Upon Further Review: Another late restart alters Chase

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While accidents and mechanical issues have impacted title contenders, nothing has had as great an impact on this Chase as late-race restarts.

Kevin Harvick’s pass of Carl Edwards on the final restart Sunday at Kansas Speedway marked the fourth time in five Chase races that the winner took the lead on the last restart.

For perspective, in the 12 races before the Chase started, only once did the winner take the lead for good on the final restart.

Harvick’s move Sunday means that he won’t have to worry about what happens this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. He’ll be in the Round of 8 with Jimmie Johnson, who also took the lead on the final restart at Charlotte. 

Although each circumstance can be different — how much of an advantage one lane has over the other, who is behind to push, if anyone spins their tires, etc. — success on restarts is not all about luck.

For Harvick and his team it was about working to be better.

“It was really about timing and going back and watching footage and trying to figure out what I needed to do as far as ratios,’’ Harvick told NBC Sports after Sunday’s victory. “What I had done in the past wasn’t really working for us. We had to change. We had to change how we approach restarts and it’s been a lot better for us over the past three months. The first part of the year wasn’t very good, so we worked hard at getting that stuff right.’’

At Atlanta in late February, Harvick was second beside Johnson on an overtime restart. Johnson had the preferred lane on the inside. Harvick didn’t get a good restart and finished sixth after leading 131 of 330 laps.

Three weeks later, Harvick lost at Auto Club Speedway when Johnson passed him for the lead. Harvick started second and Johnson was third behind Harvick. Denny Hamlin led and had Joey Logano behind him. Logano didn’t get a good start and couldn’t push Hamlin. Johnson pushed Harvick into the lead and then got by him in Turn 3. Harvick finished second after leading 142 of 205 laps.

Things improved for Harvick at New Hampshire, the second race in the opening round of the Chase. He restarted second to Matt Kenseth and passed Kenseth down the backstretch. Harvick led the final six laps to win that race.

Johnson victimized Kenseth at Charlotte. Johnson beat Kenseth in a drag race toward Turn 3 on the final restart. Johnson led the final 18 laps to score his first win since that Auto Club Speedway triumph.

This trend with restarts could continue.

Twice in the last five races at Talladega, there has been a lead change on the final restart.

PIT STOPS

Austin Dillon and Kurt Busch became the last two Chase drivers to lead at least a lap in a Chase race. Busch led one lap at Kansas; Dillon led two.

— Matt Kenseth has led 269 laps in the last two fall Kansas races. That’s 50.1 percent of the laps run in those events. Despite leading all those laps, Kenseth finished 14th last fall and ninth Sunday.

AJ Allmendinger’s eighth-place finish was his sixth top-10 finish of the season. He finished eighth in both Kansas races this season.

Kasey Kahne’s 10th-place finish was his sixth top 10 in the last seven races. His 12 top 10s this season are his most in a year since 2013.

— Ford’s last win was 10 races ago when Chris Buescher won at Pocono. It’s Ford’s longest winless streak of the season.

Brad Keselowski Racing announces crew chief assignments

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Brad Keselowski Racing has announced the crew chiefs that will be paired with both of its full-time rookie drivers this season in the Camping World Truck Series.

Austin Cindric, driving the No. 19 Draw-Tite Ford, will work with Doug Randolph. Randolph has been a crew chief for BKR since 2012 and has six wins, including three with Tyler Reddick in the last two seasons. Randolph also has four Xfinity Series wins.

Mike Hillman Jr. will be the crew chief for Chase Briscoe in the No. 29 Cooper Standard Ford. Hillman is a two-time Truck series champion as crew chief for Todd Bodine (2006, 2010). He has 20 Truck Series wins, the last coming in 2013 with Jeb Burton.

“Austin Cindric has already had success in various forms of racing, and has shown a lot of potential in our Ford F-150 race trucks,” said Keselowski in a press release. “I certainly believe that Chase is ready to take the next step in his career, and we’re excited to have him join the BKR family. He won the ARCA championship in his first full-time season, and he’s proven to have the ability to learn quickly and win races. We’re pleased to give both Austin and Chase the opportunity to compete full-time at a high level in NASCAR.”

Briscoe, 22, enters his rookie season after winning the ARCA Racing Series title behind six race wins.

“It’s an absolutely huge opportunity and such an honor to drive for Brad,” said Briscoe in a press release. “The competition level in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is so high, but I’m going to be in the best equipment out there. It’s really cool to once again be working with the Keselowski family. When I moved to North Carolina three years ago, I was helping Brian and Bob in their shop, so things have come full circle. I’m truly blessed with this opportunity, and I hope to make the most of it. At the end of the day, it’s all about winning races and championships, and that’s what I plan to do.”

Cindric, 18, is the son of Team Penske president Tim Cindric. He has six starts with BKR over the last two seasons. His best result is 15th last November at Phoenix International Raceway.

“This is a massive opportunity from Brad and everyone at BKR who trusts me and believes in my abilities as a driver to move on to the next level for a full season,” said Cindric in a press release. “2017 gets more and more exciting for me with every day that goes by. I’ve only done a handful of one-off races in my brief stock car career, so I’m really looking forward to having the same guys by my side week in and week out. I’ve spent a lot of time at the shop the last few weeks and I know everyone is really excited to get back racing.”

The Truck Series season begins Feb. 24 at Daytona International Speedway.

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Kurt, Kyle Busch come up short in Nations Cup finale at Race of Champions

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 04:  NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch hugs brother Kurt Busch during the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards show at Wynn Las Vegas on December 4, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images
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After early exits in the first day of the Race of Champion exhibition Saturday in Miami, Kyle and Kurt Busch returned on Sunday in hopes of winning the Nations Cup for the United States of America, but were swept in the finale by Germany’s Sebastian Vettel.

The brothers, representing Team USA NASCAR, were in Group A with USA IndyCar, USA Rally and ROC Factor Canada.

Kurt Busch’s struggles from Saturday continued in his first race against IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe. The Canadian driver beat Kurt Busch by .002 of a second. The NASCAR representative would bounce back in his next race, beating action sports star and former NASCAR driver Travis Pastrana.

In Kyle Busch‘s first race of the day, he faced and beat karting champion Stefan Rzadzinski of Canada. He followed it up by beating Scott Speed.

After six races, Team USA NASCAR and IndyCar had four wins each and faced each other in the semifinal round. But the Busch brothers prevailed over Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi from USA IndyCar to advance to the Nations Cup final against Vettel, who represented Germany by himself.

But Vettel swept the race, betting Kurt then Kyle Busch to claim the Nations Cup. Vettel swept all of his races, finishing Sunday with seven wins.

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NMPA names Jimmie Johnson Driver of the Year among annual awards

HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 18:  Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 18, 2016 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
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Jimmie Johnson was named the Richard Petty Driver of the Year on Saturday by the National Motorsports Press Association as part of its annual awards banquet.

It’s the seventh time that Johnson – who was named on 62 percent of the ballots cast – has been recognized with the award. He previously won it in 2004, ’06, ’07, ’09, ’10, and ’13.

The award comes after Johnson became the third driver to win a seventh championship in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

The NMPA also named Al Pearce of Autoweek as its annual Pocono Spirit Award winner.

The award, sponsored by Pocono Raceway, “recognizes character and achievement in the face of adversity,
sportsmanship and contributions to motorsports.”

Pearce won for a four-year project that raised $13,000 through the auction of a racing helmet signed by the 20 living World Driving Champions and Phil Hill and Sir Jack Brabham prior their passing. Proceeds from the project went to the Victory Junction Gang Camp, the Kyle Petty Charity Ride, the Jimmie Johnson Foundation and the Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation.

Dave Ferroni, the public relations representative for Furniture Row Racing,  was awarded the Ken Patterson Helping Others Award.

Involved in auto racing for more than 30 years, Ferroni was the publicist for the “Miracle on Ice” U.S. hockey team in 1980 before later serving working for Brainerd International Raceway and the National Hot Rod Association. His company, DMF Communications, has also worked with U.S. Army, Miller Brewing Co., Pennzoil, McDonald’s and Valvoline.

The Ken Patterson award is sponsored by Talladega Superspeedway, where Patterson served as the public relations director, and has been given out since 2004. The track will donate $1,000 in Ferroni’s name to the Kenneth Patterson Educational Trust Fund.

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NBCSN to broadcast NASCAR announcement at 6 p.m. ET Monday

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NBCSN will air live a press conference held by NASCAR industry stakeholders to discuss the upcoming 2017 season at 6 p.m. ET Monday.

The announcement will be attended by NASCAR executives, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers, NASCAR team representatives and NASCAR track representatives.

The press conference is being held at the Charlotte Convention Center.