NASCAR viewer’s guide: Richmond Raceway

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The NASCAR Cup Series regular-season countdown clock has reached three, and Sunday’s 400-lap, 300-mile race at Richmond Raceway will be the final short-track event before the playoffs begin Sept. 4 at Darlington Raceway.

After Richmond, the remaining regular-season races are at the Watkins Glen road course Aug. 21 and at Daytona International Speedway Aug. 27.

Kevin Harvick added a slice of drama to the remaining regular-season schedule by winning Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, putting his name on the playoff grid. Fifteen race winners have claimed spots, leaving Ryan Blaney as the only driver currently qualified via points.

The Richmond race weekend includes an 8 p.m. ET Saturday playoff race for the Camping World Truck Series. Sunday’s Cup race (3 p.m., ET) will be televised by the USA Network. The Xfinity Series is idle this week.

Elliott On The Edge

Chase Elliott, the season’s dominant driver with four wins (no one else has more than two), can lock up the Cup regular-season title at Richmond.

Entering Sunday’s race, Elliott has a 119-point edge over second-place Ryan Blaney in the regular-season standings. If he leaves Richmond with a 121-point edge over second, he’ll nail down the regular-season title with two races remaining.

Elliott has hit a bit of a dip the past two weeks after scoring six consecutive top-10 finishes, including three wins. He finished 16th at Indianapolis and 11th Sunday at Michigan.

Blaney In The Twilight Zone

Ryan Blaney is sitting on the edge of the precipice.

With Kevin Harvick becoming the season’s 15th winner Sunday, there is only one spot vacant on the playoff grid for a driver qualifying via points. Entering Richmond, Blaney sits in that position, only 19 points in front of Martin Truex Jr., the first driver below the cutoff line.

Oddly enough, thanks to a generally consistent season, Blaney is second in the seasonal point standings. If a winless driver scores a victory in the next three races and claims the 16th playoff position, Blaney could find himself in the unlikely position of finishing second in points but missing the playoffs.

Over the past four races, Blaney has lost 52 points to Truex, making the potential race for the final playoff spot very tight.

Looking at Blaney vs. Truex over the final three races of the regular season:

  • Truex has four wins at the three tracks; Blaney has one.
  • Truex has six short-track wins; Blaney has none.
  • Truex has four road-course wins; Blaney has one.
  • Blaney’s average running position this year is 11.16. Truex’s is 11.31.
  • Truex has won three of the past six races at Richmond.
  • Blaney has an average finish of 21st at Richmond, making it one of his worst tracks.
  • Truex has led 1,285 laps at Richmond, his best track in that category.
  • Truex is the first driver with seven consecutive top-five finishes at Richmond since Rusty Wallace from 1992-95.

Kyle Busch‘s Struggles Continue

Kyle Busch is recognized as one of the best wheelmen in NASCAR’s modern era, but his recent record is quite perplexing.

Busch’s finishes over the past eight races: 30th, 21st, 29th, 20th, 12th, 36th, 11th, 36th. A crash at Michigan Sunday left him next-to-last there.

Busch has not had a top-10 finish over that stretch, the longest such run of his career.

Richmond Raceway could provide some salve. Busch is the track leader in wins (six) among active drivers, and he also has the best average finish (6.94) there among active drivers with at least three starts.

Busch has won eight times at Bristol Motor Speedway, the only track where he has had more success than Richmond.

Busch is eighth all-time on the Richmond lap-leader list with 1,529. He has a distance to go to catch the all-time leader — Richard Petty with 5,128.

Entry lists

Thirty-six drivers are entered in Sunday’s Cup race. Among the non-regulars are JJ Yeley, Noah Gragson and Landon Cassill.

Richmond Cup entry list

Forty-two drivers are entered for 36 slots in Saturday’s Truck race. Included are Norm Benning, Chad Chastain, Rajah Carruth, Kaden Honeycutt and Layne Riggs.

Hailie Deegan will have a new crew chief this weekend. Jerry Baxter has moved from the Tanner Gray truck to Deegan’s team. Mike Hillman Jr. moves from Deegan to Gray within the David Gilliland Racing operation. Gray has two top fives and five top 10s this season. Deegan has one top 10. Neither driver has won a race.

Richmond Truck entry list

This weekend’s schedule and forecast

(All times Eastern)

Saturday, August 13

Forecast: Sunny. High of 81.

  • 3:05 – 3:35 p.m. — Camping World Truck Series practice (FS1)
  • 3:35 – 4:30 p.m. — Camping World Truck Series qualifying (FS1)
  • 5:05 – 5:50 p.m. — Cup Series practice (USA Network)
  • 5:50 – 7 p.m. — Cup Series qualifying (USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 8 p.m. — Camping World Truck Series race (250 laps, 187 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, August 14

Forecast: Partly cloudy. High of 84.

  • 3 p.m. — Cup Series race (400 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

NASCAR will not race at Auto Club Speedway in 2024

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LOS ANGELES — Auto Club Speedway will not host a NASCAR race next year because of plans to convert the 2-mile speedway into a short track.

It will mark only the second time the Cup Series has not raced at the Southern California track since first competing there in 1997. Cup did not race at the track in 2021 because of the pandemic.

Dave Allen, Auto Club Speedway president, also said Saturday that “it’s possible” that the track might not host a NASCAR race in 2025 because of how long it could take to make the conversion. 

MORE: Details for Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum 

NASCAR came to the Fontana, California, track during the sport’s expansion in the late 1990s that also saw Cup debut at Texas (1997), Las Vegas (1998) and Homestead (1999).

Auto Club Speedway begins the West Coast swing this season, hosting the Cup Series on Feb. 26, a week after the Daytona 500. The series then goes to Las Vegas and Phoenix the following two weeks.

Auto Club Speedway has been among a favorite of drivers because of its aging pavement that put more of the car’s control in the hands of competitors. 

Allen said that officials continue to work on the track’s design. It is expected to be a half-mile track. With NASCAR already having a half-mile high-banked track (Bristol) and half-mile low-banked track (Martinsville), Allen said that a goal is to make Auto Club Speedway stand out.

“It has to make a statement, and making sure that we have a racetrack that is unique to itself here and different than any of the tracks they go to is very important,” Allen said. “Having said that, it’s equally important … to make sure that the fan experience part is unique.”

Kyle Larson, who won last year’s Cup race at Auto Club Speedway, said that he talked to Allen on Saturday was told the track project likely will take about 18 months. 

“I don’t know exactly the extent of what they’re doing with the track, how big it’s going to be, the shape or banking and all that, and I love the 2-mile track, but I think the more short tracks we can have, the better off our sport is going to be,” Larson said.

With Auto Club Speedway off the schedule in 2024, it would mean the only time Cup raced in the Los Angeles area would be at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. NASCAR has a three-year contract with the Coliseum to race there and holds the option to return.

Sunday’s Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum marks the second year of that agreement. Last year’s inaugural event at the Coliseum drew about 50,000 fans. NASCAR has not publicly stated if it will return to the Coliseum next year.

Sunday Clash at the Coliseum: Start time, TV info, race format

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LOS ANGELES – NASCAR is back and back at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Nearly three months after Joey Logano won the Cup title at Phoenix, Cup drivers return to action this weekend to run the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum exhibition race on Sunday night.

This marks the second consecutive year the series has raced inside the Coliseum, which has hosted the Super Bowl, World Series and Olympics.

Details for Sunday’s Busch Light Clash at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum 

(All times Eastern)

HEAT RACES: There will be four 25-lap heat races. Caution laps do not count. The top five from each race advance to the Busch Light Clash. The first heat race is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.

LAST CHANCE QUALIFIERS: There will be two 50-lap qualifiers for drivers who did not advance to the Clash through their heat races. Caution laps do not count. The top three finishers in each of the qualifiers advance to the Clash. The 27-car Clash lineup will be finalized by adding one provisional spot for the driver highest in points last season not yet in the Clash field. The first of these two last chance qualifying races is scheduled to begin at 6:10 p.m.

CLASH STARTING LINEUP: To be set by heat races and the Last Chance Qualifiers. Winner of heat 1 will start on the pole for the Clash. Winner of heat 2 will start second. Winner of heat 3 will start third. Winner of heat 4 will start 4th. Runner-up in heat 1 will start fifth and so on.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 11 a.m. … Driver intros are at 7:50 p.m. … Invocation by Judah Smith, lead pastor of Churchome, at 8:07 p.m. … The USC Trojan Marching Band will perform the national anthem at 8:08 p.m. … Actor Rob Lowe will give the command to fire engines at 8:15 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to be waved by USC quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams at 8:20 p.m.

DISTANCE: The Clash is 150 laps (37.5 miles) on the 1/4-mile short track.

STAGES: There will be a stage break at Lap 75 (halfway in the Clash). Wiz Khalifa will perform during the break.

TV/RADIO: Fox will broadcast the event, beginning at 4 p.m. . … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Partly cloudy with a high of 63 degrees and a 1% chance of rain for the start of the heat races. Partly cloudy with a high of 61 degrees and a 1% chance of rain for the Clash..

LAST TIME: Joey Logano held off Kyle Busch to win the inaugural Clash at the Coliseum. Austin Dillon placed third. .

Catch up on NBC Sports coverage

New NASCAR season features several changes

Clash at the Coliseum provides a reset for RFK Racing 

Harrison Burton looks for progress in second year in Cup

Dr. Diandra: Muffling racecars won’t change fan experience

Drivers to watch at Clash in Coliseum

NASCAR announces rule changes for 2023

NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

NASCAR eliminates stage breaks for Cup road course events 

Looking back on 10 historic moments in the Clash

 

NASCAR Saturday schedule at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

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NASCAR drivers are scheduled to hit the track today in competitive mode for the first time in 2023.

Practice is scheduled from 6-8 p.m. on the oval inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Single-car qualifying for Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum is scheduled to begin at 8:35 p.m. (ET). The 36 drivers will be divided into three 12-driver groups for practice.

Cup practice groups

Cup qualfying order

Saturday’s qualifying will set the starting lineups for Sunday’s four 25-lap heat races. The top five finishers in each heat race will advance to the main event. Two 50-lap “last chance” races will follow, and the top three finishers in each of those events will join the feature field.

The 150-lap main event is scheduled at 8 p.m. (ET) Sunday.

For the second consecutive year, the Clash is being held on a purpose-built track inside the LA Coliseum, one of sport’s iconic venues. Joey Logano won last year’s race and last year’s series championship and will be among the favorites Sunday.

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

Weather

Saturday: Intervals of clouds and sun. High 71.

Saturday, Feb. 4

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 2 – 11:30 p.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 6 – 8 p.m. — Cup practice (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 8:35 – 9:30 p.m. — Cup qualifying (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

New NASCAR Cup season features several changes

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While NASCAR looks back in celebrating its 75th season, there’s plenty new for the sport heading into the 2023 campaign.

Driver moves and schedule changes and are among some of the big changes this year. Here’s a look at some of the changes this season in Cup:

Drivers

— Two-time Cup champion Kyle Busch has a different look, as he moves from Joe Gibbs Racing to Richard Childress Racing, taking the ride formerly occupied by Tyler Reddick. 

— Tyler Reddick goes from Richard Childress Racing to 23XI Racing, taking the ride formerly occupied by Kurt Busch, who was injured in a crash last summer and has not returned to competition.

Ryan Preece goes from being a test driver and backup at Stewart-Haas Racing to taking over the No. 41 car formerly run by Cole Custer, who moves to the Xfinity Series. 

— Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson returns to Cup after running the past two seasons in the IndyCar Series. He’s now a part owner of Legacy Motor Club and will run select races for the Cup team. Johnson will seek to make the Daytona 500, driving the No. 84 car.

Ty Gibbs goes from Xfinity Series champion to Cup rookie for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Noah Gragson goes from Xfinity Series title contender to Cup rookie for Legacy Motor Club (and teammate to Jimmie Johnson).

Crew chiefs

— Keith Rodden, who last was a full-time Cup crew chief in 2017 with Kasey Kahne, is back in that role for Austin Dillon at Richard Childress Racing, as Dillon seeks to make back-to-back playoff appearances. Rodden comes to RCR after working with the Motorsports Competition NASCAR strategy group at General Motors.

— Chad Johnston, who has been a crew chief for Tony Stewart, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson and Matt Kenseth, will serve as crew chief for Ryan Preece at Stewart-Haas Racing.

— Blake Harris goes from being Michael McDowell’s crew chief at Front Row Motorsports to joining Hendrick Motorsports to be Alex Bowman’s crew chief. 

— Mike Kelley, who served as Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s crew chief when Stenhouse won Xfinity titles in 2011 and ’12, returns to the crew chief role with Stenhouse this season at JTG Daugherty Racing. 

Races

— What’s old is new. The All-Star Race moves to North Wilkesboro Speedway in May, marking the first Cup event at that historic track since 1996.

— July 2 marks debut of the street course race in Chicago, marking NASCAR’s first street race for its premier series.

— The spring Atlanta race and playoff Texas race have both been reduced from 500 miles to 400 miles.

Rules

Ross Chastain’s video-game move on the last lap at Martinsville will no longer be allowed, NASCAR announced this week. 

— Stage breaks are gone at the road course events for Cup races. Stage points will be awarded but there will be no caution for the end of the stage.  

— If a wheel comes off a car while on track, it is only a two-race suspension (last year it was four races) for two crew members. The crew chief is no longer suspended for the violation. 

— Cup cars have a new rear section that is intended to absorb more energy in a crash to prevent driver injuries after Kurt Busch and Alex Bowman each missed races last year because of concussion-related symptoms.

— Elton Sawyer is the new vice president of competition for NASCAR. Think of the former driver as the new sheriff in town for the sport.

Achievements 

— With a win this season, Kyle Busch will have at least one Cup victory in 19 consecutive seasons and become the all-time series leader in that category, breaking a tie with Richard Petty.

Denny Hamlin needs two wins to reach 50 career Cup victories. That would tie him with Hall of Famers Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson for 13th on the all-time list. 

Kevin Harvick, running his final Cup season, is 10 starts away from 800 career series starts. That would make him only the 10th driver in Cup history to reach that mark.