Steve O’Donnell

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An explanation why Denny Hamlin had to start at the rear at Phoenix

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Denny Hamlin qualified 19th for Sunday’s race at Phoenix Raceway but he started at the back of the field because of a cut tire discovered after qualifying.

So why was Hamlin penalized for something out of his control?

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, explained it Monday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

“It’s a really tough break, and it’s one of those things where there’s really not a great solution,’’ O’Donnell said. “If something happens to a tire while you’ve started qualifying … you cut a tire, you are forced to start in the back. The reason for that is we worked with the race teams and they said ‘Don’t tempt us,’ and by that I mean, ‘I won the pole, and I’m going to go out there and flat spot a tire and now I’m on the pole and now you need to give me new tires.’ It’s a balance for us to be able to police it. It’s unfortunate. It doesn’t happen often. Denny had to go to the back. It happened to two cars in the Xfinity Series as well.’’

Section of the NASCAR Cup Rule Book states that “unless otherwise stated or authorized by the Series Managing Director, the tires used during Qualifying must be used to start the Race.”

Section of the NASCAR Cup Rule Book includes a chart that notes should a damaged tire be replaced after qualifying, teams can replace it with a scuff but must start at the rear of the field unless Goodyear confirms a manufacturing abnormality with that tire.

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


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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NASCAR official says intention would be ‘not to react’ in Kyle Busch-Joey Logano incident


NASCAR plans to meet with Kyle Busch and Joey Logano to discuss their last-lap contact and altercation on pit road Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but a series official said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “our intention would be not to react’’ unless new evidence emerges.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s executive vice president and chief racing development officer, addressed the Busch-Logano incident Monday on “The Morning Drive,’’ saying that it remained under review.

“We’ve always said that we’ve got to take everything and make sure we look at all the video,’’ O’Donnell told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I would say from our initial assessment last night in looking at what happened, as far as on track, I don’t think we saw anything that was intentional by any means. We’ll continue to review that. We’ve got to have discussions with both drivers. We talked to some folks postrace as well.

“I think our intention would be not to react unless we see something that we haven’t seen yet and something that comes up from those discussions. We’ll certainly bring both drivers together before we go on track in Phoenix and again have some dialogue. Still under review. It’s an emotional sport, and I think it shows exactly how much every position means on the track. These weren’t two guys going for the win, obviously going for top 10s, but it shows how important it is in the sport.’’

Asked if new series sponsor Monster Energy, which is known for its edginess, might impact NASCAR’s decision on the matter, O’Donnell said:

No. We love our sponsor for sure, but at the end of the day, we’ve got to make decisions for our sport. We’ll continue to do that. Again, we want to look at everything and see that we’re not missing anything from video, obviously. There’s a lot of video out there. More importantly, want to talk to the drivers involved and see where we go from there. Would like to just leave it at we’re going to talk to them and see where we end up prior to Phoenix.’’

O’Donnell also was asked about the involvement in crew members in the altercation on pit road.

“What our position has been, we want to leave it in the drivers hands,’’ O’Donnell said. “What we don’t want to see, and the drivers have asked for this, which is very fair, is a crew member initially approaching a driver or initiating some type of altercation with a driver.

“Just early review of this (incident). This was two drivers with crew members kind of stepping back, and once something happens, a crew is taught, which I think is right, that if someone comes up in your pit box and attacks your guy, you have the right to try to break that up or bring it to a stop. That was the initial review that we saw from the crewmembers. Again, there is still other video out there that we’ve got to look at. When we talked postrace to the race team that kind of confirmed what we had seen.’’

O’Donnell also was asked that if NASCAR issued penalties and the sport used the incident to promote it, if it would be sending a mixed message.

“I think that’s fair,’’ O’Donnell said. “You’ve got to toe the line that if you’re going to dole out penalties, you better not be using that to promote the sport. I think we recognize that and that’s not something we would do if we did hand out penalties, but I want to stress that our initial indication is really to just have dialogue with both of those drivers and see where we are and try to avoid that if we can.’’

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NASCAR headed for more doubleheaders in the future for fans?

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Saturday marked the only time this season that NASCAR has a doubleheader scheduled among its top national series, but a series executive says the sanctioning body would be for more such events in the future.

The Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series held their races Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway — the third year in a row those series raced on the same day at Atlanta.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, said Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive’’ that more doubleheaders could be a possibility.

“From our standpoint, we are certainly open to it,’’ O’Donnell said. “We love it. It always feels good having two races during the day. For us, it’s something we’d love to expand on. For the fans, it’s a full day of racing … getting to see some of NASCAR’s rising stars come up through the system and also see some of the Monster Energy Series drivers out there on Saturday.’’

Last year, there were two additional doubleheaders because of weather issues.

Rain forced the September Xfinity race at Dover to be moved to the same day as the Cup race. The Xfinity race started four hours before the Cup race.

Rain from Hurricane Matthew forced the Cup and Xfinity races to be held on the same day in October at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Cup race was run first. The Xfinity race followed about 45 minutes after the end of the Cup race.

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NASCAR adding traveling safety team

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NASCAR announced Wednesday morning that it is partnering with American Medical Response to create a traveling safety team.

This marks the first time NASCAR has had a dedicated traveling safety team. Previously, NASCAR used medical liaisons on site working with track-specific medical teams during the weekend and in the infield care center.

The plan is to have a rotating pool of emergency trauma physicians who will split travel for each event. A key is that the physician must be licensed in the state where the event is being held.

NASCAR announced that it will have a chase vehicle that will be sent to the accident site and include an AMR doctor and a paramedic to administer care when needed.

AMR, which delivers EMS support at a number of NASCAR events, will provide a physician to serve as the national medical director of the AMR Safety Team to oversee all services provided by AMR and work with the NASCAR Medical Liaisons and NASCAR Consulting Physicians.

“This is a perfect partner in terms of enhancing of what we already do,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer.

“Candidly, this was a no-brainer. Drivers have looked at care and as you look at concussion protocols and all these things become more and more important of that initial look into the race car, who is that, what is their qualifications and how are decisions being made for us became more and more of a key area to look at. AMR provides that expertise for us.”

The safety team will be available at Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series weekends. It will not be available for any events separate from the Cup weekend. Thus, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series standalone events will not have this, but each series will have it available when competing at the same track as Cup in a particular weekend.

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