Watkins Glen latest example of short track excitement, tempers on road courses

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The hurt feelings and damaged cars from revenge were so numerous this weekend, one could have mistaken the postrace atmosphere at Watkins Glen International for that of the Bristol night race during its peak in the late 90s and early 2000s.

All that was missing was a thrown helmet.

MORE: NASCAR won’t punish retaliatory actions from Watkins Glen

But Bristol is still two weeks away.

The Cup and Xfinity races on the New York track again provided further evidence that road courses are the new short tracks, and it wouldn’t hurt to see more added to the schedule.

Don’t believe us? Here’s proof from the last five years.

Jimmie Johnson vs. Ryan Blaney / William Byron vs. Kyle Busch / Bubba Wallace vs. Kyle Busch, Sunday

Ok, so a lot happened on Sunday. But even more happened after the race.

Bubba Wallace went on an expletive filled rant against Kyle Busch after their run-in.

William Byron provided a “no comment” on his retaliation against Busch.

But Jimmie Johnson?

After he was wrecked from contact with Ryan Blaney, a clearly angry Johnson confronted the Team Penske driver on pit road. Afterward, he shared his feelings with NBCSN. This isn’t the kind of Johnson we’re used to seeing. But we’re also not used to seeing Johnson desperate to make the payoffs.

“I couldn’t hear what he was saying, his lips were quivering so bad that he can’t even speak,” Johnson said. “I guess he was nervous or scared or both, I don’t know what the hell the problem is. He just drove through me and spun us out, and it clearly has big implications on what we’re trying to do for the playoffs right now. Clearly not happy with his actions there.”

Justin Allgaier vs. Ross Chastain, Saturday

A short book could be written about Chastain and his altercations with drivers over the last few years.

The latest chapter was Saturday between him and Allgaier in the first stage of the Xfinity race, when Chastain made contact with Allgaier in the inner loop and sent him into a tire barrier on Lap 14.

Six laps later, Allgaier used his front bumper to get his message across.

“We’ve had a rocky relationship over our racing career,” Allgaier said after he finished the race in third. “Unfortunately, I’ve been on the receiving end a number of times of him running into me. He flat wrecked me in the Bus Stop back there. At some point you just get to a point where you’re tired of getting run into. I ran back into him. I had no intention of putting him in the wall. I wanted to spin him out for sure. I wanted him to kind of have the same feeling that I had a few laps before whenever he spun me out.”

Said Chastain: “It’s better if I keep my opinion to myself.”

Jimmie Johnson vs. Martin Truex Jr., Charlotte Roval 2018

There’s one road course left on the Cup schedule: The Charlotte Roval (Sept. 29).

On any given day, Truex and Johnson are two of the more mild-mannered drivers in the garage.

That says a lot about the power of road courses.

On the final turn of the final lap of the inaugural Cup race on the Roval, Johnson locked his brakes while trying to pass Truex for the win. That sent Johnson’s car spinning and into Truex’s car, which also went around.

After Ryan Blaney slipped by for the win, Truex rammed into the back of Johnson’s car and turned him around.

“I was not mad at all about Jimmie trying to win,” Truex said the next weekend. “That’s his job. That’s what we all try to do every single weekend. He was trying to win the race. I get that.

“I was mad that he screwed up.”

While you have to wait two months for Cup to return to a road course, the Xfinity Series will satisfy your needs for two of the next three races. First up, the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this Saturday (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Ross Chastain vs. Joey Gase, Mid-Ohio 2018

A year ago, Chastain and his JD Motorsports crew members got into an expletive-laden scuffle with Joey Gase following the race at Mid-Ohio.

The ruckus was a result of Chastain pushing Gase deep into a corner on the last lap and spinning him.

“I don’t really appreciate that a whole lot,” Gase said afterward. “He’s (JD Motorsports team owner) Johnny Davis’ golden child. He can’t do anything wrong. It’s always the other guy’s fault. I passed him clean through the Keyhole, he left the door open. In the esses, he hit me six times and pushed me off the track. He races everyone hard, but if you race him that way, it’s a problem.”

John Hunter Nemechek vs. Cole Custer, Canadian Tire Motorsports Park 2016

Something dramatic happens on the last lap of this Truck Series race every year.

No, seriously. Every. Single. Year. (Except 2015).

But only once did it result in the driver who lost tackling the winner while he celebrated on the frontstretch.

The series returns north of the border on Aug. 25

Regan Smith vs. Alex Tagliani, Mid-Ohio 2015

There were no blows or expletives exchanged after Smith performed a bump-and-run on Tagliani in the final corner of this race to capture the win.

But Tagliani let it be known he wasn’t happy with the maneuver or Smith’s choice of a burnout celebration.

“He knows I’m not going to be there next weekend to retaliate and give him the payback,” Tagliani said. “It’s just really unfortunate to win like that, but also to see him celebrate after a win like that … but he knows he wasn’t going to win unless he pushed us off.”

Regan Smith vs. Ty Dillon, Watkins Glen 2015

Smith had an eventful year on road courses in 2015. Before Mid-Ohio he was on the opposite end of a bumper at Watkins Glen when Ty Dillon tagged his right rear in Turn 1 and spun him on a restart.

After the race, Smith grabbed Dillon by the collar. They began grappling and had to be separated by NASCAR officials.

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Stewart-Haas Racing sweeps regular-season finale of eNASCAR Heat Pro League

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Stewart-Haas Racing swept both races in the eNASCAR Heat Pro League’s regular-season finale, held Wednesday night on a virtual Daytona International Speedway.

It was the first time one team has swept a round this season.

Jake Morris (SHG Slick 14x) won his third straight race, winning the XBox One event.

Brandyn Gritton (SHG_HotRod_14p) won for SHR in the PlayStation 4 event, earning his second win of the year.

Below are the final overall point standings – combing both consoles – heading into the four-round playoffs, which begin Sept. 11 on a virtual Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Eliminated from playoff contention are the teams for Richard Childress Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Petty Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing.

 

You can watch both races in the below video.

 

 

Podcast: Life as a gay team member working in the NASCAR community

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As a racing fan growing up in rural Ohio, Ryan Hines heard the generalizations about intolerance in the testosterone-charged world of motorsports.

But his first-hand experience has been the opposite.

“I think NASCAR gets a generalized and stereotypical outlook that it’s homophobic and hypermasculine and there’s not any room for people who are gay to be in it,” Hines said during the latest episode of the NASCAR on NBC Podcast. “From my experience, it’s really a great community. I’ve met nothing but love and respect from everyone I’ve come across in the sport.

“It’s crazy that growing up I never thought I could be gay and work in NASCAR. I feel a lot of people who may be gay and have aspirations probably have that same mindset that I had growing up. I think it’s important there are role models for those people. Being an example of this guy is gay and is working in NASCAR and able to be himself and do what he loves to do, people being able to see that and know they can do it, too, is a step in the right direction. Having that representation is important.”

Hines, 23, is a coordinator of Xfinity brand content at Stewart-Haas Racing, where he works primarily with handling Chase Briscoe’s schedule and also handles media requests, video content and the team’s podcast.

He entered the NASCAR industry a week after graduating from Ohio State in May 2018, starting at Hendrick Motorsports. The Pleasant Hill, Ohio, native has been around racing (also working at Eldora Speedway through high school and college) for longer than he began publicly talking about his sexuality.

Hines has been out as a gay man since his junior year of high school and initially was concerned about how that would be perceived by racing co-workers.

“You’re told the stereotype of what racing is, and that fans and people involved aren’t accepting,” he said. “You hear that it’s a ‘redneck’ sport, and you associate Southern redneck roots with homophobia, whether it’s true or not. Now that I’m working in the sport, I see past those stereotypes and generalizations and have come to realize that most people in the sport are average people. They don’t care. They want you to be you. If you are who are to them, they’ll respect you for that.”

Hines said his sexual orientation comes up in casual conversation with other team members and without “anyone reacting negatively to it.” In sharing his story on the podcast, Hines hopes to help make it easier for other gay members of the NASCAR community who are reticent about being comfortable enough to discuss it.

“People don’t realize how much effort it takes to hide,” he said. “It’s exhausting because you have to worry about what you do and say.”

NASCAR has launched many initiatives (most famously its Drive for Diversity) over the last 15 years aimed at increasing its fan base among minorities and women.

As Major League Baseball, the NBA and other pro sports leagues have held gay pride nights that help build audience inclusion, Hines would like to see the same in NASCAR but said it’s also trickier.

“You have to be careful with that because there’s the stereotype of what the fan base is,” he said. “You don’t want to seem opportunistic. Launching a clothing line or holding an initiative, you want it to be genuine. I think NASCAR definitely needs to show they are welcoming, but they are struggling with how they do that and don’t seem opportunistic.”

Hines isn’t the first to discuss being gay in the NASCAR industry, but there have been no high-profile members (such as drivers or crew chiefs). In auto racing, five-time Rolex 24 champion Hurley Haywood is likely the most famous driver to have come out (discussing it in a documentary this year that he talked about as a NASCAR on NBC Podcast guest in April).

Hines believes it would be difficult for a driver to come out, but “I think they could come forward and find a lot of acceptance. You’re always going to have people who will say negative things. You’ll have that in any aspect of life. I’d love to see a driver, crew chief or an engineer come forward and embrace who you are and being truthful and honest. You’ll find a lot more acceptance and respect than you’d ever think you could.

“By and large, most large companies in NASCAR sponsoring in some capacity, they wouldn’t bat an eye as long as you aren’t bringing negative publicity and being authentic to who you are. They won’t have an issue with it. As long as you’re performing and a good ambassador to the brand, I don’t think the sexuality really matters.”

Hines said it is a delicate issue to discuss because he doesn’t want to be viewed as “a huge agent of change.

“I don’t want to be this huge trailblazer and try to take on a huge campaign,” he said. “But it’s important to be open and honest about it. The more people who see it as everyday life, the easier it can be.”

To listen to the podcast, you can click on the embed above or via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play or wherever you download podcasts.

Kyle Larson sweeps midget, sprint car races at Placerville Speedway

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The Cup Series is taking the week off, but apparently Kyle Larson didn’t get the memo.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver is still racing this week, albeit on dirt. Wednesday night Larson swept two dirt feature races he competed in at Placerville Speedway in Northern California.

He won in both a midget and a sprint car.

The midget win came in the Lucas Oil BCRA Midget Series and was his first win in his own midget car. The sprint car win was part of the King of the West-NARC Sprint Car Racing Series.

 

Weekend schedule for Xfinity at Road America, Truck in Canada

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If you like road course racing in NASCAR, then this is the weekend for you.

While the Cup Series is off before it visits Darlington Raceway next week, the Xfinity and Gander Outdoors Truck Series are in action on two different road courses in two different countries.

The Xfinity Series is in Wisconsin to turn left and right at Road America, while the Truck Series heads up to Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada, to race at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

For the Xfinity race, wunderground.com forecasts partly cloudy skies with a high of 71 degrees and no chance of rain at the start time on Saturday.

At Bowmanville, the forecast is for sunny skies, a high of 71 degrees and no rain for the start time of the Truck race on Sunday.

Here is the weekend schedule for both series.

(All times are Eastern)

 

Road America

Friday, Aug. 23

10:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. – Xfinity garage open

1:35 – 2:25 p.m. – Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)

3:35 – 4:55 – Final Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)

Saturday, Aug. 24

8 a.m. – Xfinity garage opens

11:40 a.m. – Xfinity qualifying; multi-car/two rounds (NBC Sports App live, NBCSN to air it at 1:30 p.m.)

1:35 p.m. – Driver-crew chief meeting

2:30 p.m. – Driver introductions

3 p.m. – CTECH Manufacturing 180; 45 laps/182.16 miles (NBCSN, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

 

Canadian Tire Motorsports Park

Saturday, Aug. 24

7 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. – Truck garage open

9:35 – 10:25 a.m. ET – Truck practice (No TV)

11:35 – 12:55 p.m. – Final Truck practice (No TV)

Sunday, Aug. 25 

8:30 a.m. – Truck garage opens

9:35 a.m – Truck qualifying; multi-truck/two rounds (FS2)

10:40 a.m.- Driver-crew chief meeting

2 p.m.- Driver introductions

2:30 p.m. – Chevrolet Silverado 250; 64 laps/157.37 miles (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)