Rick Allen

When can fans attend NASCAR races?

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NASCAR remains hopeful that fans will be able to attend races later this season but has no timetable at this point.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, made the comment during an appearance Friday on NASCAR America at Home with NBC’s Rick Allen and Nate Ryan.

NASCAR announced this week its revised schedule through June 21 for Cup, Xfinity, Trucks and ARCA. No fans will be allowed at any of those events.

When fans return will be based on local and state COVID-19 guidelines for each track.

“We’d love (the fans) there this weekend,” O’Donnell said of Sunday’s Cup race at Darlington Raceway, “but we also understand that we’ve got to do what’s right in the local communities in each state. Some of the calls we’ve had with governors have said, ‘Hey, we may be ready and we may be open to that,’ so I’m encouraged by those conversations. We’ve not heard a ‘no way’ for the rest of the year.”

Among the plans by states to ease restrictions, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced a five-phase plan May 1. It lists goals of permitting social gatherings of more than 250 people and sports events to resume by July 4. The NASCAR Xfinity and NTT IndyCar Series are scheduled to have a doubleheader July 4 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, and the Cup series is scheduled to compete on the oval on July 5.

O’Donnell said that NASCAR is close to completing its schedule for the rest of the season. He said series officials had a call scheduled Friday with a governor that he did not reveal to see if that state would be “good to go” with NASCAR’s race dates “and then we would be set. As long as things stay the same or continue to improve, we feel really good about the schedule in place.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf confirmed he talked with NASCAR, according to a tweet from Dan Gelston of The Associated Press and that Gov. Wolf “told them Pennsylvania is not ready to make a decision.”

The Cup series is scheduled to run a doubleheader June 27-28 at Pocono Raceway.

O’Donnell said that NASCAR had a call scheduled Friday with drivers to go over procedures for Sunday’s race. A question among some drivers has been about confronting a competitor after the race to discuss or argue an incident that happened during the event.

“I think from our standpoint, it’s not lost on us the responsibility we have as a sport in showcasing the protocols that we have in place,” O’Donnell said. “I would say that we would heavily discourage (confrontations). We’ve got a lot on the line with this race to be able to race. We understand emotions will be high. Maybe that’s something we call (UFC President) Dana White up and he can arrange a separate bout for those guys in Jacksonville (Florida). We can send them down there on Monday, and they could come back and join us for the race (at Darlington) on Wednesday.”

Officials from others sports and health officials are expected to be at Darlington to monitor how NASCAR runs its health screening process and its event, O’Donnell said on NASCAR America at Home.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations,” O’Donnell said of talks with other sports leagues. “(NASCAR President) Steve Phelps talked to folks at the NBA, obviously we’ve talked to IndyCar, the Carolina Panthers. We’ll have a representative from the Carolina Panthers there (the team’s director of security). Obviously, outside the track but just kind of observing what we’re doing as people come in, protocols, what they can learn as well.

“And then we’ll have health officials from the Charlotte area coming down to look at what’s in place. What we may need to tweak in terms of being able to enhance our protocols at Charlotte as well, so we’ve been really transparent with what we’re doing with other leagues. By the same token, the other leagues have been the same. I think what’s great about this is we all want to be back. We all want to be back in a way that’s safe, so if we can share and learn from each other, I think that’s what we’ve done, and it’s worked well.”

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Let the debate begin: NBC Sports experts make NASCAR picks

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Go ahead. Scan the four-driver teams the NASCAR on NBC announcers, analysts and writers have put together in the NASCAR America Draft.

Think you could do better?

Then try! It’s easy.

Take a look at the list of drivers at the bottom of this file. Select four drivers. But you can spend no more than 10 tokens for your four-driver team.

Do you take a former champion among those costing five tokens, leaving you with only five tokens to make your final three picks. Do you play it safer and go for a driver who costs four tokens? Do you go with veterans? All rookies? Something in between?

See the teams the NBC Sports crew put together and then do your team. And share it with us on social media using #NASCARAmericaDraft.

 

Jeff Burton’s team

Kevin Harvick (5 tokens)

Christopher Bell (2 tokens)

Matt DiBenedetto (2 tokens)

Michael McDowell (1 token)

I want a superstar. I’m going to go ahead and bite the bullet and spend five tokens on a superstar driver. … The reason I’m going to pick Kevin Harvick is because I know what he can get it done on the racetrack. It doesn’t matter what racetrack it is, he can be competitive. …  I’ve been his teammate. If I’m a car owner, I want that guy in the meeting, pushing to make everybody better, doing everything that he can to make himself better and everybody else. I know the intangible value that Kevin Harvick brings to the table.

 

Steve Letarte’s team

Denny Hamlin (4 tokens)

William Byron (3 tokens)

Christopher Bell (2 tokens)

Corey LaJoie (1 token)

I’m going to take what I think is a cornerstone driver. When I look at the four token options, there are two great young talents in Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney, I think they have a lot of upside, Kurt Busch is a champion, but I’m taking Denny Hamlin. I’m taking, in my opinion, the best driver who has never won a championship. Denny Hamlin, I know he’s a little bit older at 39 years old, but I think he’s as mature as he’s ever been. I think he can lead our organization to building good cars and giving good feedback. Why? Because he wins everywhere. … I think he would excel in that leadership role.

 

Kelli Stavast’s team

Denny Hamlin (4 tokens)

Alex Bowman (3 tokens)

Matt DiBenedetto (2 tokens)

Ryan Preece (1 token)

I think Denny is a bargain at 4 tokens and Matty D is a steal for 2.

 

Rick Allen’s team

Kyle Busch (5 tokens)

Matt DiBenedetto (2 tokens)

Cole Custer (2 tokens)

Ryan Preece (1 token)

 

Kyle Petty’s team

Joey Logano (5 tokens)

Matt DiBenedetto (2 tokens)

Christopher Bell (2 tokens)

Bubba Wallace (1 token)

 

Dustin Long’s team

Chase Elliott (4 tokens)

Ryan Blaney (4 tokens)

Corey LaJoie (1 token)

Bubba Wallace (1 token)

Let me introduce you to the modern day “Rat Pack” that will continue to transform NASCAR, just as the original 1960s version altered popular culture and Las Vegas. No driver under 30 needs to apply for my team that will be strong for years to come.

 

Nate Ryan’s team

Denny Hamlin (4 tokens)

William Byron (3 tokens)

Tyler Reddick (2 tokens)

Bubba Wallace (1 token)

Denny Hamlin because he’s in his peak year at age 39 and is a steal for four tokens after a 2019 championship round appearance. Byron has the most potential of the three-token guys. Tyler Reddick might be a slight reach at two tokens, but he will win in Cup. Bubba has the transcendent appeal and charm to attract major sponsors if he can have some success in a good ride.

 

Daniel McFadin’s team

Denny Hamlin (4 tokens)

Tyler Reddick (2 tokens)

Matt DiBenedetto (2 tokens)

Ryan Preece (1 token)

No Cup champions on my team, but I went with the best current driver to not have a title (Hamlin) who still has at least five years left in the tank. He can mentor Reddick. I like Preece and DiBenedetto as a pair of drivers in their late 20s with untapped potential who can motivate each other with a friendly rivalry.

 

Jerry Bonkowski’s team

Denny Hamlin (4 tokens)

William Byron (3 tokens)

Matt DiBenedetto (2 tokens)

Bubba Wallace (1 token)

Taking a driver worth five coins would really skew things, so it’s better – at least mathematically – to take one pick apiece from the other four categories. I expect big things from all four of my picks, particularly Byron and DiBenedetto.

 

NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge to debut Monday

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Reigning Cup champion Kyle Busch, three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin and NASCAR on NBC analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. are among the headliners in the NASCAR America presents the NBC eSports Short Track Challenge.

The week-long event begins at 7 p.m. ET on Monday on NBCSN.

From Monday-Wednesday, six different drivers will compete in two timed races in Cup Series cars at an iconic track at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. The top two finishers from each night will advance to the championship race at the virtual Martinsville Speedway on NBCSN.

Monday night’s races will be at a virtual Rockingham Speedway

Tuesday night’s races will be at a virtual Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis.

Wednesday night’s races will be at a virtual Myrtle Beach Speedway.

Thursday night’s championship race will be at a virtual Martinsville Speedway.

Here is the driver lineup for each night:

Monday at Rockingham Speedway: Kyle Busch, William Byron, Austin Dillon, Parker Kligerman, Tyler Reddick and Bubba Wallace.

Tuesday at Lucas Oil Raceway: Justin Allgaier, Christopher Bell, Chase Briscoe, Harrison Burton, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson.

Wednesday at Myrtle Beach Speedway: Landon Cassill, Matt DiBenedetto, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Timmy Hill, Ryan Preece and Myatt Snider.

“We’re proud to continue our successful collaboration with iRacing and NASCAR, which began last year, to produce the NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge,” said Jeff Behnke, vice president, production, NASCAR on NBC and NBCSN. “Thanks to all the drivers from the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series for joining in what should be four consecutive nights of entertainment and fun for all the great race fans and viewers.”

“Of all of the events we’ve been putting together for real-world pros, the NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge should be one of the most fun,” said Steve Myers, iRacing executive producer. “So many of the top drivers in NASCAR have honed their skills on both local short tracks and iRacing, and combining the two for a virtual week-long showdown should deliver plenty of excitement. We can’t wait to see who takes the checkered flag and bragging rights!”

This marks the latest collaboration between NBC Sports and iRacing, which began in 2019 when NBC Sports telecast the first-ever eNASCAR live event on television. NBC Sports and iRacing teamed up to present the 2019 eNASCAR PEAK Antifreeze iRacing Championship in a two-hour event live on NBCSN last October. Earlier this year, it was announced that six races of the 2020 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series Playoffs will air live on NBCSN later this fall.

NBC Sports NASCAR commentators Rick Allen and Steve Letarte will call the action, including interviews with drivers during the races. Jeff Burton and Marty Snider will host the NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge via Zoom.

Matt DiBenedetto, Paul Menard news lights up social media

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Tuesday morning’s announcement that Paul Menard will retire after this season and Matt DiBenedetto will replace him next season in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford certainly lit up the twitterverse.

MORE: Paul Menard to retire from NASCAR; Matt DiBenedetto will drive No. 21 in 2020

Here’s some of the top posts we found:

Follow @JerryBonkowski

NBC Sports ready to take fans the rest of the way to Miami

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We’re back!

In a season that has featured a scuffle on pit road at ISM Raceway, drivers beating and banging after the All-Star Race and three Cup races going to overtime, including the Daytona 500, NBC Sports is ready to bring you the final 10 Cup races of the regular season and then the 10 playoff races.

The intensity is just picking up.

Last year saw NBC Sports’ first Cup race of the season end with Dale Earnhardt Jr. yelling “Slide job!” as Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson battled on the last lap for the win at Chicagoland Speedway.

The excitement continued through the rest of the regular season and on to the playoffs where NBC Sports was there for the inaugural Cup race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval and the dramatic finish that saw Jimmie Johnson crash into leader Martin Truex Jr. in the final chicane and Ryan Blaney going from third to the victory.

NBC Sports’ Cup coverage last year ended with Joey Logano’s win in Miami to claim not only the race but the championship.

NBC Sports will be there to bring you all the action the rest of the season for the Cup and Xfinity Series, beginning this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway on NBCSN.

Earnhardt, Steve Letarte and Jeff Burton are back with Rick Allen in the booth. Marty Snider, Dave Burns, Kelli Stavast and Parker Kligerman will again be reporting from pit road. Krista Voda, Kyle Petty, Dale Jarrett and Nate Ryan will set the day’s activities each race weekend. And also at the track will be Rutledge Wood, who will tell some of the unique stories of the weekend.

Get ready to catch all the action on NBCSN and NBC.

Here is when you can see the rest of the Cup and Xfinity seasons:

Cup Schedule

(All times Eastern)

June 30 — Chicagoland (3 p.m., NBCSN)

July 6 — Daytona (7:30 p.m., NBC)

July 13 — Kentucky (7:30 p.m., NBCSN)

July 21 — New Hampshire (3 p.m., NBCSN)

July 28 — Pocono (3 p.m., NBCSN)

Aug. 4 — Watkins Glen (3 p.m., NBCSN)

Aug. 11 — Michigan (3 p.m., NBCSN)

Aug. 17 — Bristol (7:30 p.m., NBCSN)

Sept. 1 — Darlington (6 p.m. NBCSN)

Sept. 8 — Indianapolis (2 p.m., NBC)

Playoffs

Sept. 15 — Las Vegas (7 p.m., NBCSN)

Sept. 21 — Richmond (7:30 p.m., NBCSN)

Sept. 29 — Charlotte Roval (2:30 p.m., NBC)

Oct. 6 — Dover (2:30 p.m., NBCSN)

Oct. 13 — Talladega (2 p.m., NBC)

Oct. 20 — Kansas (2:30 p.m., NBC)

Oct. 27 — Martinsville (3 p.m., NBCSN)

Nov. 3 — Texas (3 p.m., NBCSN)

Nov. 10 — Phoenix (2:30 p.m., NBC)

Nov. 17 — Miami (3 p.m., NBC)

 

Xfinity Schedule

(All times Eastern)

June 29 — Chicagoland (3:30 p.m., NBCSN)

July 5 — Daytona (7:30 p.m., NBCSN)

July 12 — Kentucky (7:30 p.m., NBCSN)

July 20 — New Hampshire (4 p.m., NBCSN)

July 27 — Iowa (5 p.m., NBCSN)

Aug. 3 — Watkins Glen (3 p.m., NBC)

Aug. 10 — Mid-Ohio (3 p.m., NBCSN)

Aug. 16 — Bristol (7:30 p.m., NBCSN)

Aug. 24 — Road America (3 p.m., NBCSN)

Aug. 31 — Darlington (4 p.m., NBC)

Sept. 7 — Indianapolis (4 p.m., NBCSN)

Sept. 14 — Las Vegas (7:30 p.m., NBCSN)

Playoffs

Sept. 20 — Richmond (7:30 p.m., NBCSN)

Sept. 28 — Charlotte Roval (3:30 p.m., NBCSN)

Oct. 5 — Dover (3 p.m., NBCSN)

Oct. 19 — Kansas (3 p.m., NBC)

Nov. 2 — Texas (8:30 p.m., NBCSN)

Nov. 9 — Phoenix (3:30 p.m., NBC)

Nov. 16 — Miami (3:30 p.m. NBCSN)