Texas Motor Speedway to be repaved ahead of April races
RELATED: Buy tickets for Texas Following a year that saw both its NASCAR race weekends impacted by rain and track drying issues, officials with Texas Motor Speedway have announced a capital improvement project that includes a repaving of the 1.5-mile racing surface, the installation of an expansive drainage system as well as a reconfiguration of Turns 1 and 2. Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage said the decision wasn't a difficult one to make "because you always want to please the fans. "I think the initial response from some drivers is no (don’t repave) … but they were all here … they all experienced it. It really wasn't a choice; we need to do this." The spring Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Texas in 2016 was delayed nearly two hours due to rain; the fall event was delayed approximately six hours, finally started under a green/yellow flag situation and was eventually shortened 41 laps when precipitation returned. The project is expected to be completed by March 1. NASCAR teams are scheduled to return to Texas April 7-9 for the O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race and Cowboy 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series race. Gossage said he hoped Goodyear officials would hold a tire test at the track upon completion of the repave. "We are going to strongly encourage Goodyear to test and not just bring a hard tire," he said. "That will be a mistake." However, in a statement released Friday afternoon, Goodyear official Greg Stucker said the tire supplier "will have to bring a new tire set-up" for the race weekend but that "because of the tight schedule, we do not have time to do a tire test." Stucker said that similar changes were made at Kentucky last year, and along with the tire supplier's history over a wide range of track configurations and surfaces, "we will determine the appropriate tire set-up in advance of the event, giving teams plenty of time to prepare." The Kentucky repave project also included a reconfiguration of its first and second turns and drainage improvements. Gossage said that repaving the track also afforded officials the opportunity to drop the banking in Turns 1 and 2 from 24 to 20 degrees, a move that could provide more passing opportunities as drivers should have to lift off the gas and possibly brake more due to the flatter turns. "Hopefully in time as the asphalt ages the drivers will have to stay out of the gas a little longer, hopefully use the brake some in Turns 1-2 and that sets up passing opportunities in the turns, on the back straightaway and of course now you're carrying a different speed through Turns 3-4 and hopefully that creates some passing opportunities on the front straight as well," he said. "A whole lot of different things going on here, but the big thing … that you're not seeing is underneath it is this drainage system. Because we want to make sure that we don't struggle with the issues that weve struggled with last year. It's not fair to the fans." Also, making the changes now means that teams will race on the same surface on both trips to Texas this season, something Gossage said was particularly important given that the fall race is one of the final Chase races. "We didn't want to have two different Texas Motor Speedway s in one NASCAR season, especially when we were the third Chase race from the end of the season," he said. "We felt like you need to have the same track when you're here in April and when you're here in November in the course of a season." No cost estimate was given for the project. Texas is the second track to announce a repaving project this year. Atlanta Motor Speedway , which is also owned by Speedway Motorsports Inc., will be repaved following the completion of this year's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 slated for March 5. Graphic courtesy of Texas Motor Speedway
Keselowski heads final Sprint Cup practice at Texas
RELATED: Final practice results " Pit stall assignments " 10-lap averages Brad Keselowski soared to the top of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series leaderboard in final practice Saturday afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway . Keselowski claimed the top perch with a best lap of 190.685 mph in the Team Penske No. 2 Ford. He'll start fourth in Sunday's AAA Texas 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBC, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) after a solid effort in Friday's Coors Light Pole Qualifying on the 1.5-mile track. Martin Truex Jr . -- like Keselowski, a contender who saw his championship hopes fizzle in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs' previous round -- was second-fastest in the 50-minute session. He turned a best lap of 189.787 mph in the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota. Kyle Busch , a winner at the Fort Worth track in April, shook off an eventful Friday to post the third-fastest lap in Saturday's final practice. His Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota clocked a 189.753 mph lap to secure his spot as the fastest of the eight remaining Chase contenders. Fellow Chaser Joey Logano was fourth-best (189.707 mph) in the Team Penske No. 22 Ford with rookie Chase Elliott (189.447) completing the top five. The remaining Chase drivers and their rank in final practice: Carl Edwards (eighth), Kurt Busch (10th), Jimmie Johnson (15th), Denny Hamlin (18th) and Matt Kenseth (19th). Of those, only Johnson -- on the strength of his Martinsville victory last weekend -- has clinched a berth in the Championship 4 Nov. 20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Austin Dillon , who landed his third career Sprint Cup pole in Friday qualifying, was 11th-fastest in final practice. Blaney tops Saturday's early practice ( Practice 2 results ) Ryan Blaney led Saturday's first Sprint Cup Series practice at Texas Motor Speedway , notching a top speed of 188.515 mph. The Wood Brothers Racing driver put up his fastest time on his first lap out of 31 runs. AJ Allmendinger was second-fastest to Blaney with a speed of 188.508 mph. Ricky Stenhouse Jr . (187.846 mph), Casey Mears (187.826 mph) and Paul Menard (187.572 mph) completed the top five, respectively. The fastest Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup driver was Joey Logano , coming in as ninth-fastest at 187.026 mph. Chase contender and 2014 Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick -- who was quickest in Friday's practice -- was 30th-fastest today (183.761 mph). Defending series champion and two-time Texas victor Kyle Busch hit the wall in yesterday's opening practice and was forced to a backup No. 18 Toyota. Busch came in at 23rd-fastest (184.704 mph). Jimmie Johnson , a six-time winner at the Lone Star State track and the winner of the last four fall races at Texas , was 16th-fastest (185.810 mph). Johnson's win last weekend at Martinsville has already put the Hendrick Motorsports driver in the Chase's Championship 4. Polesitter for Sunday's AAA Texas 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBC) Austin Dillon was 25th-fastest (184.150 mph).
Harvick a chart-topper in Texas , leads first practice
RELATED: Practice 1 results " Chase Grid " Preview Show: Texas Kevin Harvick scooted to the top spot in opening NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice Friday at Texas Motor Speedway . Harvick powered the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet to a best lap of 196.685 mph on the 1.5-mile track. He'll seek his first Texas win in Sunday's AAA Texas 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBC, PRN, SiriusXM). The event is the second of three events in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs' Round of 8. Carl Edwards was second-fastest in early preparation for Sunday's 500 -miler, pushing the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota to a best lap of 196.278 mph. Edwards was just ahead of Gibbs teammate Matt Kenseth , third-fast in the JGR No. 20 Toyota at 195.929 mph. Joey Logano was fourth-fastest in the 85-minute session as Chase title contenders swept the first four spots on the leaderboard. Rookie Ryan Blaney completed the top five. Defending series champion Kyle Busch , a two-time Texas winner who took the checkered flag at the Fort Worth track in April, crashed early in the session, forcing his Joe Gibbs Racing team to a reserve No. 18 Toyota. Busch was in the midst of his first lap at speed when the car pitched sideways into the Turn 4 retaining wall. MORE: Busch set for backup Busch returned to the track with 25 minutes left in opening practice, mustering the 22nd-fastest lap among the 40-car field. Jimmie Johnson , a six-time Texas winner who has won the track's fall race four straight years, was just 33rd-fastest in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet. Johnson prevailed last weekend at Martinsville to clinch a berth among the Championship 4 field for the Nov. 20 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Coors Light Pole Qualifying for the Sprint Cup Series is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. ET. </p>
Heads up: Texas weekend
RELATED: Complete schedule for Texas Here are the hot topics, trending news and key story lines to get you ready for this weekend's races at Texas Motor Speedway . WEATHER A mix of sun and rain is forecasted for the Texas tripleheader. Friday and Saturday appear to have identical forecasts with both days projecting a high near 74. Sunday will be partly sunny with a high of 72. KEY TIMES Sprint Cup Series: The first practice will be Friday at 12:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN/NBC Sports App), with another pair of practices coming Saturday at 10:30 a.m. ET (CNBC/NBC Sports App) and 1:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN/NBC Sports App). Coors Light Pole Qualifying is at 6:45 p.m. ET Friday (NBC Sports App, will air tape delayed on NBCSN at 10:30 p.m. ET). Sunday's main event, which is the second race in the three-race Round of 8, begins at 2 p.m. ET (NBC/NBC Sports App) XFINITY Series: The first practice is Friday at 2:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN/NBCSN Sports App) with final practice later that day at 5 p.m. ET (NBC Sports App, will air tape delayed on NBCSN at 12 a.m. ET). Saturday is a busy day for the field with Coors Light Pole Qualifying beginning at 11:45 a.m. ET (CNBC/NBC Sports App) ahead of the 300-mile race (3 p.m. ET, NBC/NBC Sports App), which is the second in the Round of 8 of the XFINITY Series Chase. Camping World Truck Series: A pair of Thursday practices were rained out so the series gets on track Friday morning for one hour from 10 a.m. ET to 11 a.m. ET. The second race of the Round of 6 of the Camping World Truck Series Chase is Friday at 8:30 p.m. ET on FS1 with Keystone Light Pole Qualifying just before at 3:45 p.m. ET (FS1). CATCH DRIVERS LIVE We'll stream every driver press conference in the Martinsville media center at NASCAR.com/presspass . Some highlights are three of the Joe Gibbs Racing quartet on Friday and XFINITY Series and Camping World Truck Series Chase contenders on both Friday and Saturday. Click here for a full schedule. LAST TIME -- Despite being eliminated from the Chase two weeks earlier, Jimmie Johnson proved he was still one tough competitor after earning his sixth win at Texas Motor Speedway during 2015's AAA Texas 500 . "Six-Time" only led for a total of six circuits, including the final four after taking the lead from Brad Keselowski on Lap 331 -- and never looking back. Johnson has won the last four Chase races at the 1.5-mile track. -- Speaking of Keselowski, the Team Penske wheelman dominated the Texas event, topping the board for 312 laps and breaking the record for the most laps led at the track. Keselowski was still vying for a Chase spot at Homestead and the win would have earned him a berth; he ultimately came up short in making the Championship 4. YOU SHOULD KNOW • Jimmie Johnson : The winningest Texas driver returns to the track fresh off his Martinsville victory. Although Johnson is already locked into the Championship 4, a win here could leave the seven other contenders scrambling at Phoenix's elimination race. • This is the second of three races in the Round of 8, before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field is cut to the Championship 4 for the Homestead-Miami Speedway finale. • With all four Joe Gibbs Racing drivers still in contention for the 2016 championship, will we start to see teammates battle one another for wins instead of working together? With only two races remaining before the finale, anything is possible.
'Baddest man' Chuck Norris welcomes Texas Chase opportunity
(Photo credit: Chuck Norris Facebook ) FORT WORTH, Texas -- Chuck Norris is so beloved, treasured and adored that the actor and martial arts expert has internet memes, Twitter handles and fan clubs dedicated to honoring his very existence. According to the hugely popular and always creative Chuck Norris Facts website: "The Bermuda Triangle used to be the Bermuda Square until Chuck Norris roundhouse kicked one of the corners off.'" Another entry promises, "Chuck Norris can believe it's not butter.'" And of course, "Chuck Norris knows the last digit of pi." There are clever memes picturing Norris. MORE: Chuck Norris and NASCAR -- all the memes you need "When Chuck Norris does push-ups, he doesn't push himself up, he pushes the earth down," says one. "When Google has a question, they Norris it," suggests another. The popularity and fondness bestowed on Norris is much appreciated by the actor, who lives near Houston and will be trackside Sunday to introduce the eight Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers prior to the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway . It will truly be a mutual appreciation between NASCAR’s biggest stars and one of America's most treasured celebrities. "I'm looking forward to introducing the drivers and being with the NASCAR fans, plus I haven't seen (track president) Eddie Gossage and (Speedway Motorsports Chairman) Bruton Smith in years so this will be a great opportunity to get re-acquainted," Norris said. "I used to go out to the track often when I lived in Dallas filming the Walker, Texas Ranger series. The Norrises just love speed. I used to race off-road and then I did the powerboat racing for a few years. We're into all this racing stuff." Gossage thought it was the ultimate "natural" idea to invite Norris to introduce the Chase drivers prior to Sunday's race. "The thinking was, introducing the eight baddest drivers because they're still in the Chase you need the baddest man on the planet," Gossage said. "And with all the internet facts and memes it was obvious that has t o be Chuck Norris. The fact he's a friend and a Texan and been here a number of times, that’s an easy one to put together." For all of his work on television, in movies and as one of the most accomplished American martial arts experts, the 76-year old Norris is still genuinely amazed at the warm reception he receives everywhere he goes. And he has a good sense of humor about the cult-like following that has developed worldwide with the memes and fan clubs. "It’s interesting," Norris allowed with a laugh. "These Chuck Norris facts have reconnected me with the young people again. There’s a young college kid that sent me the first three Chuck Norris facts and I read them. "The first one I ever read was: 'They wanted to put Chuck Norris on Mount Rushmore but the granite wasn't tough enough.' It's been 10 years since I saw that one." "And," he recalled, "I did two tours in Iraq to shake hands with the troops and I did that with over 40,000 soldiers because they were bugging their commanders to shake my hand after hearing these Chuck Norris facts. "Every time one of them came over to shake my hand, he'd tell me a Chuck Norris fact. And then I'd go to the commode and Chuck Norris facts were written on the wall. I thought, 'I can't get away from these things.'" Nor does he really want to. His popularity and decades long work in his first love, martial arts, along with his well-received work in television shows like the long-running Walker, Texas Ranger and movies such as Delta Force and Missing in Action make Norris one of the most recognizable faces in the world. And he is using that support and following to continue his great work with the KickStart Kids Foundation he formed in 1992. The program is truly the heart of his commitment to giving back. He and his wife Gena chair the foundation, which has worked with at-risk children and proudly helped graduate over 85,000 since the organization began. For the next week the Norries are selling "Chuck Yeah" t-shirts at represent.com/chuckyeah to raise money for their KickStart Foundation. "I'm a huge NASCAR fan and my son Eric has been driving in NASCAR for years, so we thought this would be a great opportunity," Norris said. "This race gives me the opportunity to help our fundraiser for the Kick Start program. Most of these kids have gone on to college and been successful in their own right." So for this weekend, Norrises intensity comes with a wide smile and proud heart. "I just love going out there and meeting these drivers," Norris said. "They are just down-to-earth guys and they have great values. Those are the kind of guys I like to be around." And it's definitely a mutual feeling.
Texas Sprint Cup Series action delayed due to rain
RELATED: Live weather updates " Weekend schedule " Chase Grid The start of the second race in the Round of 8 of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup was delayed for nearly six hours following an early bout of rain at Texas Motor Speedway and surrounding areas. The AAA Texas 500 's green flag was scheduled for 2:04:30 p.m. ET (NBC, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), and the skies opened just after the national anthem. The green flag fell just before 8 p.m. ET after a lengthy track-drying process. Once the track dried, Richard Childress Racing 's Austin Dillon led the field to green after scoring his third career Sprint Cup Series pole during Friday's Coors Light Pole Qualifying. Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series contender Joey Logano lined up alongside Dillon in his No. 22 Team Penske Ford. Going into today's 500 -miler, Jimmie Johnson -- the defending race winner -- is the only Chaser with a secured spot in the Championship 4. The Joe Gibbs Racing trio of Denny Hamlin , Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch currently sit above the cutoff line while Logano, Kevin Harvick , Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards are below it. Next Sunday's race at Phoenix International Raceway marks the cutoff in the Round of 8 in which four drivers will be eliminated from the Chase ahead of the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 20. Wet weather impacted the track schedule earlier in the week when two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practices were washed out on Thursday due to rain. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Kyle Busch's day goes south at Texas
RELATED: 'Rowdy' reflects on time spent with 'Smoke' FORT WORTH, Texas -- An issue early in Friday's opening NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice sent Kyle Busch to the garage and his team to the hauler to unload the backup No. 18 Toyota. The defending Sprint Cup Series champion made contact with the outside wall on his first lap around the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway layout. Damage to the right front of the Joe Gibbs Racing entry was significant. It took approximately one hour for the backup entry to be sufficiently prepped. Busch quickly posted the 10th-fastest lap when he was finally able to return to the track. "We got into turn three and the car felt great, loaded up really good, got back to the throttle and then got to the bumps that are over there in (Turns) 3 and 4," Busch said afterward. The car "felt like it bottomed out a little bit," he said, "and kind of got me up the track and then from there the whole car just kind of came out of the track and I got loose and couldn't get it checked up or slowed down before it slapped the wall. "Speeds are really high here at Texas and when you lose that grip, typically it happens in a hurry and (it) just kind of got away from me there. I wish that I would have had maybe taken it a little easy, but I really wasn't even trying that hard to be honest with you. Just kind of a shock that that happened." Because the incident took place prior to qualifying, Busch won’t be required to drop to the rear of the field prior to the start of Sunday's AAA Texas 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBC/NBC Sports App, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "I don't think I have ever crashed on the first lap of getting out there on the race track before," he said. "We've right-sided cars before here or there and I always had a running joke with one of our guys at the body shop that comes to the race track on Sundays … anytime he has to put a right side wrap on a car, it meant good things. Going to a backup car, I don't think it is going to hurt us any." By the end of practice, he had slipped to 22nd in the rundown. He's a two-time winner at Texas in the Sprint Cup Series, and won here earlier this year. He's finished no worse than fourth in his last four Texas starts, and six of his last seven. "Didn't even get a lap on that thing but all in all I know that I've got a great group of guys that will dig in as deep as they need to in order to make sure we do everything that we can to prepare it to get ourselves back to where we need to be for being competitive here this weekend," he said.
Edwards surges to Texas win, lands Homestead berth
RELATED: Race results " Updated Chase Grid SHOP: Edwards gear Carl Edwards secured a waterlogged victory Sunday night at Texas Motor Speedway , taking control late in a rain-shortened AAA Texas 500 to clinch a shot at his first Sprint Cup Series title in the NASCAR season finale. Edwards' Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota permanently took the lead in the 258th of 293 laps, a figure shortened from the original 334-lap distance by an evening rain shower. He benefited from an ultra-fast final pit stop and led 36 laps in his third NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory of the season, the 28th of his career and his fourth on the 1.5-mile Fort Worth track. Edwards' victory locked up an automatic berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs' Championship 4 finale Nov. 20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Jimmie Johnson -- the Martinsville winner last weekend -- is the only other driver among the eight remaining Chase hopefuls who has clinched a title shot.
Out Front with Miss Coors Light: AAA Texas 500
Miss Coors Light, Amanda Mertz, chats with AAA Texas 500 Coors Light Pole Award winner, Brad Keselowski, about his No. 2 Ford, which was fastest in all three rounds of qualifying.
Best in-car audio from the AAA Texas 500
Check out some on the best radio chatter from the AAA Texas 500 , as Jimmie Johnson claims his 5th win of the 2015 campaign and Joey Logano looks to climb out of a Texas -sized hole.