NASCAR venues continuing to help their communities

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Between race weekends, NASCAR venues host a wide variety of events. But due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic – and subsequent local/state measures to keep the virus in check – they had to get creative in order to keep serving their home regions.

They became sites for blood drives, COVID-19 testing, and food distribution to help those in need.

They hosted graduation ceremonies for thousands of local high school and college students, who, instead of walking across a stage, took a lap around the track in their cars on the way to receiving their diploma.

They also provided some respite from a tough year with socially distanced entertainment, including events like drive-thru Halloween celebrations, and drive-in concerts and movie nights.

This month, many of these venues will continue to host community events, including some helping local charities and organizations.

Bristol Motor Speedway

Now through Jan. 2 – Pinnacle Speedway in Lights powered by TVA

Charlotte Motor Speedway

Now through Jan. 17 (Closed for Christmas Day and other select nights for private events) – Speedway Christmas presented by Count on Me NC

This nearly four-mile course of lights features more than four million lights and takes vehicles onto the Charlotte Motor Speedway oval and “roval.”

Thursday-Sunday nights also include drive-in movies on the track’s big screen.

Now through Jan. 17 (Closed for Christmas Day) – The Rink at Speedway Christmas

New for 2020, this 5,400-square-foot outdoor ice rink features concessions and a DJ. The guest fee of $15/hour includes skate rentals.

Following COVID-19 practices, the number of skaters on the ice at any given time is limited, skates are sanitized after each use, and visitors are required to wear face coverings and practice social distancing.

Saturday, Dec. 19, 7 – 10 a.m. ET – Cars & Coffee

Car owners and enthusiasts show off their prized machines in this free monthly gathering.

Daytona International Speedway

Now through Jan. 2 – Magic of Lights

A portion of proceeds will benefit the AdventHealth Foundation in Volusia and Flagler counties.

Dover International Speedway

Wednesday, Dec. 16 – Food distribution event for local families in need

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dover International Speedway has partnered with the Food Bank of Delaware and the Delaware Department of Transportation to host food distribution events at the track.

Food Bank personnel, volunteers and track employees have helped load vehicles with foodstuffs for families in need. Since March, these monthly events have assisted 11,995 area households with more than 1 million pounds of food.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Now through Jan. 10 – Glittering Lights Las Vegas

Michigan International Speedway

Now through Dec. 31 – Nite Lites Christmas Lights display

Saturday, Dec. 5, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. ET – 12th Annual MIS Cares Charity Track and Toy Drive

Fans who donate a non-perishable food item or a new, unwrapped toy will get to drive five laps around MIS’ 2-mile oval in their personal vehicles.

All food items will be donated to the St. Mary’s Good Counsel in Adrian, Michigan.

The toys will be donated to the U.S. Marines’ Toys for Tots in both Jackson and Lenawee counties.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway

Now through Jan. 3 – Gift of Lights presented by Eastern Propane & Oil

Sonoma Raceway

Ending Today – Virtual Food Drive

The track’s annual Thanksgiving Food Drive, which has taken place virtually since Nov. 2, comes to a close today.

Over the last five weeks, the track’s social media channels have highlighted food banks in the San Francisco Bay Area, and encouraged race fans and community members to donate online.

Since the drive’s inception in 2000, it has distributed more than 40 tons of food.

Now through Dec. 16 – 18th Annual Holiday Toy Drive

All toys collected during the drive will be distributed to youth-serving organizations in the Sonoma Valley, including the Boys and Girls Club of Sonoma Valley and Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance.

New, unwrapped gifts, as well as gift cards for newborns to 12 year olds, are needed.

Friday-Sunday, Dec. 11-13 – Transcendence Theatre Company’s Broadway Holiday at the Drive-In at Sonoma Raceway

Transcendence Theatre Company, an award-winning theatre company based in Sonoma County, presents a collection of performances from the last five years of their annual Broadway Holiday Spectacular.

A portion of proceeds will go to the local chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities to help youth organizations in Sonoma County.

Texas Motor Speedway

Now through Jan. 3 – Gift of Lights at Texas Motor Speedway

A portion of proceeds for this drive-thru display of 2.5-million lights goes to the Texas Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities.

Thursday, Dec. 10, 11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. CT – Karting for SCC-Texas

A portion of all sales at on-site Lone Star Kartpark go to SCC-Texas. This event occurs on the second Thursday of each month.

Friday & Saturday, Dec. 11-12 – Texas Women’s University Drive-Thru Commencement

TWU graduates will make a lap around the 1.5-mile oval before stopping near the start/finish line. They will step out of their vehicles to receive diploma covers and later pose for photographs. Participants are allowed up to two carloads of families and friends.

This past spring, Texas Motor Speedway hosted over 30 local high school graduation ceremonies for nearly 14,000 students.

Tuesday, Dec. 15, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. CT – American Red Cross Blood Drive

SCC-Texas is inviting the Red Cross to the Lone Star Condos Clubhouse, which has become a monthly event this year and will continue every other month in 2021. Residents are asked to donate blood or power reds to help the supply in North Texas. They can sign up at https://bit.ly/BloodDrivesTMS.

Friday, Dec. 18, 7 p.m. CT – Drive-In Movie Night featuring “Elf”

Will Ferrell’s modern Christmas classic will be shown on the track’s Big Hoss screen. A portion of proceeds go to SCC-Texas and the CoServ Charitable Foundation.

Talladega Xfinity starting lineup: Austin Hill wins pole

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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

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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

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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?

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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.