NASCAR announces procedural changes because of COVID-19

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
4 Comments

NASCAR announced Wednesday a series of changes at the track because of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The changes will take place this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, which will host the Cup, Xfinity and Gander and RV Outdoors Truck Series and remain in effect indefinitely. Among the changes:

Driver/crew chief meeting: NASCAR will hold driver/crew chief meetings in open air locations and will limit the meeting to drivers, crew chiefs, team owners and select officials and dignitaries.

Driver autographs. Drivers should pre-sign items whenever possible, carry their own Sharpie and hero cards should be the primary form for all autographs.

Driver appearances. Should be structured to ensure that drivers are visible to fans in an open-air setting, such as Q&A sessions.

Pre-race and post-race activities (driver introductions, grid & victory lane). NASCAR will provide a 6-foot buffer around the grid and driver introduction stage.

NASCAR stated: “As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation develops nationally and across local markets where we race, NASCAR remains in daily consultation with public health officials and other prominent sports and entertainment properties. In addition, we have added an infectious disease specialist to our consulting physician group to provide technical assistance and to inform policy. In following with these discussions and guidance from this counsel, NASCAR is implementing several adjustments to race event operations effective this weekend at Atlanta and remaining in effect indefinitely.”

Other measures from NASCAR:

Team haulers. NASCAR recommends that access to team haulers be restricted to necessary personnel at team’s discretion.

Advance in-market driver appearances. All advance appearances will be replaced with remote media activities and/or rescheduled for a later date in coordination with racetracks.  

Driver at track media availabilities. The informal rotations for all three series will be changed to press conferences on the riser in the media center. Full field driver availabilities during qualifying, infield care center driver availability and post-race bullpen will remain in effect, but with a 6-foot buffer in place. 

Atlanta Motor Speedway will provide additional hand-washing stations and hand sanitizer stations this weekend for fans. The track will give fans individual hand sanitizers as they enter the stands. A track spokesperson said track officials encourage fans to practice good hygiene by washing hands regularly and using hand sanitizer.

More than 1,000 people in the United States have been infected with the coronavirus.

The World Health Organization called the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, a pandemic on Wednesday. The World Health Organization defines pandemic as a worldwide spread of a new disease for which most people do not have immunity.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated Thursday on its website that there had been 29 deaths reported in the United States from COVID-19. The CDC reports that 38 states and the District of Columbia have reported cases of COVID-19.

The CDC reported 23 cases of COVID-19 in Georgia, site of this weekend’s NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Truck races. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported on its site Wednesday that the state had six confirmed cases and 16 presumptive cases.

Click here for NASCAR media availability at Atlanta

MORE: NBC News live blog on the coronavirus

MORE: NBC Sports live blog with updates on how the coronavirus is impacting sports

MORE: IndyCar: Robert Wickens sends message to fans about St. Pete interaction

 

Talladega Xfinity starting lineup: Austin Hill wins pole

0 Comments

TALLADEGA, Ala. — Austin Hill will lead the field to the green flag Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway after scoring his first career Xfinity Series pole.

Hill won the pole Friday with a lap of 182.036 mph. He will be joined on the front row by fellow playoff contender Ty Gibbs (181.981 mph).

MORE: Talladega Xfinity starting lineup

Playoff drivers will start in seven of the top eight spots. The exception is Sheldon Creed, who will start third after a lap of 181.870 mph. Hill and Creed give Richard Childress Racing the first and third starting spots.

Justin Allgaier (181.529) qualified fourth and Brandon Jones (181.305) completed the top five. Noah Gragson, who has won four races in a row, starts sixth after a lap of 181.134 mph and is followed by playoff drivers Josh Berry (181.052) and AJ Allmendinger (180.932).

The Xfinity Series race is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network.

Talladega Truck starting lineup: John Hunter Nemechek wins pole

0 Comments

TALLADEGA, Ala. — John Hunter Nemechek will start on the pole for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race.

Nemechek earned the pole with a lap of 178.767 mph.

Nemechek is one of four playoff drivers starting in the top six: Chandler Smith (second, 177.732 mph), Zane Smith (fourth, 177.061) and Ty Majeski (sixth, 176.744). Majeski clinched a spot in next month’s championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.

MORE: Talladega Truck starting lineup

Also qualifying in the top five were Carson Hocevar (177.068) in third and Matt Crafton (176.960) in fifth.

Failing to qualify are Tim Viens, Spencer Boyd, Jason White and Natalie Decker.

Saturday Talladega Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather

0 Comments

The second race of the opening round of the Xfinity playoffs takes drivers to Talladega Superspeedway.

Noah Gragson secured his spot in the next round by winning last weekend at Texas. Ryan Sieg holds the final transfer spot. Riley Herbst is the first driver below the cutline, one point behind Sieg. Also below the cutline are reigning series champion Daniel Hemric (-8 points), Brandon Jones (-12) and Jeremy Clements (-28).

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:09 p.m. … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:21 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3:30 p.m. … The invocation will be given at 4 p.m. … The Brookwood High School choir will perform the anthem at 4:02 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 113 laps (300.58 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 25. Stage 2 ends at Lap 50.

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 4 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 3:30 p.m. on USA Network. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 78 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Noah Gragson won and was followed by Jeffrey Earnhardt and AJ Allmendinger.

 

Could Talladega open door for a record 20th winner?

0 Comments

Talladega Superspeedway is known for fast speeds, huge drafting packs, sensational wrecks and tight finishes.

On Sunday (2 p.m. ET on NBC), it could be the site of an unexpected record.

Nineteen different drivers have won Cup races this season, tying a record. If a new winner shows up in Talladega victory lane Sunday, it will mark the first time in the sport’s history that 20 drivers have won races in a single season.

One of the remarkable things about that possibility is that the driver who has far and away the best record at Talladega among active drivers is among the group still looking for a win in 2022. That’s Brad Keselowski, who has won six times at NASCAR’s biggest track. No other active driver has more than three. (Keselowski is tied for second on the all-time Talladega win list with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. Dale Earnhardt tops that list with 10).

Talladega and Daytona tend to reject repeat winners. The past nine races at the two tracks have been won by nine different drivers.

Other seasonal non-winners who could break through at Talladega:

Ryan BlaneyBlaney’s only win this year is in the All-Star Race, so he’s still looking for his first points win while continuing to chase the championship. He won at Talladega in 2019 and 2020.

Martin Truex Jr. — Superspeedways have been a pox on Truex’s career. In 70 races at Talladega and Daytona, he has failed to win.

Aric Almirola — In what has been a disappointing season, Almirola’s best finish is a fifth — twice. He won at Talladega in 2018 but hasn’t had a top 10 in his last four runs there.

Michael McDowell — McDowell’s best finish at Talladega is a third, but he is usually very competitive in the Talladega and Daytona drafts, winning the 2021 Daytona 500.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Stenhouse won at Talladega in 2017 and usually is a factor in the draft.

Harrison Burton — Burton has had a tough rookie season, but the peculiarities of the Talladega draft should play in his favor. The No. 21 team’s next win will be its 100th.

Justin Haley — Haley has no top-10 runs in five Talladega starts, but he showed potential last week with a third-place finish at Texas.

Corey LaJoie — LaJoie has started nine Cup races at Talladega and has led exactly one lap. His best finish is a seventh.

Noah Gragson — Gragson, the star of this Xfinity season, is in the No. 48 for Hendrick Motorsports with Alex Bowman out because of concussion-like symptoms. In the Talladega draft he could be a threat.