Kyle Busch aims for third straight Richmond win

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If anyone should be happy about the current Cup schedule, it’s Kyle Busch.

The month of April has Busch getting to visit his two of his best tracks in consecutive weekends.

A week after earning his eighth victory at Bristol Motor Speedway – the most victories he has at any Cup track – Busch will get the chance to follow it up at Richmond Raceway.

The .750-mile track has been the site of six of Busch’s 54 Cup wins, the most for Busch at a track after Bristol. Now, Busch will try to win his third straight Richmond race.

Should he do that, he’d be the fourth Cup driver to win three or more races in a row at Richmond and the first since Bobby Allison (1982-83).

Busch would join Allison, David Pearson (three wins, 1965-66) and Richard Petty’s seven in a row from 1970-73.

In this race last year, Busch started from the rear for unapproved adjustments and led 32 laps to claim the win.

“I always looking forward to Richmond,” Busch said in a media release. “Obviously, last year was really good for us there, even though we didn’t have the best car there in the spring, (crew chief) Adam (Stevens) and the pit crew guys were able to put me in a good position to win and we capitalized on that, as well. Certainly want to keep the momentum rolling from last week and really the start of the season for us, keep that top-10 streak going, too.”

Busch has finished in the top 10 in all eight races this year, something not done since Terry Labonte in 1992.

At Richmond, Busch has one finish outside the top 10 in his last seven starts.

Busch said Richmond is “getting a little trickier” due to the combination of its aging race surface and the current Cup car.

“The consensus at Richmond is, of course, just trying to get your car to turn, but also having really good forward bite,” Busch said. “You have to be able to get off the corners at Richmond. You have to have good brakes, as well, and be able to turn the center. All of it correlates.

“Everything you want as a racecar driver, you’ve got to have (the) most of all of it and, if you don’t, then you better hope you have more forward bite than the rest of them. That’s sort of the equation of Richmond. It’s a fun place to race. It’s really cool. As a driver, you wish it could widen out and give you more options of being able to run around in different grooves, but it hasn’t shown us that the last couple of years.”

While Busch will attempt to earn his fourth win of the year, he’ll also look to continue the dominance of Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske to open the season.

The two teams are the only organizations to earn wins this year, with JGR claiming five to Penske’s three.

Their command of victory lane also stretches over Richmond.

JGR and Penske have combined to win eight of the last 10 races there.  JGR has five wins and Penske has three.

Video celebrates 50th anniversary of Dover International Speedway

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Gearing up to celebrate its 50th anniversary during the NASCAR triple-header weekend May 3-5, Dover International Speedway has unveiled a new video celebrating its golden jubilee.

The 14-minute video, which includes interviews with three NASCAR champions talking about their experience at The Monster Mile, offers some of the biggest highlights from five decades of action at the 1-mile concrete oval about 90 miles south of Philadelphia.

Among elements in the video (click here to view):

Footage of Dover’s first NASCAR race, the Mason-Dixon 300, from July 6, 1969.

Interviews with NASCAR champions Bobby Allison, Jimmie Johnson and Richard Petty, the top three drivers in all-time Dover victories, and highlights of their top Monster Mile triumphs.

The first NASCAR Cup Series race following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, won by Dale Earnhardt Jr. in front of a sea of patriotic fans.

Coverage of the “Miller Genuine Draft 500,” from June 4, 1995, Dover’s first NASCAR Cup Series race on its new concrete track surface.

We’re proud of the Monster Mile’s place in auto racing history and its role as an economic driver for Delaware,” said Mike Tatoian, Dover International Speedway’s president and CEO. “We appreciate Bobby, Jimmie and Richard taking the time to sit down with us and relive their Dover memories. We loved taking a walk down Memory (Victory) Lane with them.”

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When the ‘Alabama Gang’ took on the Indy 500

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BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – Times have changed in these parts. In a state known for college football and NASCAR, it’s college basketball and IndyCar racing that will be the main attraction this weekend in this state that takes pride in its Southern culture.

Nearly 50 years ago, it was much different.

There were stock car tracks all over the state of Alabama and the most famous of all stock car racers were known as “The Alabama Gang.”

It consisted of Red Farmer, a local stock car hero who continued to race well into his 80s. He’s still a legend at the disputed age of 91. Nobody knows for sure, how old Farmer is, but the International Motorsports Hall of Fame lists his birth year as 1928.

But it was Bobby Allison and his younger brother Donnie (pictured above), along with Hueytown, Alabama neighbor and NASCAR protégé Neil Bonnett that made “The Alabama Gang” something to fear.

When these drivers weren’t winning the Daytona 500 or the Southern 500 or the Talladega 500 or any of the other big-time races on the NASCAR schedule in the 1960s, ‘70s and ’80s, they were racing Late Model stock cars at Birmingham International Raceway and other tracks in the South and around the United States.

So as the NTT IndyCar Series takes over Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham for the 10th Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, let’s look back to when “The Alabama Gang” took on the Indianapolis 500.

To read the rest of Bruce Martin’s story, go to MotorSportsTalk 

‘If you need to throw down, throw down’: The 1979 Daytona 500 40 years later

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This weekend’s Daytona 500 means “one of the high points of NASCAR” for Richard Petty is getting its yearly workout on the highlight reels.

That is the end of the 1979 Daytona 500, a race that helped launch NASCAR into the mainstream and has been a defining moment over the last 40 years.

With much of the East Coast trapped indoors due to a snow storm, a large audience tuned in to the first live, flag-to-flag broadcast of the “Great American Race” on CBS.

“Wasn’t but three TV stations at that particular time,” Richard Petty said Friday at Daytona International Speedway. “If you was going to watch TV, then the racing was probably what people were watching.”

With Ken Squier calling the action, viewers saw race leaders Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough wreck on the backstretch, half a lap from the checkered flag.

Petty, who was running in third, assumed the lead and won his sixth Daytona 500. But as Petty drove to Victory Lane, Squier jumped in with an important news bulletin: “And there’s a fight between Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison! The tempers are overflowing, they’re angry, they know they have lost. And what a bitter defeat.”

The fight in the Turn 3 grass, which included Donnie Allison’s brother, Bobby Allison, may have been bitter at the time, but proved immensely positive for fueling NASCAR’s growth.

“You come down to the last lap, you see the rednecks come out in the racing part of it,” Petty said. “It was a perfect storm the way it wound up, with the weather, the way the race ended. … It couldn’t have been a better footstep for NASCAR at that particular time.”

Four decades later, few Cup stars were even alive for that race. Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick were 3, Jamie McMurray was 2, Ryan Newman was 14 months old and Kurt Busch was born six months earlier.

What do some drivers who were born after 1979 think of the moment they’ve only known through highlights?

Here’s a few thoughts from Wednesday’s Daytona 500 Media Day.

Denny Hamlin (Born November 1980) – “I just see what every other person saw on TV. I’m always interested to hear how it all happened. When they cut away for a while talking to other drivers and commentating on things happening, they kind of caught it mid-fight. Who did the shoving first? I think it’s important because it really was the defining moment of when the biggest audience was watching NASCAR and so they latched onto that, and that was something people really loved.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (October 1987) – “It’s cool. If you need to throw down, throw down.”

Austin Dillon (April 1990) – “I’ve probably been seeing that clip for a long time since I’ve been watching a lot of Daytona 500s. I don’t know what my first clip would be, but I guess understanding it, understanding it and how important it was to our sport, I was probably 12, 13 when I really kind of got it, 14. …

“There’s a lot of things throughout history and sports that don’t pertain necessarily to the sport that were important to the sport. You know, it’s huge because it’s entertainment, and that’s what we’re trying to do is entertain fans, and the moment we get away from that, we lose our fans. We need to stay entertaining and that’s a part of it.”

Joey Logano (May 1990) – “That’s the biggest race of the year.  Whether it’s now or then, it was a big deal to win the Daytona 500 and it still will be, and it is. They play (the highlight) every year about five or six times, so I’m sure I was a little guy the first time I saw it.”

Kyle Larson (July 1992) – “I guess you see it in highlight films all the time. So I feel like that moment is something that helped grow NASCAR at the time. But yeah, when I drive through (the tunnel to the infield), I don’t think about the fight. But no, it was definitely a moment that will live on in NASCAR’s history.”

William Byron (November 1997) – “I’m so young, I wasn’t around for a lot of that. I guess, like, growing up watching honestly Jimmie (Johnson) and (crew chief) Chad (Knaus) win races at the 500, then watching Kevin Harvick win (in) 2007. Those are the races that stick in my mind.

“I’m trying to make memories of myself. It’s cool to see some of that stuff come around full circle.”

Some of the drivers were asked if it was possible for such a moment to happen again to the sport.

Hamlin said it “Definitely can.”

“Sometimes it happens in the motorhome lot, it’s not on the backstretch,” he said.

They also happen on pit road, as Larson pointed out.

Kyle Busch tried to punch Logano in the face a couple of years ago (at Las Vegas Motor Speedway), so yeah … it could happen.”

 

Restrictor-plate gamesmanship: Here’s how teams gained more speed

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Eyes dart and scan the surroundings. Satisfied we are alone, a grin emerges. Still, because of the sensitivity of the subject, the person speaks in a hushed tone. One does not loudly boast about outsmarting NASCAR inspectors.

But they do boast.

“Oh hell, I’ve got all kinds of stories.”

While NASCAR discourages rule breaking with more severe penalties — including the recent announcement that officials will disqualify any car that fails inspection after a race — the sport’s history and part of its charm stems from those who broke the rules.

This weekend’s Daytona 500 marks the final race with restrictor plates. Tapered spacers will control horsepower moving forward. And so closes a chapter of ingenuity by teams to find extra horsepower. The storytellers prefer to remain anonymous but are willing to share with NBC Sports their cat-and-mouse tales through the years with officials.

One person recalls a time in the 1990s in what was then called the Busch Series. This was back when nearly 10 cars would fail to qualify for the season-opening race. This particular team was in danger of failing to qualify.

The team’s luck changed when a garage veteran offered a tip on how to make more horsepower: Slip a couple of acrylic washer rings between the restrictor plate and the carburetor. That gap allowed more air to flow into the engine and create more horsepower.

“We got them in and our car qualified in the top 10 and we’re scared to death,” this person said. “We’re going to end up being checked (by NASCAR).

“We were hoping to be under the radar, come in around 20th or 25th and just be in the race and we’re being held and I’m like ‘Holy crap.’ ”

They were eventually waved by and didn’t have to go through inspection after qualifying. As they headed back to the garage, the driver told the crew member: “Make sure you get them out of there!”

They did. The team didn’t use the rings in the race because the draft was enough of an equalizer.

“Never did anything like that ever again,” the person said. “I’ve never shared that with anybody.”

The need for such creativity came after Bobby Allison’s car destroyed a section of fencing in the May 1987 race at Talladega Superspeedway. NASCAR sought to slow the cars to keep them from exceeding 200 mph and getting airborne. That led to the use of restrictor plates. They also were used for a time in what is now the Xfinity Series.

With an inspection process less stringent years ago than it is now, teams found ways to harness more horsepower despite the restrictor plates.

Sometimes it was quite elementary. One person recalled asking inspectors for permission to tighten a nut after the restrictor plate had been inspected.

“You would have a mark on the stud and you knew that (the mark) had to be at 12 o’clock and you would leave (the nut) at 10 o’clock,” they said. “You would turn it and it would leak air. It was like a tunnel (of air).”

Anything to get air into the engine.

“They were all talking about air leaks … like somehow leaving the carburetor loose or get back in there and loosening nuts because if you could raise the carburetor up, then you sucked air underneath it,” another person said.

Someone else talked of making the plates slide along the carburetor.

“As you cranked (the engine), the vacuum would pull it and it would give eight or nine horsepower,” the person said of the widened avenue of air to the engine. “Enough to haul ass.”

Another person talked about having a bit of sandpaper on a fingertip and rubbing the finger around the inside of each four rings to smooth them and allow more air to seep through the restrictor plate into the engine.

And another noted how they would “offset the center of the baseplate to the restrictor plate so it wasn’t lined up anymore and that created more airflow. You misaligned it by creating a special baseplate on the carburetor. There was no rule against it. … It was worth about seven horsepower. It was a really big advantage.

“Finally people figured out what you were doing, and they came up with a rule.”

As so often happened, rules were added and the game of getting additional air through the restrictor plate became more challenging through the years.

Still, what was done, makes for some entertaining stories.

“There are so many great stories.”