NASCAR drivers, owners, teams react to enhancements to points system

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NASCAR drivers, crew chiefs, team members, owners and officials shined a positive light on the new enhancements to the points structure across all three series that were announced Monday.

The enhancements will impact all three series, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Here are some excerpts from those that took part in the announcement from Charlotte, as well as reactions from social media:

NASCAR vice president Steve O’Donnell: “It’s the right time to make enhancements … it’s a great example of the industry coming together for the fans. … Every race matters and winning is more important than ever.”

Denny Hamlin: “There are no off weeks. Every single race matters. Every lap of every race matters. From our standpoint, you always felt a bit relaxed after you got a race win. Now with each accomplishment, getting points, through a stage win, or race win, each makes your road to Homestead a little bit easier. That’s what it’s all about.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: “I love the fact the bonus points will carry through the playoffs to the last round. Everything you do will help for the playoffs. The stages are going to help bring excitement for drivers and fans. Last year, I was driver and a fan, I was in a unique position. There will be a lot to watch as these crew chiefs try to figure out the strategies to obtain the most points. Fans should be excited.”

Brad Keselowski: “More chances to win, more chances to perform and more spotlights. … We’re going to race to a new level that we’ve never seen before. … I’m really pumped about this. To me, this is NASCAR. Look at how our races were formatted in the 40s and 50s: it was endurance, long races. Teams now are so smart. If we created motorsports from scratch today, this is how would we do this.”

Jeff Gordon: “I definitely think this is going to enhance experience of competitors and fans at home. … It (discussion of the new enhancements) was a pretty amazing experience and what came out of it is a balance of what fans are asking for and make it more exciting.”

NASCAR ON NBC analyst Jeff Burton: “When a race fan buys a ticket, that fan deserves to see a race that impacts the championship. Win and you’re in is awesome, but it took them off the hook a bit. If you incentivize these guys … it makes them want to race that much harder. This is an enhancement. When races matter, the fans win.

Steve Newmark, president of Roush Fenway Racing: “Crew chiefs and team members are chomping at the bit to get to the track.”

International Speedway Corporation president Joie Chitwood: “Every race, every lap means something, whether you have a TV viewer or someone in the stands. … We can never sit back and think we’re good enough. I think this group did a great job of coming up with something unique and I think our fans are going to be very excited in this coming season.”

Speedway Motorsports Inc. president Marcus Smith: “This is really for the fans.”

Team owner Jack Roush: “I believe this is part of the natural evolution of our sport as we continue to enhance the product on the race track. The enhancements are a result of unprecedented collaboration between the teams, NASCAR, broadcast partners and drivers, and in direct response to what the fans have expressed a desire for. Stage style racing has a strong history throughout many levels of motorsports, and I’m personally excited to watch as the new strategies play out during the upcoming season.”

Indianapolis Motor Speedway president J. Douglas Boles: “The new race format will make the Brickyard 400 and the entire Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series more exciting by making every stage of the race important. With every point critical to a driver’s championship chances, the changes will ensure spirited competition during each and every lap. The stages will also offer an opportunity for our fans to hear strategy insights during breaks in action, instead of having to wait until the race has ended. Winning the Brickyard 400 has always been important to the drivers and with more points on the line throughout, it will be an even more thrilling event!”

Team owner Richard Petty:

“Since NASCAR started, there has always been change. The world changes and you have to change with it. This new format just adapts to the current and next generation of fans. It’s something to help create more excitement during the races. You have to put on a good race, a good show where people want to watch at home and enjoy coming to the track. Having two additional winning moments is a good step in that direction to keep the drivers competitive and fans excited throughout the race and season. As an owner, I’m fine with it. I have the same rules as everyone else. That’s fair. We just have to figure out how to be the best under this format.”

Here are some comments from social media (we’ll continue to update):

 

 

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Matt Kenseth wrecks out of Auto Club 400 on late restart

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Matt Kenseth crashed out of the Auto Club 400 on a restart with 16 laps remaining in the race at Auto Club Speedway.

Kenseth had restarted fourth following a caution for an incident involving Gray Gaulding.

Kenseth was in the middle groove exiting Turn 2 when he was tapped from behind by Martin Truex Jr. and slid toward the inside wall, which his No. 20 Toyota hit hard. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was cleared and released from the infield care center.

It is Kenseth’s third DNF in the first five races of the season and his second in as many races. He had four in all of 2016.

Kenseth entered the race 20th in the point standings.

Martin Truex Jr. has commanding performance in Stage 2 win at Fontana

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Martin Truex Jr. has taken over as the most dominating driver in today’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

After pole-sitter Kyle Larson won the first 60-lap stage, Truex won Stage 2. During the session, Truex’s car showed supremacy with nearly a seven-second lead in the closing laps of the stage.

Truex has now won three of the last six stages, having captured both stages two weeks ago en route to his overall race win at Las Vegas.

Larson is in second place, followed by Chase Elliott, Clint Bowyer, Erik Jones, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski.

There has been just two cautions in the race – both coming in Stage 1.

We now move to the final stage, an 80-lap shootout to determine the race winner.

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Kyle Larson wins Stage 1 of Auto Club 400 at Fontana

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Pole-sitter Kyle Larson is almost one-third of the way to winning Sunday’s Auto Club 400. The California native won Stage 1 of the race at his home-state Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, about 50 miles east of Los Angeles.

Larson (43 laps) and Martin Truex Jr. (12 laps) have led the majority of the laps during the opening 60-lap segment. That segment will be followed by another 60-lap segment, and then an 80-lap final section for 200 laps (400 miles) around the 2-mile low-banked track.

It was Larson’s first stage win of the 2017 season under the new enhanced scoring format in the NASCAR Cup Series. Larson has finished runner-up in each of the last three races and four of the last five (dating back to the 2016 season finale). He has just one career Cup win, last year at Michigan.

Truex is running second, followed by Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray and Kyle Busch.

Sixth through 10th are Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney and Denny Hamlin.

Each of the top 10 finishers in Stage 1 will earn stage points in the NASCAR Cup standings.

Two incidents of note occurred early in the race, both involving Brad Keselowski:

* On the first lap, Keselowski’s car suffered left rear damage when several cars were involved in an accordion-like wreck. Others involved included Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin, but there was no caution called.

* Keselowski continued on without repairing the damage and was spun out on Lap 3 when he was hit from behind by Jimmie Johnson, causing further damage to Keselowski’s Ford Fusion. The caution came out for Laps 5 through 7. Johnson claimed there was little or no damage over his team radio, but Johnson has continued to have struggles this weekend. He’s running 32nd, one lap down.

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Bad race start results in damaged cars for Brad Keselowski, Ryan Newman and Kevin Harvick

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A bad start by the inside lane at the beginning of the Auto Club 400 resulted in damage to the cars of Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman.

Denny Hamlin struggled to get to speed at the drop of the green flag, causing the first few rows of cars to bunch up. It resulted in Newman making contact with Keselowski’s left rear and causing damage. Harvick then ran into Newman as the inside bottlenecked.

On Lap 4, after falling back to 17th, Keselowski was hit from behind by Jimmie Johnson on the front stretch, which sent the No. 2 car spinning through the infield grass. Keselowski, the Atlanta winner, was 19th and the first car a lap down when the first stage ended.

During pit stops in the resulting caution, large amounts of tape were put on the front bumper and grille of Harvick’s car and the right-front fender of Newman’s.

With 35 laps left in the first 60-lap stage, Harvick was forced to pit for a flat right-rear tire. He now runs in 28th, a lap down. Newman, who won last week at Phoenix, a lap down in 22nd.

Johnson, a six-time Auto Club winner and the defending winner, was told his No. 48 had damage that could easily be fixed in the pits.  He runs in 20th a lap down. Johnson is winless this season.