Minimal changes for 2014 Sprint Cup schedule

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Outside of a couple of already announced changes, next year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule will look very much like this year’s docket.

Darlington Speedway and Kansas Speedway have swapped dates for their spring events, with “The Lady In Black” moving from its Mother’s Day weekend spot to Sat., April 12 and Kansas moving to Sat., May 10. Both events will be night races.

Also, Texas Motor Speedway’s spring race has moved from its normal Saturday night running to the afternoon of Sunday, Apr. 6 in order to avoid a conflict with the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four, which will play on Saturday and Monday in nearby Arlington, Texas.

Additionally, NASCAR has also announced that its new Air Titan track drying system – which reduces drying time in the event of rainfall – will be available at every Sprint Cup race weekend in 2014.

“Having the Air Titan at each NASCAR Sprint Cup Series weekend allows us to meet a very important goal set by our Chairman and CEO, Brian France: To drastically decrease track-drying time to the best of our ability and ensure our fans in the stands and those watching on TV get to see each race on its scheduled day,” said NASCAR senior VP of racing operations Steve O’Donnell in a statement.

Here’s how next year’s schedule will shake out:

2/15 – Daytona International Speedway (Sprint Unlimited)
2/16 – Daytona International Speedway (Daytona 500 Qualifying)
2/20 – Daytona International Speedway (Duels)
2/23 – Daytona 500
3/2 – Phoenix International Raceway
3/9 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway
3/16 – Bristol Motor Speedway
3/23 – Auto Club Speedway
3/30 – Martinsville Speedway
4/6 – Texas Motor Speedway
4/12 – Darlington Raceway
4/26 – Richmond International Raceway
5/4 – Talladega Superspeedway
5/10 – Kansas Speedway
5/17 – Charlotte Motor Speedway (NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race)
5/25 – Charlotte Motor Speedway
6/1 – Dover International Speedway
6/8 – Pocono Raceway
6/15 – Michigan International Speedway
6/22 – Sonoma Raceway
6/28 – Kentucky Speedway
7/5 – Daytona International Speedway
7/13 – New Hampshire Motor Speedway
7/27 – Indianapolis Motor Speedway
8/3 – Pocono Raceway
8/10 – Watkins Glen International
8/17 – Michigan International Speedway
8/23 – Bristol Motor Speedway
8/31 – Atlanta Motor Speedway
9/6 – Richmond International Raceway

CHASE FOR THE SPRINT CUP
9/14 – Chicagoland Speedway
9/21 – New Hampshire Motor Speedway
9/28 – Dover International Speedway
10/5 – Kansas Speedway
10/11 – Charlotte Motor Speedway
10/19 – Talladega Superspeedway
10/26 – Martinsville Speedway
11/2 – Texas Motor Speedway
11/9 – Phoenix International Raceway
11/16 – Homestead-Miami Speedway

Josef Newgarden wins for 3rd time in 4 years in rain-shortened Honda Indy GP of Alabama

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Given how well he’s done there, they may want to consider renaming Barber Motorsports Park to Newgarden Motorsports Park.

Josef Newgarden won for the second straight year and third time in the last four races at BMP to capture Monday’s rain-delayed Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

“I like it here,” Newgarden told NBCSN. “We could do the whole series at Barber. That’d be great.”

Newgarden won his ninth career IndyCar race on what he considers his home track, just three hours from his home north of Nashville, Tennessee.

Monday’s race on the 2.3-mile, 17-turn permanent road course was a timed event of 75 minutes after Sunday’s rain-postponement after 22 laps of the scheduled 90 laps.

As it turned out, both ends of Sunday’s start and Monday’s finish, a total of 82 laps were contested.

Rain once again became an issue in about the last 15 minutes of Monday’s rescheduled event but Newgarden – who started from the pole – made a stop for rain tires with 14 minutes left and that proved to be the winning strategy. He also regains the lead in the IndyCar point standings from Long Beach winner Alexander Rossi.

“The rain made it more eventful than I would have liked,” Newgarden told NBCSN. “We had good fuel mileage and good reliability, that’s what we needed to win this race.

“It seemed like smooth sailing for the most part — we had no yellows, which we were hoping for no yellows — and then the rain crept in. … Fortunately, we had a big gap, which helped us win the race, just building that gap over the beginning part. … It’s a great day for Team Penske.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay finished second, followed by Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens, with Sebastien Bourdais finishing fifth.

“Solid weekend for us,” Hinchcliffe said. “Two cars in the top 10 in qualifying and two cars in the top 5 in the race. Pretty proud of these boys. It’s good to get a couple Hondas up there. Maybe not the top steps in the podium, but we took the rest of it.”

Bourdais had hoped to finish the race on slicks and win. But he was forced to pit with 7:15 left after his car became too difficult to control in heavy rain, swapping to rain tires.

Unfortunately, pitting essentially cost Bourdais the win.

“We were in the catbird’s seat for second and were hoping that he’d get some good times on the drives in the wet, but the wet just kept coming and we had to bring him in,” team owner Dale Coyne said.

Added Bourdais, “We’re in it to win it, did everything we could, it was seemingly going to be good enough. … I think we had beaten (Newgarden). Yet, the sky opened and that was it.”

Scott Dixon finished sixth, followed by Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato, Simon Pagenaud and Marco Andretti.

Eleventh through 20th were Rossi, Matheus Leist, Zach Veach, Jordan King, Spencer Pigot, Rene Binder, Gabby Chaves, Tony Kanaan, Zach Claman De Melo and Ed Jones.

Rounding out the final three finishing positions were Will Power, Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball.

INCIDENTS:

* Spencer Pigot and rookie Zach Claman De Melo got into a tangle early on, but both were able to get going and damage appeared minimal.

* With 8:30 left, Rossi spun into the Turn 5 gravel but was able to get going.

ALSO OF NOTE:

* Will Power’s team was able to get his damaged car repaired and he was back on-track roughly 10 minutes into Monday’s action.

* Scott Dixon lost much of the electronics on his car with about 28 minutes left. He essentially had to handle things old school, going by feel. He wound up being penalized for speeding on pit road when his dashboard went out.

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