NASCAR America: Analysts give their take on 2018 Cup schedule changes

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On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, analysts Kyle Petty, Steve Letarte and NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett talked about all the changes that are coming for 2018, including drivers in new rides, new rules for the season and new rules for the Daytona 500.

They also talked about the significant changes to the makeup of the schedule.

Among those changes are Chicagoland Speedway moves from the start of the 10-race playoffs to July 1, Richmond moves from the last race of the regular season to the second race of the playoffs, the Brickyard 400 moves from July to the final race of the 26-race regular season.

Also, Dover moves from the Round of 16 opening round to the Round of 12, Charlotte moves to the final race of the Round of 16 and will be contested partly on the Charlotte Motor Speedway oval and for the first time, will also be contested partly on the track’s infield road course.

Gone is Loudon’s annual second race; it’s been replaced by the opening race of the playoffs in Las Vegas.

“I like that they’re willing to move things around, for the fan base as much as anything else,” Kyle Petty said. “But I’ll say this straight up, I don’t like Indianapolis being the last race of the regular season. … It is a big event, but it is not the race that I want to see as the final (regular) season race.

“… But any of the other changes, I am a big fan of mixing it up, I have to admit that.”

Added Letarte, “So it doesn’t happen often, but KP (Petty) and I are completely at odds on this one. I think Indianapolis as the final race of the season is a spectacular place. It gets it out of the heat of the summer for the fan base.

“… There’s not a lot of opportunity for a crew chief to do something strategy-wise at Richmond because tires are so important. But when I come to the Brickyard, a large facility, 2.5-mile racetrack, when I come to pit road and don’t lose a lap, that opens up a ton of different pit options and maybe creates an opportunity not for a surprise winner, but definitely a surprise front-runner.

“I think the Brickyard as the regular season finale has a lot of opportunity.”

Check out more of the analysts’ thoughts in the video above, and also check out the 2018 NASCAR Cup schedule below.

 

Date
Location
Network
Race Start
Radio
2/11
Daytona 500 Qualifying at
Daytona International Speedway
FOX
12 p.m. ET
MRN
2/11
The Clash at
Daytona International Speedway
FS1
3 p.m. ET
MRN
2/15
The Duel at
Daytona International Speedway
FS1
7 p.m. ET
MRN
2/18
DAYTONA 500 at
Daytona International Speedway
FOX
2:30 p.m. ET
MRN
2/25
Atlanta Motor Speedway
FOX
2 p.m. ET
PRN
3/4
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
FOX
3:30 p.m. ET
PRN
3/11
Phoenix Raceway
FOX
3:30 p.m. ET
MRN
3/18
Auto Club Speedway
FOX
3:30 p.m. ET
MRN
3/25
Martinsville Speedway
FS1
2 p.m. ET
MRN
4/8
Texas Motor Speedway
FS1
2 p.m. ET
PRN
4/15
Bristol Motor Speedway
FOX
2 p.m. ET
PRN
4/21
Richmond International Raceway
FOX
6:30 p.m. ET
MRN
4/29
Talladega Superspeedway
FOX
2 p.m. ET
MRN
5/6
Dover International Speedway
FS1
2 p.m. ET
MRN
5/12
Kansas Speedway
FS1
8 p.m. ET
MRN
5/19
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Open at
Charlotte Motor Speedway
FS1
6 p.m. ET
MRN
5/19
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at
Charlotte Motor Speedway
FS1
8 p.m. ET
MRN
5/27
Charlotte Motor Speedway
FOX
6 p.m. ET
PRN
6/3
Pocono Raceway
FS1
2 p.m. ET
MRN
6/10
Michigan International Speedway
FOX
2 p.m. ET
MRN
6/24
Sonoma Raceway
FS1
3 p.m. ET
PRN
7/1
Chicagoland Speedway
NBCSN
2:30 p.m. ET
MRN
7/7
Daytona International Speedway
NBC
7 p.m. ET
PRN
7/14
Kentucky Speedway
NBCSN
7:30 p.m. ET
PRN
7/22
New Hampshire Motor Speedway
NBCSN
2 p.m. ET
PRN
7/29
Pocono Raceway
NBCSN
2:30 p.m. ET
MRN
8/5
Watkins Glen International
NBC
2:30 p.m. ET
MRN
8/12
Michigan International Speedway
NBCSN
2:30 p.m. ET
MRN
8/18
Bristol Motor Speedway
NBCSN
7:30 p.m. ET
PRN
9/2
Darlington Raceway
NBCSN
6 p.m. ET
MRN
9/9
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
NBCSN
2 p.m. ET
IMS
9/16
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
NBCSN
3 p.m. ET
PRN
9/22
Richmond International Raceway
NBCSN
7:30 p.m. ET
MRN
9/30
Charlotte Motor Speedway
NBC
2 p.m. ET
PRN
10/7
Dover International Speedway
NBCSN
2 p.m. ET
MRN
10/14
Talladega Superspeedway
NBC
2 p.m. ET
MRN
10/21
Kansas Speedway
NBC
2 p.m. ET
MRN
10/28
Martinsville Speedway
NBCSN
2:30 p.m. ET
MRN
11/4
Texas Motor Speedway
NBCSN
3 p.m. ET
PRN
11/11
Phoenix Raceway
NBC
2:30 p.m. ET
MRN
11/18
Homestead Miami Speedway
NBC
2:30 p.m. ET
MRN
 

Dr. Diandra: Data points to speed as key to breaking Blaney’s losing streak

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Richmond Raceway presents a chance for Ryan Blaney to break a losing streak that started after his win at the regular-season-ending Daytona race in 2021. A fast scan of his stats suggests Blaney is off to a good start to do just that in 2023.

Despite a poor showing at COTA, where he failed to run any higher than 16th all race, Blaney has a season average finishing position of 12.8. He’s tied with Kevin Harvick for fourth-best average finishing position among full-time drivers.

Blaney finished second at Phoenix, where the new short track aeropackage debuted. But he has not won.

Things look good on the surface

Before getting too worried by Blaney’s drought, remember that the season is only six races old. Two of those six races were superspeedway events, and a third was a road course where running through other cars has become the norm.

With 30 more races in the season, it’s far from time to hit the panic button.

Basic statistics suggest that Blaney is matching (and sometimes beating) his teammate, defending champion Joey Logano. I’ve included the statistics for sophomore driver Austin Cindric in the table below, as well.

A table comparing wins, top-fives and top-tens for Penske drivers

Logano won Atlanta and has two top-five finishes. No driver has more than three top fives thus far. Despite Logano’s win, Blaney’s average finishing position beats Logano’s.

Cindric has two top-10 finishes and an average finish of 16.5. His best finishes are sixth-place finishes at Las Vegas and last week at COTA.

After the National Motorsports Appeals Panel rescinded the 100-point penalty assessed to each Hendrick Motorsports driver and team, Ryan Blaney occupies eighth place in the season points standings.

Things would appear to look good for breaking Blaney’s losing streak this year.

Digging Deeper

But a different pattern emerges upon diving into the loop data. The next table compares more detailed statistics for all three Penske drivers. I’ve highlighted the lowest-scoring driver’s numbers in red for each metric.

A table showing some of the metrics that must be improved for to break Blaney's losing streak

Cindric lags his more experienced teammates in number of laps led, number of fastest laps and number of laps run in the top 15. But in the other stats, Blaney is the third out of three at Penske.

Average running position measures driver performance across all laps of a race, instead of just the last one. Blaney’s best average running position of the season was at Phoenix, with a 7.47. His worst was last week at COTA, where his average running position was 29.28. Apart from Phoenix, Blaney didn’t break the top 10 in average running position at any race this year.

The average speed-on-restarts rank compares a driver’s average speed in the first two laps of each green-flag run to other drivers’ speeds. Blaney ranks 32nd out of 35 full-time drivers in average restart speed rank. That places him behind Logano and Cindric.

Speed early in a run and speed late in a run measure a driver’s speed compared to everyone else on track during the first and last 25% of each green-flag run. In both metrics, Blaney again ranks 32 out of 35.

The fact that top-ranking Penske driver Logano only ranks 12th and 16th in early and late speed respectively suggests that the problem is at least partly company wide.

In overall green-flag speed — the average speed over a full green-flag run — Blaney ranks 29th out of 35. Logano ranks 12th and Cindric 19th.

These numbers identify one challenge that must be overcome to break Blaney’s losing streak.

Year over year

I’ll set aside Cindric’s numbers in this section for the sake of clarity. Blaney’s first six races this year show a large drop-off in most metrics relative to the first six races of 2022. Logano, however, either improved or stayed relatively constant in the same metrics.

In the table below:

  • Green indicates a 10% or better improvement in 2023.
  • Red indicates the 2023 value is at least 10% worse.
  • Black indicates a change (either way) less than 10%.

A table comparing statistics for Blaney and Logano in 2022 and 2023

Blaney has led a little more than 10% of the laps he led in 2022 and has less than half the number of fastest laps. His drop-offs on the speed metrics (the last four rows) are much greater than Logano’s changes.

In 2022, Blaney was beating Logano in all four speed metrics. This year, Logano is ahead.

The Promise of Richmond

The encouraging news to pull from this analysis is that Blaney’s numbers for Phoenix are the best of the 2023 season so far. He ranked seventh in green-flag speed, second in restart rank, eight in early-run speed and fourth in late-run speed. All of that bodes well for a good finish at Richmond.

Blaney won the pole in last spring’s Richmond race and finished seventh. He finished 10th in the fall race after qualifying 10th.

And Blaney himself is optimistic.

“Richmond will be a good gauge of where you stack up – slow, a bunch of mechanical grip, tire conservation,” Blaney said. “So I’m optimistic for it, for sure. I thought we had good cars there last year in both races from the whole team, and I’m excited to get there.”

But breaking Blaney’s losing streak is only the start to a successful season. He must improve his speed metrics at other tracks if he is to contend for a championship.

NASCAR weekend schedules: Richmond/Texas

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NASCAR’s three major national series will be in action this weekend at two locations.

The Cup and Xfinity Series will race at Richmond Raceway in Virginia, and the Craftsman Truck Series will share the weekend with the IndyCar Series at Texas Motor Speedway near Fort Worth.

MORE: Drivers to watch at Richmond

Tyler Reddick won last Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas to put Toyota in the win column for the first time this season.

Here is a look at the weekend schedule for both tracks:

Richmond Raceway (Cup and Xfinity)

Weekend weather

Friday: Mostly cloudy. High of 72. Winds 10-20 mph. 13% chance of rain.

Saturday: Light rain early. Sunshine later. High of 75. Winds 20-30 mph. 24% chance of rain at start of Xfinity race.

Sunday: Sunny. High of 62. No chance of rain at start of Cup race.

Friday, March 31

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. — Xfinity Series
  • 4 – 9 p.m. — Cup Series

Saturday, April 1

Garage open

  • 6 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. — Xfinity Series
  • 7 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 8:05 – 8:35 a.m. — Xfinity practice (FS1)
  • 8:35 – 9:30 a.m. — Xfinity qualifying (FS1)
  • 10:05 – 10:50 a.m. — Cup practice (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 10:50 – noon — Cup qualifying (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 1 p.m. — Xfinity race (250 laps, 187 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, April 2

Garage open

  • 12:30 – 10 p.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 3:30 p.m. — Cup race (400 laps, 300 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Texas Motor Speedway (Truck)

Weekend weather

Friday: Scattered thunderstorms in morning. Sunny and windy later. High of 79. Winds 20-30 mph. 50% chance of rain.

Saturday: Intervals of clouds and sun. High of 74. Winds 10-15 mph. No chance of rain at start of Truck race.

Friday, March 31

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • Noon – 5 p.m. — Truck Series

Saturday, April 1

Garage open

  • 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. — Truck Series

Track activity

  • 10:35 – 11:05 a.m. — Truck practice
  • 11:05 a.m. – noon — Truck qualifying
  • 4:30 p.m. — Truck race (167 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

 

 

NASCAR fines Daniel Suarez $50,000 for pit road incident

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NASCAR fined Daniel Suarez $50,000 for running into the cars of Alex Bowman and teammate Ross Chastain on pit road after last weekend’s race at Circuit of the Americas.

Suarez was upset after a potential top-five finish was lost in an incident in overtime.

MORE: Appeals Panel rescinds 100-point penalty to Hendrick drivers 

Suarez restarted fifth in the second overtime restart but left the inside lane open. Alex Bowman, with Ross Chastain and Chase Briscoe aligned behind, charged and got beside Suarez as they approached Turn 1.

As Bowman slowed to make the tight turn, he was hit from behind and that sent him into Suarez, who clipped the left rear of Martin Truex Jr.’s car. Truex spun in front of Suarez and blocked his path, allowing the rest of the field to drive by and costing Suarez a top-five finish. Suarez finished 27th.

Suarez spoke briefly with Bowman before having a discussion with Chastain.

“It’s uncharacteristic of Daniel,” Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “There’s no excuse for what happened.”

Appeals panel rescinds 100-point penalty to Hendrick drivers

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Alex Bowman is back leading the points after the National Motorsports Appeals Panel rescinded the 100-point penalty to each Hendrick Motorsports driver and team Wednesday. The Appeals Panel also rescinded the 10-point playoff to each Hendrick driver and team.

The Appeals Panel found that Hendrick violated the rule by modifying the hood louvers on the cars of Bowman, William Byron, Kyle Larson and Josh Berry at Phoenix. The louvers were taken after practice that weekend.

The Appeals Panel kept the $100,000 fine and four-race suspension to each Hendrick crew chief: Cliff Daniels, Alan Gustafson, Blake Harris and Rudy Fugle. All four sat out the past two races, meaning they’ll miss this weekend’s race at Richmond and next weekend’s race on the dirt at Bristol before returning the following weekend at Martinsville.

The Appeals Panel did not give a reason for its decision.

Bowman had been 16th in the standings with the 100-point penalty. He now has a 15-point lead on Ross Chastain after getting all those points back.

Byron goes from 22nd to third after getting his points back. He’s 29 points behind Bowman, 14 points behind Chastain and five points ahead of Kyle Busch. Byron also gets his 10 playoff points back for his wins at Las Vegas and Phoenix.

Larson goes from 27th to ninth with getting his points back.

“We are grateful to the National Motorsports Appeals Panel for their time and attention,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, in a statement. “Today’s outcome reflects the facts, and we’re pleased the panel did the right thing by overturning the points penalty. It validated our concerns regarding unclear communication and other issues we raised. We look forward to focusing on the rest of our season, beginning with this weekend’s race at Richmond (Raceway).”

NASCAR stated its displeasure with part of the penalty being rescinded.

“We are pleased that the National Motorsports Appeals Panel agreed that Hendrick Motorsports violated the rule book. However, we are disappointed that the entirety of the penalty was not upheld. A points penalty is a strong deterrent that is necessary to govern the garage following rule book violations, and we believe that it was an important part of the penalty in this case and moving forward. We will continue to inspect and officiate the NASCAR garage at the highest level of scrutiny to ensure a fair and level playing field for our fans and the entire garage.”

The panelists on the appeal were former driver Bill Lester, Kelly Housby and Dixon Johnston.

Here is the updated points

1. Alex Bowman       226 points

2. Ross Chastain      211

3. William Byron       197

4. Kyle Busch           192

5. Joey Logano        186

6. Kevin Harvick       186

7. Christopher Bell   184

8. Ryan Blaney         177

9. Kyle Larson          170

10. Austin Cindric     166

11. Martin Truex Jr.   165

12. Brad Keselowski 162

13. Tyler Reddick       161

14. Denny Hamlin      161

15. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 159

16. Chris Buescher     157

17. Daniel Suárez        144

18. Corey LaJoie         139

19. Michael McDowell 125

20. Ty Gibbs                 118

21. Bubba Wallace      103

22. AJ Allmendinger    103

23. Erik Jones                99

24. Chase Briscoe         96

25. Todd Gilliland          95

26. Austin Dillon            93

27. Noah Gragson        86

28. Aric Almirola            70

29. Ryan Preece           69

30. Harrison Burton      66