Phoenix: A speedway in short-track clothing

0 Comments

What do you do when you visit a 1-mile race track that has less corner banking than Martinsville Speedway?

You take your short-track car.

That’s what Austin Dillon‘s Sprint Cup team is doing for Sunday’s Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

“We want to get as much front turn as possible,” Dillon said in a news release. “Short-track cars are also lighter. The lighter the car, the faster the car. Every car we build now is as light and fast as we can get it. There aren’t a ton of differences in the cars because we feel like aerodynamics are really important no matter what track we’re racing.”

PIR isn’t a traditional short track, and it’s not as big as most “intermediate tracks,” such as the 1.5 mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway that played host to NASCAR last weekend. But Phoenix has 11-degree banking in Turns 1 and 2 and 9-degree banking in Turns 3 and 4.

The banking at Martinsville’s 0.526-mile oval is 12 degrees.

“It has a lot to do with the angle and degree of the banking at Phoenix,” Dillon said. “Turns 3 and 4 are flat, and 1 and 2 is just a weird corner. You don’t really race anywhere like that all year long, so it’s a difficult driving track. When you have a good handling car, it helps a lot.”

After drivers navigate the 11-degree banking in Turns 1 and 2, they transition to the 9-degree banking of the backstretch. But the 1, 511-foot backstretch isn’t a straight line. At halfway, the surface curves sharply to the left in what’s called the “dogleg.”

Combined with the track’s flat apron, the “dogleg” allows driver the opportunity to dive bomb their cars in an effort to get to Turn 3 before a car in front of them. It’s the kind of maneuver one could expect at a short track or in a road-course race, which have taken on short-track tendencies in recent years.

“You just have to decide whether it’s worth it to slam your race car down on the ground,” Carl Edwards said.

Phoenix will be the third track where the Sprint Cup Series uses its new lower-downforce package. Drivers have different views as to how it will handle compared to Atlanta and Las Vegas, both 1.5-mile tracks with corner banking of 24 and 20 degrees, respectively.

“Turn 1 has a lot of banking to hold you, so that’ll be about mechanical,” rookie Chris Buescher said in a release. “You do have a lot of entry speed getting into Turn 3, and it’s very flat. So, I feel like that’s going to be where the different aero package will show up.”

Kurt Busch, a winner at Phoenix in 2005, is hoping for more of the same.

“Where you have the speed drop-off, and that the cars will handle worse, and that the driver has to work harder to maintain lap time,” Busch said in a release. “At a flat track, you really don’t get to keep your momentum up. So, it will be interesting to see how it plays out versus a mile-and-a-half track.”

The team of Matt Kenseth, a November 2002 winner at PIR, tested the 2016 package at the track last fall.

“It’s a place where passing is a little more difficult,” Kenseth said in a release. “I feel though that this package is going to help out with passing everywhere, so I’m interested to see how it all plays out this weekend. As the track surface continues to age in Phoenix, the groove moves around, the pace slows up a little bit, and I always feel that the racing just continues to get better.”

Talladega Xfinity starting lineup: Austin Hill wins pole

0 Comments

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

0 Comments

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

0 Comments

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.

 

Could Talladega open door for a record 20th winner?

0 Comments

Talladega Superspeedway is known for fast speeds, huge drafting packs, sensational wrecks and tight finishes.

On Sunday (2 p.m. ET on NBC), it could be the site of an unexpected record.

Nineteen different drivers have won Cup races this season, tying a record. If a new winner shows up in Talladega victory lane Sunday, it will mark the first time in the sport’s history that 20 drivers have won races in a single season.

One of the remarkable things about that possibility is that the driver who has far and away the best record at Talladega among active drivers is among the group still looking for a win in 2022. That’s Brad Keselowski, who has won six times at NASCAR’s biggest track. No other active driver has more than three. (Keselowski is tied for second on the all-time Talladega win list with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. Dale Earnhardt tops that list with 10).

Talladega and Daytona tend to reject repeat winners. The past nine races at the two tracks have been won by nine different drivers.

Other seasonal non-winners who could break through at Talladega:

Ryan BlaneyBlaney’s only win this year is in the All-Star Race, so he’s still looking for his first points win while continuing to chase the championship. He won at Talladega in 2019 and 2020.

Martin Truex Jr. — Superspeedways have been a pox on Truex’s career. In 70 races at Talladega and Daytona, he has failed to win.

Aric Almirola — In what has been a disappointing season, Almirola’s best finish is a fifth — twice. He won at Talladega in 2018 but hasn’t had a top 10 in his last four runs there.

Michael McDowell — McDowell’s best finish at Talladega is a third, but he is usually very competitive in the Talladega and Daytona drafts, winning the 2021 Daytona 500.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Stenhouse won at Talladega in 2017 and usually is a factor in the draft.

Harrison Burton — Burton has had a tough rookie season, but the peculiarities of the Talladega draft should play in his favor. The No. 21 team’s next win will be its 100th.

Justin Haley — Haley has no top-10 runs in five Talladega starts, but he showed potential last week with a third-place finish at Texas.

Corey LaJoie — LaJoie has started nine Cup races at Talladega and has led exactly one lap. His best finish is a seventh.

Noah Gragson — Gragson, the star of this Xfinity season, is in the No. 48 for Hendrick Motorsports with Alex Bowman out because of concussion-like symptoms. In the Talladega draft he could be a threat.