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Elliott Sadler’s substitute crew chief will ‘lean heavily’ on veteran driver in Xfinity title race

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In the biggest race of Elliott Sadler‘s NASCAR career, the driver will have a new voice talking to him over the radio during the Ford EcoBoost 300 on NBCSN.

After the one-race suspension of crew chief Kevin Meendering for a lug nut violation, Sadler will be working with Mike Bumgarner in the Xfinity Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Bumgarner, JR Motorsports’ race operations manager, will be crew chiefing his first race since 2014.

“I think having someone like Elliott Sadler alone speaks for itself,” Bumgarner said in teleconference Wednesday. “I’ll lean heavily on Elliott. He’s the leader of this team as well as Kevin, and these guys have worked really hard the last few days to set forth a plan to move forward to Homestead and have a shot to win this championship.”

Bumgarner steps into the role after Sadler joked at Phoenix International Raceway that team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. would be his crew chief.

“It would have definitely made it easier on me,” said Bumgarner with a laugh. “I would have much rather just went down there and sat back and watched.”

A 22-year NASCAR veteran, Bumgarner joined JR Motorsports in 2013 as a crew chief for Kasey Kahne and Brad Sweet on the No. 5 car. In 2014, he transitioned into the race operations manager position.

On Saturday he will try to finish the job Meendering started, giving Sadler, a 21-year veteran of NASCAR racing, his first championship. The No. 1 team enters Homestead with three wins, 13 top fives and 28 top 10s.

“I don’t see much of a challenge from my side,” Bumgarner said. “Kevin has a good group of guys, and these guys know what their role is played … It’s just more or less for me just to guide these guys along and answer any questions and try to do my best at calling a good race and getting Elliott in and off pit road. I think that’s probably the biggest task.”

Navigating pit road will also involve communicating with Sadler’s spotter, Brett Griffin.

“(Sadler) and Brett, they have a good combination as far as speaking and talking together, and I think that is going to make it easy,” Bumgarner said. “Elliott knows what he needs to do with the race car. These guys, they’ve shown on paper or speed charts as the week goes on every week, they progressively get better as the week goes, and I think that’s due to all the roles that Kevin has set aside as far as his guys and Elliott.”

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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