NASCAR drivers, owners, teams react to enhancements to points system

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NASCAR drivers, crew chiefs, team members, owners and officials shined a positive light on the new enhancements to the points structure across all three series that were announced Monday.

The enhancements will impact all three series, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Here are some excerpts from those that took part in the announcement from Charlotte, as well as reactions from social media:

NASCAR vice president Steve O’Donnell: “It’s the right time to make enhancements … it’s a great example of the industry coming together for the fans. … Every race matters and winning is more important than ever.”

Denny Hamlin: “There are no off weeks. Every single race matters. Every lap of every race matters. From our standpoint, you always felt a bit relaxed after you got a race win. Now with each accomplishment, getting points, through a stage win, or race win, each makes your road to Homestead a little bit easier. That’s what it’s all about.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: “I love the fact the bonus points will carry through the playoffs to the last round. Everything you do will help for the playoffs. The stages are going to help bring excitement for drivers and fans. Last year, I was driver and a fan, I was in a unique position. There will be a lot to watch as these crew chiefs try to figure out the strategies to obtain the most points. Fans should be excited.”

Brad Keselowski: “More chances to win, more chances to perform and more spotlights. … We’re going to race to a new level that we’ve never seen before. … I’m really pumped about this. To me, this is NASCAR. Look at how our races were formatted in the 40s and 50s: it was endurance, long races. Teams now are so smart. If we created motorsports from scratch today, this is how would we do this.”

Jeff Gordon: “I definitely think this is going to enhance experience of competitors and fans at home. … It (discussion of the new enhancements) was a pretty amazing experience and what came out of it is a balance of what fans are asking for and make it more exciting.”

NASCAR ON NBC analyst Jeff Burton: “When a race fan buys a ticket, that fan deserves to see a race that impacts the championship. Win and you’re in is awesome, but it took them off the hook a bit. If you incentivize these guys … it makes them want to race that much harder. This is an enhancement. When races matter, the fans win.

Steve Newmark, president of Roush Fenway Racing: “Crew chiefs and team members are chomping at the bit to get to the track.”

International Speedway Corporation president Joie Chitwood: “Every race, every lap means something, whether you have a TV viewer or someone in the stands. … We can never sit back and think we’re good enough. I think this group did a great job of coming up with something unique and I think our fans are going to be very excited in this coming season.”

Speedway Motorsports Inc. president Marcus Smith: “This is really for the fans.”

Team owner Jack Roush: “I believe this is part of the natural evolution of our sport as we continue to enhance the product on the race track. The enhancements are a result of unprecedented collaboration between the teams, NASCAR, broadcast partners and drivers, and in direct response to what the fans have expressed a desire for. Stage style racing has a strong history throughout many levels of motorsports, and I’m personally excited to watch as the new strategies play out during the upcoming season.”

Indianapolis Motor Speedway president J. Douglas Boles: “The new race format will make the Brickyard 400 and the entire Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series more exciting by making every stage of the race important. With every point critical to a driver’s championship chances, the changes will ensure spirited competition during each and every lap. The stages will also offer an opportunity for our fans to hear strategy insights during breaks in action, instead of having to wait until the race has ended. Winning the Brickyard 400 has always been important to the drivers and with more points on the line throughout, it will be an even more thrilling event!”

Team owner Richard Petty:

“Since NASCAR started, there has always been change. The world changes and you have to change with it. This new format just adapts to the current and next generation of fans. It’s something to help create more excitement during the races. You have to put on a good race, a good show where people want to watch at home and enjoy coming to the track. Having two additional winning moments is a good step in that direction to keep the drivers competitive and fans excited throughout the race and season. As an owner, I’m fine with it. I have the same rules as everyone else. That’s fair. We just have to figure out how to be the best under this format.”

Here are some comments from social media (we’ll continue to update):

 

 

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Sunday Cup race at Las Vegas: Start time, TV channel

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The second round of the Cup playoffs begins with the Sunday Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The 1.5-mile track kicks off the Round of 12. Winning the race and stage points are a premium for playoff drivers before the races at Talladega and the Charlotte Roval.

Kevin Harvick, who won at Bristol, starts from the pole.

Here is all the info for the Sunday Cup race at Las Vegas:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given by Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis at 7:07 p.m. The green flag waves at 7:17 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at Noon. Drivers report to their cars at 6:50 p.m. The invocation will be given at 7 p.m. by Motor Racing Outreach Chaplain, Billy Mauldin. The national anthem will be performed by Sierra Black at 7:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 267 laps (400.5 miles) around the 1.5-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 80. Stage 2 ends on Lap 160

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

STREAMING: Watch the race on the NBC Sports App

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for sunny skies with a high of 96 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST RACE: Kevin Harvick beat Kyle Busch to win at Bristol and claim his ninth win of the season.

LAST POINTS RACE AT LAS VEGAS: Joey Logano beat Matt DiBenedetto and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in February.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the lineup.

CATCH UP ON NBC SPORTS’ COVERAGE:

Kurt Busch seeks first Las Vegas win but without hometown fans

Michael Jordan excited for NASCAR future with Denny Hamlin

Carolina Blue: Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan bonded by NASCAR

Germain Racing sells charter, will exit sport at end of season

Charlotte Roval to host limited number of fans

Friday 5: Team’s departure adds to ‘extremely stressful’ time

NASCAR fines Hendrick Motorsports $100,000

NTSB releases final report on Dale Jr. plane crash

Bubba Wallace to receive Stan Musial award for extraordinary character

Long: 100 days left in 2020, what else can happen?

Kurt Busch seeks first Las Vegas win, but without hometown fans

Kurt Busch
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A win by Kurt Busch in tonight’s Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7 p.m. ET on NBCSN) couldn’t come under more bittersweet circumstances for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver.

Should Busch claim the victory on the 1.5-mile track, he’d go from being the last driver on the playoff grid (3,001 points entering the race) to the first driver to advance to the Round of 8.

While it would be his first victory of the year, it would also be his first NASCAR win at his home track in 23 starts across the Cup and Xfinity Series.

More: Stage points critical at Vegas

“The Vegas track has definitely been one of the tough ones for me over the years with results and finishes not where I would have expected them to be,” Busch said this week. “And the teams that I’ve raced for just have never quite found that right magic set-up or combination. And then for me, it’s a track that I just have that trouble with.

“There are a few tracks like Indianapolis and Martinsville; those are a few places where I struggle. And so with Vegas, I always put that little extra hometown pressure on myself and I would love to win there.”

The 42-year-old Las Vegas-native rolls off ninth on the 1.5-mile track. It’s his fourth while driving for Ganassi.

In his 21 Cup starts in Las Vegas, Busch’s best result is third in 2005 when he competed for Roush Fenway Racing. He has just one other top five. That came in last year’s spring race when he drove a throwback paint scheme to his 1999 NASCAR Southwest Series championship.

That day he led 23 laps. It was only the seventh time he’d led laps there and just the third time he’d totaled more than six laps led.

In February, Busch finished 25th.

If Busch were to finally make it to Vegas’ Victory Lane, the celebration would be somewhat muted.

It was announced last weekend that fans would not be allowed to attend the races at Las Vegas due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would love to win through the spirit of the camera and everything on NBC Sports; and I know the fans there, local, will be watching and cheering on the Busch brothers,” Busch said. “So, that’s where I would connect. And hopefully do it through the TV side of it. We’ll get fans back one day and we’ll come back and race.”

Busch enters the Round of 12 having earned just one top 10 in the first round, an eighth-place finish at Darlington. He finished 13th at Richmond and 15th at Bristol.

“What I like is we have had better lap times at all three races so far compared to maybe the five or six races leading into the playoffs,” Busch said. “We know that our cushion is gone. We ended Bristol with 33 points to the good. And now we start Vegas minus four (points behind Austin Dillon in the cutoff spot). So that’s just part of the system and now we have to be perfect. We have to get every point possible that we’re able to get on our own at Vegas, Talladega, and the Roval. And, that should help us advance.”

Carolina Blue: Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan bonded by NASCAR

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Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan were teammates from 1982-84 at the University of North Carolina and Eastern Conference rivals throughout the 1980s and ’90s in the NBA.

But their friendship was about more than just hoops. While growing up on opposite ends of the Tar Heel State, Daugherty and Jordan both developed a passion for following NASCAR.

Tobacco Road meant fast cars and hard-driving heroes for these two North Carolina natives.

LIFELONG FAN: Michael Jordan explains why he’s partnering with Denny Hamlin

In a NASCAR on NBC feature, Daugherty recalls how NASCAR impacted his life and Jordan’s and led both into team ownership. Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin announced they will form a team to field cars for Bubba Wallace next season.

Daughterty notes in the feature that Wallace “has led a dynamic transformation as NASCAR banned Confederate flags and recommitted to inclusion amidst times of great unrest. This is a huge moment for NASCAR, a cultural momentum shift. This is people of all colors coming together to create an all-American race team already with championship lineage.

“With proper funding, equipment and crewmembers, this will be the best chance ever for a Black driver to win – and while driving for a Black owner. An opportunity to shock the world like Muhammad Ali once did.”

Watch the feature above on Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan or by clicking this link.

Las Vegas Xfinity results, driver points

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Chase Briscoe‘s victory Saturday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway sends him into the next round of the Xfinity playoffs.

Noah Gragson led a 2-3-4 finish for JR Motorsports. Gragson was second and followed by Daniel Hemric and Justin Allgaier. Ryan Sieg finished fifth.

Briscoe dominated the race, leading 164 of the 200 laps.

Click here for Xfinity race results

POINTS

Ross Chastain finished 16th, last among the playoff drivers, and fell out of a transfer spot to the second round. He’s two points behind Harrison Burton for the final transfer spot. Michael Annett is 10 points behind Burton. Riley Herbst is 14 points behind Burton. Brandon Brown is 20 points behind Burton.

Click here for driver points report