by David Vodden
If you watched or are aware of last weeks 24 Hours of Daytona road race you know that the team that won last year, won again. Helio Castroneves was among the team drivers in the Michael Shank Racing Acura entry. The team led 365 of the 783 laps that they completed for the win. Acura team of Felipe Albuquerque took second with Chip Ganassi’s Cadillac team home third overall. Other classes in the multi-class race saw good competition including a pass at the finish line by LMP2 driver James Allen over Ben Hanley by a mere0.016 margin after 24 hours. Allen was driving an ORECA, whatever that is.
The 2023 NASCAR race season starts this weekend with the Busch Clash event at the L.A. Coliseum on a track that was made there for the second year in a row. You have to meet certain qualifications to be invited to this race so not everyone will be involved. The program has practice on Saturday along with heat races and then moves to Sunday where two last-chance races will complete the line up for the television show. Clearly last year was a novelty of the highest order so it will be interesting to see how many fans brave the L.A. traffic, which is second to none, and go see the show.
There are three or four musical interludes as part of the show so maybe the music fans will help the attendance. Last year the race was a financial success no doubt due to television money and to the first-time component. The winner, Joey Logano started fourth and won over other front starters. It was next to impossible to pass a lot which means that the real race is decided by who gets the pole and in the top three rows.
After a break for the Super Bowl, NASCAR goes into its thirty-six-race season for points and “win and you are in” the playoffs formula. A rule change was made that says if you win a race and do not end up in the top thirty in points that you are still eligible. Before if you were lower than 30thin points you could not participate in the playoffs.
NASCAR also outlawed moves like the one that Ross Chastain used at Martinsville to get into the playoffs last year. You may recall that he had no chance to catch Denny Hamlin and pass him with one lap to go. To the delight of everyone the Florida rookie driver placed his car against the wall entering turn three, slammed the throttle down and rode along the wall at a ridiculous rate of speed and passed Hamlin who was knocked out of the playoffs as a result.
NASCAR will use rain tires on ovals for the first time in 2023, but just the smaller ones. They will also allow pick a lane on restart son the super speedways and the one dirt race that they do now. There are more changes but most will not be obvious to the viewing fan. You know we are back to FOX TV again for the first half of the season so get ready for the Jeff and Dale squeak-fest helping veteran Mike Joy.
The NASCAR world is talking a lot about the Xfinity Series due to the departure of Ty Gibbs, Noah Gragson and A. J. Almendinger to the CupSeries full time. They see this series as having a gap relative to talent and speculate who will take over for that threesome who won many of the races. Justin Allgaier is mentioned as the last great Xfinity veteran along with the other drivers that race for Dale Earnhart “JR. Motorsports.” This would include Josh Berry and Sam Mayer. Sheldon Creed will be in the mix as will Austin Hill and returning driver Cole Custer. With the absence of a known dominant force the Xfinity series may turn out to be a thriller in 2023.
The monster Energy Super Cross series has been going on since January and there have been more different winners than in the past. It is hard to cover now because it is not on a channel that we all get. NBC’s Peacock has the action as does You Tube if you want to catch up. Lots of racing if you know where to look.
Here we go again, another race season for all who watch and attend and read this column!