NASCAR releases 2022 Xfinity, Truck schedules

0 Comments

The NASCAR Xfinity Series will race at Portland International Raceway for the first time in 2022. That was announced, along with next year’s Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series schedules.

The Xfinity race at the 1.964-mile Portland International Raceway marks the first time a NASCAR national series has raced there since the Trucks ran there in 1999 and 2000.

Back on the Camping World Truck Series schedule is a trip to Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis – the first time the series has raced there since 2011. That event will open the Truck playoffs.

The Trucks also will race at Sonoma Raceway and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The series will return to Knxville Raceway for a race on dirt.

“For the NASCAR Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series, we loved the idea of being able to deliver new road courses to both schedules and a short track for the Camping World Trucks while still returning to our traditional venues and the new tracks we introduced in 2021,” said Ben Kennedy, NASCAR senior vice president of strategy and innovation, in a statement. “Not only do these changes continue to deliver on what our fans are asking for, but we feel they will create even more drama and intensity as drivers battle to win championships at Phoenix Raceway in November.”

The Xfinity Series will start Feb. 19 at Daytona International Speedway and end Nov. 5 at Phoenix Raceway.

The Camping World Truck Series will start Feb. 18 at Daytona and end Nov. 4 at Phoenix.

Times and TV information will be announced at a later date.

2022 NASCAR XFINITY SERIES SCHEDULE

Date Race / Track
Saturday, February 19 Daytona
Saturday, February 26 Auto Club
Saturday, March 5 Las Vegas
Saturday, March 12 Phoenix
Saturday, March 19 Atlanta
Saturday, March 26 COTA
Saturday, April 2 Richmond
Friday, April 8 Martinsville
Saturday, April 23 Talladega
Saturday, April 30 Dover
Saturday, May 7 Darlington
Saturday, May 21 Texas
Saturday, May 28 Charlotte
Saturday, June 4 Portland International Raceway
Saturday, June 25 Nashville Superspeedway
Saturday, July 2 Road America
Saturday, July 9 Atlanta
Saturday, July 16 New Hampshire
Saturday, July 23 Pocono
Saturday, July 30 Indianapolis Road Course
Saturday, August 6 Michigan
Saturday, August 20 Watkins Glen
Friday, August 26 Daytona
Saturday, September 3 Darlington
Saturday, September 10 Kansas
Friday, September 16 Bristol
Saturday, September 24 Texas
Saturday, October 1 Talladega
Saturday, October 8 Charlotte Roval
Saturday, October 15 Las Vegas
Saturday, October 22 Homestead-Miami
Saturday, October 29 Martinsville
Saturday, November 5 Phoenix

Playoff races in bold

 

2022 NASCAR CAMPING WORLD

TRUCK SERIES SCHEDULE

 

Date Race / Track
Friday, February 18 Daytona
Friday, March 4 Las Vegas
Saturday, March 19 Atlanta
Saturday, March 26 COTA
Thursday, April 7 Martinsville
Saturday, April 16 Bristol Dirt
Friday, May 6 Darlington
Saturday, May 14 Kansas
Friday, May 20 Texas
Friday, May 27 Charlotte
Saturday, June 4 World Wide Technology Raceway
Saturday, June 11 Sonoma
Saturday, June 18 Knoxville
Friday, June 24 Nashville Superspeedway
Saturday, July 9 Mid-Ohio
Saturday, July 23 Pocono
Friday, July 29 Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis
Saturday, August 13 Richmond
Friday, September 9 Kansas
Thursday, September 15 Bristol
Saturday, October 1 Talladega
Saturday, October 22 Homestead-Miami
Friday, November 4 Phoenix

Playoff races in bold

Here is a transcript of Ben Kennedy’s session with reporters Wednesday answering questions about the Xfinity and Truck schedules

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everybody. Thanks for joining us today to discuss the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series schedules. We’re joined by Ben Kennedy, NASCAR senior vice president of strategy and innovation.

Ben, to get us started, top line, some of the new highlights of the 2022 schedules, what people can expect next year.

BEN KENNEDY: Thank you. First and foremost, appreciate all of you taking your time. Again, really appreciate it. Great to see a good turnout today and appreciate you continuing to cover our sport even in the midst of everything going on in today’s world. Thank you guys for taking the time.

To your point, excited to announce Xfinity and Truck Series schedule today on the heels of the Cup schedule a couple weeks ago. I think another great process that we’ve had both internally at NASCAR as well as working alongside our broadcast partners, OEMs, teams, tracks, and a handful of other stakeholders to get to where we’re at today and release the schedule.

A few highlights I’d like to share with you. Starting on the Xfinity Series, obviously I think the big kind of storyline event that we’re adding to the ’22 schedule is the addition of Portland International Raceway to the schedule. 22 years it will be since we’ve been in the Pacific Northwest with NASCAR.

It’s been an important part of our country that we felt like is important for us to be in. We’ve seen a lot of growth from a fan perspective in the Pacific Northwest. It’s important for us to get back there and do it in a meaningful way with Green Savoree Production and the rest of the teams out there.

On the Truck Series schedule, an addition, one new event to the schedule, going from 22 to 23 events. A lot of this is really a product from both our fans wanted to see some more Camping World Truck Series content and action. I think our Truck Series racing puts on some of the best racing we see in our sport. It was important to keep it at a really good number.

On top of that, too, we had a lot of teams reach out to us looking for additional content and additional weekends that we could have Truck Series racing. Wanted to add that 23rd race to the Truck schedule.

We’ll also see a few new venues as a part of that, one of those being Mid-Ohio where we’ve seen great racing with the Xfinity Series over the past eight years. Excited to bring the Truck Series there for the very first time ever next year on the July 9th weekend.

We’ll see the Camping World Truck Series go to Sonoma, as well. This has really been in collaboration with SMI and Jill Gregory and the team out in Sonoma to bring additional content and national series racing to that weekend, really make it a special weekend for all the fans coming out to northern California, make it a special weekend for FOX, too.

Lastly on the new venue front, I think one our fans are really looking forward to and have been asking for, for a long time, is Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis. An iconic short track. We’ve obviously been there in the past with the Xfinity Series and the Truck Series. Excited to go to the 3.7 mile short track.

It will be on IMS weekend, so we’ll be there on Friday night, Xfinity and Cup on the big track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Really excited to go there. First race of the Playoffs next year. I know it’s put on some great racing in the past, in 2011 and before that. But know the Truck Series will put on a great show there, as well.

Last but certainly not least, didn’t want to leave this one open-ended, but wanted to address Canadian Tire. Unfortunately won’t be going back there in the ’22 season. A big reason for that is because of the current COVID restrictions and a lot of the planning, logistics and lead time that are required for our teams and our industry to travel outside of the country. We felt like it was in our collective best interests to go ahead and not have Canadian Tire on the schedule.

That said we’ve got great partners with Miles, Ron, the entire team up in Canadian Tire. Look forward to continuing to have conversations with them about what the future may look like.

A lot to look forward to on the Xfinity and Truck schedule. Certainly a lot to look forward to on the Cup schedule as well. Looking forward to answering some of your questions and talking about this.

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Can you talk about the characteristic of Xfinity and Truck? When you make plans for a schedule, how do you look at it differently than, say, Cup? For example, Portland, is it an area that you want to try, a test, or it’s not?

BEN KENNEDY: I think the neat thing about the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series, to your point, it’s the ability to not only bring some great racing to a lot of our Cup Series weekends and create a lot of those companion events but have some standalone weekends, too.

Mid-Ohio, Knoxville, Lucas Oil are all great examples of that. I think it gives us the ability to go to some of these tracks we wouldn’t otherwise have the ability to. It also gives us an opportunity, to your point, to test out some of these markets as we look at future iterations of the schedule. Excited about a lot of these new ones that we’re introducing in ’22.

Obviously we’ll be getting a lot of data and fan feedback coming out of those events and continue to look towards what the future of the schedule looks like based on how they all go.

Q. I understand what you were saying about Canada, the uncertainty there. Why not schedule it and then, if you have to change, change like you did this year? What precluded you from doing it that way?

BEN KENNEDY: I think it’s really some of the recent restrictions that went into place to get across the border. I think from a planning perspective, a lot of our teams like to get out front as soon as they can of these events. Canada takes an extra lead time. We felt like it was our collective kind of best decision to go ahead and not have Canadian Tire as a part of the schedule rather than waiting several months, seeing how restrictions play out, the number of unknowns around COVID, the current landscape of it and everything.

Q. How did you decide upon Portland International Raceway as opposed to some other alternatives?

BEN KENNEDY: We had an opportunity to go out there, get a small group to go out to the Pacific Northwest over this summer. Looked at a number of different options.

I think both from the perspective of having a relationship with Green Savoree Productions and the Mid-Ohio space with the Xfinity Series, but also the opportunity to go out to a track that’s race-ready in 2022, has put on some great racing, if you look at the Camping World Truck Series back in the day. I think it will be a really good addition to the schedule.

We looked at a number of different options both in the Portland area and the Seattle area. Ultimately we narrowed it down to that. I think they’re in close proximity of each other.

Again, we’ve got a really growing fan base in that part of the country and we wanted to get there as soon as we can.

Q. The Truck Series schedule overall, it seems to be a little bit more front loaded. Is that by design because of FOX Sports, it helps them out a little bit?

BEN KENNEDY: I think it is naturally how the schedule came into play. I think every now and then we’ll have a schedule that’s a little more back heavy, some years it will be a little more front heavy.

Naturally a lot of it is dependent on where are those new venues that we’re going to, what makes sense from a scheduling perspective. To your point, it is working with our broadcast partners, looking at different TV windows, where might make the most sense to schedule a lot of those races.

Q. It seems we’re going in the direction or the trend seems to be hit a bunch of different markets rather than concentrate on going places twice, especially Michigan, Pocono, in the summer, it was one right on top of the other. One venue that keeps coming up is North Wilkesboro. If they get things back up to speed there, could we potentially be looking at returning to such an iconic track?

BEN KENNEDY: I think it’s a great question. I know there’s been a field of thoughts and questions around a handful of those historic venues.

What I will say is that’s something we’ll constantly continue to look at both in terms of does it make sense from a strategic point of view for the future of the schedule? Is it a market that we feel like is important to us and is not oversaturated? Is the facility in the condition that we feel like would put on a great race and be a great fan experience for our fans as well?

I think North Wilkesboro and a handful of other venues that have been mentioned are something that we continue to look at. Lucas Oil I will say is one that a lot of our fans have reached out to us over the past couple years, them really hoping to see that as a part of the future iteration of the Truck Series schedule. Excited to deliver that one.

Q. Regarding Sonoma, was the reason is that the Cup rookies struggle there and also you’re adding another event for the Trucks? What was the reason for getting a race for the Trucks at Sonoma?

BEN KENNEDY: I think this is really working, again, with SMI and Jill Gregory. I think Sonoma is a great part of our country that we race in. Obviously a lot of corporate interests and opportunities to host them out there.

I think we have a ton of fans that come out to that race weekend, as well. We felt like it was important for us to add additional content onto that weekend. It’s a big weekend for FOX as they close out their portion of the Cup Series schedule. Wanted to add the Truck Series out there, as well.

I think you bring up a good point, that having more of these experiences on some of these road courses and venues that the Truck and Xfinity Series go to, especially with the Trucks and Xfinity Series really being the breath of the future generation of NASCAR drivers, I think it gives them the ability to get a lot of experience at these tracks before they go Cup racing.

A lot of factors certainly went into that decision, but excited to be going out there with the Trucks. I think it will be a great part of the schedule.

Q. Folks in Indianapolis are excited to have Lucas Oil back on the schedule. There’s been clamoring about IRP getting back on the schedule for some time. Questions about infrastructure issues and so forth. What ultimately pushed you over the top and provided an agreement for ’22?

BEN KENNEDY: That’s a great question. I think to your point, Lucas Oil is something actually we’ve been looking at for a while now. Ultimately a lot of those conversations kind of came to a head over the summer. We felt like the timing made a lot of sense.

Obviously working with Doug Boles and the team out at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as well to make sure from a scheduling perspective that it made sense and that we can create a really special week-long schedule of events for the fans that are coming out for racing at Indianapolis.

I think from a timing perspective really all the stars aligned between working with NHRA, IMS on the scheduling side, working with their broadcast partners in FOX, and ultimately making that happen.

Looking forward to it. I know working with the track they certainly want to continue to make enhancements to that track, make sure that it’s a Camping World Truck Series facility. I know that they’ll be ready come July next year.

Q. Pretty significant changes in the Playoff schedule, Gateway, Darlington, Vegas and Martinsville are off, Lucas Oil, Richmond, Kansas and Miami on. You could look at some of those tracks and say they’re fairly easy to identify by one replacing the other. Your perspective on the significant changes in the Playoff structure there?

BEN KENNEDY: To your point, definitely some changes to the Playoff structure. Pocono will be the regular-season cutoff, then we’ll have Lucas Oil, Richmond, Kansas, Bristol, Talladega, Miami. Ultimately all three of our series will be at Phoenix for the championship finale, which will be fantastic.

I think ultimately a lot of that came down to the process of scheduling, obviously trying to make sure that the schedule makes sense from a team perspective, make sense from a broadcast perspective. But then also we have a lot of exciting tracks within our Playoff schedule, too.

I think having two short tracks with Lucas Oil and Richmond, along with a mile-and-a-half track, will bring some diversity to that first portion of the Playoffs. Then going from Bristol to Talladega to Miami, which always puts on a fantastic race, I think it will be a really great and interesting part of that next round of Playoffs before we go to the championship at Phoenix.

Q. There seemed to be a lot of enjoyment with the Olympic break this year. Was there consideration given to the June 18th race at Knoxville not being held that weekend so the entire sport could have a week off?

BEN KENNEDY: Something we took a look at in scheduling that Knoxville race. Kind of the pieces of the puzzle fell together from a scheduling perspective, ultimately Knoxville did move up a couple weeks. Part of that was really making sure that from a time-of-year standpoint, especially with the weather and the sensitivity to track prep and the dirt, we looked at a handful of dates and ultimately ended up landing on June 18th. Hopefully we’ll put on a good show for the fans.

Q. With Pocono having lost one of its Cup dates, talk about the importance of making sure they still had an Xfinity and a Truck Series race, the fact that Pocono. The Truck race is going to be the final race of the regular season, any kind of a consolation for them losing one of the Cup dates?

BEN KENNEDY: Yeah, Nick Igdalsky and the team up at Pocono, they continue to do a great job there. Even though they are going down to one Cup weekend, I know they want to make that weekend special. Coming out of this year’s event, I think a lot of positive buzz around that.

That said, they want to create, continue to create, an elevated experience for a lot of their fans with some great racing content throughout the weekend. It was important for us to get the Truck and Xfinity Series there.

I think on top of that, too, having that as a cutoff race to the regular season for the Truck Series, naturally how it fell, I think it will be an exciting race for us all to watch, too.

Nick and the entire Mattioli family, they continue to be great partners of ours. Looking forward to being with them long-term in the future.

Q. Why did it take 20 years for you guys to come back to Portland? The last time the Truck races were at PIR was ’99 or 2000.

BEN KENNEDY: I think you’re right. ’99 and 2000 with the Truck Series.

I think we really started this scheduling journey and process with the NextGen schedule as part of the 2022 schedule. That was our biggest and boldest schedule in terms of new venues that we’ve had in over five decades of our sport. We saw a lot of those changes.

Pacific Northwest, especially when we started that process, is a part of the country where frankly we haven’t had any racing action at all, to your point, for over two decades. It felt like it was an important part of the country for us to get back to in some way, shape or form.

Ultimately Portland rose to the top in terms of options. Naturally from a timing perspective, 2022 made the most sense. I think kind of second year of our NextGen schedules, glad to have them on there.

Q. I want to ask about Watkins Glen. You still want to return to those tracks you reintroduced in ’21. Got positive looks on the Truck side, but not on the schedule. Any considerations to return? What track is it being replaced specifically by?

BEN KENNEDY: Yeah, can’t really get into which track it’s specifically being replaced by just because there’s so many moving parts and pieces in the schedule.

I think Watkins Glen obviously is an important part of the schedule. It always puts on a great race with our Cup Series and Xfinity Series. I think one of the considerations we had there is we have a lot of great content on that weekend and didn’t want to oversaturate that weekend with a ton of content.

I think naturally with some of these new venues coming on to the schedule, ultimately the shifts kind of have to come from somewhere. Unfortunately for Watkins Glen, the Camping World Truck Series race did come from there. That said I know we’ll have some exciting racing with Xfinity and Cup there on that weekend, a packed schedule as always.

Q. I’m from the Michigan area. Going into there, I know they lost a race last year in the ’21 schedule. How important is that area, the metro Detroit area, and are there talks about possibly moving the Cup weekend out of there? Reassure people around here that they will have it.

BEN KENNEDY: Michigan is always an important part of our country. The Midwest in particular is another really important part. I think part of that speaks to the reasoning for why we’re going to St. Louis and why we’re bringing the Trucks to Lucas Oil Raceway, as well.

That said, Michigan certainly falls into that territory. We feel like it’s important for us to continue to be there. We have a couple of our OEM partners that are just down the street in Detroit, as well. They certainly love coming out to Michigan.

I think frankly, if you look at the race this year, it put on a fantastic show for our fans as well. Really exciting from a racing product perspective and something that we’ll continue to look at in the future.

Q. Going from Mid-Ohio hosting the Xfinity Series to the Trucks, why put the Trucks there over the Xfinity Series? Obviously Xfinity now going to Portland, but the Trucks going to Mid-Ohio.

BEN KENNEDY: Yeah, I think it was kind of a win-win situation for us. Gave us the opportunity and ability to bring the Xfinity Series out to Portland. Frankly it was a natural shift having the same promoters with Kevin Savoree and the team there. Made that shift on the Xfinity side.

That said, we wanted to continue to have racing at Mid-Ohio, and in Ohio in particular. It’s put on some great racing action with the Xfinity Series over the past eight years. Wanted to continue to have a presence at Mid-Ohio with NASCAR racing. We felt like it made a lot of sense to bring the Truck Series there.

Q. Can you give us any insight on how much practice and qualifying there will be for Xfinity and Trucks next year?

BEN KENNEDY: Yeah, nothing to share yet today. What we can say is there will be some sort of practice and qualifying next year. Still working on the details of what exactly that will look like for those series. We’ll share more at a later date.

Q. At what point do you balance how good a product is at a certain market, perhaps not just the oversaturation of that market because you have to balance or juggle relationships with people, long relationships, but at some point different venues behave better, put on better shows. The decision for IRP, to go back to grassroots. Hell, I was at the first Truck race and it was quite a race at that track. Doesn’t that need to be some of the reason to do make these decisions moving forward?

BEN KENNEDY: It absolutely is. It’s a big part of the reason that we are going back to Lucas Oil Raceway next year. To your point, if you look at some of the old videos, the sizzle video that the track put out today, there was some exciting racing at Lucas Oil. It always put on a great show for our fans. Naturally having it on the same weekend as our racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway made a lot of sense, too.

With that said, the racing product is something that we continue to look at and will continue to look at in the future. That said, there are a handful of different kind of variables that go into each one of our decisions, whether it’s the market, the facility itself, to your point the racing product, the timing of year, and then just overall efficiency for the industry, too.

Certainly a handful of things that go into Xfinity or Truck Series scheduling. Even more so on the Cup side, too. But the racing product is certainly one of a handful of different considerations we take a look at on these new tracks and markets.

Q. Does it seem to be moving up the list in priority? Seems like there’s a push from TV to prioritize the entertainment value.

BEN KENNEDY: Yeah, I think that’s for sure. To that end you look at some of these racetracks we go to, and they have consistently a great racing product. You look at others, and sometimes you’ll have a fantastic race, sometimes you might have an average race.

That said, there’s a ton of variables to look at in terms of what qualifies as a good racer, but what fans view as a good race in their lens.

It’s something that we look at. To that end I will say it’s probably higher on the priority list. That said, there’s still a number of different things we definitely take a look at.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks very much, Ben. Appreciate everybody joining us for the call today to talk about the schedule. Some great stuff, great content to look forward to. Thanks to our media for joining. We’ll talk to you all soon.

BEN KENNEDY: Thank you, guys. Appreciate it.

 

Friday 5: Will fan access to in-car cameras lead to calls for penalties?

1 Comment

Did NASCAR make the right decision to penalize William Byron 25 points and $50,000 for spinning Denny Hamlin under caution two days after the incident happened?

It’s a question that will be answered in Hendrick Motorsports’ appeal. 

But this reaches a broader issue. With fans having more access to video elements of the sport, how much influence could or should they have in exposing potential penalties moving forward?

Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, admitted after last weekend’s race at Texas that series officials did not see Byron hit Hamlin.

MORE: Alex Bowman to miss Talladega race 

While video from the USA broadcast suggested that Byron spun Hamlin, an official could question if Hamlin brake-checked Byron and initiated the contact as opposed to Byron running into him.

That question was cleared up three minutes after green-flag racing resumed when NASCAR’s Twitter account posted video from Byron’s in-car camera that showed him running into the back of Hamlin’s car. 

After the race, Byron admitted he ran into Hamlin, although Byron said he did not mean to spin Hamlin. Byron was upset with how Hamlin had raced him a few laps earlier, causing Byron to hit the wall.

“I didn’t mean to spin him out,” Byron said after the race. “That definitely wasn’t what I intended to do. I meant to bump him a little bit and show my displeasure and unfortunately, it happened the way it did.”

The in-car camera video from Byron’s car was a view that fans can have as part of a program that began with the start of the playoffs. Fans can watch in-car camera views from every car in the race through the NASCAR Mobile App and on NASCAR Drive on NASCAR.com. 

The TV broadcast did not have access to those in-car views. Miller noted that the officials also did not have access. That likely will change.

In this case, it was NASCAR’s social media account that made people aware of what Byron did. Moving forward, what if it is a fan that spots something that officials don’t catch and TV doesn’t show? What if that fan posts a video clip of an incident from a particular in-car camera? Should that lead to a penalty either during the event or days later?

Golf faced a similar issue within the last decade before stating that effective Jan. 1, 2018, the game’s major professional tours would no longer accept calls or emails from fans who think they had spotted a rules violation. Instead, the PGA Tour, LPGA, PGA of America, among others, stated they would assign at least one official to monitor all tournament telecasts and resolve any rules issues.

“It’s a tricky deal,” Ryan Blaney said. “Especially with the rise of social media and all the accessibility that the internet can give with all these live feeds from every single car, which I think is a good idea, but there could be some controversy in certain situations.”

Those watching last weekend’s Cup race posted video of a violation. NASCAR didn’t penalize Ty Gibbs after door-slammed Ty Dillon on pit road during the race. Video clips of the incident quickly showed up on social media shortly after the incident. 

Series officials typically review the races on Tuesday and that’s an opportunity for them to assess penalties on incidents they’ve gathered more information on.

NASCAR docked Gibbs 25 points and fined him $75,000 for the incident Tuesday. It marked his second penalty this year for contact on pit road. Gibbs was fined $15,000 for hitting Sam Mayer’s car on pit road after the Xfinity race at Martinsville.

Another key is issue with officiating in any sport is if it is better to be right, even if it comes a couple of days after an event, or if is something is missed during the event, then so be it?

Section 4.4.C of the Cup Rule Book states that drivers can be docked 25-50 points (driver and team owner points), fined $50,000 – $100,000 and/or suspended a race, indefinitely or terminated for a series of events, including “Intentional wrecking another vehicle, whether or not that vehicle is removed from competition as a result.”

So, even if NASCAR had penalized Byron during the event, officials could have further penalized him on Tuesday. It’s not a situation where there is either a penalty during the race or after. It can be both. 

Ryan Blaney says he would prefer a decision made in the moment and if not, let it go.

“I don’t want to have to wonder if something is going to happen days later,” he said. “I think you’ve got to take a little bit more time and try to get things right in the moment because a lot of these things can be game-changing outcomes.”

Byron’s penalty is an example. He left Texas third in the playoff standings, 17 points above the cutline. With the penalty, he’s eight points below the cutline. 

2. Race for stage points

One of the questions going into Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC) is what should playoff drivers do. Should they ride at the back to help their chances of making it to the finish to score big points? Or should they run at the front and go for stage points while also being at greater risk of being collected in a crash?

Kyle Larson, who is 23 points above the cutline in third place, said he doesn’t see playoff drivers riding in the back.

“There’s so many stage points on the line, and if you can get those stage points, then even if you do wreck, you’ll have a decent points day out of it,” he said. “I foresee everybody racing pretty hard.”

Should any driver ride in the back early in a stage, they’ll likely need to be in the top 10 with 10 laps in the stage to have a good chance at stage points. 

In the spring Talladega race, 75% of the drivers in a top 10 spot with 10 laps to go in either of the first two stages finished in the top 10 and scored points.

Larson scored 17 stage points at Talladega. Add that to his fourth-place finish and he left there with 50 points. Only three other drivers scored more than 40 points that race: Martin Truex Jr. (45), Chase Elliott (44) and winner Ross Chastain (42).

All four of those drivers also were in the top 10 with 10 laps to go in the race. Chastain ran no lower than fourth in those final laps before taking the lead on the final lap. 

Chastain won that race after overcoming a pit road speeding penalty in the first stage. He did not score points in the first stage.  He got his lap back at the caution for the stage break and steadily worked his way up in the second stage, finishing ninth. 

As for his plan Sunday?

“We’re still talking through them,” Chastain said. “It’s not race day yet … we don’t have to have our plan yet. It would be bad if we already had our marching orders written down and we knew what we we were doing because it needs to be a more fluid experience. We’ll see how the race starts.”

3. RCR Turnaround

In the 14 races since NBC/USA took over broadcasting the Cup season, Hendrick Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing have each won a series-high four races. 

RCR’s wins have been by Tyler Reddick at Road America, Reddick at the Indianapolis road course, Austin Dillon at Daytona and Reddick last weekend at Texas. 

That’s four wins in a 13-race stretch for RCR. It took the organization 192 races to win its last four races before this recent stretch.

“The new car did level playing field,” said Andy Petree, competition director at RCR. “That was one of the things. What happened over the years is that some of these mega-teams have been able to build an advantage into their equipment.”

It’s more than that. The four wins by Reddick and Dillon double what the organization had the previous fours seasons. They’ve combined for 13 top-three finishes, including a 1-2 run at Daytona in the regular-season finale in August. 

In comparison, Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott — the past two Cup champions — have combined for six wins and 12 top-three finishes this season.

Reddick and Dillon also have combined 14 top-five finishes. That equals the number of top fives the organization had the previous four seasons combined. Reddick’s 439 laps led is more than the organization’s combined total (410) the past four seasons. 

“Obviously the drivers are more important now because everything is so close,” Petree said. “The drivers can make a big difference. Our pit crews have stepped it up this year. There are a lot of reasons why we have been as successful as we’ve been.”

4. Number crunching

A few things to ponder:

RFK Racing has led 309 laps in the last two races with Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher. That’s more than the organization had led in the previous 105 races combined. RFK Racing’s 417 laps led this season is the organization’s most since 2013.

The driver leading at the white flag finished fifth or worse in each of the last four Talladega races that went the full distance. Erik Jones led at the white flag in the spring race. He finished sixth.

The driver winning the Talladega Cup playoff race has never gone on to win the championship that season.

Kyle Busch is the only driver to finish in the top 10 in all three races at Daytona and Talladega this season. He placed sixth in the Daytona 500. He was third at Talladega in the spring. He was 10th at Daytona in August.

A stage winner has not gone on to win the event in the last 11 races.

The 19 different winners this season is tied for the most in a season all-time with 1956, ’58, ’61 and 2001.

5. 600th race

Sunday will mark the 600th career Cup race for Rodney Childers as a Cup crew chief. He becomes the 15th crew chief in series history with at least 600 starts.

He and Kevin Harvick have been together since 2014. Their 313 races together is the longest streak among active driver/crew chief combinations. 

Harvick and Childers have combined to win 37 races, including two this season, and the 2014 championship in that stretch. 

Alex Bowman to miss Talladega due to concussion-like symptoms

3 Comments

Alex Bowman will miss Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway after experiencing concussion-like symptoms following his accident last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, Hendrick Motorsports stated Thursday afternoon.

Bowman is the second Cup driver to miss a race because of concussion-like symptoms after a crash. Kurt Busch has not returned to racing since he crashed July 23 at Pocono. Busch said this week that he remains “hopeful” he can return this season. Six races remain in the season, including Sunday’s race at Talladega.

Noah Gragson will fill in for Bowman.

Hendrick Motorsports stated that Bowman, who is last in the playoff standings, was evaluated by physicians Thursday in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Provided Bowman returns, he likely will need to win the Oct. 9 race at the Charlotte Roval to avoid playoff elimination.

Bowman brought out the caution on Lap 98 of the 334-lap race at Texas when a tire blew and backed into the wall in Turn 4. The car then hit the SAFER barrier with the right side. Bowman continued, finishing the race 29th, five laps behind winner Tyler Reddick.

Drivers have stated that rear impacts have felt worse than they looked with the new car.

From the get-go, everybody could see that this car was way too stiff,” Kevin Harvick said earlier this summer. “When I crashed it (at Auto Club Speedway in practice), I thought the car was destroyed and it barely backed the bumper off. It just felt like somebody hit you with a hammer.”

Christopher Bell said in June that he had a headache after he backed into the wall in the All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway in May.

Denny Hamlin said earlier this month he feels better about what NASCAR is looking to do with the car after conversations with series officials.

“I certainly feel that they’re working to help us with the hits on the chassis,” Hamlin aid. “All that stuff does take time. They can’t just knee-jerk reaction and start cutting bars out of the chassis, that’s very irresponsible.

“I think they’re doing things methodically to make sure that the next revision of car that comes out is one that is improved in the areas that we need improving on, but that does take time through design and testing.”

Gragson was to have driven the No. 62 car for Beard Motorsports in Sunday’s Cup race. Justin Allgaier will drive the car with Gragson moving to the No. 48 car.

 

Dr. Diandra: How much does Talladega shake up the playoffs?

0 Comments

Talladega Superspeedway is known for shaking up the playoffs. But how well deserved is that reputation?

Playoff drivers usually view the first race in the second round of the playoffs as the best chance to earn points, earn stage points and maybe even a win given that Talladega is the second race. Now that Texas is in the rear-view mirror, let’s turn our data analysis tools to Talladega.

The shake-up index

Determining how much one race shuffles the playoffs standings requires a simple metric that is applicable to all the years NASCAR has had stages and playoffs. In a rare point of consistency, Talladega has remained the 31st race of the season since 2017, when stage racing started.

After trying a couple different approaches, I finally settled on playoff rankings. These rankings are a zero-sum game. For each driver who moves up a position, another driver must move down.

The first graph is playoff ranking as a function of race for the second playoff segment of 2021. It’s a bit of a mess, but stay with me.

A scatter graph of rank changes to help determine how much shaking-up Talladega actually does

Playoff rank runs along the left side of the graph. The highest ranked driver is at the top and the 12th ranked at the bottom.

The leftmost set of dots shows the rankings coming out of Bristol, after eliminating the lowest four drivers and re-seeding the rest. The second column of dots show the rankings after Las Vegas, which was the first race in the second round in 2021.

Each driver is represented in a different color, with lines connecting his rankings. For example, the dark purple lines show Denny Hamlin rising from third to first over these three races. The light blue lines at the bottom show Alex Bowman plummeting from seventh to 12th.

The messier the lines between two races, the more the playoffs were shaken up. Because it’s hard to quantify “messiness,” I counted each time one driver’s line crossed another driver’s line.

Each crossing indicates two drivers changed places in the rankings. The number of intersections between Bristol and Las Vegas, for example, tells you how much Las Vegas shook up the standings.

Three intersecting lines count as three shake-ups because there are three pairs of drivers crossing.

In 2021, Las Vegas had nine intersections, Talladega 13 and the Roval only five. This seems consistent with our hypothesis that Talladega is the biggest shaker-upper in the second round.

Talladega Timeline

In addition to being only one point, the 2021 Talladega contest poses another problem. Bubba Wallace won the rain-shortened race, which went 311 miles instead of the scheduled 500 miles.

That raises the possibility that 2021 might not be the most representative year for Talladega races. I therefore repeated the analysis going back to 2017. Since we didn’t have stage racing — and thus stage points — before 2017, it doesn’t make sense to compare previous years.

The table below shows the shake-up index from 2017-2021. Note that the first and third races changed from year to year.

A table summarizing the shake-up index for Talladega and other races in the second playoff round from 2017-2021

This five years of data show that Talladega wasn’t always the race that most shook-up this round of playoffs. From 2017-19, Dover and Charlotte held that honor. That’s surprising, especially in 2017. That’s the year 26 of 40 cars failed to finish the Talladega race and NASCAR parked Jimmie Johnson and Matt DiBenedetto.

In 2020, the three races had just about equal shake-up indices.

The Roval has been the third playoff race for only two years. It was equally chaotic with Talladega in terms of affecting the standings in 2020, but less so in 2021. Kansas beat the Roval for switching up the playoff standings twice.

 A caveat for the first race

If you’re surprised to see a larger shake-up for the first race in the second round of the playoffs, you’re not alone.

The 2021 fall Las Vegas race was remarkably uneventful. There were only two DNFs, both non-playoff cars. And one single-car accident that, again, didn’t involve a playoff car. Yet it had a shake-up index of nine.

It turns out that this is a side-effect of the re-seeding protocol.

The graph below shows the same time period as the rankings graph, but reports total points for the top-12 drivers.

A scatter plot showing how points changed for the top-12 playoff drivers in 2021 in the second round of the playoffs

Immediately after re-seeding, the drivers are separated by 57 points from first to 12th. If you omit Kyle Larson’s 30-point lead, the bottom 11 drivers are separated by only 27 points.

Since a driver can earn a maximum of 60 points in a single race, the first race in a round has a lot more impact in changing the standings. In effect, the first race decompresses the re-seeding compression.

After Las Vegas, the 12 playoff drivers were separated by 78 points. After Talladega, the margin grew to 98 points.

The larger numbers for the first races in any round are more due to the re-seeding-induced points compression than to the nature of the track.

Applied to 2022

Drivers don’t have to win at Talladega. They just have to finish ahead of the other playoff drivers. In fact, if a given driver can’t win, the next best case for him is if none of the other playoff drivers win, either.

The largest drop in positions a driver has seen from Talladega is five — and that’s from the rain-shortened 2021 race. On the other hand, drivers have also seen as much as an eight-position gain in the standings following Talladega. That gain was after the 2017 race where more than half the field failed to finish, but at least one driver has come out of the fall Talladega race each of the last four years up at least three positions.

As far as the stats for this year’s second round playoffs so far: Last week’s Texas race had a shake-up index of 14. That’s higher than all but the first year of the stage-racing playoff era.

And the William Byron penalty (which Hendrick Motorsports is contesting) has a shake-up index of seven.

NASCAR weekend schedule for Talladega Superspeedway

0 Comments

The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs roll into Talladega Superspeedway, a center of uncertainty, for the second race in the Round of 12 this weekend.

Sunday’s race (2 p.m. ET, NBC) could place the first driver in the Round of 8. Any playoff driver who wins the race automatically advances to the next round.

Through the playoffs to date, playoff drivers are batting zero in the race-win category. Non-playoff drivers — Tyler Reddick, Chris Buescher, Bubba Wallace and Erik Jones — have scored wins in the first four playoff races.

Joey Logano leads the playoff points entering the race. Ross Chastain, who won at Talladega earlier this year, is second.

The four drivers below the cutline are Austin Cindric, William Byron, Christopher Bell and Alex Bowman. Byron was above the line earlier this week but was penalized 25 points for spinning Denny Hamlin under caution last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. That move lifted Chase Briscoe above the cutline.

Playoff races also are scheduled for the Xfinity Series (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, USA Network) and the Camping World Truck Series (Saturday, 12:30 p.m., FS1) at Talladega.

Here’s a look at the Talladega weekend schedule:

Talladega Superspeedway (Cup, Xfinity and Truck)

Weekend weather

Friday: Sunny. High of 78.

Saturday: Partly cloudy. High of 74.

Sunday: Intervals of clouds and sun. High of 75.

Friday, Sept. 30

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. — Truck Series
  • 10:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. — Xfinity Series
  • 2 – 7 p.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 3:30 – 5 p.m. — Truck Series qualifying
  • 5:30 – 7 p.m. — Xfinity Series qualifying (USA Network)

Saturday, Oct. 1

Garage open

  • 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 9:30 a.m. — Truck Series
  • 1 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 10:30 a.m. – Noon — Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series race (94 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 4 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (113 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Oct. 2

Garage open

  • 11 a.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 2 p.m. — Cup Series race (188 laps, 500 miles; NBC, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)