Chicanes and rain: Xfinity drivers brace for Daytona road course


Polesitter Austin Cindric has at least one concern about today’s Xfinity Series race on the Daytona International Speedway road course (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

“I hope I don’t just drive straight through NASCAR (Turn) 4 onto the front straightaway,” Cindric said this week.  “Hopefully I remember there’s a chicane there.”

There’s only a handful of NASCAR drivers who enter this weekend’s races on the Daytona road course with any past experience on the track that hosts sports car races, including the Rolex 24. None of them, including Xfinity Series drivers Cindric, AJ Allmendinger and Chase Briscoe, have competed on the layout that will debut today.

The track will have a second chicane, located between oval Turn 4 and the entrance to pit road. The turn will see drivers go onto the traditional apron before returning to the oval track.

The chicane was put in place to slow cars as they navigate Turn 1 into the infield portion of the course.

“Overall, I do think it eliminates a better passing zone in (Turn) 1,” Cindric said. “Obviously, we did it for speed purposes and whatever purpose NASCAR needed to feel comfortable with going to this track without practice, but I really do feel like it adds the front straightaway more as an acceleration zone, instead of a straightaway. You usually get a lot of drafting opportunities down through NASCAR (Turns) 3 and 4 onto the front straightaway, high-speed braking zone into Turn 1, you have more options to pass there and that’s probably the most legitimate passing zone.

“I don’t see the bus stop (on the backstretch) or the new chicane being much of a passing zone, so I think that makes the infield important as far as racing. At the same point, I feel like that’s an easy place to get into the back of somebody and not even try to, especially in our cars, so it’s gonna be dicey.”

Allmendinger, who won the 2012 Rolex 24 and has competed in that event 14 times, said from his experience in a simulator, the chicane is “a little bit more narrow” then the one found on the fronstretch of the Charlotte Roval.

“Trying to make an outbraking move, if you’re behind the car, looks like at least preliminary it might be a little bit more difficult,” Allmendinger said. “But it also seems like it’s really easy to lock up and get in too deep. … I think it’s gonna allow a lot of opportunities for small mistakes. It’s just like everybody else, go out there and learn it as we drop the green.”

Well, what if it’s raining?

On Saturday, forecasts that the chance of rain is between 44-54% from 3 – 5 p.m. ET.

That means the 14-turn, 3.61-mile track could be covered in rain most of the day.

That’s fine with Briscoe, who posted on Reddit last weekend that he wanted to race in a “monsoon” during the race at Road America.

“I thought the rain was super fun at Road America,” Briscoe said this week. “That was the first time I’d ever done it and it reminded me, truthfully, of a lot of the Eldora truck race just how you had to kind of drive it. So I thought it was really fun, first off, and I feel like Daytona would probably be the hardest place to run in the rain just because I don’t really know what the banking would do. A lot of the transitions are from the bank down to the flat, so there will be a ton of puddles there and what-not, so I don’t really know what to expect, but I would love to run the whole race in the rain.”

Briscoe’s main concern with a rain-filled race today is visibility.

“I was blown away at how little visibility there was (at Road America),” Briscoe said. “Down the back straightaway there was a car probably three or four car lengths in front of me and I couldn’t even see his brake lights. Visibility is really hard.”

At Daytona, Briscoe said the “rooster,” or the spray of water a car creates, “is only going to be worse because we’re going so much faster and that just typically makes it worse, so we’ll see but it was definitely hard to see at Road America for sure.”

But Briscoe isn’t scared of racing in the rain.

‘We’re going slower in the rain than we are anywhere else, so I don’t think danger is really an issue,” Briscoe said. “It makes you (stay) on your toes, but it’s no different to me if we’re in the pack at Daytona or Talladega. To me, that’s way scarier than running in the rain with limited visibility.”

One person thinks it would be a “shame” if today’s race were run in the rain.

That’s Earl Bamber, the IMSA driver and three-time podium finisher in the Rolex 24, who will make his Xfinity Series debut  with Richard Childress Racing.

“I’ve got a lot of experience in the rain, even recently we drove in the wet in a couple of practice sessions at Daytona,” Bamber said Thursday. “I know where the puddles are. I know where the line is and stuff like that. I think from that point of view it’ll be a good advantage if it rains. Hopefully, we don’t need to get them out to be honest with you. It would be a shame if it was a wet race.

“It would be really cool to go be able to do a dry one in one of these cars, that would be awesome.”

Drivers to watch in Clash at the Coliseum


The 2023 NASCAR season will begin with Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum, the second race on a purpose-built track inside Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Although a non-points race, last year’s Clash generated intense interest as NASCAR moved the event from its long-time home at Daytona International Speedway to Los Angeles. The race was rated a success and opened doors for the possibility of future races in stadium environments.

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings: 10 historic moments in the Clash

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Year Two will find drivers competing on a familiar landscape but still with a track freshly paved. Last year’s racing surface was removed after the Clash.

Drivers to watch Sunday at Los Angeles:


Joey Logano

  • Points position: Finished 2022 as Cup champion
  • Last three races: Won at Phoenix, 6th at Martinsville, 18th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: Won in 2022

Logano put bookends on 2022 by winning the first Clash at the Coliseum and the season’s final race at Phoenix to win the Cup championship. He’ll be among the favorites Sunday.

Ross Chastain

  • Points position: 2nd in 2022
  • Last three races: 3rd at Phoenix, 4th at Martinsville, 2nd at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: Did not qualify last year

Chastain was the breakout star of 2022, winning a pair of races and generally putting himself front and center across much of the year. Can he start 2023 on a big note? If so, he will have to do so without replicating his Hail Melon move at Martinsville after NASCAR outlawed the move Tuesday.

Kevin Harvick

  • Points position: 15th in 2022
  • Last three races: 5th at Phoenix, 16th at Martinsville, 8th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: 10th in 2022

Sunday will begin the final roundup for Harvick, who has said this season will be his last as a full-time Cup driver. He is likely to come out of the gate with fire in his eyes.


Kyle Busch

  • Points position: 13th in 2022
  • Last three races: 7th at Phoenix, 29th at Martinsville, 9th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: 2nd in 2022

Welcome to Kyle Busch’s Brave New World. After 15 seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing, he begins a new segment of his career with Richard Childress Racing. He led 64 laps at last year’s Clash but couldn’t catch Joey Logano at the end.

Tyler Reddick

  • Points position: 14th in 2022
  • Last three races: 23rd at Phoenix, 35th at Martinsville, 35th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: 21st in 2022

Reddick ran surprisingly strong in last year’s Clash, leading 51 laps before parking with drivetrain issues. He starts the new year with a new ride — at 23XI Racing.

Ty Gibbs

  • Points position: Won Xfinity Series championship in 2022
  • Last three (Cup) races: 19th at Martinsville, 22nd at Homestead, 22nd at Las Vegas
  • Past at Clash: Did not compete in 2022

After a successful — and controversial — Xfinity season, Gibbs moves up to Cup full-time with his grandfather’s team. Will he be the brash young kid of 2022 or a steadier driver in Season One in Cup?







Interstate Batteries extends sponsorship with Joe Gibbs Racing


Interstate Batteries, which has been a Joe Gibbs Racing sponsor since the team’s first race, has expanded its involvement with the team for 2023.

Interstate, based in Dallas, will be a primary JGR sponsor for 13 races, up from six races, the number it typically sponsored each year since 2008.

Christopher Bell and Ty Gibbs will run the majority of Interstate’s sponsorship races, but Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. also will carry the sponsor colors.

MORE: NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

“We’re extremely proud of our partnership with our founding sponsor, Interstate Batteries,” said team owner Joe Gibbs in a statement released by the team. “They have been such an important part of our team for over three decades now, and it’s exciting to have them on board all four of our cars this season. The best part of our partnership is the relationships we’ve built with everyone there over the years.”

Bell will carry Interstate sponsorship in Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum, the All-Star Race May 21, the Coca-Cola 600 May 28, at Texas Motor Speedway Sept. 24 and at Martinsville Oct. 29.

Gibbs, in his first full season in Cup racing, will be sponsored by Interstate at Daytona Feb. 19, Bristol April 9, Nashville June 25, Chicago July 2, Texas Sept. 24 and Charlotte Oct. 8.

Hamlin will ride with Interstate sponsorship March 26 at Circuit of the Americas, and Truex will be sponsored by Interstate July 23 at Pocono.

Interstate was a key JGR sponsor in the team’s first season in 1992.

NASCAR announces rule changes for 2023 season


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR announced a series of rule changes for the 2023 season that includes outlawing the move Ross Chastain made at Martinsville and eliminating stage breaks at all six Cup road course events.

NASCAR announced the changes in a session with reporters Tuesday at the NASCAR R&D Center.

Among new things for this season:

  • Updated penalty for a wheel coming off a car.
  • Change to the amount of time teams have to repair cars on pit road via the Damaged Vehicle Policy.
  • Change to playoff eligibility for drivers.
  • Cars could run in wet weather conditions on short ovals.
  • Expansion of the restart zone on a trial basis.
  • Choose rule will be in place for more races.

MORE: Ranking top 10 moments at the Clash

NASCAR updated its policy on a loose wheel. Previously, if a wheel came off a car during an event, it would be a four-race suspension for the crew chief and two pit crew members. That has changed this year.

If a wheel comes off a car while the vehicle is still on pit road, the vehicle restarts at the tail end of the field. If a wheel comes off a vehicle while it is on pit road under green-flag conditions, it is a pass-thru penalty.

The rule changes once a vehicle has left pit road and loses a wheel.

Any vehicle that loses a wheel on the track will be penalized two laps and have two pit crew members suspended for two races. The suspensions will go to those most responsible for the wheel coming off. This change takes away a suspension to the crew chief. The policy is the same for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks.

With some pit crew members working multiple series, the suspension is only for that series. So, if a pit crew member is suspended two races in the Xfinity Series for a wheel coming off, they can still work the Cup race the following day.

The Damaged Vehicle Policy clock will be 7 minutes this season. It had been six minutes last year and was increased to 10 minutes during the playoffs. After talking with teams, NASCAR has settled on seven minutes for teams to make repairs on pit road or be eliminated. Teams can replace toe links on pit road but not control arms. Teams also are not permitted to have specialized repair tools in the pits.

NASCAR will have a wet weather package for select oval tracks: the Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Lucas Oil Raceway Park, Martinsville, Milwaukee, New Hampshire, North Wilkesboro, Phoenix and Richmond.

Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition for NASCAR, said that teams have been told to show up at these events prepared for wet weather conditions as they would at a road course. That includes having a windshield wiper. Wet weather tires will be available. 

“Our goal here is to get back to racing as soon as possible,” Swayer said. “… If there’s an opportunity for us to get some cars or trucks on the racetrack and speed up that (track-drying) process and we can get back to racing, that’s what our goal is. We don’t want to be racing in full-blown rain (at those tracks) and we’ve got spray like we would on a road course.”

NASCAR stated that it is removing the requirement that a winning driver be in the top 30 in points in Cup or top 20 in Xfinity or Trucks to become eligible for the playoffs. As long as a driver is competing full-time — or has a waiver for the races they missed, a win will make them playoff eligible.

With the consultation of drivers, NASCAR is expanding the restart zone to give the leader more room to take off. NASCAR said it will evaluate if to keep this in place after the Atlanta race in March.

NASCAR stated the choose rule will be in effect for superspeedways and dirt races.

NASCAR eliminates stage breaks for Cup road course events

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CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR will do away with stage breaks in all six Cup road course races and select Xfinity and Truck races this season, but teams will continue to score stage points. 

NASCAR announced the change Tuesday in a session with reporters at the NASCAR R&D Center. 

MORE: NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

NASCAR stated there will be no stage breaks in the Cup road course events at Circuit of the Americas (March 26), Sonoma (June 11), Chicago street course (July 2), Indianapolis road course (Aug. 13), Watkins Glen (Aug. 20) and Charlotte Roval (Oct. 8).

There will be no stage breaks for Xfinity races at Circuit of the Americas (March 25), Sonoma (June 10), Chicago street course (July 1), Indianapolis road course (Aug. 12), Watkins Glen (Aug. 19) and Charlotte Roval (Oct. 7).

There will be no stage breaks for the Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas (March 25).

In those races, stage points will be awarded on a designated lap, but there will be no green-and-checkered flag and the racing will continue.

The only road course events that will have stage breaks will be Xfinity standalone races at Portland (June 3) and Road America (July 29) and the Truck standalone race at Mid-Ohio (July 8). Those events will keep stage breaks because they have non-live pit stops — where the field comes down pit road together and positions cannot be gained or lost provided the stop is completed in the prescribed time by NASCAR.

NASCAR has faced questions from fans and competitors about stage breaks during road course races because those breaks alter strategy in a more defined manner than on most ovals.

Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition for NASCAR, said the move away from stage breaks at road courses was made in collaboration with teams and response from fans.

“When we introduced stage racing … we took an element of strategy away from the event,” Sawyer. “Felt this (change) would bring some new storylines (in an event).”

NASCAR instituted stage breaks and stage points for the 2017 season and has kept the system in place since. NASCAR awards a playoff point to the stage winner along with 10 points. The top 10 at the end of a stage score points.

It wasn’t uncommon for many teams to elect to pit before the first stage in a road course race and eschew points to put themselves in better track position for the final two stages. By pitting early, they would be behind those who stayed out to collect the stage points. At the stage break, those who had yet to pit would do so, allowing those who stopped before the break to leapfrog back to the front.