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Dual roles lead to success for Kligerman on, off track
As far back as mid-January, Parker Kligerman wasn't exactly sure what the 2016 season had in store for him. The 25-year-old knew he had a gig as part of NBC Sports' NASCAR coverage, but his driving plans were still in flux before a phone call changed that. Fast forward to today as the Camping World Truck Series is in a five-week off-period until April 2 at Martinsville Speedway and Kligerman's name is atop the point standings through two of the series' 23 races. Piloting the No. 92 truck for Ricky Benton Racing, Kligerman has notched a third-place result at Daytona International Speedway and an eighth-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway . However, all of this wouldn't have been possible had Kligerman not gotten a phone call while he was attending the Team Penske 50th Anniversary Party. "I got a call from Ricky and he said, 'Are you still available?’ " Kligerman told NASCAR.com. "I said, 'Absolutely. What do you want to do?' And he said, 'Let's go to Daytona.' As things built up and we got to know each other, got to know the team, it was like, hey, maybe we can do more." Doing more is exactly what the team intends to do. With the early portion of the Truck Series slate spread out, the opportunity arose to run the beginning part of the schedule before taking stock of where they stand. Kligerman said that decision was made closer to the Daytona race, but the strong start hasn't hurt the case to continue. "I think everyone is really committed to trying to do as many as possible and see if we can keep up this great run. I'd say in these next four (Martinsville, Kansas, Dover and Charlotte), we have a chance to win one here if we can put the race together." Kligerman has visited Victory Lane one time in his Truck Series career (Talladega in 2012) and a win would only help further the case to keep the band together and chase a championship. "Anytime you can get positive momentum like we have, you definitely need to capitalize on it," Kligerman explained. "A lot of times in this sport the sizzle is better than the steak. We're doing a lot of great things right now and we got a lot of buzz. We need to try and capitalize on it and use that to go further in the season." Benton told NASCAR.com that the hunt for some sponsorship is ongoing. "We had a little bit of marketing dollars to help us get started, and if we can find some more marketing dollars -- I have my business -- but other people, and if we can do good, we'll try to rake and scrape and do the best we can." Small-team success Benton owns over 30 Black's Tire Service shops in the Carolinas. He has been involved in racing on several levels, fielding a part-time entry in the Camping World Truck Series since 2010, and he has also been involved in the Late Model circuit and other forms of racing, winning the 1998 Winston Racing Series Atlantic Seaboard championship as well as the 2002 USAR Hooter ProCup title. During that time, Benton fielded teams that raced against Sprint Cup drivers Denny Hamlin , Brian Vickers and crew chief Rodney Childers. He describes himself and the team "as Saturday night racers." The 92 team, which is based out of Cerro Gordo, North Carolina (a town with a population of 207, according to data from the 2010 U.S. Census) is described by Benton as "just a little, small team. " "We don't have but three people in the shop this whole time," Benton added. Small-team success has been one of the early trends in the 2016 standings for the Camping World Truck Series as Kligerman leads the points driving for RBR (which has never run a full season), and John Hunter Nemechek (won at Atlanta and drives for family-run SWM-NEMCO Motorsports) and Tyler Young (drives for family-run Youngs Motorsports) are also in the top five of the standings. Kligerman believes that trend will continue. "The Truck Series right now is going through a huge transition in terms of smaller teams being able to succeed," Kligerman said. "If you look at Nemechek's team. Obviously, the 92 team. We are a vastly smaller team then we are seeing traditionally out of KBM ( Kyle Busch Motorsports), BKR ( Brad Keselowski Racing), ThorSport. I think that you are going to continue to see that in a lot of the measures the Truck Series is putting in and it's a good thing." Plenty of perspective Kligerman, an energetic Connecticut native, has been around the sport plenty to know a good thing when he sees it. During his NASCAR career, Kligerman has spent time with several organizations both big and small such as Team Penske and Kyle Busch Motorsports, and he had a full-time spot on the Sprint Cup driver roster lined up with Swan Racing. That ride came to an end just eight races into the 2014 season as a lack of sponsorship forced Swan Racing to restructure and sell its assets. "There were bright days. There were dark days," Kligerman said of the aftermath of his Cup ride going away in 2014. "There's days where you start to look back too much and get very nostalgic and that's the wrong thing to do. ... "I've always thought it's a cool deal to be doing what I'm doing at the age I am and have as many experiences I've had in the sport. As many different facets from the top teams, championship-caliber teams to teams that were growing and teams that have run into trouble. I've seen it all in such a short amount of time that I'm very grateful for that and I think it has allowed me to bring a good perspective to outside our sport." It's that perspective that led NBC to bring Kligerman on board for its NASCAR coverage in 2014 when Kligerman was out of a ride and not sure what the future held. "It started very informal and one thing led to another where basically I asked them where they were located and it was Stamford, Connecticut, and that's where I grew up," Kligerman said. "I kind of felt at the time there weren't a lot of good opportunities racing-wise. Just nothing that was exciting me. Nothing that felt like it was going to further my career so I decided let's go do this and see where it goes." Kligerman appears on NBC Sports Network's NASCAR programs such as "NASCAR America" and "NASCAR Victory Lap," offering his insight as a driver who has not only competed against many of the NASCAR Sprint Cup stars, but also still competes today. "Right now, I tell people I've got a very dynamic life at the moment in terms of doing the TV thing and driving," Kligerman says, "and I wouldn't change it for the world because I'm really enjoying it."
Truex's off-track triumphs bigger than championship
LAS VEGAS -- For 10 weeks, Martin Truex Jr . was the forgotten man, the guy seemingly racing in the shadows, there but not quite there. He wasn't the defending series champion; he wasn't the four-time champ seeking to go out on top; he wasn't the once-broken but far from beaten fellow scripting the most incredible comeback story. Others were battling for a chance at the title. Truex, the Furniture Row Racing driver, was racing to stave off elimination. Or so we thought. He was there but not quite there. Friday night, Truex found himself back in the shadows once more. Which was the biggest shame of all on a night of celebration for NASCAR and it's Sprint Cup Series. Moments after somehow holding himself together while giving an emotionally-charged speech that touched the hearts of many inside the Wynn Las Vegas, the 35-year-old entered the workroom across the way, ready to address the media for a final time before officially calling it a season. Instead, nearly everyone inside the workroom was focused on the television screen, watching a tearful Jeff Gordon accept accolades from mega-actor Tom Cruise. The annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Awards Ceremony rolled onward. Even Truex seemed impressed, lingering long enough to note "How about Cole Friggin' Trickle being here? You believe that?" After a brief question or two, he departed, returning to join long-time girlfriend Sherry Pollex back inside the ballroom. Overshadowed once more. There but not quite there. The New Jersey native had much to be proud of -- having proven the naysayers wrong by continuing to advance through each round of the Chase to eventually find himself, along with Kevin Harvick , Gordon and Kyle Busch , battling for the championship in the season-ending race. But addressing the crowd that filled the ballroom earlier, Truex eventually spoke of matters much closer to the heart. He thanked team owner Barney Visser ("They said it couldn't be done out of Denver. You showed them, didn't you? Good job, buddy."), and a long list of others, from Chevrolet officials for whom he had driven previously to Toyota partners that will come on board next season. He thanked family members, sponsors, and "especially the millions of fans who watch our sport each week." Racing is his livelihood, but it's not his life. There's much more, matters much more personal that puts what occurs each Sunday in perspective. "Most of us are faced with challenges at some point in our life," Truex said. "As most of you know, last year my long time partner Sherry was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. "As I'm sure you can imagine, the past year has been the most challenging time of our lives. Since Sherry's diagnosis, our priorities have changed. We've learned that life isn't just about living it's about being alive. And that's exactly what we're doing. "You've heard the saying, 'don't sweat the small stuff.' Well," he said somehow managing a chuckle, "we're trying not to sweat the big stuff either." The experience, he said, "has made us both better people," and truthfully, it's those of us who have watched the couple that should have been made better, just by the lessons they've shown us in dealing with adversity. "It's made me a better driver and most of all made us thankful for all the people around and try to give back as much as we can," he said. "So the only advice I have for you tonight is to enjoy every moment, celebrate life, help others, and never give up. … "Sherry, thank you for being my life. You're my inspiration and I love you very much." Truex didn't win this year's Sprint Cup Series title. He wasn't lauded, as was Harvick, for his role as the defending series champ. He wasn't bid a fond farewell, as was Gordon, who retires after a stellar 23-year career. Nor was he celebrated for rallying from injuries to wear the crown of champion, as was Busch. What he and Sherry did was much bigger. And we're the ones worse off for not noticing.
High 5: March Madness, photo finish & farewell to the West Coast
Editor's note: High 5 analyzes what's trending in NASCAR and beyond every week. QUOTE OF THE WEEK "I should have wrecked him!" -- Carl Edwards jokes about finishing second to Phoenix race winner Kevin Harvick WATCH: Edwards reacts to finishing second at Phoenix BEYOND LEFT TURNS The story The NCAA men's basketball Selection Sunday took place this weekend, seeding 68 teams into the championship tournament that begins this week. The No. 1 seeds are Kansas (South) -- which was top-ranked overall -- North Carolina (East), Oregon (West) and Virginia (Midwest). March Madness is officially here. What's next? After the First Four play Tuesday and Wednesday to make it a 64-team field, the teams will face off according to their seeding, with the winners of two games comprising the "Sweet Sixteen" round. Duke and North Carolina-Wilmington kick off the first-round games at 12:15 p.m. ET on Thursday. You're up With March Madness beginning, fans will need to tee up their NCAA Tournament brackets. Get printable ones here . Even if you're not into basketball, it's great practice for Chase brackets that you'll need to fill out come September when the 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins. RELATED: See the current Chase grid EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT ... Photo finishes. Kevin Harvick finishing 0.010 seconds ahead of Carl Edwards on Sunday in Phoenix was the closest finish at the desert track ever, making for an incredible ending. We could get used to this photo finish trend ... SXSW. The annual South by Southwest festival began this weekend in Austin, Texas. The wildly popular festival -- which focuses on film, interactive media and music -- began with the interactive exhibits this weekend. From the robot that carried on a conversation to celebrity sightings, it's pretty darn cool thus far. #NASCARGoesWest. This weekend's race at Auto Club Speedway concludes the three-race West Coast swing. One of the off-track highlights? Certainly Ryan Blaney and Darrell Wallace Jr .'s NASCAR Snapchat takeover, in which the duo documented their road trip to California. If you missed it, catch up on some high points here . Pi Day. Remember that endless number in school that you just shortened to 3.14? Well, it came back in the spotlight on Tuesday, with International Pi Day. We're going to celebrate with a different type of pi(e). COMING UP IN TURN 2 The Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series head to Fontana, California, for the annual race at Auto Club Speedway this weekend. Jimmie Johnson , who calls the Southern California oval his home track, is the all-time winner with five trips to Auto Club's Victory Lane. The forecast calls for sunny skies and -- especially after last week's thriller -- plenty of exciting racing for another spot in the Chase. RELATED: Weekend schedule for Auto Club HOT OFF THE PRESS With three races in the books running the low downforce package in '16, it seems like everyone has pinpointed the top performers and those struggling. But Auto Club could be a different ball game. With its 2-mile length and high speeds, USA Today's Mike Hembree says there are several unknowns in Fontana that could make for an interesting Sunday afternoon in SoCal.
Johnson focused on Kenseth, on and off track
Alan Cavanna keeps you Up to Speed from Martinsville, where Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth were near each other everywhere from the media center, to the garage and even on the scoring pylon Friday.
Kenseth, others weigh in on behavioral penalties
RELATED: NASCAR specifies penalties for behavioral issues DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Matt Kenseth said he has seen NASCAR's rule book updates, those referencing behavioral penalties and potential reactions from the sanctioning body that were announced Friday. His take? "Obviously, it would have been good to know that last season," the Joe Gibbs Racing driver said Saturday prior to final practice for Sunday's season-opening Daytona 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Daytona International Speedway . Kenseth, the 2003 Sprint Cup Series champion, was suspended for two races during last year's Chase following an on-track incident involving himself and Team Penske driver Joey Logano at Martinsville Speedway . The contact effectively knocked Logano out of the championship hunt. The incident came two weeks after Logano spun Kenseth at Kansas Speedway , a move that put the JGR driver's title hopes in jeopardy. NASCAR officials unveiled specific penalties concerning member conduct, both on and off the track, that ranged from possible warnings for heat-of-the-moment outbursts to hefty fines, points penalties and possible suspensions for intentionally crashing a fellow driver. Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations, said no specific on-track or off-track incident led to the changes. Not surprisingly, the Kenseth/Logano incident did come up when drivers were asked about violations and reactions on Saturday. "They have to be able to take action and everyone needs to be aware of what the repercussions could be of their actions," Aric Almirola ( Richard Petty Motorsports ) said. "At least if it's in black and white and you go do it, you know what's coming. You're not sitting like Matt Kenseth , wondering 'Will they treat me like Jeff Gordon in Phoenix with Clint Bowyer (in 2012) or are they really fed up this time and they're going to drop the hammer on me?' "Nobody really knew. Everybody was kind of waiting to see what NASCAR was going to do after Martinsville. I think it was time for them to really draw out the guidelines and let us know that a) that's not going to be tolerated and b) if we do something like that, here are the consequences." Brad Keselowski , Logano's teammate at Team Penske , said he didn't believe it was necessary for NASCAR to spell out the consequences for specific actions. "But I'm not a lawyer or someone that would go through those processes that would need it spelled out to feel good about it," the 2012 Sprint Cup champion said. "It seems pretty simple to me, very common sense. Don't (commit) a felony crime or do something dumb and keep your spot in the sport." The bigger concern, he said, was perception. "And this is a concern for all of society -- even though the law doesn't state it this way we've turned into a guilty until proven innocent society and there's a lot of concern about that," he said. While specific language detailing potential penalties concerning behavioral violations now exists in the rule book, officials will continue to treat all violations on a case-by-case basis. It was the not knowing, driver Ryan Newman said, that often caused previous decisions to be called into question. Having potential responses for violations in black and white "is not bad, but actually describing it and having some examples (is) probably a good thing for everybody," the Richard Childress Racing driver said. "If you just throw down a rule book and say 'This is how we expect you to act,' that's not my mom and dad. That's not how I think business should be run." As long as the distinctions are clear, team owner Richard Childress said, there shouldn't be any issues. "Which is a warning and which one will be the penalty?" he said. "To me, that's what needs to be clear." "We're all really competitive," Almirola added. "Any time we feel like we get something taken away from us or we're taken advantage of, most of our natural reaction is 'I'm going to get that guy back.' Right? "But it's a really corporate environment; I have great sponsors on my race car and on our race team. At the end of the day, I want to do a good job for them. Those guys pay the bills, they pay a lot of money and I want to be a good spokesman for those companies. "That's always in the back of my mind before I do something stupid."
Biffle, No. 16 team to go 'Nashville Hot' for Daytona 500
CONCORD, N.C. (Jan. 20, 2016) – Roush Fenway Racing has announced a multi-race partnership with KFC as a primary partner for Greg Biffle and his No. 16 Sprint Cup Series team during the 2016 season. The partnership will kick off at Daytona Speedweeks and include primary placement in the famed Daytona 500 and Sprint Unlimited All-Star events at Daytona International Speedway . The partnership in Daytona will feature KFC’s recently launched line of smoky and crispy ‘Nashville Hot’ chicken, which comes just in time for the launch of the 2016 NASCAR season. Nashville Hot is available on KFC’s first ever tailgate platter; perfect for tailgating at events, watching sports and hosting group parties. "It’s definitely exciting to have KFC on the car," said two-time NASCAR Champion Biffle. "I don’t think there is a more iconic brand out there; who didn’t grow up loving KFC? Their new spicy, smoky and crispy Nashville Hot Chicken is now available nationwide – which I am very excited about – and I can’t wait to get to Daytona, enjoy a couple of tailgate platters with the team and hopefully put the Colonel in victory lane at our biggest race of the season." A perennial NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase contender, Biffle has scored 55 NASCAR wins and two championships during his celebrated career. He captured the pole for the 2004 Daytona 500 after winning the 2003 summer event at the 2.5-mile track known as the ‘World Center of Racing.’ "We are very happy to be teaming with Greg Biffle and Roush Fenway Racing and especially to partner with them for the Daytona 500 ,"said Kevin Hochman, KFC U.S. CMO. "Greg and Roush Fenway have a strong tradition of winning at Daytona, and we can’t think of a better way to launch our new Nashville Hot Chicken than at NASCAR’s biggest race of the season where we will be promoting the biggest thing in spicy chicken since Buffalo wings." In addition to looking for his second trip to victory lane at Daytona, Biffle will aim for Roush Fenway’s seventh win at Daytona in the Sprint Cup Series and its third Daytona 500 victory. "We are proud to welcome KFC to the Roush Fenway Racing family with Greg and the No. 16 team," said Roush Fenway president Steve Newmark. "We know they will be a great partner going forward in 2016 and look forward to a strong partnership launch as the season kicks off in Daytona." The Daytona 500 is set for Sunday, Feb. 21 at 1 p.m. ET and will be televised live on FOX. The Sprint Unlimited will kick off the 2016 season on Saturday, Feb. 13 with the Daytona 500 qualifying duel races scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 18. Roush Fenway Racing is the winningest team in NASCAR history, fielding multiple teams in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series competition with drivers Greg Biffle , Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., Trevor Bayne , Ryan Reed , Chris Buescher and Bubba Wallace. Now in its 29th season, Roush Fenway is a leader in driver development, having launched the careers for many of the top drivers in the sport. Off-track , Roush Fenway is a leader in NASCAR marketing solutions, pioneering motorsport’s first team-focused TV show and producing multiple award-winning digital and experiential marketing campaigns. Roush Fenway is co-owned by Jack Roush, the winningest team owner in NASCAR history and Fenway Sports Group, parent company of Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox and English Premier League’s Liverpool F.C. Visit RoushFenway.com, circle on Google+, become a fan on Facebook and Instagram and follow on Twitter at @roushfenway.
NASCAR welcomes Allegiant Air as first official passenger airline
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 3, 2016) — NASCAR and Allegiant Air announced today, during the NASCAR Fuel For Business Council® meetings in Las Vegas, a multi-year agreement designating the travel company as the Official Passenger Airline of NASCAR. The newly forged partnership positions Allegiant as the first-ever “Official Passenger Airline Partner” of the sanctioning body. Allegiant will allow fans to take advantage of its convenient, ultra-low-cost service to enjoy races in more than 20 NASCAR race markets, including NASCAR’s entire west coast series of events in Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Los Angeles. "We are pleased to partner with a company that will offer travelers convenient options to the majority of our race markets," said Steve Phelps, NASCAR executive vice president and chief marketing officer. "Allegiant Air is committed to offering reasonably-priced travel accommodations and services that provide our fans an opportunity to make lasting memories at the track." In conjunction with the start of NASCAR’s annual west coast swing, Allegiant is the presenting sponsor of NASCAR Goes West on NASCAR.com. NASCAR fans can follow drivers on their off-track adventures on NASCAR.com and on social media using #NASCARGoesWest. "Allegiant is proud to announce this new partnership with NASCAR and NASCAR Goes West on NASCAR.com," said Brian Davis, Allegiant vice president of marketing. "We're incredibly excited to share the convenience and affordability of our service with NASCAR fans across the country, helping them to more easily enjoy their favorite sport." As part of this integrated partnership, Allegiant Air joins the NASCAR Fuel for Business Council, which brings together an exclusive group of nearly 60 Official NASCAR Partners four times per year to buy and sell products and services from one another. This exclusive business-to-business environment offers unique opportunities for many Fortune 500 companies to bypass the time and layers of corporate coordination that may exist to construct customized deals that help address specific business needs. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season will continue with the Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 6 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Roush announces partnership between Stenhouse, SunnyD
CONCORD, N.C. (March 1, 2016) -- Two-time NASCAR Champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr . and the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Sprint Cup team will not be reaching in the drink cooler for any of that 'purple stuff,' OJ or soda when they feel the need to quench their thirst at the race track, instead they will go for the refreshing bold and tangy taste of a true classic -- SunnyD. Roush Fenway Racing has announced that the iconic 50-year-old Sunny Delight brand will serve as a primary partner for five races with Stenhouse during the 2016 season; four on his No. 17 Sprint Cup Ford Fusion and once as the two-time NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) champion makes his return to the NXS. "This is really awesome," said Stenhouse. "Who didn't grow up loving the bold taste of SunnyD? It's truly one of the most recognizable brands in the world and it's great to both have them on board as a partner and of course to have a big supply of SunnyD on hand at the track as the season moves into the hot, thirsty months of summer." "We are extremely excited to bring the SunnyD brand and its loyal customer following to our Roush Fenway Racing NASCAR partnership," said Henk Hartong III, chairman & CEO of Brynwood Partners. "This is a platform that directly connects with the most brand-loyal fans in all of sports and we know it will connect on a high level with the NASCAR fans." SunnyD will make its debut as the primary partner on Stenhouse's No. 17 Ford at the Monster Mile of Dover on SunD , May 15. It will also serve as the primary on the No. 17 at NSCS races at Pocono, Indianapolis and Charlotte. In addition, the two-time champion will make his return to the XFINITY Series at Phoenix, where he will carry SunnyD on the historic No. 60 Roush Fenway Mustang on SatD , Nov. 12. This will not 'mark' the first time SunnyD has appeared on a Roush Fenway Ford. Mark Martin carried the Sunny Delight logo on the deck lid of his Ford Thunderbird during his heated championship battle with Dale Earnhardt in 1990. Sunny Delight Beverages Co. (SDBC), based in Cincinnati, OH, was acquired by Brynwood Partners VII L.P, based in Greenwich, CT, in February 2016. SDBC is a leading producer, distributor and marketer of juices, juice drinks and flavored waters in North America. Its brands include the iconic SunnyD juice drink, Veryfine juices and drinks, and Fruit2O flavored and sparkling waters. The company operates four plants across the U. S. They service both refrigerated and shelf stable distribution systems and supply a wide range of customers in grocery, club, mass merchandise, convenience, dollar and drug channels. For more information, please visit www.sunnyd.com. Roush Fenway Racing is the winningest team in NASCAR history, fielding multiple teams in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series competition with drivers Greg Biffle , Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., Trevor Bayne , Ryan Reed , Chris Buescher and Bubba Wallace . Now in its 29th season, Roush Fenway is a leader in driver development, having launched the careers for many of the top drivers in the sport. Off-track , Roush Fenway is a leader in NASCAR marketing solutions, pioneering motorsport’s first team-focused TV show and producing multiple award-winning digital and experiential marketing campaigns. Roush Fenway is co-owned by Jack Roush, the winningest team owner in NASCAR history and Fenway Sports Group, parent company of Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox and English Premier League's Liverpool F.C. Visit RoushFenway.com , circle on Google+ , become a fan on Facebook and Instagram and follow on Twitter at @roushfenway .
O'Donnell: NASCAR reviewing Kahne, Patrick incident at Auto Club
After a weekend full of passionate moments at Auto Club Speedway , this week's NASCAR competition meeting might run a little longer than most. NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell indicated that officials at the NASCAR Research & Development Center would evaluate a handful of on- and off-track incidents this week. O'Donnell's remarks came Monday morning on one of his regular appearances on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio's "Morning Drive" program with hosts Mike Bagley and Pete Pistone. Among the ground that O'Donnell said would be covered was a high-profile incident with Kasey Kahne and Danica Patrick . Shortly past the halfway point of Sunday's Auto Club 400 , the two drivers made contact with Kahne's car hooking Patrick into a severe, nose-first crash on the 2-mile track's frontstretch.
Charlotte Motor Speedway creates grass 'transition barrier'
RELATED: CMS plans '24-day salute' for Gordon There will be a slightly different look to the frontstretch when NASCAR teams travel to Charlotte Motor Speedway in October for Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series events. Track engineers and turf specialists began the process this week of installing a 6-foot wide "transition barrier" between the pavement and the grass area that separates the racing surface from pit road. The border, which consists of a sand/soil mix with rye grass and will be the same level as the asphalt, is expected to decrease the likelihood of damage to a car should it travel off the racing surface and onto the infield grass. "The goal is to create something similar to a fairway to rough transition you might see on a golf course," Scott Cooper, Vice President of Communications for CMS, told NASCAR.com. "If a driver gets pinched down, he or she should have a good opportunity to get back on the track without suffering too much damage to the car." Current ride-height rules have Sprint Cup cars much lower than in previous years, and damage to splitters and other front-end pieces of the cars often occur after nothing more than a spin through the grass at some facilities. Crews will put down approximately 140 tons of the sand/soil mix to complete the project. Only the grass transition barrier will be lower – the infield grass beyond the 6-foot area where sponsor and track logos normally appear -- will be unchanged. "Hopefully, this will create another 'Pass in the Grass' opportunity," Cooper said, referencing Dale Earnhardt's brief run through the infield grass en route to winning the series' 1997 All-Star Race. Contact between Earnhardt and Bill Elliott as the two battled for the lead sent Earnhardt's blue-and-yellow No. 3 briefly off-track ; Earnhardt maintained control of his car and remained the leader as he shot back up onto the racing surface. CMS will host the Bank of America Sprint Cup Series race Saturday, Oct. 10. It is the first race of the Contender Round in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup . The Drive for the Cure 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series race is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 9.