Cole Whitt explains actions on final restart: ‘Sorry it happened’

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Cole Whitt expressed remorse for the final restart but that won’t change the result for Justin Allgaier and Erik Jones, who each saw their chance of winning the Xfinity championship end as the green flag waved on the final restart with three laps to go.

“It was pretty disrespectful, really, and I strongly hope that somebody is able to talk to him about that,’’ Jones said about Whitt’s actions. “I’d really hate to see something like that happen again.

The situation unfolded after a late caution brought the field to pit road — except Whitt.

He said he did not pit because his team had used its allotment of tires. That meant he would be in front of the field on much older tires and have the championship contenders behind him.

Jones called Whitt’s action “kind of insane.’’

Whitt said he chose the outside line to give the contenders room to get by him if he didn’t get restarted quickly.

It seemed like a good idea. In theory.

But it didn’t work out that way. Whitt got a poor restart and blocked the cars in the top lane behind him. Jones and Allgaier never had a chance to race for the championship in those final laps, as Sadler and eventual winner and Xfinity champion Daniel Suarez pulled away from the bottom lane.

“We’re sitting here,’’ Allgaier said in the media center after finishing sixth, “and not standing on that (championship) stage over there like I think all of us would have liked to have been.’’

So why did Whitt do what he did?

“We didn’t expect everybody to come in like that, and next thing I knew I was like this is going to be handful,’’ Whitt said after finishing 18th. “I thought if I was on the outside, I would have the most room for them to go underneath me if anything happened and I couldn’t get going.

“With (Jones) hitting me, I couldn’t get going. It was just making me spin the tires worse. If you could redo it, you would change the way you did it. It was not like we were out there to screw anybody over. I hate that it worked out that way. I was just following what I was told to do and that was just stay out because we were out of tires.

“It’s not like you meant to do it. I think the one thing you can say at least we were out there to run good. I only had two weeks to work with this team and come out here and do all right. We were tying to run good for our team.’’

Jones was dumbfounded about Whitt’s restart — or lack of it in Jones’ opinion.

“You can’t pass before the start/finish line,’’ Jones said. “It would have been one thing if he would got up and started rolling but you can’t go anywhere before the start/finish line. It’s really frustrating. I don’t mean to bag on the guy so much but it’s like, ‘Hey, we’re up here racing for the championship.’

“Maybe we don’t even win it if he pits and lets us move up. At least we would have had a fair shot of it. I kind of feel we got robbed of our chance to race for it.’’

Asked if he owed Jones an explanation, Whitt said: “I know he’s pissed. He’s going to go on to Cup and win championships there and be the next guy anyway. He’s set up in the long run. It’s not like I’m set up to screw him. I just couldn’t get going, spinning my tires. Simple as that. The more he hits, the more I spin my tires. Just a crappy situation.’’

Asked if he should talk to all the championship contenders, Whitt said: “Everyone feels that they were going to win this championship. Sorry it happened.’’

My Home Tracks: New Mexico’s the Land of Enchantment and home of Cardinal Speedway

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The state of New Mexico is known more for IndyCar racing, with the Unser family being the state’s favorite sons.

Al Unser won four Indianapolis 500s, brother Bobby three and Al’s son Al Jr. a two-time winner (this weekend’s 500 marks the 25th anniversary of Little Al’s second 500 triumph).

But there’s a strong grassroots racing scene in the Land of Enchantment, particularly in the far southeast corner of the state at Cardinal Speedway, a half-mile dirt track in the little town of Eunice.

NASCAR America continues its My Home Track series of 50 states in 50 shows.

Wednesday, we visit New York state.

2018 NASCAR schedule changes: EVP Steve O’Donnell breaks it down (video)

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On Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR America, NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell joined us to discuss the NASCAR Cup schedule changes in 2018, including running a road race at Charlotte and having Indianapolis be the final race before the playoffs.

“I’m real excited about these changes,” said O’Donnell, who cited unprecedented cooperation between NASCAR, its teams, drivers and sponsors to reach agreement on the schedule changes.

Among the key changes: Las Vegas will kick off the 10-race playoffs in 2018 (Chicagoland Speedway, which will have hosted the last seven playoff openers, will return to its more traditional race date in early July/late June and serve as a run-up to the Coke Zero 400 in Daytona.

Several other changes include:

  • The fall playoff race at Charlotte will move up a couple weeks in the schedule and also incorporate competition on both the infield road course and part of the speedway itself.
  • After 14 years as the deciding race to qualify for the NASCAR Cup playoffs, Richmond International Raceway will now become the second race of the playoffs.
  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway will see it’s Brickyard 400 go from late July to become the final qualifying race for the playoffs in early September.

Catch up on all the changes in the above video.

Tony Stewart pulled over by state trooper, but it’s not for speeding

Photo courtesy Damein Cunningham Twitter account
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Retired NASCAR Cup driver and team co-owner Tony Stewart was stopped by an Illinois State Trooper over the weekend near DeKalb, Ill., about 90 minutes west of Chicago.

But before you think Stewart was stopped for speeding by Trooper Damein Cunningham, he wasn’t.

Rather, Cunningham pulled Stewart over for improper lane usage, although exactly what the infraction was is unclear.

After getting a verbal warning, Stewart gladly posed with Cunningham for a selfie, which the trooper promptly tweeted out.

“Just pulled over NASCAR LEGEND Tony Stewart on I-88 in DeKalb, IL, what you think I got him for? #NASCAR #ISP”

But according to the Chicago Tribune, Cunningham’s bosses apparently didn’t have a sense of humor about the incident or realize the good PR it meant for the Illinois State Police.

That, or they’re not Stewart or NASCAR fans. They ordered Cunningham to delete the tweet, which he did.

It’s unclear what Stewart, who was stopped on his 46th birthday, was doing in the Land of Lincoln.

But his luck went from bad to worse a few hours later. According to USA Today, Stewart and others were stuck in an elevator in a Madison, Wisconsin hotel for about 20 minutes before being rescued by firefighters.

We can just imagine what the elevator riders talked about while trapped.

How much do you want to bet Stewart said, “Man, do I have a story about a cop that I have to tell you.”

Cunningham then posted another tweet on Sunday after attending church services.

 

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All-Star Race will remain at Charlotte in 2018

Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images
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NASCAR confirmed that the All-Star Race will be held again at Charlotte Motor Speedway despite more of a push from competitors and others to move the event.

Criticism was raised after last weekend’s 70-lap event featured only three lead changes. Kyle Busch took the lead on the restart to begin the final 10-lap stage and went on to win. It marked the fourth time in the last five years the All-Star winner led every lap in the final stage. In 12 All-Star Races at Charlotte since the track was repaved, there have been two lead changes in the final five laps.

Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations, was clear in a call with reporters Tuesday that the All-Star Race is set for Charlotte.

“We’ve finished our discussions for ’18,” he said. ” We’ll begin looking at ’19 and beyond in the near future.”

The All-Star Race debuted at Charlotte in 1985, moved to Atlanta in 1986 and returned to Charlotte the following year. It has been held at Charlotte ever since.

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