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

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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.”

eNASCAR Pro Invitational Qualifier to be streamed online

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The qualifying race for Sunday’s eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series event at a virtual Texas Motor Speedway will be streamed on enascar.com/live, NASCAR announced.

The qualifier features Xfinity, Truck and regional series drivers looking to advance to the eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series race that will be at 1 p.m. ET Sunday on Fox, FS1 and the Fox Sports App. At this time, four drivers from the qualifier will advance. That number could change depending on any late additions or drops to the race featuring Cup drivers.

MORE: Roush, Greg Biffle reunite for eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series race

MORE: North Wilkesboro to make its comeback on iRacing 

MORE: eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series reminds Clint Bowyer of being a rookie

The qualifier is scheduled to take place at 11:02 a.m. ET and have 34 drivers battling for those four transfer spots.

The qualifier will be 30 laps at a virtual Texas Motor Speedway. The race will have no cautions.

Practice begins at 10:30 a.m. ET. Qualifying begins at 10:55 a.m., lasting five minutes, followed by the race.

Last week, six drivers advanced from the qualifier to the main event. They were: Anthony Alfredo, Justin Allgaier, Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Ty Majeski and Ryan Truex.

Drivers scheduled to compete in Sunday’s qualifier at a virtual Texas Motor Speedway are (with car number):

02 – Spencer Boyd

7 – Justin Allgaier

08 – Jeb Burton

15 – Brennan Poole

16 – Justin Haley

22 – Austin Cindric

23 – Sam Mayer

26 – Tyler Ankrum

27 – Ruben Garcia

29  – Kaz Grala

29a – Trevor Bayne

33 – Anthony Alfredo

35 – Todd Gilliland

36 – Jesse Iwuji

40 – Ryan Truex

45 – Ty Majeski

46 – Chandler Smith

50 – Jeffrey Earnhardt

52 – Stewart Friesen

53 – Joey Gase

54 – Kyle Weatherman

63 – Scott Stenzel

68 – Brandon Brown

74 – Sheldon Creed

78 – Ryan Ellis

80 – Joe Graf Jr.

81 – Christian Eckes

90 – Alex Labbe

93 – Myatt Snider

98 – Chase Briscoe

99 – Harrison Burton

TBD – Derek Kraus

TBD – Drew Dollar

TBD – JJ Yeley

March 28 in NASCAR history: Texas Terry Labonte gets a home win

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Terry Labonte’s last two Cup Series wins were anything but forgettable.

The last one, in 2003, came in the Southern 500. That was the same race he earned his first Cup win in way back in 1980.

But four years earlier, the two-time champion got a home win.

A native of Corpus Christi, Texas, the driver nicknamed “Texas Terry” claimed a victory in the 1999 race at Texas Motor Speedway. It was just the third Cup race held at the facility after it opened in 1997.

Labonte started fourth and would lead 124 of 334 laps around the 1.5-mile track, including the final 12 after he passed Dale Jarrett on the outside going into Turn 1 for the lead.

Jarrett wouldn’t get a chance to fight for the lead again. With four laps to go, Jimmy Spencer crashed on the frontstretch to bring out the caution. Labonte took the checkered and yellow flags together for his 21st Cup win.

“We picked places to go test this year and I said ‘I want to go here cause this is a race I want to win,” Labonte told CBS. “Besides Daytona, coming here to Texas is awesome.”

Making the day even better for the Labonte family was Terry’s younger brother, Bobby, placing third.

Also on this day:

1954: The premier series held two races on different sides of the country. Dick Rathmann won a 125-mile race at Oakland Speedway in California after starting last. In Georgia, Al Keller won his first career race at Savannah’s Oglethorpe Speedway.

1982: Sam Ard claimed his first career Xfinity Series win in a race at Martinsville Speedway. Ard would go on to win 22 Xfinity races and the championships in 1983 and 1984.

1992: Robert Pressley passed Harry Gant on the last lap to win the Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway.

1993: Dale Earnhardt came back from a lap down to win at Darlington Raceway. It was his first win since the Coca-Cola 600 10 months earlier. Alan Kulwicki finished sixth in what would be his last race before his death in a plane crash on April 1.

2004: Kurt Busch won at Bristol for his third consecutive victory on the half-mile track.

Roush, Biffle reunite for eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series race

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After four years, Roush Fenway Racing and Greg Biffle are getting the band back together … digitally.

Roush Fenway Racing announced its former driver will compete in Sunday’s eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series event on a digital Texas Motor Speedway.

Like he did in the Cup Series from 2003-2016, Biffle will pilot a No. 16 Ford in the race (1 p.m. ET on Fox and FS1).

“How exciting is it to get back behind the wheel of the No. 16,” Biffle said in a press release. “I watched the iRace last week on TV and I was really impressed with the overall quality of the broadcast and the racing. It was just a lot of fun and I’m really looking forward to being a part of the show this weekend.

“We are running a really cool Castrol scheme on the car. I think it’s going to show up really well. My plan is to log a ton of practice time leading up to the race, so hopefully we can have a strong showing and you’ll see a lot of the Castrol green and red on the broadcast.”

This will be Biffle’s iRacing event debut.

After parting ways with Roush Fenway Racing after the 2016 season, Biffle returned to NASCAR last year for a one-off Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway with Kyle Busch Motorsports, which he won.

NASCAR teams impacted by North Carolina stay at home order

Robert Willett/The News & Observer via AP
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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced a stay at home order for the entire state of North Carolina, beginning at 5 p.m. ET Monday because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The order is for 30 days.

The move impacts all NASCAR teams based in North Carolina.

“These are tough directives, but I need you to take them seriously,” Gov. Cooper said in afternoon news briefing.

MORE: N.C. Governor enlists Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson for COVID-19 PSA

MORE: North Carolina stay at home order

The order bans gatherings of more than 10 people and directs everyone to stay at least six feet away from each other. The order requires all residents to stay at home except for essential activities. The order states: “non-essential business and operations must cease.”

The order also states that among the definitions for an essential business and operation is “Businesses that meet Social Distancing Requirements. Businesses, not-for-profit organizations or educational institutions that conduct operations while maintaining Social Distancing Requirements:

a. Between and among its employees; and

b. Between and among employees and customers except at the point of sale or purchase.”

Mecklenburg County and Cabarrus County, which are home to such race teams as Joe Gibbs Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Chip Ganassi Racing, Roush Fenway Racing and JTG Daugherty Racing, were already under a stay at home order through April 16.

By the end of the week, more than 20 states will have issued stay at home orders, including California, Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Ohio.