NASCAR will not use All-Star aero package again this season in Cup

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Despite some car owners calling for NASCAR to use the All-Star aero package at additional Cup races this season, NASCAR announced Thursday it will not do so this year.

“What we want to do is to continue to deliver on that great racing product and to do that we need to spend the proper time talking to the engine builders, the (car manufacturers) and race teams to see what, if anything, we could do this year,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer told NASCAR.com. “We all collectively felt like the best thing to do was to put additional effort into some potential tweaks and focus on 2019 vs. a race or two this season. Everyone is aligned on doing what is best for the fans.”

The package, which includes a restrictor plate, air ducts, a taller spoiler and the 2014 style splitter, was first used in the Xfinity Series last season at Indianapolis and used in that series at Pocono and Michigan. It will be employed again in that series at Indianapolis in September. It is not scheduled to be run in any other Xfinity races this season after that.

The reviews have been mixed for the package in the Xfinity Series. Indianapolis had closer racing, but Pocono saw the field get strung out. Some suggested that the cars were too slow at Pocono with the restrictor plate. The Xfinity cars ran closer at Michigan but passing was more difficult.

The challenge for Cup teams were many. Based on the charter agreement with NASCAR, since this was not a safety change, Cup teams had to approve the move because of the additional costs to them. Also, engine builders were involved in the conversations because they build engines weeks ahead of time and finding the right races proved limiting because the industry didn’t appear interested in running the package in the playoffs.

Michigan and Indianapolis were the two tracks most often mentioned as candidates to run this package again this season, but that raised an issue among some. They wanted to see what it could do on a 1.5-mile track after the All-Star Race, which provided closer racing than previous years but that event was broken into short segments of 30 laps or less.

There were questions about how well the package would be for a full fuel run. With only two 1.5-mile tracks left on the Cup schedule before the playoffs, those choices were limited. Eventually, it became too late for teams and engine builders to prepare for the July 1 race at Chicagoland Speedway. As time passed, it became more challenging for the package to be used at the July 14 event at Kentucky Speedway.

“One of the clear takeaways is that this is not something you would want to implement at every race track,” O’Donnell told NASCAR.com. “There are certain race tracks we want to potentially target. Finding the optimal horsepower-to-downforce ratio will be a key focal point to continue to improve the race package.

Even as NASCAR examined this matter, drivers raised different opinions.

Brad Keselowski was vocal at Michigan, raising concerns about running the package (and the restrictor plate) at more tracks.

“I think that package needs to remain solely at the All-Star race,’’ Keselowski said earlier this month. “A lot of the drivers in this sport are in a position where they chose Cup racing because of the demands the cars take to drive. I think there are a lot of fans that come to our races expecting to see the best drivers.

“I think if you put a package like this out there, like what we had at the Charlotte All-Star race, on a consistent basis that the best drivers in the world would no longer go to NASCAR. They’ll pick a different sport. That won’t happen overnight. That will happen over time. I think that would be a tragedy to this sport because the best race car drivers want to go where they can make the biggest difference to their performance. There’s no doubt that you make less of a difference in that configuration.’’

Denny Hamlin was encouraged by the package after the non-points race in May.

“As a driver, I had fun, I really did,’’ he said. “Didn’t have the fastest car, but at least there were moments where you had to be very strategic in what you had to do. It was a mix between a normal open race and a superspeedway. … I’d like to see it at a few other tracks. if it came this year, It would definitely be OK by me.’’

Even after the All-Star Race, O’Donnell said the focus was on 2019. Asked that night if the package could be used again this season, O’Donnell said: “I would never say never, but our intent is we’ve talked coming into this, was to try this here, then really take a deep dive into how do we make this the best package possible for 2019 if we liked what we saw.”

But as momentum built for the package — car owners Richard Childress and Roger Penske both said they would be for running it again this season.

“Anything that is good for our sport right now, which I think it would be, I’m for it,’’ Childress told NBC Sports in May at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “I’m putting RCR aside and looking at the sport itself. If everybody in this garage will do that … put the sport first and we all go out and put the best show for the fans in the stands, that’s what we’ve got to do.’’

All-Star winner Kevin Harvick cautioned many to temper their excitement about the package after the exhibition race but agreed the event could be significant for NASCAR in years to come.

“I’d like to make sure we don’t jump and say this is the save all, do all package,” he said. “I’d like to see it slowly transformed into points paying races because I think the preparation level will be a little bit different from every team in the garage. I just want to make sure we cycle it in correctly, make sure it fits in well for the teams to be able to afford the things that need to be done to get the cars right.

“There’s a lot of things to balance. Tonight’s race was very aggressive, and this is the perfect spot to try stuff like this. I think as you look at the effort that the teams put in to make all this happen was pretty high. The chance that NASCAR and Marcus (Smith of Speedway Motorsports Inc.) and everybody took to put this into the All‑Star Race is brave, bold. I think when you look at NASCAR racing in five years, I think you’ll look back at tonight and say it looks like this and it all started here.”

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Christopher Bell wins New Hampshire Xfinity race

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Christopher Bell held off Brad Keselowski and Ryan Preece over the final 18 laps to win Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Bell took the lead from Keselowski on the final restart with 18 laps to go. Bell was on four fresh tires while Keselowski was on two.

Keselowski hounded the rear bumper of Bell’s No. 20 Toyota for the last five laps but was unable to make a pass attempt.

“Man, the better tires, they didn’t hurt us, that’s for sure, ” Bell told NBCSN. “It worked out for us, we were able to take four tires (on the last pit stop). It was a big deal.”

It is Bell’s third win of the season and second in a row. He led 93 of 200 laps around the 1-mile track.

The top five was completed by John Hunter Nemechek and Matt Tifft.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Christopher Bell earned his third stage win of the year.

STAGE 2 WINNER: Brad Keselowski

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Keselowski led 72 laps and came in second after he had to start from the rear for being late to the driver-crew chief meeting … Matt Tifft earned his second top five of the season … Ryan Preece has finished in the top five in three of five starts this season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Ross Chastain finished 26th after wrecking by himself on Lap 80 … Ryan Truex was spun by Ryan Reed with six laps to go in Stage 2. The incident also involved Justin Allgaier. Truex finished 13th and Allgaier placed seventh … A wreck involving Chad Finchum and Garrett Smithley caused a caution with 23 laps to go … Austin Cindric wrecked coming to the checkered flag. He finished 17th.

NOTABLE: There was a 7 minutes and 30 second red flag period to fix sand barrels knocked over by Jeremy Clements at the start of pit road with 34 laps to go … After contending up front for much of the race, Daniel Hemric placed 11th, ending a career-best streak of eight straight top 10s.

WHAT’S NEXT: U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway at 3:30 p.m. ET on July 28 on NBCSN

Bid of $1.8 million submitted for BK Racing

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A bid of $1.8 million has been made for BK Racing, the trustee operating the team stated in court documents.

Trustee Matthew Smith stated in federal court documents that the $1.8 million bid is a stalking horse bid. That means that the bid sets the lowest price the team can be sold.

Should the stalking horse bid be the winning bid, $350,000 of the price will go to payment of priority wage claims.

The bid is from MRB LLC.

ESPN.com reported that Mike Beam, president of GMS Racing, has made the bid on the team. Beam told ESPN.com that if he becomes the owner of the team, it would be an affiliate of GMS Racing, which has previously considered moving to Cup.

Court documents state: “The Trustee believes that the Stalking Horse Bid will compel potential purchasers to come forward and otherwise generate additional interest in the Race Team Assets reasonably likely to facilitate an effective competitive sale of such assets.”

Smith stated in court documents that he has communicated with more than 25 separate parties interested in acquiring the team’s assets.

Court documents state that any qualified bidder must propose a bid at least $300,000 more than the original bid of $1.8 million.

A sale is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. ET on Aug. 20. A court hearing is set for Aug. 21 for the approval of the sale. The winner has three days after the court order approving the sale to complete the purchase.

A hearing is set for Tuesday on approving those sale procedures.

Also, in another court filing, Smith stated that he’s agreed to sell team assists to Obaika Racing for $265,000. Smith said in court documents the assets were valued at $382,000.

Among the items listed in the offer is a tractor trailer transporter, seven bare chassis and 12 other chassis in various forms of construction. Also on the list are two crash carts, pit road tool box and pit suite, pit tool cart and two golf carts.

BK Racing owner Ron Devine put the team in chapter 11 bankruptcy on Feb. 15 in an effort to retain his team. Union Bank & Trust claims that it is owed $9.475 million. Smith was approved as the trustee on March 28, relieving Devine of his owner duties. Others claiming to be owed money include the Internal Revenue Service.

Blake Jones is driving BK Racing’s No. 23 car this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. This will be Jones’ first Cup start. He qualified last in the 37-car field.

Xfinity pole-sitter Brad Keselowski to start race at rear after penalty

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LOUDON, N.H. – Xfinity pole-sitter Brad Keselowski will start at the rear of the field for today’s race (4 p.m. ET on NBCSN) after he was late to the drivers meeting.

Cup practice was to have ended at 1:25 p.m. ET but was extended to 1:30 p.m. ET because of incidents during the session. The Xfinity drivers meeting was scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. ET.

Section 10.3.2.f of the Xfinity Rule book states:

“Any driver(s) that is not present to answer the second roll call at the driver/crew chief meeting may be penalized by starting the Race with a “Tail of the Field” penalty.”

Keselowski arrived about 80 seconds after second call for him. BJ McLeod, who also was participating in Cup practice, was late to the meeting as well.

Austin Dillon and Ross Chastain both made it to the meeting in time despite taking part in Cup practice.

 

Martin Truex Jr. fastest in final Cup practice at New Hampshire

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Martin Truex Jr. was fastest in the final Cup practice for Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (1 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Truex, who is seeking to win consecutive Cup races for the first time in his career, posted a top speed of 131.624 mph around the 1-mile track.

The top five was completed by Kevin Harvick (131.556 mph), Kyle Busch (131.488), Denny Hamlin (131.456) and Jimmie Johnson (131.438).

Harvick had the most laps in the session with 50 and the best 10-lap average at 130.904 mph.

Johnson and teammate Alex Bowman (sixth, 131.175) were the only Chevrolet drivers in the top 13.

The session saw two incidents. The first was when Michael McDowell spun entering Turn 3 and slammed the outside wall on the driver’s side of his No. 34 Ford. McDowell will go to a backup car.

“(Felt) like I was going way faster at New Hampshire than I thought I could go,” McDowell told NBCSN. “Not really sure what happened. Just got into Turn 3 there and it got really loose. … It happened really quick.”

The second incident saw Landon Cassill get into the Turn 3 wall with 8:31 left in the session.

Click here for the speed chart.