Bump & Run: Should NASCAR have penalized Denny Hamlin at Martinsville?

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Should NASCAR have penalized Denny Hamlin for wrecking Chase Elliott at Martinsville?

Steve Letarte: Absolutely not. NASCAR has been clear in every conversation I’ve ever had with them that they’ll get involved in a case like Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano when one car is multiple laps down and it’s true retaliation. When it comes to two cars running for position, whether it was on purpose or not on purpose is between the drivers. I don’t think we want the sanctioning body becoming referees. They are the officials, and they have to run the race and make sure everybody runs the race according to the rules, but as far as rough driving or not rough driving when it comes for a position on the race track, I don’t think that’s the sanction body’s position to get involved.

Nate Ryan: No. NASCAR shouldn’t penalize a driver for trying to win a race, particularly when a championship berth is on the line.

Dustin Long: Why start now? NASCAR has made it abundantly clear that if two cars are racing for the lead they’re not likely to get involved. NASCAR Chairman Brian France says this is a contact sport. So NASCAR is going to let there be contact.

What are the chances Chase Elliott makes it to the championship round in Miami?

Steve Letarte: Without a doubt, it’s going to be an uphill battle. I think when you look at Chase’s numbers throughout the playoffs, they’ve been outstanding. While Martinsville was chaotic, I think Texas will be chaotic as well. No telling what can happen at Phoenix..

Nate Ryan: He has to win at Texas or Phoenix. He still has a shot at doing the former.

Dustin Long: With Kyle Busch locked in and Martin Truex Jr. penciled in with his big points advantage, it likely leaves two spots. The question is can Chase Elliott win one of the next two races to earn a spot in Miami? I still need to be convinced about this team.

Should Joey Logano have pitted when he had a tire rub to ensure there was no caution since his teammate, Brad Keselowski, was leading in the final laps and close to earning a spot in the championship round?

Steve Letarte: I don’t think this falls on Joey Logano at all. The real question is should his crew chief, Todd Gordon, have called him into the pits unless it’s a safety situation, which then of course the driver should make the decision. Obviously, Joey Logano felt like it was safe to continue. Then it’s purely on Todd Gordon to pull him into the pits if looking at the bigger picture. To be honest, I think that’s a conversation these bigger companies need to have. It’s easy to throw stones at Todd Gordon now. Todd Gordon is hired to present the best case for the No. 22 car. He obviously felt that was to stay on the race track. Numbers would say it’s stay on the race track. Even if you spin out at Martinsville, normally you don’t make severe contact. It’s easy to say now that he absolutely should have pitted. Perhaps that’s a conversation that should have happened before now. What if a guy has an engine down a cylinder and your other car is leading? Should you just park that car so it doesn’t blow up and bring a yellow? I think that conversation is worth having at all the big teams.

Nate Ryan: Ultimately, the decision should rest with the team and driver on whether it’s worth the risk to continue (though NASCAR also could intervene). But given the playoff implications in this instance, Logano probably should have pitted and ensured his teammate gained passage to Miami.

Dustin Long: Yes. Someone in upper management should have made the call for Logano to pit. Both Brad Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe said after their Talladega win that Martinsville was a must-win situation for them based on how the other tracks likely would play out in this round. Joey Logano’s team might cost Keselowski and his team a chance at the championship and that is inexcusable.

NASCAR America: The challenges of Martinsville Speedway

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What Martinsville Speedway lacks in size compared to other tracks it makes up in difficulty say drivers and NASCAR America’s analysts.

Landon Cassill joined Carolyn Manno, Parker Kligerman and Jeff Burton on Thursday’s show and discussed the challenges of the half-mile paperclip track.

“It can be fun when it’s going well,’’ said Cassill, who will make his Cup season debut this weekend in the No. 00 for StarCom Racing. “That place, if you’re car is not handling well, you can end up going backwards and just by the time you’ve got some clear race track the leader is right behind you. So it can be frustration. I tend to like Martinsville.’’

Kligerman calls racing in the pack at Martinsville Speedway “the most aggressive racing I’ve ever been a part of in my life.’’

Jeff Burton said: “It’s … one of the hardest race tracks we go to period because you have to do it lap after lap after lap and it’s so easy to get, quite simply, just really, really mad at the guy you’re racing with because he’s hitting you and he’s banging on you.’’

Cup drivers have their description of the track. See what NASCAR America’s analysts and Cup drivers have to say about the track that hosts Sunday’s Cup race in the video above.

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Richard Childress Racing reinstates Xfinity crew chief Nick Harrison

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Richard Childress Racing has reinstated Nick Harrison to crew chief  of the No. 3 Xfinity team after he served a five-race suspension for a violation at Daytona International Speedway. 

Harrison’s first race back will be April 8 at Texas.

Harrison was suspended after the No. 3 car of Austin Dillon had a rear suspension violation in pre-qualifying inspection. Harrison and the team’s car chief were ejected by NASCAR after the violation. RCR imposed the suspension.

“I’m looking forward to being back with my team and winning races after my five-race suspension,” Harrison said in a statement from the team.

Brandon Thomas served as the interim crew chief while Harrison was out. Austin Dillon finished a season-best fourth for the team last weekend at Auto Club Speedway.

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NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Martinsville breakdown, Aric Almirola and Bubba Wallace

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and features host Carolyn Manno and Parker Kligerman in Stamford, Connecticut, and Jeff Burton and Landon Cassill from Burton’s Garage.

Among the topics today:

  •  Prepare for paint swapping, bent fenders, and bruised egos. It’s time to go short-track racing at Martinsville Speedway! Jeff, Parker and Landon will tell you what to expect this weekend at the famous half-mile. We’ll also see what it takes to succeed there, as Parker takes us for some quick laps in the NBCSN iRacing Simulator.
  • After making the switch to Stewart-Haas Racing in the offseason, Aric Almirola is off to the best start of his Cup Series career. Currently 10th in the standings, he’ll tell Marty Snider about his early season success.
  • Since finishing second at the Daytona 500, rookie driver Bubba Wallace has cooled off. Now he faces his first Cup Series start at Martinsville in the iconic No. 43 car, and he’s feeling confident — it’s where Wallace scored his first truck series win nearly five years ago. We’ll examine the struggles he might have to work through this season and also hear his reflections on his early years of racing in the latest edition of “A Driver’s Drive.”

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

Weekend schedule for NASCAR at Martinsville Speedway

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NASCAR returns to its backyard this weekend after the three week West Coast swing.

The Cup and Camping World Truck Series visit Martinsville Speedway in Southern Virginia.

The weekend is capped off by Sunday’s STP 500. It will be the first Cup race broadcast on Fox Sports 1 this year.

Here’s the full weekend schedule complete with TV and radio info.

(All times are Eastern)

Friday, March 23

8:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. — Truck garage opens

11:05 – 11:55 a.m. — Truck practice (No TV)

1:05 – 1:55 p.m. — Truck practice (Fox Sports 1)

3:05 – 3:55 p.m. — Final Truck practice (FS1)

Saturday, March 24

7 a.m. – 8 p.m. — Cup garage open

7:30 a.m. — Truck garage opens

10:05 – 10:55 a.m. — Cup practice (FS1, MRN)

11:05 a.m. — Truck qualifying; multi-truck/three rounds (FS1)

12:15 p.m. — Truck driver-crew chief meeting

12:30 – 1:20 p.m. — Final Cup practice (FS1, MRN)

1:30 p.m. — Truck driver introductions

2 p.m. — Alpha Energy Solutions 250; 250 laps/131.5 miles (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

5:10 p.m. — Cup qualifying; multi-car/three rounds (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, March 25

9:30 a.m. — Cup garage opens

Noon — Driver-crew chief meeting

1:20 p.m. — Driver introductions

2 p.m. — STP 500; 500 laps/263 miles (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)