NASCAR executive explains why no caution for Carl Edwards’ spin and more

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Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s executive vice president and chief racing development officer, made his weekly Monday morning appearance on “The Morning Drive’’ on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and answered questions about recent events.

Here’s what he said:

On no caution flag on the final lap of Sunday’s race after Carl Edwards spun

“It’s going to be a judgment call. We’ve stated that we’re going to make every effort to try to finish under green-flag conditions. That’s what the fans want to see. We’ve got to be obviously mindful of what’s occurring on the racetrack. It’s a split-second decision.

“I think yesterday if you look at the circumstances that played out with Carl, when we initially saw him get loose, he was down on the apron. As we made that quick decision, it was ‘OK, he’s clear we can go.’ Just as you make that, his car slides up across the track. That’s something you don’t want to see green- or yellow-flag conditions, but, at the time, if we would have thrown the yellow, then it’s too late because he’s already up and across the track. We elected to let it play out. We certainly didn’t like to see how Carl came across the track but ultimately we were able to come back under green-flag conditions.

“People want to point to who’s leading, who’s not leading, what could have happened, what didn’t happen. I know it’s hard to believe for some folks, we don’t look at that. We look at the circumstances of the incident. We’ve got to make that call. We’re not always going to be right. We know with each decision we open it up for debate. That’s sports.

“We’ll talk to Carl and the competitors about that but did like seeing us being able to finish under green.’’

On the new qualifying format for restrictor-plate events:

“Ultimately, I think you saw it play out correctly. We’ll follow up with everybody … and ask if there is anything we can change to continue to improve upon it. I think we liked what we saw and the results were certainly good as well with everybody having a shot at the pole.’’

On no penalties at the end of Saturday’s Xfinity race for cars pushing in the pack:

“It’s a very tough rule to police. It’s such a small gap that can exist between cars. Drivers were hooked up and not hooked up. When you were about to make a call, they break loose. We took some cars from the race to go back and look at in the wind tunnel to see if there are things we can do to not have to be in that business  of making a rules call there because it is so difficult. We’re going to look really hard at that rule and the continuation of policing it.’’

On the recent fires on pit road and what NASCAR is doing:

“I think we will certainly review each one of those. We did from the incident at Richmond and looked at some of the safety equipment some of the individuals were wearing and made adjustments there and you can see that already occurring on pit road. We’ll continue to look at the equipment also. That’s something we’ll work with the race teams this week, especially Tuesday at the R&D Center and see what we can continue to do.’’

On the Sprint Cup schedule after Kevin Harvick’s comments calling for change with it:

“We feel like we’ve struck on a really good balance on the schedule. One of the things that is also a challenge that you hear from the promoters is knowing when their date is. Historically, we’ve been on year-to-year sanction agreements. We’d like to get much further out. We’d like to be talking about the Daytona 500 date is set in 2018 and 2019 so fans can make plans.

“That’s the path we’re on. We certainly receive a lot of interest from tracks that are out there. We’ve got to balance that with the fan base, television partners, sponsors. A lot goes into that, but again we’re happy with the schedule that we have now. There certainly could be tweaks and we’ll work with the promoters to look at that. Kevin has always got great ideas. We have a lot of dialogue with Kevin, he’s our champion. We’ll continue to do that. Ultimately, we’ve got to make the decisions in the best interests of all the stakeholders in the sport.’’

On the status of granting Kyle Busch a waiver: 

“I talked to Kyle last week and he talked about his plans. The next step for us is to hear from Joe Gibbs and the organization and let us know officially when Kyle is coming back and from there we’ll have to make a determination.’’

 

Friday’s NASCAR Cup, Xfinity schedule at Richmond

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The racing weekend at Richmond International Raceway kicks off today.

The NASCAR Cup Series has one practice session and late afternoon qualifying, while the Xfinity Series has two practice sessions at the 0.75-mile track.

Keep an eye on Jimmie Johnson this weekend as he goes for his third consecutive NASCAR Cup win, having taken the checkered flag at Texas three weeks ago and Monday at Bristol.

Here’s how today’s action shapes up:

(All times are Eastern)

9 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. – Cup garage open

10:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.  – Xfinity garage open

11:30 a.m. – 12:55 p.m. – Cup practice (Fox Sports 1, MRN)

1 – 1:55 p.m. – Xfinity practice (FS1)

3 – 3:55 p.m. – Final Xfinity practice (FS1)

4:45 p.m. – Cup qualifying; three rounds/multi-car (FS1, MRN)

NASCAR America: 50 States in 50 Shows: Michigan

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Every NASCAR Cup driver had to come from somewhere, and for Brad Keselowski and Erik Jones, they came from Michigan.

Today’s edition of “50 States in 50 Shows” takes you to the Great Lake State.

The track that gets our attention is Dixie Motor Speedway in Birch Run. A track Jones cut his teeth on and where he set a record in 2010 by becoming the youngest driver to win an ASA Late Model race when he was 14.

Oh, and they also race school buses at the track.

 

NASCAR America: Steve Letarte: Richmond ‘pivotal’ race for Joe Gibbs Racing

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Compared to the winning pace Joe Gibbs Racing kept the previous two seasons, it’s been a long time since the four-car team visited victory lane.

JGR last won 11 races ago in the November race at Texas Motor Speedway with Carl Edwards, who is not racing this year. The last win by a current JGR driver was the fall race at Richmond International Raceway, where Denny Hamlin triumphed.

Now, none of its drivers are in the top 10 in points.

RIR is where NASCAR heads this weekend for a race NASCAR America analyst Steve Letarte believes is “pivotal” for the team that’s won the last three races at the .75-mile track.

“We have to remember this is a new aerodynamic package for this year,” Letarte said. “There’s something about it that hasn’t really suited this JGR Toyotas. I don’t think they have found exactly the right combination, it seems Furniture Row (Racing) has. I look at Richmond, the speeds are a little bit down, aerodynamics won’t be as dominate. Even if they’re not dominate and they don’t win, they have to run better.”

 

NASCAR America: Comparing achievements of The King, The Intimidator and Jimmie Johnson

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Just two days after his retirement announcement, Dale Earnhardt came to the defense of his Hendrick Motorsports teammate and seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson on Twitter

After a fan attempted to criticize Johnson’s achievements by comparing them to fellow seven-time champions Dale Earnahrdt Sr., and Richard Petty, Dale Jr. said the system Johnson has competed in is twice as challenging as the eras of his father and Petty.

Watch the video to see Dale Jr. and other drivers discuss the differences between Johnson’s era and those of his predecessors.