Friday 5: Will Daytona Speedweeks repeat last year’s chaos?

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As a new Speedweeks dawns, NASCAR teams hope this year won’t be a repeat of the carnage that took place a year ago at Daytona International Speedway.

One hundred and six vehicles were listed as involved in accidents in Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series races during Speedweeks last year, according to race reports.

That was a 29.2 percent increase from the previous Speedweeks.

Only once in the last 10 years were more vehicles damaged in races during Speedweeks. There were 122 vehicles in accidents in 2012.

The numbers were high last year because so many accidents took place at the front of the field — where drivers say they want to be because they believe it is the safest place.

A 17-car crash in the Daytona 500 was triggered when Jimmie Johnson, running third, was hit from behind.

An 11-car crash in the Daytona 500 started when Chase Elliott’s car was hit after a restart as Elliott was fourth.

The Xfinity race had a 20-car wreck that started when Tyler Reddick was hit from behind while running seventh.

A 16-car crash in the Xfinity race began when Elliott Sadler, running second, was hit from behind.

A 12-car crash in the Xfinity race started when Brandon Jones was hit while running fifth.

A 12-vehicle crash in the Truck race started when Matt Crafton, who was leading, was hit in the right side. Crafton’s truck went airborne.

Will last year be the start of a trend or prove to be an anomaly? This will be worth keeping an eye on in the coming days.

2. FASTER SPEEDWEEKS?

With Cup going to the no ride-height rule, the question is if the cars will be faster — and by how much — since they will be closer to the ground. NASCAR also added half an inch of spoiler to offset the elimination of the ride height requirement.

NASCAR expects speeds to be about the same but a prominent team expects speeds to climb possibly as much as 8 mph.

Chase Elliott won the pole last year with a lap of 192.872 mph. The fastest lap in practice last year came in the final session before the Daytona 500 when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. went 198.452 mph in the draft.

Even if speeds increase, NASCAR has made improvements to the cars to where it should be less likely for a car to get airborne on its own. NASCAR stated that 201 mph previously was the minimum speed for liftoff. Now it’s 233 mph. Of course, if a car hits another in a particular way it can launch it regardless of the speed they’re going.

3. EASIER TO OFFICIATE

Xfinity cars will have a new lower front fascia with a 4-inch ride height at the restrictor-plate tracks. This is intended to eliminate bump drafting. If all goes as NASCAR officials plan, the changes will create a gap of about 1.5 feet between cars, making it easier to police the matter. 

4. GOING FOR 4 IN A ROW

The No. 24 car — driven by rookie William Byron this season — is going for its fourth consecutive Daytona 500 pole. Jeff Gordon won the pole in 2015 with that number and Chase Elliott did the same in 2016 and ’17.

5. WILL DAYTONA STREAK CONTINUE?

Kurt Busch’s Daytona 500 victory last year marked the eighth consecutive year a different driver won the season-opening race.

That streak includes Denny Hamlin (2016), Joey Logano (2015), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2014), Jimmie Johnson (2013), Matt Kenseth (2012), Trevor Bayne (2011) and Jamie McMurray (2010).

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Brad Keselowski wins pole for New Hampshire Xfinity race

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Brad Keselowski will start first in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Keselowski claimed the pole for the Lakes Region 200 (4 p.m. ET on NBCSN) with a speed of 130.296 mph.

It’s his second pole in three starts this season and his fifth pole in 10 starts at the 1-mile track.

Keselowski is trying to win his fourth straight Xfinity race.

The Team Penske driver will be joined on the front row by Christopher Bell (130.126 mph).

The top five is completed by Ryan Preece, Cole Custer and John Hunter Nemechek.

Ryan Truex, Matt Tifft, Austin Cindric, Kaz Grala, Jeremy Clements, Michael Annett and Ross Chastain did not advance out of the second round.

During the first round the red flag came out with 6:25 left due to fluid on the track from Ryan Reed‘s No. 16 Ford.

Reed will start last.

Click here for qualifying results.

 

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

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Last year, Ryan Preece finished second to Kyle Busch in this race. Preece takes over the car that beat him last year and hopes to improve by one position. He’ll have to beat Cup regulars Brad Keselowski and Austin Dillon to do so.

Here’s all the info for today’s Xfinity race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:07 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:16 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 200 laps (211.6 miles) around the 1.05-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 45. Stage 2 ends on Lap 90.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: Garage opens at 7 a.m. Qualifying is at 11:05 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 1:30 p.m. Driver introductions are at 3:30 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Boston Sports Team Vocalist John Robert Murphy will perform the anthem at 4:01 p.m. The Canadian National Anthem will be performed by Jodie Cunningham at 3:58 p.m.

TV/RADIO: NBCSN will broadcast the race beginning at 3 p.m. Coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. with Countdown to Green on NBCSN. Performance Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 2:30 p.m. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will have PRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 78 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Kyle Busch beat his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Ryan Preece by more than 10 seconds. William Byron came home third, with Cup regulars Kyle Larson and Brad Keselowski rounding out the top five.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.

Denny Hamlin posts fastest lap in Saturday morning Cup practice

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LOUDON, N.H. – Denny Hamlin had the fastest lap in Saturday morning’s Cup practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, leading the field with a lap of 132.942 mph.

He was followed by Ryan Blaney (132.526 mph), Martin Truex Jr. (132.462), Kyle Busch (132.406) and Kevin Harvick (132.356).

Harvick ran the most laps at 50. Harvick told NASCAR on NBC broadcaster Rick Allen in the garage that he ran so many laps to see how much the speed falls off as the tires wear. Jimmie Johnson was next with 42 laps run.

There were no incidents in the 50-minute session.

Ryan Blaney had the best 10-lap average at 131.767 mph.

Click here for the speed chart.

Start time of Sunday’s Cup race moved up to 1 pm ET

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LOUDON, N.H. – The start time for Sunday’s Cup race has been moved up to 1 p.m. ET because of the threat of rain, NASCAR announced.

NBCSN will broadcast the race. NBCSN’s coverage begins at noon ET.

The wunderground.com forecast for 1 p.m. ET Sunday calls for a 49 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms. There is a threat of rain throughout the day.

Kurt Busch won the pole for Sunday’s race.