Xfinity Series heads to Pocono Raceway for first time in series history

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The first time Darrell Wallace Jr. pulled onto Pocono Raceway, he was “lost.”

It was 2013 and a 19-year-old Wallace was preparing for his first start at the three-turn track in the Camping World Truck Series.

“I was lost for about 20 minutes of the first practice,” Wallace told NBC Sports in a phone interview. “I didn’t know what I was doing. I had to get behind Matt Crafton to figure out how far off were and it was a pretty good ways.”

Wallace eventually finished seventh that year and eighth the following year in his only two starts at the track in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.

Wallace returns to Pocono this weekend in the Xfinity Series, which will race at the “Tricky Triangle” for the first time.

But Wallace would probably be the first to admit that any driver visiting Pocono for the first time shouldn’t follow him like he did Crafton.

“It hasn’t been one of my best tracks,” Wallace said. “I would get off rhythm and spend two to three laps trying to get it back. Two to three laps there is pretty much like an hour.”

At 2.5 miles, Pocono is one of the longest tracks on the circuit with Daytona International Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Only Talladega Superspeedway is longer at 2.66-miles.

The frontstretch itself could be mistaken for an airport runway with its length of 3,740 feet. The “backstretch” between Turns 1 and 2 is 3,055 feet and the “shortstretch” connecting Turns 2 and 3 is 1,780 feet.

One driver the inexperienced might want to follow this weekend is Ty Dillon. The Richard Childress Racing driver has competed at Pocono six times – two times each in the Sprint Cup, Truck series and ARCA.

“The first time I was actually on track, I was really blown away by how unique it is,” Dillon told NBC Sports. “It is a ‘Tricky Triangle.’ Each turn is so different and you have to change your driving style for each corner and really adjust your race car around what you want for a certain corner. It’s hard to get the whole track perfect the way you want it.

Each of Pocono’s three turns is based off a turn at a different track. Turn 1, at 14 degrees, is based on the now defunct Trenton Speedway. Turn 2, which has eight degrees of banking, is based on the turns at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The final turn, with six degrees of banking, is modeled after those seen at The Milwaukee Mile.

That final turn is the preferred one for Dillon, who has one win at Pocono in the ARCA series.

“I really like Turn 3, the real flat corner you can really charge the corner hard, carry a lot of momentum,” he said. “But it is flat, so you’re not totally loaded, you feel a little bit free. You can also carry some really good speed through there.”

With this being the Xfinity Series’ first visit to Pocono, teams will be given four 55-minute practice sessions over Thursday and Friday.

But that’s not the only way Wallace has been prepping for his return to a track, where he admits “I need to clean up on my end and be more prepared than I have been before.”

Wallace doesn’t have notes from his two truck races (“At that time it was like, show up and race”), but he does have the data and information gathered by the Sprint Cup teams of Roush Fenway Racing.

“We’ll have stuff from the Cup guys that we can look over to see what they battle throughout the race,” Wallace said. “The biggest thing for us is going back and watching film.”

There’s a lot of insight Wallace and his teammate, Ryan Reed, can gather from watching film of past races.

“You see where the groove moves to,” Wallace said. “Does it move up? Can you run two lanes or how is (a driver) setting up a pass? How is he passing people? What is he doing to get through the corner better?”

They can also view in-car camera video of drivers and view how they operate while navigating Pocono.

“(We’re) trying to watch in-car footage to see (what) shifting techniques he’s doing because we’ll do some shifting there,” Wallace said.

If Wallace takes what he’s learned and turns it into a win, he wouldn’t just be the first Xfinity Series winner at Pocono, he would also score his first series win.


Alpha Prime Racing’s road woes don’t keep team from competing


SONOMA, Calif. — Alpha Prime Racing owner Tommy Joe Martins laughs. He can. His Xfinity Series cars all are here at Sonoma Raceway.

At one point last week, it was not certain if his team’s cars would make it to Portland International Raceway.

“It was probably the toughest professional week I’ve had of my NASCAR career,” Martins told NBC Sports on Friday at Sonoma.

MORE: Kyle Larson leads Xfinity practice at Sonoma

The Alpha Prime Racing team had both its trucks break down and one of its haulers have mechanical issues last week on the way to the Pacific Northwest.

“We basically sent four pieces of equipment on the road and three of them broke,” Martins said.

For a time, the car Sage Karam is driving this weekend at Sonoma was left in a hauler in Kansas City because there wasn’t room in the dually Martins sent. It had room only for the car that was needed at Portland and other equipment. Karam’s car, which was to be a backup at Portland, was left behind.

“It’s a very helpless feeling when you feel like your stuff is stuck on the side of the road,” Martins said.

He still has one truck still in St. Louis and another in Oregon. Martins estimates the mechanical issues will cost his team about $50,000 when everything is totaled.

Trouble started well before the team left its Mooresville, North Carolina, race shop for Portland.

The Xfinity Series race at Charlotte was scheduled to run May 27. Rain forced that event to be rescheduled to May 29. Martins said the team had planned to send its trucks to Portland on May 28. With the race pushed back to the 29th, the travel schedule tightened.

It got worse.

After the Xfinity race started, rain came. With the Coca-Cola 600 scheduled for 3 p.m. ET that day – after being delayed by rain from Sunday – the rest of the Xfinity race was pushed back until after the 600. That further tightened the window on Xfinity teams to make it to Portland.

The Xfinity race ended around 11:30 p.m. ET on May 29. Alpha Prime Racing’s haulers left the shop around 6 a.m. ET on May 30.

The two trucks traveled together until issues in St. Louis.

The truck hauling the Nos. 44 and 45 cars had engine issues in St. Louis. The other truck kept going until it had mechanical issues with its hauler in Kansas City. The air bags on the hauler failed.

So, Alpha Prime Racing had a truck that worked in Kansas City with a hauler that didn’t and a truck that didn’t work in St. Louis with a hauler that did.

The truck in Kansas City went back to St. Louis to attach to the hauler and take those cars and equipment to Portland. Martins then had to find something to haul the stranded equipment in Kansas City and a driver. He eventually did. A dually left North Carolina for Kansas City. Once there, what fit in the dually was taken to Portland and what didn’t, including Karam’s Sonoma car stayed behind.

Yet, more trouble was headed for Martins and his team.

The truck that had gone back from Kansas City to St. Louis to take hauler that worked then broke down about 200 miles from Portland.

“I laugh knowing that we’re on the other side of it,” Martins said Friday of all the issues his team had transporting cars and equipment across the country.

“We’ve started to make plans and corrections for it not happening again,” he said.

That hauler that was left in Kansas City? It was repaired and transported to Sonoma, arriving earlier this week.

“Our guys are troopers,” Martins said. “Both of our (truck) drivers were just awesome about the whole thing. … They went through hell week as far as driving somewhere, fly back and pick something up, drive again and now are going to have to do the same thing getting back.”

When the garage opened Friday at Sonoma, Alpha Prime Racing had all its cars.

“I don’t think we had any major issues here, so that was good,” Martins said.

The focus is back on the track. Karam was 24th on the speed chart in Friday’s practice, leading Alpha Prime Racing’s effort. Dylan Lupton was 32nd. Jeffrey Earnhardt was last among 41 cars.

After Saturday night’s race, the team heads back to North Carolina for a well-earned weekend off.

Kyle Larson leads Xfinity practice at Sonoma


SONOMA, Calif. — Kyle Larson posted the fastest lap in Friday’s Xfinity Series practice at Sonoma Raceway.

This is the first time the series has raced at the 1.99-mile road course in Northern California. Teams got 50 minutes of practice Friday.

Larson led the way with a lap of 90.392 mph. He was more than a second faster than the rest of the field.

MORE: Xfinity practice results Sonoma

Sheldon Creed was second on the speed chart with a lap of 89.066 mph. He was followed by AJ Allmendinger (89.052 mph), Cole Custer (89.020) and Ty Gibbs (88.989).

Larson, Allmendinger and Gibbs are among seven Cup drivers are entered in the Xfinity race. Aric Almirola was seventh on the speed chart with a lap of 88.750 mph. Ross Chastain was ninth with a lap of 88.625 mph. Daniel Suarez was 16th with a lap of 88.300 mph. Ty Dillon was 33rd with a lap of 86.828 mph.

Anthony Alfredo will go to a backup car after a crash in practice. He was uninjured in the incident that damaged the right side of his car.

Qualifying is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET Saturday. The race is scheduled to begin at 8:20 p.m. ET Saturday.

Anthony Alfredo’s car after a crash in Xfinity practice Friday at Sonoma Raceway. He was uninjured. (Photo: Dustin Long)

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


The Xfinity Series will compete for the first time at Sonoma Raceway this weekend. This is one of eight road course events on the Xfinity schedule this season.

Seven Cup drivers are scheduled to compete in Saturday’s race, including AJ Allmendinger, Kyle Larson and Daniel Suarez, who won last year’s Cup race at this track Allmendinger has won 11 of 25 career road course starts in the Xfinity Series.

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Sonoma Raceway

(All times Eastern)

START: Golden State Warrior Patrick Baldwin Jr. will give the command to start engines at 8:08 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to wave at 8:20 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Qualifying begins at 3 p.m. … Driver introductions begin at 7:35 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Earl Smith, team pastor for the Golden State Warriors and San Francisco 49ers, at 8 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed by 9-year-old Isis Mikayle Castillo at 8:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 79 laps (156.95 miles) on the 1.99-mile road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 20. Stage 2 ends at Lap 45.

STARTING LINEUP: Qualifying begins at 3 p.m. Saturday

TV/RADIO: FS1 will broadcast the race at 8 p.m. ... Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. … Performance Racing Network coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. and can be heard on … SiriusXN NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Mostly cloudy with a high of 72 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: This is the first time the Xfinity Series has raced at Sonoma.


NASCAR Friday schedule at Sonoma Raceway


The Xfinity Series makes its first appearance Friday at Sonoma Raceway.

Xfinity teams, coming off last weekend’s race at Portland International Raceway, get 50 minutes of practice Friday because Sonoma is a new venue for the series.

Seven Cup drivers, including Kyle Larson and Daniel Suarez, are among those entered in the Xfinity race. Suarez won the Cup race at Sonoma last year.

Xfinity teams will qualify and race Saturday at the 1.99-mile road course.

Sonoma Raceway


Friday: Mostly cloudy with a high of 69 degrees.

Friday, June 9

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 11 a.m. — ARCA Menards Series West
  • 1 – 10 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 2 – 3 p.m. — ARCA West practice
  • 3:10 – 3:30 p.m. — ARCA West qualifying
  • 4:05 – 4:55 p.m. — Xfinity practice (FS1)
  • 6:30 p.m. — ARCA West race (64 laps, 127.36 miles; live on FloRacing, will air on CNBC at 11:30 a.m. ET on June 18)