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Podcast: Sonoma could be Darrell Waltrip’s last NASCAR race ever

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Darrell Waltrip has been a fixture at NASCAR tracks for more than 40 years, since he made his first Cup start in May 1972 at Talladega all the way through his last 19 years as an analyst for Fox Sports’ NASCAR coverage.

But that could change after Sunday’s race at Sonoma Raceway, which marks Waltrip’s last as a member of the Fox broadcast team as he rides off into retirement.

On the latest episode of the NASCAR on NBC podcast, the 72-year-old Waltrip discussed his broadcasting career’s conclusion and if he’ll still be seen at the track in retirement.

“I don’t know if I’ll go to another race or not,” Waltrip said. “The hardest thing to do, and most people know this that’s been in the sport, is to go to a track and not have anything to do. If you go to the track and you don’t have a team, you don’t have a car, you don’t have a job, you’re just there to show up? That’s a hard road to hold, at least it always has been for me.

“Look, I started racing when I was 12 years old. I’ve said then and I’ll say it now: Ever since I was 12 years old I got up on Sunday morning and held onto something. I held onto a steering wheel for most of my life. I held onto a microphone the last 19 years of my life. I’ve held onto a dream that someday I’d win a Cup race and someday I’d win a championship. When I got into the TV booth, it never happened, but someday it might, that I may win an Emmy for being an outstanding broadcaster.”

Wallace also discussed his preparation for race broadcasts and his reaction to whispers that he was out of touch with the garage and today’s drivers.

“I hear a lot about not being relevant and that really aggravates me,” Waltrip said. “Because one thing I work really hard at and have for most of my career is trust. So when I talk to a Chad Knaus or a Cole Pearn or Rodney Childers, whomever I talk to, I don’t blab … I’ve never been that way. I call guys every week saying, ‘What happened? What’s going on?’ I’ve been in the shops enough to know the equipment.”

Waltrip boasts that if challenged, he could build “a better car by myself than anybody in that garage area.”

The NASCAR Hall of Famer also shared some regrets he had from his broadcasting career, including a very recent one.

“I said something about Jimmie Johnson (last) Sunday that after I thought about it, it wasn’t a great thing to say, but Adam Alexander asked about (Daniel) Suarez and Jimmie, ‘Who’d win a race first?'” Waltrip said. “My response was Suarez is too aggressive and Jimmie’s not aggressive enough. That probably in hindsight wasn’t the right thing to say. I have a lot of respect for the man, seven championships, 83 wins. I have a lot of respect for him. Out of that respect, you should not say something like that.”

You can listen to the full podcast below.

Other highlights: What Waltrip thinks his broadcast legacy is and his defense of his “Boogity” catchphrase (37:00)

 

Xfinity playoff grid after Indianapolis

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Chase Briscoe‘s continued dominance of the Xfinity Series over the weekend on the Indianapolis road course ensured no additional drivers locked themselves into the 12-driver playoff field.

Through 13 races, Briscoe and four other drivers have qualified for the playoffs via race wins. Briscoe, who has five race wins, leads the field with 28 playoff points.

The last two drivers currently in the top 12 are Riley Herbst (+19 points above cutline) and Brandon Brown (+6 points).

The first four drivers outside the top 12 are Myatt Snider (-6), Alex Labbe (-32), Jeremy Clements (-49) and Josh Williams (-57).

Cup Series playoff grid after Brickyard 400

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With Kevin Harvick‘s victory Sunday in the Brickyard 400, no additional drivers locked themselves into the Cup Series playoff field.

But there was some movement at the bottom of the playoff grid as drivers jockey to make the 16-car field.

After he missed the race due to his COVID-19 diagnosis, Jimmie Johnson fell from 12th to 15th on the grid. He’s now 36 points above the cutline.

Matt DiBenedetto earned stage points in each stage before finishing 19th. He moved from 14th to 12th in the standings.

After earning stage points in both stages Sunday, Austin Dillon has cracked the top 16, moving up one spot. He has a six-point advantage over Erik Jones, who crashed out of Sunday’s race and had a 14-point advantage over Dillon entering the weekend.

With his ninth-place finish Sunday, Bubba Wallace is now within reach of the top 16. He sits at 19th, 42 points back from 16th.

Here’s the full playoff grid.

Oval or road course? Cup drivers address future of Brickyard 400

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For 27 years, the Cup Series has competed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with its annual Brickyard 400. All 27 of those races have been run exclusively on the track’s traditional 2.5-mile oval.

But following Saturday’s Xfinity Series race on the track’s 2.4-mile, 14-turn road course, an obvious question has been raised:

Should the Brickyard 400 remain on the oval, where passing is made difficult due to a combination of the rules package and the design of the track, or should moving it to the road course be considered?

“I would never vote for that,” Kevin Harvick declared last week before he won his third Brickyard 400 on Sunday. “I love everything about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. For me it is all about the oval … racing on the traditional track because for me I am kind of old school and I think that the Cup cars belong and really started the Brickyard 400.

“That was kind of what it was always meant to be, that iconic one-off, just the Cup cars event. I think with the Xfinity cars and the trucks and (ARCA Menards) cars and all the things that used to race at IRP (Indianapolis Raceway Park), it was a great event. Hopefully the road course can kind of take that role that IRP used to have and be able to bring the Indy cars and NASCAR together to add to that event at the Speedway. For me personally, I would never vote for the Cup cars to not run on the oval.”

Harvick is joined in that camp by his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Aric Almirola, who finished third in Sunday’s race for his first top five and top-10 finish at Indy.

“I hope that we never stop running the oval,” Almirola said. “I just think it’s one of these places that regardless if it puts on the greatest race or not, it’s historic. It’s just a special place. It’s hard to explain when you don’t grow up a racer and you don’t aspire to come to race at Indy.

“But for me, I grew up watching stock car racing and dirt sprint car racing. I grew up watching Thursday Night Thunder, seeing so many guys go from USAC racing and sprint car racing to racing at Indy. It’s something I’ve always kept up with, always dreamed about getting the opportunity to race here. I get that opportunity now.”

Matt Kenseth, who finished second Sunday in his 20th Brickyard 400, said the Cup Series “should be” on the oval. But the Chip Ganassi Racing driver is open to the idea of Cup using the road course in some manner.

 “I think it’s one of those racetracks that we need to race at as long as we can,” Kenseth said of the oval. “It’s arguably the most famous speedway in the world, or one of them.

“To be able to race on the ovals with the Cup cars, which is the highest form of stock car racing here, we should be on the big track as well. I don’t think it would be bad to maybe test the road course and look into it, maybe do a second race on a road course, kind of like the IndyCars did this week.

“I really do think the Brickyard 400 has a lot of prestige. It’s not a southern race, but similar to the Southern 500, races like that. I think there’s a few of those races you sure would hate to see disappear.”

Crew chief describes ‘frightening’ scene on pit road at Indy

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Crew chief Todd Gordon said it was “frightening” to see rear tire changer Zach Price hit on pit road and then try to scoot away from cars during Sunday’s Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Price, who changes tires for Ryan Blaney’s team, was injured when he was struck by Brennan Poole’s car during a melee near the entrance of pit road early in the race.

Gordon, speaking Monday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, said indications are that Price’s injury was a “fracture someplace in the knee area.”

Price was treated and released from an Indianapolis hospital on Sunday night and traveled home with the team. Gordon said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that Price was scheduled to see a doctor Monday.

“Just hope to get him back and get him back going again and healthy,” Gordon said.

Gordon described what he saw as cars made contact.

“A really frightening moment for me,” he said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I was really terrorized when I saw (Price) drag himself back across the pit box arms only for a while there. As the situation kind of progressed and the medical staff was working with him, I could see in his face he was better off than I thought he was to start with.

“Fortunate that the guys got up and got at least in the air. The jackman (Graham Stoddard) got on top of the car. Just one of those terrible situations. I felt like those accidents happened mid-pit road. That’s why I picked way back there to be behind it.”

Said Justin Allgaier, who was involved in the accident on pit road that led to six cars eventually being eliminated:  “The No. 15 (Poole) actually got in the back of me. I didn’t know if I got the gentleman on (Blaney’s pit crew) or not. Once the wreck started happening in front of us and we all got bottled-up there, one car after another were getting run into.”

Indianapolis’ pit road is the most narrow of all the tracks the Cup Series races. The two travel lanes are 24 feet wide. The pit stall for each team is 15 feet wide.