NASCAR America: Should Sprint Cup drivers be allowed in Xfinity races?

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After a weekend that saw Sprint Cup regular Kyle Busch win the Xfinity race at Kansas Speedway and Cup driver Kyle Larson hinder Xfinity title contender Erik Jones‘ chances of a win or strong finish, talk has again surfaced on if Cup drivers should be competing in the Xfinity Series.

Earlier this week, NASCAR executive Steve O’Donnell told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that fans should “stay tuned” for an announcement “fairly soon” on the issue.

With all of that brewing, NBC Sports analysts Jeff Burton and Parker Kligerman debated the issue.

“It’s a very difficult solution,” Burton said on NASCAR America. “The reason I became a Cup driver is because of the opportunity to run in the Xfinity Series and race against Harry Gant, Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt. Every now and then I could run with them. If none of them were there, I could win. But that propelled me, that gave me the opportunity to get to the Cup Series. A Cup owner, Billy Stavola and Mickey Stavola, they watched me run in the Xfinity Series, they said, ‘Hey, that guy every now and then can run with Mark Martin, maybe he can be a Cup driver.’ Without that opportunity I don’t think I’m ever a Cup driver.

“I will say this, when I raced against Mark Martin, he didn’t drive (in the Xfinity Series) for Jack Roush. When I raced (against) Harry Gant, he did not drive for his Cup team. When I raced Dale Earnhardt, he ran his Xfinity team out of a small shop on his property. I wasn’t racing against Richard Childress Racing. I was racing against smaller race teams. As the Xfinity Series has evolved, they’re not miniature Cup teams.”

Burton also said that permitting Cup drivers to race in the series allows Xfinity drivers to stand out to show that they can compete in the Cup level.

Kligerman said: “I’m going to play some devil’s advocate with you and say, ‘OK, if tomorrow Kyle Busch and all the other Sprint Cup regulars could not run the Xfinity Series, then we would not evaluate drivers, young drivers coming up by saying ‘If they can beat Kyle Busch or beat Brad Keselowski.’ ”

Burton noted that “the way we’ve always done things doesn’t mean that is the right way to do it. Racing is always an evolution … and we need to be looking at better ways to do things.”

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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