Tech Talk: Rain tires, procedures ready at Watkins Glen
RELATED: Junior wants to race in the rain The extended weather forecast for Watkins Glen shows only a slight chance of rain for this weekend’s Cheez-It 355 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen International (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM). But NASCAR officials are prepared to conduct Sunday’s race should inclement weather become an issue. The same holds true for Saturday's Zippo 200 XFINITY Series race (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM), also slated for Watkins Glen. Steve O’Donnell, Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer for NASCAR, told NASCAR.com Monday that should there be rain on Sunday, "the same rules will apply that we've had in the XFINITY Series." In other words, yes, they're prepared to run the Sprint Cup race in the rain. Three XFINITY Series races have been contested in wet conditions – in 2008 and '09 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve (Montreal) and last year at Road America (Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin). Goodyear will have an ample supply of rain tires on hand this weekend and teams will be required to install a functional windshield wiper motor, defogger and rear window flashing light for this weekend’s races. The light must be activated during all wet weather conditions, and must be located in the upper left corner inside the rear window. "We've also got Air Titans that we can deploy if there is ... excess water in certain areas," O’Donnell said. Per the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rulebook, under "wet" conditions, cars will line up on the starting grid under a normal "dry" equipment configuration. After a single pace lap, cars will return to pit road to their assigned pit stalls where crewmembers will install rain tires and a front windshield wiper or wipers. The rear flashing light must also be activated at this time. No further adjustments or refueling of the car will be allowed during the stop. Cars will return to the track in their original starting positions behind the pace car to complete the pace laps. Teams can't change to "dry" weather tires until taking the green flag following the start of the event. RACE CENTER EXTRA: How Watkins Glen's unique pit road impacts teams For "damp" conditions: If there is moisture only in certain areas of the track, the start of the race would be similar to those for "wet" conditions, however when pitting after the first pace lap, teams will have the option to install the rain tires, defogger and windshield wiper or wipers. Activation of the rear flashing light is mandatory under both "wet" and "damp" conditions prior to the race start. Once again, the cars will re-enter the track in their original starting position to complete the remaining pace laps. Should a team or teams opt not to change tires during the designated "damp” conditions pit stop, but pit during one of the remaining pace laps, the team or teams will start at the rear of the field in the order in which they return to the track. Sprint Cup Series managing director director Richard Buck will make the determination of track conditions (wet, damp or dry). Finally, if one or more laps are completed under normal dry conditions then rain arrives, NASCAR will display the yellow flag, putting the race under caution. Once pit road has been opened, teams may pit and change tires, install "wet" weather equipment and perform any additional services permitted. They also have the option of remaining on the track, should they so choose. Tire Build for the Glen Unchanged Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series teams will run the same Goodyear tire code at Watkins Glen. It is same build that teams have run there since 2013. XFINITY Series teams also ran the tire at Road America last year. The "wet" weather tire, should it be needed, for both series is the same build as that which was also run at Road America in '14. After the Fact Two of the 32 penalties issued Sunday at Pocono Raceway were assessed after the completion of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Joey Logano ( Team Penske ) and Martin Truex Jr . ( Furniture Row Racing ) both incurred pit road speeding penalties after each driver ran out of gas in the closing laps of the Windows 10 400 . Both Truex (19th) and Logano (20th) finished on the lead lap.
Hayley returns home for Chevrolet Silverado 250
No one would blame Cameron Hayley for getting homesick. The 19-year-old NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver resides in Sandusky, Ohio where his ThorSport Racing team is based -- 1,891.3 miles away from his hometown of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Most of the tracks he races at are even farther away. Distance has not stopped Hayley from chasing his NASCAR dream. Although it's located on the opposite side of Canada, Hayley will have a homecoming of sorts when he performs in front of his fellow countrymen in Sunday's Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (1:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1) -- the NCWTS' only road course race of the season. "Not only is this a track I've been to before, it's also in my home country," said Hayley, who ranks sixth in the NCWTS standings on the strength of three top-five and seven top-10 finishes in 14 starts this season. "I just hope that I will have a good run for all of my Canadian fans." An alumnus of the NASCAR Next initiative highlighting the sport's top up-and-coming drivers, Hayley is still searching for his first NASCAR national series win. If he takes the checkered flag on Sunday, he would be the first Canadian to win a NASCAR national series race since Ron Fellows visited Victory Lane in Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 2008. Racing in his first full-time NCWTS season, Hayley has gained momentum lately, logging six top-10 finishes in his last eight starts, including a career-best fourth-place showing at Pocono. He made his series debut at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park last season, finishing 11th and believes his prior experience there will help him on Sunday. "We've done really well at tracks that I've been to in the past this year, already," Hayley said. "I've been to Sonoma a couple times and that place was really difficult. You look at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and think, 'it can’t be as difficult as Sonoma ,' but it's a very fast race track, and fast race tracks are not forgiving. It takes a lot of finesse and a lot of guts to go out there and get it done. We are bringing a really good truck, so I think this will be another good race for us to go out and get a solid top five, if not a win."
Gordon's love for Charlotte lasting, 22 years after first win
Photo credit: Charlotte Motor Speedway CONCORD, N.C. – With its close proximity to race shops, Charlotte Motor Speedway is known as the home track for most of the NASCAR community. But Tuesday's gathering at the 1.5-mile speedway had more of a tourist feel, as fans hailed from places near and far. There was the man from Bakersfield, California, – "Harvick country," he states proudly – the fan from Switzerland, the Canadian couple and everyone in between. They wore different numbers on their shirts and spoke with different accents, but they were all there to see one man. Mr. Jeff Gordon . The FOX Sports analyst and four-time NASCAR champion helped celebrate the 10 Days of NASCAR Thunder leading up to Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) by taking photos with 100 Charlotte ticketholders. Despite Gordon's retirement following his championship run last season, the fandom was as feverous as ever, as each visitor itched to exchange a few words with the former No. 24 driver. "It's slightly different (now) because many of them say a lot of the same things, 'I wish you were out there,' (or) 'I miss you being out there,'" Gordon said of the fans. "But I'm getting a lot of great comments about being up in the booth, so it's nice. I'm enjoying myself, so I think it comes across in the broadcast and interacting with the fans, I get to hear that from them as well." Gordon stood on the roof of Champion's Pavilion with the fans, giving the group a birds-eye view of the quad oval. The track is impressive; a feeling Gordon reciprocates, as he recalls the first time he laid eyes on it. "I think it doesn't mean the same to everybody," Gordon said, "but for me, the very first time I ever came to North Carolina … when I drove by this facility, I was blown away. I'd seen Indianapolis Motor Speedway , but beyond that, I'd never seen anything that looked like this. Just the appearance of it put me in awe." Gordon found success at Charlotte early in his career, earning a runner-up result in his first race at the North Carolina track in 1993. And on Sunday, he'll broadcast his first Coca-Cola 600 ; 22 years after he earned his first-ever win in the Cup Series in the '94 running of the 600-mile event. RELATED: See all the winners of the longest race in NASCAR But Gordon's love affair with Charlotte began before the Victory Lane celebration. "When I drove a stock car here for the first time, I just fell in love with it," Gordon said. "I love the way the track flows, the banking, the grip level, bumps and everything that comes along with it. And of course, winning my first race, having it happen in the 600." The longest race on the Cup circuit , the Coca-Cola 600 has long been revered as one of NASCAR's biggest races – one of the sport's "Majors," as Gordon says. "Daytona, here, Brickyard, maybe a Southern 500, some would also say Talladega." Gordon said, rattling off a list of stock car racing's biggest events. "But this is a big, big deal to win this race. To me, it's probably second or third ranking in our series as far as most prestigious events." Winning the coveted Coca-Cola 600 trophy is no easy feat – the man who has won three of those races can tell you that. With the cars being more advanced today and eliminating some of the physical aspect, Gordon emphasizes the continued need for mental toughness. "You're talking about a minimum of four hours being in the car," Gordon said. "Pit crews, crew chiefs, everyone's on edge, not just the drivers … (They're) pushing the limits every single lap, which is not the way it used to be. You used to pace yourself and be able to manage the tires and your car and you could still be competitive at the end of the day – if you were in one piece. "That's not the case anymore – it's just all out. So, that mentally drains you by pushing that hard for that period of time." RELATED: Gordon embraces new career with 'contagious' energy The task of taming a 600-mile monster is daunting, especially for younger drivers. Gordon's No. 24 replacement Chase Elliott prepares to make his second Coca-Cola 600 start. Elliott, now in his rookie season, started 28th and finished 18th in the 2015 Coca-Cola 600 , then driving the No. 25 for Hendrick Motorsports . As for any advice from the former boss of the No. 24? Gordon said his 20-year-old successor doesn't need it. "I haven't had to give him much advice on the race track," Gordon said. "He's a natural … He gets better every weekend. "I'm excited for that 24 team. I had to defend a lot with fans being upset about them keeping the No. 24 and I said, 'Just wait, just wait, I think you're going to be proud of the results.' And now, I'm starting to see everybody's now saying, 'What a great replacement for the 24!' " Gordon's statement was validated by fans sporting Elliott-themed shirts earlier, with one young boy – who will likely grow up knowing Elliott, rather than Gordon, as the No. 24 driver -- wearing a blue NAPA hat. Gordon loves it. "Listen, I love seeing the sport grow," he said. "I'm still heavily involved in the sport, not just from the FOX side, but from Hendrick Motorsports . And I think the sport is amazing right now. The racing is as good as it's ever been. We have some great young talents. Not to mention veterans that are doing great things … I'm all for bringing new fans and seeing fans get excited about it, people like Chase or Ryan Blaney or Kyle Larson . "I support it 100 percent."
Veteran Crafton plays mentor role to up-and-coming rookies
CONCORD, N.C. -- Being a two-time champion in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has its share of perks for Matt Crafton . But besides the laurels, there's also a certain amount of responsibility, one that involves helping the next generation of drivers learn their way. For the third straight season, Crafton has helped preside over the series' rookie orientation meetings, joining series director Elton Sawyer in providing insights for the truck tour's new crop of talent. In recent years, the duty has fallen to the reigning series champion, which Crafton achieved with consecutive titles in 2013 and 2014. But with last year's champ, Erik Jones , shifting to the NASCAR XFINITY Series full-time this season, Crafton was asked back. "If it's something where I feel I can help the rookies and possibly make it better racing, that's what it's all about," said Crafton, who's back on top as the series' points leader after last weekend's victory at Dover International Speedway . "I remember being a rookie and going to some of these places and not having a damn clue what I was doing or what to expect on some new race tracks, so if you can give them a little bit of insight as a group and then I always tell them at the end, if you ever have any questions, they're always free to ask me whatever they need to ask me in the trailer afterward. It's part of it." It's been 15 years since the 39-year-old Crafton was a truck series newbie, almost as long as the lifespan of some members of this year's rookie crop. When Crafton was on the other side of the first-year drivers' orientation, he learned from a rotation of the series' pioneers -- Ron Hornaday Jr ., Mike Skinner, Todd Bodine . Times may have changed over the course of Crafton's career, with the driver roster seemingly skewing younger. But it's also tilted to an even more ambitious and talented class in one of NASCAR's most competitive divisions. "Just to think they're racing in the Camping World Truck Series at 16 years old like they can do, it's nuts," Crafton says. "It's just crazy the amount of pressure that's on these kids. The thing is, they're in great, great equipment. I can honestly say, everybody always says each and every week that, 'oh, there's such a great group of rookies out there.' There's been a great group of rookies a lot of years in the Camping World Truck Series since I've been here, but not all of them have always been in great equipment." On this damp Thursday morning, Sawyer and Crafton hold court in the suites over Charlotte Motor Speedway 's pit road. A group of 15 young drivers -- some true rookies and some who were preparing for their first start on the 1.5-mile track -- circled around, awaiting direction over the racket of the Air Titans drying the pavement. Before diving into a discussion about race procedure, Sawyer singled out John Hunter Nemechek , attending his last required rookie meeting at Charlotte -- the last track missing from his truck series portfolio. "I thought Elton was going to bring me a cake this week, a certificate or something for graduating," the 18-year-old Nemechek joked later. "He said he forgot, so I may have to get a cake in to him that says 'Race Director' or something on it." Sawyer emphasized the high notes from the crew chief's handout, providing watch-outs about gamesmanship on restarts and other procedures. But he also ceded plenty of time to Crafton, who answered a question from ThorSport Racing teammate Rico Abreu about the blend zone off pit road and how hard he could hustle back onto the race track. The inquiry led to a detailed description from Crafton about one of the most finicky tracks on the circuit . In vivid terms, Crafton explained the speedway's character, how much the groove widens in time, how delicate side-by-side racing can be, and what he called the "gnarliest" transition as trucks dive into the Turn 1 banking. "When we go to a new race track, it's just learning the basics of the things that we need to look out for, especially here," says 18-year-old rookie William Byron, who became the series' newest first-time winner two weeks ago at Kansas Speedway . "He's talking about the transitions and just things to watch out for in the race. It's good to have a broad perspective of what it's going to be like racing here. It gets you a little bit more comfortable." Even Nemechek, already a two-time truck series winner on intermediate-sized tracks, has seen the benefits. "It was a good experience. They all helped every time you went," Nemechek says. "… Any veteran that you can get and talk to and listen to that you know is going to shoot you somewhat straight when you come to a new place, it can only help you -- from race trends to how to get on and off pit road to the characteristics of the race track." Crafton's 366 career starts -- an all-time series best -- count as an encyclopedic amount of experience, and the back-to-back titles speak to his success. But the longtime veteran says he still finds time to pick up on things from the cub drivers with single-digit starts on their record. What does he learn? "Some of these kids nowadays, they just know more than we do," Crafton says with a playfully satirical grin. "I have a daughter who's 3 and she already knows more than me."
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Forza Motorsport 6 NASCAR Expansion released on Xbox One
The NASCAR Expansion for Forza Motorsport 6 has been released and race-gaming fans of all sorts can enjoy the thrills of stock car racing available now on Xbox One. The NASCAR Expansion includes an all-new NASCAR World Tour Career mode, letting users race NASCAR stock cars against opponents from a huge variety of motorsport leagues. Hendrick Motorsports drivers Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott tested the game out and both agree the game has strong ties to real-life racing. Both HMS drivers had a hand in developing the game to give a correct representation of the tracks they race on week-after-week. The game will feature 24 new cars from the 2016 season, including drivers Elliott and Johnnson , as well as Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Jamie McMurray , Kyle Larson , Kevin Harvick , Danica Patrick , Tony Stewart , Kurt Busch , Brad Keselowski , Joey Logano , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch , Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth . Along with new drivers, the game will also feature a new track on the NASCAR circuit , Homestead-Miami Speedway . Forza Motorsport 6 currently includes Daytona International Speedway , Indianapolis Motor Speedway , Watkins Glen International and Sonoma Raceway. The game will also have new multiplayer events and new display elements for improved drafting and car spotting, as well as exclusive Mods, Badges and 250G Achievements to unlock.