NASCAR releases 2018 schedule
NASCAR.com's Jonathan Merryman breaks down big changes in the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule, including Charlotte Motor Speedway running the road course in the 2018 playoffs.
Tire tweaks? Indianapolis test on tap this week
Four Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams will travel to Indianapolis Motor Speedway this week for a two-day Goodyear tire test at the legendary 2.5-mile facility. Drivers scheduled to take part in the test, set for Tuesday and Wednesday, are Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Team Penske Ford), Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota), David Ragan (No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford) and Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet). The Brickyard 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race is scheduled for July 23 . "It seems like the last couple of years (Indy) has fairly well stabilized after the grinding that they did," Goodyear's Greg Stucker told NASCAR.com. "Kind of knocked the edges off the grooves in the surface. But the last couple of years we've felt like we were getting to the point that we could look at adding a little bit of grip. Particularly with the move from '16 to '17 with a little less downforce." NASCAR' s 2017 rules package created less overall downforce (from 2,100 to 1,600 pounds) on the cars through changes to the rear spoiler, front splitter and deck fin. Modifications to rear steer settings and a new tire rule (teams must start the race using the tires on which they qualified) were also made. While significant, the changes were an evolution of the initial package that debuted in '15 at select events when the sanctioning body began the move to take downforce away from the cars. Those changes were implemented for all races (excluding superspeedway events at Daytona and Talladega) in '16. Stucker, Goodyear's director of race tire sales, said an XFINITY Series test last October at Indy opened the door for a possible tire change in the Monster Energy Series. "When we tested with the XFINITY cars last year in preparation for their new configuration, we actually were running a little bit softer left side. It's the left side (tire) that we run at Pocono," he said. "So that gave us an indication, 'Hey, this might be something that we can standardize between Pocono and Indy, give the Cup cars a little more grip.' So that's one of the main goals, to look at that and see if that's a good move for Indianapolis this year and add a little bit more left-side grip." Stucker said the continued evolution of the rules package has not "significantly" impacted tire selection. The big bump, he said, came between '15 and '16 as the initial lower-downforce package was rolled out. "Because that was the plan," he said. "The big step from '15 to '16 (was) 'let's figure out where we land with tires and if we feel like we're in a good spot, even though we’re taking more downforce off as we go to '17, let's leave tires alone.'" But as the cars have evolved and tracks age and undergo repaves, Goodyear continues to monitor the situation and addresses the changing needs. "There are a couple of areas we wanted to work on," he said. "Kansas at the end of last year, obviously we're going to come with a little bit softer left side (tire), because we felt we were in that position even with the '16 package as we went to '17 and less downforce, that was a good move. Obviously Martinsville (was) a different focus, to rubber in the race track. Texas with the repave; Kentucky with a new top coat on now. Las Vegas, trying to generate a little more wear on a surface that generally doesn't create wear. "We had a few things to work on but it wasn't a significant move in grip like I would call the '15 to '16 move. Overall things are pretty stable and we're kind of fine-tuning specific race tracks that we feel like we can help a little bit." There currently are no plans to test at Texas, which was repaved and reconfigured prior to this month's race. Due to time constraints, there was no tire test at the 1.5-mile track. Stucker said officials were pleased with the Texas tire selection, which was the same left-side tire code used by teams at Kentucky in 2016 (Kentucky underwent a similar repave and Goodyear did conduct tire tests prior to that race). The right-side Texas tire featured the same tread compound as Kentucky but with a minor construction change. "You have to be cautious," he said. "With the (Texas) repave, we raced on it right after it was done. It's not going to change significantly as we get into the fall. I think the race track was very happy. … We certainly are. "Again, hat's off to the race track and to SMI for doing everything they could to put some rubber down with the Tire Dragon and trying to work the groove in. I think that was huge. And I think that was complimented with a pretty racy package from what we had."
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.
Indianapolis announces updated race weekend schedule
BUY TICKETS: See the races in Indianapolis Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced Thursday that its Brickyard 400 race weekend will be condensed to two days of on-track activity for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Practice and qualifying for NASCAR's premier series now are scheduled for Saturday, July 22, bookending the Lilly Diabetes 250 for the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Coors Light Pole Qualifying for the Monster Energy Cup Series is slated for 6:15 p.m. ET, after the XFINITY Series' 3:30 p.m. ET start (NBCSN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Indy's annual Brickyard 400 follows Sunday, July 23 (3 p.m. ET, NBC, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The news follows similar announcements of condensed weekend schedules made by Pocono Raceway and Martinsville Speedway in recent weeks. Friday's slate at Indianapolis will now feature a pair of practice sessions for the XFINITY Series. That opening day will also feature a fan fest with interactions with Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers and the traditional Hauler Parade through Main Street in Indianapolis . This year's running will mark the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series' 24th visit to the historic 2.5-mile track. Kyle Busch has won the prestigious 400-miler the last two years.
Staff picks for Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
RELATED: See all the cars lined up for Sunday's race Jimmie Johnson : "The focus is rightly on Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart this weekend. Away from the spotlight, though, Johnson and his No. 48 team finally get back on track with a dominant showing -- and "Six-Time" ties Gordon with his fifth career win at the Brickyard." -- Brad Norman Tony Stewart : 'Smoke' has been on a roll and no place means as much to him as the Brickyard. -- Kenny Bruce Kyle Larson : " Fueled by a landmark victory at Eldora Speedway and increased team performance, expect Kyle Larson to ride a wave of momentum into the Brickyard, backing up his two Indy top-10s by landing in Victory Lane for the first time in his Sprint Cup Series career." -- Pat DeCola Martin Truex Jr. : Furniture Row Racing puts all the pieces together, shedding any bad luck for another crown jewel win to pair with its Coca-Cola 600 triumph. -- Zack Albert Jimmie Johnson : " He's won here four times before and it's time for his frustrating summer to end." -- Holly Cain Tony Stewart : "Equipped with a third-place starting position for his final Brickyard 400 run, look for Indiana native Tony Stewart to continue his hot streak up front -- and eventually in Victory Lane." -- Jessica Ruffin Ryan Newman : "The Rocket Man has been close the past two weeks (seventh at Loudon, third at Kentucky) and qualified sixth at the Brickyard, so let's go with Indiana's forgotten son to pull off the upset on Sunday. After all, his last Sprint Cup Series win came at Indy (2013)." -- George Winkler Kyle Busch: " The Sprint Cup Series champ is starting on the pole and I think he's going to stay there to bring home his second consecutive Brickyard win. Also, with Saturday's XFINITY Series win under his belt, Busch is eyeing a sweep again, a feat that's only been done by him." -- Taylor Nunnally Carl Edwards : " The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has the speed this weekend and his quiet summer is about to come to an end with his first Brickyard win." -- RJ Kraft Jimmie Johnson : Four-time Indy winner is due for a Brickyard win and this weekend could be the year "Six-Time" ties Jeff Gordon for the most wins at the 2.5-mile track. -- Maggie MacKenzie Make your picks in Streak to the Finish !
Stefanyshyn details XFINITY race package for Indianapolis
NASCAR announced its race package for the NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway , one which includes the use of restrictor plates.
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Different tire compound to be tested at Kentucky
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Kentucky " Get kids tickets to races Goodyear officials will look to do more than verify the tire package for this year's Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway when they hold a two-day test Tuesday and Wednesday at the 1.5-mile track. "We've also got some things to try to actually promote a little more wear on a repaved surface, which is something we haven't been able to do," Greg Stucker, director of race tire sales for Goodyear, told NASCAR.com on Sunday. "The guys have kind of taken a different approach on compound formulation to see if we can't actually generate some wear on what we project to be a fairly smooth surface." Kentucky Speedway will host the Quaker State 400 on Saturday, July 8 and will be preceded by NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (July 6) and XFINITY Series (July 7) races. The 1.5-mile track was repaved before last year's tripleheader; a portion of the asphalt has since been replaced. "From my understanding they re-did the top two inches of it; they didn't go down and take up everything, they put a new top coat on," Stucker said of the changes. "We're going to go there with the same package that we raced last year. At the same time, we feel like that was probably conservative. ... We admit it was probably conservative but that's OK, it was a repave and I'd rather be that way than not. "So we'll go back and see how different the surface is -- it's supposed to be the same (asphalt) mix. We're going to verify that." Teams from Chip Ganassi Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing and Furniture Row Racing are scheduled to take part in the test. Drivers expected to be on hand are Jamie McMurray (CGR), Austin Dillon (RCR), Kurt Busch (SHR) and Erik Jones (FRR). Two tire tests have been held this season, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway . A test at Michigan was postponed due to weather and has been rescheduled for July 10-11. Because of the date change, the MIS test will now be dealing with potential '18 changes rather than focused on this year's races at the 2-mile track.
Dale Jr. out, Gordon in No. 88 at Indianapolis , Pocono
RELATED: Pictures of Gordon through the years " Junior through the years Jeff Gordon is not done after all. The recently retired Hendrick Motorsports driver will compete for the first time this year Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a substitute driver for Dale Earnhardt Jr. , who will be sidelined at least two more weeks due to concussion-like symptoms, according to a team release. Gordon will also sub for Earnhardt Jr. the following week at Pocono. Earnhardt Jr. missed last Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . Alex Bowman piloted his No. 88 Chevrolet as a replacement, but Hendrick general manager Doug Duchardt revealed last week that Gordon would sub for Earnhardt at Indianapolis if needed. Hendrick Motorsports said Wednesday morning that Earnhardt has not been cleared to resume competition. In addition to this weekend's Sprint Cup event at Indianapolis , Gordon will also drive the No. 88 Chevrolet in the series' event July 31 at Pocono Raceway. Gordon retired at the end of the 2015 season and joined the FOX broadcast booth. Sunday will be his 798th Sprint Cup Series start, and his first in a number other than the 24 he made so iconic. Gordon's history at the Brickyard makes him a natural pick for Sunday's Crown Royal Presents The Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, IMS, SiriusXM). The four-time series champion has a NASCAR-record five Indy wins, the most recent coming in 2014. "Jeff's a team player," longtime car owner Rick Hendrick said in a statement provided by the team. "I know he'll be ready, and I know Dale has incredible trust in him. It's going to be an emotional weekend (at Indianapolis ) with Dale not being there and seeing Jeff back behind the wheel. (Crew chief) Greg (Ives) and the team did a great job at New Hampshire, and they have the full support of our organization." Earnhardt was evaluated Tuesday at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program after missing last weekend's New Hampshire 301, according to a team release. On Monday, the 41-year-old driver provided an update on his condition during his "Dale Jr. Download" podcast, saying he had been struggling with balance and nausea in the days leading up to the New Hampshire event. Earnhardt also said Monday that there was no firm timetable for his return. NASCAR officials indicated last weekend that the sanctioning body would require notice from an independent board-certified neurologist with at least five years' experience in the field of sports-related head injuries before Earnhardt would be cleared to return to competition. "Our focus is giving Dale all the time he needs to recover," Hendrick said. "There's nothing we want more than to see him back in the race car, but we'll continue to listen to the doctors and follow their lead. What's best for Dale is what’s best for Hendrick Motorsports and everyone involved with the team. We're all proud of him and looking forward to having him racing soon." NASCAR has made neurocognitive testing mandatory for its drivers since 2013. Earnhardt also missed time in the 2012 season after sustaining two concussions in a six-week stretch. Regan Smith replaced him for two races -- Charlotte and Kansas -- in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs that year. After sitting out last weekend, Earnhardt slipped two spots to 15th in the Sprint Cup driver standings, also fading to the 16th and final spot in the provisional Chase postseason grid. The Hendrick organization indicated that Earnhardt will not travel with the team to either Indianapolis or Pocono. &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;
Johnson, Harvick, others to test at Indianapolis
Four-time Brickyard 400 winner Jimmie Johnson headlines a group of one dozen NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers scheduled to take part in a two-day organizational test Tuesday and Wednesday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway . The legendary 2.5-mile track will host the Crown Royal presents the Wounded Warrior Coalition 400 at the Brickyard NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday, July 24. Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, captured Indy victories in 2006, '08, '09 and '12. Also among the 12 drivers testing are 2003 Brickyard champ Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet) and 2011 winner Paul Menard (Richard Childress Racing No. 27 Chevrolet). Rounding out the list of drivers participating are Joey Logano (Team Penske No. 22 Ford), Brian Scott (Richard Petty Motorsports No. 44 Ford), Chris Buescher (Front Row Motorsports No. 34 Ford), Trevor Bayne (Roush Fenway Racing No. 6 Ford), Ryan Blaney (Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford), Kyle Larson (Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates No. 42 Chevrolet), Matt Kenseth (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota), Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota) and Clint Bowyer (HScott Motorsports No. 15 Chevrolet). On-track activities are slated to run from 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. daily. This week's test is the second of five organizational tests for Sprint Cup teams in 2016. Remaining tests are slated for Watkins Glen International (July 26-27), Chicagoland Speedway (Aug. 23-24) and Homestead Miami Speedway (Oct. 18-19). Only one team from each organization is allowed to take part in each test. Goodyear conducted its tire test for the upcoming race on April 26-27 with three-time series champion Tony Stewart (SHR), Aric Almirola (RPM), Carl Edwards (JGR) and Chase Elliott (HMS) participating. Last season, NASCAR unveiled a high-drag package highlighted by a nine-inch spoiler for Indianapolis and the August race at Michigan International Speedway . The package was tabled for 2016, however, and replaced by aerodynamic changes that took much more downforce and side force off the cars. "Last year we had the big-time spoiler change … on the back and the high drag to try to draft around this place so that was a little different than having the three-inch spoiler … with much less downforce," Elliott said during the April test. "So it seems like you require a little more brake getting into the corner, seems like it takes a little more effort to get the car slowed down for the corner than what we did here the last race. "It's hard to say until you come back and have a bunch of cars on the race track at the same time. This place is so big and it is really temperature-sensitive.” According to track officials, fans will be allowed to watch this week's test free of charge from the south terrace grandstands, the Turn 2 viewing mounds (adjacent to the speedway ’s museum) as well as the B Penthouse grandstands.
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