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Drivers Getting Shifty at Darlington

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 8 2022

Ross Chastain climbs into his car at Darlington. Drivers will be shifting gears at the South Carolina short track. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

DARLINGTON, S.C. – When the drivers said they were shifting at Martinsville Speedway it was a surprise, but it turns out that’s not the only oval where the competitors have been shifting with the Next Gen car Martin Truex Jr. revealed Saturday.

In fact, they’re shifting at Darlington Raceway, something Truex described as “really not that odd” and “not a big deal.”

“The sequential gearbox shifts really, really easy,” Truex said. “Certain tracks, you’re shifting as you’re driving into the corner and it’s a little bit tricky to get that timing down with the deceleration and the engine braking and the brake pedal and turning into the corner with one hand. So there’s a lot going on at one time with these things.”

Truex noted they haven’t shifted everywhere. It’s confined he said to tracks, like Darlington, where “you’re using some brake getting in the corner and your center of the corner speeds are slower.”

“Where you’re not just near wide open or carrying a lot of momentum we’re shifting,” Truex explained. 

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Kevin Harvick acquired a first-hand view of the Miami Grand Prix Formula One scene Friday and he said “there were a lot of things that surprised” him, including the number of people and the amount of money spent on hospitality and entertainment.

“It was the first time I’ve ever been to an F1 race and race weekend and to see the way that it was built, structured and laid out in a parking lot was pretty impressive,” Harvick said.  

“We actually spent practice in the garage. The Mobil One folks were gracious enough to take us into the First Step and Chikeko garage. That’s Keelan’s guy (Max) Verstappen, so he was pretty jacked up about being able to just watch the procedures and how everything went during practice. 

“It was impressive to see (even) more because they were having some problems in the garage yesterday (Friday) and bodywork on, bodywork off, tires on, tires off, in-and-out trying to fix some issues.” 

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Seven-time NASCAR champion Richard Petty will wave the green flag to start Sunday’s Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway and Petty GMS Racing driver Erik Jones said Saturday he’ll sneak a peek at the flagstand to see if Petty is holding his signature Charlie 1 Horse cowboy hat with one hand while waving the green flag with the other or if he’ll take off the hat.

“If there’s no hand on the hat, the hat’s gonna be on the race track for sure,” Jones said. 

Before arriving in Darlington for Sunday’s Goodyear 400, Jones spent time with his car owner on the Kyle Petty Charity Ride, an experience he described as “awesome.”

“I had never been out to Utah much, Monument Valley and Sedona, Ariz., where we ended yesterday (Friday) was great,” said Jones, who owns a Harley Street Glide. “I’ve ridden for a few years, but never really a long ride like that, so it was just awesome to meet all the riders and spend some time with them.

“Kyle (Petty) was awesome, super inviting. Took me right into their wings and added me on the ride like I’ve been there the whole time.” 

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 Kyle Busch said Saturday he had not asked NASCAR about a wavier should he need to miss a race for the birth of his and wife Samantha’s second child this month. NASCAR requires a driver to compete in every race in order to participate in the playoffs unless granted a waiver. Previously, the only waivers granted have been for either injuries or a positive COVID test requiring a quarantine.

Trevor Bayne has been named Busch’s substitute should he need to miss a race. Busch said Saturday he was briefing Bayne after exiting the car. Busch, who was not involved in Bayne’s selection, noted missing a race was always a hard decision.

“I think you can live down missing a race, but you’ll never live down not being there for the birth of your kid,” Busch said. 

The couple has dealt with infertility issues for eight years and this time are using a surrogate.

“Samantha said a little while back … her not being able to carry and her not being the one pregnant, she feels like the husband in her pregnancy because she’s not feeling the changes. She’s not going through the internal things that you get while being pregnant,” Busch said. “So, if she’s the husband, I guess I’m the next step down from that, whatever that is, I’m not sure.”

Even though Busch described it as being “a bit removed”, he said he was involved with the planning, doing things around the house and preparing for the baby’s arrival.

“I’ve asked her now two weeks in a row, ‘Are we ready? We ready?’ So, I think we’re ready.”

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 8 2022
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