After last event as Cup driver, Tony Stewart still has a lot of work to do

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Tony Stewart has probably lost count of the number of times he’s had to remind people of a simple fact.

He’s not retiring from driving race cars, just the kind that have NASCAR labels on them.

Stewart brought up this point in what was technically his last interview as a NASCAR driver at Friday night’s Sprint Cup Awards banquet in Las Vegas.

“This isn’t the last time I’m going to talk to you guys,” Stewart said after the ceremony, which included a surprise appearance and tribute by musician Eddie Vedder. “I’ve said it all along through this whole year, the reason this isn’t a big deal to me is I’m going to be around, I’m going to see you guys like I always see you, just a different role. If I was retiring and walking away from the sport I would be a lot more emotional about it. But it’s literally just changing roles. I’m not going anywhere.”

In fact, Stewart will only have about 14 days of downtime in the coming months because of his other commitments in the racing community.

“If I showed you my phone you would cry,” Stewart said.

After Dec. 16, Stewart will have 10 days off before diving into a schedule that begins with working at the Tulsa Shootout in Oklahoma.

After four days at home in Columbus, Indiana, Stewart then goes to Talladega to watch another dirt race before returning to Tulsa for the Chili Bowl.

Eventually, Stewart will be back at a NASCAR facility, but firmly in his role as an owner while Clint Bowyer takes over for him in the No. 14 Ford.

“I’m looking forward to having Clint even though I think I’m going to have a lot more gray hairs from Clint than I have now,” Stewart joked.

Bowyer wasn’t in attendance at the Awards Banquet, but instead was an enjoying a day of hunting while his future boss was being honored for his 18-year NASCAR career.

“He sent a picture today, he was deer hunting and I said ‘You look a lot happier deer hunting than I am about putting a tuxedo on here in 30 minutes,'” Stewart said of Bowyer, who will join Kevin Harvick, Danica Patrick and Kurt Busch in Stewart-Haas Racing’s stable of drivers.

Bowyer spent 2016 with HScott Motorsports, an experience that ended with him 27th in points and filing a lawsuit against the team, which was quickly settled.

“I know he’s excited about it,” Stewart said. “I know last year wasn’t at all the year he wanted to have. I kept telling him, you could tell when he was really getting down, I told him to be patient. ‘There’s light at the end of the tunnel.'”

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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