NASCAR writer for NBCSports.com. Former Sporting News intern. Graduated from IUPUI in Indianapolis with a master in sports journalism in 2014 and from Arkansas State University in 2013 with a degree in Journalism.
Originally from Lewisville, Texas, now in Fort Worth.
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When NASCAR returns to Sonoma Raceway June 21-23, it will do so to compete on a slightly different road course than what they’ve competed on since 1998.
For the track’s 50th anniversary, it will return to its original 12-turn, 2.52-mile circuit.
That utilizes the “Carousel” portion of the track, a sweeping downhill corner from Turn 4 down through Turns 5 and 6 to the facility’s longest straightaway before reaching the Turn 7 hairpin.
With the reintroduction of the “Carousel,” Sonoma is introducing a new area for fans to enjoy that area of the track.
The track has rebranded the peninsula between Turns 1 and 6 as “The Point.” This area offers up-close views of both corners, as well as a direct perspective of the start/finish line and flag stand.
“The Point” will be upgraded with a 1,550-square-foot Humboldt Redwood shade structure, more than 700 feet of stand-up bars along the fence line and new food and beverage locations. Access to the area is free to all fans, and terrace seating is available on the hillside adjacent to Turn 1.
Ryan Sieg’s crew chief shares secrets to early success in Xfinity Series
What started off as a pleasant surprise this year has become the norm for Ryan Sieg Racing in the Xfinity Series.
Through eight races, Ryan Sieg and his No. 39 Chevrolet have yet to finish worse than 12th.
The team based just outside of Atlanta, Georgia, has an average finish of 8.6, sixth-best among series regulars.
Heading into the second off-weekend of the year for the Xfinity Series, Sieg is probably still cleaning up from the Larry’s Hard Lemonade shower he received after he placed fifth last Friday at Richmond.
According to veteran crew chief Shane Wilson, the second non-superspeedway top five of Sieg’s career was made possible by what Sieg didn’t do a month earlier at ISM Raceway in Phoenix.
By not tearing up their short-track car at Phoenix, it allowed the team to take that car’s setup and add Richmond-specific tweaks that “worked out pretty good,” Wilson said Tuesday night on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Late Shift.”
Sieg has kept his cars clean so far, finishing on the lead lap in every race but one (Bristol, 12th) and earning five top 10s. That’s the most in his seven-year, 133-race Xfinity career.
Two weeks before Richmond, Sieg captured the first stage win of his career by not pitting late in Stage 2 at Texas Motor Speedway.
What Wilson has accomplished with the family owned team is a product of a late union and a “big departure” from what Wilson was used to just a few years ago with Richard Childress Racing.
Since then, Wilson wakes up every Monday around 3:45 a.m. at his home in the Charlotte area and drives around 200 miles to the team’s shop in Sugar Hill, Georgia.
“Most times I get home by Wednesday night and then we go race,” Wilson said. “That’s kind of been my schedule so far. A little here, a little there. I chase parts in the Charlotte area, Mooresville some days. It gets me home a little quicker. There’s a few of us that make the trip down here and they have a nice little, kind of like a college dorm up above the shop and some of us stay there. It’s been fun. It’s different, it’s fun and it’s been challenging.”
Another part of Sieg’s surprise performance this year are the cars he’s been keeping unscathed. The team bought three new cars from RCR in the offseason.
“We had the ECR engine deal and it was good year to buy cars from RCR because they downsized from numerous Xfinity cars to a single car,” Wilson said. “I feel like we got good stuff.
“It’s a good relationship. The Siegs bought or leased engines from RCR for many years ever since they’ve been racing in the Truck Series. So they’re a good engine customer to ECR, bought a lot of chassis from Richard. That’s kind of where it stops. There’s a few different tiers that you can get nowadays and we don’t get simulation or any kind of parts tracking or the database or anything like that.
“Chevrolet helps us with a few tools. We have what we need and we don’t have a whole lot extra, but we have enough to compete.”
Wilson said recruiting talent to help out the small team is made easier with fewer Xfinity teams.
But he’s not just getting help from the North Carolina and Georgia areas.
“I got a good friend of mine doing our shocks now and shipped some more of those up to him in Vermont,” Wilson said.
Wilson said the experience reminds him of the days “when we volunteered and helped out our best friend.”
“Ryan has some experience, so he’s very helpful,” Wilson added. “His feedback is good now that we have current cars, good engines. More people working on it. We’re able to put up more of a fight at the race track.”
New Hampshire Motor Speedway announces fan improvements
New Hampshire Motor Speedway has announced a number of improvements intended to enhance the fan experience for its July 19-21 race weekend, headlined by the Cup Series’ Foxwoods Resort Casino 301.
The additions include a new pre-race setup, infield and Turn 3 camping, Infield Experience, more drink rails and a new Fan Zone layout.
Following driver introductions for the Cup race, the entire field will walk the pre-race stage, take a parade lap around the track and then will walk the red carpet before entering their cars.
The Cup cars will be gridded in a new location on the Turn 1 side of the start/finish line.
For the first time, fans can now reserve a campsite in the infield behind pit road. A limited number of infield camping spots are available and include water and power hookups plus pre-race pit passes, Xfinity Series garage passes and grandstand access to watch the race.
A new camping area has been added to Turn 3. The speedway removed the backstretch billboards to create an area that will allow fans to be just a few steps from the action.
Fans who don’t have a camper, but still want infield access can purchase the Infield Experience. Located just behind pit road, the Infield Experience offers fans the opportunity to enjoy hospitality while being right in the center of the action. This includes access to a private tent by the start/finish line, viewing areas in Turns 2 and 4, pre-race pit passes, driver appearances, catered luncheon and more.
Drink Rails Added
Due to the popularity of the add-on last year in section NO, row 49, more drink rails will be added throughout the Main Grandstand. This will give fans more seating space and leg room with cooler or bag storage underneath the drink rail and a spot for food and beverages that will not affect sightlines. Additionally, a drink rail will be added across the top of the Main Grandstand and provide fans with a standing area to move around while enjoying the race. As an added convenience, NHMS partner, Levy, will vend snacks such as peanuts, ice cream sandwiches and beer throughout the grandstand area so fans don’t miss on-track action.
New Fan Zone Layout
The Fan Zone, located across from the infield tunnel, is home to games, activities, displays and all of the off-track action on race weekend. In an effort to eliminate vehicle traffic driving through this area and to make it safer for the fans, the speedway has created a new perimeter road. This road will run along the outside of the Fan Zone creating a large common area in the center for fans to socialize and interact with the racing themed displays.
Kaulig Racing ‘slowly’ building to two full-time cars in Xfinity
That plan is being executed “slowly on purpose,” according to team president Chris Rice, but it is being built with the intention of the Xfinity Series team fielding two full-time cars in 2020.
That plan, which involves fielding the No. 10 Chevrolet in select races this year, is being helped by multiple drivers, including Elliott Sadler.
Sadler competed in last Friday’s race at Richmond Raceway, the first of two scheduled starts this year, and finished 12th.
Rice, who appeared on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive” on Wednesday, explained how Sadler came to be involved with the team a year after his retirement from full-time racing and how a second car is helping rookie Justin Haley.
“I’m very good friends with Elliott,” said Rice. “Lived with Elliott. We still talk on a daily basis.”
Sadler came to Rice in the weeks before he announced his retirement from full-time racing last year. He let Rice know he had a sponsor, Nutrien Ag Solutions, that “I’ve got to do something else with it.”
“It’s a perfect fit for Ross Chastain,” Rice said. “Elliott is giving back like what was given to him with Dale Jarrett with Ross Chastain. He’s doing kind of the same thing. … So it just worked out perfectly.”
Chastain competed for Kaulig in the season-opener at Daytona, leading 23 laps and finishing 13th.
While Chastain competes mainly for JD Motorsports in Xfinity, he will make his second of four starts with Kaulig Racing next weekend at Talladega. He’ll return to the No. 10 at Chicagoland Speedway (June 29) and Texas Motor Speedway (Nov. 2).
But the No. 10 effort doesn’t stop with Chastain or Sadler, who makes his second start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Sept. 14). Austin Dillon will make a second start in the car at Charlotte (May 25).
Everything done with the No. 10 is done with the intention of helping Haley, who Rice said has a two-year deal with Kaulig to drive the No. 11 Chevrolet. Through eight races with crew chief Nick Harrison, the rookie has six top 10s and a best finish of seventh twice.
Kaulig fields its cars with technical assistance from Richard Childress Racing. Kaulig is based in RCR’s Welcome, North Carolina campus.
“I think it’s a challenge for anybody when you don’t go each and every week and you’re kind of sporadic,” Rice said. “We have built our program slowly on purpose.
“We want to be ready when we go to the race track. We want that car to be helpful to the 11 car. We don’t want it to take away from the 11 car. That’s what we do. … It’s not two teams. It’s one team building two cars and that’s the way we work on them in the shop. Everybody works on everything. We have enough equipment to do it, we have enough stuff to do it, we have enough people, so it’s not that difficult. Just racing each and every week helps you to get into the swing of things.”
Rice, who was crew chief on the No. 11 for its first three years in the series, said the team puts an emphasis on people when putting together its No. 10 operation.
“Can you get the quality people and the people that you need to be able to mix in with the group that you already have?” Rice said. “Because if you get a bunch of people that do not get along, then it doesn’t work right. That’s in any business. I think it all revolves around people. I think about Stewart-Haas (Racing) and Hendrick (Motorsports) and those guys when they built those programs from one-car teams all the way up.”
This article has been corrected to state that Austin Dillon will compete in the May race in Charlotte, not the playoff race.