START: The command to start engines will be given at 2:26 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 2:38 p.m.
PRERACE: The Cup garage opens at 9 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 12:30 p.m. Driver introductions are at 1:50 p.m. The invocation will be given at 2:19 p.m. The National Anthem will be performed at 2:20 p.m.
DISTANCE: The race is 109 laps (248.52 miles) around the 2.28-mile road course.
STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 25. Stage 2 ends on Lap 50.
CONCORD, N.C. – There are still many issues to resolve (namely, scheduling, track conditions, tire compounds are among myriad logistical challenges) about the viability of an IndyCar-NASCAR doubleheader race weekend.
But as Josef Newgarden’s Dallara-Chevrolet whizzed around the 17-turn, road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway under the watchful eyes of stars and executives from both NASCAR and IndyCar, there was no doubt about the infectious buzz for a marriage between the two biggest series in American motorsports.
That was evident from the smiles on the faces of Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney, who sent their Team Penske compatriot off from the pits and then greeted him in victory lane.
After watching his teammate turn six blazing laps, Logano was ready to trade in the keys from his No. 22 Ford for a test drive.
“You’re grabbing another gear, we’re hitting the brakes your first lap on the frontstretch,” Logano told Newgarden with a bemused laugh.
“The NASCAR guys, I love they’re interested in us, and we’re interested in them,” Newgarden, who clinched his second NTT championship five days earlier, told NBCSN’s Rutledge Wood. “You can tell we’re just racers. They love our race cars. I love theirs. The only thing that would have made me more excited would have been if I would have been able to get in one of their cars today.
IndyCar president Jay Frye, who was on hand as an observer along with Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Doug Boles, was highly encouraged by the enthusiasm.
“It was spectacular,” Frye said. “All the Cup guys were out watching the big board, obviously there’s interest from (the news media), from us. What’s next for all of us is something we’re working on, and it’s great we certainly felt welcome and wanted here. This is a great facility. So who knows? Lots of things are possible.”
Newgarden’s biggest concern was about how the tire compounds would mix (IndyCar uses Firestone; NASCAR is on Goodyear), but that turned out fine, as did the track’s banking and transitions that caused a “heavy” wheel because Indy cars have no power steering
“It was getting better each run,” Newgarden said. “It felt pretty good.”
He said his fast laps were in the 67-second range, or about 14 seconds faster than William Byron’s pole speed (80.9 seconds) 30 minutes earlier – which was exactly the spread that had been predicted by Team Penske simulation software (according to Blaney).
Mindful of Team Penske president Tim Cindric’s playful yet stern warnings (“I told Josef we’re not going to get a trophy for what happens today. That million dollars for winning the championship won’t go far in replacing this thing. Have fun, but it’s on you.”), Newgarden said he took it easy in the Dallara-Chevrolet that Simon Pagenaud finished fourth with last Sunday at Laguna Seca Raceway, leaving “another second or two” on the track.
With a setup optimized for qualifying, it’s conceivable that he could have lapped in the 1-minute range and left his Cup teammates fully in the dust – though showing up NASCAR was far from the goal for Newgarden, who bent over backward being magnanimous toward his stock-car counterparts.
The two-time IndyCar champion talked multiple times about his dream of running a Cup car (practically begging Cindric for the opportunity during a news conference) and effusively praised the reception he received from NASCAR fans, noting that it likely would have been different during the Cold War the series engaged in through much of the 1990s and 2000s.
“I think everyone was really supportive of what we’re doing,” Newgarden said. “There just seems to be a lot more movement to racing fans being racing fans again. I love that because I’m a huge NASCAR fan myself.
“It doesn’t matter that I grew up racing open-wheel cars. I still appreciate top-level racing, and these guys are the best at what they do. They feel the same way about us. This whole discussion that’s emerging about trying to promote racing as a whole is a really great thing. I love it. I’m so interested in what they do all year, and I think it’s the same from their side, so the more we can do together in the future the better.”
How soon that will happen was the big question lingering over Friday’s exhibition, which Clint Bowyer referred to on NASCAR America as “the first test session for IndyCar on our Roval. Why wouldn’t we bring those guys to race with our sport? I think it’s a great idea.”
“That was a lot of fun and a lot of great response to it, and that’s things we couldn’t have done in the past,” NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood said last Friday in a news conference at Laguna Seca Raceway. “I think that’s part of us leaning in at NBC in trying to grow all of motorsports, and it’s important that every form of racing gets attention, and that’s what we’re pushing.”
IndyCar CEO Mark Miles has vacillated publicly on the idea. Asked by NBC Sports last week if IndyCar was moving toward a doubleheader weekend, Miles said it was unlikely before 2022.
“It was said that there was momentum in May. In my view there was more discussion in May, more talk about it, more smoke than fire. So I think the folks at NASCAR know that we think it’s a good idea. I think as far as I can tell, they think it’s a good idea.
“So we’ll see if it can be pulled together. But it’s something that we think, if it gets more people watching motorsports, it’s well worth working on.”
However, at least one person with direct knowledge of the talks (but not authorized to discuss them publicly) told NBCSports.com that a 2021 doubleheader hadn’t been ruled out.
Friday’s exhibition run was described by Newgarden as a “gift” from sponsor ShellPennzoil (“the coolest thing all week” during his championship celebration), which also has a strong business relationship with Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Track general manager Greg Walter described his contact with IndyCar officials about a race as preliminary, “first date”-level conversations. Walter was encouraged by Newgarden’s results.
There probably would need to be changes made with Indy cars (such as removing the “turtle” curbs that cause massive damage to Cup cars as a penalty for veering off course), but Walter said Charlotte is exploring IndyCar and other series (such as IMSA, support sports cars circuits and Formula E) for its Roval layout.
“We’re open to any form of racing if it makes sense,” Walter told NBCSports.com. “So if it physically and financially makes sense, and from a fan following if it makes sense, we’re open to it. NASCAR has been our focus and continues to be our focus, but we always ask is there something else out there that fits as well.”
Frye, who has boundless contacts in NASCAR from many years as a team and sponsor executive, said Newgarden’s car “looked very natural out there, looked good. The lap times were within reason of what everyone thought it would be. So, who knows?
“There really aren’t any hurdles (to a doubleheader), necessarily. It’s just schedules. Timing, how that all works. Obviously our season ended last week. That’s something we could look at down the road, how it could fit.”
Frye also stressed that the Roval wouldn’t be the only option for a doubleheader.
Richmond, Texas and Indianapolis are other tracks that are raced by both IndyCar and NASCAR, and Newgarden certainly seems open to trying any of them.
“I think it would be really cool for the fans without a doubt,” Newgarden said. “Why would you not want to have that doubled up on a weekend? They’re just both great championships.
“I respect these guys so much, and I love keeping in touch with what they’re doing, so having a little closer access to them and vice versa for us, I think it would be a win-win for everybody.”
When it comes to Goodyear tires, both Cup and Xfinity teams will race on the same traditional road course rubber, but air pressure recommendations will be different than in tires used at Watkins Glen International and Sonoma Raceway.
According to a Goodyear media release, the reason is: “Those two courses are run primarily in a clockwise direction, with a majority of right-hand turns. The Roval is run counter-clockwise – including utilizing the majority of the speedway’s oval – making it primarily a left-hand course. The air pressures reflect that difference, with the right-front tire having a recommendation of two psi greater than the left-front (28 psi vs. 26 psi), because that is the corner of the car that sees the most load most of the time around the 2.28-mile course.”
Added Goodyear director of racing Greg Stucker, “While the course has gone through several changes since it was first laid out in late 2017, the fact remains that we treat the Roval as a road course from a tire perspective. The Roval is definitely unique in the NASCAR world, and requires us to be aware of many factors.
“Similar to other road courses, we have to bring a tire and recommend air pressures that reflect the hard braking and acceleration on and off the corners. The main difference is the use of the oval as part of the course, where loads on the right-front will be higher than any other corner of the car.”
Teams will also have wet weather tires at their disposal should conditions warrant. Cup teams are allowed two sets of “wets” for practice and qualifying and up to four sets for the race, while Xfinity teams are allowed two sets of “wets” for practice and qualifying and up to two sets for the race.
The ‘Goodyear’ and Eagle lettering on the sidewalls of the wet weather tires is white, not the standard Goodyear yellow.
Here is the information for this weekend’s tires at Charlotte’s Roval:
Tire:Goodyear Eagle Speedway Radials
Set limits:Cup: Three sets for practice, one set for qualifying and eightsets for the race (seven race sets plus one set transferred from qualifying or practice); Xfinity: Sixsets for the event
Tire Codes (same on all four tire positions): D-4940
Tire Circumference: 2,240 mm (88.19 in.)
Minimum Recommended Inflation: Left Front — 26 psi; Right Front — 28 psi; Left Rear — 20 psi; Right Rear — 20 psi
KANSAS CITY, Kansas — The voice did little to mask the frustration, confusion and level of desperation.
For much of the season, Martin Truex Jr. has been in control, and at times dominant, winning four races and finishing in the top five in 17 of the first 31 starts entering last weekend’s race at Kansas Speedway.
But little went right for Truex on Sunday.
That the team finished fifth — in the odd stat category, all 18 of Truex’s top-10 finishes this year have been top fives — was a testament to its ability to persevere but the question is if that will be enough in this round? It helps that he has plenty of playoff points but that almost wasn’t enough to keep his title hopes alive beyond Kansas.
The issues they had with the car Saturday in practice weren’t resolved in the race. That proved frustrating for Truex and the team.
At the completion of the first stage on Lap 80, Truex radioed crew chief Cole Pearn: “I don’t know what to do. Maybe I just need to tighten this thing up and run the wall.”
Pearn responded: “We’re not making any ground with what we’re doing.”
About 25 laps later, Pearn asked Truex what he needed to run better near the wall. Truex said: “Everything. It does the same thing on the bottom. Won’t turn.”
Twice in the first 120 laps, Pearn brought Truex in early to start a wave of green-flag pit stops. Pearn did that with the hope that having fresh tires sooner would help the No. 78 leapfrog a few cars. The gain proved minimal.
On Lap 140, Truex, running 11th, told Pearn: “I’m so bad in traffic. It’s ridiculous.”
On Lap 165, Pearn told Truex, who was running sixth, that the points were tight and that “you’ve got to race as hard as you can.”
Truex said: “Doing all I can right now.”
He did enough to advance.
“We had to dig deep,” Truex said afterward. “A lot of pressure and a bad situation and we were able to come out looking good. That being said, we’ve had a lot of headwind that we’ve had to battle through the playoffs, we haven’t had much go our way.
“We had a few races like that this year, we had a few like that last year. Seems like this year they’ve been a little bit more frequent but again we finished fifth. You can’t complain too much. At the end of the day, we’re still searching a little bit at certain race tracks.”
One of the things that Truex can take away is how strong his pit crew was Sunday. Twice he gained four spots on pit road. The second time came after the end of the second stage and allowed Truex to restart sixth.
Even with his struggles, that track position was critical. He never ran worse than seventh in the final 100 laps and finished high enough to advance to third round and continue his quest for back-to-back Cup titles.
“I feel like this is unique to Charlotte, and we’ve got other speedways out there that produce their own unique action,” Smith said.
International Speedway Corp., which owns 12 tracks that host Cup races, also does not have any plans at this point of turning one of its oval races into a Roval event.
Lesa France Kennedy, chief executive officer of ISC, praised Smith for the Roval.
“I think Marcus Smith did an amazing job of taking his idea from start to finish … to get to the point that he did,” Kennedy said this past weekend at Kansas Speedway. “I think the fan reaction was amazing. I think it’s created a lot of hype and attention to the sport and I really applaud him and his team’s efforts. I think everybody is paying attention.”
John Hunter Nemecheck’s victory in Saturday’s Xfinity race was celebrated throughout pit road among title contenders.
Nemechek was not eligible for the playoffs since he didn’t run the full season. His victory takes away an automatic spot to the championship finale in Miami and means at least two of the four contenders will advance via points.
“It was big because that keeps us all in play where it doesn’t give anybody an advantage for Homestead where you can work on your stuff (early) for that particular race,” Elliott Sadler told NBC Sports after the race.
The Xfinity Series is off this weekend. Teams are back in action Nov. 3 at Texas Motor Speedway.
NASCAR is expected to issue its penalty report Wednesday. Daniel Hemric‘s Xfinity car was found to be too low in post-race inspection. The likely L1 penalty will cost Hemric 10 points. If so, that will drop him out of the lead. He currently leads Elliott Sadler by nine points.
Should Hemric lose 10 points, it will put the top six drivers within 18 points.
NASCAR examined why the hood flew off Ross Chastain‘s Xfinity car during Saturday’s race. The car suffered front-end damage in an earlier incident.
NASCAR also planned to review this week why a caution was not called when Chastain’s hood flew off near Turn 3. It was run over and broken into smaller pieces.