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Martin Truex Jr. supports decision to skip Miami test: ‘It gives a false sense of security’

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Absence makes the car go faster?

That’s the approach Martin Truex Jr. and crew chief Cole Pearn are embracing in electing to skip the critical test Oct. 18-19 at Homestead Miami Speedway, site of the Nov. 20 season finale that will determine the Sprint Cup championship.

Truex, who won two of the first three races in the 2016 playoffs and is among the championship favorites, said the team vacillated on the decision for weeks before Pearn decided last week against making the 2,000-mile track to South Florida from Denver, where the Furniture Row Racing  is based.

“Cole feels good about that, so I’m with him,” Truex said Friday before practice at Kansas Speedway. “I think he’s making the right decision. We went to Homestead and tested the last two years and went back for the race and we were awful. It gives you a false sense of security when you go to a test like that a month ahead of the race. You feel like you’re good, you go back to the race track, and (the weather is) completely different and then you don’t know what to do. You don’t know what direction to head.”

Truex finished 12th at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2015, last among the four championship contenders. He finished 17th there two years ago – after finishing third, sixth and fourth in the previous three years with Michael Waltrip Racing.

“Homestead is a long way from Denver, so we’re just trying to make sure we’re focused on the right things,” he said. “We feel like testing honestly has not really done anything to help us along. We feel like our time is better spent at the shop getting prepared.”

The No. 78 Toyota also won the Chase for the Sprint Cup opener at Chicagoland Speedway without having tested.

“Some of our worst races this year have been after tests believe it or not, so it’s an interesting thing,” he said. “I think we’re making the right decision, but we won’t know that until Homestead.”

Truex’s team will be able to feed setup data into its simulations to prepare for the season finale, gleaning the information from Joe Gibbs Racing’s Carl Edwards through Toyota Racing Development.

Edwards said he could understand why a team might skip the session.

“There’s an opportunity to test for the ultimate race – the race that finishes the year, but it’s also an interruption in your Chase, and it can take away as well,” he said. “We feel like testing at Homestead is going to benefit us. I love Homestead, I like going down to South Florida, so for me I think it’s good and our team is prepared to deal with it. There are two sides to it.”

NASCAR America: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. talks Phoenix finish, racing roots

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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. joins NASCAR America to go over his fourth-place finish at Phoenix Raceway.

The Roush Fenway Racing driver also shares his racing origins in Mississippi and the hobbies he and girlfriend Danica Patrick share with each other.

Stenhouse is in his fifth full-time year competing in the NASCAR Cup Series with Roush Fenway Racing.

NASCAR America: 50 States in 50 Shows: Alaska

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NASCAR America continues its journey through the United States with the second chapter in “50 States in 50 Shows.”

Following South Alabama Speedway, the show features Capitol Speedway and Alaska Raceway Park in Alaska.

Owned by Nancy and Wes Wallace, Capitol Speedway is a 3/8th-mile oval and features sprint car racing and demolition derbies.

 

Kevin Harvick crew chief fined, suspended one race for encumbered finish

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Kevin Harvick‘s crew chief, Rodney Childers, has been suspended for one NASCAR Cup Series race and fined $25,000 for an unapproved track bar slider assembly last weekend at Phoenix Raceway.

The penalty, a L1 infraction, results in an encumbered finish. Harvick placed sixth in the Camping World 500.

The No. 4 team has also been docked 10 driver and owner points. Harvick was seventh in the standings after four races. He trailed leader Kyle Larson by 61 points. The loss of points drops Harvick one spot to eighth behind Jamie McMurray.

Harvick has not won a race yet, which would qualify him for the playoffs.

MORE: Brad Keselowski closes crew chief for three races, team docked 35 driver points

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NASCAR docks Brad Keselowski, Team Penske 35 points; suspends crew chief Paul Wolfe

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NASCAR docked Brad Keselowski 35 points, suspended crew chief Paul Wolfe three races and fined Wolfe $65,000 because Keselowski’s car failed inspection after finishing fifth in last weekend’s race at Phoenix Raceway.

NASCAR also docked the team 35 owner points for the L1 infraction. NASCAR stated that Keselowski’s result is an encumbered finish.

NASCAR cited Keselowski’s car for failing weights and measurements on the laser platform. NASCAR stated in Wednesday’s penalty report that the team failed the rear wheel steer on the Laser Inspection Station. 

MORE: NASCAR suspends crew chief Rodney Childers one race

Team Penske issued a statement Wednesday:

“We have acknowledged the penalties levied against the No. 2 team following last weekend’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway.  The race cars returned to the race shop today and we are in the process of evaluating the area in question. In the meantime, we have decided Brian Wilson will serve as Brad Keselowski’s crew chief at Auto Club Speedway while we evaluate our approach relative to today’s penalties.”

The penalty drops Keselowski from second in the standings to fourth heading into this weekend’s race at Auto Club Speedway.

The more significant issue is how this could impact Keselowski, who already has a win, in the playoffs.

The top 10 in points before the playoffs begin earn additional points. The points leader earns 15 playoff points. The driver second in the standings earns 10 playoff points, the driver third in the standings earns eight playoff points, the driver fourth in the standings earns seven playoff points. It goes down to the driver 10th in the standings earning one playoff point.

Those playoff points carry through the first three rounds, which is different from last year. Falling behind in the regular season – or losing points because of a penalty – could have ramifications in the playoffs. 

“I think it’s real important to explain why points matter this year,” Keselowski said on Fox Sports 1’s “Race Hub” on Wednesday night. “Last year, you got a win and you locked in and you got to the next round. This year with points, you still lock in with wins. The difference is there’s a huge points bonus for having the most points at the end of the season that carries all the way through the playoffs, and you only get that bonus if you’re one of the best cars and leading up front at the end of the regular season, which requires having a lot of points. Thirty-five points is a pretty big deal, and so is 10 points for Kevin (Harvick) and his team.”

 

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