Kligerman: Here’s an All-Star idea — go back to being truly stock and showcase the showroom

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Ever since I can remember, I have loved cars.

My mom once said I was barely out of the delivery room before I had a model car in my hands, and no one’s really sure where the car came from.

Through my childhood, the fandom would grow to an outright obsession. Culminating at the age of 9, when we got cable and I found Speedvision. A cable TV channel dedicated to racing and cars.

I was hooked. Not only had I found a channel about cars, but I discovered a sport that used cars.

If you could have bottled my sense of euphoric, enchanted and full-throttle fate, it wouldn’t just sell. It would solve first-world depression.

Which brings me to this year’s All-Star Race, an event that I see fighting its own feelings of dread and depression.

It made its debut in 1985 as an additional “fun race” to drum up more exposure for the sport’s biggest early investor, R.J. Reynolds, and its Winston cigarette brand.

It always has been a race about winning because that is what pays – and it does pay handsomely. This year’s winner will pocket an unadulterated and fully taxed $1 million.

But that has been its selling point for too long.

Since 1985, it has undergone an umpteen amount of changes. Over the past 32 years, it has had 13 race formats. And I guarantee there is no one on this planet who can remember what each of those 13 formats were. If they do, shall I suggest seeing the sun sometime?

And this year, to celebrate the newest Monster backer in the sport’s storied history, we get a new format that pays tribute to the 1992 format. Which isn’t to be confused with the 1998–2001 format that had the same segment lengths.

But there is another addition that has me quite excited.

Tires!

Yes, Goodyear and NASCAR have collaborated to offer two options of tires in this race. Which I actually am quite excited about and foresee its introduction into the points races as a tantalizing future.

This is all swell and delightful.

But none of it makes me feel like the day I found Speedvision.

Therefore, in an era in which it seems racing worldwide is unopposed to breaking the molds of the staid and repressive mid-aughts, I have an idea that could be just the thing this All-Star Race needs, and it won’t be found on a psychiatrist’s prescription sheet.

The cure is in the very thing that got me into this sport in the first place: Cars.

I am talking stock cars. The cure for the All-Star Race is to remove the very devices we use each and every weekend. To take the drivers and teams out of their comfort zones and learn who is truly the All-Star of driving stock cars?

Imagine for one day a year the very best drivers in the world racing the same cars that the fans might arrive to the track in via an Uber driver.

Let’s not pay tribute to 1992 with a format. Let’s pay tribute to the sport’s roots and its foundation with the very premise Bill France built it upon.

“Common men in common cars could appeal to common folk en masse.”

Now before you start poking holes in the idea with words such as safety, fairness and equivalency formulas … without getting too technical, I have an answer for most of your questions.

Let’s start with the cars.

The Ford teams obviously will use the 2017 Ford Fusion, specifically the Ford Fusion Sport model, which will be the most powerful of the bunch. Its twin-turbocharged V6 produces 325 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque, but it also weighs the same as a small planet.

Which should line up nicely with the yet-to-be released 2018 Toyota Camry. Expected to carry over the same V6 of the 2017 Toyota Camry XSE, it will have roughly 268 HP. Therefore if it’s anything like its predecessor, it will weigh considerably less than the Ford Fusion. Which means it might be at a disadvantage in raw speed but could make that up in the corners.

This brings us to the Chevy teams. The current Chevy SS is a muscle car, through and through. With a diabolically powerful V8 and performance design, we simply could not allow it to compete.

The SS also has been discontinued, and in 2018, Chevy will need to have a new car. The current Malibu looks to be a great fit with a turbocharged 4-cylinder pumping out 250 HP, which would be the lowest of the three. It also comes in the lightest at a whopping 800 pounds less than the Ford Fusion.

So without any upgrades or changes, we clearly have a closely aligned field of cars.

Now how would we make them safe enough and keep the cars close to stock?

We could have the NASCAR R&D center and a couple engineers from the manufacturers figure out how to put our current carbon fiber seats and other safety technology into the cars. Keep everything but the driver’s area as stock as possible for weight reasons and validity.

Obviously we would remove the glass windows and replace them with the current material used for the race cars.

Next we would have a road tire designated by Goodyear to put on all three cars, and boom: We are off to the races.

But you might ask, “Can we possibly race these cars around the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway oval?” Well I think we could, and it probably would be amazing, but it could be a bit more dangerous than any of us would like to admit.

So in an effort to seem even remotely sane, we could race Charlotte’s quarter-mile infield oval, where the speeds will be considerably slower. And then hold a second race on a version of the road course.

I think no matter what, there should be two races: One on an oval, one on a road course of some sort. Maybe even a street course in Uptown Charlotte around the Hall of Fame? The options potentially are endless.

Lastly, I know at least one keen reader probably is ripping out their hair screaming “COST!”

Well, I think the manufacturers could find a way to make this financially viable. Add in there would not be any tuning or engineering. The only thing you can change on the cars? Tire pressures.

So you see, I have it all figured out. The manufacturers win by getting their current technology one big event annually in the public eye. The drivers will win by having an All-Star event that is crazy enough to simply be fun. And the fans win with an event that truly would be one of a kind.

Sadly, we all know this will not happen. Putting aside the funding or the complexities, a massive problem is that in the coming years the road cars that birthed the NASCAR genre will be engulfed by computer-controlled self-driving features.

These would have to be shut off or removed to make this concept work, which would cause the marketing whizzes to have a coronary. Thus, there is no way in this modern world that this would come to fruition.

Which is a shame, as this race could use a boost to its stock. And current stock cars might just be the answers.

NASCAR Clash heat race lineups

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LOS ANGELES — Justin Haley, Kyle Busch, Christopher Bell and William Byron will start on the pole for their heat races Sunday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. 

There will be nine cars in each of the four heat races. Here’s a look at each of the those heat races.

Clash heat race starting lineups

Heat 1

This heat has four drivers who did not make last year’s Clash: Alex Bowman, Aric Almirola, Chris Buescher and Ty Dillon. Almirola starts second, Bowman third, Buescher eighth and Dillon ninth. This heat also has defending Clash winner and reigning Cup champion Joey Logano, who starts fifth.

Heat 2

Richard Childress Racing teammates Busch and Austin Dillon start 1-2. This race has five former champions: Busch, Kyle Larson (starting third), Kevin Harvick (fourth), Martin Truex Jr. (fifth) and Chase Elliott (eighth).

Heat 3

Toyota drivers will start first (Bell), second (Denny Hamlin) and fifth (Tyler Reddick). Ryan Blaney starts last in this heat after his fastest qualifying lap was disallowed Saturday.

Heat 4 

Byron will be joined on the front row by AJ Allmendinger in this heat. The second row will have Ross Chastain and Bubba Wallace.

The top five in each heat advances to Sunday night’s Clash. Those not advancing go to one of two last chance qualifying races. The top three in each of those races advances to the Clash. The 27 and final spot in the Clash is reserved for the driver highest in points who has yet to make the field.

Justin Haley tops field in Clash qualifying

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LOS ANGELES — Justin Haley posted the fastest lap in Saturday’s qualifying for the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Haley will start the first of four heats on the pole after a lap of 67.099 mph (13.413 seconds). The four heat races will be held Sunday afternoon, followed by two last chance qualifying races and then the Busch Clash on Sunday night.

Clash qualifying results

“I feel pretty confident about where we are,” Haley said. “I’m not sure why we’re so good here.”

The top four qualifiers will start on the pole for their heat race.

Kyle Busch, who was second on the speed chart with a lap of 66.406 mph, will start on the pole for the second heat. That comes in his first race with Richard Childress Racing after having spent the past 15 seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Christopher Bell, third on the speed chart with a lap of 66.328 mph, will start on the pole for the third heat. William Byron, fourth in qualifying with a lap of 66.196 mph, will start on the pole in the fourth heat race.

The pole-sitters for each of the four heat races last year all won their heat. That included Haley, who was third fastest in qualifying last year and won the third heat from the pole.

Ty Gibbs was not allowed to qualify because of unapproved adjustments his team made while making repairs to his car after the door foam caught fire during practice. NASCAR deemed that the Joe Gibbs Racing team made adjustments to the car not directly related to the damage.

Ryan Blaney‘s fastest qualifying lap was disallowed after he stopped the car in Turn 4 and turned it around and to go back to the backstretch and build speed for his final lap. NASCAR disallowed the time from that final lap for the maneuver.

Section 7.8.F of the Cup Rule Book states: “Unless otherwise determined by the Series Managing Director, drivers who encounter a problem during Qualifying will not be permitted to travel counter Race direction.”

The top five finishers in each of the four 25-lap heat races advance to the Clash. The top three in the two 50-lap last chance races move on to the Clash. The final spot in the 27-car field is reserved for the driver highest in points not yet in the field.

Chase Briscoe, AJ Allmendinger in first on-track conflict of the season.

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LOS ANGELES — The first on-track conflict of the 2023 NASCAR Cup season?

Did you have Chase Briscoe and AJ Allmendinger?

They made contact during Saturday night’s practice session at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the Busch Light Clash.

Busch Clash practice results

Briscoe explained what happened from his point of view.

“(Allmendinger) was slowing down so much on the straightaway to get a gap (away from other cars),” Briscoe told Motor Racing Network. “I felt like I was beside him pretty far down the straightaway. I got in there a little hot for sure, but, honestly, I thought he was going to give it to me since we were in practice. Went into (Turn) 3 and he just drove me straight into the fence. Definitely frustrating. … Just unfortunate. We don’t have a single back-up car out there between the four of us at SHR. 

“Definitely will set us behind quite a bit. Just chalk it up in the memory blank.”

Asked what happened with Briscoe, Allmendinger told MRN: “He ran inside of me, so I made sure I paid him back and sent him into the fence.

“It’s practice. I get it, I’m struggling and in the way, but come barreling in there. I just showed my displeasure for it. That’s not the issue. We’re just not very good right now.”

Earlier in practice, Ty Gibbs had to climb out of his car after it caught on fire. Gibbs exiting the car safely. The Joe Gibbs Racing team worked on making repairs to his No. 54 car. NASCAR stated that the car would not be allowed to qualify because of unapproved adjustments, modifications not directly related to the damage.

NASCAR will not race at Auto Club Speedway in 2024

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LOS ANGELES — Auto Club Speedway will not host a NASCAR race next year because of plans to convert the 2-mile speedway into a short track.

It will mark only the second time the Cup Series has not raced at the Southern California track since first competing there in 1997. Cup did not race at the track in 2021 because of the pandemic.

Dave Allen, Auto Club Speedway president, also said Saturday that “it’s possible” that the track might not host a NASCAR race in 2025 because of how long it could take to make the conversion. 

MORE: Details for Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum 

NASCAR came to the Fontana, California, track during the sport’s expansion in the late 1990s that also saw Cup debut at Texas (1997), Las Vegas (1998) and Homestead (1999).

Auto Club Speedway begins the West Coast swing this season, hosting the Cup Series on Feb. 26, a week after the Daytona 500. The series then goes to Las Vegas and Phoenix the following two weeks.

Auto Club Speedway has been among a favorite of drivers because of its aging pavement that put more of the car’s control in the hands of competitors. 

Allen said that officials continue to work on the track’s design. It is expected to be a half-mile track. With NASCAR already having a half-mile high-banked track (Bristol) and half-mile low-banked track (Martinsville), Allen said that a goal is to make Auto Club Speedway stand out.

“It has to make a statement, and making sure that we have a racetrack that is unique to itself here and different than any of the tracks they go to is very important,” Allen said. “Having said that, it’s equally important … to make sure that the fan experience part is unique.”

Kyle Larson, who won last year’s Cup race at Auto Club Speedway, said that he talked to Allen on Saturday was told the track project likely will take about 18 months. 

“I don’t know exactly the extent of what they’re doing with the track, how big it’s going to be, the shape or banking and all that, and I love the 2-mile track, but I think the more short tracks we can have, the better off our sport is going to be,” Larson said.

With Auto Club Speedway off the schedule in 2024, it would mean the only time Cup raced in the Los Angeles area would be at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. NASCAR has a three-year contract with the Coliseum to race there and holds the option to return.

Sunday’s Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum marks the second year of that agreement. Last year’s inaugural event at the Coliseum drew about 50,000 fans. NASCAR has not publicly stated if it will return to the Coliseum next year.