Pia Toscano, Billy Ray Cyrus and Elvis (kind of) have Auto Club Speedway president excited

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Auto Club Speedway track president Gillian Zucker’s personality makes her typically one excited individual — but she’s gone to almost a hyper-speed level of excitement this weekend.

Sure, she’s hosting about 75,000-plus fans at Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Auto Club 400 at the ultra-wide, two-mile Southern California track.

But Zucker has a ton more activities that will encompass the entire race weekend.

Look at Sunday’s lineup alone: potential line dancing to Billy Ray Cyrus (thankfully, without daughter Miley) during a pre-race concert, Pia Toscana singing the National Anthem, the Muppets’ Great Gonzo as grand marshal (and he’ll make his entry being shot out of a cannon) and Olympic medalist skier Bode Miller and volleyball pro wife Morgan will serve as honorary race starters.

And then there’s the – literally – the piece de resistance: Elvis imitators selling chicken pieces in a brand new and aptly-named track restaurant, “Love Me, Tender” (as in the top thing on the menu, chicken tenders).

Oh yeah, and there’ll be a NASCAR Sprint Cup race to boot, on what its track president calls “almost unquestionably the best surface in NASCAR.”

Zucker has so much going that she’ll wax effusively and tell anyone who’ll ask.

One of those was KERN radio morning host Scott Cox, who spent nearly 15 minutes on-air with Zucker Thursday on the Bakersfield, Calif. station’s “First Look” program.

(FYI, Bakersfield is also the home town of NASCAR stars Kevin Harvick and Casey Mears).

Check out the video version of Zucker’s interview with Cox below, and you might want to take notes because we don’t think there’s anything she missed – and there’s lots to remember – about this weekend’s fun-filled weekend.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

IndyCar: Turn 5 gives drivers fits in Friday’s second practice at Barber Motorsports Park

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You’ve heard of the Fast Six in IndyCar, right?

Well, Friday’s second practice session for Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of Alabama was the Frustrating Five – Turn 5, that is.

It almost might be easier to list those drivers that were not bitten by the cantankerous turn on the 2.3-mile Barber Motorsports Park layout in Birmingham, Alabama.

Close to 10 drivers in the 23-driver field suffered issues in the turn, ranging from running off the grass and back on, to getting stuck and having to be towed out, to suffering damage.

But by the time the one-hour session was over, Josef Newgarden took a big step towards defending his win from last year’s race there, being fastest in Friday’s second of two practice sessions.

Newgarden covered the 2.3-mile permanent road course in a speed of 122.786 mph at a best lap time of 1:07.4345 minutes.

Spencer Pigot was second (125.599 mph/1:07.5372), followed by Sebastien Bourdais (122.129 mph/1:07.7971), Will Power (122.107 mph/1:07.8092) and last week’s winner at Long Beach, Alexander Rossi (122.065 mph/1:07.8326).

Sixth through 10th-fastest were Scott Dixon (122.044 mph/1:07.8445), Ryan Hunter-Reay (121.975 mph/1:07.8829), Takuma Sato (121.652 mph/1:08.0628), Marco Andretti (121.579 mph/1:08.1040) and Graham Rahal (121.572 mph/1:08.1076).

Now, speaking of all the incidents, here’s a list.

INCIDENTS:

* Right after rookie Matheus Leist spun early in the session in Turn 5, fellow rookie Zach Veach spun with about 45 minutes left in the session in Turn 5. Graham Rahal had to take evasive action to miss Veach.

But that wasn’t all, as Sebastien Bourdais followed in almost the same spot with a spin of his own roughly a minute later, and then Gabby Chaves also had his problems in the same turn, going into the grass but avoiding the gravel.

* Simon Pagenaud joined his Penske Racing teammate Josef Newgarden in the Turn 5 gravel. Newgarden spun into the gravel in the first practice session.

* Rookie Rene Binder, who has struggled in his inaugural season, continued to have issues, running into the wall and causing damage to the front end, needing a tow truck to get him righted.

It appeared Binder snapped part of the front suspension in the incident.

* Turn 5 saw James Hinchcliffe and Tony Kanaan run off-track late in the session, but they were able to continue.

ALSO OF NOTE:

* The third and final practice of the weekend will take place Saturday morning at 10:50 a.m. ET, followed by qualifying beginning at 4:05 p.m. ET, to be televised live on CNBC (with an encore performance at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN). The race, to be televised live Sunday on NBCSN, is slated to start at 3:30 p.m. ET.

* However, the weather forecast does not look promising for Sunday’s race. As of 1 p.m. ET today, the forecast calls for 100 percent rain throughout the day.

* Dixon has had an incredible record at Barber Motorsports Park, with seven podium finishes in eight starts there. Except for one thing: he has yet to win a race there. But he does have five runner-up and two other third-place showings on the permanent road course.

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