Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images

Upon Further Review: Jimmie Johnson gains upper hand

Leave a comment

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Jimmie Johnson’s victory Sunday at Martinsville Speedway puts him in a strong spot to dictate who he’ll race for the championship in Miami.

If he could win this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway — where he’s won the last four Chase races — it would take away an automatic spot to the title race for a championship contender and mean at least two drivers would advance through points.

If Kevin Harvick went on to win at Phoenix — where he has won six of the last times — it would leave two spots among reigning series champ Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch and Joey Logano.

The top two Chase drivers in points not yet qualified for the championship race are Hamlin and Kenseth after Martinsville.

“That chance might be there, but when you have guys like Chase Elliott, Martin Truex and Brad Keselowski that aren’t in the Chase, I’d put those three right up there as favorites going into Texas,’’ Johnson told NBC Sports about being able to control, in a way, who could advance to Miami. “It’s not a guarantee that I’d keep a Chaser from winning.

“We want more trophies, I want our team to deal with as much pressure as possible before Homestead, so the more laps we can lead, the more races we can contend for, the better it’s going to make our team. That’s really our motivation to go down there.”

Johnson is right, should a driver not eligible for the title win, that also would prevent a driver from advancing automatically to the final round — just as Johnson has done each of the past two years since he was out of title contention by the Texas race.

UP AND DOWN

One of the fascinating elements of this Chase has been Joe Gibbs Racing’s inability to win, and Jimmie Johnson’s success after struggling much of the regular season.

Their differences are magnified when looking at when they’ve led laps during the Chase races.

Joe Gibbs Racing cars have led 753 laps in the Chase but only 36.5 percent of those laps have come in the second half of a race. In essence, they’re not controlling races past the halfway mark as they often do in the first half.

Johnson, who has two wins in this Chase, has led 455 laps in the Chase. The key with him is that 78.7 percent of the laps he’s led have come in the second half of the race, showing that he gets stronger as the race progresses and puts himself in position to win races.

Martinsville proved the exception for Joe Gibbs Racing. Its cars led 74 laps in the race’s first half and 153 laps in the race’s second. Yet, JGR still couldn’t beat Johnson, who led the final 92 laps.

Kyle Busch expressed frustration with how teammate Denny Hamlin raced late in Sunday’s race, saying that didn’t help.

“We worked so good together that we just gave the win to (Johnson),” a frustrated Busch said afterward. “So, JGR all the way.”

BIG ADVANTAGE?

Although Jeff Gordon won at Martinsville last fall (the opening race in the Round of 8) and had the extra two weeks to focus on the championship finale, it wasn’t enough for him to win the title.

Still, Gordon doesn’t discount the advantage Jimmie Johnson has after Johnson’s victory Sunday.

“I think Homestead is probably the biggest question mark for them,’’ Gordon said, “but the way they’ve been running on the mile-and-a-halves this year and the work they’ll be able to do … man, that’s going to be tough to beat them.’’

Gordon said it was helpful to win at Martinsville last year to give the team more time to prepare for Miami.

“We were just solely focused on Homestead from that point on,’’ Gordon said. “It gives them time just to massage (the Homestead car) and know that car is going to Homestead to race for a championship.’’

PIT STOPS

AJ Allmendinger’s 10th-place finish marked his third consecutive top-10 result. That’s the first time in his career he’s done that.

— Joe Gibbs Racing is winless in the Chase (seven races). This is the organization’s longest winless drought of the season.

Michael McDowell’s 18th-place finish at Martinsville was the best finish of his career at that track. Also, the finish marked his ninth top-20 result of the season. He had three top-20 finishes in the past two seasons (35 starts).

— Jimmie Johnson’s win ended a six-race winless drought at Martinsville Speedway. Since scoring his first Martinsville win in 2004, he’s never gone more than six races between victories there. He has nine career victories at the circuit’s shortest track.

— Denny Hamlin finished third despite a penalty for speeding on pit road. This marked the sixth time this season Hamlin has scored a top-five finish after a penalty in a race.

— Jimmie Johnson’s win continued Ford’s drought at Martinsville Speedway. Ford has not won there in the last 28 races. Ford’s last Martinsville win was with Kurt Busch in 2002.

NASCAR America: Scan All from the Brickyard 400

Leave a comment

Kasey Kahne has dreamed of winning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway ever since he first visited the track in 1999 as a kid fresh from his home in Washington.

The dream came true on Sunday with his victory in the Brickyard 400.

Kahne recounts how he won Sunday’s race in this week’s “Scan All,” which again presents the best scanner traffic from the 24th Brickyard 400.

The highlights include.

  • “That will make for a fun Tuesday.” – Matt Kenseth‘s reaction to the Lap 111 crash involved his teammate Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. Tuesdays are when Joe Gibbs Racing holds a weekly meeting between drivers. It’s also happens to be the day “Scan All” airs.
  • “The 41 is melting down right now.” – Jame McMurray’s assessment of Kurt Busch after a bit of close racing between the two of them on a restart. Busch sarcastically clapped as McMurray drove by him under caution.
  • “(Expletive) Danica! (Expletive) her!” – Clint Bowyer‘s reaction his hard crash that involved Kurt Busch and Erik Jones. Patrick, who was running in front of Bowyer, wasn’t involved in the crash.
  • “Damn it, we had that thing won!” – Jimmie Johnson after his crash in Turn 3 on Lap 158 while racing three-wide with Kahne and Brad Keselowski.

Watch the above video for the full “Scan All” experience.

Landon Cassill: ‘Still haven’t really wrapped my head around’ Brickyard penalty for disobeying red flag

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Landon Cassill said Tuesday he is still trying to understand the situation that resulted in his Brickyard 400 ending in the garage after NASCAR parked his No. 34 Ford for not heeding a red flag during the overtime period of the race.

Cassill was parked on Lap 162 after he continued to pit road when the red flag had been displayed for a wreck on the first overtime restart. The field was stopped in Turn 4.

After the race Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, said Cassill was parked because he “disobeyed a red flag.”

NASCAR’s official infraction report says Cassill was parked for “pulling up to pit.”

Cassill, taking part in a Goodyear tire test at Dover International Speedway, said he, his crew chief Seth Barbour and the team’s two spotters did not see the red flag displayed.

“I still haven’t really wrapped my head around it completely,” Cassill said. “They themselves did not see the red flag while I was rolling, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t out, I guess. The button they push in timing and scoring to trigger the red (flag) in their system is different than the flag man actually displaying the red flag. The flag man displaying the flag is what we have to work off of as drivers. It could have been the flag man had the red flag out the whole and the four of us as a team just missed it. That’s kind of why I kept rolling. I am very understanding of the rule and why it is what it is.”

With Cassill parked, the race ended on Lap 167. The Front Row Motorsports driver placed 22nd with his third DNF of the season.

Despite how it ended, Cassill earned his best result at a track other than a restrictor-plate track since he finished 21st at Kansas Speedway in May.

and on Facebook

NASCAR America airs live 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN: Brad Keselowski extension, Scan All

Leave a comment

Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs for an hour beginning at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN and continues to breakdown all the big stories from the Brickyard 400.

Carolyn Manno hosts with Steve Letarte, Slugger Labbe and Parker Kligerman in Stamford, Connecticut.

On today’s show:

· The Silly Season brings more news for next season. Brad Keselowski will stay with Team Penske after agreeing to a multi-year contract extension. How does this impact others drivers potentially needing rides for 2018?

· Kasey Kahne became the 12th driver to virtually guarantee himself a playoff spot due to his Brickyard 400 win. Steve and Slugger will see how Kahne’s win impacted the playoff picture and focus on those drivers who have to clinch a spot.

· If you thought the Brickyard 400 was chaotic. Just wait until you see the race from the teams’ point of view in today’s edition of Scan All: Indianapolis.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, you can also watch it via the online stream at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com

If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. defends crew chief Greg Ives’ performance

Leave a comment

Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he had heard enough “chatter” from fans about crew chief Greg Ives that he needed to tell them to “shut THAT (expletive) down.’’

Earnhardt, in his final full-time season driving in Cup, sent the tweet after exiting Sunday’s Brickyard 400 because of contact on a restart damaged his car. He finished 36th.

Some fans were upset about Ives’ pit strategy before the incident. Earnhardt could have stayed out on a caution at Lap 72 with others. Had he done so, Earnhardt would have restarted fifth. Instead, Ives called him to pit road and Earnhardt restarted 24th.

Ives told NBC Sports that it was an easy call because of what he felt was the difference between old tires and new tires. With what he thought would be a limited cushion of cars between Earnhardt and those with new tires on the restart, Ives said it was best to pit.

On the restart, the field got jumbled and Earnhardt ran into the back of Trevor Bayne’s car, damaging the radiator on Earnhardt’s Chevrolet.

It was another disappointing finish for Earnhardt, who needs a win to make the playoffs. He is 22nd in the points with one top five and four top-10 finishes in 20 races. He’s led 24 laps this season. 

As some fans complained about the strategy, Earnhardt reacted with the tweet.

Earnhardt explained during a break in tire testing Tuesday at Dover International Speedway why he sent the note to his fans.

“I just have heard the chatter over the season,’’ Earnhardt said. “We’ve had a difficult year and there’s just been a little rumbling in the background from the fans. They just love to target the crew chief. Our struggles are no one individual’s responsibility.

“I think that being my crew chief, we have such a very passionate fan base, very large fan base, it’s a challenging position for anybody. I’ve seen that with all the guys that I’ve worked with and they’ve all had to deal with criticism, was it the right call this week, what about the next week? They just get really picked apart.

“This is our last season. We’ve had some pretty difficult results and had opportunity to be frustrated and miserable, but I don’t want this season to be remembered by my crew chief, by myself, by my guys as a miserable time. The fans have an influence on that. They can definitely ease up a little bit on Greg and realize that he’s extremely talented, he’s in that position for a reason.’’

Ives has been praised for how he kept the team together after Earnhardt was out 18 races because of concussion symptoms. Jeff Gordon and Alex Bowman drove the No. 88 Chevrolet in Earnhardt’s absence. Hendrick Motorsports announced last week that Bowman will take over Earnhardt’s ride next season.

Earnhardt, who will join NBC Sports’ broadcast team next year, said he can’t wait to watch Bowman and Ives next year.

“He’s going to have incredible success beyond my driving career as a crew chief at HMS, and I look forward to seeing that happen as soon as next season with Alex,’’ Earnhardt said Tuesday of Ives. “He was able to work with Alex in a matter of a few weeks and have Alex up to speed, confident and fast and almost winning races. (Ives) won a championship with Chase (Elliot) in the Xfinity Series. He won five championships with Jimmie Johnson as the lead engineer.

“Maybe Twitter ain’t the place to be drawing attention to things like that. You just hear enough chatter through the course of a long period of time. It wasn’t something that happened that particular weekend. … It’s not OK to be a fan and dog the crew. You’re a fan of the team. I know it’s important that they embrace the crew chief, the guys on the crew, the mechanics, the tire changers, they’ve got to embrace the whole thing.’’

 and on Facebook