Derrike Cope

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Entry lists for Cup and Trucks (Loudon) and Xfinity (Kentucky) races

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NASCAR’s three top racing series will be split between two different tracks this weekend.

The NASCAR Cup Series moves on to the second race of its 10-race playoffs at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series opens its seven-race playoffs at New Hampshire.

Meanwhile, the NASCAR Xfinity Series will begin its seven-race playoffs Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for each race:

Cup – ISM Connect 300

There are 39 cars entered for this race on the 1.058-mile paved track.

One change was announced Tuesday – Gray Gaulding will replace Derrike Cope in the No. 55 Premium Motorsports Toyota Camry.

One entry does not have a driver yet: the No. 51 Chevrolet of Rick Ware Racing.

In this race last year, Kevin Harvick led the final six laps to take the victory over Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch. Martin Truex Jr. led the most laps (141), but finished seventh.

Denny Hamlin won the July race there.

Also, this will be the last season that New Hampshire Motor Speedway will have two NASCAR Cup races in a season. The fall race moves to Las Vegas Motor Speedway next season.

Click here for the full entry list.

Xfinity – VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300

The NASCAR Xfinity Series returns for the second time this season to the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway.

There are 40 cars entered. Only one driver spot is unfilled as of now, the No. 172 Chevrolet owned by James Carter.

Because the Cup Series is in New Hampshire, there are no Cup regulars entered in this race.

Former IndyCar champ and Indianapolis 500 winner Sam Hornish Jr. will once again make an Xfinity start for Team Penske, driving the No. 22 Ford.

Xfinity regular season champion Elliott Sadler won this race last season.

Kyle Busch won the July race

Click here for the full entry list.

Trucks – UNOH 175

There are 30 trucks entered.

One seat remains unfilled: the No. 183 Chevrolet of Copp Motorsports.

No NASCAR Cup drivers are entered.

Click here for the full entry list.

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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Long: Richmond calls raise questions about NASCAR officiating heading into playoffs

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RICHMOND, Va. — NASCAR told competitors before Saturday night’s race to let the event play out naturally on the track.

“We don’t want to get involved.’’

But NASCAR did in comical and confounding ways that raise questions about its officiating as the Cup playoffs begin this coming weekend.

Questionable cautions and questionable actions befuddled drivers Saturday night.

Where to start?

How about this: A wayward ambulance nearly cost Matt Kenseth a spot in the playoffs.

Just stop and ponder that.

Rarely have the words ambulance and racing produced such a ridiculous image since the time a gurney Buddy Baker was strapped to flew out of an ambulance and on to a track as cars sped by.

Had Kenseth lost his playoff spot because of an ambulance, it would have raised the specter of if NASCAR should add him to the postseason — as it added Jeff Gordon under different circumstances in 2013.

There’s more.

Saturday’s overtime finish was set up by a caution for a car 16 laps behind the leaders. A NASCAR official stated that debris came off the car, necessitating the caution.

Fine, but the bigger question is why was Derrike Cope on the track in the final laps?

His incident brought out a caution on Lap 398 of a scheduled 400-lap race. He was five laps down from the closest car, thus had no chance of gaining any positions in the regulation length.

Yet, by being out of the track — as is his right — his actions created a caution that changed the race’s outcome. Martin Truex Jr. led when the caution waved but wrecked on the last lap and finished 20th, while Kyle Larson won.

As the playoffs begin, NASCAR should order cars that are too many laps down from gaining any positions off the track in the final laps to avoid a repeat of what happened Saturday.

While some will say that every driver should be allowed to continue in case a race goes to overtime and they can gain spots there, drivers so far back should lose that right for the betterment of the race.

Also, it doesn’t do the sport — or the competitor that causes the caution in such a situation — any good.

The result was that an upset Truex was awarded a regular-season trophy after the race with the look of a person who had just had multiple root canals, found out the IRS wanted to audit him and that even his dog had turned its back on him.

Whee!

Oh yes, the race’s second caution was a quick trigger by NASCAR for what was described in the race report as smoke after Kenseth locked his brakes attempting to lap Danica Patrick.

“Smoke.” Not as in Tony Stewart but “smoke.”

Officiating affects every sport, but as the 10-race playoffs begin, the focus becomes sharper on everything NASCAR does and doesn’t do.

Since criticism for a debris caution late in the Michigan race in June, NASCAR has called fewer debris cautions, allowing for long stretches of green-flag racing regardless of how far the leader has pulled away.

This direction came a year too late for Carl Edwards in the championship race, as Dale Earnhardt Jr. noted Sunday morning in a tweet.

At Homestead, NASCAR called for a caution with 15 laps to go after Dylan Lupton wobbled through Turn 2 but continued in a seemingly innocuous incident.

Edwards led but on the ensuring restart blocked Joey Logano’s charge and wrecked, ending Edwards’ title hopes. The two cautions helped Jimmie Johnson win his record-tying seventh series title.

Maybe something else would have happened that would have required a caution in that race but should NASCAR’s season finale — or any other race — be determined in such a way?

No.

That’s why as each team examines all it can do these final 10 races, NASCAR needs to examine its officiating policies and makes sure that it abides by its hope of not wanting to be a factor in the race.

One only can hope Saturday night’s missteps are avoided the next 10 weeks, or a cloud could hang over the postseason.

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Martin Truex Jr. on late Richmond caution: ‘That is not what racing should be’

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Martin Truex Jr. was unhappy after a late caution derailed his chance at winning Saturday’s Cup race at Richmond Raceway.

Truex was leading with three laps to go when the caution was brought out by Derrike Cope washing up the track and scraping the wall. There was no major damage in the accident. Cope continued on and finished 36th, 16 laps off the lead.

The caution resulted in an overtime finish and Truex being accidentally wrecked by Denny Hamlin in Turn 1 after taking the white flag.

Truex finished 20th after leading 198 laps.

“Yeah, I mean, I just don’t agree with the caution,” Truex told NBCSN. “I think it’s ridiculous that, again, there’s a guy out there that shouldn’t even be out there, 20 some laps down, riding around.

“As slow as he is, he can’t even hold his damn line. It’s ridiculous. He scrapes the wall, they throw a caution with (three) to go. That’s not what racing should be.

“I’m mad about that. But I have to go back and watch the tape, see how it exactly played out. I’m madder about all that than I am about losing. Just a hard way to lose ’em.”

Had the race continued on without a caution, Truex likely would have won his fifth race of the year and earned another five playoff points. He enters the playoffs with 53 playoff points and the regular-season title.

“I don’t even think (Cope) makes minimum speed, and really doesn’t even belong out there,” Truex said later in the media center. “I don’t know if he apparently scraped the wall a few times, and I don’t know, couldn’t stay in the racetrack as slow as he was going. It’s unfortunate they threw a caution for that, and I don’t know if it should have been thrown or not.

“I just think that’s ridiculous that a guy could cause a caution with (three laps) to go as bad as he’s running and just riding around there basically just making laps. Yeah, it’s pretty dumb.”

Kyle Larson wins Cup regular-season finale at Richmond in overtime finish

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Kyle Larson won the NASCAR Cup Series regular-season finale at Richmond Raceway in an overtime finish.

Larson won after a caution came out just following the white flag. Denny Hamlin, running in third, made contact with Martin Truex Jr., who crashed into the Turn 1 wall (see video below).

Truex had been leading the race until a caution came out for Derrike Cope with four laps to go. Larson was first off pit road. Truex, the regular-season champion, led 198 laps.

“I’ve got the greatest team out here and definitely the best pit crew,” Larson told NBCSN. “That showed tonight. I can’t thank those guys enough. They were money all night long to gain spots. This win is a huge congrats to them”

The win is Larson’s fourth of the year. It’s his first Cup win at a track shorter than 2 miles.

“(Truex) was definitely the best,” Larson said. “I thought I was second-best for most of the run. Would fall off late in the run. Came down to the final restart and I got a good start. Spun my tires really bad and was a little nervous. But we cleared him into (Turn) 1.”

The top five were Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin.

Truex finished 20th.

“We both drove in really, really deep and when I got on the brakes the splitter slammed down on the ground and shot me up the track into him,” Hamlin told NBCSN. “It’s unfortunate. I didn’t want to get into him. He’s a great teammate of ours.”

Said Truex to NBCSN: “Tonight sucked, plain and simple. Just the way it ended up. You’re out there dominating like that and you know your car is not very good on restarts for a couple of laps. Caution for a guy that shouldn’t even be out there. It’s ridiculous. … It’s unfortunate the way the race ended.” On Hamlin: “We talked and I know he didn’t do it on purpose. … I gave him room and he was aggressive on the brakes. That stuff happens.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: Kyle Busch

STAGE 2 WINNER: Martin Truex Jr.

MORE: The 16 drivers in the Cup playoffs

MORE: Race results

MORE: Points standings

WHO HAD A GOOD NIGHT: Kurt Busch earned his third top five in a row … Jimmie Johnson finished eighth for his best finish since winning at Dover in June. He had not finished better than 10th since … Dale Earnhardt Jr. led a season-high 13 laps and finished 13th. He failed to make the playoffs … Daniel Suarez finished seventh for his ninth top 10. He’s finished seventh six times.

WHO HAD A BAD NIGHT: Pole-sitter Matt Kenseth saw his race end on Lap 257 after running into the back of Clint Bowyer as the field came to pit road as they tried to avoid an ambulance that was at the pit entrance. He finished 38th … In addition to the pit accident, Bowyer was called for an uncontrolled tire on his last pit. He finished 24th … Landon Cassill’s night ended on Lap 33 when he lost a tire and hit the wall. He finished last.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “I’m more mad about all that than I am losing.” – Martin Truex Jr. on the late-race caution involving Derrike Cope with four laps left as Truex led.

NEXT: Tales of the Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway at 3 p.m. ET on Sept. 17 on NBCSN