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Press Pass: Justin Allgaier
Justin Allgaier talks about finishing third in the Dollar General 200 Fueled By AmeriGas and how this is his strongest start of any season.
Allmendinger not injured, still feeling 'gut-punched'
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- AJ Allmendinger's crash at Kentucky Speedway almost three weeks ago left him with a bandaged left hand and a thumb that required X-rays. Those scans came back negative, and the 34-year-old driver says it hasn't given him trouble since. Still, Allmendinger maintained he's suffering some ill effects -- just not from that. "Nah, I feel like I've just been gut-punched and kicked in the not-such-fun place the last seven weeks," Allmendinger said, "so that's more the lingering effect." Allmendinger's remarks came Tuesday during Day 1 of a two-day organizational test for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams on the fresh pavement at Watkins Glen International, site of the JTG-Daugherty Racing driver's only premier-series victory in 2014. Given his road-racing pedigree, the 2.45-mile road course serves as an ample opportunity when the series returns Aug. 7 for the Cheez-It 355 at the Glen. But worn down by the results of the last two months -- a nine-race stretch with a 23.9 average finish and three DNFs -- Allmendinger says he's placing a greater value on bettering the No. 47 team's overall execution than punching a ticket to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs with a one-race wonder. "Performance everywhere's just got to improve," Allmendinger said. "It's no secret I love this race track, I love road course racing. It's my background, but it's no different mentality than going to Pocono this weekend, going to Bristol after that, going to Michigan. We've just got to be better as a team -- all of us together. "This is a place -- here and Sonoma, just road course racing in general -- where I think a driver can make more of a difference, but you've still got to have the right package." The two-day test afforded Allmendinger some extra prep time on the track's new asphalt. And while Watkins Glen ranks as a track where Allmendinger might control his own fate, minimizing the mistakes and misfortunes that have dogged the No. 47 Chevrolet of late is the priority, according to first-year crew chief Randall Burnett. "It's definitely one of AJ's niches -- here, Sonoma, he runs really well at Martinsville. We're definitely trying to capitalize on that," Burnett said. "That's why we're up here testing, making sure we can put our best foot forward on this deal. We've been working really hard on all of our programs -- our mile-and-a-half stuff's come a really long way this year. We've still got to get better for sure."
Almirola reflects on career, heritage as he makes 200th start
Aric Almirola insists he was absolutely prepared to climb into his No. 43 Smithfield Ford this Sunday for the Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway completely focused on nothing other than scoring a victory and working toward earning a position in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. But his public relations team brought up an important milestone that even he conceded was definitely worth noting, if not celebrating. This Sunday's race marks the 32-year old Almirola's 200th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start -- a significant measure of his staying power and a testament to how far he's come. Literally. He is the son of a Cuban immigrant on his dad's side of the family and the grandson of one of Florida's most celebrated and accomplished racers -- Sam Rodriguez -- on his mom's side. That has created a unique background dynamic that gives Almirola motivation and pride. And makes this weekend a heartfelt measure of success. "I think here I am and my dad came over from Cuba and 50 years later I'm making my 200th start in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for Richard Petty," Almirola said. "It's so crazy to me, what living in this country affords you and allows you to be able to do, and my grandparents made that decision to come over here and take this chance." The sheer number of starts represents a mark of opportunity for Almirola. Making it into NASCAR's big league was always the harder path, the road less travelled. But he has made it. And that's only the beginning. "I don't think anybody dreams about running two hundred races, they dream about 'a' race," Almirola said. "So as a kid I dreamed about driving 'a' Cup car, running 'a' race. So, now the fact I've had the opportunity to do it two hundred times, when you realize that, and the marketing department brings to your attention that, 'Hey, Pocono is going to be your 200th start,' it really makes you kind of reflect on everything that's led up to this. "From being a kid racing go-karts all the way up to all the opportunities I've had. I realize by reflecting on all that stuff how fortunate and blessed I am." The thing is, Almirola could have just as easily been a star baseball player as a winning NASCAR driver. His native city of Tampa, Florida is a ballplayer's town. It produced Wade Boggs and Lou Piniella. Both Dwight Gooden and Gary Sheffield graduated from Almirola's Hillsborough High School. A calendar year in this part of the country has traditionally been delineated by baseball and football seasons. That just makes Almirola's success climbing the NASCAR ranks even more impressive. "I was in somewhat of a hot bed there for athletes," Almirola said smiling. "But I had a really strong passion for racing and I know that made me somewhat of an outsider at school growing up. When friends would ask, 'Hey what are you doing this weekend?' I'd say, I was going racing. "That kind of separated me from a lot of kids at school -- not in a bad way, I wasn't an outcast in a negative way, but I didn't have as close a relationship with kids at school because I didn't go parties at their house Friday night after football games. I was always working on my race cars or go-karts and racing on the weekends. "I wasn't looking for something to do on the weekend. I already had it." "I was always going to be a NASCAR guy. My grandfather raced sprint cars, so obviously the open wheel path was there, too. He'd race at East Bay every Saturday night and occasionally travel around the country going to races. But every Sunday it was normal, to get up, eat breakfast, hang around the house and then watch the Cup race. That was routine around my parents and my grandparents. We love NASCAR." The result for Almirola has been a starring role driving his sport's most iconic car -- the No. 43 -- for the sport's biggest legend, Petty. NASCAR's crown jewel, Daytona International Speedway, is also Almirola's "home track" and fittingly the venue he won his first Sprint Cup Series race in 2014, the Coke Zero 400 -- exactly 30 years after his boss Petty scored his historic 200th victory at the track. Consider this: Petty's win total would be equivalent to Almirola winning every start he's made. RELATED: Almirola's Darlington scheme honors Petty " Darlington schemes Though that remains the only Cup victory so far for Almirola, it was enough to propel him into the 2014 Chase and make him only more eager to return. His team's best finish this year is a 12th-place in the season-opening Daytona 500. He's had four top-15 showings -- three in the season's opening four races. He ranks 25th in points entering Pocono, hopeful to score a win in one of the remaining six races to set the 16-driver Chase field. "I think the reality is we have struggled this season and you can tell by watching the race and looking at our results," Almirola said. "This year has been a struggle and we can't really put our finger on what's wrong. People often ask what's wrong and it sounds like a smart-aleck answer, but if I knew, we'd fix it. "There are a couple places looking ahead that have been strong for us. Bristol comes to top of mind. We had a chance to win there a couple years ago battling with Carl Edwards. And then there's (regular season finale) Richmond. Last year we went there kinda do or die to make the Chase and finished fourth, but had a really strong car and a legitimate chance to win that race, too. Those are kind of top of mind to me where we might go in and get a win." Listening to Almirola reflect on his first 200 races, there is both a fond memory of what it took to get to this point and a distinct urgency in his voice to succeed in a way worthy of the hard work already put in. "Making my 200th start really forces me to reflect and when I do that and think about doing it for Richard Petty, who is very much an American icon. And I can't help but reflect on my family, which has done so much and sacrificed so much to get me where I'm at," Almirola said. "It really is amazing."
A friendship motivates Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award finalist Logan Houptley
RELATED: All the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award finalists A friendship made a decade ago has endured -- and endeared, creating a heartwarming story. Logan Houptley and Mikayla Resh, children when they met, now are young adults who have a special bond that has led to the formation of a special cause. At the age of 10, Houptley met Resh in his third-grade classroom after moving to a new school district in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. Resh was bravely facing the challenges presented by multiple disabilities that included brain damage, cerebral palsy, seizure disorder along with blindness and deafness. Houptley didn't see those challenges when he looked at Resh. Instead, he simply saw another child in need of compassion and kindness. Fellow classmates saw Resh in the same light. Collectively, they made sure she knew that she belonged . "I just found it so fascinating in third grade that the children who had grown up with Mikayla to that point already felt so comfortable with her and included her in the everyday life of the classroom," Houptley, 20, said. "I just took to that." That experience stuck with Houptley. How could it not? And so the friendship continued -- and continues still, along the way leading Houptley in 2010 to help found "Mikayla's Voice." The organization is dedicated to inspiring children and young adults to embrace individuals of all abilities, while championing cultural change by teaching communities about the importance of inclusion and acceptance. When Mikayla's Voice was founded, Houptley served as co-president of the Junior Board of Directors until 2015, when he became a member of the Board of Directors. Houptley, now living in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is proudly representing "Mikayla's Voice" as one of four finalists for The NASCAR Foundation's 2016 Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award Presented by Nationwide. The award, which honors volunteers who work for children's causes in their communities, will be presented by France -- The NASCAR Foundation's Chairwoman Emeritus and founder – on Sept. 27 during The NASCAR Foundation's inaugural Honors Gala at the Marriott Marquis in New York City. The foundation will donate $100,000 to the charity represented by the award winner and $25,000 to each of the other three finalists' charities. The award winner will be determined via an online vote now underway and running through Sept. 26 at 5 p.m. (ET) at NASCAR.com/Award. Friends Mikayla Resh and Logan Houptley work on a finger painting together. Houptley always has been a strong advocate for Resh and other children facing similar challenges. As a founding member of "Mikayla's Voice," Logan has spoken at national conventions about a book written on Resh's life, promoted inclusion in sports and recreation through "Tri for Inclusion" triathlons and led a fundraising efforts for the organization. Through books, school assemblies, recreational activities, cultural initiatives, and more, "Mikayla's Voice" demonstrates vividly the importance of inclusion. Approximately 25,000 children have been impacted by the organization's school assemblies; there have been 440 participants in Tri for Inclusion triathlons which pair able-bodied athletes with physically challenged athletes; and 14,000 children have been impacted by "Wheels of Friendship," an initiative that allows children to paint with the wheels of a wheelchair and the paws of service dogs. On Sunday, Houptley will attend the Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway where he'll be cheering for his favorite driver, Tony Stewart, who is making his final start at Pocono. Most importantly, Houptley will be representing Mikayla's Voice, meeting with media and other fans to talk about inclusion and acceptance – and the friendship which continues to chart his personal course. "In terms of inclusion, I think we've made a big difference with 'Mikayla's Voice,' " Houptley said, "but in terms of the big picture, yes, we've made some strides there's still a long way to go. … I'm definitely in for the long haul as far as I can tell." To learn more about this year's finalists for The NASCAR Foundation's Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award Presented by Nationwide, and to cast your vote today, go to www.NASCAR.com/Award . Voting is open now until Sept. 26 at 5 p.m. ET.
NASCAR reveals start times for 2017 races
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- NASCAR, along with FOX Sports and NBC Sports, today announced 2017 race start times and network coverage for the NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series -- based on the previously released schedule dates . Through collaborative efforts with its broadcast partners, race teams and tracks, NASCAR was able to finalize full 2017 start times for all three national series almost six months earlier than in recent seasons. Seventeen national series events will start closer to primetime, helping to bring NASCAR's photo finishes and close, side- by -side racing to larger audiences. Seventeen NASCAR Cup Series points races will air on broadcast television next year, including the DAYTONA 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on FOX; and the Brickyard 400 and the NASCAR Cup Series championship race, the Ford EcoBoost 400 from Homestead-Miami Speedway, on NBC. "It's our responsibility, collectively as an industry, to ensure the sport is healthy, strong and growing by delivering great racing in a way that best meets the needs of our fans," said Steve Herbst, senior vice president, broadcasting and production at NASCAR. "Earlier insight on start times benefits not only fans, but also our teams and tracks, as it provides more opportunities to plan travel and to purchase race tickets." Since the initial release of the 2017 schedule, NASCAR and its partners have shifted two dates for the NASCAR XFINITY Series and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Road America will move to Sunday, August 27, on NBC. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park will now take place on Sunday, September 3, airing on FS1 prior to the NASCAR Cup Series event at Darlington Raceway on NBCSN. Looking ahead to the 2018 season, the DAYTONA 500 will move to Sunday, February 18, during Presidents Day weekend. NASCAR and its partners are working collaboratively on the remainder of the 2018 schedule, which will be finalized and released at a later date. In addition to watching the live broadcast, fans can catch all the on-track action by visiting NASCAR.com, downloading the NASCAR Mobile app or live streaming on FOX Sports Go and the NBC Sports app. Fans can also listen to Motor Racing Network (MRN), Performance Racing Network (PRN), IMS Radio Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90, throughout the season. 2017 NASCAR Cup Series Schedule Date Location Network Race Start Radio 2/18 The Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway FS1 8 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 2/19 DAYTONA 500 Qualifying at Daytona International Speedway FOX 3 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 2/23 Can-Am Duel at Daytona International Speedway FS1 7 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 2/26 DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway FOX 2 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 3/5 Atlanta Motor Speedway FOX 2:30 p.m. PRN / SiriusXM 3/12 Las Vegas Motor Speedway FOX 3:30 p.m. PRN / SiriusXM 3/19 Phoenix International Raceway FOX 3:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 3/26 Auto Club Speedway FOX 3:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 4/2 Martinsville Speedway FS1 2 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 4/9 Texas Motor Speedway FOX 1:30 p.m. PRN / SiriusXM 4/23 Bristol Motor Speedway FOX 2 p.m. PRN / SiriusXM 4/30 Richmond International Raceway FOX 2 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 5/7 Talladega Superspeedway FOX 2 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 5/13 Kansas Speedway FS1 7:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 5/20 NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway FS1 6 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 5/28 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway FOX 6 p.m. PRN / SiriusXM 6/4 Dover International Speedway FS1 1 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 6/11 Pocono Raceway FS1 3 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 6/18 Michigan International Speedway FS1 3 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 6/25 Sonoma Raceway FS1 3 p.m. PRN / SiriusXM 7/1 Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway NBC 7:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 7/8 Kentucky Speedway NBCSN 7:30 p.m. PRN / SiriusXM 7/16 New Hampshire Motor Speedway NBCSN 3 p.m. PRN / SiriusXM 7/23 Indianapolis Motor Speedway NBC 3 p.m. IMS / SiriusXM 7/30 Pocono Raceway NBCSN 3 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 8/6 Watkins Glen International NBCSN 3 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 8/13 Michigan International Speedway NBCSN 3 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 8/19 Bristol Motor Speedway NBC 7:30 p.m. PRN / SiriusXM 9/3 Darlington Raceway NBCSN 6 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 9/9 Richmond International Raceway NBCSN 7:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 9/17 Chicagoland Speedway NBCSN 3 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 9/24 New Hampshire Motor Speedway NBCSN 2 p.m. PRN / SiriusXM 10/1 Dover International Speedway NBCSN 2 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 10/7 Charlotte Motor Speedway NBCSN 7 p.m. PRN / SiriusXM 10/15 Talladega Superspeedway NBC 2 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 10/22 Kansas Speedway NBCSN 3 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 10/29 Martinsville Speedway NBCSN 1 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 11/5 Texas Motor Speedway NBC 2 p.m. PRN / SiriusXM 11/12 Phoenix International Raceway NBC 2:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 11/19 Homestead-Miami Speedway NBC 2:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 2017 NASCAR XFINITY Series Schedule Date Location Network Race Start Radio 2/25 Daytona International Speedway FS1 3:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 3/4 Atlanta Motor Speedway FS1 1:30 p.m. PRN / SiriusXM 3/11 Las Vegas Motor Speedway FS1 4 p.m. PRN / SiriusXM 3/18 Phoenix International Raceway FOX 4 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 3/25 Auto Club Speedway FS1 4 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 4/8 Texas Motor Speedway FOX 1:30 p.m. PRN / SiriusXM 4/22 Bristol Motor Speedway FS1 12:30 p.m. PRN / SiriusXM 4/29 Richmond International Raceway FS1 12:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 5/6 Talladega Superspeedway FOX 1 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 5/27 Charlotte Motor Speedway FS1 1 p.m. PRN / SiriusXM 6/3 Dover International Speedway FS1 1 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 6/10 Pocono Raceway FOX 1 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 6/17 Michigan International Speedway FS1 1:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 6/24 Iowa Speedway FS1 8:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 6/30 Daytona International Speedway NBCSN 7:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 7/7 Kentucky Speedway NBCSN 8 p.m. PRN / SiriusXM 7/15 New Hampshire Motor Speedway NBCSN 4 p.m. PRN / SiriusXM 7/22 Indianapolis Motor Speedway NBCSN 3:30 p.m. IMS / SiriusXM 7/29 Iowa Speedway NBC 3:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 8/5 Watkins Glen International NBCSN 2 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 8/12 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course NBCSN 3:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 8/18 Bristol Motor Speedway NBCSN 7:30 p.m. PRN / SiriusXM 8/27 Road America NBC 3 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 9/2 Darlington Raceway NBCSN 3:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 9/8 Richmond International Raceway NBCSN 7:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 9/16 Chicagoland Speedway NBCSN 3:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 9/23 Kentucky Speedway NBCSN 8 p.m. PRN / SiriusXM 9/30 Dover International Speedway NBCSN 3 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 10/6 Charlotte Motor Speedway NBCSN 8 p.m. PRN / SiriusXM 10/21 Kansas Speedway NBC 3 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 11/4 Texas Motor Speedway NBCSN 8:30 p.m. PRN / SiriusXM 11/11 Phoenix International Raceway NBC 3:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 11/18 Homestead-Miami Speedway NBCSN 3:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Schedule Date Location Network Race Start Radio 2/24 Daytona International Speedway FS1 7:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 3/4 Atlanta Motor Speedway FS1 4:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 4/1 Martinsville Speedway FS1 2:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 5/12 Kansas Speedway FS1 8:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 5/19 Charlotte Motor Speedway FS1 8:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 6/2 Dover International Speedway FS1 5:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 6/9 Texas Motor Speedway FS1 8 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 6/17 Gateway Motorsports Park FS1 8:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 6/23 Iowa Speedway FS1 8:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 7/6 Kentucky Speedway FS1 7:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 7/19 Eldora Speedway FS1 9 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 7/29 Pocono Raceway FS1 1 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 8/12 Michigan International Speedway FS1 1 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 8/16 Bristol Motor Speedway FS1 8:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 9/3 Canadian Tire Motorsport Park FS1 2:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 9/15 Chicagoland Speedway FS1 8:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 9/23 New Hampshire Motor Speedway FS1 1 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 9/30 Las Vegas Motor Speedway FS1 8:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 10/14 Talladega Superspeedway FOX 1 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 10/28 Martinsville Speedway FS1 1:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 11/3 Texas Motor Speedway FS1 8:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 11/10 Phoenix International Raceway FS1 8:30 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM 11/17 Homestead-Miami Speedway FS1 8 p.m. MRN / SiriusXM All times eastern. Subject to change.
Superspeedway cars will get safety enhancements in Sprint Cup and XFINITY series
NASCAR will implement structural enhancements to vehicles competing in the Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series next season for races at its two biggest facilities, Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, in an effort to provide additional protection to its competitors. A rules bulletin to teams Thursday detailed the safety measures which affect the front firewall and foot box areas, rear roll cage area behind the driver as well as along the left side door area of the driver's compartment. Referred to as anti-intrusion panels, the thickness of the pieces has been increased for additional strength and to allow each to be welded more significantly, according to officials. The structural changes, part of NASCAR's on-going comprehensive safety initiative, strengthen the interior area of the car surrounding the driver. "We've been doing a very significant body of work over the last year and a half," Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR Vice President of Innovation and Racing Development, said Thursday. "… We've done quite a bit of analysis, crash testing and we've come to the point now that we believe that the package is mature and we want to introduce it. The changes impact existing pieces already in use with one minor exception -- a new piece of material has been added behind the driver that extends from the existing anti-intrusion plating on the door bars into the rear sub frame. The changes are not expected to adversely affect the weight of the vehicle or change center of gravity, impacting balance. "Basically we are making the structure that encapsulates the driver more robust and susceptible to manage energy in a better way," Stefanyshyn said. "It's been implemented … with the teams so that it can be done in the most efficient, quickest and easiest way." By making the enhancements optional for 2016, they could be implemented for this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega, the only remaining event to be held on a superspeedway. The new pieces will be mandatory on superspeedways for 2017 and likely for all events in '18. Defending Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch suffered a broken right leg and fractured left foot in February of 2015 when his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota struck a wall front-end first during an XFINITY Series race at Daytona. Busch missed the first 11 points races of the season due to the injuries. The area of impact in the Busch crash was not protected by SAFER barrier at the time; it has since been added. SAFER barrier is a softer, energy-dissipating material mounted on the track wall. Earlier this year, driver Danica Patrick was involved in a similar crash at Talladega, however the wall was protected by SAFER barrier. Other than bruising and some soreness, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver was not injured. RELATED: Danica discusses Talladega wreck Even with the SAFER barrier, Patrick's impact bent the gas, brake and clutch pedals inside her No. 10 Chevrolet and according to Greg Zipadelli, Vice President of Competition for SHR, "the steering column was moved a ton. "But it was intact," he said a week after the incident. "They've been talking about doing some work in the foot box (area); I think this is the perfect case of what happened. Would that help? I think it probably would have. I think she's lucky she has short legs. Her feet got banged up but once she got going in that direction, she said she just kind of picked her feet up." Patrick underwent x-rays in the infield care center at Talladega and told FOX Sports 1 a week later when the series was at Kansas Speedway that she felt "totally fine." "I've got a couple of bruises; my arm came across and bent the steering wheel," she said. "My foot went past the clutch pedal and came back on (after hitting the wall) … I've got a couple of bruises but I feel really good." Zipadelli said the sport "has come a long way" in the area of safety. "You think about what happened a bunch of years ago, compare these cars," he said. "We're going faster; these guys are hauling the mail every place we go now. When they do wreck, knock on wood, there aren't many complaints. I think they've done a really good job."
Duval earns first victory after chaotic finish at Indy
Dylan Duval ( The TEAM ) scored his first career victory in the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series by turning a pit mistake into the race lead and holding off PJ Stergios ( ineX Racing ) and Ray Alfalla ( Slip Angle Motorsports ) on two late-race restarts to win at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Duval had run in the top 10 for much of the event before a strange turn of events saw him capture the lead with nine laps remaining. As the laps ticked down, Duval had miscalculated the amount of fuel needed to finish the race and had to pit under green with 15 laps to go. After the stop, Duval was 33rd in the running order with seemingly no chance at earning a solid finish. However, the caution flew two laps later with Duval still on the lead lap. Nearly every lead lap car pitted for tires, leaving Duval to restart in second position, with fresh tires, alongside Trey Eidson's ( Aftermath Motorsports ) damaged car. On the ensuing restart, Duval quickly overhauled Eidson, who dropped back before being involved in a crash off Turn 2. The caution was a blessing for Duval, who was trying to hold off the two most dominant drivers in the field -- Stergios and Alfalla, but four more potential green flag laps still stood between him and the checkered flag. When the green flew again, Duval jumped out front after a great restart, but Stergios quickly erased the small margin and was hot on the leader's tail as they headed down the backstretch. Although he was close, Stergios was not quite in position to challenge for the lead and elected to ride in line as Duval passed under the start-finish line marking three laps to go. As he did on the prior lap, Stergios got a run off Turn 2 and this time Duval blocked the bottom line. Instead of forcing the issue, Stergios took the high side, attempting to set up a pass off Turn 4. He never had the opportunity, as a crash back in the field triggered another caution, ending the race with Duval the improbable victor. Stergios was second while Alfalla finished third after leading a race-high 56 of 100 laps. Justin Bolton came home fourth and Mitchell Hunt ( High Performance Motorsports ) rounded out the top five. As has been the case for much of the season, Stergios and Alfalla had the cars to beat, leading a combined 79 laps. Stergios had the first crack at the lead after Kenny Humpe's connection trouble allowed Stergios to inherit the pole. It was Alfalla, though, who had the most speed on the long runs, but eight cautions broke up the race into relatively short sprints. Even with the race not playing to his strength, Alfalla held the lead after passing Stergios with 17 laps to go, and looked poised to take his second win of the season before Duval's unlikely strategy was made possible by a timely yellow. With Stergios (454) finishing just ahead of Alfalla (467), and Alfalla earning the bonus point for most laps led, the championship picture remains unchanged at a 13-point margin after Indy. Jake Stergios is third, 98 points back of the lead and nine in front of Chris Overland. Humpe (350) fell to fifth after a 40th-place result due to a crash after his connection issues put him back in the sim racing traffic, while Duval's win propelled him to sixth in the standings with 347 points. Only five races remain in the 2016 NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series, all on unique tracks. Next up is the lone road course date on the calendar, Watkins Glen International. The 2.45-mile road course features high speeds, tight racing, and a chance for some unexpected faces to shine at the front of the field. Alfalla, Humpe, and the Stergios brothers have been strong on road courses in the past but look for sim racers such as Michael Conti and Nick Ottinger to be contenders as well. Can Alfalla keep his points lead after an unpredictable race or will PJ Stergios use his extensive road racing experience to close the gap? Catch all the action on iRacingLive in two weeks' time to find out!
Michigan's August race will use provisional 2017 aero rules package
NASCAR competition officials announced Thursday morning that the Sprint Cup Series' Aug. 28 race at Michigan International Speedway will feature an additional, final test of the provisional 2017 aerodynamics rules package. The reduced downforce rules setup will be the same that was used in the series' June 12 stop at the 2-mile oval. NASCAR's top division also used forms of the package during the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May and the series' stop at Kentucky Speedway earlier this month. RELATED: How repave, aero package worked at Kentucky in July The most prominent visible changes from the current rules package are a smaller rear spoiler -- reduced 1 inch to a 2.5-inch height -- and the removal of rear-axle offset or "skew." Those adjustments -- combined with modifications to cooling fans, the front splitter and the rear-deck fin -- continue the trend in NASCAR's premier series of limiting the effects of downforce and sideforce on the cars. The effects have favored driver control over an overly stabilized car in an effort to promote passing and side- by -side racing. Before Thursday's announcement, the series' July 9 Quaker State 400 at newly repaved Kentucky was to be the final audition for the 2017 base package. Scott Miller, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition, said after that race that he wouldn't rule out an additional tryout, but indicated that the sanctioning body would likely avoid tinkering with aero rules for the final 10 races that make up the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. "After tonight we'll go back and we'll sort of reconvene with the drivers and the owners and the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and decide where we're going," Miller said July 9. "We're open to a lot of different options, and if something like that bubbles up and we have industry support for it, nothing right now is out of the question." Miller added that the Kentucky race was originally intended to be the proposed package's final event to provide teams "the most runway" toward preparations for next season. But when asked, drivers said they supported one final demonstration, singling out Michigan as a possible venue. RELATED: New rules on display at Michigan 'a promising direction' "I think, obviously subject to change after this weekend is over, but my initial thought is I would like to see it back at Michigan with just a few subtle changes that can be ascertained from what we've learned over this weekend and the previous Michigan weekend," Brad Keselowski said July 7. "Maybe a small tweak from what we've learned and go again at Michigan in the second race would kind of be my initial thought, so I would say yes." Said Matt Kenseth, the defending race winner of Michigan's August 400-miler: "I think Michigan is a pretty good judge. I mean, there's only the one race on it, but that place is starting to wear in a little bit. They've been able to bring a little bit softer tire. The groove has been widening out because it's been a few years since the repave, so I think that's our fastest top-speed track we go to. I think that's a pretty good place to evaluate it." Next month's Pure Michigan 400 will mark the first time in three races that the 2-mile track has hosted consecutive Sprint Cup events with the same rules package. Last August, competition officials experimented with a high-drag aero configuration before trying out the potential 2017 package in June. The set-up was also used by four teams during a Goodyear tire test at Michigan on May 17. Michigan was last repaved ahead of the 2012 season.
Hard tires, reworked curbing present challenges at repaved Watkins Glen
RELATED: Before and after: Watkins Glen repave WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams wrapped up a two-day organizational test Wednesday at newly repaved Watkins Glen International, emerging with better ideas of the challenges they'll face when the series returns for the Aug. 4-7 race weekend. Among those challenges: reworked curbing, a fast circuit and a harder-compound tire that has made grip elusive. A total of 16 Sprint Cup teams -- one permitted from each organization -- tried to unlock the novelty of the $12 million resurfacing project, using a Goodyear tire that emphasizes durability at the expense of traction and wear. The rubber compound chosen is similar to that used July 9 at Kentucky Speedway, site of the Sprint Cup Series' most recent race on a repaved track. At Kentucky, the tire selection made for treacherous conditions in certain spots and made passing a delicate process. Though road courses don't lend themselves to the multi-groove racing seen at several well-aged oval tracks, Watkins Glen might still be a tricky place to maneuver when the series reconvenes for the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen. "The main thing we've learned so far is how hard the tire is," said Jamie McMurray, driver of the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 1 Chevrolet. "It just seems to be no wear at all or lap time fall-off right now. This place didn't ever wear tires like Sonoma, but it seems like the tire is pretty hard." Sonoma, the other road course where the Sprint Cup Series races, is a much more intricate circuit with qualifying speeds roughly 30 mph slower than at Watkins Glen's open, free-wheeling layout. The Goodyear tire compound designated for both the Watkins Glen test and the race weekend is the same used for right-side tires in XFINITY Series competition at Iowa Speedway. Those Iowa right-sides will be used at all four corners for the Sprint Cup event at the 2.45-mile road course. Racing with a softer tire with more adhesion would potentially introduce the threat of excessive wear or blistering. It's a trade-off that Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Chase Elliott says he's willing to accept. "I think a lot of it is just having a fresh surface like this, you've got to have a tire that's pretty hard," said Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports' driver representative for the two-day test. "It's fast, and to ask a tire to hold up, you've got to bring something that's durable. It puts Goodyear in a tough spot, but I think they do a good job of trying to make the most of tough situations. There's been a lot of repaves here lately and I know they're working hard." David Groseclose, NASCAR's lead tire engineer, said Wednesday that the benefits of competing with a more rigid rubber compound outweighed the potential drawbacks. "As with all repaves -- same thing as Kentucky -- if you don't have a hard tire, you're going to blister them up," Groseclose said. "The way that works is if you've got a soft compound and you use it, the soft compounds tend to retain heat. It's just the nature of a soft compound. But on a repave, it's not going to wear so that heat's not going to be dissipated out of the tire. It has nowhere to go, so it stays in the tire, so that's why it blisters up. That's what we saw at Kentucky with the XFINITY and Truck Series." In addition to the surface itself, the track features new concrete for the rumble strips that border the circuit's turns and run-off areas. Some drivers found the differences barely noticeable, but Kurt Busch discovered a distinction the hard way with an early Tuesday spin as he bounded over the apex points in the backstretch chicane on one of his initial laps. "It's a lot different," said Tony Gibson, Busch's crew chief on the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevrolet. "Kurt's like, 'I've got to learn all the curbs again.' The curbs over in the bus stop (chicane) are probably the biggest change. They're way more aggressive, and they've tightened up, so it's a lot tighter lane through there." Said Elliott, who will race here in Sprint Cup for the first time next weekend: "Some of the curbs may be a little different here or there, some a little rougher, a little smoother just depending on how they laid the asphalt in or however it worked. It's as close as you could make a track from an old surface to a repave, for sure." Five Sprint Cup teams participated in a Goodyear tire test May 10-11, and another 16 were present for this week's organizational test. For the remaining half of the field, the work toward finding the proper handle begins with opening practice on Friday, Aug. 5. "If you get your balance right, it'll be a no-drama," Gibson said. "Man, I told Kurt earlier, 'I'd hate to know I had to come here next Friday and hit the track for the first time and try to figure out these curbs and how much the race track has changed.' It'll be a handful in the short amount of time we get to practice. "It'll be interesting to see when we come back who has issues and who doesn't. But it's definitely going to be a plus to come and learn the race track, even if your car is not right or whatever, just getting here and getting behind the wheel and getting time on the race track is going to mean more." Pit notes: -- The full roster (in alphabetical order) of drivers and teams participating in the test: AJ Allmendinger (JTG Daugherty Racing), Ryan Blaney (Wood Brothers Racing), Clint Bowyer (HScott Motorsports), Chris Buescher (Front Row Motorsports), Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas Racing), Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing), Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing), Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports), Brad Keselowski (Team Penske), Michael McDowell (Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing), Jamie McMurray (Chip Ganassi Racing), Casey Mears (Germain Racing), Brian Scott (Richard Petty Motorsports), Regan Smith (Tommy Baldwin Racing), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Roush Fenway Racing), Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row Racing). -- Casey Mears turned the fastest lap in the two-day test, which was divided into four sessions of four hours apiece. Mears pushed the Germain Racing No. 13 Chevrolet in the closing session to a best lap of 126.7 mph, a good bit slower than the track qualifying record of 129.491 mph set by Marcos Ambrose in August 2014. -- Brad Keselowski returned to the track Wednesday, one day after his severe, nearly head-on crash in Turn 1. He turned 74 laps over both sessions in a reserve Team Penske No. 2 Ford. -- Two teams -- Furniture Row Racing (driver Martin Truex Jr.) and Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing (driver Michael McDowell) -- were absent from testing's opening day, arriving in the Watkins Glen garage Wednesday in time for the two closing sessions. -- Wednesday's final session was extended 30 minutes to a 5:30 p.m. ET close because of a nearly hour-long clean-up for fluid on the track. After Chase Elliott's No. 24 Chevrolet suffered a broken axle, Clint Bowyer's No. 15 Chevy ran over the part, damaging the car's transmission. -- NASCAR XFINITY Series teams are scheduled to turn their first laps on the new Watkins Glen surface next Thursday. The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will stage a support race the following day on the 2.45-mile course.
Menard's Darlington scheme gives honor to Al Unser Jr.
RELATED: Buy Darlington tickets " '16 throwback schemes CONCORD, N.C. -- When Valvoline officials queried NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Paul Menard about his racing heroes, the first name on the list was Al Unser Jr. So Menard couldn't be more pleased that the Valvoline-themed throwback paint scheme he will run in this year's Bojangles' Southern 500 pays tribute to Unser Jr.'s lone NASCAR premier series start. Menard's Richard Childress Racing No. 27 Chevrolet will carry the gray, orange and black color scheme used by Unser Jr. for the 1993 Daytona 500 with sponsor Valvoline featured on the hood when the series travels to Darlington Raceway for the annual Labor Day weekend classic. "Little Al's first NASCAR race was the Daytona 500 in 1993," Menard said earlier this week as preparations for the unveiling of the paint scheme got underway. "The partnership with Valvoline this year -- we got to talking earlier about who some of my racing heroes were and Al Jr. was right away, even without the Valvoline relationship. I've always been a huge fan of his. He was the guy in IndyCar that I always pulled for." Menard said he met the former open-wheel champion and two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 "when I was probably 12." "I remember; he probably doesn't," Menard continued. "But I pulled up (this morning) … and he was standing out in the parking lot. We were out there talking probably 10 or 15 minutes, just about the '93 (Daytona) 500, his autocross stuff that he's doing now, just talking about a little bit of racing." Unser Jr. was carrying the Valvoline colors in 1992 when he won his first Indy 500 title. Already a NASCAR sponsor, Valvoline wanted additional branding in '93 to promote its line of synthetic products, particularly for that year's Daytona 500. And the Daytona 500 just happened to be on Unser Jr.'s bucket list. "There were special races that I wanted to race in my career," Unser Jr. said. "The Indy 500, the Daytona 500, the Daytona 24 Hours and Le Mans. Those are the ones that I really wanted to run as a kid. "The Indy 500 is really where my heart is so we'd been doing that. But yeah, I wanted to run the Daytona 500 sometime during my career and it was just a blessing when Valvoline called me up and said, 'You know, we'd like to do this down in Daytona. Would you like to do it?' "I said, 'Of course I would. It's got to be with a great team.' "They said, 'We've contacted Hendrick Motorsports,' and I go, 'Awesome.' " At that time, the Hendrick organization consisted of three teams with drivers Ken Schrader, Ricky Rudd and rookie Jeff Gordon. The addition of Unser Jr. made it a four-team effort for the series' most notable race. A crash during the second of two twin qualifying races three days before the 500, however, cost Unser Jr. his primary entry and he wound up racing Schrader's backup Chevrolet Lumina. Instead of a gray, orange and black paint scheme, Unser Jr.'s race-day car was white with the Valvoline branding on the hood and across the rear quarter panels. A crash with less that 50 laps remaining took Unser Jr. out of contention, and he finished 36th. When told that Menard and Valvoline were bringing the original paint scheme back to the track for the Darlington throwback weekend, Unser said he was "just overwhelmed." "Mainly because this was just a one off," he said, "not a traditional kind of car with a lot of running behind it, a lot of heritage to it. So when they contacted me and said they were thinking about doing this throwback at Darlington … it was a true blessing." Menard praised Valvoline for not only bringing back the paint scheme, but for the company's long involvement in auto racing. "The brand is iconic in our sport," he said. "You pick out right away where that Valvoline car is on the race track, whether it's a stock car race or IndyCar races, NHRA. They're always around the sport. They have a huge racing legacy and I'm proud to be a part of it." &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;gt;