Sunday morning’s Cup race at Daytona: Start time, TV info, weather

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The final race of the NASCAR Cup Series regular season has been postponed by rain to an old-school time: Sunday morning at Daytona International Speedway.

Originally scheduled to be run Saturday night, persistent rain forced NASCAR to move the finale to Sunday at 10 a.m. ET (CNBC, Peacock). It’s a throwback to Daytona’s first few decades when the track would play host to a race on the July 4 holiday that started at 10 a.m. (allowing teams and drivers to be on the beach).

The track’s summer race shifted to Saturday nights after lights were installed in 1998, and it was moved to late August two years ago as the regular-season finale that sets the 16-driver playoff grid.

Among matters to be determined in Sunday’s race are the final two spots in the Cup playoffs. Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. control those positions entering the race, and at least one of them will make the playoffs on points. Both will advance on points if there is not a new winner Sunday.

Fifteen drivers have won races during the regular season, but 23XI Racing and Kurt Busch declined to use the waiver that would have put him in the playoffs. He continues to recover from concussion-like symptoms following a crash at Pocono Raceway last month.

Details for Sunday’s Cup race at Daytona International Speedway

(All times Eastern)

START: The CNBC broadcast will begin at 10 a.m. ET, the green flag is at 10:05 a.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 160 laps (400 miles) on the 2.5-mile oval.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 35. Stage 2 ends at Lap 95.

STARTING LINEUP: Daytona Cup starting lineup

TV/RADIO: CNBC and Peacock will broadcast the race at 10 a.m. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 10 a.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com and Peacock

FORECAST: According to wunderground.com, it’s expected to be 81 degrees with a 51% chance of rain at the green flag.

LAST YEAR: Ryan Blaney led seven laps and won last year’s race. Following in the top five were Bubba Wallace, Ryan Newman, Ryan Preece and Tyler Reddick.

CATCH UP ON NBC SPORTS COVERAGE:

Kurt Busch to miss start of Cup playoffs

Chase Elliott: ‘Nothing to be fixed’ between Kyle Larson and him

Julie Giese to lead NASCAR’s Chicago street race project

Dr. Diandra: The best Next Gen superspeedway drivers 

Zane Smith will stay with Front Row and expand schedule 

Joey Logano signs contract extension with Team Penske

NASCAR viewer’s guide for Daytona

Rick Ware Racing penalized for Watkins Glen infraction

Kyle Larson says he should have raced Chase Elliott with ‘more respect’

NASCAR Power Rankings: Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson 1-2

Drivers to watch at Daytona 

 

 

Winning ways have Richard Childress smiling again

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INDIANAPOLIS — Tyler Reddick’s victory Sunday at Indianapolis marks only the second time since 2014 that Richard Childress Racing has won at least two Cup races in a season. 

It last happened in 2017. Austin Dillon won the Coca-Cola 600 and Ryan Newman won the spring Phoenix race.

“Well, it’s great to be back competitive again,” car owner Richard Childress said after Reddick’s win, his second of the season. “The doors have been open, the lights have been on, but we haven’t been competitive. But it feels great to come to a race track and know you’re going to be one of the teams that’s going to be racing for the win.”

The organization that won six championships with Dale Earnhardt has struggled for much of the past decade. Since Kevin Harvick left RCR after the 2013 season, Childress’ teams have combined to win six races. 

The success comes amid turmoil. 23XI Racing announced July 12 that it had signed Tyler Reddick to a multi-year contract starting in 2024. The deal angered Childress, who had not spoken to Reddick since the announcement until Reddick won Sunday.

Reddick said Sunday that “winning helps” in repairing the relationship with his boss.

Childress admitted after the 23XI Racing announcement that he “stayed up most of the night thinking about what I should do, how I wanted to handle it.

“I went in (to the race shop) the next day and told the whole team it wasn’t a perfect circumstance the way it went down, but we’re going to give it everything we’ve got this year, and we’ll see where we go next year.”

As for next year? 

“Tyler will be in the car at RCR next year,” Childress said Sunday.

Asked if that would be the No. 8 car, Childress nodded yes.

For Reddick, he’s focused on winning more races and a championship this season.

“I just look at the time we have left,” he said. “I know I always give it my all, but certainly knowing that (2023) is when the end of the road is going to be, I need to do everything I can to win as many races as possible for this group because I wouldn’t be the road course racer I am today if it wasn’t for RCR, if it wasn’t for the people on my team, if it wasn’t for Chevrolet.

“I owe it to them. I owe it to my team. I owe it to the people that really have helped me to get that done and go out there and deliver for them.

“Certainly if anything it’s helped. Just like when (girlfriend) Alexa told me, “Hey, if you win the championship you can name our son. 

“There’s not always times when I think I need an extra motivator because I don’t know if it’s possible or if it’s out there, but when I get them, I take it and run with it. For this situation, knowing when my last day will be with RCR, if anything it’s probably motivated me more than I thought was possible before all this went in motion.”

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The cars of Chris Buescher and Joey Logano each caught fire during Sunday’s Cup race. Both seemed to be the result of similar circumstances. 

Logano’s car caught on fire on the last lap and he finished the race sixth before pulling off course. The driver side door and rocker box caught fire, Travis Geisler, competition director for Team Penske, told NBC Sports.

“From the contact, the exhaust pipe got bent in where it’s basically blowing directly on the carbon door and rocker,” Geisler said. “At that point, there’s really no carbon material that’s going to survive that kind of heat. It just ignites, and basically your door is on fire. Kind of a situation we had, I would imagine, it was very similar to (Buescher).

“Something we have to think about. What to do? I don’t necessarily know an easy, quick fix for that one.”

Buescher’s car also had contact that triggered a fire inside the vehicle. Jeremy Thompson, competition director for RFK Racing, told NBC Sports that contact with Bubba Wallace “somewhere twisted the exhaust pipe … the rocker panel and all that stuff caught on fire.”

Thompson also said that “what happened, I wouldn’t have anticipated happening. We’ve beat these doors. We’ve hit rocker panels, we’ve done all that stuff. I don’t know. Very, very odd.”

Buescher reported the fire as he was coming to pit road on Lap 12. He lost two laps while in his stall as the fire was extinguished with him still in the car.

He came back to finish 10th.

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Sunday marked the first time since July 1994 at Pocono that three Cup rookies finished in the top five.

Austin Cindric finished second for Team Penske, Harrison Burton was third for Wood Brothers Racing and Todd Gilliland placed fourth for Front Row Motorsports. It was the first top-five finish for both Burton and Gilliland. 

“We can’t get away from each other!” Gilliland said. “We’re either battling like 30th, 35th, or now we finish top five together. It’s really been like that our whole lives, and we were saying once we start winning, it’ll be a lot more fun when we’re battling each other every week.”

Said Burton of Gilliland: ’It’s cool to race in Cup with him and get good finishes with him. And yeah, he’s a good friend of mine. It’s cool. I’m happy for him. I’m happy for our team. And I’m glad we finished up front. For a while there, he was running better than us, and I was worried about just points. Got to beat him in rookie points. So it’s a lot of fun.”

Burton said the finish was much-needed.

“Early in the day, we made a lot of mistakes, and I was like there’s no way we’re going to recover from this,” he said. “We got some cautions, some good restarts there. Really aggressive at the end and ended up OK.”

Gilliland started ninth — his best qualifying effort in Cup — and used that track position to his advantage. 

“Head and shoulders better than we have been,” Gilliland said. “So it’s just about building momentum and hopefully we can repeat this in the future.”

The Burton family also was a part of that event. Ward Burton, Harrison’s uncle, finished second, and Jeff Burton, Harrison’s dad, finished fourth in that race. The other rookie to finish in the top five that day was Joe Nemechek, who was third. 

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Kyle Larson’s crash in Sunday’s race was not the result of brake failure, a team spokesperson told NBC Sports on Monday.

Instead, a team spokesman reported that crew chief Cliff Daniels stated that Larson got too deep into the braking zone and got out of shape.

“All I saw was a blue flash and that’s about the hardest I’ve been hit by anything,” Dillon said. “First, I’m just grateful to God that I’m okay and these cars are safe enough to take a shot like that. … I was just blindsided, really.”

Larson sailed into Turn 1, hit the curb and slammed into Ty Dillon’s car, eliminating both. Larson finished 35th. Dillon was 34th.

Dr. Diandra: Best drivers of the season often win the All-Star Race

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The format and the venue have changed over the years, but the NASCAR All-Star Race remains a welcome chance for drivers to cut loose. There’s nothing on the line but the trophy and the purse.

That’s slightly less true this year. With Texas Motor Speedway hosting only one points race — the kickoff for the Round of 12 — the All-Star race weekend is teams’ only opportunity to gather data on the NextGen car’s performance at this track.

“You can certainly look at it for a lot of things,” Austin Cindric told NBC Sports. “It’s an opportunity to win a million dollars. That’s pretty cool for a 23-year-old. At the same time, you can easily use it as a practice session in many facets… I think Texas has kind of defined itself as its own beast, depending on what they do with track prep.”

But even with that caveat, most drivers won’t be able to avoid the ‘checkers-or-wreckers’ mentality.

All-Star Race victory history

Twenty-five drivers have won one or more of the 37 All-Star Races run to date.

  • Jimmie Johnson has driven to the most victories: four. All were with crew chief Chad Knaus on the pit box.
  • Hendrick Motorsports drivers have won ten All-Star Races, including the last two with Kyle Larson (2021) and Chase Elliott (2020). That’s the most wins for any owner.
  • Richard Childress Racing and RFK Racing come in a distant second with four wins each.
    • RCR won last in 2007 with Kevin Harvick (although Harvick won in 2018 for Stewart Haas Racing.)
    • Carl Edwards won in 2011 for the team that is now RFK Racing.

How All-Star Race winners finish the season

The list of All-Star Race winners reads like a who’s who of NASCAR. Let’s examine how drivers did during the season in which they won the All-Star Race.

I tallied end-of-year driver standings for All-Star-Race winners. The pie chart below shows the percentage of drivers ending the season in each position. The chart begins at 12 o’clock and goes counter clockwise.

A pie chart showing where All-Star Race winners end up in the season standings

Some highlights:

  • Almost one-third of All-Star Race winners went on to win the series championship that year. Those drivers are: Jeff Gordon (three times), Dale Earnhardt (three times), Jimmie Johnson (twice), Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Rusty Wallace and Darrell Waltrip.
  • Almost two-thirds (64.8%) of the drivers who won the All-Star Race finished the season in the top four.
  • 72.9% of the drivers ranked in the top six at season’s end.
  • Once we get past sixth place, we’re looking mostly at single drivers. The exception is 14th place: Two drivers ended the year there.

Can an All-Star win kick-start a season?

The All-Star race usually happens the week before Memorial Day weekend. The exceptions were in 1986 (Atlanta, on Mother’s Day) and in 2019 and 2020, when COVID shifted the race to mid-July and mid-June, respectively. But most years, the All-Star Race comes at the perfect point to evaluate which drivers are on track to meet their goals and which one are lagging behind.

I tallied how many races each winning driver had won coming into the All-Star Race. I then calculated how many races they’d won in the same number of races after the All-Star race. If there were had 13 races prior to the All-Star Race, that means 13 races after the All-Star race.

On the graph below, the drivers are listed in order of year from left (1985) to right (2021).

  • The number of races won before the All-Star Race is shown in blue,
  • The number of races won in an equal number of races after the All-Star Race is shown in yellow,
  • Crosshatched yellow indicates wins made during the rest of the season.

Looking at Kevin Harvick’s 2018 season as an example: Harvick won five races of the 12 run before the All-Star Race. He won two races between Charlotte and Bristol (the 12 races after the All-Star Race) and then one more in the playoffs.

A stacked column chart showing the numbers of races won at various times in the season
Because of the pandemic, the 2020 All-Star Race happened much later in the year (July 15th) than usual.
  • In 15 cases (40.5%), the All-Star Race was the winner’s first win of the season. You can identify those entries because they’re the ones without any blue bar — or any bar at all.
    • Two of those 15 drivers — Michael Waltrip (1996) and Jamie McMurray (2014) — did not win any points races the year they won the All-Star Race.
    • Three of those 15 drivers (Ryan Newman, Mark Martin, and Kyle Larson in 2019) didn’t win another race in the races immediately after the All-Star Race, but won races after that.
  • The winner had only one win coming into the All-Star Race 10 times, which is 27%.
  • That makes 25 out of 37 races (67.6%) where the All-Star Race was won by a driver with one or no point-race wins entering that event.
  • The All-Star Race win was the winner’s last win of the season in six cases. Those entries have only blue bars.

Larson fans concerned that he’s only won one race this season can relax. He was in the same situation last year coming into the All-Star Race. He went on to win nine more races that year — and the championship.

Chase Elliott’s win in 2020 kicked off a similar streak. The All-Star Race didn’t happen until July 15th, but Elliott had still only won once coming into the race. He, of course, went on to win four more races and the championship.

Total number of wins

Drivers who won the All-Star Race ended the season with anywhere from 0 to 11 wins. Below, I show the number of drivers who accumulated each number of wins.

A vertical bar graph showing the number of total wins All-Star-winning drivers accumulate over the course of the season

  • 94.6% of drivers won at least one points race the year they won the All-Star Race.
  • 43.2% of All-Star Race winners won five or more races during the season.
  • 67.6% of the winners ended the season with between one and five wins.

NASCAR Open winners

How do drivers who get into the All-Star Race by winning the NASCAR Open finish? Because stages are a relatively recent phenomenon, I’ll consider only the overall winners of the Open races and not the stage or segment winners in the graph below.

A vertical bar chart showing the finishes of Open winners in the All-Star Race

Given that the best drivers have mostly already qualified for the All-Star Race, it’s not too surprising that Open winners rarely win the All-Star Race.

  • The only time a driver won the Open and then the All-Star Race was in 2019. That feat was accomplished by Larson. (Although Michael Waltrip transferred into the All-Star Race in 1996, and then won the All-Star Race, he finished the Open in 5th.)
  • Open-winning drivers have come close to winning the All-Star Race. Three drivers have finished second: Sterling Marlin (1988), Tony Stewart (1999) and Martin Truex, Jr. (2010).
  • Since 2011, with the exception of Larson, no winning Open driver has finished better than fifth.
  • Overall, 16.7% of these drivers finished in the top five of the All-Star race.
  • Four of the last seven Open winners finished out of the top 10.

Winning the All-Star Race doesn’t mean you’ll do well the rest of the season. But if all your team needs is a spark, a win might do it. But the All-Star Race is better viewed as a barometer of the current field rather than a predictor of the future.

Got technical or statistical questions you’d like answered? Send them to ask (at) buildingspeed ( dot) org.

Dr. Diandra: Why aero is so important at intermediate tracks

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Kansas Speedway is only the second intermediate track on the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series schedule given that Atlanta runs a superspeedway configuration. These 1.5-mile tracks, which are often unfairly derided as ‘cookie cutter tracks’, highlight the importance of aerodynamic downforce.

Aerodynamics is the science of understanding and predicting the behavior of billions and billions of air molecules moving at high speeds around complicated objects like rockets, airplanes and race cars. I find aerodynamics to be one of the most challenging aspects of motorsports.

Dr. Eric Jacuzzi, who holds a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from North Carolina State University, is the managing director, aerodynamics/vehicle performance at the NASCAR R&D Center. He agrees that aerodynamics can be a challenge to understand — and to explain.

“In general,” he said, “people try to be too simplistic about aerodynamics. It’s a complex subject, and I think sometimes people try to go with the soundbite.”

He laughed.

“And that usually doesn’t work.”

So let’s go beyond the soundbite to learn a little about aerodynamic downforce and why it’s so important at tracks like Kansas Speedway.

How race cars go fast

A car’s grip depends on the friction between its tires and the track. Grip is proportional to how much force presses the tires into the track. Downforce is literally force in the downward direction.

You experience the importance of downforce anytime you try to drag or slide something. Compare pushing an empty file cabinet to pushing a full file cabinet. The full file cabinet creates more friction — more opposition to motion — because it weighs more. The full file cabinet has more grip.

Grip is bad if you’re moving furniture, but good if you’re racing cars. Grip allows tires to turn without sliding too much and allowing the car to move up the track.

A car’s weight produces mechanical grip. Even the driver adds to the downforce. According to the NASCAR rule book, a Cup car and driver must weigh at least 3,665 pounds. How that 3,665 pounds of mechanical downforce is distributed among the four tires is important, but we won’t worry about that now.

Grip means speed. Teams want as much grip as they can get. A heavier car has more mechanical grip but also requires the engine to make more force to accelerate the additional weight.

So how do you get more grip without making the car heavier?

The answer is (literally) blowing in the wind.

Aerodynamics and Bernoulli’s principle

We usually express Bernoulli’s principle as a long, complicated mathematical equation. But, really, all you need to know is:

The faster air moves, the less pressure it creates.

You can understand a lot of the basics of race car aerodynamics with this one sentence.

For example: Air travels quickly over a car’s hood and roof. Without enough downforce in those areas, the car can experience lift. Lift is great for airplanes, but dangerous to race cars. That’s why roof and hood flaps deploy when the pressure in those areas gets too low.

Splitters utilize the same principle. Air moves more slowly on top of the splitter than underneath it. The force above the splitter is thus greater than the force below the splitter. The net force is down, which pushes the front tires into the track.

The other thing you need to know is that — unlike the weight of the car — aerodynamic forces change depending on how fast the car is going.

Aerodynamic forces depend on speed squared

Drag and downforce are both aerodynamic forces. Downforce pushes down on the car, while drag always acts opposite to the direction the car is moving. Both forces depend quadratically on speed. This means:

  • If you double the speed, the drag and downforce go up by a factor of four.
  • Tripling the speed increases drag and downforce by a factor of nine.

A NASCAR Cup Series car going 180 mph has nine times more downforce than the same car going 60 mph.

The faster you go, the more grip you get. This only works up to point, of course, because you eventually exceed the tires’ capabilities.

Jacuzzi cites a typical value for a non-superspeedway car of around 2,000 pounds of aerodynamic downforce at 200 mph. Superspeedway cars have about 500 additional pounds of aerodynamic downforce at 200 mph.

Below, I’ve plotted the mechanical downforce in black, the aerodynamic downforce in blue and the total downforce in red.

A line chart showing aerodynamic downforce, mechanical downforce and the total downforce on a typical NASCAR Series Cup car

Since the car and driver weigh 3,665 pounds and the aerodynamic downforce at 200 mph is 2,000 lbs, the race car experiences 5,664 pounds of downforce at 200 mph. That’s about the weight of a small elephant.

The car’s tires have to support all that downforce. Most passenger cars, whose primary source of grip is the car’s weight, require tire pressures of 30-35 psi. Goodyear’s recommended tire pressure for the right-side tires at Kansas is 50 psi (front) and 46 psi (rear). The higher tire pressure is necessary because the race cars must support the additional downforce that comes with high speeds.

Aerodynamic downforce makes up about one-third of the total downforce at 200 mph. Anything that decreases the aerodynamic downforce — like getting too close to another car — makes the driver feel as though he’s just hit a patch of ice. At 200 mph.

Below, I graph percentages of mechanical and aerodynamic downforce relative to total downforce as a function of speed. I include this plot to emphasize how much the driver depends on aerodynamic downforce at higher-speed tracks.

A graph showing the percentage of downforce at each speed broken down into mechanical and aerodynamic downforce and

Aerodynamic downforce comprises:

  • 10 percent of total downforce around 90 mph,
  • 25 percent of total downforce at 156 mph,
  • 28 percent of total downforce at 170 mph.

Aerodynamic downforce at Kansas Speedway

The clip below, of Ryan Newman at the 2021 fall Kansas Speedway race shows how his car changes speed as it travels the track.

A video showing part of a lap from Ryan Newman at the 2021 Hollywood Casino 400, showing minimum and maximum speeds

In the three seconds during which his car goes from 183 mph to 169 mph, the aerodynamic downforce goes from 1,674 pounds to 1,428 pounds, a loss of 246 pounds of downforce. That’s like losing a linebacker’s worth of weight in grip.

The driver’s job is to keep the car as close to the limits of traction as possible. Drivers must constantly adjust not only to long-term changes like track conditions and tire wear, but also to the changing grip as the car’s speed changes each lap. The Next Gen car doesn’t provide much sideforce, which means going over the traction limit has a much higher penalty than it used to. That may be why we are close to matching last year’s record for spins.

When I lived in Nebraska, I used to put a couple sacks of sand in my pickup truck’s bed in the winter. That extra rear downforce helped maintain traction when it got icy. You can think of aerodynamic downforce on a race car as a bag of sand — but a bag of sand whose weight changes depending on how fast the car is going.

And which can disappear without warning.

Anytime track speeds exceed above 150 mph, Jacuzzi says, aerodynamics will be important. That’s not to say it’s unimportant at other tracks. But the faster you go, the most important aerodynamics are.

Ryan Newman set to compete in Richmond modified race

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Former NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Newman will make his first pavement start of the year Friday in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race at Richmond Raceway.

Newman, who was displaced from the No. 6 Ford at RFK Racing after Brad Keselowski took over as a co-owner and driver, will pilot the No. 39 car for Sadler-Stanley Racing, a team created by former NASCAR competitor and analyst Hermie Sadler and Viriginia state senator Bill Stanley.

Newman, 44, made three starts on the modified tour in 2021, competing at Martinsville, New Hampshire and Richmond. After suffering engine issues at Martinsville and New Hampshire, Newman led six laps and finished fourth at Richmond last September.

“This is a great opportunity for me to race at a track I love competing at,” Newman said in a press release. “Hermie and Bill have put together a good team and great equipment with their support from Pace-O-Matic.”

Also sponsoring the 2002 Cup Series rookie of the year will be Simply Southern, a T-shirt and clothing design company.

“When Hermie called me about this opportunity, I immediately thought about reaching out to Simply Southern,” Newman said in the release. “Having Simply Southern as the primary sponsor on the modified (Friday) is the perfect way to establish a partnership with the iconic apparel brand.”

Sadler, a Virginia native, praised Newman’s ability ahead of his season debut. Newman is an 18-time winner in the Cup Series with 51 pole awards in addition to seven Xfinity Series wins, one Truck win and four modified wins.

“Having a driver like Ryan Newman does a lot for our young race team,” Sadler said. “Ryan’s record speaks for itself. He’s one of the best drivers of his generation. Having him drive our car brings great credibility to our team and his experience and feedback will be a tremendous help moving forward.”

Newman also competed in a midget car at the 2022 Chili Bowl Nationals in January.