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Tire wear and pit strategy could determine race, championship

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Crew chief Todd Gordon feels strategy cost Joey Logano a win two weeks ago at Texas Motor Speedway. Gordon hopes to avoid the same issue in today’s championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway (2:30 p.m., NBC).

Tire wear and short-pitting — pitting before a fuel run ends — could determine who wins today’s race and the championship. Chad Knaus, crew chief for Jimmie Johnson, says lap times will fall by two seconds after only about 20 laps (a fuel run is about 55 laps).

“I think it’s awesome because I think that definitely provides opportunity for strategy, and definitely activity on pit road,’’ Knaus said. “It’s going to be interesting to see how it all plays out.’’

Teams are using the same tire this weekend that was run at both Texas races and at Chicagoland Speedway this season. The Texas race saw teams pit early because it was an advantage to get new tires ahead of the rest of the field.

“I feel like we got beat by it,’’ Gordon said of short pitting in the Texas race for Logano. “Martin Truex ran us down a little bit there in the middle of the race and actually got to our inside and pitted, and that short pit sequence only being a lap … got us from the lead to third and took us a while to recover from it. It’ll definitely play on this tire.’’

Dave Rogers, crew chief for Carl Edwards, admits short pitting will be “tempting” today.

“If you’re the leader and you have a five-second lead, you’re probably going to stay out and let a few people hit pit road first just to make sure everyone gets onto pit road cleanly,’’ Rogers said. “Once they do, then you’ll come down pit road.

On the other hand, if you’re running sixth and you’ve got to make up lap time, you’re probably going to gamble and short pit as much as you can. Everyone is going to be playing the strategy.  All these crew chiefs know the game.’’

Adam Stevens, crew chief for Kyle Busch, admits that short pitting “bit us’’ last weekend at Phoenix.

“We tried to come a little bit early and two cars got together coming onto pit road and we had to take the wave around as we were a lap down during that pit cycle,’’ he said. “The outcome of the race can change in a hurry and sometimes that risk is rewarded and sometimes it’s not.’’

NASCAR America: Kyle Busch questions Xfinity rules package at Indy

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Kyle Busch isn’t afraid to speak his mind, and he certainly did so after Saturday’s  Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

NASCAR implemented a number of changes to make the racing closer, tighter and more exciting — including restrictor plates, a larger rear spoiler, aero ducts, and a smaller splitter — and achieved all that on many fronts.

But not for the younger Busch brother, who wasn’t pleased with the rules package. Was it actually designed to specifically slow him down rather than to even out things for the entire field?

Or was he just simply upset because he didn’t win a third Xfinity race in a row at IMS?

Check out how our NASCAR America analysts gauged the Xfinity changes in the above video.

 

TriStar Motorsports team owner Mark Smith passes away

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Mark Smith, owner of TriStar Motorsports, died Saturday at his home, after a long battle with cancer, the team announced Monday. He was 63.

He began his racing career building engines for his brother Jack’s drag car in the 1970s. He moved his family from the West Coast in the early 1990s to pursue a career in NASCAR. He was the owner of TriStar Motorsports and Pro Motor Engines.

TriStar Motorsports fields the No. 14 in the Xfinty Series with JJ Yeley and the No. 72 in the Cup Series with Cole Whitt. The team stated the team will continue operations under the management of Bryan Smith, son of Mark Smith.

“It was dad’s dream to own and operate a NASCAR team,” Bryan Smith said. “He devoted his life to that dream and his family plans to honor his wishes by continuing our efforts in his memory.”

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Victory Junction Gang victoryjunction.org or NOVA (National Organization for Vehicle Access, part of the BraunAbility) novafunding.org.

The family will receive friends from 5-8 p.m. ET, Aug. 1 at Cavin-Cook Funeral Home, Mooresville, North Carolina. They have created a Facebook page where you are encouraged to leave a story for the family to enjoy. (facebook.com/Remembering-Mark-Smith-301261653675224)

NASCAR America: Analysts break down Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. wreck (video)

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Given how wild the Brickyard 400 played out, the big wreck between race leaders Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. wasn’t exactly surprising.

Rather, with the way the race transpired from the opening lap, was the Busch/Truex wreck almost inevitable?

Truex got loose and washed up into the left rear of Busch’s car, sending both drivers and their respective cars into the outside retaining walls, hitting hard and ending their respective days.

Check out what our NASCAR America analysts had to say about the wreck from Monday’s show in the above video.

NASCAR America: Dale Earnhardt Jr. recaps wild Brickyard 400 (video)

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On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, Dale Earnhardt Jr. — who will become part of our NBC Sports Group in 2018 — looked back on a wild and intense Brickyard 400.

Earnhardt was one of several drivers whose day came to an early ending — in Junior’s case when he ran into the back of Trevor Bayne‘s car, destroying his radiator in the process.

All the mayhem and mishaps could be linked to over-aggressive driving, Earnhardt said, saying that every driver was in “attack mode,” especially on restarts.

Check out Junior in the video above.