Derrike Cope

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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.”

Retro Rundown 2017: Southern 500 throwback paint schemes

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It’s finally here!

NASCAR’s throwback week is capped off by tonight’s Southern 500 on NBCSN.

That means what was once old is new again and that goes with the latest parade of retro paint schemes.

Here’s your guide to all the paint schemes that will be driven in the Southern 500.

Jamie McMurray – The No. 1 Chevrolet will be modeled after the No. 1 car David Pearson won his final Cup race withat Darlington in 1980.

Brad Keselowski – Keselowski will pilot the “Midnight” paint scheme Rusty Wallace made famous in the mid-90s during his time in Team Penske’s No. 2 car. This isn’t the first time Keselowski has driven this look. It was on his No. 2 Ford in August 2015 at Michigan.

Austin Dillon – This year marks the 30th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt’s 1987 win in the Southern 500. Richard Childress Racing is honoring that achievement by putting Earnhardt’s Wrangler paint scheme from that year on Austin Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet and Ryan Newman‘s No. 31 Chevrolet.

Kevin Harvick – The No. 4 Busch Chevrolet will have a paint scheme that is based on the “Head for the Mountains” commercials from the 1980s. Harvick won the 2014 Southern 500.

Kasey Kahne  Kahne’s No. 5 Chevrolet will pay tribute to Geoffrey Bodine, the first driver to win for Hendrick Motorsports in the Cup Series. The paint scheme is the same one Bodine had on the No. 5 in 1985 when it was sponsored by Levi Garrett.

Trevor Bayne – The No. 6 Ford will resemble the car Mark Martin drove when the No. 6 was sponsored by Stroh Light from 1988-89. Darrell Wallace Jr. drove the paint scheme in the 2016 Xfinity race at Darlington.

Danica Patrick – The No. 10 Ford will have the paint scheme that Dale Jarrett used in his 1999 Cup Series championship year when he drove for Robert Yates Racing. Patrick also will be sponsored by Ford Credit, which was a sponsor on Jarrett’s No. 88 Ford that season.

Denny Hamlin – The Joe Gibbs Racing driver will pay tribute to famed modified driver Ray Hendrick (no relation to Rick Hendrick). “Mr. Modified” was named one of the 50 greatest NASCAR drivers in 1998.

Ty Dillon – Germain Racing’s No. 13 Chevrolet looks similar to the way it did in last season’s Southern 500. The car will yet again have a paint scheme that Smokey Yunick once used on the No. 13 car he owned in the 1960s.

Clint Bowyer – Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford will have the sponsor and paint scheme that NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin drove in the Xfinity Series from 1988-1991. All three of the Southern 500 Throwback Weekends have featured Martin paint schemes.

Reed Sorenson – His car honors car owner Bud Moore, who was inducted with the 2011 class into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Brett Bodine originally raced this paint scheme in 1989.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – The Roush Fenway Racing driver will once again pay tribute to former No. 17 driver Darrell Waltrip. Stenhouse’s paint scheme is modeled after the one Waltrip drove in the 1997 season.

Matt Kenseth – The scheme for the No. 20 is loosely based on the one Kenseth had when he won his first Xfinity Series race in February 1998 at Rockingham.

Ryan Blaney – The Wood Brothers Racing car will have the same look as it did in 1987 when Kyle Petty drove for the team. That year Petty won the Coca-Cola 600 for one of his eight Cup victories.

Joey Logano – The No. 22 Ford will bear the paint scheme used by Jimmy Vasser in IndyCar in 2002, the year Shell and Pennzoil merged.

Team Penske

Corey LaJoie – The No. 23 Toyota will pay tribute to Davey Allison. LaJoie’s paint scheme will be the one used by Allison in 1984 when he drove a No. 23 Miller High Life Pontiac in the Busch Series (now Xfinity Series).

NASCAR

 

Chase Elliott – The Hendrick Motorsports’ driver will drive the light blue paint scheme his father Bill Elliott had in his first Cup start on Feb. 29, 1976 at Rockingham Speedway.

Ryan Newman – Like Austin Dillon, Newman’s No. 31 Chevrolet will evoke Dale Earnhardt’s 1987 Wrangler paint scheme.

Matt DiBenedetto – The Go Fas Racing driver will have the scheme used by Bobby Allison in 1988 when he won the Daytona 500 for his 84th and final NASCAR Cup Series victory.

Jeffrey Earnhardt – The grandson of Dale Earnhardt Sr. will drive a Lowes Food paint scheme “The Intimidator” used in the Xfinity Series in 1989.

Landon Cassill – The Front Row Motorsports Ford will have the same paint scheme it used last year. It’s based on the look of Love’s Travel Stops’ first store, opened in Amarillo, Texas, in 1981.

Chris Buescher  The No. 37 Chevrolet will resemble the No. 37 driven by Patty Moise in the Xfinity Series in 1988.

David Ragan – The No. 38 Ford will have a paint scheme based on the 1960s look of sponsor Good Sam.

Kyle Larson – The Chip Ganassi Racing driver will pay tribute to team co-owner Felix Sabates and NBCSN analyst Kyle Petty with a paint scheme based on their 1995 Coors Light car. Petty drove for Sabates’ Team SABCO.

Aric Almirola – Four months after Almirola was born in March 1984, Richard Petty won his 200th and final Cup race in the July 4 Firecracker 400 at Daytona. Almirola will sport the same paint scheme “The King” took to victory lane that day.

AJ Allmendinger – The JTG Daugherty Racing driver will have the paint scheme Terry Labonte drove in 1986 when his No. 44 car was sponsored by Piedmont Airlines.

Jimmie Johnson – The paint scheme for the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet is inspired by the trucks Lowe’s used in 1986.

Hendrick Motorsports

Cody Ware – He and Rick Ware Racing will use this weekend’s car to offer prayers to those in Texas impacted by Hurricane Harvey. The car also resembles the Mello Yello paint scheme Kyle Petty once drove.

Derrike Cope – The 1990 Daytona 500 winner will have his own throwback for the Southern 500. Cope will have his paint scheme and sponsor from the 1994 Cup season when he drove the Mane ‘n Tail No. 12 car for Bobby Allison Motorsports.

Cole Whitt – The TriStar Motorsports driver will have a paint scheme that his grandfather, Jim Whitt, nicknamed “Gentleman Jim Whitt,” had when he won the Cajon Speedway Track Championship in a No. 60 car known as the “Lime Green Machine.”

Erik Jones – The Furniture Row Racing rookie will have a special paint scheme that pays tribute to the Cup Rookie of the Year award winners from 1984-89.

Martin Truex Jr. – The Furniture Row Racing car will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Bass Pro Shops’ TRACKER Boat line.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.  – In his final Southern 500 start, Earnhardt’s No. 88 Chevrolet will bear the paint scheme Earnhardt used during his two championship seasons in the Xfinity Series in 1998-99. Earnhardt drove the No. 3 AC Delco car for Dale Earnhardt Inc., winning 13 races over the course of the two seasons.

Michael McDowell – The No. 95 Chevrolet, owned by Leavine Family Racing, will bear the paint scheme 1992 Cup champion Alan Kulwicki drove in his Rookie of the Year season in 1986. LFR operates out of the same shop Kulwicki did until his death in a 1993 plane crash.

 

Other Throwback Weekend paint schemes:

Elliott Sadler (Xfinity Series) – Sadler will drive a tribute to Cale Yarborough and his Hardee’s paint scheme.

Michael Annett – The JR Motorsports driver will have a paint scheme used by Brad Doty in the World of Outlaws sprint car series in the 1980s.

Justin Allgaier – The JR Motorsports veteran will have a paint scheme based on the Mom ‘n’ Pops scheme that Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kelley Earnhardt Miller and Kerry Earnhardt used when they competed in late models.

William Byron – The JR Motorsports rookie will pay tribute to the late Ricky Hendrick, the son of Rick Hendrick, with a paint scheme inspired by the one he drove to his only Truck Series win in 2001.

Blake Koch – The Kaulig Racing driver will again drive an old Darrell Waltrip paint scheme. Koch’s No. 11 Chevrolet is inspired by Waltrip’s 1985 Budweiser scheme that he won that season’s Cup title in.

J.J. Yeley – The No. 14 car will be based on an old A.J. Foyt car that the four-time Indy 500 winner raced in NASCAR.

Ryan Reed – The Roush Fenway Racing driver will have the Zerex paint scheme Alan Kulwicki drove in 1989.

Daniel Hemric – The Richard Childress Racing driver will have the paint scheme that Jeff Green drove in 2002 when he competed for RCR.

Dakoda Armstrong – The JGL Racing driver has a more faithful tribute to Cale Yarborough’s Hardee’s paint scheme.

Ryan Sieg – The RSS racing drive will pay tribute to his brother, Shane Sieg, who died two weeks ago at the age of 34. The paint scheme was used by Shane Sieg in late model racing.

Kevin Harvick – Harvick will drive the original Hunt Brothers Pizza paint scheme that was first used in 2008 by Ken Schrader.

Matt Tifft – The Joe Gibbs Racing driver will honor Dale Earnhardt Sr., driving the paint scheme Earnhardt used in one race in 1977 when he drove the No. 19 car at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Erik Jones – Jones will pay tribute to Davey Allison with his 1988 rookie paint scheme.

Jeremy Clements – The No. 51 car will pay tribute to A.J. Foyt and his 1964 win in the Firecracker 400 at Daytona. Clements’ grandfather, Crawford, served as Foyt’s crew chief for the race.

Dylan Lupton – The JGL Racing driver will pilot the “Rainbow Warrior” paint scheme of his childhood idol, Jeff Gordon.

Spencer Gallagher – The GMS Racing driver will have Michael Waltrip‘s Cup rookie paint scheme from 1986.

Cole Custer – The Stewart-Haas Racing driver will pay tribute to two-time Xfinity Series champion Sam Ard.

Brendan Gaughan – An eight-time winner in the Camping World Truck Series, Gaughan will be sponsored by NAPA and feature the paint scheme he had for his first two Truck wins at Texas Motor Speedway in 2002.

Brandon Brown – The No. 90 Chevrolet will pay tribute to the late Dick Trickle, who made 303 Cup starts from 1970-2002. The scheme is based on Trickle’s Heilig-Meyer’s car.

Brad Keselowski Racing (Camping World Truck Series) – The two trucks owned by BKR, the No. 19 driven by Austin Cindric and the No. 29 of Chase Briscoe, will have paint schemes dedicated to the Keselowski family’s racing history for the Sept. 3 race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Austin Cindric – The purple and white paint scheme was used on cars driven by Keselowski’s uncle, Ron Keselowski, in both USAC and the NASCAR Cup Series. From 1970-74, he earned 11 top-10 finishes in 68 starts as a driver, including a pair of fifth-place finishes in back-to-back seasons at Michigan International Speedway.

Chase Briscoe – The No. 29 truck will bear the paint scheme driven by Brad Keselowski’s father, Bob, to victory lane in 1997 at Richmond. It was his only win in 86 Truck series starts.

John Hunter Nemechek – The son of Joe Nemechek will have the BellSouth paint scheme “Front Row Joe” had in the Cup series in 1999 when he won his first of four Cup races.

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Tommy Baldwin Jr. joins Premium Motorsports as crew chief, competition director

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Veteran NASCAR crew chief and team owner Tommy Baldwin Jr. will return atop the pit box, named Friday as crew chief for the No. 15 NASCAR Cup Toyota of Premium Motorsports.

Team owner Jay Robinson announced that Baldwin will serve both as crew chief for the No. 15, as well as competition director, effective immediately. Reed Sorenson is driving the No. 15 this weekend at Darlington.

“Tommy’s passion, experience and knowledge will serve Premium well in its quest to become more competitive in the future,” Robinson said in a statement.

Baldwin previously served as crew chief for Bill Davis Racing, Evernham Racing and Robert Yates Racing, working with several drivers including Ward Burton, Jimmy Spencer and Kasey Kahne. He has five wins as a NASCAR Cup crew chief, including the 2002 Daytona 500 with Burton.

Baldwin started a Cup team in 2009 that he ran full time until the end of 2016 when he sold its charter to Leavine Family Racing.

Scott Eggleston will remain as team manager at Premium Motorsports, while Pat Tryson will move to crew chief of the No. 55 car, driven primarily by Derrike Cope.

Robinson said additional changes will be coming to Premium.

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