Steve O’Donnell

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NASCAR official: Most upcoming tracks will have grip enhancements

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Bristol Motor Speedway will once again use the PJ1 compound for a third consecutive time for this weekend’s NASCAR events there.

First applied at last August’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race and again for the Food City 500 earlier this year, the compound has resulted in greater grip and additional grooves that has led to closer side-by-side racing.

As a result of the success at Bristol, as well as other tracks, look for PJ1 — or tire dragging to add more rubber to the racing surface — to be utilized at several other tracks during the upcoming 10-race NASCAR Cup playoffs.

“We had our driver council meeting Friday night in Michigan, and part of that meeting was to go over the remaining race tracks, talk about where we may or may not put something on the surface (or) where we want to rubber in the track,” NASCAR Executive Vice President and Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell said Monday on The Morning Drive on Sirius/XM NASCAR Radio.

“(We) really worked with the drivers to say what is the exact line where you think this would continue to improve the racing on track,” O’Donnell added. “It’s been going really well so far.

“We learn obviously where it works and where we’ve got some changes to make. We liked the first race at Bristol where we used it, might have missed the line a little bit the last time, so we’re going to go back to where we were with the first race and think that will be a really good solution.”

BMS officials are preparing to add the PJ1 treatment to the lower groove in time for Wednesday’s UNOH 200 Camping World Truck Series race on Wednesday.

The compound will also be reapplied for Friday’s Xfinity Series Food City 300 and Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race.

It has worked so well that BMS sister tracks Charlotte Motor Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway – which will both host races in the upcoming 10-race NASCAR Cup playoffs – have also utilized the compound.

At tracks that do not use the compound, O’Donnell said others may use tire dragging to add more rubber to the race surface, much like took place at Michigan International Speedway prior to Sunday’s race.

“I think there’s only actually a couple (of tracks) where we won’t have something,” O’Donnell told TMD. “There’s a lot of different things when you look at trying to bring a high line in, especially at Texas, bringing that second groove.”

O’Donnell expects to announce which tracks will either use the compound or tire dragging in the next week.

“We want to finalize it with the race tracks,” O’Donnell said. “I think, all in all, we’ve got a plan for each one of the upcoming tracks.’’

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NASCAR on rumors it would take additional cars after Michigan: Gotcha!

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All that talk that NASCAR would take more cars after Sunday’s Cup race at Michigan to see how they compared?

A ruse.

So said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, Monday on “The Morning Drive.’’

“We actually found it kind of comical this weekend,’’ O’Donnell said of the chatter that NASCAR would take more cars after Michigan. “We put a little bit of the rumor out there, and candidly it worked.

“If anyone would have done some serious research, the wind tunnel that we would use for this is under construction this week so it would have been impossible.’’

Brad Keselowski said Friday that Toyotas were sandbagging at Michigan because of the expectation that NASCAR would take more cars after the race. Toyotas led 88.2 percent of the laps in the five races leading up to Michigan.

“We had a strong suspicion that those guys (Toyota) would kind of tune it down this weekend, so not to post a pretty big number in inspection that maybe balanced back out the competition,” Keselowski said after winning the pole. “And potentially that’s right because our team hasn’t done much differently and those guys are just not as fast as they’ve been the last few weeks.”

Kyle Busch responded to Keselowski’s comments by telling ESPN on Saturday: “Brad’s a (expletive) moron. We don’t just turn it down. We actually have a new engine package here this week. He’s a moron.’’

Keselowski told NBCSN before Sunday’s race that Toyota’s performance last weekend at Michigan seemed “fishy.’’

“NASCAR typically takes the cars from the field, the best cars from the field and checks to see where everybody is at performance-wise about three or four times a year,’’ Keselowski told NBCSN. “Usually those weekends are either Indianapolis, Pocono or Michigan. Well they couldn’t do it at Indianapolis because most of the field wrecked and there weren’t any cars to check, and I don’t know why it wasn’t done at Pocono.

“So the whole field knows today that the cars are probably going to be pulled and go through a little bit of extra inspection. That doesn’t mean that anyone is cheating by any means. This is a chance for NASCAR to level the playing field and see who is where in the development cycles. I think everybody knows that.’’

NASCAR did not take any additional cars.

“We’re not going to telegraph when we’re going to do that at a certain race track,’’ O’Donnell said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “We always want to make sure that we’ve got the best information possible, particularly the aerodynamics of the car, so we’ll continue to do that.

“A lot of politicking going out there and I think that will continue as it gets closer to the playoffs. There’s a lot on the line, a lot of different winners, and that’s actually kind of cool to see because people care and they want to do all they can to win.’’

Keselowski led a race-high 105 laps before finishing 17th. Kyle Larson passed Martin Truex Jr. on the restart in overtime to win. Truex led Toyota by finishing second.

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Cup qualifying headed to Saturday on more consistent basis in future?

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After two consecutive weekends of Cup teams qualifying shortly before they raced, are fans likely to see more of that next year?

Cup teams qualified on Saturday after the Xfinity race last month at Indianapolis. Cup teams qualified a few hours before they raced the past two weekends at Pocono and Watkins Glen.

The experiment is part of NASCAR shortening the weekend schedule. NASCAR has added a fan fest to compensate for one less day of track activity for the Cup Series. That could become more common next year.

“I think the key for us is to really create some fun activities for the fans with more driver access on Fridays if we can,’’ Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday.

“Tend to like the qualifying, if we’re going to move it, on Saturday. I think that is a really good experience for fans in terms of having that support race and being able to see the Monster Energy Series drivers qualify. So we’ll probably continue to look that way. The biggest thing for us is to creating those unique, fun fan experiences around the drivers and open up the access as much as we can.’’

Cup teams will qualify and race on the same day once more this year — at Martinsville in the playoffs. This weekend, Cup teams will qualify on Friday at Michigan and race on Sunday, the typical weekend schedule.

O’Donnell told “The Morning Drive” that there have been some questions raised by competitors about qualifying and racing on the same day.

“I think some of the feedback from some folks in the garage is that still is really tough to qualify, get ready for the race,’’ he said. “Folks like it, but I also think Saturday also gives you the opportunity maybe to plan a little bit more on race prep that you need for the car. It will be a balance as we look at both of those to see what is the best solution going forward for the teams.’’

Todd Gordon, crew chief for Joey Logano, told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday that he’s glad to go back to a schedule where qualifying and the race won’t be on the same day this weekend.

Gordon noted the “anxiety” in how much preparation has to be done to the backup car in case a driver crashes in qualifying.

“If you were to wreck in qualifying, you had two hours to get a car back together ready to race,’’ he said.

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Landon Cassill: ‘Still haven’t really wrapped my head around’ Brickyard penalty for disobeying red flag

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Landon Cassill said Tuesday he is still trying to understand the situation that resulted in his Brickyard 400 ending in the garage after NASCAR parked his No. 34 Ford for not heeding a red flag during the overtime period of the race.

Cassill was parked on Lap 162 after he continued to pit road when the red flag had been displayed for a wreck on the first overtime restart. The field was stopped in Turn 4.

After the race Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, said Cassill was parked because he “disobeyed a red flag.”

NASCAR’s official infraction report says Cassill was parked for “pulling up to pit.”

Cassill, taking part in a Goodyear tire test at Dover International Speedway, said he, his crew chief Seth Barbour and the team’s two spotters did not see the red flag displayed.

“I still haven’t really wrapped my head around it completely,” Cassill said. “They themselves did not see the red flag while I was rolling, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t out, I guess. The button they push in timing and scoring to trigger the red (flag) in their system is different than the flag man actually displaying the red flag. The flag man displaying the flag is what we have to work off of as drivers. It could have been the flag man had the red flag out the whole and the four of us as a team just missed it. That’s kind of why I kept rolling. I am very understanding of the rule and why it is what it is.”

With Cassill parked, the race ended on Lap 167. The Front Row Motorsports driver placed 22nd with his third DNF of the season.

Despite how it ended, Cassill earned his best result at a track other than a restrictor-plate track since he finished 21st at Kansas Speedway in May.

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NASCAR explains caution call at end of second overtime at Indy

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INDIANAPOLIS — NASCAR defended its action on when the caution was called during the second overtime in Sunday night’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Denny Hamlin began wrecking on the backstretch before leader Kasey Kahne crossed the overtime line in the middle of the backstretch.

NASCAR didn’t call the caution until after Kahne crossed the overtime line, ending the race under caution.

“We’ve said every single time we’ve raced is we will make every attempt possible to finish under green,’’ said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “We did that. Once we realized there was the need to bring on safety vehicles and the track was oiled down, we threw the caution.’’

The restart happened at 8:53 p.m. ET. The sun was scheduled to set at 9:05 p.m. ET.

Had the caution come before Kahne crossed the overtime line, the question is if the race could have finished before darkness.

“It would have been,’’ O’Donnell said. “If we would have red-flagged the race, we would have never got it back in. There was clearly oil on the race track.’’

Runner-up Brad Keselowski said he had not seen a replay on the incident to comment on when NASCAR threw the caution.

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