Tony Stewart sounds off on qualifying, a rule change and his pet pig

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Tony Stewart took to the airwaves Tuesday night on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, discussing a variety of topics, including his thoughts on group qualifying at restrictor-plate tracks, his future as a sprint car driver, a rule change for the Camping World Truck race at Eldora and why his pet pig is called Pork Chop.

Teammate Kevin Harvick, the defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, joined Stewart on “Tony Stewart Live.”

Among the topics they discussed:

The Daytona 500 will feature group qualifying for the first time to set the front row and the starting lineups for the duel qualifying races.

“To be perfectly honest, I am not a big fan of that,’’ Stewart said of group qualifying at a restrictor-plate track. “It’s exciting to watch, but the thing that most don’t realize is that, first of all, you’re trying to be the last guy to come out (to get the aerodynamic advantage). Once those guys in the back get that run and make that first lap, the last thing they want to do is go ahead and run that next lap full throttle and give the guys they just passed the same opportunity.

“So what you have is guys dumping out of the throttle and closing rates that are not good at all. You can’t hardly see through the guy in from of you. If somebody does something three or four cars up there and your spotter can’t tell you about, it has a lot of potential to be, you know, bad.

“It’s qualifying. We have enough trouble wrecking cars at restrictor-plate tracks as it is. I do like the idea that it’s traditional as far as locking in the front row. I think that is something that is important. I think there’s ways that maybe in the future NASCAR could do a little different.

“I think all in all the whole qualifying format for the year was awesome. I thought that was one of the best changes and one of the easiest changes NASCAR had to make. It was a really, really good decision on their part. It brings a lot of excitement on Friday, I’m just not crazy about it at Daytona and Talladega.”

Stewart also was asked why he recently purchased the All-Star Circuit of Champions sprint car series.

“I’m not going to be in a sprint car for a while if ever again,’’ said Stewart, who was injured in a sprint car crash in 2013 and involved in a fatal sprint car incident last year. “This is a way to give back to the sport. I’m passionate about it.

“I’m really excited. I’m leaving for Florida (Wednesday) and getting ready for a good week down there in Ocala” with the series.

As for the Xfinity Series, Stewart and Harvick were asked on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio how many races they would run. Harvick said he would run 12 Xfinity races and “hopefully” some Camping World Truck races. Stewart said he had no Xfinity races planned for this season. Harvick said he also would work three Xfinity races in the TV booth.

Stewart shared some news on his show about the Eldora Truck race. Last year, 20 Trucks in the 30-Truck field were locked in. That won’t be the case this year. It was revealed on the show only five Trucks will be locked in this year.

“With only five locked-in positions, there’s a good opportunity to have more entries than we’ve ever had, if Trucks are available, because guys know they legitimately can race their way in much easier than they what they did the last two years.’’

Stewart and Harivick were asked what drivers other than Stewart-Haas Racing teammates have a chance to win the title.

“Jeff (Gordon) wants to go out on a high note,” Stewart said. “It would be crazy not to count him as a factor. Jimmie Johnson is always a factor. Dale Jr. is going to be a factory. Kasey (Kahne). I think the Penske cars were solid all year long.’’

Said Harvick: “I think Carl (Edwards) is probably going to have a lot of momentum.’’

Said Stewart: “It will be interesting to see how the restructuring at Joe Gibbs Racing has been as far as driver-crew chief combinations.’’

Stewart also got questions about his pet pig.

“The reason he’s named Pork Chop is because that was his first and final warning that if he did anything bad that that’s what he would become,’’ Stewart said. “He’s well exceeded the one warning and living to tell about it. He literally runs the show. He would be good in Washington because he’s really good at lobbying for food.’’

 

NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team
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As Formula E enters their ninth season and McLaren Racing is set to compete in last year’s championship winning car, Ian James is passionate about pushing electric motorsports forward at a critical stage as race technology begins surpassing that of the street cars.

Midseason, McLaren acquired the assets of the Mercedes-EQ team as they were already on their way to winning a second consecutive championship. With those assets in place and coming off a successful debut in the Extreme E series, James is set to usher in a new era in electric car racing.

Last week’s announcement that Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast behind the wheel of the NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team was the last piece of the puzzle.

McLaren’s electric portfolio is building with the Formula E team coming one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that series with growing pains during the first three of five rounds. Rounds 4 and 5 were a completely different matter with the team crossing the finish line first in Chile before being assessed a time penalty.

In the final round in Uruguay, they scored an elusive podium.

“McLaren kicked off the season in Extreme E at the beginning of this year, so our first [electric] race took place Neom, actually out in Saudi,” NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team Principal James told NBC Sports. “At the time, we were in very early discussions about opportunities with the Formula E team. I actually went out there to meet with Zak [Brown, CEO McLaren Racing] and that was my first taste of Extreme E.

“Since the transition, I joined them in Chile in Atacama Desert, and then Uruguay last weekend. [The second-place finish was] a lovely way to round out the season. The fact that they got that podium. It was very well deserved. It’s a great team and a great series actually. It’s just so very different from anything else. The team’s done a great job in getting set up, and it’s nice now to, we’re trying to use that momentum that we’ve got from Uruguay to get us into next season when it kicks off next year, which will be great. I think we’re mid-March is looking like the first race, so a little bit of time to get things prepped for that.”

 

James McLaren Formula E
The NEOM Mclaren Racing Formula E Team was created through the acquisition of last year’s championship team from Mercedes-EQ. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Synergies exist between the single seater and rally series. Lessons learned about battery power and sustainability in the electric SUV carry over so long as one is mindful of keeping focus on the individual needs and nuances of each series.

Especially now that electric racing technology has caught up, and is ready to surpass, the existing technology that has gone into building street cars.

When internal combustion engines gained the upper hand soon after automobiles were invented, racing paced alongside. The pressure of competition pushed the development of their commercial equivalents. The same has not necessarily been true of electric cars. Street cars were not designed to undergo the same stress as racecars – and that vulnerability showed up on the racetrack.

“Formula E has come along a long way,” James said. “I think one of the most notable developments is in the battery technology. In Gen 1, you had the drivers jumping from one car to another car midrace because the battery technology and capacity simply wasn’t where it needed to be to do the full distance. That obviously changed in Gen 2 and we saw a power increase as well to the 250 kilowatts.

“Now going to Gen 3, we have 350 kilowatts in a smaller battery. But that means that we’re relying on the regeneration of energy and for that reason, we’ve got also the opportunity to regenerate on the front axle as well as the rear axle now. So, there’s all sorts of things that are developing in the right direction.

“In terms of throttle response, actually, we’re now in a situation with electric racing and the motors that it’s instantaneous. And one of the advantages of electric over combustion engine is that the torque is instantaneous as well, so that gives you a lot more room to play with.”

No matter the power source, racing has always been about resource management. Drivers and teams select tire strategies they believe produce the fastest elapsed time and fuel conservation comes into play.

On one hand, electric racing is the same, but there is a critical difference. With the battery as both the power source and an integral part of the engine, there are multiple reasons to manage it.

In electric racing, the brain of the car is the software – and that is where James sees the greatest room for advancement.

“As we are working with our drivers and engineers – and start to look at functionality to improve our efficiency and our performance, that’s something we’ll continue to push because that development is open throughout the season,” James said. “That’s going to be our focus going forward and provides enough of a challenge for us to get our teeth into.

“What’s going to be fascinating is as Formula E continues, is to really look at which areas of development on the car are going to be the most relevant and ensuring that we can focus on those together with the manufacturers so we continue and use the series as a platform for technical development that can then feed back into the road car side of things as well.

“At the end of the day, that’s what motorsports always been, a very powerful tool for, and I see Formula E as no exception.”

James McLaren Formula E
Jake Hughes and Rene Rast were chosen for their ability to drive fast and execute the necessary strategy for energy management. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Selecting Rast and Hughes as McLaren’s Formula E drivers was not simply because they know how to drive fast. James believes both drivers have the mental aptitude to execute energy management strategies throughout the race and squeeze maximum performance.

“As with many other motorsports, you’ve got a certain amount of energy that you’re able to deploy during the race and the management of that energy is absolutely crucial,” James said. “What we’re seeing typically in electric motorsports now is the hardware side of things. The efficiencies that we’re seeing in the powertrain as a whole, they’re getting up to the sort of 96%, 97%, 98% efficiency, so the gains that you get through that further and further become more marginal.”

With much more room for improvement, software is a different matter. To make the best decisions, the drivers need data, and that is where James believes McLaren Formula E will make their greatest impact.

“And then you really switch that focus to the software and that’s where you’re going to see the most the most improvement and the most gains,” James continued. “It’s then using that software to ensure that you’re deploying the energy in the most efficient manner during race, and thereby giving the driver the most performance. And that’s something which is incredibly complicated, but I find it a fascinating area to work in.

“The benefit of being involved in racing is you can really push the envelope in a way that you can’t do on road cars. And I think that that’s where that value comes in. It means that you accelerate the development a lot quicker. We will get ahead of the curve – and we are getting ahead of the curve now – and that will mean that the electric motorsports remain part of the overall development process.

“The key to that is also making sure that the racing’s exciting and fun for the fans. If we can, we can tick both of those boxes, then it’s got a very bright future ahead of it.”