NASCAR stands by rain-shortened rule for Chase races

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The AAA Texas 500 was deemed official by NASCAR 41 laps from its scheduled finish Sunday night due to rain, to the chagrin of some.

With berths at stake in the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the question driver have faced was whether Chase races should weather-shortened. In its current elimination-style format, Texas was the second Chase race to be shortened by rain. Last year, the penultimate race at Phoenix International Raceway ran only 219 of the scheduled 312 laps.

During his weekly appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, said the sanctioning body stands by its policy that a race is official once it reaches the halfway point.

“I think Joey Logano probably said it best – we make every effort to get the race in under its advertised distance,” O’Donnell said. “I think you saw especially the circumstances yesterday with over six hours to try to dry a racetrack, at some point you’ve got to keep the fans certainly in mind, but also the competitors, the amount of time that they’ve had preparing for a race, and when does it get too late.

“So we’ve always looked at if you get past halfway, that’s considered a complete race, and we do make every effort to get the full race in and we did that yesterday. We were a little short; that’s unfortunate but the policy that’s been in place, we feel like is one that should stand. Never something that we want to have to enact, but, unfortunately, yesterday and really last night you saw that have to come into play.”

Carl Edwards was declared the winner at Texas and joined Jimmie Johnson as the first two drivers locked into the title race in Miami. Ironically, Edwards was the first driver out of a transfer spot last year at Phoenix.

It was pointed out to O’Donnell that Major League Baseball changed the rules for its postseason and World Series to ensure each game would be played to its scheduled nine innings. It was put into effect following the 2008 World Series when Major League Baseball faced a potential crisis in a crucial Game 5 that year between the Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays.

Rain could have made the game official in the fifth inning, but commissioner Bud Selig decided the game would go a full nine innings before the event had even started. The rules were officially changed following that season.

O’Donnell said he would never rule anything when it comes to NASCAR making a change. However, he also acknowledged the logistics for NASCAR returning to a track the next day to complete a race versus a baseball game doing the same, are different.

“I think there’s some things involved too with cars going at Texas over 200 miles per hour and at what point is too late to continue a race, so there’s a lot of things that go into this with logistics,” O’Donnell said. “I’d never rule that out, it’s something that we’ll take a look at, and the sport always continues to evolve, but where we are right now those are the rules the competitors race under and accept.”

There was also no guarantee NASCAR would get the race in, as the forecast for areas surrounding the track also showed rain. There was also the battle with track drying due to weepers and water continuing to come through the porous surface.

Follow @KellyCrandall

NASCAR America: Matt DiBenedetto on Indy success with small team

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Matt DiBenedetto has just three top-10 finishes in his three years of competing in the NASCAR Cup Series. But two of them have come this year in two of the biggest races in the sport.

DiBenedetto, who drives the No. 32 Ford for Go Fas Racing, finished ninth in the Daytona 500 in February and eighth in Sunday’s Brickyard 400.

DiBenedetto, who was also celebrating his 26th birthday, joined NASCAR America to discuss his run at Indy and what is considered a successful race for his team, which has 15 crew members.

“You’ve got to keep it in the perception of your versions of wins are a little bit different than everybody else’s version,” DiBenedetto said. “We look at it as who we’re racing around. I would say on a regular week where there’s not a ton of chaos like Indy was, a top 20 is a really good day. A top 25 is if we just do our job.”

Watch the video for the full segment.

Chase Elliott, AJ Allmendinger unveil Darlington throwback schemes

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Both Chase Elliott and AJ Allmendinger have revealed the paint schemes they’ll drive in the Sept. 3 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Elliott will use his No. 24 Chevrolet to pay tribute to the car his father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, drove in his first Cup start.

The light blue look was on his No. 9 car when he started in the Feb. 29, 1976 race at Rockingham Speedway.

The car was revealed on Facebook in the below video.

AJ Allmendinger will pay tribute to two-time Cup champion Terry Labonte with his No. 47 Chevrolet.

The car will resemble the No. 44 Piedmont Airlines Oldsmobile that Labonte drove in during the 198 Cup season when he competed for owner Billy Hagan.

NASCAR America: Felix Sabates: ‘I’m lucky to be here’ after near-death experience from illness last year

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For nearly a month last year Felix Sabates was at death’s door.

The fears were so great that Sabates might not wake up from a coma he spent 29 days in, Chip Ganassi bought a blue suit for the possibility he might have to attend his co-owner’s funeral.

But the 71-year-old made a full recovery through a rehab process that included learning to walk again.

NASCAR America’s Kyle Petty and Sabates have a special relationship. Petty drove the No. 42 car for Sabates’ SABCO Racing for eight years in the 1980s and 1990s, winning six of his eight Cup races for the millionaire owner from Cuba.

Sabates sat down with Petty to discuss the ordeal, which began in January 2016 when Sabates began feeling ill during the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I came home and woke up the next morning and I (couldn’t) breath,” said Sabates, who drove himself to the hospital. “The minute they saw me I was in intensive care.”

Sabates was in the hospital for two and half weeks before he was released, but Sabates “should’ve know I wasn’t cured.”

The Chip Ganassi Racing co-owner returned to his usual grind until it caught up to him in August.

“My blood pressure was through the roof, my oxygen level was 55, which you should be dead then,” recalled Sabates, who has no memory of a three-month stretch. “They thought was I was brain-dead. They were pretty much going to disconnect me. So 4 o’clock in the morning, they took my tubes out.”

That’s when Sabates began the process of waking up.

“I’m lucky to be here,” said Sabates, who aside from being back at the track is also back to playing golf.

“I used to worry about little things,’ Sabates said. “Now I don’t even worry about big things.”

The full feature will air Sunday on Countdown to Green, which begins at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN before the Cup race at Pocono.

NASCAR America: Ryan Blaney glad Team Penske news is finally out in the open

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On Wednesday it was finally announced that Ryan Blaney would move from Wood Brothers Racing to Team Penske full-time next year in the Cup Series in the No. 12 Ford while Paul Menard will take over the No. 21 Ford.

NASCAR America’s Dave Burns caught up with Blaney on Thursday. Blaney was happy that his 2018 plans were finally public knowledge.

Blaney also acknowledged how a technical alliance between the two teams helped Wood Brothers Racing return to a competition level that allowed Blaney to get his first Cup win this season earlier this year.

“That was a big deal,” Blaney said. “That was getting us to where we could run a full-time season. That was really helpful not only to me but to (crew chief) Jeremy Bullins, will be coming with me to the 12 car.”

Blaney has been driving for Team Penske part-time in the Xfinity Series since 2012.

“It’s been nice to get the news and tell everybody finally about what we’re doing,” Blaney said. “But mainly we’re trying to finish this year out strong with the Wood Brothers, getting their 100th win, that’s really big. That’s on my bucket list for this year and getting as far as we can in the playoffs.”

The No. 21 team returns to Pocono Raceway this weekend, the site of Blaney’s first Cup win last month.

Watch the video for the full interview.