NASCAR’s Final Weekend at Racing Gems

FONTANA, Calif. (AP) — For most of the NASCAR Cup Series drivers, this weekend feels like saying goodbye to a dear old friend.

The racetrack at Auto Club Speedway seems to be a favorite of every professional driver on the continent. These spectacularly weathered two miles of asphalt allow the racer to be his best self, nimble maneuvers in perfectly banked corners, thrilling passes from apron to wall and sometimes his Provides the ideal combination of grip and space even for 5-wide races. An almost memorable Sunday quarter century.

“I miss everything about this track,” Martin Truex Jr. said. “I hope I can go out feeling great at the end here.”

In fact, the second race of the current Cup season will be the last before this beloved pavement is ripped open, ostensibly to make way for the short track course. Fontana said he won’t be hosting a NASCAR weekend in 2024 and the new setup may not be ready until his 2026.

So this breakup is happening under the clouds – there are actually a lot of them.

Heavy rain with intermittent light snowfall Forced to cancel practice and qualifying Saturday. The Xfinity Series race nearly started while it was raining, but was eventually postponed to Sunday night after rain again with temperatures of 41 degrees (5 degrees Celsius). rice field.

Meanwhile, drivers remembered the freedom and speed they enjoyed on a sunny day in this industrial suburb east of Los Angeles.

“For me, it’s a driver’s dream,” said Ryan Blaney. “It’s a big racetrack. . And it’s a wide track where drivers can look for grip. ”

Jimmie Johnson, from Southern California, won six times here. Kyle in Las Vegas He Bush has won four times. Most of the great drivers of the last 25 years in the Cup His Series, IndyCar and CART Series have ended up in Victory Lane in Fontana.

But soon the bumpy backstretch, rough asphalt and competitive corners are gone. NASCAR, which owns and operates the facility, plans to redesign its short track starting in 2020 to keep up with the latest trends in stock car racing.

Any faint hopes of reprieve seemingly vanished when the Sports Business Journal reported that NASCAR had reached an agreement to sell about 80% of its massive property for a nine-figure sum. It is unclear if the short track plan will materialize under new owners.

Drivers find themselves beyond their control whatever happens after Sunday or Monday depending on the weather.

Joey Logano said, “Maybe the first reaction is sad. But business is business, and how can you go against that? do you not accept?

“And here’s the part where it feels a little better. Yes, the racing here is spectacular. It’s probably one of the best tracks we’ve had. But the fact is, it’s getting old. “If you put it back together and leave it as it is (configuration), the race will be terrible. It’s just the end of an era.”

Future of Fontana

Defending champion Kyle Larson said: “I’m sad it’s over, but on the flip side, I’m really excited about what’s to come. “We need shorter tracks to make our sport better. I applaud everyone at this racetrack for reconfiguring it and taking financial risks to improve facilities, spectators and the sport.”

Drivers are divided on what they want to see next in Fontana. Some prefer the half-mile (0.5-mile) track and create a bumpy and short-tempered race to earn his TV ratings, while others prefer a little change.

“I’m not sure we really need the extra half a mile,” Truex said. “Something within a mile from there would be good.”

loser weeper

NASCAR hopes Sunday’s respite from the spectacular storm, but that’s not the only problem. Even if the rain stops, old asphalt is notoriously difficult to dry for the weepers.

“The truck is definitely going to be sad. It’s being demolished, so obviously it’s going to cry,” grinned Alex Bowman.

Harvicks 750TH

Kevin Harvick is back at the track closest to his native Bakersfield. His 29th start, his record at Fontana, doubles his 750 consecutive Cup starts. This is the third longest winning streak in Cup history.

Harvick said he doesn’t think too much about Milestone – if so, it’s just maddening that the numbers aren’t high because of his suspension in 2002 due to rough driving. Harvick, 47 is still happy to be back with one of her favorite tracks.

“It’s always a pain to see a racetrack go away while it’s still in the fun-to-drive stage because it’s never going to be asphalted like that again,” he said.

don’t you practice?no problem

Drivers used to this circuit are not worried after being taken off track on Saturday by the weather.

“Everybody’s gotten used to it,” Larson said of the year of the pandemic.


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