Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

NASCAR adds more pit road timing zones at Pocono

Leave a comment

NASCAR has increased the number of timing zones on pit road this weekend at Pocono Raceway.

Last week, NASCAR had 12 timing zones at Indianapolis Motor Speedway — an average of one timing zone about every three pit stalls. Four drivers were penalized for speeding at Indy: Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart and Jamie McMurray.

This weekend, NASCAR will have 18 timing zones at Pocono — an average of one timing zone about every two pit stalls.

NASCAR increased the number of timing zones after questions were raised when Martin Truex Jr. was penalized earlier this month at Kentucky for passing leader Kevin Harvick on the left. Truex accelerated after crossing the last timing line before his pit stall and passed Harvick. To prevent similar occurrences, NASCAR added timing zones at New Hampshire Motor Speedway as an experiment and put all the additional timing zones in play for the first time last weekend at Indianapolis.

Here is the pit road chart at Pocono with all the timing zones:

IMG_2920

Here is what Aric Almirola said about the additional timing zones:

“It forces us to be a lot more mindful of our tach.  You have to realize and something I think a lot of people don’t understand and don’t realize is that our dash is mounted low in the race cars, so when we’re going down pit road we have to look down at our dash to make sure that we’re keeping our pit road speed at an optimal speed.

“We want to go fast enough to make time on pit road. You don’t want to go too slow because then you give up time to your competitors, and if you go just 100 RPM too fast, you’re speeding and then you get a penalty. So we’re really focused and concentrating on looking down at our dash and not really looking up at all until our spotters and crew chiefs tell us we’re five (pit stalls) away or 10 away, and then you kind of look up but at the same time make sure you’re maintaining a pit road speed.

“Before, with the timing lines being so far apart, you kind of had some leeway to where if you are supposed to be running one red light and you happen to flash two or three red lights, which would be speeding, you had an opportunity to kind of slow back down and slow back down to a few green lights and get the time between those segments back to where you wouldn’t be speeding. Now, with the timing lines closer together, if you just get a little bit greedy or you look up to see where your pit stall is at and you creep up your RPMs a little bit, you’re going to get a speeding penalty.

“I’ve long been a proponent for some sort of mechanism that we can have in the car that just causes us to go pit road speed. If they’re that worried about us getting an advantage between timing lines and things like that, why don’t they just make us all go pit road speed like every other form of racing has. I think it would be safer. I think it would give us the opportunity to actually look out of our windshields because, like I said, every driver coming down pit road – that’s why you see it a lot, if somebody checks up to get in their pit box you, you see cars stack up on pit road. We all are looking down at our dash. It’s like texting and driving.

“While we’re looking down, out of our peripheral vision we kind of have an idea of what’s going on, but you’re not as focused as what’s going on outside the windshield as you are at your dash.”

Kevin Harvick’s rear tire changer sidelined by cancer treatment

Photo: Dustin Long
Leave a comment

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Daniel Smith, rear tire changer for Kevin Harvick’s team, left a hospital Saturday afternoon after surgery this week as part of his cancer treatment.

Smith, who had the planned surgery Thursday, told NBC Sports through a team spokesperson that he should be back in four to six weeks. The Cup playoffs begin in four weeks at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

It was shortly before the Bristol night race last year that doctors discovered Smith had testicular cancer. He spent the day before that race undergoing scans, blood work and other tests to determine if the cancer had spread. Doctors found that the cancer had infected two lymph nodes in his lower abdomen and also saw a spot on his lung that was concerning.

Daniel Smith, rear tire changer for Kevin Harvick’s team, was released from a hospital Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Dustin Long)

Two days after last year’s Bristol night race, Smith had surgery to remove the tumor in his testicle. After a few weeks to heal, he began chemotherapy treatments. Each round consisted of one week in a hospital and two weeks of recovery. He had four rounds (12 weeks) of treatments. Smith returned to the track to watch Harvick compete in the championship race in Miami last year and then was back to changing tires at Daytona in February.

Thursday’s surgery is expected to be the final one Smith needs. Tonight’s race (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) is the first he’s missed this season. He stated through a team spokesperson that he walked a mile in the hospital Friday and again on Saturday before his release.

Harvick, who won last weekend at Michigan, starts eighth in tonight’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Matt DiBenedetto focused on winning as he looks for 2020 ride

Leave a comment

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Looking for a ride for next season, Matt DiBenedetto enters tonight’s Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway focused on one goal.

“I want to win in Cup,” says the driver whose family moved from California to North Carolina when he was a teen to help his racing career, who ran start-and-parks at one time in the Xfinity Series to keep in the sport and who has 13 races left in what is the best ride of his five-year Cup career.

DiBenedetto found out this week that he would not return to Leavine Family Racing after this season. DiBenedetto said that “I don’t want to say I was blindsided” but said he held out hope that “my performance behind the wheel (would) do the talking and hope that that would prevail over everything.”

Instead, business matters prevailed. With Erik Jones near an extension to remain at Joe Gibbs Racing — keeping all four driver spots there filled — Toyota and JGR needed a place to move Christopher Bell from the Xfinity Series to Cup. Leavine Family Racing’s alliance with JGR makes it the natural spot for Bell. While Bell said this week nothing is set, all signs point to him driving the No. 95 car next year.

Despite his disappointment, DiBenedetto remains grateful to Leavine Family Racing for the chance to run the No. 95 this year.

“I want everyone to know, fans especially and social media and stuff, is to be easy on our team and Toyota and (Joe) Gibbs and everything because they’re all still great people and they gave me this opportunity,” he said. 

Still, about a year after DiBenedetto left his ride with Go Fas Racing and unsure of where he’d land, he’s again looking for a ride for the upcoming season.

“I don’t want to retire yet because I’m only 28 years old,” said DiBenedetto, who starts seventh in tonight’s race (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). “Just getting started, but I want to win in the Cup Series. That’s what I’ve said and that’s my goal. I’m here to keep on climbing the ladder, not go backwards.”

As for what he might do next year, he’s not sure.

“I have no irons in the fire per se, yet, but this all just happened just this week,” he said.

One question is if it might be possible for him to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing’s Xfinity program — DiBenedetto made his Xfinity debut with JGR in 2009 as a development driver and he will drive the team’s No. 18 Xfinity car in the upcoming race at Road America.

“I don’t think there is that opportunity or as of now, there’s not,” he said. “Not that I’m aware of. I’ve talked to the Toyota folks and stuff and I don’t foresee any opportunities within the camp, I don’t think. Just going to have to really pursue everything, but the main goal is to keep proving myself behind the wheel, which I’ve shown I’m here to win and run up front.”

Maybe something good will happen to him tonight. Bristol is where he scored his first Cup top 10 in 2016, placing sixth for an underfunded BK Racing team. He and his family celebrated that finish on pit road after the race.

Alex Bowman, who also drove for underfunded teams before working his way up to a ride at Hendrick Motorsports, is rooting for DiBenedetto to remain in Cup next season.

“I think he does a really good job in the race car,” Bowman said. “Obviously, he has shown that he continues to deserve (a Cup ride). He’ll land on his feet. Everything happens for a reason. I was pretty bummed when I lost my gig. It all ended up working out for the better.”

Tonight’s Cup race at Bristol: Start time, lineup and more

Getty Images
Leave a comment

With the playoffs looming in a few weeks, the Cup Series returns its short-track roots tonight for a rumble under the lights at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The duo of Kurt and Kyle Busch have won the last four races in “Thunder Valley.” Who can claim the Bristol throne from the brothers?

Here’s all the info you need for tonight’s race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 7:41 p.m. by Johnny Morris, founder and CEO of Bass Pro Shops; Richard Childress; Bill Dance, legendary fisherman; Becky Humphries, National Wild Turkey Foundation CEO; Nick Wiley, Director of Conservation Ducks Unlimited; R. Joseph Hamilton, QDMA Founder and Senior Advisor; John Eastman, QDMA Senior Director of Operations. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 7:46 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage opens at 1:30 p.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 5:30 p.m. Driver introductions are at 7 p.m. The invocation will be given at 7:30 p.m. by Ronda Paulson, Founder and Executive Director of Isaiah 177 House. MRO Kids will perform the National Anthem at 7:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 500 laps (266.5 miles) around the .533-mile short track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 125. Stage 2 ends on Lap 250.

TV/RADIO: NBCSN will televise the race. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with NASCAR America. Countdown to Green begins at 7 p.m. The Performance Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 6:30 p.m and also can be heard on goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry PRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: Wunderground.com forecasts clear skies, a temperature of 86 degrees with no chance of precipitation at the race start time.

LAST TIME: Kurt Busch won this race last year over Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott. Kyle Busch won in the spring over Kurt Busch.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup

Results, points after Xfinity race at Bristol

Leave a comment

Tyler Reddick capitalized on Justin Allgaier‘s misfortunes and led the final 11 laps to win Friday’s Xfinity Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

It is his fourth win of the season.

The top five was completed by Chase Briscoe, John Hunter Nemechek, Jeremy Clements and Austin Cindric.

Click here for the results.

Points

Reddick keeps his lead in the standings with a 55-point advantage over Christopher Bell.

The top five is completed by Cole Custer (-139 points), Allgaier (-159) and Cindric (-193).

Click here for the point standings.