Martinsville Speedway

What upcoming Cup playoff races NASCAR fans can attend

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Wednesday saw Kansas Speedway announce “up to 10,000” NASCAR fans will be able to attend its Oct. 18 Cup playoff race.

Eight Cup races remain in the season with Saturday’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway closing out the first round of the playoffs (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, not all tracks are allowing fans to attend.

Here are the fan policies for the remainder of the Cup Series playoffs.

 

Bristol Motor Speedway (Saturday)

Roughly 30,000 fans are expected. The track sold out its ticket availability. Fans will also be allowed for the Xfinity race.

 

Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Sept. 27)

To be determined.

 

Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 4)

Reduced number of fans.

 

Charlotte Roval (Oct. 11)

To be determined. The track’s proposal is being reviewed by North Carolina’s government.

 

Kansas Speedway (Oct. 18)

Limited number of fans.

 

Texas Motor Speedway (Oct. 25)

50% of capacity permitted.

 

Martinsville Speedway (Nov. 1)

To be determined.

 

Phoenix Raceway – Championship race (Nov. 8)

Limited number of fans for all three days.

NASCAR seeks solution for overheating drivers

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Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images
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NASCAR has made a rule change intended to keep Cup drivers cooler this weekend at Dover after heat become an issue last week on the Daytona road course.

NASCAR will allow Cup teams to remove about two-thirds of the right side window to help prevent drivers from overheating. If the change works, NASCAR may make this adjustments for other races.

Martin Truex Jr. raised concerns about how hot it was inside the car last weekend at Daytona.

“It was crazy hot,” he said. “I think probably without that break for lightning, a lot of guys wouldn’t have made it. It’s so hot in these things. I don’t know why we’re running a right‑side window at a road course. There’s just no airflow, none at all. 

Drawing that was sent to Cup teams allowing for an opening in the right side window of the car for Dover. (Image from NASCAR)

“I think if you talked to people that are at the track and they’re complaining about how hot it is outside the car and just to put it in perspective, when we get out of the car, that feels like air conditioning. I mean, I can’t tell you how hot it was in there today. Luckily feeling good after the race obviously, and was able to hold my own, but I just think there’s something we could do to make these things a little bit cooler.”

The National Weather Service reported that at 3:53 p.m. ET Sunday (about 30 minutes into the Cup race) the temperature at Daytona Beach International Airport, which is next to the track, was 92 degrees. The National Weather Service reported the heat index at that time there was 103 degrees.

When the race stopped for lighting at 4:53 p.m. ET, the National Weather Service reported the temperature was 89 degrees at the airport and a heat index of 99 degrees.

The heat has been a concern for drivers, Chris Buescher said this week.

“I would say two of the three hottest races I’ve ever been a part of have been this year with this Daytona race being one of them and Martinsville (in June) being another,” Buescher said in a Zoom session with media on Tuesday.

“The thing that has changed has been a right side window, so there’s pretty clear indication to me of what’s creating this heat that so many drivers are starting to be a little bit more vocal about because it’s almost excessive, so that’s been something that has been tough to deal with. … The heat’s been like 140-150 (degrees) and that’s where it really steps up, but I felt okay after the race (at Daytona). I mean, it was obviously hot and I was spent by all means, but plenty aware of my surroundings and not to the point where I was struggling. 

“I know that it was a situation where if that race would have been a whole lot longer, it very well could have been somebody had to start worrying about fluids and trying to cool off at the end.”

JJ Yeley stated on social media that he was overheated because his air conditioning unit failed last weekend at Daytona. He exited the car during the event.

Bubba Wallace: ‘People are wanting to stand up for what’s right in this world’

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Bubba Wallace knew when he spoke about Black Lives Matter that he would face responses that “all lives matter.”

Wallace, whose car Wednesday night at Martinsville Speedway had #BlackLivesMatter on it, explained in a media session Friday about the importance of Black Lives Matter, his form of protest, what’s next and more.

“There is a poster of a little girl that says, yes we said Black Lives Matter, no we did not say only Black Lives Matter,” Wallace said. “We know that all lives matter, but we are trying to make you all understand that Black Lives Matter, too. Too. T-o-o. It’s three letters that is left off that people don’t understand. Black Lives Matter, too.

“Families are worried about their kids going out and driving for the first time and getting pulled over and being killed. The African American community is so worried about that right now. We shouldn’t live like that. The African American community should not live like that. We’re trying to get other people to understand just how tough it is to live in this world right now.”

Bubba Wallace during the national anthem last weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Wallace also has spread his message by wearing an American Flag face covering and a T-shirt that states “I Can’t Breathe” and “Black Lives Matter” during pre-race ceremonies the past two races. “I can’t breathe” is what George Floyd said before he died May 25 after a since-fired Minneapolis police officer put his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes, 46 seconds. 

While other athletes have kneeled during the national anthem to protest social injustice perviously — NASCAR official Kirk Price, who served in the U.S. Army, kneeled while saluting the flag last weekend at Atlanta — Wallace has remained standing during the anthem the last two races.

Asked if he will kneel during the anthem, Wallace said he is studying the matter. NASCAR recently removed requirements on what team members must do during the national anthem, allowing for peaceful protest.

“I’m still looking up and reading on stuff and learning,” Wallace said. “Exactly what the message we are trying to push across, learn, and understand. I think the messages that I have been putting out there on the racetrack during the anthem is speaking for itself, so I haven’t put much more thought into that.

“I loved that the official Kirk Price took that initiative and stood for what he believed in, kneeled for what he believed it, a man that served our nation in the military kneeled, so I thought that was pretty powerful.”

Some athletes have commented about Wallace on social media, including LeBron James, NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders and New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara.

Wallace said he has had conversations with Joshua Dobbs of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The two met when Dobbs played quarterback at the University of Tennessee, which is Wallace’s favorite college football team. Dobbs was among the Jacksonville Jaguar players and team officials who protested racial inequality and police brutality during a June 5 march from their stadium to the steps of the sheriff’s department.

“He reached out last night with some powerful quotes that he lives by and made a ton of sense and just kind of fit the narrative that we are living in the world today,” Wallace said. “There’s been a lot of outreach just from social media fan points, privately, that was probably one of the ones; but there is a lot of support in my corner from all aspects; from sports, from just normal people, people that are wanting to stand up for what’s right in this world.”

As for what is next, Wallace said he isn’t sure. He has ideas and is looking forward to a meeting Tuesday between “key leaders” in NASCAR and select drivers. They’ll discuss what more the sport can do after announcing this week it is prohibiting the display of the Confederate flag at all NASCAR events and facilities.

Sunday’s Cup race at Homestead-Miami Speedway marks the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic that fans will be in the stands for a race since the NASCAR season resumed last month. Up to 1,000 military guests and family members will be allowed at the race. Up to 5,000 fans will be allowed for the June 21 Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway. As of Friday afternoon, tickets remained for that race.

Wallace looks forward to the return of fans and seeing more at races at some point.

“I would love to see us get back to normal and fans to come back in full capacity just to see how much more diverse or different demographics we bring in,” Wallace said. “I would love to see studies on that as we start allowing fans to come back.”

Wallace also knows that being more vocal can make him a target to some.

“I like to go out and sometimes spend time in the infield with the fans and have a good time,” Wallace said. “I haven’t been ridiculed against. I know that is going to change now. I’ve got to be careful what I do and that’s kind of the sad world we live in. My dad had texted me that he was proud of what I was doing on and off the racetrack, but he was worried about safety, going out in public and whatnot. Just crazy that you have to think about that sides of things.”

“Definitely have got to watch your back now and can’t be like that outspoken guy, just happy-go-lucky guy that would go take a trip on the golf cart or my longboard down into the infield, or whatever, and have a good time.”

Alex Bowman ready for end of most grueling week of his career

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By the time Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race at Homestead-Miami Speedway ends, Alex Bowman will be ready to run another race: from his car to his bed.

When the checkered flag drops at Miami, Bowman and the rest of his Cup counterparts will have competed in three full-length races in just eight days.

The streak started last Sunday with a 500-mile race at Atlanta, followed by a 500-lap race Wednesday at Martinsville, and will conclude with the 400-mile race at Miami.

“I think this week has been probably been the most grueling of my career,” Bowman said Friday in a media teleconference. “The recovery process has definitely changed, the workout process during the week has changed quite a bit.

“But this week, with 500 miles at Atlanta, two days to turn around and go to Martinsville for 500 laps where it’s super-hot – we have right side windows in short track cars now, so there’s no air flow – it was the hottest I’ve ever been in my entire life in a race car on Wednesday night.

“That was really tough, lost a ton of weight on Wednesday night. Trying to put that back on for Sunday is difficult, trying to get rehydrated for Sunday is difficult. The previous couple of weeks, I would have told you no, everything is good and it’s no problem. But this week has been a tough one.”

A tired Alex Bowman rests outside of his car following Wednesday night’s race at Martinsville. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

The driver of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet won at Fontana shortly before the COVID-19 hiatus. When NASCAR returned to racing, he finished second in the first race back (Darlington).

He struggled in the next four races: 18th in the second Darlington race, 19th and 31st at Charlotte and 37th at Bristol.

But Bowman seems back on track with a 12th-place finish at Atlanta and sixth at Martinsville.

“As far as how things are going for our team and how things have gone this year, I don’t necessarily think things are coming easier,” Bowman said. “We’re working harder than ever, I’m working harder than ever on and off the race track and doing everything I can to be prepared each and every week.

“But I think our on-track product has been better for our race team. We’ve led more laps this year than in previous years. We’ve thrown some races away, for sure. I think the second Charlotte was a race that I threw away single-handedly and I’ve been pretty frustrated with that ever since then.”

Bowman believes his finish at Martinsville could be a significant turning point.

“When we have fast race cars each and every week, there’s always next week and I feel like that’s been a thing that’s really giving us a lot of confidence,” Bowman said. “We went to a race track that we were absolutely horrendous at last year (finished 14th and 30th in 2019) on Wednesday night – going to Martinsville – and we ran sixth.

“We had a really great race car, so I think we’re improving in every area. I just need to do a little better job putting complete races together. But I think things are definitely coming together.”

Sunday’s race marks the first time since 2002 that NASCAR has not raced at Miami on the season-ending and championship-deciding weekend.

“I think the on-track stuff will be really similar, it’s just kind of that off-track, last day of school-type feel that it probably won’t have and will be a little different,” Bowman said.

Following Sunday’s race, Bowman and the rest of the Cup Series has a nearly seven-day reprieve to rest and recover from this week before action resumes June 21 at the largest and one of the most difficult tracks in the sport, Talladega Superspeedway next Sunday.

Although there was one Cup practice session scheduled for next Saturday afternoon, NASCAR decided Saturday to eliminate the June 20 session at Talladega after consulting teams.

“I’m a big fan of this no-practice thing, I’m really enjoying it,” Bowman said a day before NASCAR’s decision was announced. “I feel like we run about the same and gives me less time to dial us out for the race.

“I’m all for no practice. Obviously, the rule changes, I think we’ll all be able to adapt to that really quickly and the teams will do a really good job of having the cars prepared how they need to be for that event and I’m all good for it.”

But first, Bowman has to stay alert and awake in Miami: “I’m ready to go, should be a good one for us.”

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NASCAR penalty report from Martinsville

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NASCAR on Friday issued three penalties to Cup Series teams for violations incurred Wednesday at Martinsville Speedway:

  • Lee Leslie, crew chief of the No. 51 Petty Ware Racing Ford, has been issued an L1 penalty, fined $25,000 and the team has been assessed with the loss of 10 owner points for an at-track penalty (race equipment does not meet applicable specifications during pre-race inspection). The No. 51 car failed pre-race inspection five times.
  • Alan Gustafson, crew chief of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, has been fined $10,000 for a loose lug nut violation.
  • Adam Stevens, crew chief of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, has been fined $10,000 for a loose lug nut violation.

NASCAR also announced:

  • Team member Zach Yager has successfully completed NASCAR’s Road to Recovery Program and his suspension has been lifted.
  • Team member Josh Young has been reinstated.

There were no other announcements.