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Ryan: Time for ‘encumbered’ to exit . . . and maybe take wins? Thoughts on Joey Logano penalty

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A few thoughts on the massive penalty Thursday morning to Richmond International Raceway winner Joey Logano.

–Time to eradicate encumbered: Euphemisms are a detriment to our society that generally preclude getting to the root of a matter by speaking bluntly.

When people say they are having “issues,” what they actually mean are “problems.” Yes, you might think you are “reaching out” … but what you really are doing is calling or emailing.

In NASCAR, when drivers talk about their teams having or lacking “resources,” they actually mean “money.” And when team executives talk about “sponsorship inventory,” that’s code for “we need more money.”

Which brings us to “encumbered.” Why should anyone be using this word, asked a highly influential member of the NASCAR community?

In its era of transparency, NASCAR would do itself some favors if it used franker language. An “encumbered” win is a “tainted” win – full stop.

Understandably, teams would resist such language because it leaves them sideways with corporate sponsors that want to avoid the optics of being associated with rulebreakers.

But NASCAR lets teams – and itself – off the hook by avoiding the most direct description of what’s at stake. There already is too much impenetrable nomenclature in explaining Logano’s penalty (“mating surfaces”, “planar” and “spacer/pinion angle” were some of my favorites). Sorry about the aspersions being cast at Team Penske, but inadvertently throwing shade shouldn’t be high on the priority list for NASCAR when it doles out punishments.

Time to take away wins? It’s debate that reignites whenever a race winner runs afoul of the rulebook in a major way.

Two months ago on NASCAR America, analyst Jeff Burton made an impassioned and sensible case that stripping race victories should be considered.

The refrain long was that NASCAR didn’t want to invalidate wins because it wanted fans to know who the winner was when they left the track. In 21st century America, it is very possible – if not probable – that fans could learn via social media of a win being stripped before the affected driver.

It would be a shame to have the storyline spoiled of Logano winning in his 300th career start. But if the penalty was severe enough to disqualify its playoff eligibility and sit crew chief Todd Gordon for two races, then it seems right to award the win to teammate Brad Keselowski (hey, there’s some Penske consolation, and he did seem to have the strongest car Sunday).

It always could be restored if Penske appealed and won.

–An unfortunate narrative: In its latest of umpteenth crackdowns on inspection, NASCAR officials said they wanted to issue penalties closer to when the infractions were committed.

The preponderance of practice holds, loss of pit selection, etc., stems from this new approach. It’s a noble goal that prevents the empty space of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (and an ensuing race weekend) from being swallowed whole by talking about penalties, which candidly are unremarkable as a storyline. (You might have heard stock-car racing started with outlaws.)

Despite this push, Team Penske has illustrated it hasn’t worked as NASCAR hoped, between Logano’s punishment and the neverending saga of Keselowski’s Phoenix penalty ordeal.

You can debate whether it’s the fault of NASCAR or the teams for the endless war in the Laser Inspection Stations, but there is no doubt about this: None of this nonsense helps attract new fans.

–Caught on tape? Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford was approved after its postrace teardown at the R&D Center, begging the question of how two cars equally built and prepared under the same roof could differ in compliance. Making the rounds on social media Thursday morning was video of Keselowski swerving on the cooldown lap while congratulating Logano.

Did Logano lack the time and discretion to execute a similar maneuver and ensure legality because he won the race (NASCAR has policed swerving because it helps reset suspensions to pass the postrace laser inspection)?

Or was this (regardless of swerving) a case of the setups of Logano and Keselowski being SO divergent that one of their cars (the slower of the two, oddly) could be out of compliance despite originating in the same building?

Regardless, it certainly puts the comments of Dale Earnhardt Jr. after Texas in a new light.

Today’s Xfinity race at Charlotte: Start time, weather, TV/radio info

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After two weekends off, the Xfinity Series is back in action today at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Elliott Sadler enters as the points leader with a 29-point advantage on JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier. William Byron, who also drives for JR. Motorsports, is third in the standings. Byron and Sadler are going for their first victory of the season, while Allgaier seeks his second win this year.

Here are the particulars for today’s Xfinity race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The Evil Genius’ Halo ESports Team will give the command for drivers to start engines at 1:07 p.m. The green flag is scheduled for 1:18 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 200 laps (300 miles) around the 1.5-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 45. Stage 2 ends on Lap 90.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: The Xfinity garage opens at 6:30 a.m. The drivers meeting is at 11:15 a.m. Driver introductions are at 12:30 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Star Swain will perform the Anthem at 1:01 p.m.

TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race at 1 p.m. Its coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. Performance Racing Network will broadcast the race on radio and at gorpn.com. PRN’s coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry PRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com site predicts 85 degrees at race time with a 15 percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST YEAR: Denny Hamlin led 76 laps to win this even a year ago. Austin Dillon was second and Joey Logano third. Logano led the final 12 laps to win at Charlotte in October. Elliott Sadler was second and Daniel Suarez was third.

STARTING LINEUP: Qualifying is at 10:05 a.m.

Today’s schedule at Charlotte: Cup practice, Xfinity qualifying and race

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NASCAR goes racing today with the Hisense 4K TV 300 Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Denny Hamlin won this race last year.

Here is today’s track schedule, as the countdown to Sunday’s main event of the weekend, the Coca-Cola 600, ticks closer:

(All times Eastern)

6:30 a.m. – Xfinity garage opens

7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. – Cup garage open

9 – 9:55 a.m. – Cup practice (FS1)

10:05 a.m. – Xfinity qualifying (multi-vehicle, three rounds) (FS1)

11:15 a.m. – Xfinity driver/crew chief meeting

11:30 a.m. – 12:20 p.m. – Cup final practice (FS1)

12:30 p.m. – Xfinity driver introductions

1 p.m. – Xfinity Hisense 4K TV 300 (200 laps, 300 miles) (FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

My Home Track: North Carolina’s Caraway Speedway (video)

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Sure, NASCAR is synonymous with Daytona Beach, the state of Florida and Daytona International Speedway.

But there is no other state that is so linked to NASCAR than the Tar Heel state, North Carolina.

Numerous racetracks, from the smallest grassroots short track to Charlotte Motor Speedway dot the state, offering a plethora of race action from amateur all the way to the best of the best.

On Friday’s My Home Track: 50 States in 50 Shows segment, NASCAR America’s Kyle Petty shared some of his fondest memories of one of his favorite short tracks, Caraway Speedway.

Check out the video above.

NASCAR America: Steve Letarte reflects on mentor Ray Evernham’s Hall of Fame selection

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Steve Letarte learned the sport of NASCAR from a number of different individuals.

But no one compares to Letarte’s greatest mentor, Ray Evernham, who was selected earlier this week as one of five individuals that will enter the NASCAR Hall of Fame in its 2018 class.

Evernham, who led Jeff Gordon to three of his four NASCAR Cup championships as Gordon’s crew chief, was not only an innovator in the sport, but also a leader, mentor and team owner.

On Friday’s NASCAR America, Letarte, an Evernham protege, discussed what made his former boss, teacher and close friend so special.  Check out the video above.