Sports In The Pits: NASCAR caps 2021 looking ahead to future growth

00:45  30 november  2021
00:45  30 november  2021 Source:   msn.com

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The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series is the 73rd season for NASCAR professional stock car racing in the United States and the 50th season for the modern era Cup Series.

Nascar on Fox analyst Larry McReynolds attended two test sessions for the Next Gen racecar, set to debut in 2022. Nascar 's new racecar is the sport's chance to regain the momentum it once had, and America's crew chief believes the car and the sport itself is ready. While McReynolds has been retired for more than two decades, he’s stayed active in the sport. Not only does he continue to serve as in the analyst role for Nascar on FOX, but he is also constantly seen in the garage, chatting with drivers and crews to understand the latest technology being utilized.

NASCAR will close its season this week with a three-day celebration in Nashville that ends with the crowning of three new national series champions in Kyle Larson, Daniel Hemric and Ben Rhodes.

  In The Pits: NASCAR caps 2021 looking ahead to future growth © Provided by The Canadian Press

NASCAR will do burnouts on Lower Broadway near popular honkytonks Doc Holliday's Saloon and Bootleggers Inn. Its 2022 cars will be on display at Riverfront Park and drivers will participate in Q&A sessions before the finale Thursday night at the Music City Center.

Then attention turns to the pivotal upcoming season.

Among the issues facing NASCAR is its Next Gen car, set to debut in February following a yearlong delay during the pandemic. The series also wants to continue tweaking its sprawling, 38-week schedule, which now includes more short tracks, more road courses and a dirt race — but puts the season finale at Phoenix Raceway for a third consecutive year next season despite calls to rotate the championship event.

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NASCAR then headed west to Phoenix, extended the swing a week with a stop in Las Vegas, then headed back home. Next up on the schedule was Sunday's stop at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee, once one of the most coveted tickets in NASCAR . The track has been one of the hardest hit since the 2008 economic downturn. A streak of 55 consecutive sellouts was snapped in 2010 and attendance for the spring race has dwindled every year. Some fans blamed a 2007 track reconfiguration for ruining the racing, and there were complaints about high hotel rates. Both reasons are valid and true.

NASCAR reconstructed the safety team response and said a paramedic had entered Newman's car 35 seconds after it came to a stop and was working on the driver the entire time. The unsettling moment of Newman's extraction came when the safety team brought out several black screens in an attempt to In the roller-coaster week of completing the rain-delayed Daytona 500, tending to Newman and shifting the series across the country to Las Vegas, the NASCAR community showed its unwavering support for its family. Helton was one of the first to arrive at the hospital and Newman was either visited or called

NASCAR understands it must improve its at-track experience for fans and recognizes the urgent need to showcase its competitors and create interest in its current driver crop, which has generally lacked pizzazz since Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and Danica Patrick retired.

The answer could be a behind-the-scenes docuseries and cameras could potentially be in Nashville this week collecting footage.

Many racing series are chasing the docuseries idea since Formula One and Netflix partnered on the “Drive To Survive” program that has helped the sport explode in popularity in the United States. NASCAR President Steve Phelps was hopeful earlier this month that discussions with NBC Entertainment could lead to a show that chronicles the 2022 season beginning as early as the February exhibition race in Los Angeles.

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NASCAR instituted the Charter System in 2016 to help stabilize the sport. The charter system made NASCAR and the teams more equal partners, and gave some of the smaller teams a little more security going forward. Some teams have fallen on hard times. F1 realized the importance of aerodynamics in the 70’s and 80’s. Their teams initially used facilities at universities, many of which could only accept up to 40% scale models and worked at lower wind speeds. In the 90’s, the bigger teams built their own wind tunnels that were specialized to F1 racing, ran at high speed, and could accommodate full-sized

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“I think actually if we’re able to get a few contracts signed in the next couple weeks, they will begin production in December,” Phelps said. "They will be at the L.A. Coliseum. There’s a decent possibility that they will not just look at us as a segmented period of time like they were going to do in the playoffs, but they’ll extend it to potentially the entire season. We are encouraged.”

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NASCAR needs its fans to care about its drivers, and it needs its superstars to be accessible to those who invest — both emotionally and monetarily — in the sport. Although NASCAR was one of the first sports to resume competition during the pandemic and the first sport to complete its entire 2020 season, its events have been anything but normal.

To get to the finish line a year ago, NASCAR scrapped all qualifying and practice sessions and three-day weekend events became one-day shows in front of fewer fans. Drivers mostly went directly from their motorhomes to the race car with little engagement with their own race teams, let alone any spectators.

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Both NASCAR and Pit Boss support an atmosphere of family and friendship and are supported by a common community of individuals who are passionate about those same principles. We‘ve seen continued successes for our brand within the sport over the last two years and look forward to The NASCAR Official Partnership renewal solidifies the future of Pit Boss Grill‘s involvement in the sport. Through the extended partnership, Pit Boss Grills will expand its activation across NASCAR -owned race tracks, bringing its presence to 18 at-track activations across the NASCAR schedule in 2021 .

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Policies fluctuated based on virus positivity numbers — and Phelps himself admitted the vaccination rate in the garage is “not high enough... to me, there’s a responsibility that individuals have to each other” — but some normalcy had returned by the final two races of the season. Martinsville had one of its largest crowds in years and Phoenix saw the return of practice, qualifying and spectators freely roaming the Arizona garage area earlier this month.

Phelps wants the same Phoenix energy level at all of NASCAR’s races and the series hopes to ensure fans get the most bang for their buck.

“We need to make sure that the marketing and promotion is as strong as it can be. We need to make sure we are driving storylines,” Phelps said. “We need to make sure the event experience is better than it’s ever been. Are we satisfied with where that is? We’re not.”

Restrictions will still be in place this week in Nashville, the second year NASCAR chose The Music City for its awards show. The weeklong event in 2019 was wildly popular, and drivers could be spotted up and down Lower Broadway at many of the popular downtown bars.

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The awards ceremony was canceled last year. Its return to Nashville promises plenty of opportunities to see the Next Gen car but few organized chances to get close to the drivers. Public tickets were not sold to Thursday night's coronation of Larson as Cup Series champion, Hemric as Xfinity champion and Rhodes as the trucks winner.

But by the time NASCAR opens the 2022 season, one week ahead of the NFL's Super Bowl in February at the Coliseum for the exhibition Busch Clash, Phelps expects enthusiasm for the new season to be soaring.

He believes NASCAR will draw “an unbelievable crowd at the Coliseum” and upward of 40% in the stands will be attending their first Cup race. NASCAR showed in 2021 it will make bold changes to the schedule — Phelps called this season the “most aggressive schedule we’ve had in 50 years" — and its plans to continue growth rolled into Los Angeles the day after Larson won his first Cup title so he could promote the Busch Clash.

Larson is NASCAR's first champion of Asian descent, and the Cup Series now includes Mexican driver Daniel Suarez and Bubba Wallace, the only fulltime Black driver at the national level. Larson, Suarez and Wallace all graduated from NASCAR's diversity program, and Phelps said series leadership will continue to reach out to new fans.

“We are going to expand the fan base. We’re doing it by meeting people where they are, whether that’s physically at a racetrack or through other mediums. There’s such great opportunity for us," Phelps said. “Going to the L.A. Coliseum to kick off our debut with our Next Gen car is a proof point, frankly, that we’re going to be bold in what we’re doing. Whether it’s the schedule or the car... we’re going to take calculated risks.”

Jenna Fryer, The Associated Press

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