All-Star Race

NASCAR to introduce choose rule starting at Michigan

3 Comments

NASCAR announced Thursday it will implement the choose rule starting with this weekend’s races at Michigan International Speedway.

The Truck Series races Friday (6 p.m. ET on FS1) and the Cup Series holds a doubleheader, racing Saturday (4 p.m. ET on NBCSN) and Sunday (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

The choose rule allows drivers to pick which lane they restart when a race resumes from a caution, with drivers able to secure better track position or restart in the preferred lane. It will be used in all races except those held on road courses and superspeedways (Daytona and Talladega).

With the Xfinity Series competing at Road America this weekend and on the Daytona road course next weekend, the choose rule won’t be used by the series until its Aug. 22-23 races at Dover.

The rule made its NASCAR national series debut in the July 15 All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway and was warmly received by drivers.

Drivers chose their lanes on the lap before the restart when they drove to the right or left of an orange cone symbol painted on the track just beyond the start-finish line.

“Considering feedback from teams, drivers and fans, NASCAR has implemented these changes to enhance competition as we approach the playoffs,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, in a press release. “We received nothing but positive comments from the drivers on the choose rule following the All-Star Race, and felt it was an important addition to the restart procedure.

“I think the choose rule’s been needed for a long time,” Chase Elliott said after winning the All-Star Race. “I think it should be that way every week. I don’t think there’s really a reason to not have it. There’s no reason to me why you shouldn’t have the choice or you should be automatically told where you’re going to line up when one lane has an obvious advantage, just based on where you come off pit road. Life ain’t fair I guess, but just makes way more sense to put it in our hands and it either works out for you or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t work out, then it’s your own fault and not luck of the draw and where you come off pit road.”

When asked about the choose rule Thursday, Joey Logano was enthusiastic.

“Finally,” Logano said. “I’ve been looking for this for years. I’ve brought it up in meetings for years and to see it kind of come into action at Bristol is something that I thought went really smooth. It was kind of exciting and interesting to see the decisions that drivers made and it was different every time. If you do that at Bristol, what’s it look like at Michigan?  … There’s a lot of questions that kind of come along with that on what it is and there might be some races where it looks identical to what it is right now where third is on the inside and fourth is on the outside. That can happen. .. It definitely adds another piece to the strategy and even more importantly it has everyone not doing the whole stopping at the end of pit road and letting a car go by because, for one, it’s not safe to stop at the end of pit road for anyone jumping over the wall and having cars swerve like that.

“But, two, that’s not racing. The goal should be in front of whatever car is in front of you, not let one go at the end of pit road so you can have the outside lane or the inside lane. That’s backwards. You don’t want to do that, so we can get past that. Every time we’d try to count cars like that someone would have a penalty anyway, so it never worked for me. You’d always let one go and then the car in front of you has an uncontrolled or a speeding penalty and you’re like,’ C’mon!’ So, it gets rid of all that. That’s nice.”

Bubba Wallace All-Star bumper raises $20,034 for charity

1 Comment

July 29 Update: Front Row Motorsports announced that one of its sponsors, carparts.com, made the winning bid for Bubba Wallace‘s front bumper from the July 15 All-Star Open, with the proceeds going to Motor Racing Outreach.

The team also announced that the compnay would make an additional $20,043 donation to Victory Junction in honor of Wallace and Richard Petty Motorsports.

“We are proud and excited to be a participant in the NASCAR community,” said Lev Peker, CEO of CarParts.com, in a media release. “We felt that making the final bid allowed us to continue to do good for everyone in the community – and beyond. We’re proud to donate to Motor Racing Outreach on behalf of Front Row Motorsports and Michael McDowell and make an additional donation to Victory Junction on behalf of Richard Petty Motorsports and Bubba Wallace.”

Said Michael McDowell: “I have to thank our partner, CarParts.com for making such a generous impact to MRO, through The NASCAR Foundation, and to Victory Junction. It’s amazing to see the attention the auction got and what an impact we’ve all made. I must thank Bob Jenkins (owner) of Front Row Motorsports for having this idea and then letting us all put it together for such great causes.”

Said Wallace: “It’s like I said before, we’re making lemonade out of lemons. And now we’re making a lot of lemonade for the children at Victory Junction and that’s pretty cool. Thanks to CarParts.com for making this donation and creating a big win for everyone.”

Original story

How much is someone willing to pay for the torn front bumper off a Bubba Wallace race car that failed to finish an exhibition race?

Well, if it’s the front bumper Wallace deposited at Michael McDowell’s Front Row Motorsports hauler after the July 15 All-Star Open, someone is willing to pay $20,034.

That’s how much the bumper was auctioned for Monday on eBay. The identity of the buyer is not available.

The torn bumper from Wallace’s No. 43 Chevrolet was a result of a wreck after contact from McDowell’s No. 34 Ford at Bristol Motor Speedway. The All-Star Open was the final chance for drivers to qualify for the All-Star Race that night.

Front Row Motorsports teamed up with the NASCAR Foundation to auction the bumper. The proceeds will go to Motor Racing Outreach.

 

Chase Elliott All-Star win helps make up for some of season’s struggles

1 Comment

When he’s been good this season, Chase Elliott has been very good, with one win, seven top five and nine top-10 finishes. And now you can add his $1 million win in Wednesday’s NASCAR All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway to that list.

“To me, this is one of those prestigious events that the Cup Series only has,” Elliott said after his first career All-Star Race win. “You’re racing against the very best over recent times and anybody’s career that have locked themselves into this event. To beat the best I think is always special.”

But even with the excitement of Wednesday’s win, Elliott was quick to point out that he and his team have also struggled this season – including six finishes of 20th or worse.

“I feel like I needed to hit the reset button, not overthink things, do what I feel is right,” Elliott said. “That’s a hard thing to do all the time. You try to get better, you try to learn. A lot of times you can take yourself down a road, this or that, that may not necessarily be benefitting you.

“But we all want to improve. I certainly have room for improvement. Tonight was a great night for us, but I still think I can do better and there’s areas I can improve on. I’m going to keep working on that.”

In addition to the winner’s check going a long way toward helping his wallet, Elliott was happy to have fans back in the stands. The racetrack capped admission at 30,000 fans — and The Associated Press estimated 20,000 attended —  but it was still the country’s largest crowd at a sporting event since the COVID-19 pandemic halted U.S. sports four months ago.

“To me, tonight felt like an event again,” Elliott said. “I feel like we’ve been missing that piece for a couple months. I mean, NASCAR is built on the fans. Once the race starts, it’s hard to engage with them because you can’t hear them. Before a race, the atmosphere was energetic again. I felt like the vibe was back.

“I felt like that fire and intensity in me was back even more so than it has been, a piece that had been missing. I think that’s driven by the people, the cars pulling in, the prerace parties and everything that you see.”

Elliott saw that fan excitement up close, admitting he “snuck up” into the grandstands to watch the All-Star Open, which preceded the main event.

“I’m looking around, seeing all these kids and families, people wearing their respective drivers, a lot of 9 gear,” he said. “You don’t realize how much impact you have on people you never met, you never will meet, who genuinely want to see me do well and they don’t even know me. It’s pretty dang cool to experience that.

“I felt like I had a special night sitting up there with them watching that Open from the grandstands, really seeing and getting back to the roots of what this sport is built on. Then to engage with them after the race, to me it made it mean that much more.”

The All-Star win helped Elliott make up for his disappointing 23rd-place finish last weekend at Kentucky Speedway.

But he feels some semblance of redemption to give Hendrick Motorsports its series-record 10th All-Star Race win. And Elliott joins father Bill as the only Cup drivers to win the All-Star Race when it was held somewhere other than Charlotte Motor Speedway. The elder Elliott won the exhibition event when it was held in 1986 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“Any race is hard to win, but this is a special race to win, something that locks you in the All‑Star Race for life,” he said. “That’s extremely special to join dad.”

Elliott’s crew chief, Alan Gustafson, had one regret after the race.

“I certainly wish this was a points race,” Gustafson said. “We’ve had a couple races, a stretch, that haven’t been the greatest for us. … That’s the way it goes sometimes, you just don’t get the finishes that you feel like you deserve. That’s certainly the case at Indianapolis (11th) and Kentucky (23rd) and the first Pocono (25th). We have some points to make up.”

Elliott is fourth in the standings, but he’s 100 points behind series leader Kevin Harvick.

Wednesday’s race was the second leg of a string that will see Cup teams compete in four races in 11 days. Next up are Texas (this Sunday) and Kansas (July 23), then there are nine days off before returning to action at New Hampshire on August 2.

“To be honest with you, Texas and Loudon aren’t two of our better tracks,” Gustafson acknowledged. “Those tracks we’ve circled to work hard on and try to improve. I feel like we can. I think we learned some things from Kentucky we can take to Texas. We’re looking forward to putting that to use. Loudon is a place we need to work on. We’ve had some decent runs there. I wouldn’t say we’ve got that one circled as one of our favorites.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Winners and losers at Bristol All-Star Race

1 Comment

WINNERS

Chase ElliottScores what he considers his first signature win with his first All-Star victory and the sport’s most popular driver did so in front of the largest gathering of fans at a U.S. sporting event since March. “To me tonight felt like an event again. I feel like we’ve been missing that piece for a couple months. It just felt really good to get NASCAR back. I mean, NASCAR is built on the fans.” 

Kyle BuschFinished second. He’s still winless in Cup in points races and non-points races but this was a step in the right direction for a team that normally has won by this point in the season.

Clint Bowyer He won the fan vote and got into the All-Star Race. That would the highlight of his night, as he finished 15th.

LOSERS

Bubba WallaceWrecked after contact from Michael McDowell early in the Open and never got a chance to make the All-Star Race. A frustrated Wallace said after the incident: “Just disrespect.”

Jimmie JohnsonHis final All-Star appearance was forgettable, finishing 17th. Of the three cars he placed ahead of, two were in crashes.

Chip Ganassi Racing — Matt Kenseth finished 18th and Kurt Busch finished 20th in the 20-car field Wednesday night.

Choose Rule took ‘funny business’ out of All-Star Race restarts

Leave a comment

The first NASCAR All-Star Race held at Bristol Motor Speedway is in the books and so is the first major NASCAR event with the Choose Rule.

The Cup Series got its first taste of drivers being able to choose which lane they restarted during Wednesday night’s race at the half-mile track.

Drivers chose their lanes on the lap before the restart when they drove to the right or left of an orange cone symbol painted on the track just beyond the start-finish line.

After the experiment, drivers asked about the rule had positive reactions.

“I think the thing that it does is it just takes all the question out of where everybody is and who is where,” Kevin Harvick said. “When you get to that line everybody has already made their choice and there’s no funny business of people trying to start in a different lane or do something that they didn’t choose to do. I think that went really well and, for the most part, I don’t think there were any issues.”

The most enthusiastic support came from race winner Chase Elliott.

“I think the choose rule’s been needed for a long time,” he said. “I think it should be that way every week. I don’t think there’s really a reason to not have it. There’s no reason to me why you shouldn’t have the choice or you should be automatically told where you’re going to line up when one lane has an obvious advantage, just based on where you come off pit road. Life ain’t fair I guess, but just makes way more sense to put it in our hands and it either works out for you or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t work out, then it’s your own fault and not luck of the draw and where you come off pit road.”

Elliott’s crew chief, Alan Gustafson, said his team had gone over a “statistical analysis” of the effectiveness of each lane beforehand. He said other than once, Elliott went “against the grain” when it came to lane choice.

“We certainly leave that up to him,” Gustafson said. “He knows what the car’s driving like and what the opportunities are. I don’t think it’s a just absolute monumental change to the sport, but … I’ve been in this situation a lot of times where it’s just really frustrating when you get taken out of an opportunity to race for a win because of a lane.

“There are some tracks, and (Bristol) is one of them, the lanes can get huge amounts of disparity and it kind of sucks when you’re second or third and you get stuck on the bottom and you end up seventh or eighth and you don’t get a chance to race for the win. I do think it gives an opportunity to make it a little bit more fair for the competitors, but I don’t think it’s going to be a monumental shift. It’s probably going to affect a row or two, which you saw tonight.”

After the end of the first stage, Harvick restarted first in the outside lane while Ryan Blaney restarted second on the inside. That was made possible by Elliott going from second to fourth to restart on the outside thanks to the choose rule.

After Stage 2, Blaney did not pit and assumed the lead. Brad Keselowski was first off pit road thanks to taking two tires and chose the outside lane behind Blaney instead of starting on the front row on the inside lane. Elliott was next to choose and selected the front row inside spot, restarting second.

Kyle Busch, who finished second, thought the experiment “worked well.”

“It was kind of interesting how it played out, how a few guys took to it,” Busch said. “Seemed like a lot of times guys were restarting kind of in their positions, maybe one off here or there, but not a whole lot different. There was a time where I think there was like four or five guys that chose the outside, one guy on the inside. I went ahead and took that inside spot. I think I netted out back even again.

“The inside here tonight, for whatever reason, even though the inside is the preferred groove once you get going, it’s such a detriment when you fire off. I don’t know why. It’s just weird. I thought it worked. … Maybe we’ll see it happen more.”