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Circuit of the Americas
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Report: Cup to compete at Circuit of the Americas in 2021

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The NASCAR Cup Series will compete at the Circuit of the Americas road course in Austin, Texas, next year while the All-Star Race will have a new home, The Athletic reported Monday.

The changes reported are:

  • Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas to host a Cup race in 2021. That date would come from one of the two Cup weekends Texas Motor Speedway hosts.
  • Texas Motor Speedway would get the All-Star Race, replacing the weekend sent to Circuit of the Americas.

NASCAR declined a request for comment from NBC Sports, but a spokesperson said it is “looking forward to announcing the 2021 schedule in the near future.”

The Circuit of the Americas is a 3.426-mile, 20-turn road course that opened in 2012. It hosts Formula 1 races and began holding IndyCar events in 2019.

With Circuit of the Americas, the NASCAR Cup Series could have as many as five races on road courses next year: Watkins Glen, Sonoma Raceway, Charlotte Roval and the Daytona road course, which is scheduled to host the Busch Clash in February.

A NASCAR event has never been held at Circuit of the Americas, but Tony Stewart piloted a Stewart-Haas Racing car there last year in a demonstration run.

Circuit of the Americas is located roughly 220 miles south of Texas Motor Speedway in North Texas.

Texas Motor Speedway, owned by Speedway Motorsports, has hosted two Cup points races since 2005.

Circuit of the Americas would be the second new track to host a Cup race next year.

Nashville Superspeedway in Tennessee was revealed in June as the newest addition to the schedule. It will host the Cup Series June 21, 2021.

NASCAR’s All-Star Race was held at Bristol Motor Speedway in July this year after the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic prevented it from being held at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Charlotte, another Speedway Motorsports track, had hosted the All-Star Race every year but one since the event’s introduction in 1985.

According The Athletic, the All-Star Race is expected to be held later in the year instead of its traditional spot the week before the Coca-Cola 600 in May.

Texas Motor Speedway to host polling site for election

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Residents and race fans in parts of North Texas will be able to cast their vote in the upcoming election at their local NASCAR track.

Texas Motor Speedway will be a polling site for the Nov. 3 election.

The track, owned by Speedway Motorsports, will serve as a polling site for the residents of Precinct 4048. That precinct includes a large portion of Denton County and Forth Worth, Texas.

The polling site will be in the Lone Star Tower Condominium Clubhouse just outside Turn 2. It will be open from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. ET on election day.

More: Upcoming Cup playoffs races can fans attend

“In anticipation of a very high voter turnout for the presidential election, we have been working for months to acquire polling sites throughout the county,” Frank Phillips, Denton County Elections Administrator, said in a press release. “We are excited that Texas Motor Speedway has offered the use of the Lone Star Tower Clubhouse as a polling site.”

Local, state and CDC guidelines will be followed to ensure a sanitized, safe and socially distanced voter experience.

TMS is the first track that hosts NASCAR Cup races to announce its plans for use as a polling site. It joins sporting venues for other major sports in doing so.

A number of NBA arenas and practice facilities will be voting locations, as well as select NFL stadiums and NHL arenas.

What upcoming Cup playoff races NASCAR fans can attend

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Wednesday saw Kansas Speedway announce “up to 10,000” NASCAR fans will be able to attend its Oct. 18 Cup playoff race.

Eight Cup races remain in the season with Saturday’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway closing out the first round of the playoffs (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, not all tracks are allowing fans to attend.

Here are the fan policies for the remainder of the Cup Series playoffs.

 

Bristol Motor Speedway (Saturday)

Roughly 30,000 fans are expected. The track sold out its ticket availability. Fans will also be allowed for the Xfinity race.

 

Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Sept. 27)

The track announced Sept. 18 that no fans will be permitted for any of its races.

 

Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 4)

Reduced number of fans.

 

Charlotte Roval (Oct. 11)

To be determined. The track’s proposal is being reviewed by North Carolina’s government.

 

Kansas Speedway (Oct. 18)

Limited number of fans.

 

Texas Motor Speedway (Oct. 25)

50% of capacity permitted.

 

Martinsville Speedway (Nov. 1)

To be determined.

 

Phoenix Raceway – Championship race (Nov. 8)

Limited number of fans for all three days.

Leavine Family Racing announces it has been sold

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Leavine Family Racing owner Bob Leavine announced Tuesday the sale of the Cup team.

He did not state a buyer in his statement. Leavine said in a statement that the team will continue to compete through the rest of the year.

MORE: Bob Leavine reflects on team’s rise from start-and-park car

In his statement, Leavine said:

“It’s with great sadness today that I announce the sale of the Leavine Family Racing team, assets and charter. Since 2011, Sharon and our entire family have enjoyed being a part of the NASCAR community with Matt DiLiberto joining the family as a co-owner in 2016. We will say goodbye at the conclusion of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season.

Bob Leavine. (Photo by Getty Images)

“This decision has not been made lightly. Family has always been a part of the team’s name and this is how we view every member of our race team — as our family. There is no good time to make this announcement, but doing it earlier allows our people to explore employment opportunities, for next season, to provide for their families. There will be opportunities with the new owners which was important to our decision.

“This year has been challenging for not only our race team, but our industry, our country and the entire world. The pandemic has impacted our economy and unfortunately that’s just not something we are able to overcome in order to continue racing beyond this season.

“Leavine Family Racing will continue to compete through the end of 2020, and we want to leave on a positive note – contending for top-finishes with Christopher Bell, Toyota, TRD, and all of our partners. Thank you to everyone for your support through this journey. Thank you to our partners and fans and most of all, thank you to everyone who has been part of the Leavine Family Racing family over the last decade.”

Leavine said the chassis and equipment that came from its alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing will return to JGR at the end of the season and are not part of the sale.

Leavine Family Racing has competed in NASCAR since 2011, making its debut with David Starr at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9. The organization didn’t run a full schedule until 2016 with Michael McDowell and Ty Dillon splitting the ride. Others who have driven for the team include Kasey Kahne, Regan Smith, Matt DiBenedetto and Bell.

Leavine Family Racing is winless in 240 Cup starts. Its best finish is second with DiBenedetto at last fall’s Bristol night race.

Toyota Racing issues a statement from Paul Doleshal, group manager for motorsports, Toyota Motor North America:

“We want to thank Bob and Sharon Leavine, Matt DiLiberto, Jeremy Lange and everyone at Leavine Family Racing (LFR) for a successful partnership. We entered this 2020 racing season with high hopes for LFR and the team has not disappointed. While the season may not have started out as everyone wanted, after returning from the shutdown due to COVID-19, LFR rebounded with some very strong on-track performances. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the world and more closely, the entire NASCAR family in so many ways and for LFR, that has forced the sale of the race team. We’re certainly disappointed and saddened by the news, but most importantly, we want to wish Bob, Sharon, Matt, Jeremy and everyone impacted the best of luck in their future endeavors.”

How Austin Dillon’s Texas win was set in motion 1,100 miles away

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When the caution flag waved 27 laps from the end of last weekend’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway, crew chief Justin Alexander had a decision to make.

Austin Dillon was seventh. Pitting was the easy call — all the leaders came to pit road.

The key question was if to take two tires, four tires or no tires. Figuring a few of the leaders would take two tires, Alexander contemplated a quicker no-tire stop to pass those cars on pit road to gain track position.

In a command center 1,100 miles away at Richard Childress Racing in Welcome, North Carolina, a different option was presented.

Pit for two tires. Specifically, pit for two left-side tires.

Alexander made that call, Dillon exited pit road second to teammate Tyler Reddick, whose team changed no tires. Dillon took the lead and went on to win the race and earn a playoff spot.

“The call was the win,” Dillon said after his third career Cup victory.

Many things had to happen — Dillon’s pit crew needed a fast stop and he had to hold off the field on multiple restarts — for Dillon to win, but the role the command center played was critical.

The sport’s top teams have places in their race shop dedicated for engineers and team officials to use to study in-race data and provide input for the crew chief at the track. Such centers have become more valuable this season with teams not practicing and qualifying before races, meaning a car’s first laps at speed are when the green flag waves. NASCAR announced this week that there will be no practice and no qualifying the rest of the season.

NBCSN’s Marty Snider will give fans an inside look at the RCR command center during tonight’s Cup race at Kansas Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App), showing what takes place and how the decisions there impact a race.

RCR’s command center, which was built about five years ago, has 10 stations for engineers and others to work and a wall-sized screen that can show various data about the RCR cars or any other car in the field along with the race broadcast. Computer programs also provide instant analysis of when to pit, how many tires to change and where each option is likely to put the car.

Austin Dillon and his team after winning Texas. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

“Definitely the command center has helped,” said Alexander, who led the organization’s research and development and worked race days in the command center before reuniting as Dillon’s crew chief this season. “There’s more eyes on things than I can look at on my computer.”

With crew rosters limited, Alexander does not have either of his engineers with him at the the track. They work from RCR.

“As they feed me data, I can make better decisions,” Alexander said.

Dr. Eric Warren, RCR’s chief technology officer, spearheaded the effort to build the center. The technology has grown from analyzing timing and scoring to deciphering the car’s performance and strategies each team is likely to use in the race.

“The basic foundation of it is trying to learn what is the real performance of the car,” Warren told NBC Sports. “That way you are taking out things like weather, track position and laps on tires, all those things. As it gets more accurate in really understanding you’re an eighth-place car, then you can make those tradeoffs. If I take two tires and gain five seconds of track position, what’s my fall-off going to be and what’s my performance going to be?”

With such knowledge, teams can decide if such gambles are worth making.

Computer programs also study other teams and learn their tendencies and that can help plot strategy against.

Warren noted the key for Dillon came well before that last pit stop. Dillon had a four-tire stop on Lap 213 of the 334-lap race. That allowed the team to go with two-tire stops later since lap times did not significantly increase the longer the car ran on the same set of tires.

Dillon came in for a two-tire stop on Lap 245 under caution, a move that allowed him to go from 11th before the stop to eighth. The top six cars did not pit, meaning Dillon was second among those that had stopped.

A caution on Lap 307 when rookie Quin Houff made contact with Christopher Bell and Matt DiBenedetto trapped five of those six cars that had not pitted on Lap 245 a lap down, forcing them to take a wave around and not pit during that caution. That all but eliminated Ryan Blaney, who led 150 laps and pole-sitter Aric Almirola, among others.

“We knew, even an entire stop before, there were a lot of people that the way they did their pit strategy, they were going to be left exposed for a long period of time,” Warren said, noting Blaney, Almirola and others who pitted under green around Lap 290 and would remain a lap down until the rest of the field cycled through under green. “We actually altered our strategy way before those (late) cautions came out and kind of knew the likelihood of a caution happening (near Lap 307) was pretty high.”

That caution is when Dillon came in for two left-side tires, as the computer program suggested, and Reddick changed no tires, also as the program suggested. Dillon and Reddick went on to give RCR its first 1-2 finish in a Cup race since 2011.

“It’s starting to show that the speed of the cars are there,” Reddick told NBCSN’s Kyle Petty on this week’s Splash and Go. “Just taking advantage of some track position, taking advantage of some strategy calling played into our strengths, and it really showed that our cars had the speed on the older tires to be able to hold off the guys on four fresh tires.”

Warren also notes that while technology plays a key role in races, the human factor remains important.

“The relationship between the crew chief and the driver is critical because we might say 100% we definitely think you need to take right-side tires here,” Warren said. “The crew chief is going to know, even a little bit more than us, how far is the driver on the edge and maybe we’re not seeing a little damage on the car. My way of thinking about it has always been like we used to not have computers to do word processing, right? Well, now you have that and you can, so now you can spend time doing the next advanced thing. That’s the same with us.

“I don’t think the human element ever really is going to be replaced, at least not short term. I think it allows you to think about things more complex.”

Like winning races.