Truex : “Our team is ready to go” for Richmond

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With his fractured right wrist in a new cast, Martin Truex Jr. is ready to grit his teeth again this weekend at Richmond International Raceway with his Chase hopes on the line once more.

Truex held on to the second Wild Card spot that transfers into the Chase by virtue of a painful but rewarding third-place result last weekend at Atlanta. Even so, he only holds a five-point edge over Ryan Newman for that Wild Card.

And with both having one win each this regular season – Truex at Sonoma, Newman at Indianapolis – the two drivers will be a focal point in tomorrow night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 that will determine who goes on to race for a Sprint Cup this fall.

But when asked if a part of him only feels like he has to come out ahead of Newman to make the Chase, Truex replied in the negative.

“That’s not a guarantee either,” said Truex on Thursday. “Somebody could fall out of the Top 10, be ahead of us, take that spot. We need to go out there and do what we can. The best way to go out would be to go out and win the thing.”

Truex had an opportunity to win at Atlanta, but was unable to get past eventual race winner Kyle Busch after a restart with 21 laps to go. Had the battle gone to Truex, his Chase chances would’ve been in much better shape going into tomorrow.

Another near-miss that Truex is thinking about as he ponders over his 2013 campaign is Texas. Back in April at “The Great American Speedway,” he led 142 laps and was out front going into the final pit stops of the night.

But Kyle Busch was able to beat him off pit road, and then pulled away from Truex in the race’s closing laps to win. It still pains him.

“That’s the one I thought about this week,” Truex admitted. “Damn, if we could just have Texas back, if we could have won that race – it wasn’t that difficult, should have just done it.”

“That’s the way it is in this sport. It’s so difficult, so tough. You’re always thinking back. I can count up hundreds of points in my head that we’ve given away this year, [and] very easily could have gone a different way.”

But for Truex and the rest of the Chase hopefuls, Richmond represents a chance for redemption. Get in the Chase and the anxiety will give way to clarity: Ten races, one champion – may the best driver win.

“Our team is ready to go,” Truex insisted. “For us, it’s important to focus on doing our jobs, trying to go out front, do the best job we can, not let what others dictate how we call the race.

“We have a good plan going in. I feel good about our chances and hopefully, it will happen.”

INDYCAR announces several rules and protocol changes for 2018 season

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The 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series opener is still more than six weeks away (March 11, St. Petersburg, Florida).

But several rules and protocol changes that will impact much of the 17-race season were announced today by INDYCAR officials.

First is related to Indianapolis 500 qualifying on May 19-20, one week prior to the 102nd running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing:

* Driver and entrant points will be awarded to the top nine qualifiers for the race. The pole winner earns nine points and the second-fastest qualifier eight points, with awarded points decreasing by one point for each position down to one point earned by the ninth-fastest qualifier.

* Race points for the Indianapolis 500 and the 2018 season-ending Grand Prix of Sonoma on Sept. 16, will still pay double the normal points for driver and entrant.

There are several other changes on tap for the season, as well.

Here’s a quick rundown of those changes (information courtesy of INDYCAR):

  • The qualifying order for all oval track events except the Indianapolis 500 will be determined by entrant points entering the event. The qualifying order will run in reverse order of entrant points, with the highest in entrant points qualifying last. A car without entrant points will be placed at the front of the qualifying line. If more than one car has no entrant points entering an event, a blind draw among those cars will determine their qualifying order at the front of the line. The qualifying order for the Indianapolis 500 will still be determined by a blind draw.
  • Times have been set for the series-wide open test at ISM Raceway (formerly Phoenix Raceway), scheduled for Feb. 9-10. The track will be open to all cars from 3-6 p.m. and 8-11 p.m. ET both days. INDYCAR has also added four hours of track time on Feb. 8 (3-7 p.m. ET) for rookie drivers to complete their oval test assessments.
  • The series-wide open test at Portland International Raceway will be held Aug. 30, a day prior to the beginning of the Grand Prix of Portland race weekend. Indy car racing returns to the Pacific Northwest for the first time in 11 years in 2018.
  • A schedule change for the month of May will see the INDYCAR garages closed on May 13 – the day after the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course – to allow teams time off for Mother’s Day. The track will not be open to the public on this day. The garages will be open on May 14, but there will be no on-track activity.
  • Practice for the 2018 Indianapolis 500 begins Tuesday, May 15 on the IMS oval, with the first two hours open for rookie orientation and veteran refreshers, then to all cars. Practice continues May 16-18, ahead of qualifications weekend May 19-20.
  • INDYCAR is granting teams that did not participate in fall manufacturer testing with the universal aero kit an additional half day of private testing. The testing is limited to one car per team and must take place in conjunction with the team’s first on-track test of 2018. Each team is permitted five hours of track time and two sets of Firestone tires.
  • Working with Firestone, INDYCAR has increased the tire allotment at five events. The race weekends at ISM Raceway (Phoenix), the Raceway at Belle Isle Park in Detroit, Texas Motor Speedway, the streets of Toronto and Iowa Speedway will see teams receive an additional set of tires. In a related change, drivers outside the top 10 in the point standings will no longer have an extra set of tires available to them for the opening practice session of a race weekend.
  • The minimum car weight for 2018 has been increased by 10 pounds – to 1,620 pounds for road and street courses and short ovals, 1,590 pounds for superspeedways (both do not include fuel, drink bottle and its contents, driver and driver equivalency weight) – to accommodate for new parts and additional on-car cameras related to the universal aero kit all competitors will run in 2018.