Photo: Dustin Long

Driver lineup set for Charlotte road course tests in July

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Charlotte Motor Speedway announced the driver lineup for the two days of testing that will take place in July on the track’s road course.

NASCAR created two separate test days. Tests will be July 10 and July 17. Both sessions will go from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET with a lunch break from noon to 1 p.m. ET.

The tests are open to the public.

The Cup series races on Charlotte’s road course Sept. 30 in the playoffs.

Scheduled to test on July 10

Martin Truex Jr.

Jimmie Johnson

Chase Elliott

Kevin Harvick

Clint Bowyer

Denny Hamlin

Daniel Suarez

Brad Keselowski

Paul Menard

Trevor Bayne

Jamie McMurray

Austin Dillon

Chris Buescher

Kasey Kahne

Michael McDowell

Gray Gaulding

Landon Cassill

B.J. McLeod

Scheduled to test on July 17

Kyle Busch

Erik Jones

Ryan Blaney

Joey Logano

Kyle Larson

Aric Almirola

Kurt Busch

Alex Bowman

William Byron

Bubba Wallace

Ryan Newman

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

AJ Allmendinger

Ty Dillon

Matt DiBenedetto

Corey LaJoie

David Ragan

Reed Sorenson

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Scan All from Michigan International Speedway

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Sunday’s race at Michigan International Speedway may have been shortened by rain, but there wasn’t a lack of entertaining radio communication during it.

There were plenty of drivers sharing their beefs with others and it’s all documented in this week’s Scan All, which features race winner Clint Bowyer and crew chief Mike Bugarewicz recounting how they won their second race of the year.

Here are some highlights:

“Tell the 22 if he slams my rear bumper again and tries to fence me, it’s on.” – Kyle Busch getting upset with Joey Logano.

“Just because his grandad owns the company he thinks he owns the whole track.” – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. sharing his thoughts on Austin Dillon‘s driving.

“Somebody up in the booth needs to get punched in the mouth.” – Ryan Newman expressing his displeasure with how cars were lined up on a restart.

“Take your damn clothes off and get to dancing,” Clint Bowyer once it began raining.

Watch the above video for more.

Long: Path to better NASCAR shouldn’t be us vs. them

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A tug-of-war is emerging in NASCAR that is unsettling and unnecessary.

This is not us vs. them.

This should be us and them — collaboration not conflict.

Instead, a fissure has developed between competitors and fans over the aero package and restrictor plates used in last month’s All-Star race. As talks continue among teams, drivers, engine builders and NASCAR on where to run this package again this season, questions have been raised about the type of racing it creates.

Former champion Brad Keselowski says that using the package too often could have long-term negative effects for the sport. But many fans were encouraged by the closer racing the package produced in the All-Star event. Their excitement helped spur NASCAR to examine running that package later this season — likely Michigan in August and Indianapolis in September — after the sanctioning body initially downplayed the chances of doing so.

It’s not uncommon for competitors and fans to be on opposite sides, but this issue cuts to a basic premise. What makes better racing? What lengths should NASCAR pursue to achieve that?

While fans see the potential for added excitement on the track, Keselowski sees a driver’s ability lessened.

“I think there are a lot of fans that come to our races expecting to see the best drivers,’’ he said this past weekend at Michigan International Speedway. “I think if you put a package like this out there, like we had at the All-Star race on a consistent basis, that the best drivers in the world will no longer go to NASCAR.

“They want to go where they can make the biggest difference to their performance and there is no doubt that the driver makes less of a difference with that rules package.”

That didn’t seem to matter to many fans after the All-Star race. Social media reaction and effusive fan comments on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio followed for days after the non-points race — a reaction rarely seen about that race in recent years.

Although the aero package and restrictor plate combination has been tried at Indianapolis, Pocono and Michigan in the Xfinity Series and at Charlotte in Cup, NASCAR has not stated how many races or where they hope to run this type of package in 2019 and beyond.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, stressed that Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, saying: “This (package) is not something we’re looking at for every race. I see some of our current drivers make assumptions when they don’t have all the facts. It’s something we’re looking at for a few tracks. If we could pull it off and improve on something, we will but also very happy with the racing we have today.”

With restrictor plates choking horsepower and aero changes intended to help cars run closer, Keselowski’s concern is that races on some 1.5- or 2-mile tracks will look similar to the racing at Daytona and Talladega. That means drivers are less in control of their fate.

“I would say most plate tracks, first through fourth has control of their own destiny and have acquired that finish based on talent, skill, etc.,’’ said Keselowski, whose five Talladega wins and one Daytona triumph are the most victories at restrictor-plate tracks than any other active driver. “From there on back it is a random bingo ball.”

Hall of Famer Mark Martin tweeted that he agreed with Keselowski and said that while he enjoys many of the changes the sport has made — including the playoffs and stage racing — he does not want to see a package that makes it easier for more drivers to win Cup races.

“Racing in NASCAR is supposed to be the hardest, most difficult thing that you could ever try to do as a race car driver,’’ Martin said this past weekend at Michigan. “It really, really hurts me to think about that we want to change to satisfy Johnny-come-lately fans.

“There are some issues that could be addressed about our racing, but artificially making the racing exciting for a portion of the fans to me is not what, I’d rather see that in (the Xfinity) race, not (the Cup) race.”

Sports need to be challenging. Sports also need to entertain and wow fans with feats that no average person can do. It’s why people watch LeBron James on a basketball court, Tom Brady on a football field and Sidney Crosby at a hockey rink. Rules have changed over the years in their sports, some dramatic, some subtle, but their athletic prowess remains constant.

Even if a driver’s ability may be limited in a handful of races that doesn’t mean that some fan can do what Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson do in a car. 

The restrictor plates and aero package used in the All-Star race and at Xfinity races, create a different set of challenges for drivers but still allows them to display their ability.

“I think it’s a different type of talent,’’ Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon said this past weekend. “To be inches off of one another, pushing, shoving, wide open around there, making the correct moves, jumping out of line at the right times.

“It’s a real chess match out there and putting yourself in a good position is very key. I think it’s a different type of talent, obviously, than what we do every week. I think it’s good to have these type of races. If the fans love to see it and it looks good and creates drama, I like it. I don’t know its an every week package but for these types of tracks it’s good.”

It’s not just NASCAR facing such issues. This is a topic in IndyCar, particularly with the Indianapolis 500.

Last month’s 500 featured 31 lead changes. That was more lead changes in any Indianapolis 500 from 1911-2011.

Problem was that the 31 lead changes this year were the fewest since 2011. The race averaged 44.7 lead changes from 2012-17 when it appeared more like a video game with its back-and-forth passing.

This year’s total marked a 30.7 percent decline in lead changes. It’s why some have wondered if rule changes need to be made for that series to make passing easier at the front — and in theory make the race more exciting.

There needs to be a balance there and for each motorsports series. Not every race will be spectacular. Not every game is in other sports. For every moment of greatness, there are others that are merely satisfying. The key is to find a way that appeals to fans and also works with competitors. 

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What drivers said after Michigan race

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Clint Bowyer — Winner: “It took something crazy on a restart to be able to get Kevin (Harvick). That was a gutsy call. When we went out there on two tires, I looked in the mirror, and I was so far ahead of everybody else i was like, ‘Oh man, we are in trouble!’ The rain came just in enough time. I was trying to hold him off. I was cutting him off and taking his line away pretty bad. If it wasn’t for a win you wouldn’t be doing that. He was so much faster than me in (turns) 1 and 2. I got down in (turn) 3 and just had to take his line because that bear was coming.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished second: “It was a weird day. If you are going to have rain kind of take one from you, I would rather give it to my teammate. I am happy for Clint and all the guys on (his) team. Everyone on our car did a great job. I had a really fast car, and the pit crew was the best thing that happened all day. They were solid all day and kept us up front. That to me is the best thing that came out of today.”

Kurt Busch — Finished third: “We had an excellent day all the way through. No big mistakes, no rough moments.  Pit stops were solid. Adjustments were solid. Restarts, I’d say three quarters of the time I was on the inside lane, so that might have been a little bit where we were pinned down. But you have to make do with what you have, how the chips fall.  I’m happy with our effort today. Of course you always want to go back racing again, but to see the two cars in front of me at the end, the 4 and the 14, that’s a big day for Stewart‑Haas Racing.  It’s very special to finish 1‑2‑3.

Kyle Busch — Finished fourth: “The blue ovals (Fords) were just tough today. It wasn’t anything about (Stewart-Haas Racing). They go down the straightaway really, really fast. We have a hard time keeping up with them there, but our car through the corner was really awesome. The M&M’s Camry was really good there after yesterday’s practice. I thought we had something for them and if it was going to be a little bit hotter and sunnier today, I felt like we were going to be really good. That just wasn’t the conditions for today, so chilly and cool and lots of grip, and that was better for all those guys, but we gave it a hard fought fight and come home with what we could there – a fourth. Not too shabby. I thought we had third and then Kurt (Busch) blew my doors off on the straightaway and we’ve just got to get better there and try to make it up and be able to put on a fight here later on this year. … If it would have went green the rest of the way, I felt like we could keep up with them. I felt like our long-run speed was better than theirs and if we could have had some green flag stops and maybe made up ground on that we would have been alright.”

Paul Menard — Finished fifth: “We had a good car today and all weekend. We didn’t qualify as good as we would have hoped and went from the back and got put to the back twice. Once I sped and another time we got door slammed. I am really proud of my guys. We made a gutsy call to stay out on no tires with a bunch of laps on it. Gutsy call. We had the car to hold on though, so it worked out.’’

Joey Logano – Finished seventh: ““I got out of the car and thought, ‘Man, that was a weird day.’ It was hard to pass. I had a car that was capable of running in the top five, but the result depended on the restart. If you got a good restart, you could settle in and run pretty well. Our car took off pretty good on restarts, which was good and played into our hands a little bit. We had a good pit stop at the end that got us up to 10th, and we had a good restart at the end and got a couple cars and that is what got us to the seventh-place finish.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished eighth: “We were really fast. We got our car better all day and won that stage and kind of got back there and a lot of guys took two. We were making it back up, but then the rain came. It was a really great race car. Definitely not an eighth-place car, but unfortunately, that is where we ended up.”

Chase Elliott – Finished ninth: We had a flat tire there on one of those first cautions, and it kind of got us behind a little bit, but we were hovering right there kind of at the edge of the top 10 inside or outside depending upon the restarts and what not.  I felt like we finished about where we deserved.”

Jamie McMurray — Finished 10th: “Yeah, we had a really good car.  I struggled to pass people, and I had about 10 instances where I was a half a car length from clearing somebody, and I lost four or five positions, but we had a really good car. I feel like every week we keep getting a little bit better and super happy with the way we ran today.”

Aric Almirola – Finished 11th: “Man, I hate it for my guys. We had such a fast Ford Fusion. I’m proud of our team, and I’m looking forward to coming back to the track at Sonoma.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished 12th: “We had a really fast car. We just didn’t get to show it. Got stuck on the bottom line all but one restart and just – we just had a very good car. Just never got to get up there and race and show it and that’s frustrating, but can’t help the weather.”

William Byron – Finished 13th: “Yeah, I think that is the best car we have had this year.  We were able to run top seven or top eight.  We still need to work on a few things with the front of our car, but I think overall we really had a good balance and really just seemed to hold on pretty good.  I wanted some longer runs, but it was a pretty good race for us.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 14th: “What a wild race! It was crazy racing in the rain like that. I couldn’t even see out of my windshield because of the rain drops. Overall, we had a solid run in our Dow Salutes Veterans Camaro ZL1. By the end of Stage 2, we had one of the fastest cars on the track. We just lacked the track position. When the rain really started coming down hard, that ended the race. Our team is still trending in the right direction. We just need a little bit more to compete with the next group of cars.”

Erik Jones — Finished 15th: “We were just trying to maximize our day. Obviously, I didn’t think we had a car that was capable of winning the race, so we were just trying to do the best we could and have a solid week. It is what it is. I don’t know that we have anything for them right now, but we’re working hard to catch them and we’ll hopefully be better here soon.”

AJ Allmendinger – Finished 17th: “We maximized the day with our No. 47 Camaro. It was a tough weekend with track conditions because of the weather, and we didn’t get to have final practice on Saturday. For the race, the guys really worked on our car. We’re getting more speed out of them. On the 47 side, we’re working on having better practices, and we’re putting our heads together better and focusing on the conditions of the race. Last week and this week, I feel like our cars have been a lot more competitive. Overall, today we struggled in dirty air (traffic), but in clean air the car was pretty fast. That’s just the way it goes at Michigan. It’s something to go into the off weekend with and on to Sonoma (Raceway). We wished we had more time to gain more spots, but the rain finally got us.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 21st: “What a crazy weekend with Michigan weather. I’m glad we were able to get this race in today for all of the fans, but I’m disappointed that we didn’t get to finish it. I felt good about the balance of our Twisted Tea Camaro ZL1 after practice on Saturday, so I was confident going into today. The car was pretty good at the start of the race, but it was just too aero-tight in traffic. My crew chief Matt Borland made great adjustments throughout the day, and they really woke our car up in the second stage and what little we got to run of the final stage. We were knocking on the door of the top 20, so I really wish we could have gotten the whole thing in. I know that with the extra time to make adjustments and pick away at the cars in front of us that we could have brought home a top-20 finish. I’m proud of the work this team puts in each and every week. They did a great job today, and I’m looking forward to heading to Sonoma with them after the much-deserved off weekend.”

Ryan Newman — Finished 22nd: “Rain certainly played a big role in strategizing for this race. Early on we raced in the top 10, but as rain approached we opted for four fresh tires in hopes of making it to the end of Stage 2 in a better scenario. Instead, we realized our car did not respond well in traffic and dirty air. It pretty much bogged us down and prevented our Camaro ZL1 from making up the ground we had anticipated gaining. Then the rain finally came to end the race. It has been a tough go for us of late. Here’s hoping the off weekend will allow us to recharge and get this bad luck monkey off our back.”

David Ragan — Finished 38th: “I wish (Bubba Wallace) wasn’t able to drive away because he just kind of ran in over his head and wrecked us. You will have that sometimes. Guys make mistakes, and he made a mistake. It is unfortunate. I feel like I car was going to be OK. We made some good adjustments to our Ford for today’s race, and I was going to race hard to try to get to halfway. It is just one of those days and we will move on.”

Results, Xfinity point standings after Michigan

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Rain helped deliver Austin Dillon a win in Saturday’s Xfinity race at Michigan International Speedway.

It is his first win in his last 26 Xfinity starts.

Dillon won over Daniel Hemric, Cole Custer, Ryan Reed and Paul Menard.

Click here for race results.

Points

Elliott Sadler has a 41-point lead over Cole Custer after finishing 30th. It is his first finish outside the top 10 this season.

Completing the top five is Daniel Hemric (-49), Tyler Reddick (-55) and Christopher Bell (-72).

Click here for the full point standings.