In 2008 when NASCAR Champions Week left New York – its host city for twenty-five years – in favor of Las Vegas there were some who voiced their concern that the move was less than wise, with quips about rebounds and quickie divorces being made. However, after three years in Las Vegas, NASCAR officials are more than satisfied with the results and have made it known that NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series Awards and Champions Week will be held in Las Vegas for at least three more years – a happy union between the hot-spot tourist playground and the country’s most popular sport.
NASCAR’s chief marketing officer Steve Phelps noted in an interview that the first three years in Las Vegas were very successful, and that the city is a great backdrop for the sport. The NASCAR Champions week is an all-out celebration of the end of the season, with fans having the opportunity to interact with their on-track heroes in a number of events, including the popular ‘Victory Lap’ and ‘After the Lap’ events. Building on previous success, organizers are constantly looking for more ways to engage the fans that support this fast-paced, adrenaline pumping sport, so it is very likely that there will be even more to enjoy by the time the event rolls around in late-November. While the full schedule has not been made available yet, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards will take place on November 30 at Wynn Las Vegas.
Sports marketing director for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) Julian Dugas emphasized the amount of work that was put into ensuring NASCAR would continue to host the event in Las Vegas. Although Las Vegas is a popular event for all manner of conferences, with some attracting up to 30,000 attendees, Dugas noted that co-branding with NASCAR opens up untapped markets in the Southeast for the city. He concluded that the partnership was a win-win situation.
NASCAR’s three national series – the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series; the NASCAR Nationwide Series; and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series – are broadcast in up to twenty languages in over 150 countries. Based in Daytona Beach, Florida, NASCAR has offices in eight cities in North America, and sanctions over 1,200 races at tracks in thirty states, Canada and Mexico.
Traditionally the racing season’s starter event, the Rolex 24 at Daytona celebrated its 50th anniversary with plenty of nail-biting action on the track this past weekend. Mike Shank Racing from Pataskala, Ohio, took the checkered flag in the Daytona Prototype class, breaking NASCAR driver AJ Allmendinger’s almost six-year dry spell as he completed the final stint of the race. This was the ninth try at the championship for Mike Shank racing, with other team members being Justin Wilson, Ozz Negri Jr. and John Pew.
With 2 hours and 8 minutes of the race remaining, Allmendinger took the lead in the MSR Ford-Riley, doing battle with defending champion Scott Pruett driving for Ganassi Racing. Allmendinger also managed to outrun Ryan Dalziel in the Starworks car as he headed for the finish line. Although it was Allmendinger who claimed the victory for the team, other team members had made the win possible with their driving skills earlier in the race. In fact, IndyCar driver Justin Wilson turned in the fasted lap of the race. Allmendinger took over from Negri, and had a close shave with Allan McNish in the Starworks car as he banked in turn four and connected bodywork with Allmendinger’s car. However, the latter was undeterred and continued in his pursuit for first place. With 19 minutes left of the race, and the Shank team enjoying a lead of 11 seconds, a GT car sliding into an inside wall caused some anxiety. Fortunately for the leading cars there was no call for a full course caution, which would have resulted in a bunched up field for the final sprint and Allmendinger crossed the finish line with a 5.198 second lead over second-place Ryan Dalziel in the Ford-powered Starworks car.
As runner-up in the 2011 Grand-Am championship, SunTrust Racing was well prepared for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, but unexpected engine trouble saw driver Max Angelelli enter the pits only 25 minutes into the race. The car entered the race five minutes later, only to return shortly after to be declared out of the race. Team owner, Wayne Taylor, noted that it was the first time they have had engine trouble since using Chevrolet, and as the race began their only concern was the traffic, the engine trouble had caught the team by surprise. Angelelli had started the race in second place, and will be awarded some points for completing 30 minutes of the race. While it was a disappointing start for SunTrust Racing, the season has just begun and anything can happen in the months ahead.
Two-car tandem racing has become a feature at Daytona and Talladega, with drivers working together to gain the highest speed possible around the track. In this two-car collaboration the trailing driver pushes the lead car around the track. Due to the position of the cars, the driver doing the pushing has a limited view of the road ahead and relies on the leader to make the right moves. However, the close proximity of the two cars can lead to overheating, and so the pusher needs to trade places with the leader from time to time. The temporary breaking of the pusher-leader partnership causes a dramatic reduction in speed for both cars and is potentially hazardous.
Three days of testing at Daytona saw NASCAR trying to break this two-car tandem racing pattern, and revert to the pack racing format that auto racing fans enjoy the most. During the testing, Kyle Busch clocked a 205.813 mph in a pack racing format, while Regan Smith and Kurt Busch formed a two-car tandem, with Kurt Busch clocking an incredible time of 206.058 mph.
Bearing in mind that NASCAR has traditionally been against exceeding speeds of 200 mph, four-time series champion Jeff Gordon reportedly queried the high speeds being achieved on the track, and was assured by NASCAR officials that they have no problem with the new record speeds. Nevertheless, with pack racing bringing in the fans, in November last year NASCAR Chairman Brian France made it clear that he wants drivers to move away from two-car tandem racing, so in addition to a series of changes to rules governing aerodynamics of racing cars, driver-to-driver communications over their scanners has been banned.
While a number of changes have been made during testing, with drivers and their teams kept informed all along the way, it is very likely that more changes will be made before the much anticipated Speedweeks begin, with the iconic Daytona 500 taking place on February 26. NASCAR vice president Robin Pemberton noted that while there may be some loose ends to tie up as they make final plans for Speedweeks, and was reported as saying that “everything is going according to plan.”
Join the crowds at Daytona Speedway to celebrate the Independence Day Holiday Weekend with the stars of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
The action-packed program includes qualifying laps, NASCAR Autograph Session and a pre-race concert featuring country-singing sensation Martina McBride.
The 53rd Annual Coke Zero 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race starts at 7:30pm on July 2.
Dates: 1-2 July 2011
Venue: Daytona Speedway
State: Daytona Beach, Florida
Country: United States of America
On Friday night, teams prepared their cars for the practice sessions that evening, as well as the Budweiser Shootout that was held at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday. NASCAR officials were monitoring the progress and speed of the cars closely. With some cars reaching speeds of over two hundred miles per hour, it was decided to implement a new change to the vehicles, of which the teams have been informed. It is hoped that the changes will benefit the cars, teams and their drivers.
The Sprint Cup Series is a prestigious championship on the NASCAR calendar, with teams preparing and making changes to their cars in anticipation of the start of the new season. Teams will have to begin making the changes to their cars after the Daytona 500, which has been confirmed by Ryan Pemberton, the Vice President of Competition for NASCAR. The changes will involve the cooling systems of the cars, with new front grill specifications being twenty inches in width and two and a half inches in height. Not only will the grills have to be altered, but teams will be expected to lower their water systems to produce thirty-three pounds per square inch, which will be achieved by altering the pressure relief valve that is located on the water system of the car. Some teams will have to adjust their radiators for the pressure relief valve, which will cause the water to flow out if the radiator beings to overheat rather than being contained within the high pressure radiator systems that most cars are fitted with. NASCAR found that the temperatures on most vehicles were running between approximately two hundred and ninety to three hundred degrees, and with the new regulations it is expected to drop to an average of two hundred and fifty.
Pemberton commented on the changes by saying that: “Right now, I think it’s more important to get some things out there. Teams have to go home and prepare (for the cooling system alteration), so it will take several hours for them to get ready for this change. The bulletin was about enabling those guys to spend the time to get prepared and come back on Wednesday.”