NASCAR is within the midst of its most severe transformation since its high drivers went from moonshiners racing from the legislation to athletes racing for prizes. Gone are the times when working bumper to bumper over a 2½-mile superspeedway was sufficient to attract followers.
In NASCAR 2.0, the race is simply a part of the present. This weekend’s Busch Conflict on the Coliseum, the exhibition opener to NASCAR’s seventy fifth season, contains a fan fest, VIP packages, two hip hop live shows and Sunday’s 150-lap race round a quarter-mile monitor.
Justin Haley was quickest at 67.099 mph in Saturday afternoon’s single-car qualifying, which set the sector for the 4 25-lap warmth races Sunday. These races will decide the lineup for the 27-car race, which can be run underneath the lights round performances by Cypress Hill and Wiz Khalifa.
“We reside in a day and age now the place we get bored tremendous straightforward. You come to occasions like this, it’s important to have leisure,” mentioned driver A.J. Allmendinger, the two-time defending Xfinity Sequence regular-season champion. “On the finish of the day, yeah, the race might be nonetheless an important factor. That’s why we’re all right here.
“However I grew up in open wheel and once we had been in Champ Automobile we at all times mentioned the race was virtually, in a means, secondary to the celebration. You’ve bought to make it an environment. That’s what these Cup races needs to be. We’ve bought to make it enjoyable for individuals to point out up and need to be there and have leisure all through the entire weekend.”
NASCAR has apparently taken that message to coronary heart. For practically 20 years the sequence included a 400-mile race on a 1½-mile tri-oval exterior Chicago. When it returns to that metropolis in July, the race can be run on a avenue course, wedged in between 4 full-length live shows.
“This can be a two-day racing and music competition. That’s how we’re selling it,” mentioned Julie Giese, former president of Phoenix Raceway and the individual NASCAR had tapped to placed on the Chicago occasion. “These live performance bulletins had been actually the beginning of it. So it’s racing. Nevertheless it’s a lot extra.
“To me, that is simply that continued evolution of the place we need to take that race expertise. In the end, it’s a race weekend, however layering on a variety of different issues to permit individuals to expertise it nevertheless they need.”
It’s not like NASCAR is broke. The Cup Sequence’ TV broadcasts averaged 3.7 million viewers per race in 2022, a 24% enhance in family share since 2018, and eight of the 36 races bought out. However the sequence is altering simply the identical. The introduction of the Subsequent Gen automotive final yr had a constructive affect on parity, with 19 drivers registering wins and the common margin of victory simply 1.011 seconds.
As well as, the evolution of the NASCAR schedule is constant. Along with NASCAR’s first avenue race in Chicago and the All-Star Race at historic North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway, there can be road-course occasions in Austin, Texas, in March, in Sonoma, Calif., in June and at Indianapolis and Watkins Glen, N.Y., in August. And there have been ongoing discussions of taking the Cup Sequence worldwide with England, Mexico and Brazil among the many potential areas.
In the meantime a few of the conventional occasions on the home calendar are transitioning as nicely. Auto Membership Speedway’s two-mile banked monitor in Fontana has been a part of the NASCAR schedule since 1997, however after the race there on Feb. 26, the monitor can be transformed to a half-mile oval. And the race can be simply one of many issues considered in the course of the redesign.
“There’s a variety of issues from a fan factor that we’re engaged on, whether or not it’s the golf equipment, the fan interaction-type areas, the storage areas, the monitor itself, attempting to determine what makes probably the most sense,” mentioned Dave Allen, the speedway’s president. “There’s a variety of items that issue into the general expertise. However the fan expertise past the race monitor is simply as vital, if no more vital, to make it possible for they’re comfy.”
That fan expertise can also be why NASCAR, for the second straight yr, is kicking off its season with a 37.5-mile dash across the Coliseum flooring reasonably than the extra established Daytona 500.
“It’s what extra tracks have to go to,” mentioned driver Ty Dillon, the grandson of legendary staff proprietor Richard Childress and brother of 2018 Daytona champion Austin Dillon. “This present day we’re hooked on being glad on a regular basis, in some ways. We’ve bought to step up with the instances.
“We not solely deliver new and completely different crowds right here for the live performance, but additionally NASCAR followers may benefit from the live performance. Reaching new followers in an awesome market, there’s no draw back to that. We are able to present individuals who we’re within the subsequent technology of NASCAR.”
Justin Haley, Kyle Busch high qualifiers
The 36 race vehicles entered the Coliseum for Saturday’s follow periods and qualifying via the tunnel within the southwest nook of the stadium, the identical one Heisman Trophy winners Mike Garrett, Reggie Bush, Marcus Allen and Gary Beban as soon as used, and the identical one Joan Benoit charged down on her method to profitable the ladies’s marathon on the 1984 Summer season Olympics.
Solely this time the athletes had been behind a steering wheel and Haley, with a 13.413-second lap, was quickest within the two-lap single-car qualifying earlier than a sparse crowd on the 100-year-old stadium. He can be on the pole for the primary of 4 warmth races Sunday with Kyle Busch, Christopher Bell and William Byron — the following three quickest Saturday — beginning first within the different three races.
“Our lap was simply dominant,” Haley mentioned.. “I really feel fairly assured about the place we’re. It’s clearly a superb place to begin the season. Undecided why we’re so good right here. I want I had this a lot expertise in any respect the races.”
The highest 5 finishers in every of Sunday’s 4 heats will seize spots within the last. The remainder of the 27-car discipline for the exhibition race can be crammed out in two last-chance qualifiers.
“The cool half about this race has nothing to lose, proper?” Haley mentioned. “We’re not factors racing or something; simply type of placing all on the road. So it’s positively a unique mentality. And I feel the warmth race format is cool. I nonetheless haven’t misplaced the warmth race, so I’ll attempt to preserve that streak going.
“Tomorrow’s going to be a protracted day and I’m excited for it.”
Russell Wilson hopes to stay with Broncos, wants to win 2 more Super Bowls
Russell Wilson finished his second season with the Denver Broncos on the bench as the team failed to make the playoffs for the eighth straight year.
While it appeared that the Broncos could be on the way to trading Wilson, Denver head coach Sean Payton said in January the team was still mulling a “final decision” on the quarterback.
Wilson told Brandon Marshall on the “I Am Athlete” podcast he wanted to stay with the Broncos.
“I’ve got more fire than ever, honestly, especially over the past two years and what I’ve gone through,” the 35-year-old Super Bowl champion said. “Whether it’s in Denver or somewhere else. I hope it’s in Denver. I hope I get to finish there. I committed there. I want to be there.”
He added that he wanted to win at least two more Super Bowls in the next five years.
“For me, it’s about winning. In the next five years, I want to win two,” Wilson said. “I want to feel the chill of that trophy again. I love the city and everything else, but you also want to be in a place that loves you, too. I want to win, that’s all I care about.”
Wilson was benched for the final two games of the season. He also revealed the Broncos approached him during the team’s bye week and informed him that he would be benched unless he reworked his contract.
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According to Wilson, the conversation revolved around the guarantee against injury in his five-year, $245 million contract he signed last year. The contract kicks in next season.
Wilson has an estimated $37 million salary in 2025, which becomes fully vested in March. If the quarterback suffered a significant injury at any point in the season, it would complicate his financial situation, NFL Network reported.
Payton and Wilson appeared to have a hot and cold relationship throughout the season. Cameras caught Payton yelling at Wilson on the sideline multiple times during the season.
The high point of the quarterback-coach relationship came during a five-game winning streak. Wilson lifted the team to three straight wins after the bye week before the Broncos dropped three of their next four games.
Denver finished 8-9 on the year. It was the most wins they’ve recorded since its nine-win season in 2016.
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Tyronn Lue aiming to fix what ails Clippers after another double-digit loss
After seeing so much decline in his team’s recent play, Clippers coach Tyronn Lue is determined to find a solution.
His potential fix? More practice.
In the wake of the Clippers’ 123-107 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Sunday night at Crypto.com Arena, Lue will have plenty of justification for pushing his players in practice over the next two days.
The Clippers have struggled since the All-Star break, their defense barely to be found and their offense stagnant. They are 1-2 since the break, with both losses coming by double digits. They lost by 22 points on the road to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday.
Lue said his practice sessions will have a simple theme: “Just get better.”
“We’re going to practice the next two days just to make sure we understand what we need to do on offense and what we need to do on defense and continue to keep getting better,” Lue said before Sunday’s loss. “And so we’ve had some slippage on both sides of the ball as far as what we need to do. And so we have these two practice days to get better and hopefully get back on track to the way we’ve been playing before.”
The Clippers next play Wednesday when the Lakers will be the visiting team.
Against the Kings, Lue did not have one of his stars, with Paul George out because of left knee soreness.
Norman Powell filled in for George in his first start of the season, finishing with 21 points.
The Clippers trailed by 18 points after the third quarter but managed to close to within five in the fourth before the Kings pulled away. Six Sacramento players scored in double figures, with De’Aaron Fox finishing with a game-high 33 points, six rebounds and seven assists. Domantas Sabonis had 17 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists, and Harrison Barnes finished with 22 points.
Kawhi Leonard had 20 points, eight rebounds and four blocks for the Clippers. James Harden had 20 points and eight assists, and Ivica Zubac finished with 16 points and six rebounds.
Bill Belichick’s son reveals father’s intentions after not landing head coaching job
Steve Belichick, the son of legendary NFL coach Bill Belichick, revealed what’s in store for his father after he didn’t land a head coaching job this offseason.
Steve Belichik made an appearance on “Green Light with Chris Long,” where he divulged his father’s intentions heading into the new NFL season, which includes a role in television.
“He’s definitely pursuing some other stuff, whether it’s TV or a regular on ‘Green Light’ or whatever it may be,” he said of his father.
Steve Belichick also commented on how his father was holding up after leaving the Patriots following 24 years of dominance that included six Super Bowl rings.
“I think he’s good, you know?” Steve Belichick said after being asked if his father was “OK” leaving the Patriots. “Let the stuff roll off your back and move forward. He doesn’t dwell unless we lost the game and need to get on some guys, but eventually you’ve got to turn the page. Honestly, I wasn’t too involved in any of that stuff. He did his thing, I did my thing and that was kind of that.”
It wasn’t for the lack of trying that Bill Belichick didn’t land a head coaching job. He interviewed with the Atlanta Falcons twice following his mutual parting of ways with the Patriots, which came after a dismal 4-13 season.
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However, the Falcons and owner Arthur Blank decided to go with Raheem Morris, the former Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator, for the job. Several other teams, including the Los Angeles Chargers, Seattle Seahawks and Washington Commanders didn’t bring in Belichick as well.
In turn, a media role became a topic of conversation in NFL circles with regard to Belichick.
Of course, Belichick was known for being stoic when asked questions by the media during his many years as a head coach. But an appearance before the Army-Navy Game this year on ESPN’s “College GameDay” might have changed some minds about what he’d be like as an NFL analyst, especially after he put a 1962 Navy helmet on his head.
“I hope he just goes out and is himself and … shows his personality a little bit, which he doesn’t do most of the time, unless you’re in the building,” Steve Belichick said. “… Putting on the helmet and stuff like that, he does s— like that a lot but no one ever sees it. And so, I was happy that people at least saw a better side of him that not a lot of people see.”
Steve Belichick took the Washington Huskies’ defensive coordinator position this month despite Jerod Mayo, his father’s successor with the Patriots, offering him and his brother, Brian, a spot on his staff, per Sports Illustrated.
He joined his father’s staff in New England in 2012, serving as a coaching assistant before working up the ranks. He was named safeties coach prior to the 2016 season, when the Pats eventually won it all on the famous Malcolm Brown interception at the goal line against the Seahawks.
He started calling defensive plays in 2019 following Brian Flores’ departure, and the Patriots went on to beat the Rams in the Super Bowl, which was the lowest scoring title game of all time.
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