What you need to know about Saturday’s Xfinity heat races at Bristol


The two heat races that will precede Saturday’s Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway will have a potential $100,000 twist.

To inject additional excitement into the four-race Dash 4 Cash series, NASCAR will be going back to its roots with a pair of heat races to set the lineup for the main event.

While NASCAR has used heat races in the Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora (Ohio) Speedway, this is the first time heat races have been implemented in the Xfinity Series.

Here’s what you need to know:

* Each heat race will be 50 laps with no overtime. The main event will be 200 laps, with the potential for overtime.

* Odd-number car qualifiers (first, third, fifth, etc.) will compete in the first heat race, while even-number qualifiers (second, fourth, sixth, etc.) will compete in the second heat race.

* How a driver finishes in the heat races will determine their starting position in the main event. The front row will be made up of the winners of each heat race. The fastest of those two from qualifying will have lane choice.

* The top two finishers — who score points in the Xfinity Series — in each heat race will make up the four-driver field eligible for the $100,000 prize. The driver who finishes the best among those four wins the money.

* If a car wrecks or blows an engine during its heat and cannot make repairs prior to the start of the main event, the team will not race in the main. No backup cars.

* Heat races will also take place at the other three events on the Dash 4 Cash schedule: Richmond (April 23), Dover (May 14) and the finale at Indianapolis (July 23).

* The distance of the heat races and the main events at all four tracks are different: Bristol (50-lap heat races, 200-lap main event), Richmond (35-lap heat races, 140-lap main event), Dover (40-lap heat races, 200-lap main event) and Indianapolis (20-lap heat races, 60-lap main event).

* If a driver earns two Dash 4 Cash honors, that is equal to a regular-season race win for Xfinity Series Chase eligibility.

* If a driver wins the first three Dash 4 Cash prizes and then wins the Indianapolis race outright, they will earn an additional $600,000.

Here’s what drivers and NASCAR officials are saying about the new format:

Brendan Gaughan: “This is one that nobody in this series in this sport has ever done. Yeah, there are late model races and dash races, but not in this format and this style. I’m excited to try it. I don’t know if it will be good or bad. I don’t care if it’s good or bad. Let’s get there and see what it does. If I win $100,000 at Bristol, I’m going to say ‘I love it.’ If I don’t, I’m going to say, ‘Eh, let’s go to next week and see how it goes.’ I think that’s a very cool thing.”

Elliott Sadler: “It’s kind of nerve-racking knowing that you can wreck your car in the heat race and can’t even race in the feature, so that’s kind of a tough concept. Of all the places to put it at, to put it at Bristol was a good idea on Xfinity’s and NASCAR’s part.”

Erik Jones: “I’m most curious about how people are going to race, knowing that you can’t go to a backup car before the feature or the main. So I’m interested to see how people kind of handle that fact.”

Daniel Suarez: “It’s going to be different – a lot of people are going to be racing, a lot of people are going to be just being smart to be safe for the main race. I’m going to go out and race.”

Ty Dillon: “I’m super excited about it. I grew up dirt racing and heat racing was always a part of the format of how we competed. It will be interesting to see how it plays out, but we’ve already started to strategize for this race. It’s unique in a sense that the main race is a lot shorter. There definitely is a lot less room for error. We’re going to have to be perfect. Qualify well. Make the right adjustments. I’m really looking forward to the next two races with this format.”

Brandon Jones: “I think you’ll see a lot of drivers go for it in the heat races and get the Dash 4 Cash qualifying positions. It’s a really neat format for us Xfinity Series drivers. I’m excited to see how it plays out. There’s going to be a lot of action in the heat races, and I know the main event won’t disappoint.”

Ryan Reed: “I grew up heat racing, racing late models out in California. I haven’t run a heat race in probably four or five years, so I’m really excited to kind of get back to that and get back to the roots a little bit, and I think all the fans are as well and I’m sure all the media is as well. Bristol is a tough track regardless and then you throw in heat races and give us one more opportunity to go out there and tear up the car before the end of the race is gonna be challenging.”

Xfinity Series managing director Wayne Auton: “This is a great opportunity for the back half of the garage as much as it is the front half. This gives them an opportunity to really go for some good money and they feel like they got a shot at it.”

Auton on tires and fuel: “You have to start the heat on the tires you qualified on and you have to start the heat on the fuel (from qualifying). No one should run out of fuel with the amount of laps we’re running.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Charlotte Cup race postponed to Monday by weather


CONCORD, N.C. — All-day rain Sunday forced the postponement of the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Cup Series race to Monday.

The postponement means that Charlotte Motor Speedway is scheduled to host 900 miles of stock car racing Monday. A 300-mile Xfinity Series race, originally scheduled Saturday and first postponed to noon Monday, has been rescheduled for 11 a.m. ET Monday (FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The Cup race is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. (Fox, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Sunday’s Cup race was scheduled to start at 6:21 p.m. ET, but light rain was still falling at that time in the speedway area near Charlotte. Rain intensified a few minutes later and, despite an evening forecast that showed slight improvement, officials decided at 6:30 p.m. to postpone the race.

Monday’s forecast calls for a 34% chance of rain at the start of the Xfinity race and a 30% chance at the start of the Cup race.

William Byron will start the race from the pole after qualifying was washed out Saturday night.

RFK Racing gains sponsorship from submarine recruiting group


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR racing and submarines? Yes.

RFK Racing announced Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway that it has entered a partnership with BlueForge Alliance, which is involved in securing workers for the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Industrial Base (SIB) program. BuildSubmarines.com will be a primary sponsor for RFK drivers Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher in 10 Cup Series races this year and in 18 races per season beginning in 2024.

The sponsorship will showcase the careers related to the submarine-building program across the nation.

MORE: Jimmie Johnson on his NASCAR team and his approach to Le Mans

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns from injury

“I’m proud to support a cause of such vital significance to our country with this new partnership,” Keselowski said. “The synergies between a NASCAR team and our military’s needs to stay on track fast are countless. We hope to inspire the workforce of the next generation across the country when they see RFK race and hear our message.”

The sponsorship will support the mission to recruit, hire, train, develop and retain the SIB workforce that will build the Navy’s next generation of submarines, the team said.

“We are excited and grateful to be teaming with RFK Racing to drive awareness of the thousands of steady, well-paying manufacturing jobs available across the nation. Innovation, working with purpose and service to others are hallmarks of both of our organizations,” said Kiley Wren, BlueForge chief executive. “Together, we aim to inspire NASCAR fans and all Americans to pursue career opportunities that will support our national defense.”

Kyle Larson visits Indianapolis Motor Speedway to survey the scene


Former NASCAR champion Kyle Larson, who is scheduled to run the Indianapolis 500 in 2024 as part of an Indy-Charlotte “double,” visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway garage area Sunday on Indianapolis 500 race day.

Larson said he wanted to familiarize himself with the Indy race-day landscape before he becomes immersed in the process next year.

MORE: Jimmie Johnson is building a team and pointing to Le Mans

Larson later returned to Charlotte, where was scheduled to drive in the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday night. Next year, he’s scheduled to run both races.

“I love racing,” Larson told NBC Sports. “I love competing in the biggest races. In my opinion, this is the biggest race in the world. I wanted to be a part of it for a long time, and I finally feel like the timing is right. It’s pretty cool to have a dream come true.

“I wanted to come here and kind of experience it again and get to experience how crazy it is again before I’m in the middle of it next year. I kind of want as little surprise as possible next year.”

In the 2024 500, Larson will be one of four drivers with the Arrow McLaren team.

Earlier this month, Larson and Hendrick Motorsports vice chairman Jeff Gordon attended an Indy 500 practice day.

Larson said Sunday he hasn’t tested an Indy car.

“I don’t know exactly when I’ll get in the car,” he said. “I’ve had no sim (simulator) time yet. I’ve kind of stayed back. I didn’t want to ask too many questions and take any focus on what they have going on for these couple of weeks. I’m sure that will pick up after today.

“I look forward to the challenge. No matter how this experience goes, I’m going to come out of it a better race car driver.”




Jimmie Johnson: Building a team and pointing toward Le Mans


CONCORD, N.C. — These are busy days in the life of former NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.

Johnson is a co-owner of Legacy Motor Club, the Cup Series team that has struggled through a difficult first half of the season while it also is preparing for a switch from Chevrolet to Toyota next year.

Johnson is driving a very limited schedule for Legacy as he seeks to not only satisfy his passion for racing but also to gain knowledge as he tries to lift Legacy to another level. As part of that endeavor, he’ll race in the Coca-Cola 600 in Legacy’s No. 84 car, making his third appearance of the season.

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns to track

MORE: Dr. Diandra: 600 tests man more than machine

And, perhaps the biggest immediate to-do item on Johnson’s list: He’ll race June 10-11 in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s biggest endurance race and another of the bucket list races the 47-year-old Johnson will check off his list.

“I’m excited, invigorated, exhausted — all of it,” Johnson said. “It has been a really exciting adventure that I’ve embarked on here — to learn from (Legacy co-owner) Maury Gallagher, to be a part of this great team and learn from everyone that I’m surrounded by. I’m in a whole new element here and it’s very exciting to be in a new element.

“At the same time, there are some foundational pieces coming together, decisions that we’re making, that will really help the team grow in the future. And then we have our job at hand – the situation and environment that we have at hand to deal with in the 2023 season. Depends on the hat that I’m wearing, in some respects. There’s been a lot of work, but a lot of excitement and a lot of fun. I truly feel like I’m a part of something that’s really going to be a force in the future of NASCAR.”

Johnson is scheduled to fly to Paris Monday or Tuesday to continue preparations for the Le Mans race. He, Jenson Button and Mike Rockenfeller will be driving a Hendrick Motorsports-prepared Chevrolet as part of Le Mans’ Garage 56 program, which is designed to offer a Le Mans starting spot for a team testing new technologies.

“For me, it’s really been about identifying marquee races around the world and trying to figure out how to run in them,” Johnson said. “Le Mans is a great example of that. Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600 — these are the marquee events.”

He said his biggest concerns approaching the 24-hour race are being overtaken by faster prototypes in corners and racing at night  while dealing with the very bright lights of cars approaching in his rear view mirrors.

At Legacy, Johnson has work to do. Erik Jones has a top finish of sixth (and one other top 10) this season, and Noah Gragson is still looking for his first top-10 run. He has a best finish of 12th – at Atlanta.

“I think Erik (Jones) continues to show me just how good he is,” Johnson said. “He’s been in some challenging circumstances this year and keeps his head on — focuses, executes and gets the job done. I’ve really been impressed with his ability to stay calm and execute and just how good he is.

“With Noah, from watching him before, I wasn’t sure how serious he took his job in the sport. I knew that he was fast, and I knew that he liked to have fun. I can say in the short time that I’ve really worked with him closely, he still has those two elements, but his desire to be as good as he can in this sport has really impressed me. So I guess ultimately, his commitment to his craft is what’s impressed me the most.”