NASCAR America: Steve Letarte says ‘Debris cautions need to be proven,’ namely in playoffs

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Following the controversy Sunday over a debris caution with 20 laps left in the Cup race at Michigan, NASCAR America analyst Steve Letarte said such cautions “need to be proven” to protect the integrity of the race, especially once the season reaches the playoffs.

“We’re talking about an untimely caution at Michigan in the summer,” Letarte said. “What happens when we get into the playoffs in the fall? I think NASCAR, the sanctioning body and the tracks have a responsibility to create a playing field and a set of rules they can enforce. The debris needs to be proven. …  There’s too many loopholes. ”

The caution with 20 to go resulted in the field being bunched up and two accidents occurring in the final 13 laps.

After the race, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart shared their disappointment in how the debris caution impacted the outcome of the race.

Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, explained on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive” Monday how the sanctioning body decides to call a debris caution.

“We use all the resources that we have to try to identity what it is that is out there – that being camera, turn spotters and the communication that we’ve got around the race track to different people who may be able to see it,’’ Miller said.

Letarte takes issue with the level of thoroughness in NASCAR’s system to determine when a debris caution is needed.

“If we take for face value what NASCAR says, which is they put safety first and they’re going to put the caution out when they don’t know what it is on the race track … then the issue I have is the resources we use to figure what that debris is,” Letarte said.

Letarte also criticized the fact that NASCAR’s race control both decides when the caution comes out for debris and also determines what the debris is.

“They provide their own information,” Letarte said. “It’s their responsibility to put spotters, cameras and whatever other technology is out there. … I don’t think that technology has changed enough in the last 15 years.”

Former crew chief Slugger Labbe said late debris cautions are “untimely,” but are an “essence of safety” for drivers.

“Just think if there was something was there and they (NASCAR) weren’t sure what it was, if it was rubber or it was metal,” Labbe said. “Someone runs over it, blows a tire at 218 mph at Michigan. We saw what Jimmie Johnson and Jamie McMurray looked liked getting into Turn 1 at Pocono (after their brakes failed). I get it. I’ve benefited from debris cautions and I’ve paid the price on debris cautions. It goes both ways.”

Veteran driver and analyst Parker Kligerman called on NASCAR to be more transparent with its debris yellows, perhaps by presenting the evidence for them postrace — or admitting the error if there turned out to be no debris.

Watch the above video for the full discussion.

Tonight’s Xfinity race at Iowa: Start time, weather, TV/radio info

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Sam Hornish Jr. looks to return to Iowa Speedway and win the June event for the second consecutive year, but several others, including points leader Elliott Sadler and rookie teammate William Byron, look for their first series win of the year. Justin Allgaier and Ryan Reed seek their second victory of the season.

Here are the particulars for tonight’s Xfinity race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: Emily Skor, CEO Growth Energy, will give the command to start engines at 8:37 p.m. Green flag is set for 8:44 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 250 laps (218.75 miles) around the 7/8-mile oval.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 60. Stage 2 ends on Lap 120.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: The Xfinity garage opens at 2:30 p.m. The driver/crew chief meeting is at 7:30 p.m. Driver introductions are at 8:10 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Specialist Michelle Monroe, Iowa National Guard 34th Army Band, will perform the Anthem at 8:31 p.m.

TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race. Its coverage begins at 8 p.m. Motor Racing Network’s broadcast on radio and at mrn.com begins at 8 p.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com site predicts 70 degrees at race time with a 1 percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Sam Hornish Jr. led 183 of 250 laps to win this event a year ago. Ty Dillon was second. Brad Keselowski was third. Erik Jones won the most recent Iowa race last July, leading 154 of 250 laps. Ty Dillon was second. Elliott Sadler placed third.

STARTING LINEUP: Qualifying begins at 6:15 p.m.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Larson want Cup All-Star Race at Iowa Speedway

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NASCAR has been sending its Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series to Iowa Speedway since 2009, but its premier series has never held a race at the .875-mile track in Newton, Iowa.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kyle Larson would like that to change sooner rather than later.

Stenhouse and Larson spoke to the Des Moines Register ahead of this weekend’s NASCAR races at the track.

The Roush Fenway Racing driver and former Iowa winner expressed enthusiasm at Iowa someday hosting the Monster Energy All-Star Race.

“To see how much support that the Iowa Speedway gets from the fans, it’s pretty incredible,” Stenhouse said. “I’d love to get the All-Star race here.”

The exhibition has been held at Charlotte Motor Speedway every year but one since it was introduced in 1985. It was at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1986.

But with lackluster races and fan turnout in recent years for the event at the 1.5-mile track, support has been growing to possible hold the event at other tracks.

“I would like that better than Charlotte, for sure. … I’d be down for it,” Larson told the newspaper of having the event in Iowa.

Iowa Speedway opened in 2006 and was bought by NASCAR in 2013.

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Saturday’s track schedules at Sonoma and Iowa

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Today we reach the mid-point of this weekend’s busy NASCAR schedule.

The NASCAR Cup Series will have a short day at Sonoma Raceway, with only qualifying on the agenda at 2:45 p.m. ET.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series will have the busier day at Iowa Speedway, with qualifying at 6:15 p.m. ET, followed by the American Ethanol e15 200 at 8:30 p.m. ET. Sam Hornish Jr. is the defending winner of this race, and returns to try and make it two in a row, racing this year for Team Penske.

Here’s today’s schedule (all times are Eastern):

At SONOMA

10 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. Cup garage open

2:45 p.m. – Cup qualifying (multi-vehicle, two rounds) (FS1, Performance Racing Network)

At IOWA

2:30 p.m. – Xfinity garage open

6:15 p.m. – Xfinity qualifying (multi-vehicle, three rounds) (Tape delayed at 7 p.m. ET on FS1)

7:30 p.m. – Xfinity driver/crew chief meeting

8 p.m. – Xfinity driver introductions

8:30 p.m. – American Ethanol e15 200 Xfinity Series race (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR radio)

Stats, Results for Truck Series race at Iowa Speedway

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John Hunter Nemechek led the final six laps to win the Camping World Truck Series’ M&M’s 200 at Iowa Speedway.

It’s his second win in two weeks.

Nemechek beat out Johnny Sauter, Brandon Jones, Grant Engfinger and Christopher Bell.

Click here for race results.