Jeff Burton

NASCAR America: Dale Jarrett on restrictor plates at Indy — ‘An awful idea’

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NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett makes no bones about his feelings that NASCAR is expected to use restrictor plates in July’s Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“It’s an awful idea, in my opinion,” Jarrett said on Monday’s edition of NASCAR America.

Jarrett knows what he’s talking about. He’s a two-time winner (1996, 1999) of the Brickyard 400 at Indy and a seven time top-10 finisher at the 2.5-mile IMS in 13 career Cup starts.

MORE: NASCAR will use restrictor plates at Indy, could Michigan and Pocono be on the horizon?

However, if NASCAR likes how plates work in the Xfinity race at Indy, don’t be surprised if NASCAR also uses them in the Cup race there in 2018.

Again, Jarrett disagrees.

“Taking horsepower away, that’s the one thing a driver can utilize to make passes at a racetrack that is so flat,” Jarrett said. “We tried restrictor plates one time at New Hampshire. Jeff Burton led every single lap of that race and went on to win.

“It was a terrible race except for Jeff Burton. He was the only one that thought it was good that day.”

Jarrett is definitely a proponent of keeping cars plate-free at Indy.

“Taking power away, I think is a bad idea,” he said. “There are other options, I think. Open the aerodynamic rules some, that’s where you’re going to get more passing involved. But let them have the horsepower trying to do it.

“I just don’t like this idea, as you can tell.”

Ryan: NASCAR will use restrictor plates at Indianapolis . . . are Michigan and Pocono next?

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NASCAR’s latest track makeover was on display last weekend at Phoenix Raceway, which was under construction during a $178-million renovation that will completed by November 2018.

But the series-wide overhauls aren’t stopping there, and they aren’t limited to facility facelifts, either.

NBC Sports has confirmed that NASCAR will use restrictor plates for the Xfinity race July 22 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The decision, which initially was reported by freelance journalist Michael Knight on Twitter last weekend, will take effect after NASCAR was pleased by the results of a successful Xfinity test with plates last year at the 2.5-mile track.

A NASCAR official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss publicly, said if the Xfinity race goes well, then restrictor plates would be used for the 2018 Brickyard 400 in the Cup Series.

NASCAR also is considering using the same plate-style rules package for Indianapolis, Pocono Raceway and Michigan International Speedway.

Far less likely in the short term is the use of the IMS road course, which the Sports Business Journal reported last week was under consideration for usage in Cup. An IMS spokesman declined comment on the report.

Though discussions have been confirmed by NASCAR, it’s unlikely that it would be used unless as a last resort (and it definitely wouldn’t happen this season). The Indianapolis Star reported last week there is no NASCAR test scheduled for the road course, which plays host to IndyCar and was the site of Formula One races from 2000-2007.

From this corner, there are several reasons why attempting to move the premier series to Indy’s twisting circuit would be a massive mistake:

–The optics of running a road course at the world’s most fabled racetrack are brutal. It would seem extremely bush league to move NASCAR from the storied four-turn layout and strengthen the perception that stock cars are just another support series for the Indianapolis 500.

–While NASCAR needs more road courses (moving to Charlotte Motor Speedway’s “roval” next year is smart), it’s uncertain if IMS would be a good fit (F1 drivers didn’t like it).

–If NASCAR and IMS decide that the flat rectangle isn’t suitable for stock cars, then the difficult call should be made to separate after the 5-year sanctioning agreement ends in 2020.

Take the date to a place that will pack its grandstands for Cup – Iowa Speedway and Eldora Speedway are two prime candidates. Stock cars always were ill-suited for Indianapolis, but it didn’t make a difference in the first 14 years that NASCAR raced the Brickyard because of its prestige.

Indy now is mired in a 10-year trend of declining crowds that can be traced directly to the tire debacle in the 2008 Brickyard. A similar controversy in 2005 led to F1’s permanent departure from the facility. NASCAR and IMS might face the same if plates can’t save the day.

A few other leftovers from the past week:

–The loss of a track like Indy would be a PR blemish for NASCAR, but there were signs this past week that stock-car racing can move the needle with mainstream media and in popular culture.

Along with replays of the Kyle BuschJoey Logano confrontation on countless national TV shows, there was a nice hit with the “edgy” Barstool Sports’ affiliation with Chris Buescher at Las Vegas.

And the visit to Hendrick Motorsports and the Charlotte Motor Speedway by Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg was simply a PR coup that couldn’t be reproduced with any sport ad buy.

Zuckerberg, whose net worth has been estimated by Forbes at more than $50 billion, has explored NASCAR sponsorships with Cup teams before, and his obvious zeal about taking a thrill ride with Dale Earnhardt Jr. was validating.

As Jeff Burton said on NASCAR America last Thursday, Zuckerberg “got to drive with a real race car driver at 180, 190 mph. Whenever I’ve had the chance to do that, and I’ve driven some of the best professional athletes in the world, they have left with a completely different appreciation for what this sport is all about.

“You can play basketball, football and baseball in P.E. You don’t drive a race car in P.E. You don’t have an appreciation for it. (For Zuckerberg) to experience that is great for the sport.”

The point is well-taken. LeBron James visited Bristol Motor Speedway in August 2005 as part of a Powerade sponsorship with Bobby Labonte, but he shot hoops on the frontstretch and toured the garage without taking a ride (though filmmaker Quentin Tarantino got an opportunity the same day). Next time, NASCAR shouldn’t miss such a chance.

–Speaking of LeBron, it’s easy to juxtapose the NBA’s current controversy over championship-caliber teams choosing to rest their stars with NASCAR’s move toward exactly the opposite.

Stage racing added a new layer at Phoenix Raceway, particularly at the close of the first segment when Joey Logano had to fend off Kyle Larson.

The point of stages are to avoid situations similar to the NBA where stars routinely take nights off to rest for the playoffs. It can’t happen in NASCAR anymore if a driver and team want to avoid the risk of leaving points on the table to reach the championship round.

You can make an argument that the NASCAR regular season remains too long — just like the NBA. But at least NASCAR has ensured the first 26 races are more meaningful than ever.

–Phoenix was another strong showing for Larson, who has three straight runner-up finishes and four in the past five races. But as noted here two weeks ago, it also was another reminder that the Chip Ganassi Racing driver needs to learn to close out victories in NASCAR.

Larson should have outdueled Ryan Newman for the victory at Phoenix, but he allowed his No. 42 Chevrolet (which had two fresh tires) to be bumped by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (no tires) on the restart.

Larson consequently lost momentum and couldn’t mount a charge on Newman, who didn’t hesitate to clobber Larson on the final lap of the November 2014 races at the 1-mile oval to advance to the title round.

“Hindsight is always 20/20,” he said. “But I should have went a lane up in (turns) 1 and 2. I should have known to just stay close to Newman.  That’s what I wish I would have done.

“But, yeah, it’s weird running all these seconds.  It took me, like, three years to finish second in sprint cars.  Now I finish second like every week.  A little weird, but maybe we’ll turn them into wins soon.”

The bottom line is Larson needs more of a killer instinct to improve on his career victory total (one). He figured it out in the short feature races of sprint cars, but a three-hour race takes a different skillset.

In the past five months, Miami, Atlanta and Phoenix have proved he hasn’t perfected his yet.

NASCAR America: Kevin Harvick’s Phoenix record provides perfect chance to rebound

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No one has won at Phoenix Raceway more than Kevin Harvick.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver has eight wins on the one mile-track, with five in the last seven races.

In this video, NASCAR America’s Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte discuss why this weekend is the ideal opportunity for Harvick to bounced back from his DNF at Las Vegas.

NASCAR America live at 5:30 p.m. ET: Jamie McMurray interview, Scan All

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and presents the latest edition of Scan All.

Carolyn Manno hosts from Stamford, Connecticut and is joined by Steve Letarte and Jeff Burton at Burton’s Garage.

On today’s show:

  • As the Cup Series continues its Western swing this weekend at Phoenix Raceway, a number of top drivers are in need of a turnaround. Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte will share which drivers are in early trouble after the first three races of the season.
  • Jamie McMurray’s aiming for a third-consecutive playoff berth and he’s started off the season well. Dave Burns checks in with McMurray for his impressions of how the No. 1 team has fared so far in 2017 and how he’s been adapting to the Cup Series’ new low-downforce package.
  • We take a listen to the best scanner sounds from last Sunday’s race in Scan All Las Vegas.
  • One of the world’s biggest entrepreneurs gets a high-speed look at NASCAR. We’ll have the video of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s ride along with Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

If you can’t catch the show on TV, you also can 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 plug-in that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5:30 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

NASCAR America: Assessing season so far for Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney and others

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Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney are not rookies anymore. They’re three races into their sophomore seasons on the NASCAR Cup Series circuit.

NASCAR America’s Jeff Burton, Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett compare and contrast how their seasons are looking compared to other young starts, including Kyle Larson.

Elliott and Blaney are still looking for the first Cup wins.

Watch the video to hear the analyst’s thoughts.