NHRA

NHRA cuts Pro Stock competition from 24 to 18 national events in 2019

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In a major and surprising move, the National Hot Rod Association on Saturday announced that it will reduce the number of national events that the Pro Stock class competes in during the 2019 season.

Long a staple of the 24-race NHRA national event tour, the Pro Stock class will now run in only 18 events in 2019.

In a media release, the NHRA said “competitors believe (18 races) is the ‘sweet spot’ of the category.’”

Josh Peterson, NHRA vice president of racing administration issued a statement on behalf of the sanctioning body:

“We think the new schedule will increase participation by relieving the economic burden and time commitment that comes with 24 events, which will ignite more intense competition.

“All of that should make for compelling action and drive fan interest.”

The majority of races that will be eliminated from the Pro Stock schedule are from their usual place in the early-to-middle part of the season.

For example, following the DENSO Spark Plugs Four-Wide Nationals in Las Vegas April 5-7, Pro Stock doesn’t return to action until more than a month later in the Virginia Nationals, May 17-19, in Richmond, Virginia.

Events and tracks that will no longer have Pro Stock compete at their venues are: the Springnationals in Baytown, Texas; the Four-Wide Nationals in Concord, North Carolina; the Southern Nationals in Commerce, Georgia; the Heartland Nationals in Topeka, Kansas; the Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, Tennessee; and the New England Nationals in Epping, New Hampshire.

The Top Fuel and Funny Car classes will continue to compete in all 24 national events next season, while Pro Stock Motorcycle will also continue its 16-race schedule.

Here is what the revised schedule looks like for 2019:

NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock Schedule:

* Feb. 7-10 Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals Pomona, Calif.

* Feb. 22-24 NHRA Arizona Nationals Phoenix

* March 14-17 Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals Gainesville, Fla.

* April 5-7 DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals Las Vegas

* May 17-19 Virginia NHRA Nationals Richmond, Va.

* May 30-June 2 Route 66 NHRA Nationals Chicago

* June 20-23 Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals Norwalk, Ohio

* July 19-21 Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals Denver

* July 26-28 NHRA Sonoma Nationals Sonoma, Calif.

* Aug. 2-4 NHRA Northwest Nationals Seattle

* Aug. 15-18 Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals Brainerd, Minn.

* Aug. 28-Sept. 2 Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals Indianapolis

NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs:

* Sept. 12-15 Dodge NHRA Nationals Reading, Pa.

* Sept. 27-29 AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals St. Louis

* Oct. 11-13 NHRA Carolina Nationals Charlotte, N.C.

* Oct. 17-20 AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals Dallas

* Oct. 31-Nov. 3 NHRA Nevada Nationals Las Vegas

* Nov. 14-17 Auto Club NHRA Finals Pomona, Calif.

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View from the pits: Reporters’ picks for the 103rd Indianapolis 500

INDYCAR / Jason Porter
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It’s Race Day in Indianapolis, and for the first time, the Indianapolis 500 will be on NBC.

Time will tell what impact Mother Nature has on today’s 103rd Running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. But no matter what, prerace coverage begins today on NBCSN at 9 a.m. ET, then transitions over to NBC at 11 a.m. ET.

All month long, the INDYCAR on NBC pit reporters have been bringing you the latest breaking news and stories for the Brickyard. Now, Kevin Lee, Kelli Stavast and Marty Snider share their insights from pit road. Read on …

KEVIN LEE

Throughout the last two weeks, one common theme has been, “Don’t crash.” There were five crashes, and four of those teams/drivers ended up in the Last Row Shootout. Two of the three bumped (Patricio O’Ward and Fernando Alonso) were in backup cars following heavy impacts.

Several drivers have consistently been among the strongest. Simon Pagenaud (pictured, left) not only starts on pole but has been strong in race trim as well. All three Ed Carpenter Racing cars are fast and appear good in traffic. Alexander Rossi looks like he can put his car wherever he wants, and Scott Dixon has five championships and 44 IndyCar wins, so he must be watched.

In order, my picks for most likely to drink the milk are Pagenaud, Rossi, Ed Carpenter, Will Power and Dixon.

KELLI STAVAST

A week ago, no one could have predicted that two-time world champion Fernando Alonso and McLaren Racing would be bumped from the Indy 500 by a single-car, part-time effort of Juncos Racing and its driver, Kyle Kaiser (pictured, right).  But it happened, and Kaiser now occupies the 33rd and final spot in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

So what next?  I spoke with Kyle five days after the dramatic qualifying effort, and he told me he has never been happier to finish last and that he is still “buzzing” from that experience—an energy he hopes to carry straight through to the race.  He also told me that the response from fans has been positive with people stopping him in public (including at Chipotle) to hug him and congratulate him on making the Big Show.

But reality might have set in for the Californian who now lives in Indy.  During Carb Day’s final practice, the team struggled to get a good handling car for Kyle, who described the day as “challenging.”  But Kaiser also acknowledged that the team made some progress throughout the practice and at the very least collected some data that might help for the 500-miler on Sunday.

Whether he finishes 1st or 31st on Sunday, Kyle Kaiser and Juncos Racing will have plenty of fond memories to carry with them from the 103rd Indy 500.

MARTY SNIDER

First, we cannot wait to bring you guys the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500. It’s an honor for our entire group to broadcast such an amazing event.

So what do we expect? I have no idea, to be honest. The weather will be a huge factor today. It might be a race to halfway if rain is forecast.  If it’s cooler (mid 70’s ambient, which it looks like it’s going to be), Alexander Rossi (pictured, left) was unstoppable in those conditions last Monday.

But Rossi was very unhappy with his car on Carb Day. For that matter, most teams were. But Rob Edwards of Andretti Autosport explained a few things to Rossi about all of the experimenting they were doing in final practice, and I think that team is in a much better frame of mind heading into the race.

I find it interesting that Simon Pagenaud’s team scuffed in literally every set of tires they will use for today’s race. The No. 22 camp is convinced (and they’re not wrong) that one of the keys to Will Power’s 2018 win was his ability to gain time on out laps after pit stops. Scuffing in tires helps that out lap time. It also allows teams to do a balance check on tires. Good thing they did: Kyle Moyer of Team Penske found two sets that had vibrations, which would have been bad in the race.

Bottom line, I haven’t seen anyone really stand out and show me they can beat Alexander Rossi yet. So I’m going with Rossi to win his second Indy 500.

Enjoy the show friends. It’s going to be a fantastic race!