NASCAR on NBC podcast, Ep. 88: Steve O’Donnell on his special connection to an international push

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As the day-to-day overseer of NASCAR’s competitive direction, chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell is a man of action who spends most of his time listening.

Whether drivers, team owners, sponsors, media or fans, the 21-year employee of NASCAR constantly solicits the opinions of those who are impacted by his organization’s decisions.

“When you’re listening, you probably are going to learn something or gain a perspective you hadn’t heard about before,” O’Donnell said on the NASCAR on NBC podcast. “You have to make some tough calls. The toughest part is you’re not going to be everyone’s best friend. You have to make calls that drivers and teams don’t like.

“All you can do is hope they respect or understand why you made that call. The idea you’re going to be friends with everyone is something that’s tough and something you learn the hard way.”

O’Donnell gained an appreciation for the diversity of thought while growing up in Egypt, where his family moved to a town near Cairo from Massachusetts when he was in seventh grade.

Living amidst the volatility of the Middle East (one of O’Donnell’s close friends was Andrew Kerr, the younger brother of Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, whose father was assassinated in Beirut in 1983) brought real-world lessons in the importance of communication and compromise for common ground.

“It’s probably the greatest thing my parents have given to me,” he said about the exposure to “different cultures and traveling around the world.

“It was an interesting perspectcive to sit in a class on the Egypt-Israeli War, which Egypt clearly struggled with, and have an Israeli kid to your right, an Egyptian to your left, and both believe they destroyed each other in this war. It was fascinating to listen to those two kids who had a completely different perspective. You learned quick.”

Besides the lessons of human nature, O’Donnell also developed a worldly understanding, which he remains keen on in helping NASCAR’s international push. Citing the NBA as a model, O’Donnell believes NASCAR can put down roots by creating leagues in other countries to foster drivers coming to America as Joe Gibbs Racing driver Daniel Suarez did from the Mexico Series.

NASCAR also has circuits in Canada and Europe, and O’Donnell said China and India could be on the horizon.

“You look at the car culture just emerging there, and some of the things that were built around NASCAR, the family aspect, the automobile, are coming together in both those countries and even parts of South America,” O’Donnell said. “If we can, in a smart way, go with OEMs to partner to create a series where NASCAR is part of the development, that can be a huge opportunity for us.

“It’s got to make sense for U.S. partners where they’re trying to break into those markets. One of things you’ve seen in other series, they’ve taken a race to a certain country that doesn’t really help any team owners or sponsors, and that doesn’t make a lot of sense for us.”

During the podcast, O’Donnell also discussed:

–How NASCAR is seeking more technology with its next Gen 7 model and the timeframe for rolling it out;

–His role in being a public face of NASCAR and dealing with negative feedback on social media.

–Why he believes NASCAR drivers need more swagger;

–What’s ahead for several key topics – the overtime line, monitoring lug nuts, making pit speeds available in real time, debris cautions.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the AudioBoom embed below or download and subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts by clicking here. The free subscription will provide automatic downloads of new episodes to your smartphone.

It also is available on Stitcher by clicking here and also can be found on a host of other smartphone apps.

NASCAR America: Should penalty for failing inspection be more severe?


After 13 cars failed qualifying inspection last Friday at Auto Club Speedway, NASCAR America’s analysts addressed the current state of rules that resulted in all thirteen teams not getting to make a qualifying attempt.

While Kyle Busch said the issues are “not that big deal,” especially with the new scanning system still in its infancy, Jeff Burton disagrees. Burton points to how much engineering has become involved in the sport and trying make cars better with NASCAR’s rules.

“It’s snowballed into this great big bag of rules,” Burton said. “We have all these rules that the teams have forced NASCAR to create. I don’t know the way out of it. There’s two ways to do it. You make the penalties harsher, with the theory being they won’t do it if the penalty is so harsh, or you have less rules. The problem is if you have less rules you’re going to have more cars that aren’t within those rules as they are.”

After the issues in Cup qualifying, NASCAR told Xfinity Series teams on Saturday that any team that did not attempt a lap in qualifying would start from the rear of the field and be required to serve a pass-through penalty once the green flag waved.

“It is a mess, but I disagree with Kyle (Busch), it is a big deal,” Burton said, citing fans who don’t get to see their favorite driver qualifying. “That’s not good. That’s not good for sponsors, that’s mainly not good for mainly race fans. If race fans tune in and their guy isn’t on track, why are they going to tune in next week? They deserve to see their guy on track. It’s got to get fixed.”

NASCAR announced Monday that inspection this weekend at Martinsville Speedway would take place after qualifying and would also serve as pre-race inspection.

Jarrett, who said there are too many rules, agreed with Burton.

“The only way of fixing this is making the penalty so severe that these teams aren’t going to take any chances,” Jarrett said.

Watch the above video for more.

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Auto Club Speedway recap, West Coast Awards

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and looks back at the weekend’s racing at Auto Club Speedway.

Rutledge Wood hosts with Jeff Burton, Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett from the “Big Oak Table” at NBC Charlotte.

What to expect from the show.

  • Martin Truex Jr. flashed his championship form from last year and earned his first win of the 2018 season Sunday in Fontana. We’ll recap the last race of NASCAR Goes West from around the “Big Oak Table” at our NBC Sports studios in Charlotte. Plus, Rut and the gang will hand out the West Coast awards, honoring the best moments from the Vegas-Phoenix-Fontana run.
  • NASCAR is a sport built on families, and it’s seen lots of kids grow up at the track through the years. We’ll spend time discussing the next generation to catch the racing bug – including Harrison Burton, son of our Jeff Burton.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, you also can watch it via the online stream at http:/

If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Landon Cassill gets Cup ride for Martinsville, Texas

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Landon Cassill will drive the No. 00 for StarCom Racing in the next two races, Martinsville and Texas, the team announced Monday.

Cassill replaces Jeffrey Earnhardt. StarCom Racing and Earnhardt parted ways after Sunday’s race at Auto Club Speedway.

Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway will mark Cassill’s first Cup race of the year. The 28-year-old has 259 career Cup starts and a career-best finish of fourth at Talladega in October 2014. He drove for Front Row Motorsports the past two seasons but was not retained after last year.

Cassill’s sponsor the next two races will be the United States First Responders Association, a non-profit, professional and social network of fire, EMS, rescue, law enforcement and military personnel, as well as civilian support teams.

StarCom Racing was privileged to acquire a new partnership with USFRA and Landon Cassill behind the wheel,” said Derrike Cope, team manager, in a statement. “I’m optimistic that his knowledge and experience will only help our efforts as well as the growth of our team.”

Said Cassill in a statement: “I love working with new teams. I feel like that is one of my strengths. StarCom Racing looks like they are in it for the long haul, and I am thrilled to be a part of it.” 

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Hendrick Motorsports withdraws appeal of Phoenix penalties against No. 9 team

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Hendrick Motorsports has withdrawn its appeal of penalties against Chase Elliott‘s N0. 9 team from last weekend’s race in Phoenix, NBC Sports confirmed.

NASCAR found a L1 infraction on Elliott’s car in the rear-suspension after the race at ISM Raceway.

NASCAR stated that the team’s truck trailing arm spacer/pinion angle shim mounting surfaces must be planar and in complete contact with corresponding mating surfaces at all points and at all times.

NASCAR fined crew chief Alan Gustafson $50,000, suspended car chief Josh Kirk two races and docked Elliott 25 points and the team 25 owner points. Elliott’s third-place finish in the race will not count toward any tiebreakers.

Following Sunday’s race at Auto Club Speedway, where Elliott finished 16th, he is 21st in the point standings.

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