Jimmie Johnson: NASCAR said no penalty for servicing car outside pit box at end of stop

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CONCORD, N.C. – Jimmie Johnson couldn’t tell if his front tire changer hit a lug nut when his No. 48 Chevrolet was outside the pit box during a yellow-flag stop Sunday.

But the seven-time series champion said it ultimately didn’t matter because NASCAR previously had told the team it wouldn’t be penalized in such an instance.

Johnson was running fourth in Sunday’s Bank of America 500 when he entered the pits under a Lap 280 caution. When the jack dropped, he took off but stopped several feet beyond his box when crew chief Chad Knaus apparently noticed a missing lug nut.

“At (New Hampshire) a couple of weeks ago, we had a similar thing happen, and NASCAR informed us that we didn’t need to back up into our pit box to complete the stop, so that’s why (crew chief) Chad (Knaus) stopped me where he did,” Johnson said. “They informed us that doesn’t count as equipment outside of the box (which is a penalty). So I was going off Chad’s cue, stopped, put the lug nut on, and off we went.”

Per NASCAR’s pit penalty card, servicing a car outside the box is usually a one-lap penalty. But NASCAR spokesman Kurt Culbert said it considered Johnson’s stop to be completed (albeit with a missing lug nut), and that it allowed teams to work outside their stalls if a unsecure lug nut was discovered after the stop.

By stopping and backing up, Culbert said Johnson’s team essentially had served its own penalty.

“We’ve allowed that multiple times this year of allowing a team to fix a lug nut. Ultimately when that happens, a penalty is incurred, because they’ve had to fix it. Instead of going onto the track and having to deal with a penalty. It’s in the interest of safety.”

Johnson said he couldn’t tell if a lug nut actually was loose.

“I saw him stabbing at the left front,” the Hendrick Motorsports driver said. “I don’t know if one came off, or he was just behind, it’s hard to really see from my perspective what was going on. When the jack came off, he was still lunging for the car, so I knew something was wrong.”

Johnson made another stop under yellow on Lap 327, ensuring all of his lug nuts were tight regardless to avoid a postrace penalty.

“If we would have known there was another caution, we’d just go and run and come in and put all the lug nuts back on and be fine,” Johnson said. “To go to the end, you get nervous and don’t want to get fined.”

Johnson fell to 15th after the slow pit stops but rallied for a seventh, his fourth top 10 in five races.

“The track had little grip,” he said. “Clean air was fast. As soon as you got to someone or around someone, you’re like three-quarters of a second slower and out of control. Traffic and passing was really tough, and we had to come through the traffic a couple of times. We’re one of the few cars that could pass, and passing was still just a disaster. It was so hard to pass. The car wasn’t easy to drive or fun to drive.”

AJ Allmendinger making return to Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2018

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After a one-year absence, AJ Allmendinger will return to the Rolex 24 at Daytona next month.

Allmendinger, who drives for JTG Daugherty Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series, will once again drive for Michael Shank Racing in the endurance race at Daytona International Speedway, which will be held Jan. 27 – 28.

A winner in the 2012 Rolex 24 at Daytona, Allmendinger will split time in the No. 93 Acura NSX GT3 in the GTD class with Justin Marks, Lawson Aschenbach and Mario Farnbacher.

Allmendinger drove for Michael Shank Racing in the endurance race from 2014-16. His best result during that stretch was fifth in the Prototype class in 2015.

“I am pumped to be back racing for Shank in the (Rolex) 24. I missed the race last year and I hated to, so I’m really glad to be back,” Allmendinger said in a press release. “His whole team did an awesome job with the Acura last year and it is awesome to be back with him for the Rolex. After racing for the overall win so many years in Prototypes, it will be a completely different experience to be racing in the GTD class, but I’m looking forward to it. Mike (Shank) always puts an awesome team together and this year is no different so I am counting down to get my first shot in this car.”

Allmendinger is coming off his fourth full year of driving the No. 47 Chevrolet for JTG Daugherty Racing. He finished the season 27th in the standings, his worst during his tenure with the team. He earned one top five and five top 10s.

Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s to sponsor RCR in Cup, Xfinity in 2018

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Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s will sponsor Richard Childress Racing in multiple races in the Cup and Xfinity Series next year, the team announced Monday.

Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s merged in September 2017.

The outdoors brands will be on Ryan Newman‘s No. 31 Chevrolet during the 60th Daytona 500 on Feb. 18 and in several other races during the season.

Richard Childress Racing

They will also be a primary sponsor for Austin and Ty Dillon on the No. 3 Chevrolet in the Xfinity Series for several races.

“Our relationship with Bass Pro Shops dates back to the mid-1990s and we’re thrilled to be able to continue it during the 2018 season,” team owner Richard Childress said in a press release. “Austin, Ty and Ryan are terrific ambassadors for the great outdoors. They are all passionate about our hunting, fishing and conservation heritage which has made this partnership thrive.

“Next season will be exciting as we welcome Cabela’s, the iconic outdoor brand acquired by Bass Pro Shops, to the RCR family.”

Bass Pro Shops, founded in 1972 by Johnny Morris, is also a primary sponsor of Martin Truex Jr.’s No. 78 Toyota owned by Furniture Row Racing.

The store chain will be on the hood of the No. 78 in 16 races and on the sides of it in 14 others.

Here’s the eligible drivers for the 2018 Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona

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NASCAR has officially announced the 20 drivers who are eligible to take part in the Cup Series’ season-opening Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona International Speedway.

The 75-lap exhibition event is set for 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 11, the same day as qualifying for the Feb. 18 Daytona 500.

The race will be divided into two segments. A competition caution on Lap 25 will divide them.

Drivers become eligible for the Clash by winning a pole the previous season, being a Daytona 500 pole-winner who competed full-time the previous season or being a playoff driver the previous season.

Here are the eligible drivers.

2017 Coors Light Pole Award Winners (14)

Former Daytona 500 Coors Light Pole Award Winners (3)

2017 Playoff Drivers (3)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth are not expected to compete in the race. Earnhardt retired from Cup competition following the 2017 season and Kenseth doesn’t have a ride for the 2018 season.

Danica Patrick, the 2013 Daytona 500 pole-sitter, announced last month she was done as a full-time driver but that she planned to race in the Daytona 500. No definitive team plans have been announced for her.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Jack Ingram injury update: still in ICU, but continues to show progress

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NASCAR Hall of Famer Jack Ingram continues to show improvement from the serious injuries he suffered in a December 3 car crash in his native Asheville, North Carolina.

In an update Sunday written on CaringBridge.org, Ingram’s daughter, Ingrid Jones, said her father remains in the Intensive Care Unit at Asheville’s Mission Hospital.

According to Jones:

“Daddy continues to hold his own, making healing steps forward and then a step back, which we fully expected-but he’s surprising us each and every day with his strength and courage to overcome this. Overall, he’s doing amazingly well.”

Ingram’s family had hoped he could have moved out of ICU and into the Trauma Unit as the next phase of his recovery, but he remains in intensive care.

Said Jones:

“For now, he’ll remain in ICU until he can go a full 24 hours without ventilator assisted breathing. We’re almost there … but may still be a few days.”

Ingram, who turns 81 on Dec. 28, was able to sit in a chair and watched part of Sunday’s NFL game between the Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings with his family. Jones wrote that Ingram also was surprised to learn that the mountain near the family’s Asheville-area home received a total of 16 inches of snow Friday and Saturday.

Jones added, “We continue to be optimistic for his health, and we also continue to appreciate the prayers and encouraging thoughts.”