All-Star Race changes revealed

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Monster Energy All-Star Race will feature a simplified format that will include a new package with restrictor plate on the cars.

Among the changes:

# Cars will have a restrictor plate, making the first time they will be used at Charlotte Motor Speedway. A 7/8-inch restrictor plate will be used. It’s the same that is used at Daytona and Talladega. Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, estimated the restrictor plate will reduce horsepower by 400. He estimates that should put lap speeds in the 170s. Denny Hamlin won the pole for the last fall’s race at Charlotte with a lap of 191.598 mph. O’Donnell said he thought the difference with this package would be about 15 mph.

# Cars also will have aero ducts. These will be used to push air from the front of the car through the front wheel well to create a bigger wake behind the car. That is intended to allow a car following to close at an easier rate.

# The rear spoiler will be 6 inches high and have two 12-inch ears on either side. Also to create a larger wake of air to allow trailing cars to close.

# Cars will have a 2014-style splitter. O’Donnell said this was done to balance the front of the car with the changes made to the rear spoiler.

The aero package is similar to what Xfinity teams used in last year’s race at Indianapolis and will use again this year at Indianapolis, Michigan and Pocono.

The race format will be:

# The race will be four stages for a total of 80 laps — an increase of 10 laps from last year’s event. The opening stage will be 30 laps, the next two stages will be 20 laps each and the final stage is 10 laps. The race must end under green.

# Each stage cannot end under caution, creating the possibility of overtime for each stage and not just the end of the race.

# No mandatory pit stop requirements.

“I think it’s a good, courageous opportunity, and I’m glad NASCAR is going in this direction,’’ NASCAR on NBC analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. said on NASCAR America. “I didn’t believe that we’d ever see the day where we had the industry thinking we really needed to increase drag on the car a big degree. I didn’t think we’d have a movement within the industry where we were going to remove power. This is not the final version. This is only cracking the door open and looking in the right areas.

“I believe this direction could be a game change for particularly the mile-and-a-half race tracks. What I believe could happen down the road is we’ll see other renditions of this, we’ll eventually maybe get a smaller engine, that’s an open motor with more throttle response, they can put gear back in the cars, get the drivers to feel like they can drive the car off the corner. This could lead NASCAR in a very, very critical direction that’s going to improve this sport over a long period of time.”

O’Donnell said it is NASCAR’s hope to see how these changes work and look to apply them at other tracks in 2019 or later.

“I think it’s important to look at this as directionally is this something we want to pursue as a whole from an intermediate track standpoint,” O’Donnell said. “We believe we know how that will affect Indianapolis, Michigan and Pocono. How would that affect Charlotte? What can we learn.

“It’s more what can we learn from this and build upon it. If there are some different things we have to do for individual tracks, we would. Ideal situation is we all stumble upon something that this is the package for the intermediate track.”

One of the differences with Charlotte is that its straightaways are not as long as those at Indianapolis. One of the benefits of the package to the car at Indy for the Xfinity Series was the chance to draft on those straights. So how does that work for Charlotte, a track that is 1 mile less than Indy?

“I think when you look at it, directionally, you want to look at the ability, if I’m three or four cars together, can I catch the leader, am I faster with that group and we believe the answer is yes,” O’Donnell said. “Then when you look going into the corners, would you be in a pack? Don’t know. But it opens the ability when you’re going 205 into the corner versus 170 (with the new package), that opens up high grove in Charlotte, low groove and you’re going to feel more comfortable going in two or three wide.”

The All-Star field will include Cup winners in 2017 and 2018; former all-star race winners who are competing full-time; Cup champions who are competing full-time; the winner of each of the three stages of the Monster Energy Open; and the winner of the 2018 Fan Vote.

Seventeen drivers are eligible for the All-Star Race at this point. They are: Ryan Blaney, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Martin Truex Jr.

The All-Star Race is May 19 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The Monster Energy Open will be held before the All-Star Race. The Open will be three stages. The first two stages will be 20 laps each. The final stage will be 10 laps. Each stage winner advances.

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Longtime crew chief Nick Harrison dies at 37, team announces

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LOUDON, N.H. — Kaulig Racing announced Sunday morning that veteran crew chief Nick Harrison died. He was 37.

Harrison was the crew chief for Justin Haley‘s No. 11 Chevrolet in the Xfinity Series and had called the car’s 13th-place finish Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

In a statement attributed to team owner Matt Kaulig and president Chris Rice, the team said in a tweet that “It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Nick Harrison, our beloved crew chief of the No. 11 car at Kaulig Racing. Please keep Nick’s family in your thoughts and prayers at this time.”

No cause of death or information on services was immediately available. A Kaulig Racing spokesperson said “further details would be provided as they come.”

NASCAR released a statement on Harrison’s death: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of longtime crew chief Nick Harrison, and offer our thoughts, prayers and support to his family, friends and Kaulig Racing colleagues.”

According to Racing-Reference.info, Harrison made his debut as an Xfinity crew chief in 2006. He was a crew chief for 184 Xfinity races (including 17 with Haley this year) and had five victories, his first with Kurt Busch in 2012 at Daytona International Speedway with James Finch’s Phoenix Racing.

He also worked 120 races as a crew chief in the Cup Series, including full seasons in 2011-12 with Phoenix Racing’s No. 51 Chevrolet. He guided Busch to a third place June 24, 2012 at Sonoma Raceway, marking Harrison’s best finish as a Cup crew chief.

Harrison also won three times in the Xfinity Series with Austin Dillon and once with Paul Menard. He also won with Dillon in the Aug. 2, 2014 truck race at Pocono Raceway, one of three truck races for Harrison as a crew chief.

During a career with several teams including Phoenix, Richard Childress Racing and Kaulig, Harrison worked with more than a dozen Cup and Xfinity drivers. The roster included Bobby Labonte, Bill Elliott, Boris Said, A.J. Allmendinger, Micahel McDowell, Regan Smith, Ryan Truex, Landon Cassill, Jamie McMurray, Ty Dillon, Jeremy Clements, Brandon Jones, Ben Kennedy and Brendan Gaughan.

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

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After a harrowing series of practice sessions for some teams at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, NASCAR’s premier series is scheduled for 301 laps Sunday at the Magic Mile.

Five drivers — Alex Bowman, William Byron, Kyle Larson, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin — will start from the rear in backup cars after crashes the past two days.

Brad Keselowski will start first after capturing his first pole position since October 2017.

Here’s all the info for today’s event:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The green flag is scheduled for 3:15 p.m.

PRERACE: The garage will open at 9:30 a.m. The driver/crew chief meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m. Driver introductions will begin at 2:30 p.m. The national anthem will be performed by Whitney Doucet at 3:01 p.m.

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

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

TV/RADIO: Prerace coverage will begin at 1:30 p.m. with NASCAR America on NBCSN, followed by  Countdown to Green at 2:30 on NBCSN and the race broadcast at 3 on NBCSN. Performance Racing Network will broadcast the race. PRN’s coverage begins at 2 p.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry PRN’s broadcast, which is also available at goprn.com.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for mostly cloudy skies with a high of 90 degrees and a 24% chance of scattered thunderstorms for the start of the race. 

LAST TIME: Kevin Harvick bumped Kyle Busch from the lead on Lap 295 of 301. Aric Almirola finished third. 

TO THE REAR: Alex Bowman, William Byron, Kyle Larson, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin will drop to the back because they are in backup cars.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.

Harrison Burton, Paul Menard exchange words after trading hits

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LOUDON, N.H. – There’s a 20-year gap between Paul Menard and Harrison Burton and seemingly just as wide a gulf in how they viewed their incident Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Burton, 18, finished 29th in the Xfinity Series race after being wrecked by Menard, 38, with 45 laps remaining.

Parking his No. 18 Toyota after completing 169 of 200 laps, Burton waited for more than 20 minutes until the race ended and then strode purposefully from the entrance of the Xfinity garage to the pits and confronted Menard for a terse but civil conversation.

“I wanted to get across to him that I got wrecked for no reason,” said Burton, who competes full-time in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series and was making the third start of his Xfinity career and the first on a track at least a mile in length. “I barely touched him. There’s barely a mark on his door. I don’t know if he’s heard of NASCAR before, but this isn’t F1 where if you touch someone, there’s a 5-second penalty.

“I barely touched him, and I got wrecked. He says that I got into him on the restart. I’m on the apron, and he comes down across my nose and then gets mad about it. When he watches the film, I think he’ll see that. I think that we just worked our butts off and didn’t get the result we deserve. We’ll just come back and race harder and beat him next time.”

Menard said he was justified to tap Burton in the left rear and spin the Joe Gibbs Racing driver into the Turn 1 wall.

“He ran into me a couple of times,” said the driver of the No. 12 Ford for Team Penske. “So I voiced my displeasure. He’s a young kid. He’s got a long time in this sport. He’s got to figure that stuff out pretty early. As he races more in Xfinity, and especially if he gets to the Cup level, they don’t put up with that stuff. I felt it was my place to tell him that’s not cool.

“A lot of these kids are good clean racers. He kind of stood out from the crowd. He had a fast enough car he could have been clean. I hate tearing up race cars. I didn’t really want to tear up his race car, that’s for sure. But sometimes enough is enough.”

Menard singled out Chase Briscoe and Noah Gragson, both in their early to mid-20s, for having raced him cleaner than Burton.

“Some of these kids are really fun to race with, and some of them just don’t get it,” said Menard, a veteran of 14 seasons in the Cup series who was teamed with Burton’s father (and NASCAR on NBC analyst), Jeff, for three seasons at Richard Childress Racing. “So I think you have to cut that shit out at an early age.”

“Some of these kids have a lot of talent and don’t have to run into you to try to pass you. Harrison, I’ve never met the kid before. I know his dad really well. I’ve got a lot of respect for Jeff. Really good man. But the kid ran into me a couple of times, and that was enough of that.”

Though he had the chance to air his grievances, Burton was skeptical it would make any difference with how Menard would race him in the future.

“He doesn’t care,” Burton said. “He doesn’t care about anyone else but himself. But I’m going to just go out and beat him on the racetrack like I was going to today. I was driving away from him. I was gone.

“We were going to beat him on the racetrack, and that’s all you can do is just beat people on the racetrack and show them you’re going to outwork them. I’m fired up and ready to go for the next one.”

Results, points after Xfinity race at New Hampshire

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Christopher Bell led 186 of 200 laps on his way to winning Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Bell beat Cole Custer to claim his fifth of the year.

The top five was completed by Justin Allgaier, Tyler Reddick and Paul Menard.

Click here for the race results.

Points

Tyler Reddick continues to lead the standings despite having two few wins than Bell and Custer.

He has a 56-point lead over Bell and 76-point advantage over Custer in third.

The top five is completed by Justin Allgaier (-146 points) and Austin Cindric (-163 points).

Click here for the full standings.