Jeff Gordon blasts NASCAR after 13 drivers aren’t permitted to make qualifying laps at Atlanta

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HAMPTON, Ga. – Sprint Cup qualifying was marred by a debacle for the second consecutive race to start the 2015 season.

Several NASCAR stars failed to get on track because their cars didn’t pass inspection Friday before the session began to set the field for the Fields of Honor Quiktrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. There were 13 cars that didn’t take a lap, including Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart.

Gordon blasted NASCAR after his No. 24 Chevrolet didn’t take a lap, apologizing to fans and 3M, which was making its debut as his primary sponsor.

“When you have this many teams having issues going through, there’s something wrong with this system or something wrong with the amount of time they’re allotted to get through,” said Gordon, whose car went through the inspection bay twice. “There’s no way with this many good cars and talented people that they can’t figure out how to get these cars through inspection. These guys are too smart and yeah, we’re pushing limits, but there’s something wrong here.

“I’m embarrassed for our series now that this just happened. I’m really upset for my sponsor 3M that just came on this weekend when we didn’t get a chance to qualify. We’re just fortunate that (we make the race). I know there’s a lot of teams that aren’t going to be that fortunate. I hate it for these guys that work so hard. … This is an embarrassment for all of us.”

Matt Kenseth shared that sentiment.

“It’s better than not starting,” he said. “I feel bad for whoever didn’t get through there and didn’t make the race.

“They should figure out how to get everyone through tech before qualifying starts, first of all. If they can’t do that, they should probably postpone qualifying until they get everyone through tech with that many cars.”

NASCAR delayed the start of the session by 15 minutes to get teams through inspection.

Sprint Cup director Richard Buck said NASCAR saw the trend develop and tried to provide dispensation to teams. All 47 cars attempting to qualify for the race were given at least one shot at passing inspection.

“We could see the trend develop,” Buck said. “Our job is to work with teams and allow them to meet parameters. We pushed it 15 minutes to give them as much time as we could.

“We treat everybody the same. There were cars that came through three times. Everyone got a fair shot at coming through in a timely manner.”

Buck said most of the problem areas in inspections were related to mechanical grip, specifically related to rear camber, or the angle at which teams tilt their wheels.

Buck said NASCAR would review the inspection process with teams and said he respected the fact that teams were trying to find speed within the bounds of new rules that include 125 less horsepower and 24 percent less downforce.

“They’re pushing the limits,” he said. “That’s their job to get every bit they can get through (inspection). It’s our job that everyone gets a fair opportunity to get through there. That’s what we did.”

Last week at Daytona International Speedway, Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer excoriated NASCAR after the debut of group qualifying for the Daytona 500 resulted in several wrecks.

Stewart took a more measured tone Friday on Twitter but still was critical.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who qualified ninth, said he thought it could lead to improvements in the inspection process.

“I don’t know what my thoughts are because I don’t know what the situation is,” he said. “I don’t know enough about what the problem is and why guys are having problems, so it’s hard to make a comment.

“I am sure it’s something NASCAR doesn’t like to see.  The teams certainly would like to get a lap in, so they will work together to improve the situation. We’ve had a little trouble with the technical inspection over the last couple of years. A lot of new things implemented, the cars changing and the rules changing. It’s a bit of a struggle for NASCAR and the teams to sort of make that inspection process as smooth as possible, and (they’re) still learning.”

Said Danica Patrick, who qualified 18th, said: “I don’t know if it is the team’s fault, if it is the series’ fault, if it is the track’s fault or if it is logistical. I literally have no idea. I think we got a little bit lucky today, but we’ll take it because there are days when you are unlucky and you are mad at that.”

Justin Allgaier, Cole Custer tied at top of Xfinity playoff standings

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Justin Allgaier and Cole Custer are tied for the top spot in the Xfinity playoff standings after the playoff opener at Kentucky Speedway.

Each driver has 2,057 points.

Allgaier finished third after bouncing back from losing a tire on Lap 19 and going two laps down. He was two laps down for 27 laps and one lap down for 30 before getting back on the lead lap.

Custer, who finished fifth, won the first two stages of the race, earning two playoff points in the process.

The top five in points are Allgaier, Custer, Elliott Sadler (-2), Daniel Hemric (-5) and William Byron (-6).

Click here for the points standings.

Results from Xfinity race at Kentucky Speedway

Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images
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Tyler Reddick scored his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series win, leading a 1-2 finish for Chip Ganassi Racing on Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway.

Reddick beat teammate Brennan Poole by 14.5 seconds in the playoff opener.

Reddick is the seventh different winner in the last seven series races. He led twice for 66 laps. Reddick had not led any laps until Saturday night.

Playoff contender Justin Allgaier rallied from two laps down after a right front tire went down early in the 200-lap race to finish third. Ryan Preece placed fourth. Rookie Cole Custer, who won both stages, finished fifth.

Click here for race results

Tyler Reddick wins playoff opener at Kentucky for first career Xfinity victory

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Tyler Reddick, a part-time driver for Chip Ganassi Racing, led 66 laps to win the Xfinity Series playoff opener at Kentucky Speedway.

In his rookie year in the series, Reddick earned the win in his 15th start in the No. 42 Chevrolet.

The 21-year-old driver beat teammate Brennan Poole, Justin Allgaier, Ryan Preece and Cole Custer.

“I don’t know if it was necessarily me making a statement, it’s just Chip Ganassi Racing making a statement,” Reddick told NBCSN. “(Crew chief) Mike Shiplett has brought me from ground zero all the way to here. All the guys at Ganassi have gone above and beyond in helping me become a better driver. To be here today is surreal.”

Reddick, who had not led a lap before Saturday night, took the lead for the first time on Lap 126 of the 200-lap race.

Reddick is the fourth Xfinity driver to get his first win this season.

Saturday’s win comes after it was announced on Sept. 14 that Reddick would join JR Motorsports full-time in 2018.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Cole Custer

STAGE 2 WINNER: Cole Custer

MORE: Race results

MORE: Points standings

WHO HAD A GOOD NIGHT: Justin Allgaier bounced back from losing a tire and going two laps down to finish third. He leaves Kentucky tied with Cole Custer at the top of the playoff standings. … Brennan Poole’s runner-up finish is a career-best result in 77 starts … Ryan Preece has finished in the top four in all three of his starts for Joe Gibbs Racing. … Ryan Reed finished 10th, ending an eight-race streak without a top 10.

WHO HAD A BAD NIGHT: Sam Hornish Jr. finished 31st, nine laps down after contact with Brandon Jones on Lap 53 caused him to hit the wall at the exit of Turn 2, forcing him to pit for repairs. … William Byron finished 18th, two laps down after he was forced to pit on Lap 101 for a loose wheel.

NOTABLE: The No. 2 of Ben Kennedy failed rear heights in post-race inspection. … Reddick is the seventh different driver to win in the last seven races this season. … Reddick is the seventh different winner in the last eight races at Kentucky.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “I was about the color of my car (red) there for a little bit.” – Justin Allgaier after finishing third following a rebound from going two laps down early in the race.

NEXT: Drive Sober 200 at Dover International Speedway at 3 p.m. ET on Sept. 30 on NBCSN.

Social Roundup: Sights from first Martinsville night race

Marty Snider
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The wait is over.

Night racing at Martinsville Speedway is now a reality.

After tests and practice sessions, the half-mile track in Virginia hosted the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 and its qualifying races Saturday night for the NASCAR Late Model Series, which was won by Timothy Peters.

In attendance at the race were Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin and Daniel Suarez, as well as NBCSN’s Marty Snider, who watched his son Myatt compete in the race.

Here’s a look at some of the sights and sounds from the historic night for NASCAR’s oldest track.