NASCAR kicks off in Phoenix for fourth straight year

MADSON, Ill. ( Associated Press) — NASCAR is moving its championship weekend back to Phoenix next season, the fourth straight year that the Cup Series title will be decided in the desert, and the reaction from drivers this week has been decidedly mixed. .

There are people like Kurt Bush who think it’s important to “keep it different, keep it fun,” and that could mean taking the November finale on a different track. Kyle Larson, who won the championship in Phoenix last year, and others point to good facilities and strong fan support – to say nothing of the weather – to keep the race in Arizona.

“It’s like the All-Star Race. There are a lot of variables from the business point of view, from the city point of view,” said Kevin Harvick. “The crowd has shown up and they’ve wrapped their warm-up around it, and they’re going through this. Good at hosting all kinds of events. There is much more to it. It’s a very deep mix of things that have to be settled. ,

The finale was held at Homestead-Miami Speedway for nearly two decades before moving to Phoenix in 2020.

“Phoenix is ​​a great area to host the championship weekend,” Larsen said. “There are only a few tracks that can really host a championship weekend. So it was in Florida for that long.”

Speaking of tracks…

As much as Larson loves Phoenix, he was equally blunt in his dislike for defending Cup Series champion Texas, which has hosted the All-Star Race over the years and produced a great show just a few weeks ago.

“I hate being one of those people,” he said, “but it’s not a very good track. It just doesn’t produce good racing and it’s hard to have an exhibition-style race out there when The track is not fast at all.”

Like championship weekend, there is a team of drivers who want to watch the All-Star Race at different locations, as Major League Baseball and other professional sports move their All-Star game. And that could mean out-of-the-box thinking, like the use of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for an exhibition race earlier this year.

NASCAR held its All-Star Race in Charlotte from 1987 to 2020, when it moved to Bristol for a year amid the pandemic,

“I don’t have a solution right off the bat,” Bush said. “There are different tracks and different atmospheres that you can throw at an All-Star race, whether it’s a shorter track or a half-mile, Daytona and a restrictive-plate style. There are many different options and maybe that’s something.” That’s something we can look into.”

fast friday

Richard Petty drove the ceremonial first laps around the World Wide Technology Speedway in his 1981 Daytona 500-winning car on Friday, before the Cup Series opened its first weekend on the track with a practice session.

Truck Series champion Ben Rhodes, who will qualify for No. 16 for AJ Allmender while running the Xfinity Race in Portland on Saturday, climbed the wall in practice. The damage to the Kaulig Racing car was relatively minor.

Later in the 50-minute session, Parker Kligerman’s ride from Rick Ware Racing caught fire and raised a red flag.

Joey Logano leapt to the top of the speed chart in the final minutes of practice, sprinting a lap to nudge Ryan Blaney off his perch at 136.753 mph. Austin Sindrick made it to Team Penske’s sweep of the top three times.

chutes and ladders

NASCAR heads to Sonoma Raceway in California next weekend, where the series will revert to a shorter 1.99-mile layout, with a slope connecting Turns 4 and 7 instead of using a “carousel” made for one long lap. Will be

Additional twists in the carousel, which was part of the original layout, were brought back in 2019 for the track’s 50th anniversary and again for the previous season. But it made for shorter laps, slower runs and took away a popular passing opportunity.

“This car is faster on the road course anyway because it has more grip. It’s a more centrally held race car,” said Kyle Busch. “It should be more competitive. It’s just a matter of who runs on what. Do we look like the local go-kart track or do we look like the pros? That will determine the length of the race.”


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