Friday 5: Market grows for NASCAR charters


The pursuit of NASCAR charters could be as competitive as the racing in a year that has seen 10 different winners in 12 Cup races.

Two car owners tell NBC Sports that they are open to dealing charters. This comes as interest in Cup ownership has grown with the Next Gen car’s debut in 2022.

Car owner Rick Ware, whose team operates four charters, tells NBC Sports that he’s more inclined to lease a charter than sell one at this point.

“We have some options on the table for some leases and it’s one thing that we’re looking at,” Ware said. “We’re open to all scenarios.”

Ware notes that a deal might include more than cash.

“I think there are maybe some opportunities there to maybe assist some manufacturers that maybe want other people to come in,” he said. “Right now, I’m trying to negotiate the best road for RWR and that may be leasing to somebody in particular that helps the program from a technology share, those kind of things.”

As for how many teams he plans to have next season, Ware said: “If I would have to make a guess right now, I’d say we’d be running three full-time cars next year.”

T.J. Puchyr, co-owner of Spire Motorsports, tells NBC Sports that he’s also had conversations about a charter.

“It’s been mild, but I think it will get busier,” he said.

Puchyr also said he would consider acquiring a charter.

“Somebody asks me if I’m a buyer or seller, I’m yes (to both),” he said.

There could be many buyers.

Three new Cup teams joined this year, but Trackhouse Racing is the only one of those leasing a charter. Leases are good for one year. Each charter can be leased once in a four-year period.

Trackhouse Racing will need to either lease another charter or purchase one for next season.

“I lose a little bit of sleep each night because we don’t own a charter,” car owner Justin Marks said in late March. “ … I’m working every day in the direction of trying to secure our future by orchestrating ownership and acquisition of a charter. It is not getting easier. It is getting harder.”

Also in need of a charter will be Kaulig Racing. Car owner Matt Kaulig told NBC Sports in late April that he’s confident he’ll acquire one for next season, saying: “I certainly don’t lose sleep over it.”

23XI Racing hopes to expand from a one-car team but has not given a definitive timetable. It will need a charter whenever it adds another Toyota.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. said in April that he and sister Kelley Earnhardt Miller, co-owners of JR Motorsports, have discussed fielding a Cup team and securing a charter. He said that “the charter system makes it a big challenge for us. That’s a huge financial challenge for anybody trying to get involved in the Cup Series.”

JTG Daugherty Racing is running Ryan Preece’s No. 37 team without a charter this season. There are other groups also looking to enter Cup and secure a charter.

Rick Ware Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing have four charters each, giving them 16 of the 36 charters. Each charter guarantees its car a start in each race. Charters also provide a specific payment  plan so teams can better prepare a budget before each season.

For Ware, collecting four charters was an opportunity to build his race team for when the Next Gen car arrived.

He formed a partnership in 2019 with Richard Petty Motorsports to create Petty-Ware Racing and use RPM’s second charter.

Ware purchased a Front Row Motorsports charter in 2019 that had been leased to Tri-Star Motorsports in 2018.

Ware also purchased a charter from Front Row Motorsports in 2020 that Front Row acquired in 2018 for $2.08 million (along with assets) as part of BK Racing’s bankruptcy case.

Ware’s other charter was purchased from Premium Motorsports last year.

“I knew for sure that if you wanted to have longevity in this business, you had to have a charter,” Ware told NBC Sports. “We sacrificed a lot the last two or three years family-wise, business-wise to make sure that we could have a quality baseline model. We brought in a lot of new sponsors that we’re going to be keeping. But we can’t grow without knowing where we’re going to be. We’ve taken lot of lumps both, I think, on the track and in the media, but there really is a plan.”

With the Next Gen car, Ware can begin to act on his plan. The new car is intended to lower costs over the long term. Vendors will provide several parts and pieces instead instead of teams doing so. Team owners, though, are expected to face an increase in costs next year because the transition to the new car will make some equipment obsolete.

“Now that the new car is here, we can start to justify spending money going forward with the new car,” Ware said. “In all honesty, we spent all our money doing what I thought was more important and that was making sure we had a future with the charters.

“Spending money on R&D on a car that is going to be done in six months didn’t make any sense to me. Now our goal is to step our programs up across the board, and I’m excited about this new car.”

2. Steady Progress

Among those in the top 20 in points, only Christopher Bell (plus 13 positions), William Byron (+12) and Michael McDowell (+8) have gained more spots than Chris Buescher after 12 races this season compared to the same number of events last year.

The second-year Roush Fenway Racing driver enters Sunday’s race at Dover International Speedway (2 p.m. ET on FS1) 13th in the points. He was 19th at this time. He’s scored 54 more points — nearly a full race worth — than he had after 12 races last year.

The difference is simple, Buescher said.

“No. 1 is getting that first year down, new team, new crew chief,” Buescher told NBC Sports. “No practice (last season) just put us behind for a long period of time. I think we were finding our stride at the end of year that is helping us get more consistent.

“Some of the gains that came through the offseason were really a matter of everyone in all of their departments setting goals, working hard to find those and really achieving a lot of those goals, whether it was less drag or better sim development or better body builds. … That’s always the plan through the offseason, but I saw more structure than I’ve ever seen.”

NASCAR Cup Series Goodyear 400
Chris Buescher heads to Dover with back-to-back top 10s. He’s never had three consecutive top-10 finishes in his Cup career. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Buescher has fared best on 1.5-mile speedways this year. He finished a season-best seventh at Atlanta, placed eighth at Kansas and won a stage at Homestead. He finished ninth last weekend at Darlington, which followed the Kansas run and gave him back-to-back top 10s for the first time this season.

Even with the success, he recognizes the challenges to make the playoffs. With 10 winners and Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick likely to win before the regular season ends, there could be no more than three playoff spots available via points.

“We’re in a good place right now, but we’re not locked in by any means and definitely a lot can change between now and (the regular-season finale) at Daytona,” Buescher said. “We’re watching it, but we’re not racing specifically for points. We’re going after running well. If you can run top 10 every week, you’ll gather a couple of stage points here and there and ultimately finish well. That’s where, I think, it’s added up for us.

“We’re not making crazy moves to try to gather a stage win at the expense of a finish. We’re being smart about it, and we’re racing ourselves. (Points are) going to become more important really quickly, especially if we’re not able to wrap up a win in the next couple of weeks.”

He might have had a better finish at Kansas had NASCAR not waited to throw a caution for an errant tire until after he pitted.

The tire rolled away from Tyler Reddick’s pit crew during his stop on Lap 212 of the 267-lap race and went across pit road. The tire came to rest in the infield grass, just off pit road.

NASCAR did not throw a caution flag since the field was in the middle of green-flag pit stops. A few drivers, though, stretched their run. A caution would have benefitted them by having part of the field a lap behind.

Buescher was the final driver to pit in the cycle, giving up the lead on Lap 226. The caution came out on Lap 231 to retrieve the tire.

“The way I see it is if it was dangerous after 10 laps, it was dangerous after one,” Buescher told NBC Sports. “Now, I’ve been bitten by this because it’s been called early, so I guess I’m even more discouraged by it happening this way. It’s a safety thing, then it’s a safety thing, period, and it doesn’t matter about what the situation is.

“The explanation for it (from NASCAR) was we wanted to let strategies play out, right? Well, that sounds great, but our strategy was running long to hope for a caution. So, really, it took away from our strategy.”

Buescher also said that how NASCAR called that caution “was not something that completely changed our day. It didn’t do us any favors, but it didn’t just destroy our day. … Looking back, it’s just, man, we expected there to be a caution just based off of previous circumstances. Just wishing for more consistency in everything. It would just help you let your own strategies play out.”

3. Chasing points 

For as good as Martin Truex Jr. has been this season in scoring three wins, he remains a distant second to Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin in the points.

As the series hits the halfway mark of the regular season this weekend, Hamlin leads the points. He has a 75-point lead on Truex, who is second in the standings.

Is it realistic to think Truex can catch Hamlin?

Darlington winners and losers
Martin Truex Jr.’s three wins this season have come at Darlington, Martinsville and Phoenix. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

“It’s doable for sure,” said Truex, who dominated last weekend’s race at Darlington. “It’s obviously going to take a little bit of rough luck on their part. We’ve had a couple bad races and that’s really the difference. Wrecked at Daytona, wrecked at Talladega, and a flat tire on the last green-white-checkered at Bristol really hurt us.”

 Truex admits that when it comes to points, he’s thinking about playoff points. He has a series-high 18 playoff points. Next is Kyle Larson with nine.

“Winning races, winning stages that’s what we need to do, and that’s what we did this past weekend,” he said. “It would be great to win the regular season because that’s a chunk of those points as well. We’ll see how it goes. We’re in a good place and focused on what we’re doing.”

Truex has a good chance of scoring more playoff points this weekend at Dover. He’s finished first or second in each of the last four Dover races.

4. Seeking better results

This hasn’t been the start Corey LaJoie hoped. He heads to Dover 30th in points in his first season with Spire Motorsports.

“I think, on paper, we are probably a minus, but I think internally, we are better off,” LaJoie said of how he measures his season. “We had mechanical failures early. We had an engine break and a couple of things happen. We had a really good run at Martinsville. We should have probably had a top-10 result there, but we got caught up on pit road. We’ve had four DNF’s, so if we clean those up, then we’re 24th or 25th in points, which I feel like really over-achieving for what we set out to do.

“But we’re sitting there in 30th … in points, and still pretty bullish on what we’re capable of doing. It was a little bit more of a transition than I expected from the Ford Mustangs we ran last year (with Go Fas Racing) and transferring the set-ups over to these Ganassi Camaros, the aero balance was a little bit different.

“They had a little bit more front downforce, so we had to adjust, and we probably threw away three or four weeks on intermediate tracks to get that balance figured out. But I think we’ve got a pretty good handle on what these cars need to make some speed, and I was pretty happy with how we ran at Darlington. We were probably a 20th- to 23rd-place car (finishing 22nd) … and I think for us, that’s checking the boxes and incrementally getting better and figuring out the things we need to do to get better throughout the year.”

5. Scoring stage points

Here is a look at who has scored the most stage points after 12 races this season.

172 – Denny Hamlin

117 – Martin Truex Jr.

115 – Ryan Blaney

100 – Kyle Larson

99 – Joey Logano

96 – William Byron

89 – Chase Elliott

85 – Brad Keselowski

74 – Kyle Busch

58 – Alex Bowman

 and on Facebook

NASCAR 75: Looking back on iconic moments in NASCAR’s history for 75th anniversary


75 years on the track is something worth celebrating. All season long, NBC will be recognizing NASCAR’s 75th anniversary and counting down some of the most iconic moments in the sport’s history.

Since 1948, the roar of engines and thrill of high speeds has captivated those around the world. Now, many years later, the excitement remains as the next generation sets another electrifying season in motion.

Whether it’s the first NASCAR Championship victory from Red Byron in 1949 or Ross Chastain’s unforgettable “video game move” in 2022, there are countless memories to relive from the track that will stand the test of time.

We’ll take a look at some of the most incredible moments  in NASCAR history, updating regularly throughout the season. Stay tuned to NBC Sports for memories and moments from over seven decades of competition.

RELATED: Click here for the full 2023 NASCAR schedule

Charlotte 2002: Jamie McMurray wins in second Cup start

It’s safe to say that Jamie McMurray’s arrival in Cup Series racing was more spectacular than most.

McMurray won in only his second Cup race, outrunning a raft of top drivers to win at Charlotte Motor Speedway Oct. 13, 2002.

Chip Ganassi Racing called on McMurray to fill the seat in its No. 40 cars after Sterling Marlin suffered a serious injury in a race accident and missed the final weeks of the season. McMurray made his first start in the No. 40 at Talladega Superspeedway, finishing 26th.

The 500-mile fall race at Charlotte was next on the schedule, and the event would mark McMurray’s first Cup run on a 1.5-mile track.

McMurray took the lead after late-race pit stops and outran Bobby Labonte by .350 of a second to win. Following McMurray and Labonte was a group of talent-rich drivers: Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Rusty Wallace and Jimmie Johnson.

McMurray, 26, scored seven Cup wins before he retired.

Talladega 2004: Jeff Gordon edges Dale Earnhardt Jr. in controversial finish

The Earnhardt name is magic at Talladega Superspeedway, where Dale Sr. and Dale Jr. enjoyed success after success. But it was Jeff Gordon who rode to victory in a controversial finish at the 2.66-mile track in 2004.

Gordon and Earnhardt Jr. were battling for the lead with five laps to go when Brian Vickers crashed, causing a caution flag. Green-white-checkered overtime rules had not gone into effect at that time, and NASCAR decided the winner — in this case Gordon — based on which driver was in front at the time of the flag. Gordon appeared to be about a half-car-length in front, and he took the caution and checkered flags for the win.

The ruling did not go over well with many in the Talladega grandstands. Drink cans, seat cushions and other debris — some hitting Gordon’s car — were thrown onto the track by fans as Gordon took a victory lap.

Gordon led the race’s final six laps, including the last four under caution.

2013 Daytona 500: Danica Patrick scores first pole win by woman

Danica Patrick’s decision to leave IndyCar racing for NASCAR brought a wave of publicity to stock car racing’s top level, and she rode the crest to headlines in qualifying for the 2013 Daytona 500 at the start of her first full season in Cup racing.

Patrick, driving for Stewart Haas Racing, ran a lap at 196.434 mph to win the 500 pole, becoming the first woman to do so. Jeff Gordon qualified second. Patrick finished eighth in the race.

Patrick’s hopes to have a successful career in NASCAR faded. She didn’t win another pole after the Daytona run in 2013, and she never won a race.

In five-plus seasons in Cup, she had no top-five finishes and seven finishes in the top 10.

2020 The Real Heroes 400 at Darlington: Back to racing

The NASCAR Cup Series had run its first four races of the 2020 season before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the United States in early March.

It would be more than two months before drivers and teams hit the track again. The start of a dramatically reconfigured 2020 Cup schedule took place May 17 at Darlington Raceway.

With strict COVID-19 safety protocols in place, the Real Heroes 400 ran behind closed doors. Only essential personnel were present at Darlington for the race, which was among the first major professional sporting events in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic.

Kevin Harvick reached a milestone with his 50th career Cup Series win and celebrated by doing donuts at the start/finish line. When he climbed out of his Ford, he was only met with silence.

“The weirdest part of the day for me was getting out of the car and not hearing anybody cheering,” Harvick said.

It was a day unlike any other in NASCAR history. But the sport’s mission had been accomplished. Racing was back.

1959 Daytona 500: Photo finish determines inaugural winner

For years, cars raced on the Daytona Beach, Florida, shores, but Bill France Sr. had another idea — building a high-banked 2.5-mile speedway a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean.

NASCAR’s first race there was 1959. Johnny Beauchamp was declared the winner, crossing the finish line three-wide with Lee Petty and the lapped car of Joe Weatherly.

Petty claimed he won the race, but it wasn’t until three days later that photographic evidence was found that showed Petty beating Beauchamp to the finish line. The photo was taken by T. Taylor Warrne, who was selected as the Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence and honored at the 2023 NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.

The father of Richard Petty went on to win his third series title, going with crowns in 1954 and ’58.

2020 GEICO 500 at Talladega: NASCAR stands united for Bubba Wallace

During the June 2020 race weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, a member of Bubba Wallace’s team reported to NASCAR that a noose had been placed in Wallace’s garage stall.

On the day of the race, drivers and crew members pushed Wallace’s car to the front of pit road in a show of solidarity. Wallace went on to finish 14th in the race.

An FBI investigation later ruled that there was no hate crime because the garage rope had been like that since the previous October and there was no way to know Wallace’s team would have that garage several months later.

After the FBI’s findings were revealed, Wallace said he was “relieved” that he had not been specifically targeted, but also frustrated over the ensuing reaction – which saw some on social media question his integrity and accuse him of perpetrating a hoax.

Since the incident, Wallace has gone on to become a winning driver at the Cup Series level.

In October 2021, he claimed his first career Cup Series win at Talladega, becoming the first Black driver to win a race in NASCAR’s premier division in nearly 58 years.

A second Cup win followed in September 2022 at Kansas Speedway.

2011 Daytona 500: Trevor Bayne adds to Daytona’s legacy of surprise winners

The Daytona 500 is not only NASCAR’s biggest race, but also one of its most unpredictable.

Nine drivers have earned their first NASCAR Cup Series win in the Daytona 500. In fact, it happened in both 2021 and 2022 (Austin Cindric – 2022, Michael McDowell – 2021).

Before then, the most recent driver to pull this feat off was Trevor Bayne.

The Tennessee native captured the 2011 Daytona 500 driving for Wood Brothers Racing, a team that’s competed in NASCAR since 1950 but was running only part-time in 2011 (the team returned to full-time status in 2016).

Making this an even bigger upset: Bayne won in just his second career Cup Series start, which matched a standing Cup record set by Jamie McMurray during the 2002 season.

As Bayne took the checkered flag in overtime, his yell over the No. 21 team’s radio summed it all up not just for himself, but everybody watching: “Are you kidding me?!? What?!?”

1993 Daytona 500: ‘The Dale and Dale Show’

The 1993 Daytona 500 was winding down, and a mother and father could only wonder what fate had in store for their son.

As Dale Jarrett raced for the win, his mother, Martha, watched from a van inside the track, while his father, Ned, helped cover the race for CBS Sports.

The final laps came, and Dale Jarrett had a chance. But could he beat the dominant Dale Earnhardt?

Opportunity presented itself coming to the white flag, and Dale Jarrett made his move. He eventually cleared Earnhardt for first place.

CBS producer Bob Stenner then had lead announcer Ken Squier go silent – and told Ned Jarrett to “call your son home and be a Daddy.”

Ned’s ensuing call has echoed through NASCAR history ever since:

“…It’s the “Dale and Dale Show” as we come off Turn 4! You know who I’m pulling for, it’s Dale Jarrett. Bring her to the inside, Dale! Don’t let him get down there! He’s gonna make it! Dale Jarrett’s gonna win the Daytona 500!”

Moments after Dale Jarrett had won, CBS cameras cut to an awestruck Martha Jarrett in the van.

After a moment, she closed her eyes and clasped her hands together in prayer.

Visit NASCAR on NBC for for more memorable moments and historic tracks all season long, and stay tuned to NBC, USA and Peacock for coverage of the 2023 season.

Dr. Diandra: With Chase Elliott out, these are the best Next Gen road racers


The Next Gen racecar is the ideal vehicle for road course racers. With none of the asymmetry of previous car generations — vehicles optimized for only turning left — the new car upended the road course pecking order.

Road course ace Chase Elliott will watch this season’s first road course race from the sideline while recovering from a fractured left leg.

Elliott has won seven of the 25 Cup Series road courses races he’s run, giving him a win rate of 28.0%. That’s a little more than one win in every four races. He posts top-10 finishes 68.0% of the time.

In 2022, Elliott:

  • led the most laps (121) at road courses
  • led four of the six road course races
  • led the most laps at three of the six road course races

But he didn’t win any of them.

Tyler Reddick won on two road courses, including his first Cup Series win on the way to a three-win season. Ross Chastain, Daniel Suárez, Kyle Larson, and Christopher Bell each won one race.

Winning isn’t everything… but it’s a start

The unusually high number of spins and tire/wheel issues last year means that finishes don’t always reflect how well a driver ran.

For example: Elliott led most of the first two stages at Sonoma but had to back up during a mid-race pit stop to retighten a wheel. His average running position was 2.2 before the glitch and 15.9 after. He finished eighth.

Despite not winning in 2022, Elliott still tied for the best average finishing position on road courses. The graph below shows all drivers with average finishing positions below 12 in 2022.

A vertical bar chart showing the most consistent Next Gen road course racers

Of last year’s road course winners, only Reddick and Bell make the graph.

  • Three finishes outside the top 20 drop Chastain’s average finish to 16.7.
  • Sonoma winner Suárez had three top-five finishes and three finishes of 24th and worse for an average finish of 16.5.
  • Although Larson finished third at Road America and won Watkins Glen, his other four finishes were 29th or worse. That averages out to 19.7.

That’s not to say these drivers aren’t contenders for a win at any road course race. But I’m more interested in the most consistent Next Gen road course racers.

Only four drivers have average finishing positions under 10: Elliott, Reddick, Chris Buescher and Austin Cindric. Michael McDowell is fifth on the list, 1.3 positions back from Reddick. Bell is 0.7 positions behind McDowell.

Going beyond averages

To gain insight, I examined driver finishes by track, as shown in the graph below. Average positions are represented by gray bars, with symbols showing individual race finishes.

A scatter plot showing 2022 road course finishes by race for 2022's best Next Gen road racers
Symbols overlaps when a driver had two finishes in the same place. For example, Tyler Reddick won twice, so the two symbols are overlaid.

This graph shows, for example, that Elliott had four top 10s and two finishes out of the top 15. Buescher had the same average finishing position but had five top 10s and one 21st-place finish.

Given the issues the new car introduced, this graph suggested that I give each driver a mulligan. So I also calculated the average of each driver’s best five road course races and summarized them in the table below.

A table comparing average finishes for 2022's best next-gen road course racers

Let’s look a little deeper into three of these drivers.

Chris Buescher

Buescher won the fall Bristol race and his name always comes up when talking superspeedways.

But the Next Gen car improved Buescher’s average road course finish by 3.1 positions relative to 2021. Buescher not only matches Chase Elliott’s average finish but beats Elliott in number of top-10 finishes.

If we throw out both drivers’ worst finishes — a 21st-place at COTA for Buescher and Elliott’s P20 at the Roval — Buescher beats Elliott in average finish position.

Austin Cindric

Cindric won four road courses in the Xfinity Series and posted the third-best average finish at road courses in his first Cup Series season. His 2022 performance included four top-10 finishes on the first four road courses of the season.

But even excluding his 21st-place finish at the Roval, Cindric remains ranked behind Elliott and Buescher.

Like Buescher, Cindric’s average running position is significantly higher than his average finishing position. That raises the interesting question of whether drivers advancing last year did so because they were better in the Next Gen car, or because other drivers had trouble.

Tyler Reddick

Reddick finished 35th at Sonoma last year, 13 laps down. He had been running consistently in the top six before requiring a brake repair.

But Sonoma was Reddick’s only misstep. His other five road course finishes were all top 10s, including two wins. Excluding the Sonoma finish gives Reddick a 4.4 average finishing position for 2022 road courses — the best of any driver.

Reddick’s move from Richard Childress Racing to 23XI raises some questions about how his 2023 road course performance will compare with 2022. Excepting last week at Atlanta where an ailing Reddick finished fifth, Reddick has finished the same or worse than last year. And that’s with an additional year of experience in the Next Gen car.

It’s just as hard to predict winners this year as it was last year. But if you’re looking for drivers who can reliably finish in the top 10, these are the best choices.

NASCAR weekend schedule for Circuit of the Americas


NASCAR’s three major series return to the road this weekend with races scheduled Saturday and Sunday at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

Xfinity and Craftsman Truck Series races are Saturday, and the Cup Series is scheduled to race Sunday afternoon.

MORE: Drivers expect North Wilkesboro surface to be challenging

Joey Logano, winner of last Sunday’s Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, has led laps in both COTA races and will be among the favorites Sunday.

As the first road course of the year, COTA will begin a new approach by NASCAR to stage racing on road circuits. There will no longer be a caution to end stages, but points will be awarded for the finish order. In another change, the “choose” rule will be in effect on road courses.

A look at the weekend schedule:

Circuit of the Americas (Cup, Xfinity and Truck)

Weekend weather

Friday: Thunderstorms in the morning, sun later in the day. High of 86. 80% chance of rain.

Saturday: Sunny. High of 83.

Sunday: Partly cloudy. Temperature of 81 degrees with a 15% chance of rain at the start of the race.

Friday, March 24

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 11 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 11:30 a.m. .- 6:30 p.m. — Truck Series
  • 1:30 – 8:30 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 2:05 – 2:55 p.m. — Cup practice (No live broadcast; tape-delayed version airing at 8 p.m. on FS1)
  • 4:30 – 5 p.m. — Truck practice (No live broadcast)
  • 5 – 6 p.m. — Truck qualifying (No live broadcast; tape-delayed version airing at 9 p.m. on FS1)
  • 6:30 – 7 p.m. — Xfinity practice (FS1)
  • 7 – 8 p.m. — Xfinity qualifying (FS1)

Saturday, March 25

Garage open

  • 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 10:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. — Truck Series
  • 2 – 10:30 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup qualifying (FS1)
  • 1:30 p.m. — Truck race (42 laps, 143 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 5 p.m. — Xfinity race (46 laps, 156 miles; FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, March 26

Garage open

  • 12:30 – 10 p.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 3:30 p.m. — Cup race (68 laps, 231.88 miles; Fox, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)




North Wilkesboro’s worn surface will prove challenging to drivers


NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. — Three Cup drivers got their first chance to experience North Wilkesboro Speedway’s worn racing surface Tuesday and said tires will play a key role in the NASCAR All-Star Race there on May 21.

Chris Buescher, Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick took part in a Goodyear tire test Tuesday. That test was to continue Wednesday.

The verdict was unanimous about how important tire wear will be.

“This place has got a lot of character to it,” Reddick said. “Not a lot of grip and it’s pretty unforgiving. It’s a really fun place.”

Dillon said: “If you use up your tire too early, you’re going to really be in trouble. You really got to try to make those four tires live.”

Buescher said: “The surface here was so worn out already that we expect to be all over the place. The speeds are fairly slow just because of the amount of grip here. It’s hard to get wide open until you’re straight.”

Reddick noted the drop in speed over a short run during Tuesday’s test. That will mean a lot of off-throttle time.

“I think we were seeing a second-and-a-half falloff or so over even 50 laps and that was kind of surprising for me we didn’t have more falloff,” he said. “But, one little miscue, misstep into Turn 1 or Turn 3, you lose a second sliding up out of the groove and losing control of your car.”

“That’s with no traffic. Maybe with more traffic and everything, the falloff will be more, but certainly we’re out of control from I’d say Lap 10 on. You have to really take care of your car. … It’s really hard 30-40 laps into a run to even get wide open.”

Chris Buescher runs laps during a Goodyear tire test at North Wilkesboro Speedway, while Austin Dillon is on pit road. (Photo: Dustin Long)

One thing that stood out to Dillon was how the facility looks.

While the .625-mile racing surface remains the same since Cup last raced there in 1996, most everything else has changed.

In some cases, it is fresh red paint applied to structures but other work has been more extensive, including repaving the infield and pit road, adding lights for night racing, adding SAFER barriers, the construction of new suites in Turn 4 and new stands along the backstretch.

“It’s cool to see how much they’ve done to the track, the suites, the stands that they’re putting in,” Dillon said. “To me, the work that is going in here, we’re not just coming for one race. We’re coming here for a while. I’m excited about that.”