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Some NASCAR teams close shops because of COVID-19

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Some NASCAR teams have closed shops or limited staffs to a skeleton crew this week as the sport idles because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

NASCAR continues to work through scenarios in light of Sunday’s announcement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that it recommended that for the next eight weeks that organizers cancel or postpone events that consist of 50 people or more in the United States. NASCAR officials are scheduled to have another call with teams Monday night.

Many teams announced last week that they were closing their shops to visitors to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19.

NBC Sports reached out to Cup, Xfinity and Truck teams to see what their plans were for Monday and beyond:

Front Row Motorsports — Business as usual for the smaller team. Organization notes that all employees are taking the necessary precautions/recommendations of washing hands and keeping distance as much as possible.

Hendrick Motorsports — Its campus is closed for business for the rest of the week. Those who can work from home are doing so. There is some essential work being done on site with very limited staffing.

Joe Gibbs Racing — Closed shop on Monday and decisions would be made about what to do about the upcoming days.

Richard Childress Racing Measures have been put in place to protect employees and keep them safe, including social distancing, hand washing and sanitizing work stations. Team continues to assess the situation and will adjust as needed.

Richard Petty Motorsports — Shop is closed this week with only a limited number of essential people working in the building.

Spire Motorsports — Operating with essential personnel only.

StarCom Racing — Sent every employee home Monday.

Stewart-Haas Racing — Has closed its shop until March 22 and will reevaluate facility access and processes then.

Team Penske — Has closed its shop.

JD Motorsports — Xfinity team is business as usual as the team finalizes plans moving forward.

Kaulig Racing — General Manager Chris Rice said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that the team is limiting staff in the shop and going with a staggered system so work continues but with limited staff.

ThorSport Racing — The Truck organization is operating under normal business hours with a full staff on site preparing for the Texas race weekend in less than two weeks.

AM Racing – Temporarily closing its facility.

Tyler Reddick: ‘Good learning experience’ competing up front in Phoenix

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Tyler Reddick caught many off guard with his performance Sunday in the Cup Series’ race at Phoenix Raceway, including himself.

At one point in the second stage, the rookie driver was in the top five and being told by his crew chief the only other car keeping pace with him was Brad Keselowski.

“I’m honestly concerned how I’m the fastest car on the race track,” Reddick recalled thinking. “We’re at Phoenix, this just doesn’t make sense to me.”

The Richard Childress Racing driver appeared on SiriusXM NASCAR Radios’ “On Track” Monday to discuss a surprising, but disappointing outing in the fourth Cup race of the year.

The two-time defending Xfinity Series champion started the day 29th and ran as high as second before a tire on his No. 8 Chevy went down on Lap 265, sending him into the wall and to a 33rd-place finish, his worst of the year.

Reddick said it was a “mystery” what caused the tire to go down, but added it was “odd” the same problem occurred to his teammate, Austin Dillon, on Lap 131.

“We had some positives and it’s nice to know a place I had a lot of questions marks going into, especially starting 29th on the day, how is it going to stack up and how could I improve and improve a lot going back for it in November,” Reddick said. “It seems like we’re not as bad as we thought. We’ve definitely got something to work off of.”

After qualifying 29th Saturday, Reddick said he was “very concerned” about how hard it would be to pass cars after watching the Xfinity Series race.

But on Sunday, he was ninth by the end of the first stage, having discovered he could “kind of sling (the car) in there, dive bomb people to get around them. So it actually worked out OK.”

However, he learned early on not to be too aggressive.

“I made a few mistakes early racing a little too hard at times with guys like (Ricky) Stenhouse (Jr.),” Reddick told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “He didn’t appreciate it, I got it. No issues going forward. I’m just trying to get to the front and figured out early in the race, ‘OK, I don’t want to get too aggressive with these guys and send the wrong message.'”

Reddick said it’s important to him when he gets opportunities to race near the front that “you’re not just knocking guys out of the way, you want to make sure that you pass them right.”

That was what was on his mind on Lap 208 when he was in second and suddenly got out of shape and dropped back to 10th.

“It was fun racing with (Martin) Truex (Jr.), it was fun racing with Kyle Busch,” Reddick said. “Didn’t get to race against Kevin (Harvick) a whole lot. But at one time I was at the top of three wide, I really didn’t want to give him room, but I didn’t want to be the guy who squeezed two champions down going into Turn 3 and causes a big wreck. I slid up and lost a lot of track position, unfortunately. It was a good learning experience racing with those guys, knowing I can do it.”

Despite earning nine stage points, Reddick’s 33rd-place finish dropped him from 23rd to 25th in the point standings. He has a five-point advantage over fellowing rookie John Hunter Nemechek. He takes that to the race this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

At 325 laps/500 miles around the 1.5-mile track, it will be the longest race of his career (he’s crashed out of both of his Daytona 500 appearances).

“Normally it takes me about 400 laps for me to figure out what I’m doing out there,” Reddick told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Places like Atlanta, I love. The longer the races goes, the more comfortable I get there. Places like Darlington, Homestead.

“As aggressive as I seem as a driver, I actually do ease into at those kind of places, whether it looks like it or not. I think the longer race will help me. I’m curious how this car will drive. I know how I want to get around this race track in a Xfinity car, with more power and less downforce. Now with this car I don’t know whether I’ll be able to do the same things to go fast around there. We’ve got to figure that out in practice. We’re back to that game of drivers that are trimmed out are going to look good for 15 laps. The ones that have downforce built into their cars won’t.”

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Anthony Alfredo gets late start to Xfinity season with debut at Auto Club

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Anthony Alfredo is a little bit late to the party.

That party is the 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series season and the 20-year-old is rolling up to it as round three gets underway.

Alfredo is one of three drivers competing part-time in Xfinity for Richard Childress Racing, joining Myatt Snider and Kaz Grala. After Snider kept the seat warm in the No. 21 Chevrolet at Daytona and Las Vegas, Alfredo makes his series debut today at Auto Club Speedway (4 p.m. ET on Fox).

His move to the Xfinity Series itself was a late development last year, when he competed part-time in the Truck Series for DGR-Crosley.

“Around the time of Homestead last year, that was my last truck series race but I didn’t even get to run because the motor blew up on pit road,” Alfredo told NBC Sports on Friday. “That week I was actually reached out to by someone at RCR. They asked what my plans were for this year and to be honest with you I didn’t really have any. And I was a little bit nervous because late in the season most rides had filled up and it was just a blessing.”

A native of Ridgefield, Connecticut, he moves up to Xfinity Series after just 13 starts in the Truck Series. In those starts, he only managed two top-10 finishes, an eighth at Charlotte and ninth at Chicagoland.

Prior to that, he had one ARCA Menards Series East win in 2018 and two CARS Late Model Stock Tour wins for JR Motorsports. But after just two top 10s in trucks, why was a move to Xfinity the right move for him?

“Honestly, last year I’m pretty disappointed with the end results because we had great speed,” Alfredo said. “I was really happy with our competitiveness, especially with my limited experience and running less than half the races. But unfortunately, we just had a lot of bad luck and things that crippled our end results.”

Including his engine failure in the finale, Alfredo suffered four DNFs last year in his 13 starts, three of them for wrecks.

“But if you watched the races, we ran up front most of them,” Alfredo said. “So I will say, what set this plan in order for me was just knowing that next year, 2021, my goal is to make that a full-time Xfinity Series season. Even though this a big step for me from where I came from, I think after running the majority of the season this year and learning a lot and getting a lot of experience I’ll be ready to go win a championship next year.”

Alfredo will compete in 17 of the remaining 31 races, and he is thankful that they are on some of the circuits’ toughest tracks.

That includes Darlington, Bristol, Homestead and today on the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway.

“There’s no doubt most of my races are at some of the hardest tracks on the circuit,” Alfredo said. “That kind of plays into, not only next year … being able to go to all the difficult tracks now, like Auto Club, helps better prepare me for that, because you definitely don’t want to go into a championship season and go to places like Auto Club or Homestead or Darlington and not know how to get around them.”

The fact he is making his series debut on a track he’s never been on in a car he’s never driven is what makes Alfredo the “most nervous” about this weekend.

His prep time in practice Friday was limited when more than half of the first 50-minute session was wiped out by cautions.

Combined with the final 25-minute session, Alfredo only made 39 laps.

But he’s attended both races with the team so far this year in an effort to get accustomed to crew chief Andy Street and his spotter. He’s also swapped notes with Snider, who made his series debut two weeks ago at Daytona.

“Him and I have just talked about how the simulator translates to the tracks he’s been to so far, just because we’ve obviously spent a lot of time on that,” Alfredo said. “For me going to a new track, the simulator’s been huge. So to kind of know the differences between the sim and real life are really important, just so you can focus on those characteristics and adjusting what you may need to in real life.”

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Drivers, teams to pay tribute to Kobe Bryant at Fontana

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One day after an emotional tribute to Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna, among nine people killed in a helicopter crash last month north of Los Angeles, two NASCAR drivers will have their own tributes to Bryant this weekend at Auto Club Speedway.

Ryan Blaney will carry a special paint scheme on his No. 12 Team Penske Ford Mustang by primary sponsor for the race, BodyArmor.

Blaney was among millions to mourn Bryant after his death.

“I was fortunate enough to meet Kobe and this is a great way to honor him, Gianna and all the victims,” Blaney said in a tweet:

Daniel Suarez will wear specially designed driving gloves and matching shoes that bear the likeness of Bryant and his jersey numbers 8 and 24 in the Lakers’ purple and gold colors. Suarez will also wear a No. 24 jersey to honor Bryant during driver introductions before Sunday’s Auto Club 400.

In addition, Suarez’s No. 96 Gaunt Brothers Racing Toyota will carry the names of all the victims of the crash.

Both drivers are adherents to Bryant’s “Mamba Mentality.”

“Mamba mentality is what Kobe always said and one of the great things he is known for,” Suarez said in a media release. “That’s what it’s all about. That’s something you have to have inside of you, to be hungry, to go out there and get out of that comfort zone. Kobe was a huge role model. I want to give back the way Kobe used to give back.

“To give back, we’re going to auction off the gloves and shoes after the race to try and donate as much money as possible to the Mamba Foundation. We’re going to put a minimum of a $5,000 donation into this foundation. I have opinions about many athletes, but I’ve always admired most the ones who are not only great at their game, but great outside their game. Kobe was that kind of athlete, and that kind of a person.”

Richard Childress Racing announced Tuesday that Tyler Reddick‘s No. 8 Cup car will honor Bryant with a decal on the car.

William Byron‘s No. 24 Chevrolet also will pay tribute to Bryant with a special paint for this weekend’s race at Auto Club Speedway.

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Preliminary entry lists for Auto Club races

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NASCAR Cup and Xfinity teams travel to Auto Club Speedway this weekend for the second race in the three-race West Coast swing.

Cup Series – Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET Sunday on FOX)

Thirty-eight cars are entered.

Ross Chastain is again listed in the No. 6 as Ryan Newman continues to recover from the head injury he suffered in his last-lap crash at the Daytona 500.

The two non-chartered cars are the No. 96 with Daniel Suarez and the No. 66 with Timmy Hill.

Click here for the entry list.

 

Xfinity Series – Production Alliance Group 300 (4 p.m. ET Saturday on FS1)

Thirty-six cars are entered.

Daniel Hemric is back in the No. 8 for JR Motorsports.

Anthony Alfredo makes his first series start, driving the No. 21 for Richard Childress Racing.

Landon Cassill is back in the No. 89 for car owner Morgan Shepherd.

Click here for the entry list.