Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr. will serve as grand marshal for the race, while Bobby Labonte, who will be inducted into the Hall in January, will serve as the honorary starter.
“We are honored to have 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Ron Hornaday Jr. as Grand Marshal and 2020 inductee Bobby Labonte as Honorary Starter at the first NASCAR Hall of Fame 200,” NASCAR Hall of Fame executive director Winston Kelly said in a statement. “Ron is the series’ only four-time champion. As the 2000 premier series champion and 1992 Xfinity champion, Bobby is one of only 31 drivers who has won races in all three NASCAR national series with his lone truck series win coming at Martinsville.”
Said Clay Campbell, president of Martinsville Speedway: “We appreciate the NASCAR Hall of Fame making it possible to have two great NASCAR champions available to meet our fans Saturday morning before the NASCAR Hall of Fame 200. Having Ron and Bobby be a part of our race weekend is special for everyone at Martinsville Speedway.”
The overhaul of the game is evident from the main menu screen, which is broken up into window-like boxes, and clearly felt in the gameplay itself.
Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect when you fire up your PlayStation 4, Xbox One or PC to play the latest NASCAR game.
THE THRILL IS BACK
The best part about this revamped game is the enhanced racing physics, which the player has even more control over.
In the last edition of NASCAR Heat, overshooting a corner and sideswiping a CPU car would result in … a thud, mostly. It was very hard for any kind of crash – intentional or accidental – to develop.
But now, getting into a car’s left or right-rear quarter panel is more likely to result in a “will they or won’t they” situation, with you having to decide whether to step on the gas or hit the brakes not knowing whether the car will correct itself or go into a slide.
And you can make it easier or harder for that to happen.
704Games has added sliders in a settings menu which allow you to adjust a multitude of aspects to the physics and gameplay:
Player tire wear rate and grip falloff rate
Speed range between fastest and slowest AI drivers (“wide” for more separation and “narrow” for tighter field)
AI stability after making contact with the player
AI driver recovery ability
Closeness of field on restarts
AI mechanical failures
AI tire wear effect and fuel consumption
These adjustments are welcome. With that said, it took a lot of trial and error to find the settings that made racing for eighth entertaining, which is a fun sentence to write. Fun tracks to conduct those trials on are Darlington, Bristol, Dover and Charlotte.
Also, if you’re one of those who have no clue how to make adjustments to tire pressure, track bars or brake bias, 704Games has an easier option available.
At the menu you see in-between practice, qualifying and a race, the upper right-hand corner has a slider where you can simply adjust from “tight” to “loose.”
Further, AI cars are no longer glued to the inside line. You’ll see cars traverse the track all the way up to the wall. This makes coming up through the field a more challenging experience.
Though wrecks are more frequent now, as a player you still can’t DNF yourself in the middle of the race after a bad enough wreck to warrant it. You can go to the pits and be repaired like nothing happened. Sometimes you’ve had enough and you just want the race to end and move onto the next.
On the plus side, in career mode you can simulate races you don’t want to take part in.
EASY ON THE EYES
NASCAR Heat 4 pops.
More care has been put into the visuals for this installment. The atmosphere at tracks, especially night races, is really striking. It’s even more apparent now that day will transition into night if you go with stage races.
At some tracks, like Darlington, the far end of the track always has a haze over it.
But in general, almost every aspect of what you see on the screen stands out more.
Two other things that caught my eye: Ryan Blaney’s stellar PPG paint scheme and Johnny Sauter’s “tenda” scheme in the Truck Series.
On Blaney’s car, the dripping paint aspect of it really sticks out.
As for Sauter’s, did you know there’s the outline of a horse on the side of Sauter’s truck (tenda is an Equine and Pet Care Products company)? I never noticed it through the first seven months of the season. But it’s there, clear as day in the game. I looked at pictures of the real car and was surprised to see it.
Speaking of paint schemes, there’s new ways to have more in your possession, including existing cars and your own creations.
Added to the usual “challenge” mode (watch out for the Sonoma Raceway “carousel” challenge) is being rewarded with the car from that challenge.
Oddly, this sometimes includes a “Victory Lane” version of the car, so you’ll be driving around the track with a confetti-covered vehicle.
The game creators have also heard cries for enhancements to the custom car builder.
While you unfortunately can’t paint a car at will any way you want, the game gives you significantly more tools to work with.
An addition to the game is the ability to use any number on your custom cars, on top of a wider variety of paint scheme templates and a handful of number fonts.
While I’m not a fan of the number font designs, it’s nice to have more choices, which is the overarching theme of most of new tweaks with NH4.
A little thing I appreciate is a change to Bristol Motor Speedway. The track has been using a traction compound on the inside lane of its corners for the last few years, but that had been missing from NASCAR Heat’s version of the track. Now, there is a layer of grip present there that makes getting through each turn more manageable.
In single season mode you can now create custom seasons via track order.
The track map on the HUD display is one of those additions that took way too long to be introduced.
When qualifying, a timer is present on the screen now to help give an indication of how you’re doing.
You’re still unable to watch a replay until after the race. So you’ll have no idea what caused a caution until then if you weren’t involved directly.
The only options you can change during a race are driving aids.
Drafting works! Especially at superspeedways. You can even hear the wind change as you drift in and out of the wake of cars in front of you.
If your tire wear gets to a certain point, you’ll be in danger of outright spinning on a restart if you’re not careful. Took me by surprise.
Last week’s Cup qualifying at Las Vegas Motor Speedway raised the question of is qualifying more about entertainment or sport?
It was fascinating to watch cars parked on pit road and drivers waiting for someone to go because nobody wanted to be the lead car. They all wanted to be in the draft.
While that took place, spotters counted down the time remaining in the session.
It became a game of who would blink first and take off.
When it was time to go, there was chaos. Cars darted around each other. In the final round, Joey Logano went four-wide on pit road. Ricky Stenhouse passed Logano on the inside and left pit road ahead of him.
“Is chaos a bad thing?” Logano asked NBC Sports’ Jerry Bonkowski this week. “I think that’s the question we have to ask ourselves. Is it chaos? Yes. Is it entertaining? Oh yeah, it’s entertaining, there’s a lot going on. So I don’t know if it’s wrong and we should be changing much.
“I think there’s a couple safety aspects we can add to pit road while we’re jockeying around for position and stuff like that. But as far as the entertainment value, will you get the lap in before the clock runs out, will you get a big enough draft, will they all go out for a second time and you get a big pack again, are they going to knock somebody out of the round? That’s good.
“I don’t know why we would change much of that, I think it’s OK. Yeah, it’s a little chaotic, it’s crazy and none of us has it figured out or scienced out the way we want to have it yet, but that’s competition, that’s just what it is.”
Logano is right. While there was a randomness to who won the pole at Las Vegas, qualifying was as entertaining as any session in recent years.
What happened last week was reminiscent of qualifying at Talladega in October 2014. NASCAR divided teams into two groups for the opening round and each had five minutes. The top 24 overall times advanced.
Most cars stayed on pit road until they hit their cutoff mark to complete two laps. Not everyone made it. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Justin Allgaier were among the cars that didn’t make it to the start/finish line before the session ended. Their fastest laps didn’t count. They both failed to qualify. It’s the only race Stenhouse has failed to make since his 2013 rookie Cup season.
These days, 36 chartered cars are guaranteed a starting spot. That prevents a situation Stenhouse experienced five years ago with a well-funded team.
But that doesn’t ease all the angst. Some competitors were frustrated at Las Vegas because the draft negates who has the fastest car. It’s all about being in the right place to draft and turn the quickest lap. Being in that position can be as much luck as skill.
What happens in qualifying can impact the race. Teams pick pit stalls based on their starting spot. A poor qualifying effort can lead to issues in the race.
Logano is aware of that. He qualified 27th at Atlanta and his team had limited options on where to pick their pit stall. Crew chief Todd Gordon chose a stall behind Alex Bowman’s pit and in front of Martin Truex Jr.’s pit.
Rarely do strong teams pit next to each other because they don’t want to have to go around a car to enter their stall or be blocked in by the car in front. Logano faced that situation at Atlanta. He lost more than 10 spots on each of his first two pit stops because he couldn’t get around Bowman’s car to exit his stall.
That leads back to the question of should qualifying be about entertainment or sport?
The decision today will be easy. The fastest car will be rewarded because teams are not expected to draft.
This issue that will come up again in the coming weeks, though, when the series heads to Auto Club Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway.
“Texas, I don’t know,” Logano said. “I think there’s going to be parts of the track that you want to draft and parts of the track when you’re going to want clean air. When you get to Turns 1 and 2, you’re going to want some air on the car to be able to get through the corner with as much wide open time as possible. That one’s a real question for me.
“I think Kansas is a no-brainer, you’re definitely going to be drafting. As for Fontana, it’ll be interesting. I think there’s going to be some drafting going on there, but I think it’ll be split up a little bit, kind of like the way Atlanta was, kinda 50-50.”
There’s no splitting this issue. It’s about entertainment. Let chaos reign in qualifying.
For all the wins Kyle Busch has amassed in his NASCAR career, there is a recurring theme.
The runner-up to Busch in more than a third of the 197 races he’s won across Cup, Xfinity and the Gander Outdoors Truck Series has been one of five drivers.
The driver who has finished runner-up to Busch the most in those races is Kevin Harvick. He’s done so 18 times — five times in Cup, 10 times in Xfinity and three times in Trucks. The total equates to 9.1 percent of the time Busch has won a NASCAR race, Harvick has been second.
Carl Edwards is next on the list with 15 runner-up finishes to Busch. He’s followed by Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano with 13-runner-up finishes. Next is Kyle Larson, who has placed second to Busch eight times.
Combined, Harvick, Edwards, Keselowski, Logano and Larson have finished second to Busch in 67 of his 197 wins (34 percent).
They are among the 60 drivers who have placed second to Busch in a race he won. The list includes three NASCAR Hall of Fame members (Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Ron Hornaday Jr.), two Indianapolis 500 winners (Sam Hornish Jr. and Juan Pablo Montoya) and drivers who have combined to win 48 NASCAR titles in either Cup, Xfinity or Trucks.
The list could grow this weekend. Busch is entered in both the Cup and Xfinity races at Phoenix.
Here is who has finished second to Busch in Cup, Xfinity and Trucks races and how often:
Tanner Thorson, who competed in 11 Gander Outdoors Truck Series races last season, is recovering after he was involved in a highway crash early Monday morning in Modesto, California.
The 2016 U.S. Auto Club national champion had surgery Monday night for a broken left arm, according to the USAC Racing. Thorson had surgery Wednesday on his broken right foot. He also suffered a cracked sternum, broken ribs and a punctured lung, according to USAC Racing. The organization said that Thorson’s family hopes the 22-year-old can return home soon.
According to a preliminary investigation by the California Highway Patrol, Thorson was driving a 2019 Ford pickup that was towing his sprint car when he approached slower moving traffic shortly before 4 a.m. PT. Thorson’s truck struck the rear of a vehicle. KCRA, an NBC affiliate in Sacramento, reported that vehicle was a milk truck.
The impact sent the milk truck into the next lane where it was hit by another vehicle and then came back across the road and was struck another car. The driver was uninjured. A passenger in the truck was transported from the scene with minor injuries, according to the California Highway Patrol. Thorson’s vehicle came to rest on the shoulder and caught fire.
4. First time in new garages at Phoenix
ISM Raceway at Phoenix debuted its new garages and layout when NASCAR raced there in November.
Kevin Harvick has finished in the top five in half of the 32 Cup races he’s run at Phoenix. He has nine wins there. Jimmie Johnson has 15 top-five finishes in 31 Cup races there. He has four wins there.
Despite the dominance of the two, they have combined for one win (by Harvick) in the last five races at Phoenix. The other winners in the last five races at Phoenix are Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman and Joey Logano.
Busch’s 52nd career series win moved him past NASCAR Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr. on the all-time list. Busch earned the victory in his 146th career Truck start.
“It’s a great accomplishment, but, my aspirations aren’t to go out there and set records,” Busch said. “My aspirations are to go out there and win every single race. I’ve started (990 Cup, Xfinity and Truck) races and I’ve only won 190-something of them. So there have been way more disappointments than thrills of victory. This one is certainly good. It’s big and will be way bigger years down the road once I”m all set and done and maybe the record will hold, who knows?”
The victory is the 195th of Busch’s NASCAR career. He has 92 Xfinity victories, 52 Truck wins and 51 Cup victories.
Busch gave up the lead on Lap 54 to pit because of a vibration that the team believed was from a loose lug nut. He restarted 23rd and made his way through the field. Busch reclaimed the lead on Lap 78 and controlled it from that point.
Stage 1 winner: Kyle Busch
Stage 2 winner: Kyle Busch
Next: The series will race at 9 p.m. ET on March 1 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
All-time Truck Series wins
52 – Kyle Busch
51 – Ron Hornaday Jr.
28 – Jack Sprague
28 – Mike Skinner
23 – Johnny Sauter
Tour racing returns to the Milwaukee Mile with ARCA Midwest
On Father’s Day 2019, tour racing will return to the Milwaukee Mile marking the track’s first super late model race in five years.
The 75-mile ARCA Midwest Tour race will headline a card that includes the Midwest Trucks, Mid-American Stock Cars and Upper Midwest Vintage series.
“It is our continued initiative to bring racing back to the historic Milwaukee Mile,” said Kathleen O’Leary, CEO at the Wisconsin State Fair Park on the ARCA Midwest Tour website. “We are excited to host this race on Father’s Day in 2019.”
ARCA’s premiere series raced three times at Milwaukee with Frank Kimmel winning the most recent event in August 2007.
NASCAR’s last appearance at the track was a double header in with the Xfinity and Gander Outdoor Truck series in 2009. Carl Edwards won the Xfinity race; Ron Hornaday Jr. won in Trucks.
The last major event on the .75-mile track was an IndyCar race in July 2015 won by Sebastian Bourdais.
The Milwaukee Mile has hosted races since 1903, which makes it the oldest operating motor speedway.