Wood Brothers, Ryan Blaney feel right at home at Martinsville

Leave a comment

This is a very big weekend for Wood Brothers Racing at Martinsville Speedway.

It’s the first time the Wood Brothers, whose operation began 66 years ago in nearby Stuart, Virginia, have competed in a Sprint Cup race at their home track since 2011.

And it’s also the first time Ryan Blaney will drive a Sprint Cup car at the half-mile bullring.

“It’s nice to be back at Martinsville with the Wood Brothers team,” Blaney said during a Friday morning news conference at the track. “It’s nice to be back at pretty much their home track.

“Stuart (VA) is only 20 miles away from here, not even, so it’s cool to be back here and with those guys and kind of have everybody out and see everything.”

Team patriarch Glen Wood, 90, is expected to attend Sunday’s race, Blaney said.

“It’s really going to be nice to get him to another race, so hopefully that will go well for him,” Blaney said.

And Blaney hopes things will go well for him in Sunday’s race. While this will be his first Cup race at Martinsville, he has five previous starts in a Truck there, with three fifth-place finishes, as well as an eighth- and 16th-place finish.

So, in a way, he kind of feels right at home, both with his past experience there, as well as his own personal legacy at Martinsville.

“I remember growing up watching my dad race here,” Blaney said. “I grew up 45 minutes away in High Point, North Carolina, and I would come to this race every year and watch my dad and watch the trucks.

“I just thought it was such a cool place. It’s really neat to be able to run a Cup car, let alone the 21 car over here. That just kind of adds to the special factor, but it’s nice to be back and cool to be making my first Cup start here.”

Blaney has performed well at times in the first five races of the season. He finished sixth at Las Vegas and 10th the following week at Phoenix.

But he also struggled at Daytona (19th), Atlanta (25th) and two weeks ago at Fontana (36th).

“It’s good to have a couple top-10s and have some strong runs,” Blaney said. “I always say there are some races you wish you could take back, like Atlanta and Fontana a couple of weeks ago.

“We blew a tire (at Fontana), but those are just problems you have to minimize, and it stinks you have two of them early off in the year, but you try to learn from them as much as you can and try to grow from them and try to not have those happen again.”

This is the first full-time season in the Sprint Cup Series for the Wood Brothers since 2008.

“I honestly get that question every single weekend – if there’s pressure with the Wood Brothers going back to this track they haven’t been to in a while,” Blaney said. “It’s been a lot of fun to drive for them and be here every week and work with everybody on this race team, whether they’re new or veterans of the Wood Brothers team.

“It’s just cool to be at the track and be around everybody, so there’s definitely no pressure. We’re just out here trying to relax and have fun, and it’s just kind of a bonus that we’re here in their home state and their home track, where we’re going to have a lot of fans.”

But there’s also a lot of comfort in knowing how good the Ford Fusion he’s driving is, as well.

“It’s nice to know we have fast race cars,” Blaney said. “We’ve had fairly good cars every single weekend and we’re just getting better every single weekend.

“As we work together, as this team kind of bonds – this is a fairly new team. … We kept most of the Wood Brothers personnel that has been there for a long time, but we brought in some new people just to help out with the full-time gig because it’s a lot more work.

“They’re just kind of getting acclimated to each other. … The more they work together, the stronger that relationship is going to be, and I think it will get a lot smoother from there on out, but it’s been a good start to the year so far.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Cup to run on Indy road course in 2021

Leave a comment

The NASCAR Cup Series will return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2021 but will race on the road course for the first time instead of the oval, track officials announced Wednesday.

Cup will race on the road course on Aug. 15. That race will be held a day after the NTT IndyCar Series races on the Indy road course.

“Our first NASCAR-IndyCar weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants involved,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and IndyCar together during this exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

MORE: Atlanta to have two Cup dates in 2021

MORE: Darlington to run Cup races on Mother’s Day, Labor Day weekend in 2021

The Cup Series has raced at Indy since 1994. But as the racing there has been questioned and the sport has made a push for more road course races, NASCAR moved the Xfinity Series to the road course this year as a trial. The event was well received, creating the opportunity to move next year’s Cup race to the road course as well.

“Indy is Indy, no matter if you’re on the road course or you’re on the oval,” Joey Logano said of what a win there would mean. “It doesn’t matter. If you’re on the dirt track, I don’t care, it’s Indy. It’s that big deal to win there. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a Cup car, IndyCar or a tricycle, you want to win at that race track.”

Indy’s road course is 2.439 miles and features 14 turns. Chase Briscoe won the Xfinity race there after a four-car battle for the lead in the final laps.

The full Cup schedule will be announced Wednesday afternoon. The Xfinity schedule will be announced at a later date. Boles said on a media Zoom he was unsure of the Xfinity plans but talked with Logano about an interest Logano would have in running in a Xfinity race there to get more track time for the Cup race.

 

Darlington Raceway gets second Cup race for 2021

Leave a comment

Darlington Raceway will have two races in 2021, marking the first time since 2004 that the track has been scheduled to hold multiple Cup races in a season. The track announced its schedule Wednesday with South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster at the Governor’s mansion.

“Congratulations. Thank you. Hallelujah,” Gov. McMaster said after the dates were announced.

Darlington was scheduled to host one race in 2020 but added two more in NASCAR’s return to racing after the season was suspended by the COVID-19 pandemic.

MORE: Atlanta to host two Cup races in 2021 for first time since 2010

The track will hold its first Cup race next season on May 9. That is Mother’s Day. It marks only the third time in the last 40 years the series will have run on Mother’s Day. The series last raced on Mother’s Day in 2007 when rain forced the Darlington race to be held that afternoon. The only other time NASCAR raced on Mother’s Day in the last 40 years was 1986 when the All-Star Race was held at Atlanta.

Darlington’s second date will be its Southern 500 event on Sept. 5, Labor Day weekend. That race will again open the  Cup playoffs.

NASCAR will announce the 2021 Cup schedule on Wednesday afternoon.

Darlington hosted two Cup races a season from 1960-2004. It held one Cup race from 2005-19.

The track stated that 2021 schedules for the NASCAR Xfinity and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will be announced at a later date.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, tweeted that the Darlington races would be run with the low downforce package.

 

 

Atlanta to host two Cup races in 2021

1 Comment

Atlanta Motor Speedway will host two Cup races in 2021, marking the first time since 2010 that the 1.5-mile speedway will have multiple Cup events in the same season.

Atlanta will host Cup races on March 21 and July 11.

The July 11 race will be the Quaker State 400 Presented by Walmart, moving sponsorship that had been with Kentucky Speedway. Kentucky Speedway will not be on the 2021 schedule. Its date becomes the second Atlanta date. The March race will be known at the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.

The July race marks the first 400-mile race at Atlanta since 1966.

The track announced its dates Wednesday morning. The full 2021 Cup schedule will be released Wednesday afternoon.

Atlanta Motor Speedway stated on its website that it plans to host fans in its stands and camping areas in socially distanced, limited capacity for each of its Cup races in 2021.

“We’re beyond excited to deliver what our fans have been yearning for: a second weekend of NASCAR action in Atlanta once again,” AMS Executive Vice President and General Manager Brandon Hutchison said in a statement. “Folds of Honor and QuikTrip continue to be phenomenal partners for our spring weekend of racing and we’re thrilled to have Quaker State and Walmart on board this summer as we put together two weekends of entertainment and excitement for race fans.”

Talladega Truck starting lineup

Talladega Truck starting lineup
Photo by David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sheldon Creed will lead the Talladega Truck starting lineup to the green flag in Saturday’s playoff race.

Creed led a race-high 89 laps last week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway before finishing second to Austin Hill. That win moved Hill to the next round of the playoffs.

Hill will start Saturday’s race second. Zane Smith, Grant Enfinger and Chandler Smith will follow him.

Click here for starting lineup

The race is the final event in the first round. Two drivers will be eliminated. Ben Rhodes is six points behind Christian Eckes for the final transfer spot. Todd Gilliland trails Eckes by 19 points.

Eckes starts sixth, Gilliland starts 10th and Rhodes starts 11th.

“We’re gonna go in there and be aggressive,” Gilliland said. “If we wreck trying to go for the win, I think we can live with ourselves on that, whereas other guys that might be able to let someone in and still make it on points, those guys are gonna be looking behind them and worrying about points this whole week. For us, it’s pretty simple.  There’s no one behind us. We can only move forward from here if we do our job right.”

The Talladega Truck starting lineup is set by using a formula based on four statistical categories: owner points position, owner final race position, the finish and fastest lap from the most recently completed race.

Performance Metrics Qualifying is a total number based on the previous race. The formula is 15% of a fastest lap time position, 25% of the driver’s final race finish position, 25% of the owner’s final race position and 35% of the owner points position. Any ties will be broken by the rule book.

NASCAR Cup Series at Talladega 

Race time: 1 p.m. ET, Saturday

Track: Talladega Superspeedway; Talladega, Alabama (2.66-mile speedway)

Length: 94 laps (250.04 miles)

Stages: Stage 1 ends Lap 20. Stage 2 ends Lap 40.

TV coverage: FS1

Radio: Motor Racing Network (also SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Streaming: NBC Sports app (subscription required); mrn.com and SiriusXM for audio (subscription required)

Lineup: Click here for starting lineup

Next Xfinity race: Saturday at Talladega (113 laps, 300.58 miles), 4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Next Cup race: Sunday at Talladega (188 laps, 500 miles), 2 p.m. ET on NBC