Questions and answers about NASCAR’s planned return to racing

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After announcing that NASCAR plans to resume May 17 at Darlington Raceway and look at running Cup, Xfinity and Truck races there and at Charlotte Motor Speedway through May 27, NASCAR officials held a teleconference with reporters to answer questions.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, and John Bobo, NASCAR vice president of racing operations, met with reporters.

Here is what was said:

Q: Will fans be allowed at the races for May 17-27 at Darlington and Charlotte?

A: No. O’Donnell said: “We want to conduct events with fans any chance we can get. But until we believe that it’s a safe environment, and we can work with the local and state communities to make that happen, we’re going to wait until we get that okay.”

Q: NASCAR only announced races for May 17-27. What about afterward for Cup?

A: O’Donnell said the goal is to have the first seven races at tracks within driving distance of the race shops in the Charlotte, North Carolina region. With Darlington and Charlotte each hosting two races, that could allow NASCAR to run a race each at Bristol, Martinsville and Atlanta before venturing further out where teams would need to take a plane and stay in hotels instead of driving to an event and back home afterward.

Q: Will some tracks lose races?

A: Yes. O’Donnell said three Cup races likely will be realigned and “a few more” would take place in the Xfinity and Gander RV & Outdoors Series. He did not reveal the races but said an announcement is expected before the May 17 Darlington race what races will be moved. Darlington has stated that the Southern 500 remains scheduled for Sept. 6, so the two Darlington races in May would replace two Cup events.

Q: Will there be more doubleheaders in Cup?

A: Possibly. O’Donnell said that it was NASCAR’s intent that the Pocono doubleheader June 27-28 remains the first doubleheader but he suggested there could be one or two other doubleheaders. In a filing with the SEC on Thursday, Dover Motorsports stated that it is “possible that our May NASCAR Cup Series event will be moved to August and that we hold a double header with back to back NASCAR Cup Series events held on Saturday and Sunday.”

Q: Will the playoff races remain the same?

A: Yes at this time.

Q: Will there be practice and qualifying for any of the races scheduled in May?

A: There will be no practice for any of the events scheduled from May 17-27. Only the May 24 Coca-Cola 600 will have qualifying.

Q: Will there be live pit stops in these races scheduled in May?

A: Yes. O’Donnell said: “It was important for us to be able to showcase a race as close to what normally takes place as possible.”

Q: With no qualifying at Darlington, how will the starting lineup be set?

A: O’Donnell said NASCAR is not ready to announce that but did say a “good assumption” would be that the first race for each series would be set by car owner points. That would put Kevin Harvick on the pole at Darlington for the May 17 event. O’Donnell did say: “We realize that as you go through events (setting the lineup by car owner points) is not the best way to do things, so there is some discussion going on now with the race teams and the drivers about as you get to race two and three, are there some things you can do to mix it up a little bit around pit selection or possibly for race two, start that lineup based on how you finished in race one. More to come. We just went to flush out a few more things with the teams and make sure we’ve the fairest possible lineups.

Q: Will there be a Victory Lane?

A: Said O’Donnell: “We have thought about it. The drivers have asked us about this, too. Our goal is to certainly have a celebration on or around the start/finish line. In an ideal world we would like have to have Victory Lane. Not sure of all the logistics of how we pull that off. We certainly want to try and have a trophy, at least that celebration with the driver.”

Q: How many crew members will be allowed at Darlington for the Cup race?

A: 16. That will include driver, team owner, spotter, crew chief, pit crew and team members. Xfinity and  Truck teams will have fewer team members.

Q: What will be the screening process?

A: NASCAR vice president of racing operations John Bobo said: “We’re asking teams and all of our participants, organizations, to self‑monitor people for five days for symptoms before they arrive.  We’re asking them to fill out a questionnaire and initial screening for temperature. Concerns after that, they will go into secondary screening with medical personnel, which will include heart rate, pulse oxygenation. Medical personnel will make decisions at that point. … Temperatures will be taken randomly throughout the event of people as needed.  Symptomatic patients will be processed and removed from the event and given medical attention if needed.”

Q: What if a driver fails the screening process?

A: They would be replaced. Said O’Donnell: “We hope we don’t have to do this, but we will allow a replacement person for a team member or for a driver. The parameters will be set up in place with the screening prior to the race, especially for Darlington.

Q: What if a driver does not pass the health screening and is replaced. Will the driver who was to have started get points?

A: No. O’Donnell said the current rule remains at this point — the driver in the car at the start of the race gets the points. O’Donnell noted that the rule could be amended, depending on the circumstances.

Q: What if a crew member or driver tests positive in the days following a race?

A: Bobo said: “In that instance we would look at every person that driver interacted with directly and those folks would have to self-isolate and then we would obviously make sure the driver gets the car he needs. … We will be following up with each participant and we’ve asked each organization do that as well for 14 days for symptoms for anybody that has attended an event.”

Q: Will crew members at the track be allowed to work in the race shop between events.

A: Bobo said: “We’ve recommended to the teams that the people at the events not come back into the race shop.”

Results, point standings after Truck race at Las Vegas

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Austin Hill won Friday night’s Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for his second win of 2020.

He beat Sheldon Creed for the victory.

The top five was completed by Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith.

IndyCar driver Conor Daly finished 18th and Travis Pastrana was 21st.

Click here for the race results.

Point Standings

With his win, Austin Hill is the first driver to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

Todd Gilliland is last in the playoff standings with 2,050 points. He is 13 points behind Ben Rhodes.

Click here for the standings.

Austin Hill wins Las Vegas Truck race

Austin Hill
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Austin Hill won Friday night’s Truck Series playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, leading the final 39 laps to score the victory.

Hill took the lead on a restart and held off charges from Sheldon Creed over the final 20 laps.

Creed’s progress was slowed with 11 laps to go when he got loose and scraped the wall in Turn 1. He was never able to get close enough to Hill to make a challenge.

Creed dominated the early portion of the race, leading 89 laps before he struggled to get going on the final restart and briefly fell to seventh.

The win is the second of the year for Hill. He’s the first playoff driver to win in the postseason and it come after he finished 25th at Bristol.

“We didn’t have the best truck tonight by no means,” Hill told FS1. “Pit crew did a hell of job on that last pit stop getting me into the position I needed to. I just had to go out there and get it. … Sheldon was definitely way faster than me. … I was probably looking in my mirror more than I was our front. I knew he was better than we were.”

The top five was completed by Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith.

More: Race results and point standings

STAGE 1 WINNER: Sheldon Creed

STAGE 2 WINNER: Sheldon Creed

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith all matched their best results of the season … While he was the first driver to finish one lap down, IndyCar driver Conor Daly placed 18th in his first career Truck Series start … Travis Pastrana placed 21st in his second start of the season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Rachael Lessard finished 20th after he had to pit early in the race following contact with the wall … Ben Rhodes finished 23rd after he spun from contact with Stewart Friesen and hit the inside wall on Lap 84 … Jordan Anderson’s engine expired on the ensuing restart. He finished 32nd.

NOTABLE: Natalie Decker, who was not medically cleared to compete Friday night, was treated and released from the infield care center.

WHAT’S NEXT: Race at Talladega Superspeedway, 1 p.m. ET Oct. 3 on FS1

 

Natalie Decker not medically cleared for Las Vegas Truck race

Natalie Decker
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NASCAR announced right before Friday night’s Truck Series race that Natalie Decker hadn’t been medically cleared to compete.

No details were provided about the issue that prevented Decker from being cleared. During the final stage of the race, NASCAR announced she had been treated and released from the infield medical center.

The Niece Motorsports driver would have started 23rd. Due to her No. 44 truck having cleared inspection and having been placed on the starting grid she was credited with a last-place finish.

Decker has made 11 starts this year. She missed the June 28 race at Pocono after she was hospitalized due to bile duct complications related to her gallbladder removal in December.

Brandon Brown hopes to shed underdog role in Xfinity playoffs

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Brandon Brown knows the odds are against him advancing beyond the first round of the Xfinity playoffs.

“If I went out and we did a survey and we asked 1,000 NASCAR fans to create a playoff bracket, I guarantee that 90 to 99 percent of them have me getting eliminated in the first round,” he told NBC Sports.

But that’s not stopping him.

Brown is in the Xfinity playoffs for the first time, earning the final spot last weekend with his family-run team. He enters Saturday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) last in the 12-driver field. Brown has 2,000 points and is 10 points behind Ross Chastain, who holds the final transfer spot, entering the first round.

MORE: Saturday’s Xfinity race start time, lineup, forecast

Regardless where he is in the standings, Brown still met the team’s preseason goal of making the playoffs.

“It’s hard to put it into words,” the 27-year-old said of making the playoffs. “It’s so exciting and so thrilling. We’re just happy. Life is good. We’re seeing the fruits of our labor.”

Much of the Xfinity playoff focus will be on Chase Briscoe, who enters with a series-high seven wins. Or Austin Cindric, who won the regular-season title. Or Justin Allgaier, who has won three of the last seven races and could be the favorite if he makes it to the championship race at Phoenix Raceway.

Brown, who is in his second full season in the series, has four consecutive top-20 finishes going into this weekend. He knows the challenge he faces.

He said a key for this weekend is to have no mistakes, be running at the end and try to take advantage of any mistakes other playoff drivers have.

Then, he’ll look to Talladega. He’ll have an upgraded Earnhardt Childress Racing engine for that race, the team spending the extra money for the engine upgrade.

“I go into that track with confidence,” he said. “I need to go out there and make it happen, go win and make an name and go ahead and punch my ticket.”

While Brown knows most look at him as the underdog of these playoffs, he hopes to drop that title someday.

“The goal will be to get rid of that underdog title and to build that program that is going to be looked on as a powerhouse of the NASCAR Xfinity Series,” he said. “I enjoy the ride (as underdog), but now I’m ready to advance past it.”

Points entering Xfinity playoffs 

2,050 – Chase Briscoe

2,050 – Austin Cindric

2,033 – Justin Allgaier

2,025 – Noah Gragson

2,020 – Brandon Jones

2,018 – Justin Haley

2,014 – Harrison Burton

2,010 – Ross Chastain

2,002 – Ryan Sieg

2,002 – Michael Annett

2,001 – Riley Herbst

2,000 – Brandon Brown

First Round races

Sept. 26 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Oct. 3 – Talladega Superspeedway (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Oct. 10 – Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC)