NASCAR America: Cup series experiencing significant parity of late (video)

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The 2017 NASCAR Cup season has been an interesting study to date.

Not only have there been three first-time winners – Ryan Blaney, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Austin Dillon – the last eight races in particular have marked a period of incredible parity and diversity in the series.

There have been eight different winners in the stretch of races from the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte to this past Sunday’s Overton’s 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

During Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR America, analysts Kyle Petty and Parker Kligerman discussed their thoughts on what has made the last eight races so competitive – yet disparate when it comes to the end results.

First, let’s hear from Petty:

“There’s no dominant driver. We haven’t seen a Jimmie Johnson, a Jeff Gordon, a Matt Kenseth winning six or seven races a few years ago, just dominating everywhere you go.

“We’ve not had that this year. We’ve had a few guys who’ve run upfront, have won a few races and won a lot of stages – the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.), we can say that – but at the end of a day, not a dominant driver.

“No. 2, the different style racetracks we’ve had. We’ve had a 600-mile race (Charlotte), a banked mile race (Dover), a triangle (Pocono), a 2-mile track (Michigan), a road course (Sonoma) and a speedway (Daytona). When you throw that many different tracks at teams, some teams are going to perform better than others.

“The other part of it for me is penalties, mistakes and stage racing. Stage racing has changed how some of these guys approach the day. We saw that this past weekend at New Hampshire. Kyle Busch gave up points in that first stage to win the second stage.

“We also see penalties and mistakes by pit crews and drivers and penalties on pit road have taken drivers out of winning one or two races.

“I think this is a great part of the season for teams. When you look back over these races and see maybe not the guys that won races, but those that led races and run in the top four or five, they’re the guys that are going to be the four guys (challenging for the Cup championship) at Homestead.”

Kligerman essentially agreed with Petty but with one exception – while Petty put the advent of stage racing last on his list of the three major differences this season, Kligerman put stage racing at the top of his list.

Here’s what Kligerman said:

“Stage racing and the strategy that has shown up, you have drivers solely who care about winning the stage so they get that playoff point because they’re locked into the playoffs and want to pad their points for the playoffs. You have other drivers that are trying to point themselves into the playoffs, they care about every stage point possible. That has really mixed things up.

“Young drivers within these different organizations. They’re going out there and competing and showing they have different skills, that they brought to organizations that maybe weren’t the best. Young drivers are bringing up those organizations up to the front at those types of tracks.

“Schedule diversity, the vast amount of tracks, that’s where we both agree. That diversity of the schedule has certainly added up.”

Petty summed it all up by adding, “We are in a stage where there’s a transition from the older and established drivers to these younger drivers, and they’re going to have an impact on the sport.

“With these eight organizations winning these last eight races, that’s an impact already. … We are in that transition, we’re seeing it and these are the initial results of it.”

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NASCAR Awards: Scene on the red carpet

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The NASCAR community gathered at the Music City Center to commemorate the 2022 season and celebrate Joey Logano‘s second Cup title.

The event can be seen at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock.

Here is a look at the scene on the red carpet before Thursday night’s NASCAR Awards:

Joey Logano and Brittany Logano (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Ryan Blaney and Gianna Tulio (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kyle and Samantha Busch (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Chase Elliott (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Alex Bowman and Crystal Marsh (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Tyler Reddick and Alexa De Leon (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Denny Hamlin and Jordan Fish (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Daniel Suarez and Julia Piquet (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Chase Briscoe and Marissa Briscoe (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Christopher Bell and Morgan Bell (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Austin Dillon and Whitney Dillon (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kyle Larson (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

William Byron and Erin Blaney (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kevin Harvick (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Ross Chastain and Erika Turner (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Austin Cindric (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kurt Busch (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Harrison Burton and Jenna Petty(Photo: Dustin Long)
Mario Andretti (Photo: Dustin Long)

Chase Elliott wins NMPA Most Popular Driver Award

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Chase Elliott won his fifth consecutive NMPA Most Popular Driver Award on Thursday.

The announcement was made during the NASCAR Awards at the Music City Center. The show will air at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock.

Elliott is one of only five drivers to win the award since 1984.

Bill Elliott won it from 1984-88, 1991-2000 and 2002. Dale Earnhardt won the award posthumously in 2001. Darrell Waltrip won it in 1989-90. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won it from 2003-17. Chase Elliott has won it every year since.

Noah Gragson was voted as the Most Popular Driver in the Xfinity Series. Hailie Deegan was voted as the Most Popular Driver in the Camping World Truck Series.

Kevin Harvick to make decision on future by Daytona in February

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Former Cup champion Kevin Harvick says he’ll know by Daytona in February his plans beyond 2023.

Harvick’s contract with Stewart-Haas Racing ends after the upcoming season. 

Harvick said Thursday before the NASCAR Awards that “it could go either way at this particular point” on what he’ll do, but he affirmed that “going into Daytona, I’ll know what I’m going to do.”

The Daytona 500 is scheduled for Feb. 19. Harvick anticipates making an announcement by then.

“We’re at a point where everybody needs to know what’s going on,” Harvick said. “There’s too many tentacles to everything that happens. Whether it’s the race team, driver management company, every element needs to know. It’s not fair to anybody to have to start the season not knowing.”

Harvick turns 47 on Dec. 8. Next season will be his 23rd in Cup. His debut came a week after Dale Earnhardt’s fatal crash in the 2001 Daytona 500. Harvick was selected by car owner Richard Childress to drive for Earnhardt’s team. 

Harvick has gone to win the 2014 Cup championship and 60 races at Richard Childress Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing. He’s tied with Kyle Busch for ninth on the all-time Cup wins list.

Harvick won two races last season. His victory last August at Michigan snapped a 65-race winless streak. He followed that by winning the next weekend at Richmond. 

Harvick has won at least two races in nine of the past 10 seasons. He has scored 41 of his 60 Cup wins since he turned 37 years old.

“Kevin, I think, is probably the No. 1 leader of the drivers, as he should be,” two-time Cup champion Joey Logano said Thursday. “He’s been around the longest. He’s very accomplished. He’s very smart. He’s been through the ups and downs. He’s lived it. There’s wisdom in experience. It’s great to hear his opinion on where we are as a sport.”

Harvick’s business interests include a management company that represents Cup drivers Ryan Preece, Harrison Burton and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., along with other athletes. Harvick also has worked as a broadcaster on NASCAR Xfinity races for Fox Sports, earning positive reviews. 

Harvick’s son Keelan, who is 10 years old, races and has competed in karting in Europe. 

“He’s got one more race in Italy … and then we’ll start all over again,” Harvick said of his son.

Harvick went overseas after the season finale at Phoenix to watch Keelan race.

“I think he’s definitely matured a little bit since he’s been making these trips,” Harvick said. “I think it’s important to have that culturing aspect of life to be comfortable to do things like that anywhere in the world.”

The NASCAR Awards program airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday, Dec. 3 on Peacock. To sign up for Peacock, go here.

BJ McLeod, Live Fast team move to Chevrolet

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Driver/owner BJ McLeod and Live Fast Motorsports will race in Chevrolets beginning with the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season.

Based in Mooresville, North Carolina, Live Fast has been a Ford team.

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Live Fast is owned by McLeod, Matt Tifft and Joe Falk. Jessica McLeod, BJ’s wife, is the team’s chief operating officer.

“Our team is excited to make this transition to Chevrolet,” BJ McLeod said in a statement released by the team. “Chevrolet Camaros have proven great success on the track, and Live Fast Motorsports is looking forward to becoming a part of this advance.”

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The team will use ECR engines.

McLeod had one top-10 finish in 29 starts in the Cup Series last season.