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Fontana Race Becomes Covid Victim

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, December 10 2020

Auto Club Speedway has been taken off the 2021 NASCAR schedule. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

Reacting to a spike in COVID-19-related cases in California, NASCAR has dropped Auto Club Speedway in Fontana from its 2021 Cup and Xfinity series schedules.

NASCAR has adjusted two race weekends immediately following the 63rd running of the Cup Series season-opening Daytona 500 on the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, Feb. 14. All three national series will now remain in Florida to run a tripleheader on DIS’ Road-Course Feb. 19-21 before the Cup and Xfinity Series head down to Homestead-Miami Speedway on Feb. 27-28.

The realignment has created historic back-to-back weekends at the “World Center of Racing” to start the 2021 NASCAR season.

The Cup and Xfinity series races on DIS’ 3.61-mile/14-turn road-course/oval hybrid will replace the events originally scheduled for Auto Club Speedway on Feb. 27-28. The Camping World Truck Series race is realigned from the event originally scheduled at HMS on Friday, Feb. 19.

Auto Club Speedway is located approximately 50 miles east of Los Angeles in Southern California. The state is in the midst of an unprecedented surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Without immediate action, many hospital Intensive Care Units (ICU) will reach capacity before the end of the year.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued a Regional Stay Home Order instructing all individuals living in California to stay home or at their place of residence, except for permitted work, local shopping or other permitted errands, or as otherwise authorized.

The Regional Stay Home Order, announced Dec. 3 and a supplemental order signed Dec. 6, went into effect the day after a region was announced to have less than 15 percent ICU availability. The supplemental order clarified retail operations and went into effect immediately. They prohibit private gatherings of any size, close sector operations except for critical infrastructure and retail and require 100 percent masking and physical distancing in all others.

Once triggered, these orders will remain in effect for at least three weeks. After that period, they will be lifted when a region’s projected ICU capacity meets or exceeds 15 percent. This will be assessed on a weekly basis after the initial three-week period.

In an effort to plan ahead, NASCAR has not rescheduled the Cup and Xfinity races on Auto Club Speedway’s 2-mile oval in 2021. 

After consecutive race weekends in Daytona, Cup and Xfinity teams will make the trek down I-95 to Homestead-Miami Speedway one week later than originally scheduled, rounding out the Florida swing Feb. 27-28.  Following the events at HMS’ 1.5-mile layout, the Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck series all will compete on Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s 1.5-mile oval as originally planned March 5-7.

Last August, NASCAR’s top-tier series made their first appearances on the DIS Road-Course, home to the Rolex 24 At Daytona, North America’s premier race for sports cars since 1962. Recently crowned NASCAR Champions Chase Elliott (Cup), Austin Cindric (Xfinity) and Sheldon Creed (Truck) all were victorious during the history-making events in 2020 on the layout that incorporates portions of the track’s high-banks and infield road-course. 

“Daytona International Speedway is known for iconic moments, and last year’s historical, first NASCAR road-course races were incredibly exciting and added to the legacy of the World Center of Racing,” Speedway President Chip Wile said in a statement. “It was also great to see our trio of winners go on and hoist championship trophies at Phoenix (Raceway). We’re thrilled to have all three series back.”

FOX Sports platforms will carry coverage of all aforementioned race weekends, including annual coverage of the Daytona 500 on the FOX Network.

NASCAR and DIS officials confirmed last week the Daytona 500 will be run before a yet-to-be determined “limited number of fans” on Feb. 14. DIS lists its seating capacity at 101,500, making it the seventh-largest fan venue on the NASCAR circuit.

Like the events scheduled for Daytona Speedweeks Presented by AdventHealth (Feb. 9-14), all three DIS Road-Course races will have limited fan capacity and abide by health protocols.

As a result of the seating capacity limitations, the Speedway will work to accommodate guests who have already purchased tickets to the 2021 version of the Daytona 500, “The Great American Race.” To ensure social distancing between groups, many fans will be re-seated in new locations. The re-seating process is expected to be completed by early January.

All guests will be screened before entering the facility and be required to wear face coverings while maintaining six-feet social distancing throughout. Detailed fan information, including all ticket options and safety protocols, can be found at www.DAYTONA500.com/updates or calling 1-800-PITSHOP.

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Tickets for Speedweeks events, and a limited number of premium and extended-stay camping packages, remain available. The complete schedule:

_ Tuesday, Feb. 9: 43rd annual Busch Clash at Daytona (DIS Road-Course under the lights)

_ Wednesday, Feb. 10: Daytona 500 Qualifying Presented by Kroger

_ Thursday, Feb. 11: Duel at Daytona qualifying races

_ Friday, Feb. 12: NextEra Energy Resources 250 (NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season-opener)

_ Saturday, Feb. 13: NASCAR Racing Experience 300 (NASCAR Xfinity Series opener) and Lucas Oil 200 Driven by General Tire (ARCA Menards Series) doubleheader

_ Sunday, Feb. 14: 63rd annual Daytona 500 (NASCAR Cup Series opener)

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Crew chief assignments for Kyle Busch Motorsports’ three fulltime 2021 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series teams were announced Tuesday in Mooresville, N.C.

Eric Phillips, winningest crew chief in Truck Series history, returns to the organization and will guide newcomer John Hunter Nemechek and the No. 4 Toyota Tundra team. Danny Stockman, who returns for his second season at KBM, will call the shots for Chandler Smith and the No. 18 team. The organization also has added Mardy Lindley to oversee the No. 51 Tundra to be driven by team-owner “Rowdy” Busch and drivers to be determined.

Hired by KBM in 2010 to lead the No. 18 team in its debut season, Phillips helped build the organization before departing at the end of the 2014 campaign. Under his guidance, the No. 18 team won eight races during its inaugural season and became the first team in Truck Series history to capture an Owner’s Championship in its first campaign. In 2014, Phillips led the No. 51 crew to an Owner’s Championship and his team’s 10 wins spearheaded KBM to a single-season Truck Series record of 14 wins.

Phillips’ 37 career Truck Series victories make him the winningest crew chief in the category, with 27 of those wins scored with KBM. Additionally, Phillips has nine career victories atop the pit box in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

Stockman led the No. 51 team to four wins during his first season at KBM in 2020. Stockman came to the organization with experience as a crew chief in all three national series, including a Truck Series championship with Austin Dillon at Richard Childress Racing in 2011 and an Xfinity Series championship with Dillon in 2013. Stockman’s Xfinity drivers totaled seven wins and 19 poles from 2012-2018. After last season, his Truck Series totals stand at eight wins and 13 poles.

Lindley has guided his drivers to 32 wins and four ARCA Menards Series East championships since 2013, including back-to-back titles with Sam Mayer the last two seasons. Additionally, he earned the ARCA Menards Series Sioux Chief Showdown championship with Mayer this year.  Behind the wheel, the second-generation driver won 11 races on the Pro Cup Series from 2000-2006 and was crowned the series champion in 2001.

The 2021 Truck Series season gets underway with the NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway on Friday, Feb. 12. 

Since debuting in 2010, KBM has established itself as one of the most successful teams in NASCAR. Owned by two-time Cup Series champion Busch, the organization owns the Camping World Truck Series records for most career wins (80) and most wins in a single season (14 in 2014). In addition to collecting a series-record seven Owner’s Championships, KBM has produced two championship-winning drivers _ Erik Jones (2015) and Christopher Bell (2017).

KBM prepares its fleet of Toyotas out of a state-of-the art, 77,000-square-foot facility in Mooresville, N.C.

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, December 10 2020
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