Steve Letarte

NBC Sports

NBC on NASCAR podcast: Parker Kligerman on iRacing, tonight’s race

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We’re going racing tonight!

While NASCAR and all other forms of sports in the U.S. are shut down due to the COVID-19 virus, iRacing.com is the place to be tonight for the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series event at 9 p.m. ET from a virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Click here for a preview of tonight’s race.

One individual who is in his second season as an iRacing team owner is NASCAR on NBC analyst Parker Kligerman, who co-owns Burton/Kligerman eSports with fellow NBC Sports NASCAR analyst and former Cup driver Jeff Burton.

Their drivers are Ashton Crowder (drives the No. 77 Valvoline car) and Logan Clampitt (drives the No. 99 Valvoline car, an homage to Burton, who primarily drove that car number during his Cup career at Roush Fenway Racing). Crowder currently leads the series’ points, coming off a recent win at the virtual Auto Club Speedway.

 

Kligerman joined Nate Ryan on this week’s NASCAR on NBC podcast and spoke about his involvement in online sports, as well as being a iRacing team co-owner.

“Obviously, eSports is a big topic these days,” Kligerman told Ryan. “I’ve always been a big fan of Valvoline cars growing up, how good they looked, the paint schemes and everything and I thought how cool it would be to have them as those cars.”

Crowder and Clampitt are among the 20 drivers in the Coca-Cola iRacing Series. Among other team owners in the series are NBC NASCAR analyst Steve Letarte, as well as NASCAR Cup drivers Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson and William Byron.

Byron is particularly notable as he literally began his racing career on the iRacing platform just nine years ago.

The eSports and iRacing platforms have become quite popular – and likely will gain even greater notoriety and attention during the current conditions.

Of note, Kligerman gave Ryan some key statistics: Across the Twitch, YouTube, eNASCAR.com and Facebook platforms, iRacing has averaged 180,000 viewers live, with an average retention time a person watches a race of between 19 and 30 minutes per person.

Another key point: the annual championship purse has jumped from over $100,000 last year to $300,000 this season.

“I don’t like the term ‘eSports’ anymore because I think of traditional eSports as doing something different,” Kligerman told Ryan. “We’re ‘eMotorsports’, we’re trying to help a sport that already exists build a base and gain a new audience and be exposed to people that can never be exposed to it on a competitive level.”

That fellow drivers like Hamlin, Larson and Byron have joined the series as team owners also speaks to the increasing popularity of eSports, particularly on the iRacing platform.

“It’s big,” Kligerman said. “When you get people like Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson and William Byron, that sort of continually validates that.”

Owning an eSports/iRacing team also gives individuals a chance to do something they probably wouldn’t be able to do in real life.

“There’s 13 owners of the 20 that don’t own a real car in NASCAR and maybe never will,” Kligerman said. “And I think there’s six or seven that don’t own a real race car at all, maybe eight.

“So, we’re expanding outside the motorsports ecosystem to people that would never be involved in motorsports at the level of being an owner, and yet this allows them to do it, it’s fun and something they can promote and be excited about and promote motorsports and NASCAR to a base that never would have touched it before.”

Even NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan is tied to iRacing via a partial sponsorship of Hamlin’s e-team, including Jordan’s famous “Jump Man” logo on the side of the virtual race car of Hamlin’s team.

“One of the pitches to the driver pitching that was that he could meet Michael Jordan,” Kligerman said with a laugh. “I was like, ‘I can’t compete with that.’

“Jeff (Burton) and I are really cool, but we’re not Michael Jordan. That was a tough one. I just can’t get over how cool that is. You just brought someone in because it’s not the massive undertaking of having a real race team, and frankly a real race team right now as a business decision is not a very viable business decision as we all now.”

But obviously having an eSports race team is proving to be a very viable and inexpensive business decision and option for many.

To hear this week’s complete podcast, click here.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

NASCAR America’s MotorMouths live at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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

Steve Letarte will be joined by Jeff Burton, Kyle Petty and Nate Ryan.

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).

Catch NASCAR America MotorMouths at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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Today’s edition of NASCAR America MotorMouths – which airs live from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN – will cover lots of ground, including Ryan Newman, this weekend’s racing action in Las Vegas and, of course, have lots of interaction on the phone and social media with you, the fans.

You can call in at 844-NASCAR-NBC or submit a question on Twitter using #LetMeSayThis

Krista Voda hosts and will be joined by Kyle Petty, Steve Letarte and Nate Ryan.

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.

NASCAR America returns today from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN

NASCAR America
NBC Sports
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They’re baaaccckkk!

After a long, cold winter, you can tell the start of the NASCAR season is ready to heat up as NASCAR America returns to the airwaves to begin its seventh season on NBCSN.

Today’s show runs from 5-6 p.m. ET and features analysts Steve Letarte, Jeff Burton and Kyle Petty.

Among topics the trio will discuss are Sunday’s chaotic Busch Clash, Brad Keselowski’s comments after his incident in the Clash and also review Daytona 500 front row qualifying.

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.