NASCAR: Is it time to start thinking about a Sprint Cup street race?

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Yesterday’s NASCAR Victory Lap parade down the Las Vegas Strip is always a fun part of Champion’s Week in Sin City.

All 16 of this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders cruised the Strip in their loud, bright, 3,400-pound machines and performed burnouts to the delight of onlookers both on the sidewalks and perched above on walkways.

The sight was as far away from the whole “turn left for 500 miles on some Southern-fried oval” image that the casual fan often has of the sport.

And it’s that casual fan that NASCAR is clearly aiming for at this point in time. The way that the new Chase format played out this fall was a good start, but if the sport wants to augment its loyal, longtime boosters with new ones, it’s gonna have to think outside the box a bit.

At this point, we’ve pondered the pros and cons of condensing race weekends, cutting race lengths, and staging mid-week races. And all of those options should be considered.

But allow me to throw another option on the table: A Sprint Cup street race.

Now, perhaps you are different from me. Perhaps you look at all the pictures and videos from yesterday’s parade down the Strip, and you don’t start dreaming of what would happen if new Cup champion Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, and the gang raced in anger through the streets of some urban metropolis.

But I do. And in my opinion, it would be an absolute blast.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The best racing in NASCAR either involves short tracks or the two road courses at Watkins Glen and Sonoma. In regards to the style of racing on those latter tracks, NASCAR’s road racing product stacks up very well now against those from other series.

But why not take that product directly to the people? For example, the Glen is in the Finger Lakes region of New York State, which is absolutely beautiful but not particularly near a major city.

How cool would it be to see an A.J. Allmendinger vs. Marcos Ambrose-style battle for the win in a city setting with fans jamming grandstands and walking all along the course? With as good as NASCAR road racing is, a sizable number of the curious newbies in the crowd are going to be impressed – and hooked.

The only big stipulation I’d have to impose on such a prospect would be that it has to be a day race. In other words, don’t try to be like Singapore in Formula One.

That race is the only night-time street race in F1 and in that series, the novelty still works. Here in the U.S., we’ve overdone the night races to the point where their uniqueness has long faded away. Sunlight, not portable lights, please.

Let’s hear what you have to say about this idea. Would you be fine with a Sprint Cup street race, and if so, which city do you think would be best suited for such an event? Leave your comments below, just keep ’em clean.

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

Petit Le Mans championship
IMSA
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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”