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At NASCAR Summit, a season starts anew
CONCORD, N.C. -- NASCAR has its own version of spring training in January, but instead of the drivers or teams, it's the folks working behind the scenes who are getting in preseason reps. The annual NASCAR Summit Presented by American Medical Response (AMR) concluded its three-day run Tuesday at the Embassy Suites Hotel & Conference Center, where hundreds of dedicated track services, medical, safety, and security workers prepared for the season ahead. Now in its 16th year, the NASCAR Summit has provided open forums and sessions for those workers to learn about best practices and innovations to help make the sport go from weekend to weekend. "This meeting is really one of the best meetings of the year and it really sets our tone for the season in terms of safety," said John Bobo, NASCAR Managing Director of Racing Operations. "We have operations here, security, we have our medical personnel and we really get to look at what we did in the past season and then we get to look at the season ahead and do everything we need to do to prepare for it, but it's the special people who run toward the blue light and run toward the siren and toward the fire. These are those people and it's great to be with them and to figure out everything we need to do to make sure every event is safe and all our competitors are safe." NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton echoed those sentiments before Tuesday's awards ceremony, where unsung heroes in the medical, security and track services fields were recognized for their outstanding contributions. "One of the most particular reasons that I enjoy saying hello to you and a thanks to you is because in order for NASCAR to do what it does, it has to have a heart and soul of people who are of the character that run toward a situation instead of away from it," Helton said, "and there's nobody in our organization that is as significant as the group that is in here today for this summit that represents that character of our sport." Attendees of the annual conference gathered information and learned techniques from five general sessions Monday and then chose from 11 breakout sessions Tuesday in their various fields. Subjects ranging from proper jet dryer operation, injury trends among NASCAR pit crews, track painting and preparation and an update on the NASCAR Green Initiative were among the offerings. Summit participants also sampled wares from 26 exhibitors and vendors. Among the presenters was new premier series entitlement sponsor, Monster Energy, handing out stickers and free samples as its relationship with stock-car racing grows. "I think we're as interested in Monster as the general fan is interested in Monster and what changes that'll bring and how things are presented, what life is like at-track," Bobo said. "We certainly do appreciate Monster being here at the Summit and all they've done to support us. They've certainly kept us (going) through some of the sessions late in the afternoon, so it's been great." During the Summit's awards ceremony, the NASCAR Foundation announced that $4,845 had been raised from Sunday's Trivia Night, a charity raffle and other donations over the three-day convention. The honorees for exceptional service from the 2016 season were: Track Services • Mission Award: Daytona International Speedway • Teamwork Award: Kentucky Speedway • Innovation Award: Pocono Raceway • Excellence in Track Services Award: Jay Donnay, Homestead-Miami Speedway Medical • Above and Beyond Award: Dr. Angela Fiege, Dr. John Maino, Dr. Brian Nao • Nursing Director Award: Jackie Coats, Watkins Glen International • Teamwork Award: Darlington Raceway , Bristol Motor Speedway Security • Security Director's Award: George Brazzale, Las Vegas Motor Speedway ; Jim Hosfelt, Dover International Speedway Contributing: NASCAR Wire Service
NASCAR digital and social media numbers continue to grow in 2016
During his State of the Sport press conference prior to the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway earlier this month, NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France relayed an anecdote about watching a scaled-down, highlight-driven Duke college basketball game on his laptop. The story painted a broad picture of the shift in fan consumption habits. And for NASCAR , that has meant a shift in strategy to serve fans who want an immersive experience, whether attending live in-person, watching on TV, or engaging with sports at home or on the go. By all metrics, NASCAR ’s digital and social media numbers have shown strong growth over the 2016 season, validating a strategic choice to reach race fans in the multifaceted ways they opt to consume NASCAR content. Consider these numbers: Overall, NASCAR drew 256 million social engagements across all its digital platforms, an 87 percent increase year-over-year, and a massive increase of video content views. NASCAR saw a 14 percent growth in followers across its social and digital platforms. Of particular note was a spike in the growth of Snapchat followers after NASCAR announced its partnership with that platform in February. NASCAR competitors and fans provided live content from four races, starting with the Daytona 500 , under the aegis of "Snapchat Live Story." The Daytona 500 itself saw a 63-percent increase in race day impressions, while engagement with NASCAR content tripled. "It’s been fantastic," said Jill Gregory, NASCAR senior vice president and chief marketing officer. "I think that what it has done is validated our strategy that we set out at the very beginning of this season, when we talked about leading with digital and social and really trying to talk to our fans where they were and going to reach them at all the places they consume NASCAR . "We started that with our 'Ready.Set.Race' campaign and the Hashtag 500 around the Daytona 500 , and it’s really just continued to build throughout the whole season." The Hashtag 500, the race to win Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s firesuit, generated 13,000 NASCAR -related mentions in a single minute, a high-water mark for NASCAR content since the advent of the sanctioning body’s Fan and Media Engagement Center. Central to the success of the 2016 digital and social media campaign was heavy promotion of #TheChase across all platforms, leveraging Twitter, Vine, Periscope, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to engage fans throughout the 10-week playoff. Capturing the drama of the Chase, which concluded with Jimmie Johnson claiming his record-tying seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship, was the digital film series "Ready.Set.Chase." All told, the five-film series garnered more than 13 million views. "I think we’re seeing it at NASCAR , and obviously we see it happening across the sports and entertainment landscape, that fans want to customize their experience regardless of what they’re watching or looking at," Gregory said. "If we want to talk to those fans, we have to go places that are convenient for them. "If they’re watching on their mobile app, if they’re watching via NASCAR .com, if they’re watching on television, it’s our job as the league to provide all of that great content in all of those places and then make sure that we deliver the right experience for each of those platforms."
NASCAR announces race package for XFINITY Series race at Indianapolis
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Indianapolis Teams competing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway later this year will do so with a race package that incorporates three major modifications aimed at one goal -- improved competition at the legendary 2.5-mile speedway. Designed specifically for the 100-lap race scheduled for July 22, the modifications consist of a taller rear spoiler and splitter package; aero ducts on the lower front bumper area; and a 7/8th-inch restrictor plate currently used for superspeedway events at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. The static ride height of the cars will remain at 4 inches, which is unchanged from the current 2017 rules package. The Indy package was crafted after much in-house simulation and development and then field-tested on Oct. 12 at IMS for verification. XFINITY Series teams from Richard Childress Racing, Roush Fenway Racing and Kaulig Racing participated in the test. "We (develop) the analytical package and come to some conclusions," Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR Senior Vice President, Innovation and Racing Development, told NASCAR .com. "But then we also need to go on the track and verify this. So this approach has been a two-step approach, analytical creation of the package and then on-track verification. "We race at 29 tracks (across all three national series) and they're all very special," Stefanyshyn added. "Indianapolis has a long history; it's a wonderful track. Our objective is to give our fans the best possible show we can. We are very proud of being able to participate at Indy; we want to put our best foot forward. We believe we have come up with a package that gives us the best opportunity to do that." MORE: IMS announces updated race weekend schedule Stefanyshyn said officials had teams run various packages during the test. While the use of the restrictor plates enabled the cars to run closer together, the ability to pull out and pass remained difficult. "We saw the cars were closer together, but we weren't able to create some passing until we introduced the aero ducts," he said. "That's the main purpose of the ducts, to give the trailing car more of an advantage … we always hear about clean air and how the leader has clean air. Our objective here is to try to give the trail car more benefit." Without the aero ducts, cars running down long straightaways such as those at IMS hit a wall of air, which creates "a significant horsepower deficit" when they get within approximately one car-length of the lead car, Stefanyshyn said. The aero ducts direct air in through the existing brake ducts and out through the wheelhouse on each side. The high speed air flowing out creates a larger hole or "envelope" for the trailing car. Use of the aero ducts should increase the amount of horsepower differential for the trailing car by approximately 25 percent. "We're giving the driver more momentum from four-five car lengths back, gaining coming into within half a car length; when he gets right into that bubble, he's still got to cross through it, but he's carrying momentum and he can break through it," Stefanyshyn said. Stefanyshyn said incorporation of the package isn't "a slam dunk," but studies and testing have thus far validated the changes. "Our belief is that we will create a situation where they can pass on the straightaways," he said. "That's been done analytically, it's been done with three cars. The question is when we turn 40 cars loose on the track can that still manifest itself and that's still what we’re hoping will happen." Speeds likely won't vary greatly with the new package, and the use of restrictor plates isn't expected to generate the big packs of traffic on the track similar to what typically is seen at Daytona and Talladega. Stefanyshyn said it's more likely that there will be several groups of five or six cars each, "and in each of those groupings we're hoping to see passing on the straightaways." The XFINITY Series has competed at IMS since 2012, and the lack of passing on the big, flat track has been a concern for NASCAR and speedway officials. Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing) led more than half the laps in winning the last two XFINITY Series races at Indy and he led 92 of 100 when he won the race in 2013. Dale Earnhardt Jr. addressed the racing package this week during his weekly Dale Jr. Download podcast. Earnhardt Jr. competes in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for Hendrick Motorsports. He is also co-owner of JR Motorsports, which fields four full-time teams in the XFINITY Series. "I'm curious to see (the changes)," he said. "I think NASCAR sees this as an idea on how fix racing in general at Indianapolis." According to NASCAR officials, there currently are no plans in place to utilize the package at any other venue or in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Getting started: Aspen Dental, NASCAR partnership expands
RELATED: Aspen Dental expands role with Patrick " Aspen Dental named 'Official Dentist of NASCAR' Five weeks ago, Aspen Dental expanded its backing of Stewart-Haas Racing and driver Danica Patrick by boosting the number of NASCAR races for its primary sponsorship into double digits. Friday, the company took another step in increasing its exposure through the sport. NASCAR and Aspen Dental announced a multiyear agreement Friday that makes the Syracuse, New York-based network of dental care providers the "Official Dentists of NASCAR ." The partnership dovetails with the advent of Aspen Dental's "Get Started" initiative, a program that promotes oral health awareness with the help of Patrick and NASCAR . Michelle Vaeth, Aspen Dental Management's vice president of communications, recalled sitting at a conference table with NASCAR officials several months ago in the sanctioning body's Charlotte, North Carolina, headquarters. The lively discussion turned to the 150 million Americans who avoided dental visits last year and how the company's next initiative, a program which would eventually become "Get Started," planned to combat that treatment gap.
Aspen Dental named 'Official Dentist of NASCAR ,' expands SHR partnership
BUY TICKETS: Celebrate Auto Club's 20th anniversary RELATED: Aspen Dental, NASCAR , Patrick grow relationship NASCAR ® and Aspen Dental , one of the largest and fastest-growing networks of independent dental care providers in the United States, announced today a multi-year official partnership, designating the brand as the "Official Dentist of NASCAR ." The announcement coincides with the launch of Aspen Dental's "Get Started" awareness building health initiative with NASCAR and Stewart-Haas Racing driver Danica Patrick. "Aspen Dental's level of dedication to drive awareness and educate fans about the importance of dental health, especially as it relates to quality of life for everyday Americans is inspiring and contagious," said Chad Seigler, vice president, business development, NASCAR . "We welcome Aspen Dental to our family of Official Partners and look forward to adding our voice to amplify the important message behind Aspen Dental's 'Get Started' initiative." This partnership is important because nearly 150 million Americans didn't visit a dentist in the past year, due to barriers like access, fears and lack of insurance. For many of these everyday Americans, poor oral health has resulted in chronic pain and inflammation, limiting many from living a healthy life, and sometimes, impacting other health conditions. Aspen Dental's "Get Started" initiative will help NASCAR fans take a simple step to start or restart and gain control of their oral health by seeing a dental professional. Aspen Dental-branded practices offer patients a safe, welcoming and judgment-free environment to get the full range of dental care they need along with the convenience and speed of onsite denture labs. "Our goal is to help race fans through Aspen Dental practices and encourage them through this official partnership with NASCAR to 'Get Started' on their road to better oral health and make dentistry easier," said Bob Fontana, chairman and CEO of ADMI. "Together, with the help of Danica Patrick, we want to tell race fans that all you need to do is 'Get Started' to gain control of their oral health." Aspen Dental has been a partner of Stewart-Haas Racing since 2012 and aligned with Patrick since 2014. This year, the brand will serve as the lead sponsor of Patrick's No. 10 Ford Fusion for a double-digit slate of races. Patrick has shined a spotlight on oral health across multiple channels, promoting Aspen Dental's Healthy Mouth Movement – a community-giving initiative which has delivered more than $7.5 million in donated dentistry for veterans since its inception. Additionally, she has appeared in "A Taste of the Future" – a hidden-camera video campaign designed to raise awareness about the long-term consequences of delaying dental care. "I'm really excited about working with Aspen Dental to support them in breaking down the barriers to better care, better smiles and better lives," said Patrick. "Starts and restarts are part of our sport. The same is true for gaining control of your oral health. Through 'Get Started,' we will encourage NASCAR fans to get started – or restarted – on their own road to better oral health." Fans can visit AspenDental.com/GetStarted to be entered to WIN an all-expense paid, VIP trip experience for two to the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race November 5, 2017 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth for a VIP experience and a meet-and-greet with Patrick. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season will continue with the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday, March 26 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Custer, Dillon meet with NASCAR officials after Phoenix incident
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Auto Club FONTANA, Calif. -- A week after an on-track run-in with Austin Dillon, NASCAR XFINITY Series rookie Cole Custer, 19, maintained the two had found a version of racing Kumbaya. The two drivers met with NASCAR officials early Friday morning at Auto Club Speedway, spoke their minds and shook hands, both ready to move on and race. Custer acknowledged he mistakenly hit Dillon, 26, last week during the Phoenix race, which resulted in on-track retaliation by Dillon. NASCAR did not feel Dillon's retaliatory move warranted a penalty this week, instead calling the two drivers in for a meeting and detente. "I got into the corner way too deep," Custer acknowledged. "It was a mistake and I wish I didn't do it. "I probably got in a half-car length too deep. ... Took him out and it was a mistake and I wish I didn't do it. I didn't have much anxiety (going into NASCAR meeting with Dillon) because I didn't think we were on bad terms. I wasn't too nervous. It went fairly well." And he added with a slight smile, "I've been in the NASCAR hauler before. It's not a new thing." WATCH: Custer sends Dillon into wall, Dillon bumps back The Ladera Ranch, California, native has two top-11 finishes in four XFINITY races this year driving the No. 00 Haas Automation Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing and appeared eager to put the Phoenix incident behind him as he prepared to race at his "home" track Saturday. "Cost us and the 2 (Dillon) a good finish, 100 percent my fault. Happy with how much better we got our car, pretty good there at the end," Custer tweeted earlier in the week before meeting up with Dillon at Auto Club. Mostly, Custer is looking forward to his "home track" racing debut. "I'm really excited. I've never raced here, just excited to get on track," Custer said. "We've had some pretty solid finishes, had good enough cars for top-10. Hopefully we can start out the weekend good. "A lot of things translate from track to track. We're looking forward to seeing what we have unloading here. We should be pretty good. I'm confident. It's just me getting used to the track since I've never been here before."
That's a hoot! Owl interrupts NASCAR practice
RELATED: Read more Inside Groove NASCAR's latest brush with wildlife stopped practice Friday at Auto Club Speedway as an owl decided to set up camp on the racing surface during opening Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice. Practice was interrupted until safety workers were able to corral the bird, which initially took low-flying evasive action on the track apron. No word on whether NASCAR race official David Hoots or Chase Elliott sponsor Hooters were involved. Friday's incident marked the third consecutive year that nature has caused a disruption at the 2-mile California track. A swarm of bees crowded the Auto Club flag stand between practices last season. The previous year, bees were a menacing presence around Derrike Cope's hauler, trapping the team inside the transporter. MORE ANIMALS: Groundhog at Michigan " Bees at Auto Club
Suarez happy that NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series will start in hometown
Daniel Suarez, a native of Monterrey, Mexico, is happy that the NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series will begin this weekend in his hometown.
NASCAR may get 'the Boot' at Watkins Glen
RELATED: Learn more about Watkins Glen " Course breakdown by turn WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Now that Watkins Glen has started repaving its racing surface, running "the Boot" may be back on the table for NASCAR races. The current configuration of the Glen for NASCAR Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series races eliminates the Boot, which contains Turns 6 through 9, and shortens the course from 3.40 miles to 2.45 miles. But with repaving already having taken place in the Boot, smoothing the bumps in that portion of the track, NASCAR is considering running the full Grand Prix Course, which currently is used for the Tudor United Sports Car Championship. "We could," NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell told the NASCAR Wire Service before Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at the Glen. "We're discussing it with the track. It's something we're looking at down the road." Even with the addition of the Boot, Watkins Glen wouldn't be the longest road course on the NASCAR rotation. Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, which hosts the XFINITY Series, measures 4.048 miles.
What a hoot! Owl delays Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice
An owl flies onto to the track at Auto Club Speedway and delays Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice.