Kentucky, New Hampshire and Pocono using traction compound for races

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After criticism of the racing in its June Cup event, Pocono Raceway announced Wednesday that it will add the PJ1 traction compound to areas of all three of its turns for NASCAR’s return trip to the track July 27-28.

The move means the next three tracks the Cup Series visits – Kentucky Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN), New Hampshire Motor Speedway (July 21) and Pocono – will treat their racing surfaces with the traction compound.

At Pocono, PJ1 will be used in the third lane in Turn 1, the second lane in Turn 2 and the third lane in Turn 3. The Tire Dragon will be used in the application process.

The move comes after criticism over the ability to pass with the new rules package after the June 1 Cup race.

“I was along lines with everybody else, it could have been better,” Pocono Raceway CEO Nick Igdalsky told NBC Sports. “So that’s why we’re doing it. If I thought it was the best race Pocono has to offer, we wouldn’t be putting anything on track. But obviously we have some room for improvement with the current package.”

Igdalsky said the track had contemplated applying the traction agent “for a couple of years.”

“With the packages, every time they come to June race at Pocono it seems like the past couple of years there was a new nuance to it, aero packages, shifting packages, the new package and so on and so forth,” Igdalsky said. “It seemed like every June it was, ‘Hey, let’s see what happens and if we need a little something we can always add it in July.’

“I think we got to the point where coming out of the June race and knowing NASCAR was going to hold to this package for the rest of this season, we knew we had a few things at our disposal. … So we have this at our disposal to improve competition if need be.”

He added that “we would have left something on the table if we didn’t try this.”

Igdalsky explained the reasoning behind the specific location of the application.

“It was just to get some separation between the two racing lanes,” Igdalsky said. “That would create less disturbance in the air and create more stable racing, more stable cars … Lane 1 would be the ideal racing line. … Lane 2 would be one lane up. Lane 3 would be approximately an 8-foot separation from the inside line. What that does is it just creates a layer of cleaner air where they can have maximum grip” and leads to a “drag race down the straightaway.”

PJ1 wil be applied to Lane 2 in Turn 2 because that turn is narrower than the others.

“We’re kind of forced to put it on the second groove in that corner,” Igdalsky said.

“We are constantly looking at ways to improve racing across all tracks and series,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition in a press release. “Nick Igdalsky at Pocono Raceway shares the same goal – to give our fans the best experience and racing possible. After conversations with our drivers, teams, and Goodyear, we felt that the application of PJ1 in all three corners at Pocono would help put on the best race for our fans.”

Denny Hamlin released a statement supporting the decision.

“I’ve been an advocate for using traction compound at Pocono for a while now,” Hamlin said. “It gives us more lane options as drivers, and that’s what this current aero package needs. I think this will help put on a better show for the fans.”

Turn 1 at Kentucky Speedway (via Kentucky Speedway)

Alex Bowman believes the compound’s placement in Turn 1 will have a distinct impact on restarts.

“Turn 1 is obviously the widest racing groove of the three corners there anyway,” Bowman said in a Wednesday teleconference. “If it gives us another groove there it’s going to be a lot to work with. I think that will definitely amp it up a little bit. You might not see the need to be five and six-wide because you’ll have more opportunity to pass in the corners. But at the same time, the guy that’s on the top of three and four-wide isn’t going to be in trouble like he was previously. He’s going to be able to probably run the middle or the top of the racing groove and I think that’s going to be really good.”

Kentucky Speedway, where NASCAR visits this weekend, applied PJ1 and the Tire Dragon in Turns 1 and 2 and Turn 3 and 4. In Turns 1 and 2 it was applied in every lane except the bottom groove and goes all the way up to the wall.

In Turn 3 and 4, the substance was applied only in the middle groove.

At New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the track will repeat what it did in 2018 with the PJ1.

The PJ1 will be added to the first (lowest lane) and third (just outside the main lane) grooves in all four turns on Thursday night and again on Saturday and Sunday morning of race weekend.

Each groove of PJ1 will be 12 feet wide with a 12 foot gap between them.

Turn 3 at Kentucky Speedway (Via Kentucky Speedway)

NASCAR America Presents MotorMouths at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN with Kyle Busch

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This week’s episode of NASCAR America’s MotorMouths airs today from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and features 2015 Cup champion Kyle Busch.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver joins Rutledge Wood and Kyle Petty to discuss this week’s news as well as take fan phone calls.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Chevrolet boss happy with three-race Cup winning streak but wants more

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Even with a three-race Cup winning streak, the head of Chevrolet’s NASCAR program wants more victories as the playoffs near.

Jim Campbell, vice president of performance and motorsports for Chevrolet, made the comments Wednesday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

In the last three races, Chevrolet has won with Alex Bowman (Chicagoland Speedway), Justin Haley (Daytona International Speedway) and Kurt Busch (Kentucky Speedway). Until that string, Chevrolet had won only once this year with Chase Elliott’s victory at Talladega Superspeedway.

Last year, Chevrolet had four Cup wins, its fewest victories in Cup since scoring three wins in 1982.

“We have really, really, I think, increased the collaboration (among Chevrolet teams) to another level, and I think we need to because we’ve got to put more wins on the board,” Campbell said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The Chevy camp is used to putting 10, 12, 15 wins on the board a year. Right now we’re at four. We expect more of ourselves. I know the teams are looking for more wins and I’ll call it top-five finishes. Talladega was kind of a turbocharger for us to get everyone really working at the next level.”

Chevrolet won at Talladega after an increased effort to have its teams work together throughout the weekend and during the race. Chevrolet made the effort after seeing how successful Toyota and Ford teams were at Daytona and Talladega by working together. Until then, Chevrolet had allowed its teams and drivers to go their own way at those tracks.

“Over the years, Chevy results were pretty doggone strong without a massive work-together effort,” Campbell said during the radio interview. “I think we go back to ’16 and Toyota put together an effort to get some of the (Joe) Gibbs (Racing) guys working together and I think in the fall, the Ford camp was doing that. So, it was time, it was time that we just pulled ourselves together and really worked across all of our teams.”

With seven races left until the Cup playoffs begin, Chevrolet has three drivers set for the playoffs via wins: Elliott, Bowman and Busch. Chevrolet also has three competitors who would qualify for the 16-driver playoffs as of today via points with William Byron 12th in the standings, Kyle Larson 13th and Jimmie Johnson 15th.

Johnson’s position is tenuous. He is 10 points ahead of Ford’s Ryan Newman, who holds the first spot outside a playoff position.

“I look at the trajectory,” Campbell said of Chevrolet’s progress. “Are we on the trajectory up or are we flat or are we down? I would say the momentum is going up, but it’s all performance based. We’ve got to put wins on the board, more top 10s.”

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AJ Allmendinger to drive in Watkins Glen Xfinity race for Kaulig Racing

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NASCAR On NBC analyst AJ Allmendinger will climb back behind the wheel for the August 3 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Watkins Glen International.

Allmendinger will pilot the No. 10 Chevrolet for Kaulig Racing for the second time this season.

Allmendinger is a past winner at Watkins Glen, having won the 2014 Cup race there. He has 10 prior Cup starts at the upstate New York road course, with the win, three top-five and six top-10 finishes, plus one pole.

He also has competed in one Xfinity race at Watkins Glen, starting fourth and finishing second for GMS Racing last year.

It’s an honor to be able to compete for Kaulig Racing at one of my favorite tracks, Watkins Glen International,” Allmendinger said in a team release. “I’ve been fortunate enough to win there in the Cup Series and had a strong run finishing second last season in my only Xfinity start there.

Matt Kaulig, Chris Rice and all of the guys made Daytona so enjoyable and fun, I can’t wait to get to The Glen.”

Allmendinger raced for Kaulig Racing two weeks ago in the Circle K Firecracker 250 at Daytona International Speedway on July 5, leading 33 laps and finishing third before the car was disqualified for failing post-race inspection, leaving Allmendinger with a last-place finish in the 38-car field.

Allmendinger has three additional Xfinity road course races scheduled with Kaulig Racing this season: Mid-Ohio (August 10), Road America (August 24) and Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval race (September 28).

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NBC Sports Power Rankings: Kyle Busch back to No. 1, Kurt Busch to No. 3

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When it comes to this week’s NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings, all we can say is, “Oh brother” … as in siblings Kyle and Kurt Busch.

Younger brother Kyle once again regained the top spot in this week’s rankings, knocking Joey Logano from the No. 1 perch after Logano held it the last two weeks.

And after not being ranked in the top 10 last week, older bro Kurt rockets up the rankings to No. 3 by virtue of his come-from-behind win last Saturday at Kentucky Speedway.

Also making a big move is Erik Jones, who goes from unranked last week to No. 4 this week. By contrast, six drivers from last week’s rankings dropped out of this week’s tabulations.

Here’s how this week’s rankings shape up:

1. Kyle Busch (39 points): Tenacious performance at Kentucky puts him back atop the rankings. Last week: 2nd.

2. Joey Logano (36 points): Car wasn’t wide enough to block all those behind him on the final restart. In his last three races on a 1.5-mile speedway, he’s finished seventh (Kentucky), third (Chicagoland) and second (Charlotte). Last week: 1st.

3. Kurt Busch (32 points): What a difference a win makes. But Busch’s ranking isn’t a total surprise. He’s been knocking at the door all season. Had he not pitted at Daytona two weeks ago, he may be riding a two-race win streak now. Last week: Unranked.

4. Erik Jones (23 points): Returns to playoff territory and seems to have momentum for a finishing kick. Third-place finish was his fourth top 10 in the last five races on a 1.5-mile speedway. That includes a third at Kansas and Kentucky and a fourth at Texas. Last week: Unranked.

5. Denny Hamlin (22 points): His pit crew has been called for an uncontrolled tire violation five times this year, tying the series high. That’s unacceptable. Despite the penalty at Kentucky, Hamlin finished fifth. Last week: 7th.

6. Kyle Larson (20 points): Top 10s in three of last four races – including a second (Chicagoland) and fourth (Kentucky) – have solidified his standing for the playoffs. Last week: Unranked.

7. Ryan Newman (16 points): Is in full grind-it-out mode for solid finishes exactly when he needs them. Finished ninth at Kentucky after starting at the rear because his car failed inspection. While he fell out of a playoff spot, he’s only two points away after scoring his fourth top-10 finish in the last five races. Last week: 8th.

8. Cole Custer (9 points): Kentucky victory in the Xfinity Series was his series-high fifth win of the year. Last week: Unranked.

9. Clint Bowyer (7 points): Ends four-race tailspin but still needs to work on amassing stage points. Last week: Unranked.

10. Chris Buescher (5 points): If all the tracks on the circuit were 1.5-milers, he’d likely be ranked higher. All four of his top 10s this year have come at 1.5-mile tracks. He’s been sixth at Charlotte, ninth  at Atlanta and 10th at Kansas and Kentucky. Last week: Unranked.

Others receiving votes: Christopher Bell (4 points), Martin Truex Jr. (4 points), Tyler Ankrum (3 points).