Cole Custer

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Austin Dillon: NASCAR will issue ‘very harsh’ penalties for repeat offense

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Following his meeting with Cole Custer and NASCAR officials Friday at Auto Club Speedway, Dillon told ESPN any further stepping out of line by him would lead to “very harsh” penalties.

“NASCAR did a really good job of sharing with me that if I make a mistake like that again that the penalties would be very harsh,” Dillon said. “I love to race, and I don’t want to be on the sideline, ever.”

NASCAR told NBC Sports it does not comment on what drivers are told in hauler meetings.

Neither Dillon nor Custer were penalized for their episode last weekend at Phoenix Raceway that saw Dillon intentionally squeeze Custer into the wall at slow speed under caution in the Xfinity Series race.

Dillon retaliated against Custer after the rookie Stewart-Haas Racing driver got loose in Turn 1 on Lap 190 and ran up into Dillon, sending him into the outside wall and causing significant damage to his No. 2 car for Richard Childress Racing. After slowly leaving the scene of the accident, Dillon drove up the track as Custer came around him.

NASCAR parked Dillon for the final nine laps of the race and spoke to him and his crew chief following the event.

During a Friday press conference, Custer said his meeting with NASCAR and Dillon “went really good.

“We both have things that we wish we would have done different in the moment, but it is what it is and we’ll just try to move on from it.”

Custer had apologized on Twitter after the race and said Friday he did not feel any anxiety about the meeting with Dillon.

“I think we both felt like we got along pretty well and we weren’t on bad terms that much, so we talked a little bit about it and just said how we messed up,” Custer said. “If it’s a pretty bad situation, sometimes you’ll just sit there and say nothing, but it just depends.”

Custer said the meeting ended with the drivers shaking hands.

NASCAR has not issued any punishments the last two weeks after driver altercations. There were no penalties after Kyle Busch threw a punch at Joey Logano after the Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

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Bump & Run: Is NASCAR returning to the Wild West in terms of justice?

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Conflict on and off the track has gained attention the past two weekends in the sport and how NASCAR responds will help set the tone for the garage the rest of the season.

Dale Jarrett and Kyle Petty, who will be on NASCAR America from 5:30 – 7 p.m. ET today on NBCSN, join Nate Ryan and Dustin Long in discussing that subject and more in this week’s Bump & Run.

In the last two weeks, NASCAR did not penalize Kyle Busch and Joey Logano for an altercation on pit road, and a series official suggested this week that there might not be any additional penalties to Austin Dillon (who was parked by NASCAR) for slowly cutting across Cole Custer’s car and making contact after an incident between them in the Xfinity race. What do you make of NASCAR’s reaction to these incidents and the message it sends to the garage?

Kyle Petty: First, I will never condone the use of a race car or physical force in settling a perceived injustice. Having said that … I think NASCAR is in a little bit of a box they’ve put themselves in. We can go back to “boys have at it.’’ The stage races are just another level of that. Stage racing was designed to make every lap mean more, for drivers to race “harder” and to bring the intensity level and anticipation of the event to another level.

If that’s what you’re looking for, you can’t penalize the drivers when they react the way they do to the position the rules put them in. We’ve begged for emotion and personality from drivers, and when they give it to us there’s an outcry to penalize them. We can’t have it both ways, and the middle ground is confusing to fans and drivers alike. I guess it’s like that old saying “be careful what you wish for’’ because when you have it you don’t know what to do with it.

Dale Jarrett: I like the idea that nothing was done as far as the Kyle Busch and Joey Logano incident. This business is difficult, especially in a situation where something happened on the last lap of the race. It’s hard to expect a driver not to react in some way, shape or form. I’d rather Kyle Busch have a conversation and then if he felt it needed to go further … but he felt like he needed to talk in a different manner. I’m not opposed to that. I think you need to protect your ground and show your displeasure.

I’m not a fan even though I’ve been there and pretty much every driver has been there as far as a retaliation on the race track with the race car. I think we need to be discouraging that way more than we need to be discouraging drivers having conversations. We don’t need fights every weekend by any stretch of the imagination, but if they want to have discussions and something breaks out from there, I’m much more in favor of that than using the race cars.

Nate Ryan: The Busch-Logano reaction doesn’t surprise me. No harm was done (aside from the lone aggressor’s forehead), and I think it’s understood where the line is on drivers settling it between themselves. They have great latitude to approach each other after races, and as long as it doesn’t result in a broken jaw, there won’t be severe consequences for heated altercations between drivers (and subsequently their team members).

 The Custer-Dillon situation was slightly more surprising as NASCAR officials don’t want drivers employing their cars as weapons of revenge, particularly under caution. But some punishment was meted out in parking Dillon for the race and summoning him for a meeting. That officials will meet with Custer and Dillon together in Southern California this weekend also negates the need for further action. 

I think the message being sent is that NASCAR proactively is ensuring feuds don’t escalate to being uncontrollable but also is being careful to avoid the perception of micromanaging emotions.

Dustin Long: The days of NASCAR overseeing the drivers with the strictness of a convent school are over. That doesn’t mean that they’ll allow a driver to wreck another — as Matt Kenseth did to Joey Logano in 2015 — but for a sport that has an edgy sponsor and looks to gain the attention of more fans, slapping wrists with a ruler are long gone. The question is how far will officials go? When they react? Will it be an overreaction to get the garage back in line?

In the last seven races, dating back to last season, there have been seven different winners: Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano and Carl Edwards. Does the streak of different winners continue this weekend at Auto Club Speedway and who might be that driver?

Kyle Petty: Yes. I believe the streak continues! Larson, Elliott, Harvick. The list of drivers who have been strong so far this year is diverse. Not the usual suspects! We know Michigan was Larson’s first win and California is a sister track. Chase will contend again and has been in position to win every race this season. Harvick is Harvick, any race, any time, anywhere he can win. I will say all I know for sure is Carl Edwards won’t win!

Dale Jarrett: Yes. I think the name that probably comes to mine and everybody else’s is Kyle Larson. He was in position to win every race we’ve had so far this year. Especially with that race track, he’s done well there and it’s his type of race track. I think these new rules with less amount of downforce are really only enhancing his driving abilities. I think he will have to outrun Chase Elliott to get the checkered flag.

Nate Ryan: Yes. Kyle Busch has this place sorted (three wins, including two of the past four races), and he drives well when motivated. Though “Everything Is Great,” it won’t diminish Busch’s drive to return to victory lane and take some smug satisfaction at reclaiming the spotlight for the right reason.

(P.S. I also reserve the right to change my mind for Sunday’s pre-race Staff Picks post on nbcsports.com/nascar.)

Dustin Long: Yes. After the millennials have finished second each of the first four races (Ryan Blaney at Daytona and Kyle Larson each of the past three weeks), one of them is due to win. That includes Chase Elliott, who has two top-five finishes this season.

Watch Dale Jarrett and Kyle Petty on NASCAR America today from 5:30 – 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

NASCAR to meet with Austin Dillon, Cole Custer after Xfinity incident

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NASCAR plans to meet with Austin Dillon and Cole Custer this weekend at Auto Club Speedway after their incident in Saturday’s Xfinity race at Phoenix Raceway.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, said Monday on “The Morning Drive” that officials parked Dillon after his actions in the Xfinity race and met with Dillon, his crew chief and spotter.

Custer got into Dillon’s car in the final laps of the race, causing it to hit the wall. Dillon slowly drove away and waited for Custer to get near him. Dillon then slowly cut across Custer’s path and they made light contact.

“We made sure Austin understood where we were and where we stood on his actions that took place,’’ O’Donnell said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “We plan on meeting with both drivers prior to practice out in California. We’ll continue to look at the videos, but, at this point, feel like we are where we are in terms of that conversation, but again leave the door open as we continue to review. It was a really short night coming back from Phoenix, so we’ll take our time from that.’’

After the race, Custer tweeted the incident was his fault and Dillon responded.

Dillon is not scheduled to drive in this weekend’s Xfinity race at Auto Club Speedway.

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Austin Dillon retaliates after spin, says Cole Custer was ‘driving over his head’ (videos)

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Cole Custer overdrove the corner and spun out Austin Dillon during Saturday’s DC Solar 200 Xfinity Series race at Phoenix Raceway. Ryan Sieg was also collected in the incident.

Instead of taking his wrecked car to the garage, Dillon waited for Custer to make an additional lap and then drove into Custer’s left side, forcing him into the wall.

Dillon later discussed his disappointment, claiming Custer was “driving over his head” and reacted to NASCAR’s request to speak with him and his team after the race.

Kyle Busch wins pole for Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

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Kyle Busch will start from the pole in the Xfinity Series Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The Las Vegas-native topped Brad Keselowski with a speed of 185.580 mph to earn his second pole of the season and the 59th of his Xfinity Series career.

The top five is completed by Daniel Suarez, Joey Logano and Austin Dillon.

Matt Tifft is the highest starting Xfinity regular in sixth.

Keselowski set a track record in the first round with a speed of 186.220 mph.

Elliott Sadler qualified 14th, Darrell Wallace Jr. will roll off 16th and Cole Custer starts 20th.

Rookie Spencer Gallagher will start 24th. Michael Annett starts 28th.

The race is set to start at 4:14 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.

Click here for the full qualifying results.