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Bump & Run: Should NASCAR give out 4-race suspensions for loose wheel penalties?

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Parker Kligerman joins Dale Jarrett and Jeff Burton from 5:30 – 7 p.m. on NASCAR America. Kligerman, Nate Ryan and Dustin Long discuss the this week’s hot topics.

The Cup team of Kyle Busch and Truck team of Chase Briscoe face major penalties for losing a wheel this weekend. NASCAR’s Rule Book says it will judge such matters on a case-by-case basis, but also states that a crew chief, tire carrier and tire changer responsible for a tire coming off face a “mandatory minimum” four-race suspension. How should NASCAR rule on these matters?

Parker Kligerman: Exactly as it reads, on a case-by-case basis. To me this allows NASCAR to do exactly what Brad Keselowski asked them to do and that is to measure the intent of the team. This penalty, in my opinion, is a drastic overreaction to the loose wheel problem of the last few years and probably should be re-worked. I believe there is a middle ground here and a four-race suspension of all those crew members is uncalled for. 

Nate Ryan: In this case, NASCAR should rule by the spirit rather than the letter of the law and provide dispensation to both teams. The rule was aimed at pit crews that intentionally put their drivers in riskier situations by skipping lug nuts for faster stops. Neither of these cases met that standard – no one in their right mind would leave a wheel completely unsecured for the purpose of gaining speed. Be lenient on these teams and then rewrite the rulebook to make an exception for a tire that comes off while the car effectively remains in the pits.

Dustin Long: Simple. Do as the rule book states. Four-race suspensions. NASCAR shouldn’t be in the business of trying to determine intent. There’s no doubt the rule can be written more clearly and should be adjusted for next year, but NASCAR should follow its own Rule Book and hand out the penalty spelled out.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. raised the issue of doing away with the overtime line except Daytona and Talladega. Do you agree with him? Why or why not?

Parker Kligerman: Yes, and here is why. I didn’t quite understand the reasoning behind this change in the first place. To me the GWC or overtime rules were introduced to allow races to end under green flag for the fans. But in creating this newest system, I believe there is a higher chance the race ends under caution than before. I haven’t done the research, but I would say in most races that ended up going to multiple GWC attempts, the leader would have been by the overtime line as the crash happened that caused the next attempt. Therefore to me, the solution was just to allow more attempts or unlimited attempts. Or this is the way it is and we leave it. 

Nate Ryan: Yes, and as my notes column suggested this week, I think NASCAR probably shouldn’t stop there. The quest for green-flag finishes has been well-intentioned, but the practice has grown too unwieldy because it’s been retrofitted so many times to account for countless situations that can vary according to the racetrack. At a minimum, Earnhardt is right that the line truly isn’t needed anywhere but the restrictor-plate tracks.

Dustin Long: Yes. Get rid of it. If a race ends under caution so be it.

Since winning at Richmond, Joey Logano has finished 32nd, 37th, 21st and 25th in his last four points races. How concerning is this to you?

Parker Kligerman: The finishes are not as concerning to me as the lack of speed. The 22 team lacked speed at Charlotte in both the All-Star Race and the 600. They lacked speed over the weekend in Dover and blew a tire. It is one thing to have speed and have unfortunate finishes. It is another when you are lacking speed. This team will be seriously evaluating the trends in their setups and feedback from Joey from the last couple weeks to see what may have been going wrong and try and compare that to what were the trends when they were fast. 

Nate Ryan: The first two results weren’t as concerning – Logano led Talladega and seemed to have speed at Kansas Speedway (qualifying second). But it’s been surprising that Logano seemed to struggle so much at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway. Given teammate Brad Keselowski’s early misfortune the past two races, it’s difficult to measure if Team Penske is way off its game, or if Logano’s team is in a mild slump. But noting how he ran the first nine races (eight finishes of sixth or better and a stage win with 82 laps led in a 31st at Phoenix), it’s clear Logano is missing something at the regular season’s midpoint.

Dustin Long: It is puzzling that Logano was off so much at Charlotte and Dover — two tracks in the playoffs. I want to see how this team recovers in the next couple of weeks. If the lack of speed remains, then I’d be very concerned.

Watch Parker Kligerman with Jeff Burton, Dale Jarrett and Marty Snider on NASCAR America from 5:30 – 7 p.m. Tuesday on NBCSN.

Check out Southern 500 paint schemes for Erik Jones, David Ragan and Landon Cassill

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Monday saw the reveal of three paint schemes for the Sept. 3 Southern 500 (on NBCSN). Here’s a look at the cars for Furniture Row Racing’s Erik Jones and Front Row Motorsports’ David Ragan and Landon Cassill.

Jones, who is in contention for the Rookie of the Year award in the Cup Series, will honor previous winners of the award with his paint scheme. Specifically, the No. 77 Toyota will pay tribute to the Rookie of the Year recipients from 1984-89.

The scheme will feature pictures of Rusty Wallace (1984), Ken Schrader (1985), Alan Kulwicki (1986), Davey Allision (1987), Ken Bouchard (1988) and Dick Trickle (1989).

Ragan’s No. 38 Ford will be sponsored by Good Sam. Ragan’s paint scheme is an ode to the RV company’s early days. It was founded in 1966.

Cassill’s paint scheme probably looks familiar. It’s the same one the team used for the last Southern 500 when Chris Buescher drove the N0. 34. The team had to call an audible after Michael McDowell and Leavine Family Racing beat them to the punch on a Kulwicki tribute scheme. Fortunately, Cassill was cool with it.

MORE: Retro Rundown of 2017 Southern 500 paint schemes.

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Bump & Run: Taking stock of the NASCAR season

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What has surprised you the most about this season?

Jeff Burton: My biggest surprise is that there really hasn’t been a flaw in the new stage racing format. I believed that something would happen that revealed a flaw that no one had anticipated but we have yet to see it.

Nate Ryan: Martin Truex Jr.’s emergence as the championship favorite. It was expected he would run well and be a playoff contender and winner, but Furniture Row Racing regularly outrunning Joe Gibbs Racing as the best-in-class Toyota team has been a surprise – as has Truex’s runaway lead in the playoff points standings. He and crew chief Cole Pearn have become the crew chief-driver combination that is setting the pace in every way possible, whether it’s lap speeds, setup decisions or strategy calls.

Dustin Long: That there have been 14 different Cup winners (13 eligible for the playoffs) at this point in the season, which is already the most number of winners in an entire Cup season since 2013.

What driver has impressed you the most this season?

Jeff Burton: Martin Truex Jr. Speed and consistency is hard to achieve. He has been the guy that seems to be in the battle every single week. 

Nate Ryan: William Byron. His promotion to the Cup Series is well deserved, because he has proven the past two years to be an absolute prodigy with his acclimation to Xfinity and trucks. It makes one wonder if he already would have been a Cup winner if he had started his racing career in earnest before becoming a teenager.

Dustin Long: I’m amazed what William Byron has done for his relative lack of experience compared to drivers who started before they hit first grade. His ability to handle pressure situations has been noteworthy. While the challenges will increase next year, I’m already interested to see how he will do in Cup.

What storyline most intrigues you for the coming weeks?

Jeff Burton: I’m intrigued about the playoffs. There will be a big time driver and team that doesn’t advance into the playoffs. Watching who can take control and who can’t step up will be very interesting to witness.

Nate Ryan: The impact of playoff points on the championship race and how it affects who advances in each round. The suspicion here is that there will be much second-guessing and re-examination of decisions made during the regular season that had unanticipated repercussions months later.

Dustin Long: I’m intrigued to see if Kyle Busch and his team can finally eliminate the mistakes that have plagued them throughout the season and prevented Busch from possibly an epic season. With two wins in the last four races, he’s on the verge of a breakout that will lead to a dominating title run. Will it happen?

SunnyD extends sponsorship deal with Roush Fenway Racing

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SunnyD has extended its contract with Roush Fenway Racing to sponsor Ricky Stenhouse Jr.‘s team through the 2019 season, the organization announced Tuesday.

SunnyD will add races as primary sponsor each season, although how many was not announced.

The company has been the primary sponsor of Stenhouse’s car in three races this season – Atlanta, spring Bristol and Indianapolis. SunnyD will next sponsor Stenhouse in October at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“We’ve had a great time partnering with SunnyD the last two years,” Stenhouse in a statement from the team. “It’s one of the coolest paint schemes on the track, and we’ve had a lot of fun promoting their classic brand. I’m excited that we have extended our relationship, and I can’t wait to see how much fun we can have with SunnyD in victory lane.”

“We are very excited to announce that we tore up the old contract and signed a new one that extends for another season and adds additional races with Ricky and Roush Fenway,” said Henk Hartong, Chairman of Harvest Hill Beverage Company, owners of the SunnyD brand, in a statement. “I’m very proud of our relationship with Jack Roush, Steve Newmark and the entire Roush Fenway team. It is something that we wanted to lock in for the foreseeable future. Ricky is one of the rising young stars in NASCAR and we have seen great response to the program from the passionate NASCAR fans.  We are pleased to bolster our association with him and Roush Fenway.”

Stenhouse has two wins this year and will be in next month’s playoffs.

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Martin Truex Jr. continues to dominate NASCAR Cup playoff grid

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Martin Truex Jr. continues to dominate the weekly NASCAR Cup playoff standings.

Truex did not gain any extra points during Saturday night’s Bristol Night Race, so he remains with 35 points, but that’s still a large spread over those chasing him.

Bristol winner Kyle Busch jumped from fifth to second place in the standings with 20 playoff points.

Kyle Larson fell back to third place (18 points), Jimmie Johnson fell to fourth (16) and Brad Keselowski is fifth (14).

As for the playoff bubble, Chase Elliott is 69 points ahead of the cut-off line, followed by Matt Kenseth (+61) and Jamie McMurray (+58) with two races left until the playoffs.

Outside the playoff cut line is Clint Bowyer, who dropped from 31 to 58 points down and Joey Logano from -98 to -117. Erik Jones climbed from -130 to -127, and Daniel Suarez dropped from -139 to -163.

 

Here’s this week’s playoff standings grid: