Joey Logano fastest in Sprint Cup Happy Hour, Jimmie Johnson woes continue as he hits wall

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CONCORD, N.C. – When you’re hot, you’re hot – and when you’re not, you’re not.

NASCAR’s hottest driver, Joey Logano, has won two of the last three races in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

And by being the fastest in Friday’s Happy Hour practice at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Logano took a big step towards potentially making it three out of four in Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 on the 1.5-mile fast track.

Logano topped the 43-driver field with a best speed of 190.597 mph.

“It’s not fast enough, for sure,” Logano said. “It was fast for one lap. … I don’t think we’re that bad, we’re just trying to get the balance a little better.”

And then there was the opposite end of the spectrum: six-time and defending Sprint Cup champ Jimmie Johnson. After running 63 laps, Johnson reportedly planned to take two more laps when he pushed his Chevrolet a bit too much, hitting the outside retaining wall.

It’s not much consolation but Johnson, who is last in the standings and in dire need of a strong finish in Saturday’s race, was eighth fastest (189.354 mph).

Johnson, crew chief Chad Knaus and team owner Rick Hendrick surveyed the damage to see if it was repairable or whether they’d have to go to a back-up car.

But in a post-practice interview with ESPN, Johnson said it appears the damage is minimal and, more importantly, fixable.

“The car’s really fast,” Johnson said. “We were feeling really good about things. The good news is that it’s just a big scratch. Just a little drama.”

If the car would not been able to be repaired, Johnson would have to start at the back of the field in Saturday’s race – and with a car that has not had any on-track time this weekend.

Kurt Busch, who was eliminated from the Chase after falling short of advancing past the first round of eliminations, was second fastest at 190.463 mph, followed by Kevin Harvick (190.087) and Jeff Gordon (190.007), the only other drivers to exceed 190 mph.

Brad Keselowski, who slipped to 10th in the 12-driver Chase standings after this past Sunday’s race at Kansas, was fifth fastest (189.893 mph), followed by Denny Hamlin (189.687) and another driver who was eliminated after the first round of the Chase, A.J. Allmendinger (189.553), followed by Johnson.

Roush Fenway Racing drivers Carl Edwards (189.308) and Greg Biffle (189.188) brought up the rear of the top 10.

From 11th through 20th were Aric Almirola (189.095), Paul Menard (189.076), Austin Dillon (189.062), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (188.043), pole-sitter Kyle Busch (189.023), Matt Kenseth (188.976), Tony Stewart (188.587), Martin Truex Jr. (188.521), Kasey Kahne (188.449) and the slowest Chase driver in the pack, Ryan Newman, 20th fastest at 188.350 mph.

Clint Bowyer was 21st fastest (188.245), followed by Jamie McMurray (188.075), Justin Allgaier (187.702), Brian Vickers (187.474), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (187.227), Michael McDowell (187.968), Danica Patrick (186.961), Marcos Ambrose (186.948), Landon Cassill (186.896) and Kyle Larson (186.864).

Then came the back of the pack from 31st through 43rd: Cole Whitt (186.361), Reed Sorenson (186.290), Alex Bowman (186.765), Casey Mears (185.491), David Gilliland (185.459), Michael Annett (185.058), Josh Wise (185.052), Corey LaJoie (184.887), David Ragan (184.250), Brett Moffitt (182.574), Timmy Hill (182.550), JJ Yeley (181.849) and Blake Koch (181.439).

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Inside IndyCar’s iRacing revolution: Oliver Askew, team take it seriously

SimMetric Labs
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No laps have been turned in the NTT IndyCar Series this season, yet rookie Oliver Askew incessantly is analyzing fresh lap data with his Arrow McLaren SP team.

For the past two weeks, Askew has turned hundreds of laps in iRacing at Watkins Glen International and Barber Motorsports Park, and his support team meticulously has scoured the data in real time.

Race engineer Blair Perschbacher, assistant engineer Mike Reggio and strategist Billy Vincent are connected via all the software and timing systems that are on Askew’s real-world No. 7 Dallara-Chevrolet. After every run, numbers instantly are crunched, and Askew debriefs with his crew on improving the handling of his car in search of every fraction of a second as he would in real life.

WATCH: IndyCar iRacing Challenge, 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday, NBCSN or streaming here

The only difference is Askew is sitting inside a simulation rig housed by a 45-foot trailer in West Palm Beach, Fla., while each team member is in an Indianapolis area home.

“They basically set up their own timing stands in their living rooms,” Askew told NBCSports.com. “It’s awesome.”

It’s the new reality for IndyCar, which will play host to the second round of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge at 2:30 p.m. Saturday (NBCSN) at virtual Barber Motorsports Park.

Last Saturday, Askew started and finished fifth at Watkins Glen International, where he practiced with the advisement of his team for more than 15 hours in the SimMetric Driver Performance Labs simulator. Despite a relative sim racing newbie, Askew, 23, finished only two spots behind Will Power, who has more than 1,500 starts and 150 victories on iRacing road courses.

Askew already has practiced for more than 10 hours this week in his simulator for Barber, where he hopes to make the podium against a 29-driver field that will include many champions and winners.

“We’re taking this very seriously,” he said. “You can tell by the results at Watkins Glen. You know which drivers have built their sims properly. How much they’ve been practicing. Those are the guys who finish up front.

“I’m still trying to represent everyone. It’s cool we have the same paint scheme. We’re just trying to represent Arrow and our partners the best as possible. We know they’re all watching, and it seems the viewership is going up.”


The Jupiter, Florida, native has found an edge through his friendship with SimMetric Driver Performance Labs, which is based in nearby West Palm Beach, Florida. Askew and SimMetric CEO Greg De Giorgis met last year through mutual friends. Last year, Askew had done a few simulator sessions before winning the 2019 Indy Lights championship (and graduating to the ride with Arrow McLaren SP).

With an official simulator partnership in the Road to Indy program, SimMetric’s CXC Motion Pro II simulator travels in a trailer to racing events around the country, providing drivers with extra preparation time for the real world.

The full-motion simulator includes a motion system developed by drivers and engineers, hyrdaulic brakes and force-feedback steering system. Though at the high end for simulators available to the general public, it retails for much less than the seven-figure simulators used by auto manufacturers with race programs.

“While time in a driving simulator will never fully replace real seat time, sim seat time can go a very long way in supplementing the seat time a driver gets,” De Giorgis told NBCSports.com in an email. “With three added benefits you don’t get in the real car: Significantly lower cost per hour, no risk of bodily harm or damage to the car, and of course, no limitations on time.”

There are some limitations for how much Askew can practice, though. A schedule was set up last week so the team, Askew and De Giorgis (who helps run the simulator and maintain communications with the team) could work together while also maintaining self-isolation with their families.

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The trailer with the simulator is parked indoors at the Riviera Beach, Florida, shop of Extreme Velocity Motorsports, which also has an unofficial affiliation with SimMetric.

“We’re practicing social distancing and making sure the trailer and everything is clean,” Askew said. “We’re taking that very seriously. It’s still a job for me, so I need to get what I can out of it.”

He’s gotten a lot from it despite a lack of experience. The team can compare simulation data from iRacing to real-world historical data from past races and test sessions.

Reggio handles fuel data, and Simpson monitors strategy and timing. While setups are fixed for the iRacing IndyCar Challenge, Perschbacher is able to work with brake bias. “He’s just trying to bend the rules as much as we can,” Askew said. “We’ve done a lot with brake bias. That’s pretty much all we can change.”

Fans also can watch Askew practicing via a YouTube channel provided by De Giorgis, who has chatted with viewers about the car’s laps in real time during the streams that are available by clicking here.

Fans will be able to find a live stream of Askew’s race Saturday by clicking here.


It’s all relatively new to Askew, who doesn’t even have a sim rig at his Indianapolis home. His previous sim experience mainly came on the Chevrolet simulator in Huntersville, North Carolina.

“Honesty, for me personally, I’m a little late to the party,” Askew said. “I don’t think a lot of people realize that. I’m young and they assumed I’ve been doing this. I’ve never even had my own iRacing account before. Guys like (McLaren driver) Lando Norris, (Watkins Glen winner) Sage (Karam), all these guys have been streaming live on Twitch and have been running iRacing for multiple years now.

“ It’s a great way to get fans engaged in the race weekend and get eSports get bigger and bigger every year. Very interesting moving forward. It’s cool that IndyCar has dipped their feet into these waters now. Even once the season starts, I wouldn’t be surprised if we do more of these races.”

If so, he and his team have learned to keep an eye on Power, a real-world ace on road courses. During some practice races Thursday, Askew thought he’d done well by qualifying third, but Power then put a half-second on the field by winning the pole position.

“Will is unbelievably quick and does the same things in real life as well,” said Askew, who did turn the fastest lap in the practice race. “He just pulls it out somehow. That’s where the engineers and our staff in Indy come into play because they’re able to watch his on-board in real time and replay his on board to figure out what he’s doing to get the most of out of his car in the video game.

“It gets the creative juices flowing again. It’s still very different from real life, but I think we’re going to be able to start the season a little more fresh than we would have without this.”

Chris Graythen / Getty Images