Scott Miller

NASCAR will look at issue of drivers slowing near pit exit to get preferred restart lane

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Saying that it is “not something that we want because we don’t need accidents at the end of pit road with people checking up,” NASCAR’s Scott Miller noted Monday that the sanctioning body will look into the issue of drivers slowing or stopping near pit exit to try to get the preferred lane on restarts.

It’s a common tactic at some tracks, including Martinsville Speedway, which hosts a playoff race. Denny Hamlin was the most obvious driver to do it in Saturday night’s Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Hamlin was set to exit pit road third (and start on the inside lane) one time when he slowed to try to be fourth and get the preferred outside lane to restart. Instead, two cars passed him, he exited fifth and restarted on the inside line.

Another time, Hamlin slowed at the end of pit road causing a few cars behind to run into the back of each other. All were able to continue.

“We’re certainly going to look at it,’’ said Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio about the pit road ploy. “What we saw go on that everybody is talking about was pretty obvious. Ironically, it didn’t quite work out. Sometimes those things don’t.

“No, that’s not something that we want because we don’t need accidents at the end of pit road with people checking up. We’ll figure out how we’ll address that one and try to move on. Really only kind of comes into play at a few places. We know when it’s possibly going to happen, so we’ll try to address that.’’

Asked on “The Morning Drive” if NASCAR might do something that is done a short tracks where drivers pick what lane they want in order they’re running on the track, Miller said:

As we do here at NASCAR, we’re constantly looking at ways to make the races and the action for the fans more interesting,’’ Miller said. “That is a topic we have discussed a little bit. I personally am really not super familiar with that and how it works but some of the others are and it’s something that we’ve talked about, but we talk about a lot of things. When the final decision comes, I’m not sure what that will be but certainly that has been a topic of discussion.’’

Miller also said that NASCAR planned to have the PJ1 traction compound again added to the track at Charlotte Motor Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the playoffs. Both tracks had it applied earlier this season.

“We’re looking at it at some other places, too, not fully decided yet,’’ Miller said. “We’re learning about it and learning about its uses and its positives. We haven’t really found any negatives. As with anything it’s a challenge to get right because it’s the first time we’ve dabbled in this. We have experience at those tracks but anyplace new that we go is still just a project that we’re working on.’’

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Stage lengths announced for next month’s Xfinity race at Indianapolis

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The stage lengths for next month’s Lilly Diabetes 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race have been announced.

The scheduled 100-lap event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be held Saturday, July 22, with a scheduled start time of 3:30 p.m. ET.

The race, which will feature the use of restrictor plates for the first time, will be televised on NBCSN.

Stages 1 and 2 for one of the biggest races on the Xfinity Series schedule will be 30 laps apiece, while the final stage will be 40 laps, according to NASCAR.

“Following the previously announced updates to the competition package for the NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Indianapolis, NASCAR will issue a rulebook bulletin that updates the stage lengths for the race,” Scott Miller, NASCAR Senior Vice President, Competition, said in a statement.

“As we have with every race, we worked with teams on expected fuel and tire runs for the event, and have determined that stages ending on Lap 30, Lap 60 and Lap 100 will provide the best race for fans,” Miller added.

Kyle Busch swept last year’s race weekend at IMS, capturing the Lilly Diabetes 250 Xfinity race and then following the next day with a triumph in the Brickyard 400. The latter was Busch’s most recent points-paying win in the Cup Series.

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NASCAR explains when it calls debris cautions, when it doesn’t

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After criticism from the sport’s most popular driver and a former champion, NASCAR defended its calls on debris cautions Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Both Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart were critical of NASCAR calling a debris caution with 20 laps left in Sunday’s race at Michigan International Speedway. That bunched the field. There were two cautions within the final 13 laps because of accidents with the field so close together. Twelve of the last 20 laps were run under caution. 

Stewart, a three-time champion, tweeted: “It’s a shame that so many drivers and teams day was ruined by the results of another “debris” caution towards the end of the race today.’’

Earnhardt, the 14-time most popular driver, said on Periscope after the race: “I don’t know why they’ve got to throw so many damn debris yellows.”

Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, explained on “The Morning Drive” how the sanctioning body decides to call a debris caution.

“We use all the resources that we have to try to identity what it is that is out there – that being camera, turn spotters and the communication that we’ve got around the race track to different people who may be able to see it,’’ Miller said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

“If we are actually able to identify what it is and feel like it’s something that is OK to leave out there, then we’ll do so. But if we can’t identify what it is exactly, and it could pose something dangerous, then we’ll usually, or almost always, error on the side of caution and safety and put the caution out in those circumstances. Sometimes it’s untimely and a little bit unfortunate, but we do have to do our job and make sure that everybody is safe.’’

Miller was asked about why NASCAR didn’t call a caution Sunday when a cowboy hat blew on the track.

“We saw the cowboy hat,’’ Miller said. “We knew it was straw, and that it would disintegrate if somebody would hit it. Obviously, that was right in front of us. Clearly, we could tell what it is, and we opted to keep it green because we knew that it didn’t really pose any kind of a safety risk.’’

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NASCAR informs teams they could lose race tires for inspection issues

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NASCAR has notified teams that they could lose tires for a race as a penalty for further inspection issues.

It was a point Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, made Monday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Asked about inspection violations, Miller said: “If we continue to have problems, there’s the potential to add more penalties, take tires away, do several different things to kind of make it more painful for the teams not to qualify. We don’t really want to have to do that, but we do have some things in our back pocket in case we continue to struggle.’’

NASCAR mentioned the option of taking tires in a scheduled call with crew chiefs this week.

Teams start races on the tires they used in qualifying except in the Daytona 500. If teams don’t make a qualifying attempt because they couldn’t get through inspection in time, they start on new tires. That can be an advantage compared to cars that qualified and ran a handful of laps on their tires.

Tire management has become more important this year with NASCAR cutting back the sets of tires teams can use in some races. For next month’s race at Kentucky, teams will be limited to nine sets. Last year, they were allowed 10 sets for that event. Teams will be allowed 10 sets in the season finale in Miami. Last year, teams were allowed 12 sets for that race.

Even with nine sets of tires last weekend at Dover — the same as last year — a series of early cautions led teams to bypass pit road at times to save tires for later in the race.

Although all Cup teams passed inspection in time to qualify last weekend at Dover, that hasn’t been the case at some tracks.

  • Eleven cars failed to pass inspection in time to make a qualifying attempt last month at Kansas Speedway.
  • Nine cars failed to make a qualifying attempt in April at Texas Motor Speedway because they did not pass inspection in time.
  • Five cars did not make a qualifying attempt at Atlanta in March because they did not pass inspection in time.
  • Two cars failed to pass inspection in time to qualify last month for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Teams also have been penalized practice time or the loss of pit stall selection for failing inspection before qualifying.

Matt Kenseth’s team lost its pit stall pick last weekend at Dover for failing pre-qualifying inspection multiple times. Erik Jones’ team lost its pit stall pick at Las Vegas for pre-qualifying inspection issues there.

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Rick Hendrick on inspection issues: ‘We’re going to clean our stuff up’

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CONCORD, N.C. — Team owner Rick Hendrick has questions about NASCAR’s inspection process after many of his cars failed to pass before qualifying recently, but the message he plans to deliver to his teams is clear.

“We’re going to clean our stuff up,’’ he said. “If 30 other cars or 28 make it through, we should make it through.’’

Three Hendrick Motorsports cars — those of Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. — were among 11 cars that failed to pass inspection in time to make a qualifying attempt last weekend at Kansas.

Three Hendrick cars — those of Chase Elliott, Kahne and Earnhardt — were among nine cars that failed to pass inspection in time to make a qualifying attempt last month at Texas.

No other organization had as many cars fail to make a qualifying attempt at those two tracks.

“If we’re that close to the line, then we need to back off,’’ Hendrick said Tuesday at the opening of the Axalta Customer Experience Center on the Hendrick Motorsports campus. “We don’t want to have to go through that.’’

MORE: Hendrick Motorsports looks to extend sponsor deals

Hendrick, though, does have some questions about the inspection process and the Laser Inspection Station.

“It’s amazing, like the 88 made it through the laser and passed,’’ Hendrick said of Earnhardt’s team at Kansas. “(NASCAR) didn’t like a clamp somewhere and they go back around, fix the clamp and don’t pass. So I don’t know how you pass one time and don’t pass the second time.’’

He wasn’t the only one confused. Earnhardt also expressed puzzlement on Twitter.

Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that it is “conceivable” that a car could pass the Laser Inspection Station and then be off the next time by.

“It’s hard to explain, it would take an hour to kind of go through all the technical things about the process, but it is conceivable if they’re .01 of a degree to the good that the next time they’ll be .01 of a degree outside of the good.

“Every piece of measurement equipment has a tolerance that it can work in and they seem to think that this thing should be absolute when no measuring equipment is absolute. It’s just one of those things. They’re trying to get to the edge. We’re trying to make sure we have a level playing field.’’

The penalty for not making a qualifying attempt is to start at the rear of the field. Some wonder if that is enough of a deterrent in light of so many cars not getting through. Not Hendrick.

“When you don’t get to qualify and you start in the back, that’s pretty severe I think,’’ he said.

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