Posted on: January 21, 2011 4:35 pm

Pastrana NASCAR debut set

Posted By Pete Pistone

The highly-anticipated NASCAR debut for motorcycle and off road star Travis Pastrana will reportedly come this July.

Pastrana will try his hand at big-time stock car racing when the NASCAR Nationwide Series visits Lucas Oil Raceway (formerly O'Reilly Raceway Park) in Indianapolis the last weekend of July.

The X-Games icon and action sports hero signed a deal with team owner Michael Waltrip last fall and will start approximately seven Nationwide Series events in 2011 as part of his foray into the sport. Pastrana also plans to make a limited number of NASCAR K&N Pro Series late model stock car starts and has tested one of the series cars in recent weeks.

Pastrana's Nationwide debut will come at the .625-mile Lucas Oil Raceway short track which will hold its annual NASCAR NWS and Camping World Truck Series on the days prior to the weekend's Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: January 21, 2011 12:53 pm
Edited on: January 21, 2011 4:41 pm

Officials touch on competition changes for 2011

Posted By Pete Pistone

NASCAR president Mike Helton, vice president of competition Robin Pemberton and Sprint Cup Series director John Darby addressed the media on Friday at Daytona with a sanctioning body competition update.

NASCAR's new policy enforcing drivers to declare for one series championship was confirmed and Sprint Cup drivers Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski are now officially out of contention for a Nationwide Series title in 2011. Helton said series sponsor Nationwide was counseled in the decision and discussion of grandfathering in Cup regulars who expressed interest in competing for this year's crown was considered. But in the end Helton said in the overall best interest of the sport beginning the new policy this season was best.

The thirty-minute session touched on a wide range of topics including:

The search for Darby's replacement, which is ongoing but progressing to the point that a new Sprint Cup Series director could be in place by mid-season.

Adjusting Rookie of the Year parameters in the Sprint Cup Series since no driver has declared intention of running the full schedule in pursuit of the honor.

The potential overhaul of the championship points system to a simpler method and distribution of point values. An announcement on this is expected during NASCAR CEO Brian France's "State of the Sport" address next Wednesday in Charlotte as part of the annual pre-season media tour. Helton did say the new system would be used across all three of NASCAR's top divisions.

The move to fuel injected engines will not take place for any points races this season.

More tracks - reportedly up to 24 events this season - will change from Friday to Saturday qualifying. Pemberton said those weekends would not be treated as impound races and teams would be allowed to work on cars following qualifying.

Standardized start times will be "tweaked" as the season progresses. Last year's 1-4-7:30 p.m. ET menu will most likely change in the second half of the year and speculation is Chase races will not go head to head with the start of NFL games come fall with NASCAR/ESPN opting for later green flags.

Speeds during the first day of the Daytona test - which reached 195 mph-plus during two car drafts on Thursday - are acceptable right now and at this point there are no plans to use a smaller restrictor plate when teams returns for "Speedweeks" in February.

Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: January 21, 2011 11:56 am

Front Row sets line-up

By Pete Pistone

Travis Kvapil and David Gilliland will return to Front Row Motorsports in 2011 with full Sprint Cup Series season planned for both drivers. The team will run a third entry in select events during the season.

Kvapil will pilot the No. 34 Long John's-sponsored Ford while Gilliland returns to the seat of the team's No. 38 Taco Bell Fusion.

While the team did not participate in this week's Preseason Thunder test session in Daytona owner Bill Jenkins plans to be back in force next month for "Speedweeks" activities.

Bill Henderson has been named crew chief for Kvapil's entry while veteran Peter Sospenzo returns to call the shots for Gilliland.

Roush-Yates engines will again power the Front Row stable.
Posted on: January 21, 2011 11:09 am

Daytona testing update - day two

Posted By Pete Pistone

Mother Nature has stepped in to put a damper on Friday's planned activities for Preseason Thunder testing at Daytona International Speedway. After heavy rains swept through the area overnight, a thick overcast greeted competitors Friday morning that eventually grew into persistent rain and drizzle.

On track activities were expected to begin at 9 a.m. ET but have been put on hold indefinitely until the weather clears up and there is hope that will happen by early afternoon. Track and NASCAR officials have been discussing the possibility of running part of the planned test under the lights but with another night of driver autograph and fan sessions planned that schedule may be difficult to work out.

Drivers will meet the media on an accelerated schedule than originally planned and the 12 noon ET competition update with NASCAR presdient Mike Helton and vice president of competition Robin Pemberton is still on target, at which time the new policy of limiting a driver's eligibility to one championship will be made official.

We'll have periodic updates and news as it breaks from "The World Center of Racing" throughout the day. You can follow me as well on Twitter....twitter.com/ppistone.

Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: January 20, 2011 12:19 pm

Stewart addresses Australia run-in

Posted By Pete Pistone

Tony Stewart met with the media during Thursday's Preseason Thunder test session activities at Daytona International Speedway and commented on the altercation he was in with authorities last week while competing in a Sprint Cup Series event in Australia.

Despite reports to the contrary Stewart was not sporting a black eye during his media session and said the disagreement with a track operators stemmed from what he considered dangerous racing conditions.

According to Stewart the conversation "went a bit further than a normal dispute."

"I've always stood up for what I believe. I didn't think the conditions were safe to run. They felt different."

Asked if he would return to compete in Australia again next winter Stewart said he'd "Love to. Except for the last night we had an excellent time."

"I'm not the least bit proud of it. "I'm shamed of it," Stewart said of the ordeal.

Stewart and his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Ryan Newman are both in Daytona taking part in the three-day test session.

Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: January 20, 2011 9:46 am
Edited on: January 20, 2011 10:04 am

Live streaming of testing at Daytona

For the first time, Preseason Thunder testing from Daytona is being streamed live online .


Even for the diehardest of diehards it may be overkill, but the Speed crew -- Steve Byrnes, Larry McReynolds, et al -- are doing their best to keep things interesting.

Posted on: January 19, 2011 3:58 pm
Edited on: January 19, 2011 3:58 pm

Standardized Start times May be Gone

Posted By Pete Pistone

NASCAR made a big deal about employing standard start times for the 2010 Sprint Cup Series season in hopes of assisting and elevating television ratings. All races were run on a 1 p.m. (ET), 3 p.m. (ET) or 7:30 p.m. (ET) plan.

However it appears the 2011 season will not follow suit. Sagging TV ratings are reportedly driving the decision to shift start times to later on Sunday afternoons in hopes of recapturing a lost west coast viewership as well as leaking audiences into the lucrative prime time day part. While the Daytona 500 is slated to take the green flag at 1:19 p.m. ET, other start times for early season races have not been officially released. 

The decision of when to start events may well fall back into the hands of track operators and television network officials. Should that happen the return of more 2:30 eastern time starts may well dot the 2011 schedule, particularly in the second half of the season when NASCAR goes head-to-head with NFL most Sundays.

Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: January 19, 2011 1:14 pm
Edited on: January 19, 2011 2:55 pm

More Saturday qualifying possible

Posted by Pete Pistone

Pocono Raceway has joined Talladega and Martinsville in hosting Saturday Sprint Cup qualifying sessions this season. The Pennsylvania track announced it would move its two traditional Friday time trial activities to Saturday for both the June and August visits to the 2.5-mile speedway. Additional practice is expected to be added to the Friday track schedule in each case.

The move is speculated to be the latest in a series of schedule-tightening initiatives that may see other tracks follow suit. NASCAR continues to see ways to save teams money and eliminating days spent on the road would significantly lower travel costs for organizations.

While the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series have both added several one day shows in recents years which include practice, qualifying and racing all completed in a single day, don't look for anything quite that drastic on the Cup side.

However with stand-alone qualifying day attendance lagging at many venues, moving time trials to Saturday provides tracks with an opportunity to offer fans a more value-added preliminary day ticket with a schedule that would include qualifying, practice and a support race.
Category: Auto Racing
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