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NASCAR tweaks rules for Kentucky, Michigan races
RELATED: 2016 Cup schedule " Memorial Day weekend schedule Changes to the rear spoiler, front splitter and rear deck fin will be put into play for two upcoming NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races as the sanctioning body continues to reduce aerodynamic downforce and sideforce in an effort to promote closer competition on the race track. The changes, announced Thursday morning, will be in effect only for upcoming races at Michigan International Speedway (June 12) and Kentucky Speedway (July 9) and are in addition to previous adjustments made by the officials in recent weeks. Initial moves implemented before the start of the season combined with a Goodyear tire matched more closely to the lower downforce package have resulted in closer competition through the season's first 12 races. Why, then, continue to make adjustments in the overall package? "I think we look at it as a never-ending journey; if we can improve we're going to do that," Steve O'Donnell, executive vice president of competition and chief racing development officer, told NASCAR.com. "We wanted to go the direction of low downforce, see how that worked, not kind of go all the way in and hope that we are directionally right. And we are seeing that play out. We've seen some great racing at the beginning of the year. "But we also knew that we had some more levers that we could pull if the direction kind of proved out, so we've tried some of those things. We've tested it and what we've also wanted to do is lower some of the corner speeds to allow for even more passing. That was one of the areas where we've seen minimal change, but there are some levers we can pull to really drive that down." The changes for those races consist of a reduction in spoiler height from 3.5 inches to 2.5 inches, a splitter reduction of two inches and a re-sizing of the rear deck fin to complement the spoiler change. Beginning with this year's race at Kansas Speedway , NASCAR required teams to weld truck arm mounts; for the recently completed Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway , downforce-generating electric fans were removed and the rear toe alignment was reset to zero to reduce sideforce. The changes to truck arm mounts and fans are to remain in place for the remainder of the 2016 season. The rear toe adjustment was initially only in play for the All-Star event but now will be incorporated into the June Michigan and July Kentucky races. Downforce is the pressure created across the surface of a vehicle at speed. Likewise, sideforce is generated by the flow of air along the sides of the vehicle. O'Donnell said limiting the latest changes to two upcoming races is beneficial in two ways: Teams have spent plenty of time in development of setups with the initial base package and that information will still be relevant; and focusing on two tracks will give teams and officials much-needed information as they look ahead to 2017. "We have worked collectively on some directions we want to go in, but to do that right we think the final step is to let that play out on one or two tracks," he said. "And these are the two -- Kentucky and Michigan -- that we've played out and let the teams concentrate really on what they've done to prepare for the year. We think that's manageable and that'll give us enough data to look at for 2017." Four teams recently tested the aero changes while taking part in a one-day Goodyear tire test at Michigan. Kentucky, which just completed a re-pave and redesign of its 1.5-mile layout, remains an unknown. It is expected to be fast with the additional grip provided by the new pavement. Ray Evernham, winner of three premier series titles as crew chief for Jeff Gordon and currently in a competition role with Hendrick Motorsports , said rule changes don't necessarily create more work for teams, but rather redefines the focus of what's being worked on. "Everybody works on something, no matter what," Evernham told NASCAR.com. "… It just changes that focus because any of the good teams are working to the maximum on something all the time." Evernham said he had been impressed with how the previous changes had affected the racing this season. The All-Star Race, he said, provided "the best racing we've seen at Charlotte in awhile. "That's what's coming around the corner. That's exactly what everybody has been asking for -- the drivers, fans, everybody," he said. "That was some darn good racing in the daytime and in the nighttime. That's what I'm focused on. I think that NASCAR and Goodyear and the teams are getting to a place now where the cars are competitive like they want them, but it gives the drivers, crew chiefs and teams a lot more options to have passing." All races with the rules package, with the exception of this year's stop at Auto Club Speedway , have been contested on 1.5-mile or smaller venues. The package is not in play for restrictor-plate races at Daytona and Talladega. Will the base package provide similar results at the larger venues? Pocono (2.5 miles), Michigan (2 miles) and Indianapolis (2.5 miles) loom ahead. O'Donnell believes that will be the case. "I think one of the biggest things we've seen from Goodyear is the ability to match the tire up now with where we're going, the tire wear we're seeing producing much better racing," O'Donnell said. "If you take a Michigan for instance, one of the things with low downforce, if you don't do anything to the tire, you're going to go in and the speeds are going to continue to increase. We know that's a challenge for us. How do we balance that with the corner speeds? "By tweaking the package a little bit, it's really going to keep what we've seen from the positive play out and then really lower that corner speed which should produce the best of both worlds." Buy Tickets: Michigan " Kentucky
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 and the fans stood on the roof of the infield's Champion's Pavilion, the spot providing 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. The win put Gordon on the racing map and made folks wonder about this young "kid" from California who was driving nose-to-nose with Dale Earnhardt. 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 will attempt the feat, as he 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, one young boy in particular wearing a blue No. 24 NAPA hat. This fan will likely grow up knowing Elliott -- rather than Gordon -- as the driver of the legendary No. 24 Chevrolet. It's a mark of a racing transition, a generational shift. And 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."
NASCAR Drive for Diversity Crew Member Development Program
Check out the NASCAR and Rev Racing program that scouts former collegiate athletes to pit for your favorite race teams.
Meet 2016's Drive for Diversity members
NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program has a lot to celebrate recently with its former members blazing the tracks in all three NASCAR national series and with its current members showing early promise. D4D is a development program that is in its 12th year and is aimed toward finding primarily young, diverse and female drivers and pit crew members. Through Rev Racing, those involved receive one-on-one training and year-round competition experience. During the race weekend at Dover International Speedway , three of Drive for Diversity's former members earned the runner-up spot in the Sprint Cup Series, XFINITY Series and Camping World Truck Series -- Kyle Larson , Darrell Wallace Jr . and Daniel Suarez , respectively. Learn more about 2016's six members.
Full schedule for Charlotte
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series will race at Charlotte Motor Speedway this week, while the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is off. Check out the full weekend schedule below. Note: All times are ET THURSDAY, MAY 26: ON TRACK -- 2-3:25 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, FS1 ( Follow live ) -- 3:30-4:25 p.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series first practice, FS1 ( Follow live ) -- 5:30-6:50 p.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series final practice, FS1 ( Follow live ) -- 7:15 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, FS1 ( Follow live ) GARAGECAM ( Watch live ) -- 1:30 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series -- 3 p.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series PRESS CONFERENCES ( Watch live ) -- 1:15 p.m.: Kyle Larson -- 1:30 p.m.: Ty Dillon -- 3:30 p.m.: Carl Edwards -- 3:45 p.m.: NASCAR Drive for Diversity Pit Crew National Combine -- 4:45 p.m.: Joey Logano -- 8:15 p.m. (approx.): Post-NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying SATURDAY, MAY 28: ON TRACK -- 10-10:55 a.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series second practice, FS1 ( Follow live ) -- 11:15 a.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, FS1 ( Follow live ) -- 1-1:50 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice, FS1 ( Follow live ) -- 2:30 p.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series Hisense 4K TV 300 ( 200 laps, 300 miles), FS1 ( Follow live ) PRESS CONFERENCES ( Watch live ) -- 12:15 p.m.: 600 Miles of Remembrance with Mark Singleton, tire changer and Graham Molatch, jackman -- 4:45 p.m. (approx.): Post-NASCAR XFINITY Series race SUNDAY, MAY 29: ON TRACK -- 6 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 (400 laps, 600 miles), FOX ( Follow live ) PRESS CONFERENCES ( Watch live ) -- 10:15 p.m. (approx): Post-NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race
Truex, Pollex host 'Catwalk for a Cause' for seventh year
MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- It's not every day that dozens of Sprint Cup Series drivers enter a room and aren't the ones creating the spectacle, but that was the case for 2016's "Catwalk for a Cause" hosted by the Martin Truex Jr . Foundation on Wednesday night. Who were the stars, then? Davis, Chloe, Braylon, Natalia, Sam, BreeLee, Ava, Leland and Brynn were, of course. The fashion show's guests of honor -- all children -- are battling cancer, something that hits home for Truex and his longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex, who just completed chemotherapy in January after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in August 2014. @MTJFoundation pic.twitter.com/JMG8rjHS0b — Maggie MacKenzie (@Maggie_MKenzie) May 18, 2016 The Martin Truex Jr . Foundation, along with its partnernship with Levine Children's Hospital , hosts "Catwalk" each year to affirm its commitment to finding a cure for pediatric cancer. Before the seventh annual fashion show began, Pollex got up on stage, with Truex beside her, to mention that the night was also one to remember four of the heroes from last year's show who had lost their battles with cancer between the 2015 and 2016 events. "We lost four of our kids this year. ... We are going to honor them," Pollex said. Elijah Aschbrenner's presence was felt with several audience members sporting the bright red hair with which he lit up the 2015 event. Elijah passed away November 10. Once the 2016 event got underway, Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Clint Bowyer , Joey Logano and Danica Patrick were among the drivers who swapped their firesuits for cocktail attire and waltzed down the runway, each holding the hand of one of the nine children battling cancer. Although seeing Junior dancing on stage was easily a highlight of the night, the infectious smiles of the children stole the show. One of the night's most special moments occurred when Pollex took off her long, blonde wig and walked down the stage with her natural, short pixie cut -- her hair returning after the treatments she just completed -- with the utmost confidence. The entire room applauded. The night included a pre-show raffle as well as a live auction when drivers tried to outbid one another. To top it all off, the event raised $370,000 (compared to last year's $253,000), according to Sandy Plemmons, director of the Martin Truex Jr . Foundation. This is how @MartinTruex_Jr and I feel about Catwalk & this amazing life we get to live! Inspire someone today!! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/4PdKci9fX0 — Sherry Pollex (@SherryPollex) May 19, 2016
Carl Edwards rallies from miscues for top-five spot
RELATED: Full race results CONCORD, N.C. -- A missed pit-road entry, a snag by the dreaded lug-nut check, and Carl Edwards still wound up on the cover of a video game. Despite a stinging penalty just before the final 13-lap segment of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, Edwards manufactured a fourth-place finish with a heavy-duty rally in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 at Charlotte Motor Speedway . He led three times for just four of the 113 laps, but made a bigger mark with how he threaded traffic in the final dash to the checkered flag. It was enough to lay claim to his spot as the top-finishing Toyota driver, landing him on the cover of the NASCAR Heat Evolution game that debuts in September. "We didn't really have the fastest car and we tried to screw it up about four different times," Edwards said with a sheepish grin. Edwards then explained how missing the entrance to pit road during the second of three segments cost the No. 19 team valuable track position, putting extra pressure on the mandatory final stop. That stop was a fast one, helping Edwards gain four spots among those pitting. But the check for lug-nut tightness led to a thumbs-down from the NASCAR official checking the drivers' side of the car. "I put my guys in a box, they had to do the fastest pit stop basically you could ever do," Edwards said afterward on pit road. "One lug nut was not all the way up, but we got it done and went to the back. We made it back up to fourth, and really after all the dust settled, if we had one more caution, I think we would've had a shot at it. It's crazy, just a crazy night." Edwards was rewarded for his final charge after lining up in the seventh row for the final restart. The 36-year-old driver won the All-Star Race in 2011 and had more recent Charlotte history on his side with his Coca-Cola 600 victory here last May. But he's also had a consistently solid pit crew all year, a track record that made it hard for crew chief Dave Rogers to assign blame. "The one thing we got going for us, we've got a bunch of tough guys," Rogers said. "We've got a real tough driver, real tough pit crew, and nobody on this race team gives up. We didn't do a very good job executing today, we just had a couple things go against us. That's not the norm for us. Usually, we're spot-on with our execution, so I'm not too worried about it, but even despite that, everyone battled down, got everything we could get, finished fourth. "If it wasn't the All-Star Race, you'd go home with fourth really pleased, but here it's winner-take-all. We'll go home and regroup for the 600 and we'll be back next week."
Hard luck, near-win heartbreak for Kyle Larson
RELATED: Full race results CONCORD, N.C. – Kyle Larson nearly became the latest driver to go from the preliminary event to the winner's circle of the annual NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. But a loose-handling car and a hard-charging Joey Logano proved to be his undoing Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway . It's a familiar feeling for the young driver of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates' No. 42 Chevrolet, who has finished second four times in points-paying races in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series. RELATED: Larson grabs runner-up finish at Dover Saturday night's 113-lap show wasn't for points, but there was a $1 million payday waiting at the checkered flag. And when the 23-year-old shot the gap on the race's final restart, he zoomed from third to first with less than 13 laps remaining. But Logano ( Team Penske ) was able to track the leader down and after a side-by-side battle, Larson slipped up and into the wall less than three laps from the finish. Logano held on for the victory; Larson limped to the garage, 16th in the final rundown. "I definitely didn't over-correct," a dejected Larson said afterward. "I was just going fast, got loose, lost control and hit the wall. I'm disappointed. I feel like I keep letting my guys down." Larson had qualified for the Sprint All-Star Race by winning a sheetmetal swapping, last-lap battle with Chase Elliott ( Hendrick Motorsports ) in the final segment of the Sprint Showdown preliminary event earlier in the day. The damage done to his car kept his team busy throughout the afternoon, but by the time the red-and-white entry rolled through pre-race inspection for the main event, it looked good as new. And it ran that way, too. RELATED: Larson edges out Elliott " See frame-by-frame of the finish "They worked their tails off after I got all the damage in the Showdown," he said. "We had a really, really good Target Chevy and were able to get to the front pretty quick there to be in the best position possible there for the last restart." After starting the race 18th , Larson ended the first 50-lap segment inside the top 10. He eventually took the lead on Lap 94 and was the race leader after 100 laps had been completed to end the second segment. He restarted third for the final 13-lap dash after only two drivers, Jimmie Johnson ( Hendrick Motorsports ) and Kyle Busch ( Joe Gibbs Racing ), running 12th and 13th respectively, were re-slotted to the front. The top 11 were required to pit. "I was getting looser throughout the race," Larson said. "We were making adjustments but weren't making big enough ones. I just got loose and Joey caught me. "He did a really good job side-drafting me. I tried to hang on his quarter panel like I did with Chase earlier today. I got really loose as soon as I got in the corner." Logano said he knew Larson would "try to suck me around from the outside and I knew I had to drive in to make sure he didn't do that. "Just good hard racing there at the end. It was a lot of fun. He's a heck of a racer. He's going to win a lot of races, that's for sure." Kasey Kahne ( Hendrick Motorsports ) was the last driver to win the Sprint All-Star Race despite not automatically qualifying for it (and having to race in the preliminary event) heading into the weekend, accomplishing the feat in 2008. (Kahne won the Sprint Fan Vote that year.) "I thought clean air would be everything there on four tires," Larson said. "Joey was just really good there that last run; I thought I was better than him most of the race. I don't know, I feel bad. But it's good that we have fast race cars right now. "Just really, really proud of everybody on this team. We were pretty down earlier in the year but we've got cars now and confidence and one of these days it will all come together."
Harvick lands pole for Sprint All-Star Race
RELATED: Full lineup for Sprint All-Star Race Kevin Harvick will start Saturday night's Sprint All-Star Race from the pole position after Coors Light Pole Qualifying was rained out at Charlotte Motor Speedway . The Stewart-Haas Racing driver will lead the field to green after the field was set by owners' points. Joining Harvick on front row will be reigning series champion Kyle Busch . Defending race-winner and Busch's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Denny Hamlin , will line up 12th. Green flag is set for 9:26 p.m. ET, with coverage on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. MORE: See the complete lineup in photos
Kyle Busch rebounds from a penalty for second-place finish
Kyle Busch was issued a penalty for an uncontrolled tire, forcing the No. 18 to climb from the back of the pack to a second-place finish.