Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Frontstretch Newsletter: Michigan/Road America Entry Lists are Out

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The Best Seat at the Track, The Best View on the Net!
Aug. 24, 2016
Volume X, Edition CXLV
What to Watch: Wednesday

- Hendrick Motorsports has indicated that they will announce who will drive the No. 88 Chevrolet this weekend at Michigan International Speedway at some point today.  We know that Jeff Gordon has a prior engagement and will not be there.  It's either going to be Dale Earnhardt, Jr. or Alex Bowman.  We'll have a news piece at Frontstretch later today.

- Also, today is penalty day in NASCAR.  Expect a suite of warnings and small penalties to be announced later this afternoon.


Wednesday's TV Schedule can be found here.

Top News
by the Frontstretch Staff

Entry List: Pure Michigan 400

The Sprint Cup entry list for this weekend's action in Michigan is out.  40 cars are entered.  No real change from Bristol driver-wise except for the question mark in the No. 88.  The question mark will be removed later today.  Read more

Entry List: Road America 180

The entry list for Saturday's 45-lap XFINITY Series race is out.  Given that the event is a standalone race, there are a bunch of changes.  Mid-Ohio Justin Marks is back in the No. 42, Michael McDowell is in the RCR No. 2 replacing Austin Dillon. Smaller team standouts Alon Day and Scott Heckert are also back for more.  Read more

Entry List: Careers for Veterans 200

The entry list for Saturday's 200-mile Camping World Truck Series race at Michigan International Speedway has been released.  31 trucks are entered, so no one will fail to qualify.  Read more

Have news for The Frontstretch? Don't hesitate to let us know; email us at with a promising lead or tip.

Today's Featured Commentary
Begin with the End
Professor of Speed
by Mark Howell
A sure sign of an upcoming school year is the annual summons to attend college-mandated professional development training. Many of us dyed-in-the-wool, "old school" types are often averse to change. After a quarter-century in the academic trenches, senior members of the faculty (like me) typically adhere to the "can't teach an old dog new tricks" philosophy.
If it ain't broke, keep the tools in the shed, as they might say.

So it was with a tinge of frustration that I attended my college's annual Professional Development Day. Like most of my silver-haired colleagues, I looked forward to catching up with old friends, a nice lunch catered by our school's culinary program, and the obligatory buckets of coffee. Such luxuries were well worth the price of having to sit through yet another day of "here's the flavor-of-the-month; now use it" rhetoric.

Who would have thunk that the current "flavor-of-the-month" in collegiate academics was inspired by NASCAR?

Our development day presenter was a very personable and polished professor from Georgetown University. Her topic addressed advances in what's called "integrated course design". The overall gist of this concept is that the best way to teach important skills, methods, and theories is to integrate them into a holistic package wherein your students master course objectives through relevant assessment of applied assignments.

In other words:  if it ain't important to know, it ain't important to assign or grade. Cut to the chase and focus on the significant stuff. Require students to achieve course objectives by assessing their performance on carefully-articulated projects and tasks. Instead of using the old-fashioned method of "outcome + assignment = assessment", the new approach takes a reverse path of "assessment + assignment = outcome". The best way to accomplish this, we were told, was to approach our course strategies backwards. 

And here's where NASCAR comes in.

As I sat there listening to these new-and-improved educational strategies, my mind kept drifting toward all-things-NASCAR. Maybe that's just my inability to concentrate on certain tasks, but if I've learned anything from a life spent around stock car racing, it's that the France family built a sport/business that – quite often – links with larger, non-racing realities. 

My concentration wandered to Cup races this season at Sonoma and Watkins Glen and events we've seen this year at tracks like Pocono, Michigan, and Indianapolis.

It's all about thinking backwards.

Taking a "backwards" approach to road course events has often been the dominant rationale. Consider the total number of laps, think about fuel mileage, and plan your pit strategy by figuring in the track's length and the time it takes to make a lap. Tires must be considered, too, so you need to think about the best option that'll make your car good late in the race. By working your pit strategy backwards, you can do less early on in order to accomplish your goal for the end.

In a classroom, the goal is for your students to fully understand the skills you want them to master. On a racetrack, the goal is to understand what choices it'll take for your car to finish first.

It's all about starting with the end in order to make better decisions at the start.
And this reasoning is what we've been hearing all season with the advent of the new aero package and new tire compounds from Goodyear. It used to be pit strategy was pretty simple:  four tires and fuel. Short on tires? Borrow from a team out of the race. Short on fuel late? Gas-and-go and mash the throttle. You managed situations as they arose with little thought about what absolutely needed to be done. Sometimes your plan worked. Sometimes it didn't.

This year it seems as though the "start-with-the-finish" road course strategy is becoming more-and-more typical each week. When teams find themselves dealing with reduced downforce, tires that lose grip quickly, and the struggle to maintain track position given these new rules, suddenly it's not about beginning with a focus on your desired outcome; it's all about focusing on encouraging performance that achieves the desired objective.

As my colleagues and I learned from our professional development experience, the best results come from taking a backwards approach when meeting objectives. Maybe, for a refresher, my colleagues could watch a Sprint Cup race or two.

To achieve a good finish, you need to make a smart start.

Dr. Mark Howell is a Senior Writer for Frontstretch.  He can be reached via e-mail at

as told to Joseph Wolkin

by Joseph Wolkin

by Amy Henderson

compiled by Aaron Bearden


Q: Later in the 1998 Grand Prix of Belgium, Michael Schumacher was dominating, leading the first 26 laps of the race.  Lap 27 ended up being his downfall, though.  What happened?

Check back Thursday for the answer, here in the Frontstretch Newsletter!

Tuesday's Answer:

Q:  Formula One returns to Spa for the Belgium Grand Prix this weekend.  Literally anything can happen there.  The 1998 race is infamous for the start.  What happened?

A: Rain at a race can either be a big equalizer, or it can cause chaos.  This situation was most definitely the latter.  David Coulthard caught the curbing exiting La Source on the first lap and spun into the wall.  Coulthard then back across the track, creating a massive crash that involved more than half the field.  The crash can be seen in this clip.

13 drivers in all were involved, four of whom (Rubens Barrichello, Olivier Panis, Mika Salo and Ricardo Rosset) did not take the restart.  Barrichello actually suffered a minor injury and chose to sit out.  The other three drove for teams (Prost, Arrows and Tyrrell, respectively) that had both cars wrapped up in the crash.

In The Frontstretch Newsletter:
We'll have any news that breaks in the world of NASCAR, plus a look at Sunday's Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race in the Annex.

Toni Montgomery returns with her weekly look at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, Nitro Shots.
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