Paul Menard

Joey Logano on pole for Brickyard 400

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Joey Logano will start from the pole for Sunday’s Brickyard 400 (4 p.m. ET on NBC) thanks to a random draw.

Logano will be joined on the front row by Kurt Busch, who will make his 700th career Cup start.

The top five is completed by Alex Bowman, Jimmie Johnson and Aric Almirola.

Defending race winner Kevin Harvick will start 11th.

The pole-sitter has won the Brickyard 400 three times in the last seven years. Since 2010, only twice has the winner started outside the top 10: Paul Menard in 2011 (15th) and Kasey Kahne in 2017 (19th).

Rookie Christopher Bell will start 35th. It will be his sixth start of 32nd or worse in the last eight races.

The field was determined through a random draw of the following groups:

  • Positions 1-12: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
  • Positions 13-24: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
  • Positions 25-36: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
  • Positions 37-40: Open teams in order of owners points

Click here for the starting lineup.

NASCAR Cup Series at Indianapolis

Race Time: 4 p.m. ET Sunday

Track: Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana (2.5-mile speedway)

Length: 160 laps, 400 miles

Stages: Stage 1 ends on Lap 50. Stage 2 ends on Lap 100.

TV coverage: NBC

Radio: IMS Radio Network/Performance Radio Network (also SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Streaming: NBC Sports app (subscription required); goprn.com and SiriusXM for audio (subscription required)

Next Xfinity race: Saturday at Indianapolis road course (62 laps, 151.22 miles), 3 p.m. ET on NBC

Next Truck Series race: Saturday, July 11 at Kentucky (150 laps, 225 miles), 6 p.m. ET on FS1

Goodyear bringing new ‘robust’ tires for Martinsville night race

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On Wednesday night, the NASCAR Cup Series will do a first: race under the lights at Martinsville Speedway (7 p.m. ET on FS1).

For the event, Goodyear will bring new tire codes to the half-mile track. The construction of the tires – a result of a test at the track last year partially held at night – has been designed to optimize the acceleration, deceleration and handling needed on Martinsville’s flat, tight turns.

The teams that took part in the test were Team Penske (Ryan Blaney), Stewart-Haas Racing (Clint Bowyer) and Wood Brothers Racing (Paul Menard). This is the only track at which NASCAR teams will run either of these two tire codes. As on most NASCAR ovals 1 mile or less in length, teams will not run inner liners in their tires at Martinsville.

“Moving the first Martinsville race later in the schedule will have an impact on tires and the track’s ability to take rubber,” Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing, said in a media release. “Originally scheduled for May and now being held in June, ambient temperatures will be warmer, which will help the cars’ ability to lay rubber in the concrete corners. Even though this race will be held at night, track temperatures should be warmer than what we ‘normally’ have for this event. In addition to the concrete corners, Martinsville’s lack of banking, long straightaways and tight turns combine for the other challenges teams face. Drivers are hard on the brakes entering the corners and hard on the gas exiting, so our constructions have to be very robust in handling those conditions.”

Here’s the info on the tires being used at Martinsville:

Set limits: 10 sets for the race

Tire Codes: Left-side — D-4948; Right-side — D-4950

Tire Circumference: Left-side — 2,221 mm (87.44 in.); Right-side — 2,250 mm (88.58 in.)

Minimum Recommended Inflation: Left Front — 10 psi; Left Rear — 10 psi; Right Front — 23 psi; Right Rear — 22 psi

Matt DiBenedetto: Second-place finish in Las Vegas ‘surreal’

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In only his second race as driver of the Wood Brothers’ No. 21 Ford, Matt DiBenedetto had a shot at his first Cup Series win.

Instead, DiBenedetto settled for a second-place finish Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a result of a last-lap crash that froze the field and prevented him from taking a shot at race winner Joey Logano.

DiBenedetto, along with Logano, were among the drivers who stayed out of the pits before the final restart with two laps to go. They finished the race with 50-lap-old tires.

DiBenedetto matched his career-best finish in last year’s Bristol night race and earned the Wood Brothers’ best result since Paul Menard placed fifth at Michigan in 2018.

“This is all just too surreal,” DiBenedetto told Fox. “Tough to be that close, but, hey, this is only the second race of the season. So it was the strength of this team. It’s so cool to have the backing of all the people that allow me to drive this thing. It took so many people, Motorcraft, Quick Lane.

“To be driving this iconic car is so cool, Menards and Paul, I know you’re watching at home and proud and I can’t thank everyone in that whole family for this opportunity for it.”

Had DiBenedetto gotten a chance to battle Logano for the lead on the last lap and won, it would have been the Wood Brothers’ 100th Cup win.

“This team is phenomenal,” DiBenedetto said. “There’s no doubt about that. I was a little worried about our car, though. It wasn’t a picture-perfect day. We had to make huge adjustments and our communication was great from me screaming really loose and us being off to start and then dialing it in little by little every pit stop, and then getting it there at the end where I was comfortable staying out because I knew the car had great speed.

“It was best on the long runs and we just needed a little track position because we were a little stuck in the dirty air.”

Friday 5: Daytona 500, Speedweeks prove costly to teams

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Crashes collected an alarmingly high number of cars in the Daytona 500 for a fourth consecutive year.

Thirty-two of the 40 cars — 80% of the field — in this year’s Daytona 500 were involved in a crash based on NASCAR’s race report and video review.

In the last four years, 81.3% of the cars in the season-opening Cup race were involved in an accident. 

Despite the number of cars damaged in Daytona 500 crashes, Ryan Newman is the only Cup driver taken to a hospital in the past four years. He was released from Halifax Medical Center on Wednesday but will not race this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, ending his streak of 649 consecutive Cup starts that dates to his rookie season in 2002.

While there is an expectation of cars wrecking in the sport’s most prestigious race because of the tight racing, it hasn’t always been this extreme.

From 2013-16, the percentage of cars involved in an accident in the Daytona 500 was 42.6% — nearly half the percentage of cars damaged in crashes the past four years. 

Among the reasons for the dramatic increase is that more crashes begin toward the front of the field.

The 19-car crash in Monday’s Daytona 500 started when a shove from Joey Logano pushed Aric Almirola into Brad Keselowski’s car. Keselowski, running second, was turned into the outside wall in front of the field.

A nine-car crash in overtime started when Ross Chastain, running fourth, got out of shape after contact with Ryan Preece’s car and came up the track into Preece and Logano.

And Newman’s crash coming to the checkered flag happened while he led.

In 2019, 21 cars were involved in a crash with less than 10 laps left in the scheduled distance. It started when Matt DiBenedetto, running fifth, turned in front of the field after contact from behind by Paul Menard.

The 2018 race featured a 12-car crash that started when Kurt Busch, running third, got hit from behind and spun in front of the field, forcing the race to go to overtime.

In the 2017 race, 17 cars crashed after Jimmie Johnson, running third, was hit and spun in front of the field.

Blocking also has been cited for an increase in incidents. As to what is considered fair when blocking, Martin Truex Jr. said a few days before this year’s race: Well, I think lately anything is fair. It tends to cause a lot of crashes, too, but it seems like that’s par for the course in speedway racing these days is just block until you crash and go to the next one.”

All the cars crashed in this year’s Daytona 500 pushed the total number of vehicles in a wreck during Speedweeks to 102 for the Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series.

It’s the third time in the last eight years the number of damaged vehicles exceeded 100 for Speedweeks.

Included in that total were all 18 cars in the Busch Clash. Winner Erik Jones was listed in three crashes in that exhibition race.

2. Xfinity drivers get help

This season marks the first full season Xfinity drivers will be able to look at some data from competitors, much like Cup drivers do.

“I think it changes the game, especially for the rookies,” Chase Briscoe told NBC Sports.

Xfinity drivers could look at the data in the last two races of last season, Phoenix and Miami. Briscoe said the technology, which translates data to virtual effects via live tracking of cars, helped him at Phoenix.

“I’ve always told everybody that Phoenix is my worst racetrack,” Briscoe said. “For me to be able to have SMT (sports media technology) and see what guys do different (helps). We don’t have the SMT that the Cup guys have, we don’t have throttle, brake or steering. We only have GPS so we can literally only see what the car is doing line-wise and acceleration-wise. I can’t see what Kyle Busch is doing inside his race car, but I can see where his car is line-wise compared to mine and where he enters the corner.

“I know my crew chief is super excited about it. He wants me to sit down in the shop and watch two hours of the track we’re going to before we go that weekend. It’s definitely going to be a tool that we’re going to use a lot of.”

Briscoe says the technology looks like a video game, and he can change the camera angle to study another competitor.

Brandon Jones said a key is that the team can look at the data live, so his crew chief can help him change lines during a race. At Miami last year, Jones was told by his team he wasn’t driving deep enough in the corner based on the data they were looking at.

“That gave me a thought to say, hey, this is what we’ve got to do to get the car to able to do that, so it’s going to help me with adjustments,” Jones said.

3. On to Las Vegas

Among the key storylines this weekend for Cup teams at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will be the performance of the Chevrolet teams with the new Camaro.

Changes were made from last year’s car to improve the aerodynamics. Chevrolet teams won 11 of 72 races in 2018-19 — its fewest wins in a two-year period since the manufacturer scored four victories in 1981-82. A Chevrolet has not made the championship Cup race since Jimmie Johnson won the 2016 title.

“I feel like last year Chevy came, they just missed the ball,” car owner Richard Petty said. “You know what I mean? They thought they had something good. 

“This year they corrected a lot of these mistakes. We hope they corrected it enough that we’re going to be competitive everywhere we go. I think from that standpoint, Chevrolet and all the Chevrolet people are really looking forward to making up for what we did last year.”

Chevrolet did win two races on 1.5-mile tracks last year (tracks the same size as Las Vegas). Alex Bowman won at Chicagoland Speedway, and Kurt Busch won at Kentucky Speedway.

4. Leaner driver

Ty Dillon says he’s lost more than 30 pounds since focusing on a workout program. He weighed 167 pounds before the season.

“I thought naively as a driver who had raced his whole life, as a Cup driver I didn’t really need to work out and take my physical (role) seriously,” said Dillon, who has former driver Blake Koch as a trainer. “In the past few years I’ve taken it serious for the first time. It has made me a better driver.”

Dillon, who is beginning his fourth season in Cup, admits: “I didn’t think I was heavy. I didn’t think I needed to workout. I just relied purely on my skill.

“I just feel different (now). I’m stronger, mentally stronger, more confident. You look back at those pictures, and you just see you’re just naive and young. You mature and grow as a person, and I think you start realizing what is important.”

5. Phoenix adjustment

Phoenix Raceway will have the PJ1 traction compound again applied to the track for next month’s races. That event marks the debut of the short track package for Cup that is intended to tighten the racing.

The traction compound will be applied in the corners but will be applied more along the driving line. Last fall, the traction compound was applied close to the wall. It will not be as high this time in the turns.

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Today’s Duels at Daytona: Start time, lineup and more

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The 40-car starting field for Sunday’s season-opening Daytona 500 will be set following tonight’s two Cup qualifying races at Daytona International Speedway.

The finishing orders of both races will determine what positions drivers will start in the 500. Pole sitter Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and front row counterpart Alex Bowman are both locked in to the 500 based upon last Sunday’s pole qualifying runs.

Two other drivers, Brendan Gaughan and Justin Haley are also locked in for being fastest in Sunday’s qualifying of the seven teams entered for the 500 without NASCAR charters. However, Gaughan and Haley still have to compete tonight to determine their 500 starting positions.

There are 43 teams entered for the 500, but three will go home after tonight.

Here is the information for tonight’s races:

(All times are Eastern)

START: Duel No. 1 — The command to start engines will be given at 7:08 p.m. by Jorge de la Osa, Executive VP, Bluegreen Vacations. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 7:20 p.m. Duel No. 2 — The command to start engines will be given by Dan LaJoie, grandfather of NASCAR Cup driver Corey LaJoie, approximately 12 minutes after the conclusion of Duel No. 1. The green flag is scheduled to wave at approximately 24 minutes after the conclusion of Duel No. 1.

PRERACE: The Cup garage opens at 3 p.m. The driver/crew chief meeting will be at 5:15 p.m. Driver introductions for both Duels are at 6:35 p.m. The invocation will be given at 7:01 p.m. by Pastor Sonny Gallman of the Central Baptist Church. The National Anthem will be performed at 7:02 p.m. by Melissa TenBroeck.

DISTANCE: Each race is 60 laps (150 miles) around the 2.5-mile oval.

TV/RADIO: FS1 will broadcast the races at 7 p.m. Motor Racing Network’s broadcast will begin at 6 p.m. and also can be heard on mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 77 degrees and a 2% chance of rain when the green flag drops for Duel No. 1.

LAST TIME: Kevin Harvick won last year’s Duel No. 1 followed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Paul Menard. Joey Logano won Duel No. 2, followed by Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola.

STARTING LINEUP:

2020 Duel No. 1 starting lineup

2020 Duel No. 2 starting lineup

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