Kirk Shelmerdine enters NASCAR Hall of Fame with memories of Dale Earnhardt

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Kirk Shelmerdine was the boss in the pits for 44 of Dale Earnhardt’s NASCAR Cup Series wins and four of his championships.

They were teammates for a few races in 1981 and then from 1984-92. Earnhardt won championships in 1986, ’87, ’90 and ’91, and Shelmerdine steadily built a reputation as a solid, smart crew chief, expert at car building and race strategy.

In the end, said Shelmerdine as he prepares to join his former driver (Earnhardt) and team owner (Richard Childress) in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, it was quite simple.

“Dale said, ‘I want to be in front of the other cars. This thing needs to be able to go there,’ ” he told NBC Sports.

MORE: How to watch NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony

MORE: Hershel McGriff’s long road to the Hall of Fame

It usually wasn’t that simple, of course, but Shelmerdine, 64, said he and Earnhardt quickly became of the same mind.

“We knew each other well,” he said. “I knew what he liked as far as setups. You had to have the seat just right and the steering wheel just right. Now you have a whole team of scientists working on that stuff. But it was important for us to get it right back then. The races were long.

“We knew we wouldn’t go to the track and fight the same things every week. I understood his feel, and we gauged the cars the best we could for that. When we unloaded, we were usually pretty good.”

Shelmerdine, Matt Kenseth and Hershel McGriff will be inducted into the Hall of Fame Friday night (8 p.m. ET, Peacock) in Charlotte, North Carolina.

As Earnhardt stacked up the wins and championships, finding success became a matter of routine and repetition, Shelmerdine said.

“Over time, I watched an awful lot of laps that guy made,” he said. “I could almost tell by how he was running in the corners if the car was good or not and what the problem might be. I already had a couple of ideas already in the bullpen to use on the next pit stop.

“He had built his own cars for years and years and understood the mechanical part well. It became easy to read each other.”

What made Earnhardt great?

“It’s tough to put your finger on that,” Shelmerdine said. “I don’t care who you are – you have to trust the guys who are building your car for you and understand that they’re on your side. It can be lonely out there if the crew guys don’t like you. We knew he was going to run good no matter what, and he gave 100 percent. He inspired confidence. We won and lost together.”

And Earnhardt was in that group of people who are rarely wrong, Shelmerdine said.

“He could back his van into somebody in the infield parking lot and claim it was their fault for parking there,” he said.

Shelmerdine left pit road in 1992, saying he was “worn out” and that he was satisfied with the team’s accomplishments. Always interested in the driving part of the game, he won three ARCA races in sporadic starts from 1993-2008 and raced 26 times in Cup and 13 in Xfinity without winning.

 

 

 

 

 

NASCAR Sunday schedule at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

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It’s race day for the NASCAR Cup Series.

The Clash at the Coliseum will open the 2023 season for NASCAR on Sunday with the featured 150-lap race scheduled for 8 p.m. ET at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

The field for the non-points race will be set by a series of heat and last chance races Sunday afternoon. The top five finishers in each of four 25-lap heat races will advance to the feature, and the top three finishers in two 50-lap last chance races will join the grid.

Joey Logano won last year’s Clash as it moved from its long-time home at Daytona International Speedway to the Coliseum.

The Cup Series regular season is scheduled to begin Feb. 19 with the Daytona 500.

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

Weather

Sunday: Partly cloudy with a high of 64 degrees in the afternoon and no chance of rain. It is expected to be sunny with a high of 62 degrees and a 1% chance of rain at the start of the Clash.

Sunday, Feb. 5

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 11 a.m. Sunday – 12:30 a.m. Monday — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 5 – 5:45 p.m. — Four heat races (25 laps; Fox, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 6:10 – 6:35 p.m. — Two last chance qualifying races (50 laps; Fox, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 8 p.m. — Feature race (150 laps; Fox, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

NASCAR Clash heat race lineups

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LOS ANGELES — Justin Haley, Kyle Busch, Christopher Bell and William Byron will start on the pole for their heat races Sunday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. 

There will be nine cars in each of the four heat races. Here’s a look at each of the those heat races.

Clash heat race starting lineups

Heat 1

This heat has four drivers who did not make last year’s Clash: Alex Bowman, Aric Almirola, Chris Buescher and Ty Dillon. Almirola starts second, Bowman third, Buescher eighth and Dillon ninth. This heat also has defending Clash winner and reigning Cup champion Joey Logano, who starts fifth.

Heat 2

Richard Childress Racing teammates Busch and Austin Dillon start 1-2. This race has five former champions: Busch, Kyle Larson (starting third), Kevin Harvick (fourth), Martin Truex Jr. (fifth) and Chase Elliott (eighth).

Heat 3

Toyota drivers will start first (Bell), second (Denny Hamlin) and fifth (Tyler Reddick). Ryan Blaney starts last in this heat after his fastest qualifying lap was disallowed Saturday.

Heat 4 

Byron will be joined on the front row by AJ Allmendinger in this heat. The second row will have Ross Chastain and Bubba Wallace.

The top five in each heat advances to Sunday night’s Clash. Those not advancing go to one of two last chance qualifying races. The top three in each of those races advances to the Clash. The 27 and final spot in the Clash is reserved for the driver highest in points who has yet to make the field.

Justin Haley tops field in Clash qualifying

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LOS ANGELES — Justin Haley posted the fastest lap in Saturday’s qualifying for the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Haley will start the first of four heats on the pole after a lap of 67.099 mph (13.413 seconds). The four heat races will be held Sunday afternoon, followed by two last chance qualifying races and then the Busch Clash on Sunday night.

Clash qualifying results

“I feel pretty confident about where we are,” Haley said. “I’m not sure why we’re so good here.”

The top four qualifiers will start on the pole for their heat race.

Kyle Busch, who was second on the speed chart with a lap of 66.406 mph, will start on the pole for the second heat. That comes in his first race with Richard Childress Racing after having spent the past 15 seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Christopher Bell, third on the speed chart with a lap of 66.328 mph, will start on the pole for the third heat. William Byron, fourth in qualifying with a lap of 66.196 mph, will start on the pole in the fourth heat race.

The pole-sitters for each of the four heat races last year all won their heat. That included Haley, who was third fastest in qualifying last year and won the third heat from the pole.

Ty Gibbs was not allowed to qualify because of unapproved adjustments his team made while making repairs to his car after the door foam caught fire during practice. NASCAR deemed that the Joe Gibbs Racing team made adjustments to the car not directly related to the damage.

Ryan Blaney‘s fastest qualifying lap was disallowed after he stopped the car in Turn 4 and turned it around and to go back to the backstretch and build speed for his final lap. NASCAR disallowed the time from that final lap for the maneuver.

Section 7.8.F of the Cup Rule Book states: “Unless otherwise determined by the Series Managing Director, drivers who encounter a problem during Qualifying will not be permitted to travel counter Race direction.”

The top five finishers in each of the four 25-lap heat races advance to the Clash. The top three in the two 50-lap last chance races move on to the Clash. The final spot in the 27-car field is reserved for the driver highest in points not yet in the field.

Chase Briscoe, AJ Allmendinger in first on-track conflict of the season.

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LOS ANGELES — The first on-track conflict of the 2023 NASCAR Cup season?

Did you have Chase Briscoe and AJ Allmendinger?

They made contact during Saturday night’s practice session at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the Busch Light Clash.

Busch Clash practice results

Briscoe explained what happened from his point of view.

“(Allmendinger) was slowing down so much on the straightaway to get a gap (away from other cars),” Briscoe told Motor Racing Network. “I felt like I was beside him pretty far down the straightaway. I got in there a little hot for sure, but, honestly, I thought he was going to give it to me since we were in practice. Went into (Turn) 3 and he just drove me straight into the fence. Definitely frustrating. … Just unfortunate. We don’t have a single back-up car out there between the four of us at SHR. 

“Definitely will set us behind quite a bit. Just chalk it up in the memory blank.”

Asked what happened with Briscoe, Allmendinger told MRN: “He ran inside of me, so I made sure I paid him back and sent him into the fence.

“It’s practice. I get it, I’m struggling and in the way, but come barreling in there. I just showed my displeasure for it. That’s not the issue. We’re just not very good right now.”

Earlier in practice, Ty Gibbs had to climb out of his car after it caught on fire. Gibbs exiting the car safely. The Joe Gibbs Racing team worked on making repairs to his No. 54 car. NASCAR stated that the car would not be allowed to qualify because of unapproved adjustments, modifications not directly related to the damage.