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)

Jim France bullish on the future: ‘We’re getting some momentum back’

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In a rare interview Friday, NASCAR CEO and chairman Jim France said he’s bullish about the momentum of his racing series, particularly since last year’s ISC merger.

“Very much so,” France said when asked if he’s looking forward to the return of stock cars to Daytona International Speedway next month for Speedweeks. The Daytona 500 will kick off the Cup Series season Feb. 16.

“We’re coming off of a very good year I felt like last year where we’re really getting some momentum back,” France said. “It’s exciting now going into this coming year.”

Much of the focus has been on the discussions around a possible revamping of the 2021 schedule.

“(NASCAR President) Steve Phelps is working diligently on that,” France said with a laugh. “There’ll be announcements coming in the not-too-distant future.”

France said last year’s merger of NASCAR and International Speedway Corp., which had been publicly traded before the deal, provides more flexibility on the schedule.

“It makes a big difference,” he said. “It gives us an opportunity to respond quicker to the changing environment out here with the economy and all the things that are going on that impact motorsports. It was a major big step that we needed to make probably for quite a while.”

France spoke with a small group of reporters after a major news conference at Daytona involving the IMSA Series that will create a bridge for the premier sports car classes at Daytona and Le Mans.

“The way I view it is if you ever catch the Ferrari vs. Ford movie where the cars went back and forth with Le Mans, that’s the era that we’re getting ready to enter into here is my optimistic hope,” said France, who is also the chairman of IMSA.

Kaz Grala returning to Richard Childress Racing for select Xfinity races

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Kaz Grala will return to compete for Richard Childress Racing in the Xfinity Series this year in select races, the team announced Friday.

Grala, 21, will be one of three drivers to pilot the No. 21 Chevrolet during the full season, joining Myatt Snider and Anthony Alfredo.

Grala made five starts in the No. 21 in 2019, earning a best result of fifth at Road America.

“I learned a lot as a driver working with RCR last year, so I feel confident that our existing chemistry as a team will lead to even better results in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this season,” Grala said in a press release. “RCR’s Xfinity Series program is top-notch, and with the No. 21 car running all year, I am excited to be a part of the team chasing yet another owner’s championship. I’m very grateful to Richard Childress for giving me this opportunity to further my career.”

No sponsors were part of the announcement.

“Kaz showed quite a bit of speed and promise in the No. 21 car last year for RCR,” Richard Childress said in a press release. “I’m confident the results will show in 2020, especially after a year under his belt in our proven Xfinity program.”

A ‘crucial’ year for Hailie Deegan’s career begins today at Daytona

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Hailie Deegan will be racing a sports car today at Daytona International Speedway with an eye toward her future in stock cars.

Signed by Ford Performance to a developmental deal that will put her in a full-time ARCA car (and possibly a truck race or two) this season, Deegan was surprised when the manufacturer also expressed a desire to put her in a few IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge events.

The first will be Friday’s season-opening BMW Endurance Challenge, a four-hour warmup race at Daytona International Speedway ahead of Saturday’s Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona.

Deegan and Xfinity Series veteran Chase Briscoe will start 20th in the No. 22 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4.

MEET HAILIE DEEGAN: ‘I put my helmet on the same way as everyone else’

“I originally never planned on this, but (Ford) came to me and were like ‘we want to get you on our IMSA program,’” Deegan said. “’That’s what we did with Briscoe, (Cole) Custer, (Austin) Cindric. All the guys that came through the ranks with Ford.’

“When they told me that, I was excited because more road courses will be in the NASCAR world, and there already are quite a few. I think what makes an all-around good driver are the ones that are good at every single type of track.”

There’s been much talk of adding road and street races to the Cup schedule in the next few years, and the Xfinity Series schedule just expanded to five road courses with the move from the oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The No. 22 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4 that will be driven by Hailie Deegan and Chase Briscoe.

Deegan, 18, still remains a long way from the top two national series, but they are her goal, which makes 2020 critical for earning results.

“This is the year that’s very important and crucial to my career because it decides contracts for years out with sponsors getting behind you for the higher levels,” said Deegan, who had three K&N Series victories in 2018-19. “If we can do good this year, I feel I can get more people behind me so we can go in the top three level series (of NASCAR), and have sponsors that want to stay with me full time while I’m there.

“My goal is to win a few races in the ARCA Series, which is going to be hard. There are a lot of good guys, good cars this year.”

Aside from running full time in ARCA for DGR-Crosley, Deegan would “love to do a truck race” if the sponsorship materializes, “but funding right now is all focused on ARCA so we can try to work toward those championships and winning races. I know I want to be in a good car with good people behind me. If we can focus on that, hopefully everything else will come along.”

Click here to read the full version of this story from NBC Sports’ MotorSportsTalk.

2020 Rolex 24 at Daytona: Start time, TV schedule, lineup and more

Speedy Cash expands deal with Front Row Motorsports, John Hunter Nemechek

John Hunter Nemechek
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After sponsoring John Hunter Nemechek in two of his first three Cup Series starts last year, Speed Cash has expanded its backing of Nemechek for the 2020 season, Front Row Motorsports announced Friday.

Speedy Cash, an omni-channel financial services provider specializing in short-term loans, will be on Nemechek’s No. 38 Ford for multiple races, including events at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Kansas Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.

It will serve as an associate sponsor throughout the year for both Nemechek and Michael McDowell and his No. 34 Ford Mustang team.

Speedy Cash sponsored Nemechek last November in his Cup debut at Texas Motor Speedway and in the season finale at Miami. Nemechek finished 21st at Texas, the best of his three starts filling in for Matt Tifft in the No. 36 Ford after he stepped out of the car due to suffering a seizure.

Nemechek will be part of a deep rookie class in Cup this year after he raced full-time for GMS Racing in the Xfinity Series in 2019.

“As a driver, partnerships like this one with Speedy Cash are so important to our entire team,” Nemechek said in a press release. “It’s always great to see partners expanding their involvement in the sport. For me, Speedy Cash is pretty cool. If you need cash, there are so many easy ways you can get it using their services. I enjoyed getting to know them in the last few races of the 2019 season and we’re going to work hard to make them proud in 2020.”