NASCAR America: Short track action is what ‘this sport was built on’

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NASCAR has changed a lot since Dale Earnhardt Jr. was born in 1974.

Through 1985 the series ran 10 short track races per year until the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway was taken off the schedule. From 1985-96 short track fans had eight weekends to anticipate.

In 1997, North Wilkesboro Speedway’s two dates were divvied up between Texas Motor Speedway and New Hampshire International Speedway.

Now there are only six short track dates and that has created a fundamental change in competition at the Cup level, according to Earnhardt.

Fan reaction after last week’s Martinsville finish when Joey Logano bumped Martin Truex Jr. out of the lead was electrifying. One has to go back to the 2017 edition of that same race and the contact between Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott for a comparison.

“(The finish at Martinsville) is something that I think I saw a lot when I was younger, even when I was a kid going to the races. This is something I felt was happening once a month,” Earnhardt said on Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America.

And he asked Dale Jarrett if that opinion was shared.

Jarrett agreed and credited the lack of short track racing as one of the causes.

“First off, we don’t have as many short tracks,” Jarrett said. “(Lower) speeds allow you to do things like (the bump and run at Martinsville). … You can’t go to Texas this weekend – and if you run into the back of somebody, they’re gonna crash hard and there’s the chance you might crash too.”

While not technically a short track – a course less than 1 mile in length – Rockingham Speedway featured the same style of racing, according to Jarrett.

“As the speeds get lower, you have those opportunities to make moments and have moments,” Jarrett added. “And quite honestly, that’s what this sport was built on.”

For more, watch the video above.

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NASCAR America: What makes Martinsville so special?

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Martinsville is old school, according to Dale Earnhardt Jr. At a time when so much is changing in the sport – new drivers, new cars, new rules, new tracks – it is that connection to the roots of the sport that makes Martinsville Speedway so special.

“The last time we were there with Chase (Elliott) and Denny (Hamlin) and then the crash at the end – everything that was going on – it was crazy,” Earnhardt said on Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America. “It really felt like we went back to the ’80s and ’90s and the heyday of the sport when we were racing at a lot of short tracks every month with this kind of thing here going on just about every two or three weeks.”

On the final lap of regulation at Martinsville last fall, Hamlin bumped Elliott into a spin. On the ensuing restart, Kyle Busch bumped teammate Hamlin out of the lead and that eventually led to Hamlin spinning on the last lap of the overtime period.

Elliott finished 27th one lap off the pace. Hamlin finished seventh.

Busch won.

After the race, Elliott drove Hamlin into the wall and the two drivers had a heated exchange afterward. Earnhardt climbed from his car to watch the drama on the jumbotron.

“I remember leaving that track and pulling out onto the highway, in my mind thinking if NASCAR could have this every week none of us would have nothing to worry about,” Earnhardt said. “We wouldn’t be able to print enough tickets, wouldn’t be able to build the stands high enough to get the people in here who wanted to see this in person.”

The tight confines of short track racing led to rivalries in the past. An incident was rarely forgotten and was carried over from week to week, according to Earnhardt.

Two weeks later when Elliott and Hamlin were racing for second at Phoenix, Elliott did not give Hamlin any racing room and pinched the No. 11 into the wall. Neither driver advanced to the final round of the playoffs.

For more watch the videos above.

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NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Discussing the Roval from our new studio

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Today’s NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN, from the new Charlotte studio.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. welcomes Rutledge Wood and Kyle Petty to this week’s edition of #WednesDale.

  • Rutledge, Kyle and Dale Jr. will discuss the upcoming weekend at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval and its place among the major changes in NASCAR history.
  • Dale Jr. chats about his new book “Racing to the Finish” that will be available on Oct. 16th. We’ll actually hear an excerpt of the book, narrated by Dale himself.
  • Also, the boys will have a discussion on the latest Silly Season news and potential destinations where drivers could be heading for the 2019 season.
  • Plus, it’s another classic moment in this week’s edition of “What’s in Dale Jr.’s VCR?”
  • And, we’ll answer questions from fans who use #WednesDale, as well as our weekly “Shout-Outs”

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it 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: Racing the high line has been good to Kyle Larson

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Larson will both race at Richmond this weekend. That gave them the opportunity to discuss racing the high line at Richmond and other tracks.

“I’ve got a one-day show, which I’m kind of excited about,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said on Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America.

Earnhardt will compete in Friday’s Xfinity race in one of his cars (7:30 p.m. ET on Friday on NBCSN). Since Cup regulars are excluded from racing in that series during their playoffs, Larson will have to wait until Saturday night (7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday on NBCSN).

Since both will compete this weekend, it gave them a chance to compare racing lines.

“Richmond is a track that I enjoy. Sometimes it gets multiple grooves, not every time, but sometimes. I don’t know what really controls that. What do you think controls that?” Dale Earnhardt Jr. asked Kyle Larson.

“I think it depends on the drivers in the field maybe that get it to widen out some,” Larson answered. “Xfinity racing gets about halfway up … and then creeps back down. The Cup race, it gets all the way up to the wall and works its way back down too. It’s become one of my more favorite tracks to go to the last couple of times.”

Larson won last year’s Federated Auto Parts 400 and finished seventh this spring.

Earnhardt has seven combined wins at Richmond in the Cup (three wins) and Xfinity series (four) – including the most recent of his 24 career Xfinity wins in April 2016.

Larson has a reputation for running the high line and explained why on Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America.

Driving close to the wall allows him to use the air bouncing off it to create more side force on his car.

“Early in a race, I take my time getting up there, but once it rubbers up then I’m committed to it,” Larson said. “Like this week, we moved to the top in Vegas and you’re trying to move the rubber up to the wall so you can get to the wall and kind of use the air.”

Simply popping up to the outside groove is not successful, however. Larson says that it is the angle of entry that matters most.

“To me, it all comes down to committing on entry. … You can’t drive up to the wall. You kill a lot of speed once you get to it. The wider you can make your entry the more speed you make through the corner. And you need to get close to the wall to kind of feel the air working.”

That is one of the reasons Larson has been so successful at Homestead.

“(At) Homestead (it’s) super easy to run the wall because you’re already committed on entry … the way the shape of the corner is. You can feel it down the straightaway when you get close to the wall. I just kind of stay within that pocket.”

For more, watch the video above.

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NASCAR America: NASCAR could own Wednesday summer nights

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With three tracks in the playoffs that never hosted playoff races before and conversation surrounding a dramatically new aero package for next year, it seems that change is in the air for NASCAR.

On Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America, fans used the hashtag #WednesDale on social media to see just how far those changes could go.

Their questions began a conversation between Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Petty and Nate Ryan about how NASCAR could alter their summertime calendar to consolidate the schedule without lessening the number of races run.

The panelists were uniform in their desire to see most tracks host only one NASCAR Cup race per year.

“I hate to say this Jason, but … I wouldn’t want any of the tracks to get a second date,” Nate Ryan said.

“I don’t really want to run anywhere twice,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. joined in.

“I like Daytona a couple of times, but I’d like to see everyone go to one … and let’s consolidate and make it special,” Petty said.

Taking away the second dates would create opportunities for new tracks to join the senior series – opening up new markets in the process. But there is also an opportunity to make the schedule more compact.

The answer for Earnhardt, Petty and Ryan is mid-week races.

“We don’t have to shorten the amount of races; let’s shorten the time of the season,” Earnhardt said. “Run on some Wednesdays. Do even some doubleheaders and stuff like that. … But I think they should go to all the racetracks once and then add Iowa, Nashville Fairgrounds – places like that.”

Brad Keselowski has talked about this,” Ryan said. “That dead of summer period, June, July when NASCAR could really own some Wednesdays.”

For more, watch the video above.

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