Auto Club Speedway track surface set to factor into MAVTV 500

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FONTANA, Calif. – One of the oddities of the Auto Club Speedway is that the track surface, while rough and tumble for NASCAR that has produced great racing in recent years, has made for one of the more challenging oval events for the Verizon IndyCar Series.

In particular, the track surface comes up and peppers the cars and drivers.

On Friday, drivers discussed the concerns they have about going through tearoffs and how they need to manage them throughout Saturday night’s MAVTV 500 (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra).

“There’s something with the track and debris, it’s always been that way,” said Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2012 series champion and reigning Indianapolis 500 winner. “I wish there was something you can do with the vacuuming with the extraction of the gravel. It’s literally gravel. I had marks on my hands.

“We’re gonna have to have a tearoff strategy, more than a fuel or tire strategy,” he added. “You’re gonna have to have restraint. Every one is priceless. If I had my way it’d be every 10 laps, but you’ll have to make it last a stint and a half. It’s not even dirt, I think it’s just particles of the track. Seems to be getting worse in recent years.”

Hunter-Reay tweeted this picture of the buildup after Wednesday night’s test session.

Andretti Autosport teammate James Hinchcliffe said this is a serious issue that will need to be dealt with.

“I’m gonna try to track down thinner, multilayer, tearoffs, because I had to drive through the bottom of my visor,” he said. “My last one for 20 laps, the visor was written off. It’s a genuinely serious concern. The problem is what we’re seeing isn’t just dirt or dust. You can send a blower out, but it’s not normal debris we see at a race track.”

Ryan Briscoe offered a measured response.

“It seemed like a lot of sand the other night, but we didn’t notice it so much today,” said the driver of the No. 8 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. “I’m not sure if from the track, or the steel mill, but there’s a lot of it man. It’s like rain with spray, there’s a lot coming off the car.”

Less worried were Ed Carpenter and Charlie Kimball, a past Auto Club Speedway winner (Carpenter in 2012) and a driver who nearly won here last year (Kimball).

“I don’t think there needs to be the complaining, it’s the same for everyone,” Carpenter said. “We will just have to pass cars earlier than what I was hoping for.”

Added Kimball, “Vision could be an issue. With 22 of us to start. It’s gonna be challenging. But with attrition and as guys spread out, it shouldn’t be too bad.”

We shall see how the drivers handle the conditions on Saturday night.

Supercross: Talon Hawkins to debut in Houston in relief of Jalek Swoll

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Talon Hawkins, 19, will make his Monster Energy Supercross debut on a 250 this week in Houston, Texas as a fill-in rider for Jalek Swoll.

During the Anaheim 2 weekend, the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team announced Swoll underwent successful surgery to repair a broken arm suffered in a practice crash.

That same weekend, Hawkins made some noise. He took the lead from teammate Casey Cohran on Lap 2 of the 250 SX Futures Main and led for three laps before he was overtaken by eventual winner Daxton Bennick. Cochran also got around him to push Hawkins to third.

This will not be Hawkins SuperMotocross professional debut, however; he made three Lucas Oil Pro Motocross starts last year with results of 19th at Spring Creek in Millville, Minnesota, 27th at Ironman in Crawfordsville, Indiana and a best finish of 17th in the season finale at Fox Raceway in Pala, California.

Hawkins also has a top-10 finish in the 125 All-Star division at Pala in 2019 riding a Husqvarna.

Speaking with RacerXOnline.com before the Loretta Lynn Amateur Nationals, Hawkins predicted his future with Husqvarna would come down to how he performed in that race.

“It all just comes down to how I perform at Loretta’s,” Hawkins said. “Say I do really well, I get a top three in both classes and do a pretty solid job, I would like to go pro and just kind of finish out the rest of the series. But there’s also the option of waiting a little bit longer, going back out to [Aldon] Baker’s [Factory] or going anywhere and training, and just being prepared. I’m also open to that too. Honestly, it’s whatever the team wants. Whatever we think is the best option is what we’re going to go with. So, I don’t really have a plan right now, just looking into the future.”

Hawkins finished third overall in the 125 B/C and Schoolboy divisions at the Loretta Lynn Amateur Nationals.