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Dale Jr. Download to replace NASCAR America this week

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With NASCAR America on hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic, NBCSN will show additional episodes of the Dale Jr. Download this week. All are shows that have aired previously.

Here is this week’s schedule:

Tuesday: Dale Jr. Download with guest Ken Schrader airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Wednesday: Dale Jr. Download with guest Kyle Larson airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Wednesday: Dale Jr. Download with guest Humpy Wheeler airs from 6-7 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Thursday: Dale Jr. Download with guest Rick Mast airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

 

NASCAR America at 7 p.m. ET: Phoenix recap

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 7-8 p.m. ET on NBCSN and will recap this past weekend’s action at Phoenix Raceway.

Jeff Burton will be joined by Steve Letarte and Parker Kligerman.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 7 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

NASCAR America: Kyle Petty on how much driver friendships changed

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Though the driver motorhome lot and social media have provided new windows into collegiality in the Cup Series, driver fraternization isn’t a 21st century phenomenon in NASCAR.

Dale Earnhardt and Neil Bonnett were close friends while racing each other, and among many in the Baby Boom generation who developed strong bonds in stock cars (Ernie Irvan and Mark Martin are another example).

NASCAR on NBC analyst Kyle Petty, who raced in that era, believes there’s an important distinction between how drivers hung out then vs. now.

“Neil and Earnhardt were only friends when Neil was on the back side of his career and driving lesser cars,” Petty said on the latest episode of NASCAR America Splash & Go (video above). “There’s tons of ‘A’ drivers that would go to dinner with ‘C’ drivers. But not a lot of ‘A’ drivers went to dinner together. If I’m your competitor, no. But if I know I can beat you, yeah, we’ll be friends, dude. Because I’m beating you every week.

MORE: Hamlin and Larson discuss Fontana incident and aftermath

“So it’s a totally different mindset (now). I didn’t experience this. I know it probably happens in other sports, but I still believe if we’re friends and it comes down to the last lap of the race, I’m not going to drive you as hard, (and) you might not drive me as hard. You just don’t put it all out there.”

Driver relationships and how they impact NASCAR have been an ongoing topic. Analyst Steve Letarte, who had some strong opinions with Petty on Tuesday’s NASCAR America, called out prerace socializing as a problem three years ago in a NASCAR on NBC Podcast appearance.

But the controversy around how Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson interacted on and off the track (and how team owner Chip Ganassi reacted to it) has raised the issue again. Hamlin, Larson and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are sharing a house this week in the Phoenix area and have posted about playing golf together and joking about the incident in which Larson’s car was damaged by Hamlin’s in the race Sunday at Auto Club Speedway.

Petty said it’s a problem when friendships become too tight between elite drivers such as Hamlin, the two-time defending Daytona 500 winner, and Larson, who is at the top of this year’s class of impending of free agents.

“If this was (Hamlin or Larson) and a guy who’s consistently 28th or 29th, that’s OK,” Petty said. “They’re not competitors.

“Let me put to you this way: Joey Logano, nobody likes him, doesn’t have friends. What’s he do, though? Wins races and championships. Kyle Busch, you see him out? Kevin Harvick is a good example of someone who doesn’t hang with a lot of people. Jimmie Johnson has always been a loner and he and his wife, that’s their drumbeat. So the guys who come along, ‘Yeah, I’ll be nice and cordial to you, but I’m going to slit your throat.’ That’s the mental attitude you have to have.”

Petty also corrected a perception that he was close with Davey Allison and others he raced against.

“Davey and I grew up together but weren’t best friends,” Petty said. “We were competitors. I was never really close to anybody, and I got that from my dad. He was not close with anybody because he grew up in a time when drivers perished in race cars and no one got close to each other. Totally different.”

NASCAR America’s MotorMouths at 5 p.m. ET: Harrison Burton, Greg Ives

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Today’s episode of MotorMouth airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Marty Snider hosts and is joined by Kyle Petty, Steve Letarte and Nate Ryan.

Harrison Burton, the newest winner in the Xfinity Series, will join the show via FaceTime. Greg Ives, crew chief for Alex Bowman, speaks with Dave Burns. We’ll also discuss Chip Ganassi expressing his displeasure with a video Denny Hamlin posted on social media after his incident with Kyle Larson on Sunday.

You can call into the show via 844-NASCAR-NBC or submit your questions/comments via Twitter using #LetMeSayThis.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Ryan: How a single lug nut could impact pit crew salary structure

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The tools will be the same, the choreography (mostly) will be the same, and the number of crew members will be the same.

The aesthetic impact of NASCAR’s move to single lug nuts will be negligible next season.

When wheels on the NextGen car are fastened via a center-locking hub system, the appearance virtually will be indiscernible from afar aside from the eagle-eyed viewers who can spot the variance in how the tire changers’ hands move across the wheels.

It theoretically should be better for safety (fewer loose wheels, and no stray lugs whizzing through the pits). Because of the 18-inch tire (that the single lug is designed to support), drivers have been pleased in early returns by the mechanical grip. And it will enhance the street model relevance of the NextGen.

In many ways, this could be a change that is similar to electronic fuel injection – a huge fan outcry (though not all negative) in the short term but largely accepted within a year.

But similar to EFI (which resulted in the long-term ramifications of having throttle trace data widely available to all drivers and helping negate their trade secrets), the single-lug pit stop still could have a significant behind-the-scenes impact on NASCAR.

In this case, it could mean a reshuffling of the salary structure for the five-person pit crew that is highly valued for changing tires in 11 seconds.

As analyst Steve Letarte noted Monday on NASCAR America (video above), the switch to a single lug nut could be a financial windfall that drives up the price for the jack man and gas man while decreasing for tire changers.

These wouldn’t be necessarily dramatic shifts. Salaries for fast tire changers have risen into the low- to mid-six figures. They still should expect to be handsomely paid because teams will pay to gain positions in the pits, and tire changers will remain an important part of the process.

The talking points Monday from NASCAR were that fast tire changers with good hand-eye coordination would remain valuable, and that skill and speed still will be at a premium.

That is true – to a degree. There is no getting around the fact that accuracy and hand speed will be less important when hitting one lug instead of five.

The scramble around the car will be even more important, but it should be easier to find (or train) finely honed athletes with those physical attributes. The actual changing of the tire is a more specific skillset and a limited talent pool.

As Letarte said, the single lug nut “takes the 10 A-plus tire changers on pit road and makes 20 or 30 of them.

“But it takes the 10 to 15 A-plus jack men and makes five of them.”

The reason for that is because with a single lug shaving a few tenths of a second off the five-lug pattern, tire changers will be ready quicker for the jack to raise the left side of the car. That should increase the demand for fast jack men, who already are critical as the de-facto “quarterbacks” with oversight of the pit stop and the adjustments made during it.

The time difference also could make the fueler more critical during a two-can exchange (which requires a swap at the pit wall). With a 17.75-gallon fuel cell, it’s estimated that teams currently can fill about 1.7 gallons per second – or about 10.4 seconds for a full tank.

If the single lug nut drops times for changing four tires in the 10-second range, suddenly having a swifter fueler could make the difference in leaving early.

Time is money, and that could be one of the main takeaways from a single lug nut next year.

Some other stray thoughts on Monday’s news:

–The switch to aluminum alloy wheels prompted many fair questions about how effective they will be in crash damage vs. the steel rims currently in use by NASCAR.

Presumably, due diligence has been done on their durability, and many other series (IMSA and Supercars to name a few) have success with using aluminum wheels. But it will bear watching the first few times a NextGen car hits the wall and tries to limp to the pits.

–Yes, there aren’t many passenger cars with one lug nut. But there also aren’t many with 15-inch wheels. The argument that the move makes Cup cars “less stock” sort of misses the point that it also makes them more relevant (a primary thrust of the NextGen) via the 18-inch wheels while also allowing for better braking and cooling systems.

— The social pushback from diehard fans was understandable given that NASCAR fans have been asked to absorb a lot of change over the past two decades (with some growing attuned to resisting much of it). However, there was a sense of optimism, too, that was missing in similar furors about the top 35 rule and the Car of Tomorrow.

The sense here is that the storm over center-locking wheels quickly will pass and probably won’t become a third rail issue that eventually will occupy the NASCAR dustbin of history.

–The next big news on the NextGen car?

It probably will be about three months until NASCAR provides a grand unveil of the 2021 model (from its special features to the car’s suppliers, vendors) sometime in June.

After next year’s rollout, the focus will turn toward an engine overhaul (maybe by 2023 but with lesser modifications possible before then).