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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.

Six cars to miss time in final Cup practice session

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KANSAS CITY, Kansas – Six Cup teams, including playoff contenders Chase Elliott and Jamie McMurray, will each miss 15 minutes of today’s final practice session at Kansas Speedway because of inspection issues, NASCAR announced.

Three teams were penalized 15 minutes in Saturday morning’s first practice – Derrike Cope, Landon Cassill and AJ Allmendinger. Each were penalized for being late to qualifying inspection Friday.

Teams penalized 15 minutes in final Cup practice will be Elliott, McMurray, Cope, Trevor Bayne, Paul Menard and Aric Almirola.

Bayne, Elliott and Almirola were penalized for failing qualifying/race inspection twice at Talladega.

Cope, McMurray and Menard were penalized for failing qualfiying qualifying inspection twice at Kansas.

Final Cup practice is scheduled from 1:30 – 2:20 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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

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The Xfinity Series begins the second round of its playoffs with today’s Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway.

Here is all the info you need for the race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: Kansas Lt. Gov. Dr. Jeff Colyer will give the command to start engines at 2:56 p.m. Green flag is scheduled for 3:05 p.m.

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

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

PRERACE SCHEDULE: Qualifying is slated for 12:05 p.m. Driver introductions are at 2:25 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Mary Ann Hotaling will perform the anthem at 2:51 p.m..

TV/RADIO:  NBC will broadcast the race at 3 p.m. Coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. on NBCSN with Countdown to Green. Motor Racing Network will broadcast the race on radio and at mrn.com, starting with its pre-race show at 2:30 p.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com site predicts a temperature of 76 degrees and a 15 percent chance of rain at race time.

LAST TIME: Kyle Busch dominated this race last fall, leading 150 of 200 laps. Elliott Sadler finished second. Daniel Suarez was third.

STARTING LINEUP: Qualifying is at 12:05 p.m.

Saturday’s NASCAR Cup, Xfinity schedule at Kansas Speedway

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Today’s racing action at Kansas Speedway includes two NASCAR Cup practices, as well as Xfinity qualifying and race.

Today’s Xfinity race will be the first in the Round of 8, which will determine the four finalists for next month’s championship race.

Here is today’s schedule:

(All times are Eastern)

8 a.m. — Xfinity garage opens

9:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. — Cup garage open

11 – 11:55 p.m. — Second Cup practice (NBC Sports App, MRN)

12:05 p.m. – Xfinity qualifying (multi-vehicle, three rounds) (NBCSN)

1:15 p.m. – Xfinity driver/crew chief meeting

1:30 – 2:20 p.m. – Final Cup practice (NBCSN, MRN)

2:30 p.m. – Xfinity driver introductions

3 p.m. – Kansas 300 Xfinity race (200 laps, 300 miles) (NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Ryan Blaney’s car fails inspection after qualifying

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KANSAS CITY, Kansas – Playoff contender Ryan Blaney’s car failed inspection after qualifying third Friday night at Kansas Speedway, NASCAR announced.

NASCAR stated that the car’s package tray did not maintain its original shape. That is the metal that holds the rear window in place.

Blaney will start last in the 40-car field and have the last pick of pit stalls this weekend and next weekend at Martinsville Speedway. There will be no further penalties.

Team co-owner Eddie Wood said:

“The rules are pushed to the max in every area, and today the NASCAR officials found something they didn’t like about our car. We’re not disputing their decision. We’ll own it and move on.

“We’ll work on our car in Saturday’s practice, line up in the back on Sunday and look forward to watching Ryan drive his way to the front.”

Blaney enters Sunday’s elimination race two points ahead of Jimmie Johnson, who holds the eighth final transfer spot for the next round. Kyle Busch is nine points behind Blaney and Matt Kenseth is 10th.

Four of the 12 playoff contenders will be eliminated after Sunday’s race.

By starting at the rear, Blaney will be challenged to be in the top 10 by Lap 80 to score stage points. If he doesn’t, he could fall behind Johnson and Busch after the first stage.

Below is Section 20.4.17.8 of the Cup Rule Book, which features a diagram of the package tray

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