Is Next Gen right car for 2022 dirt race at Bristol?

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Discussions have taken place on if Cup teams should be allowed to run the current car at next year’s dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway instead of the Next Gen car, according to Trackhouse Racing owner Justin Marks.

Those are just part of ways the sport is looking at how to make next year’s dirt race better after series officials made format changes before and during Monday’s race.

The Next Gen car is scheduled to debut next season. It is intended to replace the current inventory of cars for Cup teams, but the Bristol dirt race could be an exception.

MORE: Daniel Suarez gives Trackhouse Racing its first top-five finish

“I know that that discussion has already started to take place among ownership in the sport right now, probably even before the race that question was raised,” Marks said Tuesday of what type of car teams would race on the Bristol dirt track next year. “This new car is a very sophisticated piece of equipment, and this race track is very hard on these cars. We were welding between practice and the race because of how rough this track was on our cars. That was a topic of conversation within the team.

“I believe that for team ownership … is to probably have cars that are specifically for this dirt track. If that means we take this car back next year, I’m completely fine with that. I was talking to Travis (Mack), our crew chief about that. What I know about this Next Gen car and how I’ve seen it up close and gotten underneath it, I feel like it would be mud-bogging with an IndyCar if we took this Next Gen car to the dirt track next year.”

He’s not alone in raising questions about how the Next Gen car could do on Bristol’s dirt.

Travis Geisler, competition director at Team Penske, said it is “something to certainly consider” not using the Next Gen car at Bristol next spring.

“If this (current) car was a challenge, it’s going to be a whole other set of challenges,” Geisler said of racing the Next Gen car on a dirt surface. “Certainly early in the season for the whole industry (with the Next Gen car in 2022), so we’ll still be kind of new to that car, which will make it even more challenging.

(The current car) we kind of know so much about the history, kind of how things tear up, what happens throughout the course of events. … That body (of the Next Gen car) being totally different, all the suspension being different. I can’t really say independent rear suspensions have been run on dirt.”

NASCAR Cup Series Food City Dirt Race
Among key questions is if the 2022 dirt race should be held at night to limit the amount of dust. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

What type of car is among many questions NASCAR and teams will have to answer before next year’s race.

“Certainly learned a number of things in the race and throughout the week that we can apply as we go forward in 2022,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, said after Monday’s race.

Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, told “The Morning Drive” Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that he anticipates a new tire for next year’s race. NASCAR altered the stage lengths and added competition cautions for the 250-lap Cup race because of high tire wear in Friday’s practices. 

Another key question is what to do about whatever car is run and if it is worthwhile to remove the windshield, as is done with dirt cars.

That question was raised after the Trucks had to stop a qualifying race after one lap because of all the mud caked on the windshield and grille. Rain on Saturday canceled those races before they could resume.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Pinty's Truck Race on Dirt Qualifying
The windshield of Bubba Wallace‘s truck after one lap in the qualifying race. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

“Those are things that we will talk about, but the windshield … in our cars, I realize that dirt cars don’t have windshields in them, but in our cars, the entire level of protection and level of safety is based on having the windshield in there,” Miller told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

“I think that’s not something we’re not going to look at. But because that windshield and the way that it is made can keep a lot of potential harm away from the driver, that might be a hard one to get for us. Certainly something we will get some feedback on and let everyone weigh in on.”

Just as important is the track, notes Marks, who formerly owned a World of Outlaws team with Kyle Larson. Some competitors had said months earlier they were concerned about dust and visibility because the race would be held during the day when the sun could dry the track quicker. Because of visibility issues with dust, NASCAR mandated single-file restarts over the final 85 laps of the Cup race.

Race winner Joey Logano said that “racing at night is the key” to avoiding some of the dust issues.

Even with the challenges of the past weekend, Marks applauds NASCAR for trying something different.

“There were a lot of unknowns,” he said of the first Cup race on dirt since 1970. “Given all those unknowns, I think they did a great job navigating it.

“I think there’s no way they were going to come into Bristol for this dirt race and walk away going like, ‘Oh that was perfect, perfect execution.’ … Steve O’Donnell sent an email out (Tuesday) morning to everybody saying that they’ve already started sort of taking a forensic audit of the weekend and started having discussions about how to make the show better for next year.”

NASCAR viewer’s guide for Charlotte Roval

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Sunday provides a final chance for drivers to advance to the Round of 8 and keep their Cup championship hopes alive.

Talladega winner Chase Elliott is the only driver who has advanced to the next round. That leaves seven spots available going into Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Roval (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Chase Briscoe holds the final transfer spot by a tiebreaker over Austin Cindric. At least for now.

William Byron is 11 points behind both drivers, but Hendrick Motorsports will appeal Byron’s 25-point penalty from Texas on Thursday. Should Hendrick win and Byron get those points back, he would move into a transfer spot.

There’s just part of what to watch for in Sunday’s race.

Favorites to be No. 20

This season remains tied for the most different winners in series history at 19, but there are a few candidates who could become the 20th different winner this year on Sunday.

Among the favorites to do so:

Ryan Blaney, who came close to winning last week at Talladega, won the inaugural Cup race at the Roval in 2018.

Martin Truex Jr., who has four career Cup wins on road courses, still seeks his first victory of the season.

Michael McDowell, who is coming off a third-place finish at Talladega, has had a career-high 12 top-10 finishes this season, including top 10s in each of the last four road course events this year.

Will history repeat?

Last year, the four drivers eliminated after the Roval were Kevin Harvick, Alex Bowman, Christopher Bell and William Byron.

Harvick was eliminated in the first round this year, but Byron (-11 to the cutline) and Bell (-33) are in jeopardy of being eliminated in this round again. Bowman stated Tuesday that he will miss his second consecutive race because of continued concussion symptoms. He will be among the four eliminated from title contention.

Bowman missed last weekend’s race because of concussion-like symptoms suffered at Texas. A decision on if he’ll be able to race at the Roval will come later this week.

Will chaos continue?

Consider what some of the former Roval winners have endured on their way to the checkered flag:

In 2019, Chase Elliott drove into the Turn 1 wall on a restart while the leader. He recovered to win.

In 2020, Elliott overcame a loose wheel to win for the second year in a row.

In 2021, Kyle Larson won after his team changed batteries and put the alternator belt back on.

Could a similar fate be in store for this year’s winner? Or will they have a cleaner day?

Entry lists

Thirty-nine drivers are entered including IndyCar driver Conor Daly, former Formula 1 driver Daniil Kvyat, former 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller and former 24 Hours of Daytona winner Joey Hand. JJ Yeley will drive the No. 51 for Cody Ware, who stated that he would skip this event because of his ankle injury at Texas the footwork needed on a road course.

Charlotte Roval Cup entry list

The Xfinity entry list includes 41 drivers for 38 spots. Among those joining the series regulars are IndyCar driver Marco Andretti and former F1 driver Daniil Kvyat.

Charlotte Roval Xfinity entry list

This week’s schedule and forecast

(All times Eastern)

Saturday, Oct. 8

Forecast: Partly cloudy with a high of 66 degrees. No chance of rain during the Xfinity race.

  • 10 – 10:30 a.m. — Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)
  • 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. — Xfinity qualifying (NBC Sports App)
  • 12 – 1 p.m. — Cup practice (NBC Sports App, USA Network coverage begins at 12:30 p.m.)
  • 1 – 2 p.m. — Cup qualifying (USA Network, NBC Sports App)
  • 3 p.m. — Xfinity race (67 laps, 155.44 miles; NBC, Peacock, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Oct. 9

Forecast: Sunny with a high of 64 degrees. No chance of rain during the race.

  • 2 p.m. — Cup race (109 laps, 252.88 miles; NBC, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

 

Hailie Deegan to make Xfinity debut at Las Vegas

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Hailie Deegan announced Tuesday that she will make her Xfinity Series debut Oct. 15 Las Vegas Motor Speedway on NBC and Peacock.

The 21-year-old Deegan is in her second full-time season in the Camping World Truck Series. She finished a career-high sixth in that series last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

She will drive the No. 07 car for SS Green Light Racing with Jeff Lefcourt.

 

 

Alex Bowman to miss Charlotte Roval race

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Alex Bowman announced Tuesday night on social media that he will sit out this weekend’s Cup playoff race at the Charlotte Roval.

Bowman said on social media: “I am continuing to make strides in my recovery to make sure I can return to competition at 100%.”

This will be the second consecutive race he will have missed because of concussion-like symptoms after his crash at Texas Motor Speedway.

Noah Gragson will drive the No. 48 car this weekend for Bowman.

“Alex’s health is our first priority,” said Jeff Andrews, president and general manager of Hendrick Motorsports, in a statement. “We’re focused on supporting his recovery and seeing him back in his race car when the time is right. Alex has a long career ahead of him, so we will invest the necessary time and take our guidance from medical experts. We’re putting no pressure on him to return before he’s 100% ready.”

Bowman will be one of the four drivers eliminated from title contention Sunday.

Also Tuesday, Cody Ware announced that he will sit out this weekend’s Cup race at the Charlotte Roval, as he continues to recover from the ankle injury he suffered at Texas.

NASCAR Power Rankings: Chase Elliott leaps to the front

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A slick late-race move by Chase Elliott carried him to Victory Lane Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway — and back to the top of the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings.

Elliott is the only driver with five victories this season. No one else in the playoffs has more than two (Tyler Reddick, eliminated from the championship hunt, has won three times).

Elliott, already qualified for the Round of 8 with his Talladega win, will be among the favorites in Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (2 p.m. ET, NBC).

Here’s how the rankings look approaching the end of the Round of 12:

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. Chase Elliott (No. 3 last week) — Elliott’s power move to win at Talladega was quite impressive and gave him four top-five finishes in the past 10 races. Clearly, he has re-established himself as the championship favorite.

2. Denny Hamlin (No. 1 last week) — Hamlin drops a spot despite a strong run (20 laps led and finishing fifth) at Talladega. Count him in the hunt for an elusive first championship.

3. Ryan Blaney (No. 8 last week) — Blaney simply will not go away despite continuing as the playoffs’ only winless driver (not including the Texas All-Star Race). He was victimized by Chase Elliott on Sunday at Talladega, finishing .046 seconds short of victory and a push into the next round.

4. Kyle Larson (No. 2 last week) — Superspeedway racing generally is not Larson’s strong point. He finished 18th Sunday despite leading eight laps and being in the front group much of the day.

5. Joey Logano (No. 4 last week) — Logano had an unusually poor performance at Talladega. He was involved in an early-race accident and struggled much of the rest of the day, finishing 27th.

MORE: Elliott celebrates, Logano laments

6. Ross Chastain (No. 7 last week) — Chastain tied Aric Almirola for most laps led (36) at Talladega and has been consistent as of late with three finishes of seventh or better in the past four races.

7. William Byron (No. 5 last week) — Byron’s worst news last week came off the track as he was penalized by NASCAR for dumping Denny Hamlin under caution at Texas. He finished 12th at Talladega.

8. Chase Briscoe (No. 9 last week) — Briscoe is quietly making the case that he could make the Round of 8 and challenge for the title.

MORE: Winners and losers at Talladega

9. Daniel Suarez (unranked last week) — Suarez maneuvered through the Talladega draft with style and came home eighth. He has three top 10s in the past seven races.

10. Christopher Bell (No. 6 last week) — Bell had a rough day at Talladega and will be looking to Sunday’s race at the Roval for redemption.

Dropped out: Tyler Reddick (No. 10 last week).