David Gilliland

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NASCAR suspends crew chief for Justin Allgaier one race

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Jason Burdett, crew chief for Xfinity championship contender Justin Allgaier, has been suspended one race for an L1 infraction discovered after last weekend’s race at Phoenix Raceway, NASCAR announced Monday.

NASCAR suspended Burdett, fined him $10,000 and docked 10 driver and owner points because a brake cooling hose was found unattached. Allgaier’s 10th-place finish is encumbered.

The point penalty does not knock Allgaier out of Saturday’s championship round at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Allgaier is competing against JR Motorsports teammates William Byron and Elliott Sadler along with Richard Childress Racing’s Daniel Hemric for the series title.

Kelley Earnhardt Miller, co-owner of JR Motorsports, said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that the team will not appeal the penalty. The team will announce who will be in the role of crew chief later this week.

UPDATE: JR Motorsports announced Tuesday Billy Wilburn will serve as the crew chief on the No. 7. Wilburn has been the car chief on the No. 7 for the last four seasons.

Wilburn is a 33-year motorsports veteran. He has been in the crew chief role previously at Penske Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports and Robert Yates Racing.

His only win as a crew chief came in 2006 when David Gilliland won his only Xfinity Series race at Kentucky Speedway.

Long: NASCAR’s young stars provide lessons for many at Dover

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DOVER, Delaware — As NASCAR transitions to a younger generation of drivers, they will have their chance to influence the sport as Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and others have.

This past weekend’s racing at Dover International Speedway gave the sport’s new kids a chance to show how to do things and possibly influence younger competitors elsewhere.

Ryan Blaney set the tone after winning Saturday’s Xfinty race. He celebrated at the start/finish line by giving the checkered flag to a youngster — one wearing a Kyle Larson hat.

Blaney’s action is far from the first kind act bestowed upon a child in the sport, but it provides a reminder of what’s important for NASCAR moving forward.

“He seemed really pumped up to be at the race,’’ Blaney said of the child he handed the checkered flag to through the fence. “There were a lot of kids here today, which was really cool.

“I kind of saw a little bit of myself. I was a little kid coming here and watching races. Anything we can do to try to keep them coming back and show them a pretty great experience, hopefully he enjoyed that experience and the race.

“He was pretty happy when he got (the flag). Whatever we can do to make their day, I feel like, is part of our job, to be honest with you.’’

Blaney’s comment is a sign of how NASCAR’s elders have passed their wisdom to the next generation.

With Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards no longer racing, Earnhardt out after this season and Matt Kenseth’s future in doubt, the sport is moving beyond some of its most popular drivers who helped mold NASCAR. It also likely won’t be too long before Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick, among others, retire.  

While Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano should be in the sport for at least another decade, it is the drivers behind them that will help lead the sport further. That’s Blaney, Elliott and Larson, along with Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, Austin and Ty Dillon, Darrell Wallace Jr., Christopher Bell and William Byron

Maybe Blaney’s checkered flag giveaway becomes as much a tradition as when Edwards gave his trophy to a child after a win. No doubt others do the same thing at local tracks, but what if more people did it or something similar? A driver giving away a checkered flag or trophy in NASCAR’s premier series could show competitors at various levels that while winning is special, sharing it with a child is more meaningful.

Another key aspect of the weekend, though, was more subtle.

As Kyle Busch reeled in leader Chase Elliott in the final laps Sunday, there was a moment when there could have been chaos. Instead, there was a clean pass.

Elliott could have blocked or could have forced Busch into the wall when Busch tried to pass on the outside as they ran to the white flag. Busch noted Elliott’s actions after winning.

“Coming off of (Turn) 2 there, he could have pulled up and checked my momentum, and I did kind of check up because I wasn’t quite sure, but then he gave me enough room,’’ Busch said in victory lane.

Just like that, Elliott’s bid for his first career Cup win went away again, leaving him heartbroken.

NASCAR is a contact sport and there will be such battles for wins for races to come — maybe in the upcoming second round in the Cup playoffs — but there’s also something to be said for fair racing.

Admittedly, there will be those who will recall it was Elliott who bumped Ty Dillon out of the lead to win a Truck race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in 2013. Two of the four races there since have ended with the second-place truck making contact with the leader to get by to win. It has seemingly become OK to do so at that track.

One action doesn’t make a driver a saint or a devil, it’s what they do over a period of time. The more others see how the sport’s young drivers react in pressure situations, the more it could influence drivers as they come up through the NASCAR ranks.

An episode few saw this past weekend with a young driver came from Todd Gilliland. The 17-year-old son of former Cup driver David Gilliland, entered the K&N Pro Series East season finale eight points ahead of Harrison Burton for the championship. Gilliland’s title hopes ended when a right front tire blew and he crashed before midway in the race. Burton won the championship. Despite the devastation, Gilliland answered media questions in a mature fashion.

THREE AND OUT

The winners of three of the biggest races of the season all failed to advance to the next round of the Cup playoffs.

Kurt Busch won the Daytona 500, Austin Dillon won the Coca-Cola 600 and Kasey Kahne won the Brickyard 400. None was closer than four points from the final transfer spot.

This marks the second time in the four years of the elimination-style playoff format that there wasn’t a winner of any of those three races in the championship race.

The only driver to have won any of those races and make it to the championship race is Kyle Busch. He won the 2015 Brickyard 400 and went on to win the championship. He won the 2016 Brickyard 400 and finished third in the points.

DROUGHT CONTINUES

With Austin Dillon and Ryan Newman eliminated from title contention, it means that Richard Childress Racing will go a 23rd consecutive season since its last Cup championship, which came in 1994 with Dale Earnhardt Sr.

The organization started the season with the goal of winning races and did that with Newman winning at Phoenix and Dillon the Coca-Cola 600. But the organization had a lack of speed at various tracks, showing that more work needs to be done for it to return to being a title contender. Still, some goals were accomplished this season.

Questions remain about next season. Newman and Dillon are back, but Paul Menard will leave at the end of the year to join the Wood Brothers. That leaves RCR with an opening in a car that has a charter.

Among the options for Richard Childress Racing is to run the car or lease the charter to another team for a year, giving the organization more time to find sponsorship and return to a three-car lineup in 2019. Certainly, if sponsorship can be found for next season, the team will run it. 

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Harrison Burton claims K&N Pro Series East championship with Dover win

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DOVER, Delaware — Harrison Burton pulled away from Riley Herbst on an overtime restart to win Friday’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race and the series championship. 

Burton led the final 17 laps at Dover, taking the lead from Ruben Garcia Jr. in a spirited side-by-side duel that went more than two laps. Burton then held the field off in overtime, which extended the race three laps to 128 laps.

The victory marked Burton’s fifth of the season. Eddie MacDonald finished second. Tyler Dippel was third.

Burton, the 16-year-old son of NASCAR on NBC analyst Jeff Burton, is the youngest champion in series history. Joey Logano had been the youngest series champion at 17 when he won the 2007 title.

In victory lane, Burton embraced his mother, Kim, lifting her off the ground, and then hugged his father.

“We’re a racing family,” Harrison Burton said. “To share a championship with the people that love you the most is pretty cool.”

Burton entered the season finale eight points behind Todd Gilliland but Gilliland’s title hopes went away when he blew a right front tire and hit the wall on Lap 56 of the 128-lap race. He finished 13th in the 15-car field.

“It was kind of tight, but I just went in there and the right front just blew,” Gilliland said. “It just popped. I could hear it. It’s basically been our season story. Been running up front and had tires go down. It took us out of the first half of the season. In the last seven races, we finished first or second in all of them and really got us back in this thing. For it to end like this is heartbreaking. We’ll have to move on and I learned a lot this year.”

The 17-year-old son of former Cup driver David Gilliland sought the K&N Pro Series East title after winning the K&N Pro Series West championship last year. Todd Gilliland finishes the season with four wins.

Todd Gilliland’s focus turns to the Camping World Truck Series. He’s run four races this season for Kyle Busch Motorsports, finishing a season-best third at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Former K&N Pro Series East champions include William Byron (2015), Kyle Larson (2012) and Logano.

Now add Harrison Burton.

“It’s a good list to be on,” he said. “To be a champion is huge for me.”

This race will air on NBCSN at 10:30 p.m. ET on Oct. 6.

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Bump & Run: Favorite throwback paint schemes for Southern 500

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1. What is the Throwback paint scheme you’re looking forward the most to see this weekend at Darlington Raceway?

(Images here)

Nate Ryan: Danica Patrick’s Ford Credit No. 10. It’s a true throwback that pays homage to a champion who always carried himself well in and out of the car. Though most fans probably associate Dale Jarrett with UPS, this is the primary sponsor that evokes the fondest memories of DJ’s career for me.

Dustin Long: Matt DiBenedetto’s car resembles Bobby Allison’s 1988 Miller High Life car, which was one of my favorite cars. Dylan Lupton’s Xfinity car, which resembles Jeff Gordon’s “Rainbow Warrior” paint scheme also looks sharp.

Daniel McFadin: I’m going to go with Clint Bowyer‘s Carolina Ford Dealers scheme, which is what Mark Martin drove from 1988-91 in the Xfinity Series. It hits that very specific sweet spot of looking both incredibly tacky in a way only a late 80s/early 90s scheme could while looking awesome at the same time.

Jerry Bonkowski: Nothing looks cooler or more intimidating than a black car. And when it channels the fabled “Midnight” car Rusty Wallace used to drive in the mid-1990s, it’s all the more badass. That’s why I’m picking Brad Keselowski‘s No. 2 Ford as the scheme I’m looking forward to the most at Darlington.

2. What’s another underdog win in NASCAR that compares to Jeremy Clements’ victory at Road America?

Nate Ryan: It ranks as the biggest upset since David Gilliland’s 2006 victory at Kentucky Speedway. That win catapulted Gilliland into a Cup ride with Robert Yates Racing. Clements has paid his dues to be deserving of a similar shot with a decent team.

Dustin Long: David Gilliland’s 2006 Xfinity win at Kentucky Speedway in an unsponsored car for a team that went away after that season. 

Daniel McFadin: Greg Sacks winning the 1985 Firecracker 400. He made 263 Cup starts from 1983-2005 with only one full season (1994). In an unsponsored research-and-development car for DiGard, Sacks led 33 laps and beat Bill Elliott by 23.5 seconds for his only Cup victory.

Jerry Bonkowski: A.J. Allmendinger‘s 2013 win at Road America stands out to me. After missing a good chunk of 2012 serving a suspension for violating NASCAR’s Substance Abuse policy, Allmendinger earned his first career Xfinity win driving for Team Penske, which gave him a second chance. Ironically, Allmendinger would make just two Xfinity starts in 2013 for Team Penske, and won both of them (the other coming at Mid-Ohio).

3. There have been 11 different winners* since 2006 in the Southern 500. What kind of odds do you put at there being a 12th different winner this weekend?

Nate Ryan: About 10-1. There are four drivers who are serious threats, and each already has a victory this season — Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick. Matt Kenseth has the best chance of the winless candidates.

Dustin Long: 75-1 that there will be a different winner than there has been since 2006. Darlington isn’t a track everyone has an even chance at. The winner will be someone who has won at Darlington since 2006.

Daniel McFadin: Seeing as how five of those 11 drivers are no longer competing in Cup or are retired, I think there are good odds. But Kyle Busch (2008) and Martin Truex Jr. (2016) should be favorites. 

Jerry Bonkowski: I think it goes 12-for-12 Sunday, with the most likely suspects to win being those who are most in dire need of a win to make the NASCAR Cup playoffs: Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Erik Jones. And don’t count out Kurt Busch, who has never won at the Track Too Tough To Tame.

* Previous winners at Darlington

2006 — Greg Biffle

2007 — Jeff Gordon

2008 — Kyle Busch

2009 — Mark Martin

2010 — Denny Hamlin

2011 — Regan Smith

2012 — Jimmie Johnson

2013 — Matt Kenseth

2014 — Kevin Harvick

2015 — Carl Edwards

2016 — Martin Truex Jr.

Jeremy Clements’ Xfinity win a rare one for independent teams (video)

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Sunday’s win by Jeremy Clements at Road America was a big deal, not just for his family team, but in the larger picture of Xfinity Series racing.

When Clements took the checkered flag ahead of Michael Annett and Matt Tifft, Jeremy Clements Racing became just the second independent Xfinity team with no alliance to a Cup team to win in recent years.

Clements’ team joined Biagi-DenBeste Racing, which has won twice in the last two seasons with Aric Almirola. Almirola took their No. 98 Ford to victory lane earlier this year at Talladega and in July 2016 at Daytona.

But it’s been a decade since a driver with no Cup experience won a Xfinity race on a team with no Cup ties.

Before Clements, the last time it happened was with David Gilliland in 2006. Driving for Clay Andrews Racing, Gilliland won at Kentucky Speedway on June 17, 2006.

Gilliland would make his Cup debut a week later at Sonoma Raceway and then debut with Robert Yates Racing in August. Andrews would shut his team down at the end of the year.

In 2006, Clements was 21 and had only made one of his 256 Xfinity Series starts.

Now with his Xfinity win, Clements hopes some bigger teams were paying attention

“Our budget a year is a fraction of a big teams’,” Clements told NBC. “This is just a dream come true. I want to drive for a big team, but it hasn’t been the way it’s gone. I try to keep doing this, to keep my name out here getting as much experience as I can in case I do get the call. To any big team guys. Look at me. Let’s go.”

On NASCAR America, Jeff Burton and Parker Kligerman discussed what Clements’ achievement represents about the state of Xfinity Series.

“This is really what the Xfinity Series is supposed to be about,” Burton said. “It’s supposed to be about drivers having an opportunity, team owners having an opportunity to compete at a very high level. They (Jeremy Clements Racing) run this team much like race teams were run 15 years ago, 20 years ago. … A lot is said about Cup drivers in the Xfinity Series. But really, the issue is the technology that’s in the Xfinity Series. Unfortunately, I think Pandora’s Box has been opened and it’s really hard to get it shut.”

Watch the video for the full segment on Jeremy Clements’ win.