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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."
Sprint Fan Vote: Current top 10 revealed
RELATED: Cast your vote now The Sprint Fan Vote is underway, and now, we have updates on (perhaps) your favorite driver. There's still plenty of time left to vote but, so far, the top-10 vote-getters are as follows, in alphabetical order: AJ Allmendinger , Trevor Bayne , Ryan Blaney , Clint Bowyer , Matt DiBenedetto , Chase Elliott , Kyle Larson , Casey Mears , Danica Patrick and Brian Vickers . Patrick, who won the Sprint Fan Vote last year and in 2013, is the first two-time Sprint Fan Vote winner. Elliott and Blaney are the current leaders in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year competition. Fans are able to vote daily by downloading the NASCAR Mobile App or visiting www.nascar.com/SprintFanVote. Votes that are shared on Facebook or Twitter will count for double, so make sure to post on your social media channels. So if you're voting for one of the 10 drivers above, get to it! If your driver isn't on the list, don't worry -- there's still plenty of time to help him or her catch up. Fans have until 5 p.m. ET May 20 to cast their votes. NASCAR will announce the winner of the Sprint Fan Vote in Victory Lane after the Sprint Showdown at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Friday, May 20 (7 p.m. ET, FS1/MRN/Sirius XM NASCAR Radio). The NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race is scheduled for May 21. If any of the Sprint Fan Vote candidates wins in the races leading up to the Sprint All-Star Race, he or she will automatically earn a spot in the race and their name will be removed from the Sprint Fan Vote ballot. To purchase ticket packages for the Sprint All-Star Race weekend -- which includes the Sprint Showdown , NASCAR Camping World Truck Series N.C. Education Lottery 200, Andy Grammer pre-race concert powered by Rayovac and the Sprint All-Star Race and qualifying -- call Charlotte Motor Speedway at 1-800-455-FANS or visit CharlotteMotorSpeedway.com . Fans wishing to engage in the #SprintAllStar Race conversation through the #SprintFanVote window are encouraged to follow @MissSprintCup, @CLTMotorSpdwy and @NASCAR on Twitter.
Sprint Fan Vote: Current top five revealed
RELATED: Cast your vote now With the Sprint Fan Vote well underway, the top-five vote-getters among the field have been released. Fans are stilll able to cast their votes for any of the 30 drivers in the running, but the top five thus far are as follows, in alphabetical order: Ryan Blaney , Matt DiBenedetto , Chase Elliott , Kyle Larson and Danica Patrick . Patrick won the Sprint Fan Vote last year and in 2013, becoming the first two-time Sprint Fan Vote winner. Young drivers Elliott and Blaney currently lead the Sunoco Rookie of the Year competition, while DiBenedetto made a splash in the NASCAR scene with his emotional career-best sixth-place finish in April at Bristol Motor Speedway . Larson is coming off a run at Kansas in which he showed plenty of speed, but was caught up in a late wreck not of his own doing. Even if your favorite driver isn't on the top-five list, don't worry -- there's still time to help him catch up. Fans can vote daily by downloading the NASCAR Mobile App or visiting www.nascar.com/SprintFanVote , with votes that are shared on Facebook or Twitter counting for double. Fans have until 5 p.m. ET May 20 to cast their votes and NASCAR will announce the winner of the Sprint Fan Vote in Victory Lane post- Sprint Showdown at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Friday, May 20 (7 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio). The NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race is scheduled for May 21. If any of the Sprint Fan Vote candidates wins in the races leading up to the Sprint All-Star Race, he or she will automatically earn a spot in the race and their name will be removed from the Sprint Fan Vote ballot. To purchase ticket packages for the Sprint All-Star Race weekend -- which includes the Sprint Showdown , NASCAR Camping World Truck Series N.C. Education Lottery 200, Andy Grammer pre-race concert powered by Rayovac and the Sprint All-Star Race and qualifying -- call Charlotte Motor Speedway at 1-800-455-FANS or visit CharlotteMotorSpeedway.com . Fans wishing to engage in the #SprintAllStar Race conversation through the #SprintFanVote window are encouraged to follow @MissSprintCup, @CLTMotorSpdwy and @NASCAR on Twitter.
Chase Elliott wins Sprint Fan Vote
The fans have spoken. Chase Elliott is headed to the Sprint All-Star Race as the Sprint Fan Vote winner. Danica Patrick finished in second place and also transfers into the Sprint All-Star Race to complete the 20-car field. "The biggest thing is just very fortunate to have some great fans," Elliott said after coming up just short of racing his way into the field with runner-up finishes is Segments 1 and 3. "Definitely really appreciate everybody voting and taking time out of their day to vote for us and get us in this race. Obviously wish I could've gotten us in racing our way, but fortunately have some great fans to do that for us." Patrick was appreciative of the fan support as well as she will make her third Sprint All-Star Race start. "First and foremost, thank you to the fans," Patrick said. "The only thing that would make this any better is if I could deliver a great finish for them and an exciting race and pass cars and make the car better for next week. "... It’s just even that much better to know that I have incredible fans that always come through. Don't think that I don’t see social media fans. And I see all the times that people said they voted for me. So, thank you very much." The Sprint All-Star Race, scheduled for 9 p.m. ET Saturday night, awards $1 million to the winner. The annual rite of spring boasts an impressive history and plenty of elite drivers. The 2016 version is televised on FS1 with radio coverage on MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Fifteen drivers had qualified for the event heading into Saturday morning's Sprint Showdown by virtue of either winning a points-paying race in 2015 or thus far in 2016, having won a previous Sprint All-Star Race or being a former series champion. Three drivers qualified from the Sprint Showdown's three segments: Trevor Bayne , Greg Biffle and Kyle Larson . The top five vote-getters heading into the final week of voting were, in alphabetical order: Ryan Blaney , Matt DiBenedetto , Chase Elliott , Kyle Larson and Danica Patrick.
Reduced downforce measures coming to Sprint All-Star Race
RELATED: Submit your picks in Sprint Fan Vote Updates to the current rules package aimed at reducing both downforce and side force will be in place this weekend when NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams travel to Charlotte Motor Speedway to compete in the Sprint Showdown and Sprint All-Star race. According to Gene Stefanyshyn, senior vice president of innovation and racing development for the sanctioning body, three areas have been addressed with the updates. They involve truck trailing arm and crossmember assembly, electric fans used for cooling purposes on the cars and rear wheel toe alignment. The trailing arm issue was actually addressed previously with a change put into place before the series competed earlier this month at Kansas Speedway . Teams must now weld truck trailing arm mounting brackets (and mounting tabs, if used) to prevent movement. That change will remain in place for the remainder of the 2016 season. Stefanyshyn said the decision to reduce the number of fans was made after it was determined that some of the units "have actually been creating downforce on the car." RELATED: Explaining the low downforce package Limiting the number of cooling fans will provide "a good efficiency improvement as far as managing or attenuating some costs … and it also gave us a downforce reduction,” he said. "So it was a win-win. Some of those fans were driving things like bigger fans, bigger alternators, bigger batteries … that kind of thing." Rear toe alignment changes will decrease the amount of skew (slant) allowed in a car's setup. "We currently allow them to set up the car with some skew that provides not only a turning advantage but also a side force advantage," he said. "Usually the way a team would set that up is on the right side they take 0.6 degrees of toe out and on the left side they do about 0.3 degrees of toe in. We're going to change the specifications so it's going to be neutral; it will be zero setup. That will take some of the skew out of the car, which will take some of the side force off the car." It is also expected to reduce corner speeds approximately 3 mph at a track such as Charlotte. The rear toe change will be in place only for this weekend's all-star events. MORE: All-Star format " Eligible drivers "We want to see what the effect of it is," Stefanyshyn said. "The fans … we know directionally (that's) downforce off. And we know the (teams) made some back, so taking it off puts us in a good spot. Plus it's a good cost (savings). So everybody feels comfortable." The changes are part of the evolution of the lower downforce package that debuted in mid-2015 where it was used for races at Kentucky Speedway and Darlington Raceway . It was implemented full time for the 2016 season on all tracks except Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway . Downforce is the pressure created across the surface of a vehicle at speed. Likewise, side force is generated by the flow of air along the sides of the vehicle. Although teams continue to work to recover the loss of downforce with the current rules package, Stefanyshyn estimated that any gains teams have made have likely been relatively small. "We took over 900 pounds of downforce off for this year. Some … are saying 'Well, they've gotten it all back,' " he said. "We don't believe that it's been that drastic, that they've gotten all 900 back. We're thinking it's maybe 100-200, something like that," he said. Because the Sprint All-Star Race is a non-points event, it provides officials and teams the opportunity to observe the impact of the changes without the fear of upsetting the integrity of the regular season. And officials at Charlotte have been behind the decision to roll out the changes during the all-star weekend. "We really need to thank Marcus Smith here because when we do some of these things we want to make sure the tracks know the package is coming, they're supportive," Stefanyshyn said. "Marcus has been very open-minded to help us try some of these things. "Everybody plays an important position here; we all want everybody together." Four teams are scheduled to take part in a one-day Goodyear tire test Tuesday at Michigan International Speedway , and are expected to have the latest changes in place while also looking at possible changes to the aerodynamic package for 2017. The 2-mile track was the site of a high downforce test last year. Austin Dillon ( Richard Childress Racing ), Kyle Larson ( Chip Ganassi Racing ), Aric Almirola ( Richard Petty Motorsports ) and Martin Truex Jr . ( Furniture Row Racing ) are slated to participate in Tuesday's test. "A lot of stuff we've done have not been with aero pieces on the car but they do have an aero effect," Stefanyshyn said of the latest changes. "But we are looking at other things, working on other things. We've been working on this for the last two or three years and the question on it is how do you implement it in a way that's friendly, cost-effective and all that? "Depending on how the journey goes and what we find out, that could be something we could consider for '17. The good thing is now that we're all working closely together, we're further ahead quite a ways. So if we get to the point where we decide we want to implement, I think we do it in a very structured and calm way, not hectic … so that everybody feels comfortable." The Sprint All-Star Race weekend includes Friday's Sprint Showdown , a 50-lap qualifying race for teams not already in the main event. Segment winners (the race consists of two 20-lap segments and a final 10-lap dash) earn a berth in Saturday night's All-Star Race. Now in its 32nd season, the All-Star Race itself consists of two 50-lap segments and a final 13-lap segment. A Sprint Fan Vote winner will also make the Saturday night main event. RELATED: Submit your picks in Sprint Fan Vote
Larson: 'I had to do what I had to do' in Showdown
RELATED: Results from Segment 3 CONCORD, N.C. -- Kyle Larson shoehorned his way into the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race by whatever means necessary, making a full-contact lean on Chase Elliott 's fenders on the last lap of Saturday's Sprint Showdown preliminary. Did the contact cross the line of sportsmanship? Maybe not, with both drivers deeming it a compulsory evil with the checkered flag in sight and a chance at a $1 million payday in the Sprint All-Star Race up for grabs. In the end, both drivers won out by transferring into Saturday night's main event, but through different methods. Larson snatched one of three transfer spots available to segment winners, joining Roush Fenway Racing 's Trevor Bayne (first segment) and Greg Biffle (second segment) in the non-points invitational. Elliott claimed his berth by winning the Sprint Fan Vote. Danica Patrick finished runner-up in the fan vote to fill the 20-car field. Larson's method of securing his eligibility ranked as the most dramatic of the five. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver recovered from an opening-segment wall scrape to work his way back to first place by the start of the final 10-lap dash to the finish. He led all the way, but Elliott gained tremendous ground on fresher tires, pulling alongside Larson through Turns 3 and 4 for the final time. Larson's No. 42 and Elliott's No. 24 Chevrolets locked fenders and scraped side-by-side all the way to the checkers, with Larson prevailing by just .015 seconds to qualify for his first All-Star Race. "I would hate to be raced like that, like I raced him," Larson said. "But I knew he was going to win the fan vote, so I knew he was going to be in the All-Star Race either way and I wasn't if I didn't win. I had to do what I had to do to get the win. Hate racing like that, obviously, but I felt that's what I had to do to make it in." Larson was on the receiving end of a similar shove in 2014, when Ryan Newman slammed him aside on the final corner of the final lap at Phoenix to land the final spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship race. Back then, Larson said he understood the circumstances. Saturday, Larson indicated that he knew Elliott was justifiably upset with him. Based on his sometimes choppy responses in post-race interviews, Elliott was, but he also said he understood Larson's aggressive move considering the stakes. "He did what he had to do to beat us back to the line, that's all there is to it," Elliott said. "Part of it." Elliott found himself on the short end of an even closer finish in the first 20-lap leg, edged by .005 seconds by Bayne, who split the middle on a bold, three-wide move shortly after the segment's final restart. That restart also proved to be the undoing of rookie Ryan Blaney , who was black-flagged for jumping the green flag and could only recover for a third-place finish overall. RELATED: Watch the Segment 1 finish unfold The nifty maneuver, though, launched Bayne into his first All-Star Race since 2012. "You don't hesitate when you can see the front any time, and especially when it's like this -- not a points race," said Bayne, who scored his only Sprint Cup win in the 2011 Daytona 500 . "If it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out. You've got to win. It was pretty cool. Maybe if you're battling to get in the Chase on points, you don't make that move for third or fourth, but when it's for a win even in a points race, you've got to do it every time." Biffle, his Roush Fenway teammate, had a slightly easier time of it, slipping past Austin Dillon six laps into the second 20-lap segment to clinch his 13th consecutive All-Star start. Biffle advanced into the main event as a Showdown segment winner last year as well. His transfer inspired some lively banter with crew chief Brian Pattie. "Hope no one had dinner reservations," Pattie said over the team radio on the segment's cool-down lap. "Nope, I was planning on being here all night," Biffle replied, later noting the seven-figure incentive for the All-Star Race winner. RELATED: Biffle ecstatic after finish Patrick advanced through fan balloting for the third time in four years. "I definitely thought if there were two spots, I had a lot better shot," Patrick said. "My fans voted well."
Weather wipes out Sprint All-Star Race qualifying
RELATED: See the lineup in photos Inclement weather wiped out Saturday night's Sprint All-Star Race qualifying at Charlotte Motor Speedway . This meant the lineup was set by owner points, putting Stewart-Haas Racing 's Kevin Harvick on the Coors Light Pole. RELATED: Complete lineup for Sprint All-Star race The qualifying session was scheduled to start at 7:10 p.m. ET on FS1 and was set to precede the Sprint All-Star Race at 9 p.m. ET (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Driver introductions began at 9:05 p.m. ET as NASCAR Air Titans continued to work on drying the track. Green flag dropped at 10:12 p.m. ET. Earlier Saturday, Trevor Bayne , Greg Biffle and Kyle Larson all earned berths into the Sprint All-Star Race by each winning one of three segments in the Sprint Showdown . Chase Elliott and Danica Patrick were first and second, respectively, in the Sprint Fan Vote to complete the 20-car Sprint All-Star Race field. Denny Hamlin , who qualified for the Sprint All-Star Race with a win in the 2015 season, is the defending champion of the Sprint All-Star Race. MORE: Live leaderboard for Sprint All-Star Race
Who is eligible for Sprint All-Star Race?
The Sprint All-Star Race is scheduled for May 21 at 7 p.m. ET (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Charlotte Motor Speedway , and drivers can qualify in a variety of ways. Drivers who won a race in 2015 or so far in 2016 are in the event. So, too, are former premier series champions and former All-Star Race winners. Three drivers will be added to the field by winning one of three Sprint Showdown segments, and the Sprint Fan Vote will also add a driver into the field. If there aren't a minimum of 20 cars in the field by that point, the next highest vote-getter in the Sprint Fan Vote would be added to the field. Below is a list of drivers who meet the above criteria, according to NASCAR. Editor's note: Jeff Gordon qualified for the event, according to NASCAR. However, he retired from full-time competition following the 2015 season and is not on the entry list for the race. Therefore, he is not included on the list below.
Austin Dillon tops Sprint Showdown practice
Biffle and Truex Jr. finish second and third in 100-minute session RELATED: Learn more about the Sprint Showdown MORE: Full practice results Austin Dillon topped the lone practice for Friday night's Sprint Showdown (7 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM) at Charlotte Motor Speedway . Dillon turned a fast lap of 189.288 mph at the 1.5-mile track during the 100-minute session. Greg Biffle (188.910 mph) was the second-fastest in the session, followed by Martin Truex Jr . (188.798 mph). The Sprint Showdown consists of two segments of 20 laps each, with the winner of each segment advancing to Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. The winner of the first segment will not race in the second segment. Biffle has not missed an All-Star Race since 2004. Truex Jr. is currently second in the Sprint Cup Series point standings with 10 top-10 finishes in the first 11 events, but has not qualified for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. Paul Menard (188.758 mph) and Danica Patrick (188.613 mph) rounded out the top five in Friday's practice. Clint Bowyer , who won last year's Sprint Showdown , finished seventh in practice. Chase Elliott , who has made two Sprint Cup starts this season, finished 10th in practice (187.533 mph) and logged the most laps (53) in the session. Elliott is attempting to give Hendrick Motorsports five cars in the field for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race on Saturday night (9 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM). He is also slated to compete in this weekend's NASCAR XFINITY Series 3M 250 at Iowa Speedway . Qualifying for the Sprint Showdown will take place at 4:15 p.m. ET Friday on FOX Sports 1. It will be a two-round session, with the opening round being 20 minutes and the top 12 advancing to the second round for a five minute session to determine the top 12 starting spots. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Chase Elliott to run in Sprint Showdown
XFINITY Series champ will look to race his way into Sprint All-Star Race Chase Elliott will attempt to make next weekend's Sprint All-Star Race by running in the Sprint Showdown on May 15 (7 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1), Hendrick Motorsports announced on Tuesday. Elliott must win one of the two 20-lap segments in the No. 25 Chevrolet SS to make the Sprint All-Star Race on May 16. "I couldn't be more excited about the opportunity to run the Showdown ," Elliott said in a release provided by the team. "It allows me to gain more experience with my NAPA Auto Parts team before we race again at Charlotte a week later." The 19-year-old will be busy the weekend of the Sprint Showdown as the NASCAR XFINITY Series will be at Iowa Speedway that weekend as well. Elliott will go back-and-forth between Iowa and North Carolina that weekend. "I'm grateful to Mr. Hendrick and everyone at NAPA for the chance to do it," he said. Elliott has made two Sprint Cup Series starts already with a third coming the week after the All-Star Race in the Coca-Cola 600 on May 24. "Those additional laps will be a tremendous benefit when it's time to run 600 miles," Elliott said. The defending XFINITY Series champion is also slated to make starts this summer at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Darlington Raceway . Hendrick's four full-time drivers: Jimmie Johnson , Jeff Gordon , Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Kasey Kahne are already locked into participating in the Sprint All-Star Race. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule