NASCAR executive on 29-lap caution: ‘It took longer than it should have’

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NASCAR officials say they have to do a better job after a 29-lap caution left fans and competitors confused and frustrated Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.

Officials plan to meet today to dissect why it took so long to get the running order set.

“We acknowledge that we need to do a better job in those circumstances,’’ said Scott Miller, NASCAR vice president of competition, Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive.’’

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, tweeted after Sunday’s race that “if we knew amount of time-would have gone red flag.’’

As to why the race wasn’t stopped to sort out the running order, Miller told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: “We didn’t think it would take as long as it ultimately did. There was a point in there where a red flag may have been appropriate. We kind of got past that and had what we had and managed it the best we could from there.’’

Instead of the field being stopped, cars circled the .526-mile track at about 35 mph. Officials worked to determine the order after the caution flag waved on Lap 358 in the middle of green-flag pit stops.

Among the issues, Miller and Richard Buck, Cup series director, who talked to the media after the race, cited:

— The caution came during a green-flag pit cycle where some cars had pitted and some had not.

— Compounding the situation is that a car typically loses at least one lap on a green-flag pit stop.

— Leader AJ Allmendinger, who had not pitted, ran out of fuel and had to pit when pit road still was closed.

— Determining which car was eligible for the free pass (it was Jeff Gordon)

— Determining which cars were eligible to pass the pace car and fall in line behind the leader.

“It was such a unique situation that we almost had to look at each car to make sure we were doing right by each and every car in the field,’’ Miller told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “It took longer than it should have.’’

NASCAR officials said they used timing and scoring data with video.

“Usually in those circumstances, a group of cars will fall into a block … but this had so many elements to it and us having the responsibility we had to make sure we got it right, it took longer than it should have, but in the end I think we got it right and feel good about that,’’ Miller said.

As series officials tried to sort out all the issues, teams were confused. Crew chief Chad Knaus was in disbelief that Kyle Busch was on the lead lap, saying on the team’s radio that this was “the biggest freebie in history.’’

Denny Hamlin, who became the leader, was upset that cars passed him under caution, including Chase contender Kevin Harvick. Hamlin directed his anger on the radio toward O’Donnell, saying: “It’s not right. They can’t go green. O’Donnell, I told you to get this (expletive) right!’’

Rodney Childers, crew chief for Harvick, said Harvick was in front of Hamlin and that Hamlin drove by Harvick. Childers said they were directed by NASCAR to pass Hamlin and the pace car.

Miller and Buck did not address why specific cars were aligned where they were.

Buck said NASCAR officials would explain to teams what happened and why cars were placed where they were.

“I’m looking forward to this week to have an opportunity to talk to Richard or Steve or Scott, the guys at NASCAR, to understand what went on there,’’ Knaus said after the race, won by Jimmie Johnson.

“It’s a challenge, man. When you have 40 cars going around a half‑mile racetrack, people start to pit, one guy is 12 seconds back, the other guy is three seconds back. It’s still very, very confusing to me right now.’’

NASCAR suspends Camping World Truck crew chief one race

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NASCAR has suspended Camping World Truck Series crew chief Kevin Bellicourt one Truck event and fined him $5,000 because Justin Haley‘s truck failed minimum height requirements after last weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The L1 penalty also docked Haley 10 points and the team 10 owner points. He finished 17th in an encumbered finish.

NASCAR also announced Thursday that Joseph P. Light has been reinstated after successfully completing NASCAR’s Road to Recovery program. He was indefinitely suspended March 16.

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Stewart-Haas Racing, Nature’s Bakery reach tentative settlement

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Counsel for Stewart-Haas Racing reported to North Carolina Superior Court on Wednesday that it has executed settlement documents with Nature’s Bakery.

A status report was pushed back 21 days to June 23 in the event the that the parties have not filed a stipulation of dismissal by that date.

No details of the settlement documents were detailed to the court.

Stewart-Haas Racing filed a $31 million breach of contract lawsuit against Nature’s Bakery on Feb. 3. Nature’s Bakery had two years remaining on a three-year contract to sponsor Danica Patrick’s team when the company sent the team a notice of termination on Jan. 19 . Nature’s Bakery was to have paid $15,212,000 each season to sponsor the team.

Nature’s Bakery filed a counterclaim Feb. 25 stating it did not see the return it was led to believe in sponsoring Patrick’s team.

Click here to read court document

Thursday’s schedule for NASCAR Cup, Xfinity at Charlotte

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Charlotte Motor Speedway kicks off its weekend leading up to Sunday’s main event, the Coca-Cola 600, with today’s action.

The Xfinity Series will hold two practices, while the NASCAR Cup Series has one practice and qualifies in the evening.

Here is today’s schedule:

(All Times Eastern)

11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. – Cup garage open

1:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. – Xfinity garage open

2 p.m. – 3:25 p.m. – First Cup practice (Fox Sports 1)

4 p.m. – 4:55 p.m. – First Xfinity practice (FS1)

6 p.m. – 6:55 p.m. – Final Xfinity practice (FS1)

7:15 p.m. – Cup qualifying (multi-vehicle, three rounds) (FS1, Performance Racing Network)

Long: Hall of Fame moment is special for father and son

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CHARLOTTE — Sleep has not come easy for Doug Yates in some time.

It has only gotten worse lately.

He can’t stop thinking of his father, Robert, who battles liver cancer. Robert has undergone chemotherapy, but at one point doctors said they weren’t sure what how to treat the 74-year-old former NASCAR team owner and engine builder who was selected to the 2018 Hall of Fame Class on Wednesday.

That helpless feeling of not solving a problem counters what Robert and Doug have done all their lives. If there was an issue with an engine, they worked harder and longer until they fixed the matter.

This they can’t.

While Robert Yates undergoes experimental treatments, Doug is there to help take care of his father. There are bad days, Doug says, wincing.

“What I see is a man who is broken down and built back up because he is watching his father,’’ said Whitney Yates, Doug’s wife. “Sometimes (Robert) is so sick he can’t do anything and Doug is there.’’

They are more than father and son. They share a treasured relationship not every boy and his dad experiences, their bonds woven early and strengthened with each day together.

Doug fondly recalls sleeping on a cot in a race shop when he was about 5 years old while his father worked on an engine through the night. They traveled to races together. Doug reminisces of a trip to Richmond where his father, tired from work, told his son, then 12, to take the wheel while he slept. Yet, when a deer ran across their path, it was Robert who asked his son if he saw that.

They often went to the race shop together. Although family, Robert was still the boss. He would be hard on his son at times, but Doug cherishes even those memories.

Robert was only teaching his son what it took to succeed. Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett won two Daytona 500s and Davey Allison won another for Robert Yates Racing. Jarrett won the 1999 Cup championship with the team. As an owner, Robert Yates won 57 Cup races and 48 poles.

Now, Doug is the boss. He oversees the “vision” his father had of the Roush Yates Engines shop, which powered Kurt Busch to a Daytona 500 win and Ford teams to four other victories in the season’s first 11 races.

“He wants to make (his dad) proud,’’ Whitney said of Doug. “He’s always trying so hard.

“Doug is always moving the bar. I think Robert is so proud of that.’’

While Doug does what he can for his father and the family business, he couldn’t control what happened at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The past three years Robert, Doug and the rest of the family came to the Hall of Fame to see if Robert would be selected. Five are chosen each year. Robert ranked sixth in votes received twice, just missing enshrinement.

Robert Yates reacts after he is announced to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Each time, Robert said the voting panel got it right.

“Selfishly, I didn’t think so, but he did,’’ Doug said. “That was a lesson for me. Everything happens for a reason.’’

As Wednesday approached, Doug Yates’ anxiety grew. It was worse Wednesday morning and throughout the day.

As Doug walked into Hall of Fame, ahead of his father, he conceded he was “nervous.’’

He also was prepared.

Doug stocked multiple tissues in the pockets of his slacks.

“If he didn’t make it, I was going to break down,’’ Doug said of his father making the Hall of Fame. “If he did, I was going to break down.’’

Robert also felt nervous.

“If I don’t get in,’’ Robert told himself before the announcement, “that’s the reason to work real hard to be here next year to get in.’’

The family didn’t have to wait long to celebrate.

Robert Yates, who received 94 percent of the vote, was announced first.

“Wow,’’ Doug said. “I’m glad that’s over.’’

His father, sitting a row in front of Doug, reached back. Doug leaned forward. They held hands. 

After that it was a matter of relishing what had happened as four other men — Red Byron, Ray Evernham, Ken Squier and Ron Hornady Jr. — were selected to join Robert Yates in the next Hall of Fame Class.

Doug stay composed throughout. He wiped his eyes once.

When the ceremony ended, Robert Yates reached his arm around wife Carolyn and embraced her.

“My family means so much to me because they allowed me to work night and day,’’ Robert Yates said. “Do I love engines? Yes, whether one cylinder, two cylinders, six or 12 or 24. I love engines.’’

That passion led him to this moment.

“I feel like I could take a jack,’’ said the former jackman.

“I don’t know if I’ll sleep tonight.’’

Doug Yates will.

His father will be in the Hall of Fame.

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