William Byron completes two-day test in NextGen car at Auto Club

Next Gen test
NASCAR
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William Byron completed a two-day test of the Cup Series’ NextGen car Tuesday at Auto Club Speedway, which included being involved in an incident out of Turn 2.

Byron was the fourth Cup driver and second Chevrolet driver to test the car Cup teams will use starting in 2021.

The 2-mile Auto Club Speedway is the largest track the NextGen car has been driven. Byron made more than 300 laps during the test.

Byron’s crew chief, Chad Knaus, was part of the test.

Here are the thoughts of Byron, Knaus and John Probst, NASCAR’s senior vice president of racing innovation, on the test as provided by NASCAR.

William Byron on his expectations coming into the test
“I was definitely excited about the opportunity to test this car and see how it drives. Auto Club Speedway is a really great track to test, especially since we just raced here. I talked to Erik (Jones) beforehand and he mentioned a few things about how it drove – how the steering was different, things like that.”

William Byron on his first impressions of the car
“I was really curious to see what would be different on this car. Our current car has kind of been maxed out in terms of what we can do with it. It’s going to take some time to learn this car, so we have to be patient and see how things go. We’re just trying to learn as much as we can right now during this test.

“I’ve been happy with it, especially as we’ve been adjusting it more and tailoring it to this track – this is the biggest track it’s been on so far. As soon as it started to go for us, I thought the steering felt better and the car felt more stable. It’s been fun the more laps I’ve been able to run.”

William Byron on adjusting to the new car
“It was tough to get a hold of at first, just how fast everything is. The tire doesn’t have the same sidewall, so there is not the same amount of slip that you can hang the car out. You just have to get used to that timing and rhythm of when the car does step out, how quickly can you catch it when it slides the front tires, how quickly does it come back. All those things are a lot different from what we do now. It takes some adjustment to learn that.”

William Byron on what he liked most about the car
“The sequential shifting was really cool. I’ve done that before when I first started racing but haven’t had it since. I think it will be better for us on restarts to focus on moves and not have to worry so much about shifting. And on road courses, you’re going to be able to be a lot more aggressive in your downshifts. That’s going to be a lot of fun.”

William Byron on the incident coming out of Turn 2
“We were probably six or seven laps into a 25 lap tire run. I had been a little free for a couple of corners, but nothing major. That time, I just got loose and figured I’d be able to save it but wasn’t able to. It just came all the way around. I had a number of similar moments in the race Sunday and was able to drive out of it. That’s what caught me off guard the most. It’s part of testing though, learning where the line is with what the car can do.”

 

Chad Knaus Quotes from Next Gen Test at Auto Club Speedway

Chad Knaus gives his general impression of the car
“I like the car; I think it’s really cool. It’s definitely taking a step in the right direction in terms of modern motorsports, so I think that’s great. We have a lot to learn as an industry about what this car is capable of. I really want to acknowledge (Richard Childress Racing) and NASCAR – they did a fantastic job in getting this car built to get it out here, I thought it was spectacular.”

Chad Knaus on the differences compared with the current car
“It’s significantly different. You can liken it to the difference between working on a modern day street car and working on a street car from the 70’s or 80’s. There is just a major difference in the type of stuff you can work on. The components are smaller and more nimble, and it’s a lot more compact in the packaging of the car.

“What and when we can change things is going to be significantly different. What you would change at the track might change from what we’re doing now – you’re going to have different knobs to turn. The thing that’s exciting about it is it’s a brand-new entity, so we’re always going to be learning new things about it and finding out what matters the most. It’s still a race car, and we’re still going to be able to work on it.”

 

John Probst, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Racing Innovation, Quotes from Next Gen Test at Auto Club Speedway

John Probst on the new prototype that debuted at Auto Club Speedway
“This is a brand-new car. We didn’t take any parts off the car we had at Richmond, Phoenix and Homestead. Our goal was to take all the feedback we received from the first three tests and implement that into what we consider our pre-production prototype. This is what we intend to race in 2021. What you see here today is a result of all the testing and input we’ve received.”

John Probst on the differences in the new P3 prototype
“We took a lot of input from the engineers and mechanics that have worked on the car. There are a lot of changes on here that are more comfort for the mechanics when they make changes. The top of the front clip is a lot wider – a lot of the feedback from the engine tuners from the early chassis is that it was difficult to get the valve covers off. We did some stuff in the rear clip to accommodate getting rear bars in and out easier. The move to the new wheel and hub necessitated some new uprights to be built. Those are really the highlights of what’s different here.”

John Probst on getting the new car built for the test
“Most of our challenges were leading up to this test. We had a lot of parts coming in from different places. Because we took the maximum amount of time we could to design the car, we left little time to manufacture and deliver the parts, so we cut it close on getting everything ready. Hats off to the RCR guys – they worked non-stop to get this car ready to go. What you see here now is a result of their hard work.”

John Probst on the incident coming out of Turn 2
“This is exactly why we test. We were able to put almost 300 miles on the car the past two days and captured some valuable data. Because of the nature of a test, we have a lot more data available than during a normal race weekend, including the IDR (incident data recorder) and high-speed camera. We’ll take the car back to North Carolina and evaluate it. This gives us a good opportunity to make sure the car holds up as expected during an incident. We’ll review everything available to us and move forward.”

Short-track ace Sam Ard shares Xfinity record with Noah Gragson

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Former two-time Xfinity Series champion Sam Ard’s name returned to the forefront in the past week as Noah Gragson tied Ard’s series record for consecutive victories at four.

Although Ard has been nominated for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, his exploits generally aren’t well-known among many who follow the modern sport of stock car racing. He was on the Hall voting list for the 2023 class but was not elected.

In the 1970s and ’80s, Ard was a short-track master in the vein of stars like Jack Ingram, Harry Gant and Butch Lindley, drivers who could show up at virtually any half-mile track across the country and take home the trophy.

He won the NASCAR Late Model (now the Xfinity Series) championship in 1983 and 1984, scoring 18 wins across those two seasons. He put together four victories in a row late in the 1983 season, winning at South Boston, Virginia; Martinsville, Virginia; Rougemont, North Carolina and Charlotte.

Ard was so dominant in 1984 that he had wrapped up the seasonal championship with two races remaining. In 28 series starts that year, he had 24 top-five finishes and 26 top-10 runs. He won eight times.

In the next-to-last race of the 1984 season, at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, Ard suffered critical head injuries when his car slid in fluid from another vehicle and hit the track’s outside wall.

That crash effectively ended Ard’s career and impacted the rest of his life. Ard often talked of learning to walk again as part of his recovery. He said he would use a walker in a pile of sawdust in his backyard so that the landing would be softer when he fell.

Ard eventually was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. In 2006, responding to Ard’s financial problems, drivers Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr., among others, launched a drive to raise funds for his family.

Ard, a native of Scranton, S.C., died in April 2017. He was 78.

 

 

 

 

 

Drivers to watch in Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway

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The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs will reach a critical point Sunday in a 500-mile chase at treacherous Talladega Superspeedway.

The overriding factor in any race at Talladega, NASCAR’s biggest track, is the unknown. With cars running so fast and so close together, multi-car accidents are not only possible but expected, and it’s easy to become the innocent victim of someone else’s mistake.

MORE: NASCAR penalizes William Byron for spinning Denny Hamlin

The tension is doubled for the 12 playoff drivers. A bad finish at Talladega could open the door for a probable playoff exit at the end of the round Oct. 9 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

The playoffs to date have seen four wins by non-playoff drivers, an unprecedented result. Tyler Reddick was the most recent to join that list with a win last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

A look at drivers to watch at Talladega:

FRONTRUNNERS

Denny Hamlin

  • Points position: 6th
  • Last three races: 10th at Texas, 9th at Bristol, 2nd at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 2 career wins

Although he hasn’t won, Hamlin has finished in the top 10 in all four playoff races. In the past six races at Talladega, he has four finishes of seventh or better. Now if he can just keep people from running into him…

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Last three races: 7th at Texas, 3rd at Bristol, 6th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: Best career finish is a second

Byron stands alone as the only playoff driver who has been able to avoid major crashes and trouble in the pits, and he has finished in the top 10 in all four playoff races. After Tuesday’s penalty for his incident with Denny Hamlin at Texas, he sits below the cutline entering Sunday’s race.

Brad Keselowski

  • Points position: 24th
  • Last three races: 8th at Texas, 13th at Bristol, 25th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 6 wins, the active leader

Even in trying times, Keselowski is a threat at Talladega, where he last won in April 2021 (his last Cup victory). He has led 268 laps there in the past 13 races.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Kyle Busch

  • Points position: 15th
  • Last three races: 36th at Texas, 34th at Bristol, 26th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 1 career win, in 2008

Is Busch going to steadily disappear into the mist as he rides out the final weeks of his final year with Joe Gibbs Racing? His best finish in the past four races is 26th. On the positive side this week, he’s the only driver to finish in the top 10 in this year’s three races at Daytona and Talladega.

Chase Elliott

  • Points position: 8th
  • Last three races: 32nd at Texas, 2nd at Bristol, 11th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 1 career win, in 2019

Can Elliott rebound from a fiery finish and a 32nd-place run at Texas? Playoff points give him some comfort, but a second career win at Talladega would be greatly appreciated in the Hendrick camp.

Martin Truex Jr.

  • Points position: 17th
  • Last three races: 31st at Texas, 36th at Bristol, 5th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: Best career finish is 5th

Will one of the sport’s most enduring mysteries continue at Talladega? In 70 career starts at Daytona and Talladega, Truex, a former champion and a smooth driver, has zero wins. At Talladega, he has only three top-five finishes in 35 starts.

 

 

 

NBC will broadcast final six NASCAR Cup Series playoff races

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The final six races in the chase for the NASCAR Cup Series championship will be televised by NBC.

The races remaining on the schedule are at Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 2), the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Oct. 9), Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Oct. 16), Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 23), Martinsville Speedway (Oct. 30) and Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 6).

NBC’s broadcasting team will be on hand Sunday for what is typically a seasonal highlight — a 500-mile race at Talladega Superspeedway. The next week the playoffs move on to Charlotte for a cutoff race. The lowest four drivers in the playoff point standings will be eliminated from championship competition.

The Round of 8 is scheduled at Las Vegas, Homestead and Martinsville, with the tiny Martinsville track serving as the final cutoff race. The four drivers who advance from Martinsville will race for the title at Phoenix Nov. 6.

The high drama of the Phoenix race, in which the championship will go to the highest finisher of the four competing drivers, will be carried by both NBC and Peacock.

Post-race commentary and analysis for all six remaining Cup races will be carried on Peacock.

Kyle Larson is the series defending champion. Joey Logano carries the point lead into Sunday’s race at Talladega.

NASCAR viewer’s guide for Talladega Superspeedway

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After a messy Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs move on this weekend to another potentially messy spot — Talladega Superspeedway.

Home to the Big One — an almost certain multi-car crash, Talladega also occasionally produces unexpected winners, including Richard Brickhouse, James Hylton, Lennie Pond, Ron Bouchard and Brad Keselowski.

The mix of tight drafting, the Next Gen car and general playoff tension should make Sunday’s 500-mile run quite the adventure.

On Sunday at Texas, Tyler Reddick became the second driver (after Chase Elliott) to score three wins this season.

Joey Logano enters Talladega with the playoff point lead.

Playoff rookies roll on

The four drivers participating in the Cup playoffs for the first time remain factors approaching the second race in the second round.

Ross Chastain is second in the standings, 18 points above the cutline entering Talladega.

MORE: NBC NASCAR rankings put Denny Hamlin first

Daniel Suarez, Chastain’s Trackhouse Racing teammate, is seventh. He’s four points above the cutline.

Two other playoff rookies — Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric — will start Talladega below the cutline. Briscoe is four points below the cutline. Cindric is 11 points below the cutline.

Looking for wins

Only six of the remaining 12 playoff drivers have won races at the two remaining tracks in the second round (Talladega and Charlotte Roval).

Among the six, Joey Logano has the best win record at Talladega, having finished first there in 2015, 2016 and 2018.

Other Talladega winners in the group: Ryan Blaney (two), Denny Hamlin (two), Chase Elliott (one), Ross Chastain (one).

The Charlotte Roval is relatively new, of course, but Chase Elliott already owns two wins there. Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson also have won at the Roval.

An opening for Brad?

Few people who watched it will forget the first Cup Series victory scored by Brad Keselowski.

It occurred at this week’s tour stop — Talladega Superspeedway — in April 2009. Keselowski and Carl Edwards made contact approaching the finish line and notched the win, even as Edwards’ car flew into the frontstretch fence, spraying car parts into the grandstands.

Thirteen years later, Keselowski returns to NASCAR’s biggest track having recorded six Talladega wins. No other active drive has more than three.

Keselowski’s refurbished team — Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing — has new fire with Chris Buescher winning at Bristol and Keselowski winning the pole and finishing eighth at Texas.

RFK Racing has led 309 laps in the past two races, more than the team had led in the prior 105 races combined.

Although he hasn’t won a Cup race since scoring a victory in a Team Penske Ford in April 2021 at Talladega, Keselowski must be considered a threat Sunday.

Entry lists

Thirty-seven drivers, including Xfinity Series star Noah Gragson and reigning Xfinity champion Daniel Hemric, are entered for Sunday’s Cup race.

Talladega Cup entry list

The Xfinity entry list includes 41 drivers for 38 spots. Among those joining the series regulars are Trevor Bayne, Parker Kligerman, Timmy Hill and Jeffrey Earnhardt.

Talladega Xfinity entry list

Forty-one drivers are entered for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race. Included are Kaz Grala, Ryan Preece, Natalie Decker, Jennifer Jo Cobb and Parker Kligerman.

Talladega Truck entry list

This week’s schedule and forecast

(All times Eastern)

Friday, Sept. 30

Forecast: Partly cloudy. High of 77. (Weather note: There is the possibility that Hurricane Ian could impact the race weekend, depending on its path).

  • 3:30 – 5 p.m. — Truck Series qualifying
  • 5:30 – 7 p.m. — Xfinity Series qualifying (USA Network)

Saturday, Oct. 1

Forecast: Overcast with showers at times. Potential for heavy rainfall. High of 73. 60% chance of rain.

  • 10:30 a.m. – Noon — Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series race (94 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 4 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (113 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Oct. 2

Forecast: Sun in the morning, increasing clouds in the afternoon. Slight chance of a shower. High of 74.

  • 2 p.m. — Cup Series race (188 laps, 500 miles; NBC, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)