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Martin Truex Jr.: It ‘makes sense’ to raise minimum speed for undamaged cars

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CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Martin Truex Jr. believes it’s time for NASCAR to raise the minimum speed for cars that haven’t been involved in a wreck.

Truex said he raised the issue in a meeting this week with Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s executive vice president and chief racing development officer.

Truex’s comments come four days after a minor accident involving a car 16 laps down kept him from winning the regular-season finale at Richmond Raceway.

“We need to up minimum speed for cars that were not in an accident, that didn’t get on the five-minute clock for crash damage, for that very reason,” Truex said Wednesday during playoff media day at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. “We don’t want to go to Homestead and have a car that’s 25 laps down scrape the wall or blow a tire and change the outcome of possibly a championship or who the champion is. I think it’s something they’re definitely willing to look into. I think it makes sense. ”

Truex’s chance at winning in Richmond were dampened when Derrike Cope washed up the track with three laps to go and brushed the wall. NASCAR threw the caution with Truex leading, even though no major damage resulted from it.

Lap times show that Cope was running laps faster than the minimum speed in the five circuits before he hit the wall.

The caution created an overtime finish and Truex being wrecked on the last lap by Denny Hamlin.

“I would say that minimum speed right now probably is too far off from where we run,” Truex said. “You have to be way, way off the pace to go 16 or 20 laps down under green at a short track, for a 400-lap race. Losing a couple of laps is one thing. But 15-plus, you probably don’t need to be out there.”

According to info provided by NASCAR prior to the race at Richmond, the minimum speed for the race was 26.95 seconds.

Truex said any new regulations regarding minimum speed should be enforced over the course of the entire season, instead of potentially just in the 10-race playoff.

“Just because we need to keep that consistency,” Truex said. “I do feel like there’s too much of a gap in there. Certainly, some tracks where the tires wear out a lot, it’s going to be different than places where it doesn’t.”

The Furniture Row Racing driver said cars off the pace can lead to questionable situations for cars running with the pack.

“For quite a while now we’ve had a few cars here and there that are just so far off the pace, you don’t know even know where they’re going to go when you get to the corner,” Treux said “It’s not a huge issue, but it’s something we need to look at.”

Truex also didn’t see Cope’s accident as a “legitimate reason for the caution” to be issued, especially with a potential fifth win of the season at stake in the regular-season finale.

“The biggest problem I had was, every year in the drivers meeting (NASCAR says) ‘we don’t want anyone screwing with the race’ and then they make the wrong call. It’s frustrating.”

With the start of the postseason four days away, does Truex have confidence in NASCAR’s race control?

Said Truex: “Ask me in 10 weeks.”

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Truck practice report at Atlanta

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Justin Haley was the fastest in the first of two practices Friday for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He had a top lap of 178.029 mph.

Daytona winner Johnny Sauter was second with a lap of 177.040 mph. He was followed by Myatt Snider (177.040 mph), Stewart Friesen (176.995) and Noah Gragson (176.589).

There were no incidents in the session.

Final Truck practice will be from 4:05 – 4:50 p.m. ET.

Click here for Truck 1 practice

Police investigating vandalism, theft at North Wilkesboro Speedway

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The Wilkes County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a report of vandalism and theft at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, the track, which last hosted a NASCAR Cup race in 1996, suffered damage of about $10,000 when several trespassers were on the grounds last weekend. No arrests have been made.

The report states that several windows were broken and other damage was done to the structures. Also, large amounts of electrical wire and circuit breakers were reported missing.

The investigation continues.

North Wilkesboro Speedway hosted NASCAR Cup races from 1949-96. Winners included Fireball Roberts, Buck Baker, Junior Johnson, Lee Petty, Richard Petty, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Bobby Allison, Dale Earnhardt, Terry Labonte, Rusty Wallace and Jeff Gordon, who won the final race there.

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Others’ predictions motivating Austin Dillon after Daytona 500 win: ‘I guess they don’t believe it yet’

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HAMPTON, Ga. – Fresh off the greatest victory of his NASCAR career, Austin Dillon already has motivation to win the next.

The Richard Childress Racing driver heard others predict this week that the Daytona 500 would be his only victory this season.

“I think on Race Hub, Brad (Keselowski) and Chad (Knaus, crew chief for Jimmie Johnson) saying that we weren’t going to win again,” Dillon said Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “So, that was good to hear. That was something to get me fired up a little bit more and our team, get those competitive juices flowing again. So, we will just keep rocking it however we can. We still have a lot to work on.”

Prior to Daytona, Dillon’s lone win in four seasons as a full-time Cup driver came in the 2017 Coca-Cola 600. His No. 3 Chevrolet qualified for the playoffs the past two seasons, but his top 10s (13 to four) and average finish (15.9 to 18.6) slipped demonstrably from 2016 to ’17.

“So yesterday in my group text with my buddies they watched Chad Knaus and Brad Keselowski, and it was like, ‘All right, it’s time to keep knocking them down, I guess they don’t believe it yet,’” Dillon said. “We’ve got to step up though at RCR. We’ve still got a lot to prove. It’s a speedway race, even though it’s the biggest race in our deal, it’s a speedway race.  We’ve got a lot more to prove.

“(Competition executive) Andy Petree and all the guys are RCR are working hard. I think coming down to a two-car team move is big for us. We’ve got to take advantage of that. I’m not going to lie, I’m tired right now, but we are going to kick butt this weekend and get back regrouped and get in the groove and try and gain as many bonus points as we can.”

But qualifying for the playoffs by winning the season opener should be a morale booster that avoids any letdown.

“The one thing they don’t have right now that we have is a win,” Dillon said. “So, we are on top right now, and no matter what they can’t take that away, and we are going to keep working.  I don’t expect us to lay down at all. I feel like now more than ever we need to go head on and go after it.”

Xfinity practice report from Atlanta

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Christopher Bell posted the fastest lap in the first of two Xfinity practice sessions Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Bell posted a lap of 178.447 mph. He was followed by Joey Logano (177.323 mph), Cole Custer (175.933), Ryan Reed (175.688) and Kevin Harvick (175.487). Daytona winner Tyler Reddick (175.388) was sixth on the speed chart.

There were no incidents in the session.

Final Xfinity practice will be from 3:05 – 3:55 p.m. ET

Click here for practice 1 report