What to expect at Talladega? Drivers don’t agree

Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images
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TALLADEGA, Ala. — After two days with a new package at Talladega Superspeedway, drivers admit the closing rates between cars is as fast as they’ve ever experienced.

What that means for today’s race remains uncertain. Some drivers suggest that blocking will be tougher, if at all possible. Others say it can still be done.

And some drivers suggest being in the lead might not be the best place to be on the last lap. But not everyone agrees.

Here’s what some drivers say they think will happen today:

Austin Dillon (starting 1st)

How do you keep the lead if it’s dangerous to block?

“I think having people behind you that you can trust is a big key to that. Getting those bowties up front and working together, that will be a big part of it. Blocking is going to be tougher for the ducts in the front, but it’s a part of the game. We’ll just have to test it out early and see what it is. I definitely don’t want to give up that front position, but there are going to be guys – just the front guy seems to be a little bit of a sitting duck. There will be a lot of movement on the track (Sunday), hopefully it’s good movement and not cars going the other way.”

 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (starting 6th)

What do you think about the race?

“I don’t care what the package is. Speedway racing is speedway racing. We are all going to be close together and learn a lot (Sunday). I don’t think anybody learned anything in Friday’s session. We had one session with this package. We will learn throughout the day and make sure we learn as much as we can so that we can do the right thing at the end of the race to put ourselves in position to win.”

 

Ryan Blaney (starting 7th)

What do you expect for the race?

“This package is way different than what we had and I think you will see a way different race that we have seen here the past few years. It is new and exciting and there are going to be a lot of lead changes and comers and goers and you just get massive runs on people. That is pretty neat. It will be exciting for sure.”

 

Joey Logano (starting 8th)

Will there be more respect among the drivers with this new package?

“The runs are bigger and they come really fast and if you throw one of those late blocks, it is going to be chaos, or even if you realize a car is coming at you four or five miles per hour faster, you can’t stop that very well. Before, you could see it coming and everything happens a little slower motion. It will be really fast now. If cars are willing to make late moves, there is going to be a penalty to pay and unfortunately it is going to be cars that had nothing to do with it that get tied up in it. Everyone needs to give each other some room and learn what we can and can’t do early in the race.”

 

Alex Bowman (starting 9th)

“I think you’re not going to see somebody control the race the way they have in the past. The runs are too big to really block the lead the whole time, so I think you’re going to see more lead changes, probably more passing. Everybody is saying their cars aren’t driving so well, my car is driving pretty good so far, I’m really excited. I hope we have a good piece, not really surprised how fast we are. We saw that in the test, and they seem to be ok with it; I don’t know we’ll see where it goes from there.”

Is the leader a sitting duck on the final lap?

“I mean there’s some things you can do to keep guys from getting those big runs and managing your gap. I think that’s going to be more crucial than it’s ever been. The big side-to-side blocks like we saw pulled in the Xfinity race (Saturday) aren’t going to work. You’re going to need to manage that gap more so than you ever had to before.”

 

Kyle Larson (starting 10th)

Are you comfortable with the closing speeds?

“I’m not scared. It all feels fast when you’re out there. When you’re in an Xfinity car going 190 versus a Cup car that’s 200-plus. It’s still superspeedway racing and I think the bigger runs we’ve gotten at least in the little bit of drafting we did (Friday) was fun and different. The cars were a little bit more stable so you could be more aggressive too. I think the race will be really exciting and crazy.”

 

Chase Elliott (starting 11th)

What do you expect in the race?

“I really don’t know. There’s a lot of big runs and obviously the faster the runs are, the harder they are to block and anticipate. What I noticed (Friday), that was probably the biggest thing was just how it was a little easier to get a big run on a guy and it just seemed like whenever somebody behind you wanted to be done with you, they could just be done with you. It felt like you had less control being out front.”

 

Kyle Busch (starting 22nd)

Can the leader defend their position with this package?

“I think the leader can block and defend. The runs (Saturday) in the Xfinity race, you kind of saw were a bit slower and got stagnant as the guy got closer from behind. I don’t think you’ll have the same effect happen (Sunday). The runs will be greater and the guy up front is still going to try to block, but I guess it’s a matter of how nice the guy behind you is and whether or not he’ll hit the brakes or drives through you.”

 How do you block when cars have faster closing rates?

“You kind of have to see it coming. If you know a guy’s going to block, you can kind of roll out a little bit and slow that run down, then you can not crash the car in front of you, but you take the risk of getting crashed from behind. There’s a lot of different things that you have to weigh. Just (Friday), there was a guy that pulled down in front of a run that me and six other guys had and I had to stop. I had no other choice because I had somebody on my outside too. The fourth guy in line back there about got wrecked. There’s going to be an accordion effect.”

 

Erik Jones (starting 27th)

Do you expect less blocking in the race?

“I think everybody is still going to be blocking if you get up in the lead. It’s the only matter of defense that we have to keep it. It’s going to cause a wreck at some point just because the runs are so big. You’re going to have a guy with a lot of energy and a lot of momentum coming and somebody is going to make a big block. Even if they don’t want to turn the guy around, they’re not going to have time to slow down. It’s going to cause an issue at some point.”

NASCAR weekend schedule at World Wide Technology Raceway, Portland

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NASCAR’s top three series are racing this weekend in two different locations. Cup and Craftsman Truck teams will compete at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, and the Xfinity Series will compete at Portland International Raceway.

World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway (Cup and Trucks)

Weekend weather

Friday: Partly cloudy with a high of 87 degrees during Truck qualifying.

Saturday: Sunny. Temperatures will be around 80 degrees for the start of Cup practice and climb to 88 degrees by the end of Cup qualifying. Forecast calls for sunny skies and a high of 93 degrees around the start of the Truck race.

Sunday: Mostly sunny with a high of 92 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the Cup race.

Friday, June 2

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 1 – 8 p.m. Craftsman Truck Series
  • 4 – 9 p.m. Cup Series

Track activity

  • 6 – 6:30 p.m. — Truck practice (FS1)
  • 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. — Truck qualifying (FS1)

Saturday, June 3

Garage open

  • 8 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.  — Cup Series
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series

Track activity

  • 10 – 10:45 a.m. — Cup practice (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 10:45 a.m. – 12 p.m. — Cup qualifying  (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 1:30 p.m. — Truck race (160 laps, 200 miles; FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, June 4

Garage open

  • 12:30 p.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 3:30 p.m. — Cup race (240 laps, 300 miles; FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

 

Portland International Raceway (Xfinity Series)

Weekend weather

Friday: Mostly sunny with a high of 77 degrees.

Saturday: Mostly sunny with a high of 73 degrees and no chance of rain around the start of the Xfinity race.

Friday, June 2

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 6-11 p.m. Xfinity Series

Saturday, June 3

Garage open

  • 10 a.m.  — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 11:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. — Xfinity practice (No TV)
  • 12 – 1 p.m. — Xfinity qualifying (FS1)
  • 4:30 p.m. — Xfinity race (75 laps, 147.75 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

NASCAR Cup playoff standings after Coca-Cola 600

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The severe penalty to Chase Briscoe and his Stewart-Haas Racing team Wednesday for a counterfeit part dropped Briscoe from 17th to 31st in the season standings. Briscoe now must win a race to have a chance at the playoffs.

The penalty came a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for his retaliation in wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600. Elliott is 28th in the points. The 2020 Cup champion also needs to win to have a chance to make the playoffs.

Ten drivers have won races, including Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney. That leaves six playoff spots to be determined by points at this time. With 12 races left in the regular season, including unpredictable superspeedway races at Atlanta (July 9) and Daytona (Aug. 26), the playoff standings will change during the summer.

Among those without a win this season are points leader Ross Chastain and former champions Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Elliott.

Here’s a look at the Cup playoff standings heading into Sunday’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois. Drivers in yellow have won a race and are in a playoff position. Those below the red line after 16th place are outside a playoff spot in the graphic below.

NASCAR issues major penalties to Chase Briscoe team for Charlotte infraction

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NASCAR fined crew chief John Klausmeier $250,000 and suspended him six races, along with penalizing Chase Briscoe and the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team 120 points and 25 playoff points each for a counterfeit part on the car.

The issue was a counterfeit engine NACA duct, said Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, on Wednesday. That is a single-source part.

MORE: Updated Cup playoff standings

The team stated that it accepts the L3 penalty.

“We had a quality control lapse and a part that never should’ve been on a car going to the racetrack ended up on the No. 14 car at Charlotte,” said Greg Zipadelli in a statement from the team. “We accept NASCAR’s decision and will not appeal.”

Asked how then piece could have aided performance, Sawyer said Wednesday: “Knowing the race team mentality, they don’t do things that would not be a benefit to them in some way, shape or form from a performance advantage.”

The penalty drops Briscoe from 17th in the season standings to 31st in the standings. Briscoe goes from having 292 points to having 172 points. He’ll have to win to make the playoffs. Briscoe has no playoff points at this time, so the penalty puts him at -25 playoff points should he make it.

Briscoe’s car was one of two taken to the R&D Center after Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 for additional tear down by series officials.

The penalty comes a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in last weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

NASCAR Championship Weekend returns to Phoenix in 2024

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Phoenix Raceway will host the championship races for the Cup, Xfinity, Craftsman Truck and ARCA Menards Series in 2024, NASCAR announced Wednesday.

The races will be held Nov. 1-3, 2024. The Cup season finale will be Nov. 3, 2024. The only other Cup race for 2024 that has been announced is the Daytona 500. It will be held Feb. 18, 2024.

Phoenix Raceway has hosted the championship finale for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks since 2020. Chase Elliott won the Cup title there in 2020. Kyle Larson followed in 2021. Joey Logano won the crown there in 2022.

This year’s Cup finale at Phoenix will be Nov. 5 and air on NBC.