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Bump & Run: Should some Cup races have more points than others?

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Parker Kligerman and Steve Letarte, who will be on today’s NASCAR America from 5:30 – 7 p.m ET, joins Nate Ryan and Dustin Long to answer this week’s questions.

With a maximum 70 points and eight playoff points available for this weekend’s Coca-Cola 600, should NASCAR look at some of its top-tier races having more points than most races next year? If so, what races should those be?

Parker Kligerman: I am torn here, as I understand the reasoning. I understand the intention. My problem is that the sport has already added numerous changes to the points structure this year with the addition of stages and playoff points. Now making a race worth more just because it is longer doesn’t work for me. In an era of NASCAR, in which I applaud them for being so open and progressive, I fear this is where I draw the line. This race should not have four stages and should not be worth more points. 

For example, in the IndyCar Series, they made the Indy 500 a double points event in addition to having almost a full race worth of points up for grabs in qualifying. Therefore, a bad two days in Indy could effectively end your championship hopes, which makes no sense to me. Why should one race be able to make or break an entire year-long championship? 

I know this is not the case in NASCAR, but it reinforces my point. No single race should have a larger impact on a championship than the other when it comes to a points value. 

Steve Letarte: I will go on record as saying that I was not a fan of an added stage for the 600 for the simple fact it wasn’t added in January. I think we need to stop changing. I think we have generated stage racing and it has been a great improvement. I do think the 600 needed another stage, just not this year. I really think we should have run an entire season and then evaluated it. The 600 perhaps could get an extra stage. The Daytona 500 could get an extra stage. The Brickyard, while it’s not a 500, another stage probably wouldn’t hurt that. I do think the night race at Bristol.

Nate Ryan: I think the Daytona 500 certainly will get consideration for extra stage points, and it should. The Southern 500 and the night race at Bristol also should be on this list. (This also would be a very good idea if it coincided with shortening other races on the schedule.)

Dustin Long: Yes. The Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600, Southern 500 and Martinsville spring race (since the other is in the playoffs) should have more points than other races. That is a restrictor-plate track, 1.5-mile track,. 1.366-mile track and a short track. Instead of adding extra stages for some of those races, NASCAR could make stage wins worth 15 points instead of 10 points.

Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer are in the top 10 in the season standings but have yet to score a points victory. Who will be the first among that group to win?

Parker Kligerman: It is easy to immediately gravitate toward the most recent winner in the series, being Kyle Busch at the All-Star Race. But I wouldn’t be so quick to count out Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 team. They seem to be good in the speed department and, therefore, just need to execute. Lastly, Chase Elliott has to be thinking that surely there is a victory lane reserved for him in the near future, as it just seems absurd he has not won a race yet. My pick is Kevin Harvick. 

Steve Letarte: I think it’s a tossup between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harivck. I think that they have moments of brilliance between the two of them. Kevin Harvick, in my mind, he won at Atlanta. He did everything he was supposed to do but win the race. Kyle Busch has had the same sort of thing with untimely cautions. I think it’s between Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, but I will say that the entire list will win before the season is out.’’

Nate Ryan: Kyle Busch seems ready to score the breakthrough for Joe Gibbs Racing, and Kevin Harvick would be next on the list. I think there’s a good chance that any of those on the list could win Sunday. In the past three years, the Coca-Cola 600 has been the winner’s first victory of the season.

Dustin Long: Kevin Harvick has four top-five finishes in the last five points races, signs that his Stewart-Haas Racing has gotten past many of the issues with switching to Ford. It’s time for this team to win and it will soon.

The 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame Class will be selected this week. Name two nominees you think deserve to be in this class and why. 

Parker Kligerman: On NASCAR America a couple weeks ago, Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett made a case for Robert Yates to be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year. And it made me realize he was right. When you break the sport down, the most important part of a motor vehicle is the engine, it is what makes it a motorized vehicle. So when you look at the importance of engines in this sport, you must look at the people who made those engines a reality. Therefore my first pick goes to a man who at times pushed the limits of what many people thought to be physically possible with a pushrod V8 – Robert Yates. 

My second pick goes to an absolute legend – Red Byron. Not only was he the NASCAR Cup Series’ first champion but a WWII veteran as well. His B-24 plane was shot at and he injured his left leg. But this wouldn’t be enough to hold him back from racing, where he pushed and pushed to find a way to be able to retrofit the car for his injury. He succeeded and became a champion. A veteran, a champion, a never give up attitude. What more could you want from a Hall of Famer? 

Steve Letarte: This is the easiest question every year until this year. Every year I see the class, there are two or three names that jump out to me as guarantees. When I look at this year, I see a class of Hall of Fame worthy nominees, all that I feel will end up in the Hall of Fame, but in what order should they go? I’m glad I’m not in that room. I could make a case for Davey Allison, but you have to argue what could have been. I can make the argument for Ray Evernham. I can make an argument for Red Farmer, Ray Fox, Ken Squier, Robert Yates. The list goes on and on.

Nate Ryan: The first two on my ballot will be Ray Evernham, whose influence and innovations as a crew chief are nonpareil, and Red Byron, who should be in by virtue of being the first premier series champion.

Dustin Long: Ray Evernham was a game changer. The garage often had to respond to what Evernham did, whether it was with the pit crew, strategy or what he did to the car. Robert Yates was one of the premier engine builders who also went on to have success as a car owner. His success in two disciplines and how the engine company that has his name on it remains powerful, shows his impact even today.

Kyle Larson posts fastest lap in Saturday morning practice at New Hampshire

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LOUDON, New Hampshire – Kyle Larson recorded the fastest lap in Saturday morning’s Cup practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Larson topped the field with a lap of 132.586 mph.

He was followed by fellow playoff contenders Ryan Blaney (132.517 mph), Chicagoland winner Martin Truex Jr. (132.503), Matt Kenseth (132.163) and Denny Hamlin (132.071).

Truex had the best average over 10 consecutive laps at 131.396 mph. He was followed by Jimmie Johnson (131.173) and Ryan Blaney (131.064).

The final Cup session is from 11:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. ET.

Fourteen teams will miss practice time in that final session because of inspection issues.

Click here for practice report

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Long: Time for NASCAR to regulate victory burnouts? What’s the fun in that?

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LOUDON, New Hampshire — Strip away the debate, peel away the nuances and look not at NASCAR but yourself.

Can you enjoy watching someone smoke the tires after winning a race, or must you see tires blow, thus damage the car and possibly hinder officials in inspecting the vehicle afterward?

Denny Hamlin knows how many of you will vote. He’s seen your reaction when he’s done burnouts down the frontstretch like he did in July at New Hampshire Motor Speedway — site of Sunday’s race (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN). He blew a left rear tire in that celebration.

“The moment that the tires pop … that’s the moment the fans get excited,’’ Hamlin told NBC Sports after qualifying Friday.

Is that what it comes down to for you? After half a day at the track and three hours of racing, one of the key moments of your trip is seeing someone blow a tire in their victory burnout?

If it’s that important to see those tires blow, then are you OK that it could allow a car to skate the rules?

Dale Earnhardt Jr. says NASCAR should regulate those celebrations because they’re as nefarious as they are exhilarating.

“I’ve been kind of waiting all this time for NASCAR to say, “Look we’d just rather you guys not blow the tires out,’ ‘’ Earnhardt said Friday. “They talk about not being the fun police. Being the fun police is not on the radar of their damn problems. I don’t think they need to worry about it. That’s a cop-out in my opinion.’’

Why?

“I just feel like that they should step up,’’ Earnhardt said. “They’re the governing body. It’s obvious (blowing tires) is done intentionally.’’

Earnhardt said that the penalty to Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott and Elliott’s team for modifying components to affect aerodynamic properties was too severe compared to drivers who are not penalized for damaging their cars in victory celebrations.

“(Elliott’s team) is going to get a suspended crew chief and car chief for this tape mess and the winner of the race (Martin Truex Jr.) was riding into victory lane with a damn rear tore all to hell,’’ Earnhardt said of last weekend’s race at Chicagoland Speedway “Can’t even tech it. I love Martin. It ain’t about Martin. Every guy out there has done it.’’

Truex says he did nothing wrong when he blew a rear tire in his celebration at Chicagoland. He was overjoyed after coming back from a speeding penalty and having to pit a second time under caution for loose lug nuts to win. So, yes he had a robust celebration.

“It was definitely not something that was on purpose or somebody told me to do it,’’ Truex told NBC Sports. “It was just caught up in the moment. The burnout was pretty nice. Maybe it went on a little longer than it should have. In that case, there’s no rules against it. Nobody said you can’t do it. If there was obviously a rule against it, then we would probably not do it anymore.

“People are just reaching for unicorns at this point and trying to figure out why we’re so fast. They can say what they want. We’ve not had any inspection issues (after a race). We’ve been to the R&D Center probably more than everybody this year.’’

Section 8.5.2.1.c of the Cup Rule Book allows burnouts, stating: “The first place vehicle may engage in appropriate celebratory activity (such as a victory lap, burn-out(s) or donuts) prior to reporting to victory lane.’’

The key word in that rule is “appropriate.”

This isn’t the first time victory celebrations have been debated. It has become as regular as shorter days and birds flying south in autumn.

Excessive victory celebrations was a topic during the playoffs in Oct. 2015 after Kevin Harvick’s car appeared to hit the inside wall while he did a donut after winning at Dover. His car passed inspection after the race.

Last year, Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, hinted on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that officials could address victory celebrations. His comments came two days after Hamlin had to walk to victory lane at Watkins Glen after his celebration. Hamlin’s car passed inspection.

“We hear the same thing from them all the time,’’ Hamlin said, recalling the last time NASCAR commented publicly on the issue. “Until they really do something, people are going to do the same things.’’

Still, shouldn’t there be a line on what is allowed and what isn’t? Why give drivers the chance to damage their car before going through inspection after the race?

NASCAR has docked teams practice time for swerving after a race to ensure they make it through inspection. Those weren’t winning cars. So, should the benefit of winning be that as long as the driver gives fans one last thrill show, they’re given more leeway in possibly damaging or resetting their car?

If NASCAR penalizes teams for celebrations, it likely will take away some of the emotion the sport wants to display, particularly at the end of the race. Few want to see a winner treat a victory nonchalantly. Such achievements are difficult and are worth reveling in.

“The hard part of judging that is that sometimes, when it’s a big enough win and you’re celebrating the heck out of it, it’s hard to make that call between a celebration and trying to get through tech after the race,’’ Austin Dillon told NBC Sports.

Dillon, who scored his first Cup win this year, isn’t sure he likes the idea of NASCAR constraining a celebration.

“I’ve been really excited and blew the tires off it when I won my first couple of races,’’ he said. “When you win more than that, the issue with me is I want to take that clean car and race it again.

“Blowing the wheel tubs out of it, I’m probably going to do it if everybody else is doing it, if it helps getting through tech. The bad part about it is it kind of looks bad on the money side of things when you’re tearing cars up and they’re crying we don’t have any money.’’

By not doing anything, is NASCAR inhibiting its ability to properly inspect cars afterward, assuring a level playing field among competitors?

It’s not like ‘Oh, my bad, blew my tire.’ I mean it’s deliberate,’’ Earnhardt said. “So, it tells me there’s some purpose behind it. It just upset me with what happened to Chase and how they sort of got zeroed-in on when all this is sort of going on right under everybody’s nose. It doesn’t make sense.”

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14 Cup teams to lose practice time in final session at New Hampshire

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LOUDON, New Hampshire — More than a third of the Cup starting lineup will lose practice time today at New Hampshire Motor Speedway because of inspection issues.

Joey Logano will be forced to sit out the entire 50-minute session after failing qualifying inspection four times Friday. Logano never made it on track for qualifying and will start last in the 39-car field for Sunday’s race (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Four teams — playoff drivers Jamie McMurray and Martin Truex Jr., along with Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones — will be forced to miss 30 minutes of the final practice.

Truex and McMurray are serving their penalties because their cars failed inspection before last weekend’s race at Chicagoland Speedway three times.

Suarez and Jones are serving their penalties because their cars failed inspection before last weekend’s Chicagoland race twice and failed inspection twice before qualifying Friday at New Hampshire.

Nine teams will miss 15 minutes of practice in the final session for failing inspection before qualifying two times Friday.

Those docked are playoff contenders Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson. Also docked 15 minutes are Danica Patrick, Ty Dillon, Corey LaJoie, Matt DiBenedetto and David Ragan.

Final practice will be from 11:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. today.

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Saturday’s NASCAR schedule includes races at New Hampshire (Trucks) & Kentucky (Xfinity)

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While the countdown to this weekend’s main event — Sunday’s ISM Connect 300 — continues, there’s plenty of racing action for NASCAR fans today.

After two Cup practices, New Hampshire Motor Speedway will play host to the UNOH 175 Camping World Truck Series race this afternoon.

Then this evening, Kentucky Speedway hosts the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300.

Here’s today’s schedule:

(All times Eastern)

At NEW HAMPSHIRE

6:30 a.m. – Truck garage opens

7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. – Cup garage open

9 a.m. – 9:55 p.m. – Cup practice (CNBC)

10:05 a.m. – Truck qualifying (FS1)

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

11:30 a.m. – 12:20 p.m. – Final Cup practice (NBC Sports App)

12:30 p.m. – Truck driver introductions

1 p.m. – UNOH 175 Truck race (175 laps, 185.15 miles) (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

At KENTUCKY

1:30 p.m. – Xfinity garage opens

5:35 p.m. – Xfinity qualifying (multi-vehicle, three rounds) (NBCSN)

6:45 p.m. – Xfinity driver/crew chief meeting

7:30 p.m. – Xfinity driver introductions

8 p.m. – VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 race (200 laps, 300 miles) (NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)