Getty Images

NASCAR kids say the darndest things

1 Comment

LAS VEGAS — Frustration lingered as Denny Hamlin stepped into his motorhome after Monday’s Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

His chance to snap a yearlong winless streak, build momentum for the playoffs and be three-quarters of the way to winning each of NASCAR’s four major races vanished when Brad Keselowski passed him for the lead coming to the white flag.

As Hamlin removed his driving shoes, Taylor, his 5-year-old daughter, broke the silence.

“Daddy, you did really good,” she told him. “I know you didn’t win, but you were up front a lot. That’s really good.”

Children do say the darndest things — and often at the right times.

Hamlin’s mood lightened. His frustration seeped away.

“I was like, ‘Wow, she’s starting to get it,’ “ Hamlin told NBC Sports. “She’s starting to be old enough to understand and get it, so I want to perform well for her more than anyone.”

While providing motivation, children also can be a stress-relief valve for drivers especially in the playoffs — a 10-week grind that will take competitors across the country and to the brink emotionally. One mistake can put a driver in jeopardy of being eliminated. That can weigh heavily during and between races and be mentally draining.

Kevin Harvick with son Keelan after winning at Michigan in August. (Photo by Getty Images)

“You can really, really stress yourself out because I’ve done that before, and it makes for a long 10 weeks,” said Kevin Harvick, father of 6-year-old son Keelan and 9-month-old daughter Piper.

“You have to be engaged and into it and a part of it, but you also have to have some separation, and I think kids and family in general help separate you from (the stresses).”

For Harvick, it can mean taking his son to school, a sports practice or something else that can keep him away from racing during the week.

Coincidence or not, four of the last five Cup champions had at least one child when they hoisted the championship trophy in Miami. Nine of the 16 playoff drivers are fathers: Hamlin, Harvick, Keselowski, Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson and Jimmie Johnson.

With the influx of young drivers, this year could present an interesting case study on the value of having children in a championship chase.

Clint Bowyer, father of son Cash, who turns 4 in October, and 21-month-old daughter Presley, says that “kids have certainly given me new energy and new focus on racing. It’s made me want to be in it longer. A lot of people it changes that and makes them want to start to think about retirement. Racing has been a family sport for me since I was a little kid, and I want Cash to see me for who I was and my opportunity in this sport. I want him to see me as a winner.”

Cash and his daddy provided one of the more memorable moments of the season when Bowyer won at Martinsville — Cash and Clint running toward each other on the frontstretch after the race before embracing.

Some of the most special moments, though, take place away from the track for drivers and their children.

Jimmie Johnson holds daughter Lydia’s hand as they walk ahead of his wife Chandra and daughter Genevieve earlier this year. (Photo: Getty Images)

In what has been one of his most challenging seasons, Jimmie Johnson finds motivation from 5-year-old daughter Lydia.

Shortly before he left for Las Vegas this week, his youngest daughter gave him explicit instructions.

“She’s just on me: ‘Daddy win a race. Daddy win a race. Daddy win a race,’ ‘’ Johnson said.

Lydia had some other advice for Johnson, who is on a career-long 49-race winless streak, as he left home.

“Daddy, push the gas pedal as hard as you can! The hardest you ever have and you win that race!”

She continued her personal pep rally for her father.

“Daddy, you win that race, you do it!”

She has been outspoken the past few weeks, and it’s helped Johnson just before the race begins.

“As I climb into the car, I always think about my family and say a little prayer before I head off,” he said. “The last handful of weeks, I just laugh because I can see her face and her intensity, ‘Daddy, you win that race.’ “

 and on Facebook

Cup to run on Indy road course in 2021

Leave a comment

The NASCAR Cup Series will return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2021 but will race on the road course for the first time instead of the oval, track officials announced Wednesday.

Cup will race on the road course on Aug. 15. That race will be held a day after the NTT IndyCar Series races on the Indy road course.

“Our first NASCAR-IndyCar weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants involved,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and IndyCar together during this exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

MORE: Atlanta to have two Cup dates in 2021

MORE: Darlington to run Cup races on Mother’s Day, Labor Day weekend in 2021

The Cup Series has raced at Indy since 1994. But as the racing there has been questioned and the sport has made a push for more road course races, NASCAR moved the Xfinity Series to the road course this year as a trial. The event was well received, creating the opportunity to move next year’s Cup race to the road course as well.

“Indy is Indy, no matter if you’re on the road course or you’re on the oval,” Joey Logano said of what a win there would mean. “It doesn’t matter. If you’re on the dirt track, I don’t care, it’s Indy. It’s that big deal to win there. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a Cup car, IndyCar or a tricycle, you want to win at that race track.”

Indy’s road course is 2.439 miles and features 14 turns. Chase Briscoe won the Xfinity race there after a four-car battle for the lead in the final laps.

The full Cup schedule will be announced Wednesday afternoon. The Xfinity schedule will be announced at a later date. Boles said on a media Zoom he was unsure of the Xfinity plans but talked with Logano about an interest Logano would have in running in a Xfinity race there to get more track time for the Cup race.

 

Darlington Raceway gets second Cup race for 2021

Leave a comment

Darlington Raceway will have two races in 2021, marking the first time since 2004 that the track has been scheduled to hold multiple Cup races in a season. The track announced its schedule Wednesday with South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster at the Governor’s mansion.

“Congratulations. Thank you. Hallelujah,” Gov. McMaster said after the dates were announced.

Darlington was scheduled to host one race in 2020 but added two more in NASCAR’s return to racing after the season was suspended by the COVID-19 pandemic.

MORE: Atlanta to host two Cup races in 2021 for first time since 2010

The track will hold its first Cup race next season on May 9. That is Mother’s Day. It marks only the third time in the last 40 years the series will have run on Mother’s Day. The series last raced on Mother’s Day in 2007 when rain forced the Darlington race to be held that afternoon. The only other time NASCAR raced on Mother’s Day in the last 40 years was 1986 when the All-Star Race was held at Atlanta.

Darlington’s second date will be its Southern 500 event on Sept. 5, Labor Day weekend. That race will again open the  Cup playoffs.

NASCAR will announce the 2021 Cup schedule on Wednesday afternoon.

Darlington hosted two Cup races a season from 1960-2004. It held one Cup race from 2005-19.

The track stated that 2021 schedules for the NASCAR Xfinity and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will be announced at a later date.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, tweeted that the Darlington races would be run with the low downforce package.

 

 

Atlanta to host two Cup races in 2021

1 Comment

Atlanta Motor Speedway will host two Cup races in 2021, marking the first time since 2010 that the 1.5-mile speedway will have multiple Cup events in the same season.

Atlanta will host Cup races on March 21 and July 11.

The July 11 race will be the Quaker State 400 Presented by Walmart, moving sponsorship that had been with Kentucky Speedway. Kentucky Speedway will not be on the 2021 schedule. Its date becomes the second Atlanta date. The March race will be known at the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.

The July race marks the first 400-mile race at Atlanta since 1966.

The track announced its dates Wednesday morning. The full 2021 Cup schedule will be released Wednesday afternoon.

Atlanta Motor Speedway stated on its website that it plans to host fans in its stands and camping areas in socially distanced, limited capacity for each of its Cup races in 2021.

“We’re beyond excited to deliver what our fans have been yearning for: a second weekend of NASCAR action in Atlanta once again,” AMS Executive Vice President and General Manager Brandon Hutchison said in a statement. “Folds of Honor and QuikTrip continue to be phenomenal partners for our spring weekend of racing and we’re thrilled to have Quaker State and Walmart on board this summer as we put together two weekends of entertainment and excitement for race fans.”

Talladega Truck starting lineup

Talladega Truck starting lineup
Photo by David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sheldon Creed will lead the Talladega Truck starting lineup to the green flag in Saturday’s playoff race.

Creed led a race-high 89 laps last week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway before finishing second to Austin Hill. That win moved Hill to the next round of the playoffs.

Hill will start Saturday’s race second. Zane Smith, Grant Enfinger and Chandler Smith will follow him.

Click here for starting lineup

The race is the final event in the first round. Two drivers will be eliminated. Ben Rhodes is six points behind Christian Eckes for the final transfer spot. Todd Gilliland trails Eckes by 19 points.

Eckes starts sixth, Gilliland starts 10th and Rhodes starts 11th.

“We’re gonna go in there and be aggressive,” Gilliland said. “If we wreck trying to go for the win, I think we can live with ourselves on that, whereas other guys that might be able to let someone in and still make it on points, those guys are gonna be looking behind them and worrying about points this whole week. For us, it’s pretty simple.  There’s no one behind us. We can only move forward from here if we do our job right.”

The Talladega Truck starting lineup is set by using a formula based on four statistical categories: owner points position, owner final race position, the finish and fastest lap from the most recently completed race.

Performance Metrics Qualifying is a total number based on the previous race. The formula is 15% of a fastest lap time position, 25% of the driver’s final race finish position, 25% of the owner’s final race position and 35% of the owner points position. Any ties will be broken by the rule book.

NASCAR Cup Series at Talladega 

Race time: 1 p.m. ET, Saturday

Track: Talladega Superspeedway; Talladega, Alabama (2.66-mile speedway)

Length: 94 laps (250.04 miles)

Stages: Stage 1 ends Lap 20. Stage 2 ends Lap 40.

TV coverage: FS1

Radio: Motor Racing Network (also SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Streaming: NBC Sports app (subscription required); mrn.com and SiriusXM for audio (subscription required)

Lineup: Click here for starting lineup

Next Xfinity race: Saturday at Talladega (113 laps, 300.58 miles), 4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Next Cup race: Sunday at Talladega (188 laps, 500 miles), 2 p.m. ET on NBC