona Rising project for another few weeks when they come down to Florida for Speedweeks, several of those competing in the Jan. 29-30 Rolex 24 got a sneak preview of the “new” Daytona International Speedway this week.

Not surprisingly, the reactions were all positive.

“It’s definitely taller and bigger for sure,’ ” driver Kyle Larson said Friday during a Rolex 24 media session. “When we come back in a couple weeks, and I have some time to spend in a day, I’d like to go up into the stands and see the breezeway and stuff like that.

“I’ve heard that’s really, really spectacular. Once I get on the other side of the racetrack other than being in the infield, I’ll see all the changes and how cool they are.’ ”

Larson and Sprint Cup teammate Jamie McMurray will team with 2015 IndyCar champ Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan in the No. 02 Ford for owner Chip Ganassi, which won last year’s Rolex 24.

McMurray was quite effusive at what he saw when he pulled into the DIS infield.

“When I was driving in, you can see how big the grandstands are,” McMurray told reporters. “I didn’t quite get how big that was going to be from (a photo he previously had seen of the completed project).

“Also, from just being here in July, the stands weren’t up yet. First thing you notice is there are no backstretch stands; which is odd. But when you look at how big the frontstretch is, it’s pretty cool.”

DIS President Joie Chitwood III has referred to the $400 million renovation — the biggest change in the track’s history since it first opened in 1959 — as creating the world’s first “motorsports stadium,” something McMurray concurs with.

“To go outside the track and look in, it doesn’t look like a racetrack, it looks like a stadium,” he said. “It’s really cool. They did an awesome job on that.”

Ganassi has seen quite a bit in his 30-plus years as a racer and team owner. It takes a lot to impress him. But suffice to say he’s definitely impressed with the new Daytona.

“When you first hear they spent $400 million, your initial reaction as a racer is, ‘Oh my goodness, surely they didn’t spend 400 million dollars,’ ” Ganassi said. “And then you see the work that’s been done, you’re looking at the grandstands and if you have a chance to see what’s behind the grandstand and what’s underneath it — it looks like they spent $800 million.

“It’s really something, really first-class, really, really done right. I think it’s going to take our sport to a new level in terms of amenities and what the fans can expect. It’s going to put pressure on the other tracks.

“This is going to be the Ritz-Carlton of race tracks in terms of amenities. It’s what you see at the finest NFL stadiums and NHL arenas. And it’s money spent for the fans. I couldn’t be happier for what it’s going to do for our fans and for our sport. People are going to be talking about their experience as a fan at Daytona.”

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NASCAR Open starting lineup at Bristol

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Michael McDowell will start on the pole for the NASCAR Open at Bristol Motor Speedway after a random draw. Aric Almirola joins him on the front row.

Click here for NASCAR Open starting lineup

The winners of each segment advance to the All-Star Race, along with the fan vote winner. Last year, Kyle Larson won a segment in the Open to advance to the All-Star Race and then won that event. Other segment winners last year were William Byron and Bubba Wallace. Alex Bowman advanced through the fan vote a year ago. Bowman has already qualified for this year’s All-Star Race.

 

NASCAR Open at Bristol 

Race Time: 7 p.m. ET Wednesday

Track: Bristol Motor Speedway; Bristol, Tennessee (0.533-mile speedway)

Length: 85 laps over three segments, 45.3 miles

Segments: Segment 1 is 35 laps. Segment 2 is 35 laps. Segment 3 is 15 laps.

TV coverage: FS1

Radio: Performance Racing Network (also SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Streaming: Fox Sports app (subscription required); goprn.com and SiriusXM for audio (subscription required)

Next Xfinity race: Saturday at Texas (200 laps, 300 miles), 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Next Truck race: Saturday at Texas (167 laps, 250.5 miles) 8 p.m. ET on FS1

Martin Truex Jr. to start on pole for All-Star Race at Bristol

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Martin Truex Jr., who is seeking his first All-Star Race win, will start on the pole for Wednesday night’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway after a random draw.

Truex will be joined on the front row by Alex Bowman.

Rookie Cole Custer, who earned a spot in the All-Star Race with his win Sunday at Kentucky, will start eighth.

Click here for All-Star Lineup

  • Positions 17-19 will go to segment winners from the NASCAR Open. The 20th starting spot goes to the fan vote winner, which will be announced after the NASCAR Open

Among the special rules for the race:

# The Chose Rule will be used. As drivers approach a designated spot on the track, they must commit to the inside or outside lane for the restart.

# The car number will move from the door toward the rear wheel to give sponsors more exposure.

# Cars that have automatically qualified for the All-Star Race will have underglow lights on their cars.

 

NASCAR All-Star Race at Bristol 

Race Time: 8:30 p.m. ET Wednesday

Track: Bristol Motor Speedway; Bristol, Tennessee (0.533-mile speedway)

Length: 140 laps over four segments, 74.6 miles

Segments: Segment 1 is 55 laps. Segment 2 is 35 laps. Segment 3 is 35 laps. Segment 4 is 15 laps (only green flag laps count in this segment).

TV coverage: FS1

Radio: Performance Racing Network (also SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Streaming: Fox Sports app (subscription required); goprn.com and SiriusXM for audio (subscription required)

Next Xfinity race: Saturday at Texas (200 laps, 300 miles), 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Next Truck race: Saturday at Texas (167 laps, 250.5 miles) 8 p.m. ET on FS1

Xfinity playoff grid after Kentucky doubleheader

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The Xfinity Series went to Kentucky Speedway for a doubleheader and Austin Cindric left the track with two wins and a spot in the playoffs.

Cindric, who claimed the first oval track NASCAR wins of his career, is now third on the playoff grid among the six drivers locked into the postseason. He has 15 playoff points.

Noah Gragson, who is second on the grid, won three of four stages in Kentucky and has 18 playoff points.

Six spots remain to be filled on the playoff grid. The last two drivers currently in the top 12 are Ryan Sieg (+57 points above cutline) and Brandon Brown (+14).

The first four drivers outside the top 12 are Myatt Snider (-14 points from cutline), Jeremy Clements (-30), Alex Labbe (-42) and Jesse Little (-47).

Cup playoff grid after Kentucky Speedway

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Cole Custer delivered the first curveball to the NASCAR Cup Series’ playoff chase Sunday when he won at Kentucky Speedway.

Custer entered the race 25th in the points, nine spots back from the cutoff line for 16-driver field.

Now, Custer is one of nine drivers locked into the playoffs, meaning the cutoff for the postseason is 15th in points.

Among those currently in the playoff grid who are not locked in, the last two are William Byron (+30 points) and Jimmie Johnson (+24).

The first four drivers sitting outside a playoff spot are Austin Dillon (-24 points from cutoff), Tyler Reddick (-41), Erik Jones (-42) and Bubba Wallace (-84).