2022 is starting much like 2021. This pandemic thing is still with us and causing all sorts of issues. How those issues play out as the racing season begins to look at green flags is yet to be seen.

However, some of the changes coming to racing within the sport are quite extensive. As January opens, the eyes turn to Daytona and IMSA / WeatherTech. The ROLEX 24 will see some changes in the classes such as GTD Pro instead of GT Le Mans. GT Daytona retains the designation from before. To review the classes and schedule for the upcoming season, check IMSA / WeatherTech online.

Daytona remains in focus, of course, as IMSA rolls out and NASCAR rolls in for the season opener Daytona 500. It is here that 2022 racing will showcase change on a scale unprecedented in NASCAR. The engineering and styling in the move to the 2022 Next Gen car far surpasses the changes that brought in the “Car of Tomorrow” over the familiar late model style. The 2008 CoT brought forth a new focus on driver safety with chassis, seating and cage enhancements. The Gen-6 Cup car that is being retired as of last season brought body shapes closer to manufacturer versions and put other progressions in place such as digital dash panels and more views on safety.

The Next Gen car making its debut in the Cup series is a leap in every way. The styling is meant to further represent manufacturer street versions. The body is now a composite of carbon fiber and plastic instead of sheet metal. Team fabrication shops will be focusing on Xfinity or Camping World series chassis as Cup cars will have a uniform central chassis that is the same for all. The front and rear suspension and drive train are also fairly uniform and bolt on to the common subframe. Independent suspension and rack and pinion steering change up the handling while a 5 speed sequential transmission replaces the 4 speed pattern. Larger brakes mean a step up to larger wheels. 18 inch aluminum wheels with a center axle lug replace the 5 lug steel wheels. This may be the most obvious change to fans as these wheels will look much different than before. The refueling system and wheel changes may resemble the pit stops of the sports cars which just ran a few weeks before at the ROLEX 24. Goodyear Eagles are still the tires on the track but with a wider stance and lower profile than before.

“Next Gen” NASCAR Cup Car new for 2022 – See more at NASCAR.com

Fans should be excited for the new season and the changes. However, hangers on to the past still haunt the sport. Some just can’t get over the wall with the changes that have come along since the death of Dale Earnhardt. They can’t seem to grasp that time and technology have influenced safety and cost beyond the “good old days” and there is no going back. However, NASCAR can and should do a better job of bringing the personalities of the drivers and teams closer to the fans. Many tracks have embraced the concept with expanded access to garages and infield viewing. The fans follow drivers. The drama is not based on the cars but the interaction of the drivers is what pumps the attention of the fans. The tracks that do well have embraced the national aspect of the sport while inviting the local flavor of the fans in the area.

The local short tracks, the ovals from the hard pack dirt to the paved historic starters of the sport, are also gearing up for some performance changes. The fans may not notice but the teams and the drivers have been busy over the “off season” to make sure their cars are up to the match standards set in place for 2022. There are some body allowance rules and some chassis enhancements that will need attention before the first late model green flag drops for 2022. Hopefully, there has been some “catch up” time for the tires to get stocked for the demand. The late season of 2021 had races cancelled and tracks scrambling for tires just to make events on the basic level.

The costs of NASCAR sanctioned late model style racing has been a hurdle for many and low “car counts” at many tracks has been an issue. Fans want a show and 5 cars on track doesn’t really bring it. New rules are trying to address these cost issues but racing is often a money pit that is hard to fill. Tracks are looking at new events and new types of racing to bring in participants and fans. Drivers, tracks, sponsors and fans are facing some challenges but tracks are committed to push on.

INDYCar is putting off major changes to next year. An expanded hybrid engine system is expected. Formula 1 is putting a number of changes in place for 2022. Much like NASCAR, F1 is putting emphasis on competition and expanded safety. Aerodynamic downforce through wing and body shape design should enhance close racing with better stability. Larger wheels and low profile tires should also enhance handling and reduce heat in race conditions. The front wing and nose have a new design and the rear wing has rounded, rolled tips. F1 changes are targeted, like NASCAR, to engage racing from the driver to the fans.

Other series will likely have some changes. NHRA, for example, is expanding some options for engine performance in some of the classes. Rallycross is looking at some format changes to increase competition. Motorcycle racing from superbike to motocross may also make a change or two for the upcoming season but who can tell…? Those 2 wheel racers are a bit off to begin with…

Expectations are high for many. Short tracks, dirt tracks and other small and local racer venues are looking at their own challenges moving into the year. Drivers and teams are digging for sponsors to carry to the tracks but racing will need attendance to thrive. For 2022, racing fans should take a little time and visit the tracks that run every weekend instead of just holding out for the “Big Guns” in the national series to visit a handful of tracks.

Let’s go local. Let’s go racing.

This year has ripped through so many schedules and events as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to push forward with safety protocols often changing daily. Even with the uncertainty, Moonshine Capital and Franklin County Speedway have managed to push through. They have opened the venue to some high profile events that may have been much harder to lure in if not for closings and cancellations elsewhere.

Just a month ago, the “Stadium Invasion” brought North Carolina modified drivers across the border to race here as the NC tracks where they usually run were caught up in restrictions. Over the weekend, the CARS Tour ran hot laps on the Franklin County track that would not have been on their schedule in normal circumstances.

The pandemic had cancelled many dates on the CARS schedule and Moonshine Capital Promotions was able to offer the track and a crowd. The CARS Tour runs at profile tracks such as South Boston, Langley, Caraway and more. It will be interesting to see if Franklin County can continue their partnership. It was certainly a good event this time around with AutosByNelson local sponsorship and Solid Rock Carriers as the series title sponsor.

TOP Three Division Finishers – Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour at Franklin County Speedway

AutosByNelson.com Super Late Model
1 – 26 Bubba Pollard – Harrison Workwear
2 – 51 Sammy Smith – TMC Trucking
3 – 56 Gus Dean – Mashonit Apparel

AutosByNelson.com Late Model Stock
1 – 14 Jared Fryar – Sterling Building Group
2 – 87 Mike Looney – A-1 Heating & Cooling
3 – 88 Connor Mosack – Nic Taylor Custom Fit

PHOTO GALLERY – AutosByNelson.com 250

Franklin County Speedway continues with their creative event presentation during a world pandemic. Virginia rules allow some discretion for outdoor events and the folks at Moonshine Capital / Franklin County Speedway took advantage of it. They invited the drivers and teams to come up from North Carolina and take on the little Franklin County track.

Bowman-Gray Stadium has a long history of Modified racing. However, it has been hit hard by the Covid confusion and issues over it. The organizers at Franklin County opened discussions with the racers over the border and the “Stadium Invasion” came into play.

The counts, the racing, the attendance… It was all fantastic and set inside the reality of the Virginia rules and guidelines for events in the current Covid situation. Franklin County Speedway seems to have been built for modified racing. It’s a little rough… It’s a little on the outlaw side… But it works!

Photo Gallery of Stadium Invasion 2020 at Franklin County Speedway – July 18, 2020

Franklin County Speedway took advantage of a window of opportunity. Outdoor events in Virginia with limited numbers in attendance were opened. The folks at Franklin County Speedway set up the precautions with rules of attendance and participation.

On June 13 drivers and teams came in to race after a long pause of down time. The dedication to the rules, either to make more racing possible for the season or for the general welfare and safety, was admirable for all involved.

See the Photo Gallery of the Covid Clash at Franklin County Speedway below!

The weekend at Richmond International Raceway resulted in a Toyota sweep and a diverse Sprint Cup Chase field. The Xfinity Series also has their new Chase field in place.

Kyle Busch put the #18 NOS Energy Toyota in Victory Lane Friday night in the Virginia 529 College Savings 250. For Xfinity drivers, the championship run will continue for: Erik Jones, Elliott Sadler, Daniel Suarez, Justin Allgaier, Ty Dillon, Brendan Gaughan, Brennan Poole, Brandon Jones, Darrell Wallace Jr, Ryan Reed, Blake Koch, Ryan Sieg.

Saturday night put on a good show for fans for the final race to the Chase. The race grew more tense as the laps wound down with contact, cut tires and a red light race stop that with a wild exit from a burning #14 by Tony Stewart. Several cars were damaged beyond repair with the #14 but Ryan Newman, David Ragan and one or two others were able to get back on track.

Denny Hamlin started on pole and also finished up front but over the course of the race Martin Truex, Jr. was in the lead for a good portion and looked like he might be able to bring it home for the #78 team. Cautions and restarts took their toll to put him in third at the checkers. Kyle Larson also took the lead for a bit but finished a very respectable second.

A green – white – checkered restart in overtime was a hole shot for the #11. Hamlin left the field by two car lengths at the drop of the green and drove unchallenged to the win.

PHOTOS: Xfinity VA529 College Savings 250

PHOTOS: Sprint Cup Federated Auto Parts 400

 

 

2016 is on the track for racing. The ROLEX 24 opened the season with speed, splendor and color at Daytona and the Daytona 500 is rapidly approaching. Speed Weeks at Daytona always showcase some changes but this year there are some differences the casual, tune in and watch’em go fast’ fan might not catch right away.

For the obvious, let’s look at the #24. The famous driver isn’t the driver anymore. Jeff Gordon is out of the fire suit and into the broadcaster suit. Gordon will be in the booth joining the FOX Sports NASCAR broadcast team. He will still be at the track but out of sight, for the most part, as he adds commentary and insight to the broadcast viewers.

In the seat of the #24 will be Chase Elliott. The son of Cup Champion Bill Elliott is taking the #24 for his full time cross over season from the Xfinity series (2014 Champion). Fans will also see NAPA Auto Parts as a major player on the 24 Chevy.

Tony Stewart. It is his final year as he announced near the end of the 2015 season. The kick is he won’t be there to start the season at Daytona or for a good portion of it. He injured his back quite severely essentially in a dune buggy type vehicle incident in January. Stewart is in recovery but the injury presents a long trek back to the track. To start out at Daytona, Brian Vickers has been tapped to drive the #14. Ty Dillon has also been named to take Stewart’s car out when other series do not conflict.

Danica Patrick and the #10. She will still be out on the track as part of Stewart-Haas but the GoDaddy is gone. That easy to spot green is replaced by another major sponsor for 2016. Nature’s Bakery will take the primary location on the #10 Chevy. We’re looking forward to some free brownie snacks at the track!

Clint Bowyer. You may not notice it as the sponsor and the number remain the same for Bowyer in 2016. The #15, however, is off a Toyota and on a Chevy as Michael Waltrip Racing fell under at the end of the last season and Bowyer caught a ride, with his number and 5-Hour Energy sponsor, at the small HScott Motorsports. It is a one year run for Clint as he has also been tagged to join Stewart-Haas for 2017 and take over the #14 as Stewart steps away to engage further in the owner gig.

As for the actual racing there are two changes that will become more obvious as the season gets under way. First and more noticeable will be a little less traffic on the track. NASCAR has cut the running field down to 40 cars from the 43 that had been running for almost 20 years. This means some of those tag-alongs will have to really step up their game to make the field on any given race day. Most of the fans might not even notice the loss of three cars as they are watching the front anyway.

The other change falls on those races that face late race cautions. In the event of a green-white-checkered finish, NASCAR has set a distance marker so it is clear that the start is indeed fair and clean. If the lead car passes this mark the “green” start will be held to race. If their is another caution before the leader crosses that mark then there will be another shot at a clean start. This could happen as many times as needed. Cautions with just a few laps to go are not uncommon so this will likely be put to the test for the drivers and the fans.

Oh…. One more thing while we’re on it. Look for the Wood Brothers and the #21 Ford at every race this season. They will be running a full schedule for the first time in several seasons. Ryan Blaney has the wheel of the Motorcraft #21 as we give a nod to one of the iconic teams in racing.

Go Racing – and try to keep up…

Phoenix had the eyes of NASCAR all day Sunday as the last chance “race in” was held by rare rain. While fans tuned in for the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 they instead were treated to a series of race replays showing the CHASE races and events that led up to the race at Phoenix. The victories and the eliminations, the crashes and the grudges that played out to set the circumstances of good drivers on the line or below it to advance to Homestead.
The big winner was the weather forcing NASCAR to start much later than intended only to cut the race when more rain came. The timing of the rain left the #88 of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. out front when NASCAR dropped the final red flag. That left many drivers out of it when there was still enough race left for the possibility of racing in. After a long day of waiting the weather also left fans a bit damp for not being able to see a full race and a real play of racing to the finish with those in contention to make the CHASE final four.
Jeff Gordon, winner at Martinsville after the Logano/Kenseth smash up, had the only CHASE advance win and will be joined at Homestead for a championship run by Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex, Jr. Following the delay and rain at Phoenix it was a points play for the three joining Gordon.
The championship run was ended for Joey Logano,  Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch. Logano has 6 wins in the season including the run of the three CHASE Contender races. Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch both have two season wins and Keselowski made the CHASE with one.
The four drivers going to Homestaed and the final championship race score with 4 wins with Kyle Busch, 3 wins with Kevin Harvick and one win each for Martin Truex, Jr. and Jeff Gordon. Gordon’s win was pivotal for the #24 team coming at a time when the retiring driver needed it most surviving to the Eliminator round and facing an uphill battle to stay.
The Sprint Cup championship is now on the line. Homestead and the season finale is coming up. Four remain to race for the cup. Thirty-nine others will be out there for a final season win to carry back to their sponsors and fans.
Go Racing!