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
The two-day Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test concluded on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Combined times after the two days of running are below, with Nico Jamin (Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires) and Oliver Askew (Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires) remaining on top from Saturday to Sunday, and Darren Keane (Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda) supplanting Andres Gutierrez at the head of that field.
Previous notebooks are linked here (Friday, Saturday), with additional Sunday notes to follow.
Several drivers pulled double duty between series, namely Parker Thompson (Exclusive Autosport in Pro Mazda and USF2000), Carlos Cunha (Juncos Racing in Indy Lights and Pro Mazda) and Aaron Telitz (Team Pelfrey in Pro Mazda, RJB Motorsports in USF2000). Telitz (above) added a run in Pro Mazda in Team Pelfrey’s No. 82 car; the Wisconsinite has done a lot of the series’ testing for the new Pro Mazda Tatuus PM-18, and had hoped to run all three series. We’ll have more meanwhile on Thompson and Exclusive’s double in the days to come; the Michael Duncalfe-led team out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan was one of three new Pro Mazda teams adding those cars to USF2000 efforts (Pabst Racing, BN Racing) this week.
There were a handful of drivers that changed cars or teams for Sunday’s second day of the test, primarily in USF2000. While Keane ran both days at Newman Wachs, the Brian Halahan-managed team ran David Osborne and Oscar DeLuzuriaga in the Nos. 37 and 38 cars, taking over from Jake Craig and Max Peichel. Osborne switched from Team Pelfrey, where he ran Saturday, and where Jacob Loomis ran Sunday. Justin Gordon ran a second Exclusive Autosport chassis, switching to the No. 90 on Sunday after running the No. 92 Saturday.
The PM-18 best lap set by Askew is more than three seconds faster than the series’ official track record (Pato O’Ward in 2016, at 1:22.8800, 105.941 mph). Askew’s best time of 1:19.8142 averages 110.010 mph around the 2.439-mile circuit. Neither the Indy Lights nor USF2000 cars eclipsed the existing lap records in those categories.
Drivers largely extolled the PM-18’s outright pace and potential with the horsepower upgrade, in what is a significant step forward for the series. “Following prototype testing of the new PM-18, I believed that we had a special race car and this weekend’s testing confirms that,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “Based on team and driver comments, this is a fantastic race car and I am very pleased with what Tatuus, Elite Engines and my team have assembled. It fits perfectly in between the USF-17 and the IL-15 in terms of lap times and, more importantly, it takes what a driver learns in the first step and introduces higher HP, higher grip and higher aero. This will be a great training car for years to come, and seeing our program now with three excellent and well-designed cars is very satisfying to me.”
Keane, one of the few veterans (relatively speaking) within USF2000 was plugged in this weekend as the only driver outside Pabst Racing to threaten the top of the timesheets. “It’s a good boost in confidence for me heading into next year. I am really happy with how everything is going with the team. They are a great group of guys and it’s just really good to see us improving and being where we want to be,” he said.
Rinus Veekay hailed the Indy Lights Dallara IL-15 Mazda this weekend in his first test there, although the talented Dutch teenager may well focus on Pro Mazda next season and shoot to win that championship, and continue his battle with Askew established in USF2000. “The car is very nice, quick,” noted VeeKay. “You can really feel the downforce and it was a pleasure to drive.”
The MRTI is done with official running for the year, but the $200,000 MRTI Scholarship Shootout remains in December at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, the former Firebird Raceway, outside Phoenix. The winner of that will get a ticket into USF2000 for the 2018 season.
Full MRTI spring training will take place at Homestead-Miami Speedway in February 2018, with undoubtedly a bevy of driver and team announcements to come over the following months.