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Charlotte Motor Speedway road course to end first round of 2018 playoffs

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Charlotte Motor Speedway will be shifting its calendar spot and track surface next fall, ending the first round of the 2018 Cup playoffs on a road course.

Next season’s move from the 1.5-mile oval had been hinted at for months, and Charlotte initially considered using the road course this year. Tuesday’s schedule announcement revealed that the race will be on Sept. 30, ending the first round of the playoffs.

Charlotte, which opens the second round this season, is swapping spots with Dover International Speedway, which will move its second annual race to Oct. 7, 2018.

Dover had been the cutoff race for the first round of the playoffs since the playoffs were overhauled in 2014.

Here’s the release from Charlotte Motor Speedway:

CONCORD, N.C. (May 23, 2017) – Known across the world as a trailblazing innovator, Charlotte Motor Speedway ushered in a thrilling new era of excitement with NASCAR’s historic Tuesday scheduling announcement that next year’s Bank of America 500 will be contested on Charlotte’s ROVAL on Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018. The road course oval announcement carries with it several groundbreaking connotations, including:

  • The first road course NASCAR race in Charlotte Motor Speedway’s 58-year existence;
  • The final event in Round 1 of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs;
  • The first road course race in the 14-year history of the Playoffs;
  • The first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race in September at Charlotte Motor Speedway;
  • The first new track on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule since Kentucky Speedway joined the circuit in 2011.

The Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL is a daunting, new 13-turn, 2.4-mile road course incorporating part of the infield and all but 400 feet of Charlotte’s iconic 1.5-mile oval on which drivers will race 500 kilometers over 130 laps.

“Charlotte Motor Speedway has always been about innovation,” said Marcus Smith, president and chief executive officer of Speedway Motorsports, Inc. “Hosting the first road course race in NASCAR’s Playoffs, as well as the drama of closing out the Playoffs’ first round, means that tension will be high and competition will be fierce as soon as the green flag drops.

“Fans are going to be in for a thrill, and drivers had better be ready for the most physically and mentally challenging race in the Playoffs. With a 35-foot elevation change between ROVAL Turn 4 and ROVAL Turn 10, drivers in next year’s Bank of America 500 will truly experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.”

Accomplished drivers including Mario Andretti, Jeff Gordon, A.J. Allmendinger, Jeff Burton and Max Papis have driven the course and witnessed its considerable potential to entertain fans and challenge drivers and crews.

“Road courses are something I look forward to during the season,” said Kyle Busch, last week’s Monster Energy All-Star Race winner. “Road racing is like a vacation for me, because it’s not something we do week-in and week-out so I just try to go out there and have fun with it.

“Now that we have the Charlotte ROVAL on the schedule, we have every type of track in our postseason. It will be interesting to see how it plays out with a completely new challenge for the drivers and teams during the Playoffs.”

The ROVAL also drew praise from one of the world’s most acclaimed road racers.

“It’s very difficult sometimes to really create a road course where you can ‘stretch your legs’ inside an oval,” said Andretti, who competed in the 1967 Bank of America 500 and is known as one of the most successful American drivers of all time.

“From that standpoint, I think they did a good job by giving it rhythm by putting some banking to the hairpin corners – which obviously invites some overtaking. It’s wide enough that you can choose a line. You’re not really trapped. … It’s got a multiple-line (groove) that you can choose from, depending on the capability of the car.”

In January, Allmendinger became the first active Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver to drive a stock car on the ROVAL.

“The track has definitely got potential,” Allmendinger said. “I had a lot of fun driving it. It’s a perfect mix for a race team to set up, whether you go for a full oval setup or somewhat of a road course setup. It’ll definitely be a big challenge for the teams.”

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and the NASCAR XFINITY Series will compete on the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL Friday through Sunday, Sept. 28-30, 2018.

Driver-to-Driver with Jimmie Johnson: ‘I’ve got a lot to prove still’

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Jimmie Johnson is in his 17th year of full-time Cup racing and is in the midst the longest winless streak of his career at 42 races.

But the seven-time champion’s competitive drive is as strong as ever.

Johnson sat down with NBC Sports’ Dale Jarrett to discuss his career at this point in the latest edition of Driver-to-Driver.

“I can honestly say I spend more time now than I did my rookie year focusing on my job,” Johnson said. “I think that the support I have from my wife (Chandra), my kids are 7 and 4, to have them watch me be passionate about something has another meaning I didn’t anticipate coming. I’m lovin’ what I’m doing. I wish the results were a little better than what we have right now, but the process of what I’m going through is really fun.”

Hendrick Motorsports as a whole is in a slump. The team is in the middle of the second longest winless streak in its history at 35 races.

Johnson admits it’s hard to know when the right time will be for him to retire.

“The thing I can pull out of it is, don’t pick a number, make sure that fire’s gone out and that fire hasn’t gone out,” Johnson said. “The other thing that’s weighing on me, I don’t want to go out not at my fullest potential and not on my terms. The last thought that’s going to run through my mind is to walk away or, ‘Oh, it’s not going right, time to stop.’ Uh uh. I know I still got it. I’m going to go down swinging. I’ve got a lot to prove still.”

Watch the above video for more.

 

New Hampshire Cup race underway after rain delay

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The Foxwoods Resort & Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is underway after a three hour and 15 minute rain delay.

The race had been scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET.

Kurt Busch started from the pole and Martin Truex Jr. started second.

Staff picks for today’s Cup race at New Hampshire

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Here’s a look at who the NBC Sports staff is picking to win today’s Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Nate Ryan

Denny Hamlin. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver rediscovers his magic here and locks into the playoffs.

Dustin Long

Martin Truex Jr. wins back-to-back races for the first time in his career.

Daniel McFadin

Kevin Harvick earns a career-best sixth win of the season.

Dan Beaver

Martin Truex Jr. is getting into the same groove he had last year. This week he catches Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. Next week, he starts to pull away,

Today’s Cup race at New Hampshire: Start time, lineup and more

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The Cup Series holds its only race of the year at New Hampshire Motor Speedway today with the Foxwoods Resort & Casino 301.

Kurt Busch starts on the pole and Martin Truex Jr. starts second.

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

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given by Jean Swift, treasurer of Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Counsel, at 12:51 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 1 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 301 laps (318.46 miles) around the 1.058-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 75. Stage 2 ends on Lap 150.

COMPETITION CAUTION: Lap 35

PRERACE SCHEDULE: Garage opens at 7:30 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 11 a.m. Driver introductions are at 12:05 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Vanessa Salvucci will perform the anthem at 12:45 p.m. The Canadian National Anthem will be performed by Kirk Young at 12:42 p.m.

TV/RADIO: NBCSN will broadcast the race beginning at 1 p.m. Coverage begins at noon with Countdown to Green on NBCSN. Performance Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at noon p.m. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will have PRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for a high of 70 degrees and a 78 percent chance of rain and storms at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Denny Hamlin won this race last year over Kyle Larson. Kyle Busch won the playoff race over Larson.

TO THE REAR: Landon Cassill (backup) and Michael McDowell (backup).

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the complete starting lineup.