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Crew chiefs face many questions with tire options for All-Star Race

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CONCORD, N.C. — The question for crew chiefs tonight is when to put on the option, softer tires, during the All-Star Race.

Nobody is quite certain.

Among the questions is how beneficial the option tires — marked with green Goodyear lettering — will be. They are intended to be quicker than the regular tire but will wear sooner and likely lose speed deeper into a run.

Each team will have three regular sets and one option set for the four-stage, 70-lap race. If teams save the option tire until the final 10-lap stage, they must start behind all cars on the regular tire.

Another consideration for teams is that format. Only 10 of the 20 cars will advance to the final stage. Those that win any of the first three stages (and are on the lead lap at the end of third stage) advance. The other spots will be based on average finish in the first three stages. That could play into when crew chiefs use the option tires.

“We’re going to see some guys play with it a little bit in the opening stages I would think,’’ said Paul Wolfe, crew chief for Brad Keselowski. “We’re hoping we can get it judged from that to understand if you stay out and get the clean air, can you make it work? I think it will be interesting.’’

Ryan Newman will start 15th in the 20-car field, so strategy may be key. That will be crew chief Luke Lambert’s responsibility.

“There is a certain tradeoff point based on the length of the run,’’ Lambert said of how long the option tires are faster. “The key variable that set of tires helps you with is to go fast early in the run, which is when you can make up all the spots and get the track position and potentially drive out in front of the field. I think that is where the tires are going to prove their benefit.’’

Teams got to practice with one set of the option tires Thursday afternoon.

“I felt like our car did not like the softer tire,’’ said Keith Rodden, crew chief for Kasey Kahne. “We were a little tighter and we were going faster into the corner and it’s like we deflected more and hit the splitter and didn’t turn as good.’’

Kyle Larson, who will start on the pole, says the cooler temperatures at night could help the option tires and make them last longer and be the better choice later in the event.

“I was happy in practice that it did seem to have three to four tenths of speed in it,’’ Larson said. “It definitely felt like it had more grip for a few laps and at night time I think it’s going to be even better. I don’t know, but I think that the option tire will be more impactful when the sun goes down. We’ve just got to wait and see.’’

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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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Entry lists for All-Star events; Truck race at Charlotte

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Twenty-one drivers are entered for the NASCAR Open, seeking to either race their way in or receive the fan vote to the All-Star Race on Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Drivers who have already clinched an All-Star spot: Chris Buescher, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Martin Truex Jr.

Among those seeking to make their way through the Open are: Chase Elliott (fourth in points), Clint Bowyer (10th) and Ryan Blaney (11th).

Joey Logano won last year’s All-Star Race.

Click here for entry list for Open race

There are 33 entries for Friday’s Camping World Truck Series race at Charlotte. Among those entered are Kyle Busch and NASCAR on NBC analyst Parker Kligerman.

Matt Crafton won last year’s race. Johnny Sauter enters the event as the points leader with a two-point advantage on Christopher Bell.

Click here for Truck entry list

 

NASCAR examining what to do about teams failing inspection

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NASCAR is looking into what else it should do after more than a fourth of the field failed make a qualifying attempt last weekend at Kansas Speedway because teams could not pass inspection, a senior NASCAR official told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Eleven cars failed to get through inspection in time to make a qualifying attempt at Kansas. Among those who did not make a qualifying attempt were Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Erik Jones and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Last month at Texas Motor Speedway, nine cars did not make a qualifying attempt because they could not pass inspection.

Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, told “The Morning Drive’’ on Monday that NASCAR will examine the issue.

“It’s not a great situation for the competitors,’’ he said. “It’s certainly not a great situation for us or the fans or the broadcast partners. We know we can’t keep having those situations come up.

“Right now the rear steer of the race cars is a real hot topic, is a real performance metric for the teams. We have a rear-end spec and a tolerance that rear-end housing can be put in the car. More often than not what we’re seeing when people struggle, they’re building the rear end housing to the tolerance and then they have no room to actually move it around in the car and make it meet the numbers.

“It’s a bit of a learning process. We certainly have some meetings this week on how we kind of move forward. I’m not sure if we have more penalties. Right now it’s not good for anybody but there’s not a lot of consequence to it, other than the teams not getting out there.’’

Asked about how some competitors claim they pass the Laser Inspection on one attempt but don’t pass it another time, Miller told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio:

“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.’’

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What Drivers Said after Kansas Cup race

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Here is what drivers were saying after Saturday night’s NASCAR Cup race at Kansas Speedway:

Martin Truex Jr. — Winner: “That kid (Ryan Blaney) is good, man. He’s going to win a ton of races. He’s really talented and their cars are fast right now. You do 10 restarts, eight of them you get right, two of them you screw up. You just hope the ones you screw up aren’t for the win. Today, we were able to get those ones right when it mattered. You know what can I say, just an awesome team effort.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 2nd: “We caught a couple breaks there on those restarts and made the most of them. That was good. We had a really great Freightliner Elite Support Ford, just kept getting caught in adversity there. We worked our way through it. It stinks we finished second and still lost points because we didn’t get those stage points. All in all, we had a really fast Ford and have a lot to be proud of. We will move on to the next week.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 3rd: “It was a solid night. Our Busch Light Ford was fast and we were able to come through the field and do what we needed to do.”

RYAN BLANEY — Finished 4th: “We weren’t very good on the long run. I felt that we had a great short run car tonight, and I thought that was going to play right into our hands at the end. (Martin Truex Jr.) got us on that restart somehow. I don’t know. I was super loose there on the last restarts and (Truex) got me spinning my tires a little bit. It kind of stinks. I think that it says a lot about this team to go out and lead some laps and go have a shot and win races.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 5th: “It just seemed like other guys got better than us. We tried to adjust on our car and it never really made it better. The M&M’s Camry was fast when the sun was out. We were pretty quick up there riding the high side and doing a good job. We won the first segment and then the second segment I thought we were – had a shot to win that one as well. I think we were third in that one and once it got dark out, we just kind of lost it. Actually, other guys just got faster. The delta just got greater where those guys picked up a lot of speed and we didn’t.”

Kyle Larson – Finished 6th: “The early parts of the race I thought we were okay, not great, but I thought we were like a fourth- or fifth-place car and I got into the wall on one of those later restarts after that big wreck. I just got really tight and it took off and hit the wall. Then my car was pretty tight afterwards, so I’m sure some aerodynamic issues there, but still recovered for a decent finish there. The restarts weren’t really working out for me there the last handful of them. It seemed like at the beginning of the race I could pass people no problem on restarts. There at the end, my line just kept getting choked down and stuff, but sixth place is still a good day for our Target team. The No. 2 (Brad Keselowski) finished really well so that is not great for us because I would like to be leading the points here in a few months. Still in all a good day.”

DANIEL SUÁREZ– Finished 7th: “Very proud of the way that the car worked the entire race. Scott (Graves, crew chief) and the guys they did a very good job. We had a top-10 car and that’s exactly where we ended up. Very happy for the performance of the car and looking forward to keep digging, keep working and keep learning for next weekend.”

Jamie McMurray – Finished 8th: “So, we had a really good night. We had a hard time in the pits tonight. I’m not sure if something with the set-up of the car, but we struggled in the pits, but overall, we had a really fast McDonald’s Chevy. We were pretty good on restarts, which was important, and I’m really happy to finish eighth because we restarted like 20th or something with two or three to go. It was a good finish.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 9th: “That just wasn’t very good tonight. We were kind of off all weekend. Definitely off in the race. I started off good and we were just down on rear grip. I fought loose the whole time I was out there and it seemed like everything we were doing — we were doing some fundamentally different things to try to tighten the car up. It changes the aero balance of the car and I am not too sure. Maybe we learned something tonight.”

Trevor Bayne — Finished 10th: “That was a hard-fought 10th-place finish. If you’d told me I would finish 10th after practice I would have probably kissed you on the forehead. That wasn’t a good practice for us and we still qualified 16th. It is funny how expectations change. A year ago, I would have been pumped for a 10th and now it is what we should be doing. We are getting better. Our potential is better. If we can finish 10th on a weekend like this, when we get the cars where we need them we can do business. I appreciate the hard work and execution by my team tonight.”

Michael McDowell – Finished 13th: “You know it’s tough on pit road and I would have to go back and watch it, but obviously, Chase (Elliott) took two tires there. I was following the No. 88 into the box, so I couldn’t see the No. 24 coming out at all and by the time we made contact he was at my left rear. I just didn’t see him coming in, and I don’t think his crew chief knew I was coming in either because he sent him when both the No. 88 and myself were turning into the box right in front of him. So, it just happens on pit road. It definitely wasn’t anything that I felt like I could have prevented because I didn’t even see him coming out of the box. Unfortunate I know because we got a lot of damage and obviously, it took him out for the day too. But, good recovery, everybody at LFR has been working really hard.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 14th: “Man, did this team fight hard. We struggled in the first two stages to find the perfect balance. We spun when we stayed out with old tires, but we didn’t get any damage and were able to recover. It started coming to us there in the final stage, but it was just impossible to pass cars. We really needed track position that we just didn’t have. We picked up some spots at the end with the cautions though and brought home a solid top-15 finish. We have a lot of notes to take back with us on our intermediate-track program. There is still some work to do, but we’ll get there.”

Kasey Kahne – Finished 15th: “The guys did a great job tonight. We had good pit stops and we had a good car. After the red flag the car just got really loose for whatever reason. We had a good run though until that point.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Finished 20th: “For whatever reason, the car had a lot of vibration issues. We had some loose wheels. I thought we had one early in the race, but it is questionable whether it was, but it was shaking pretty bad. We had a lot of vibrations late in the race and one in particular that was real serious. You know it’s just a judgement call whether you stay out there and the wheel comes off or you come in and get it tightened up. I don’t think we had any loose wheels after that. I don’t think we had only but one loose wheel tonight. Looking back through our notes this is a track where we all kind of complain a lot about vibrations and thinking we have loose wheels when we don’t. I know a lot of guys tonight complained a lot about it, so if I would have thought about that and kind of known that in the heat of the moment I probably wouldn’t have stayed out on the track, but we had about a 10th- to a 15th-place finish lined up.  And I came in for a vibration that wasn’t a loose wheel and we lost a lap and we got it back and ended up 20th. We had a much better car than that. Had good speed, liked the car and we had good speed in practice.”

Danica Patrick — Finished 36th: “We were having a really good race and having fun out there and had a lot of speed. I kinda felt like Wonder Woman for a little while. All I know is that I all of a sudden crashed. I definitely had a feeling it was the 22 and I am sure that the doctors in the medical center checking my neurological abilities are glad to know I was right that it was Joey. When he said he had a failure I can’t say it made me feel that much better in the moment. I am just frustrated for the lack of breaks I get. It seems like every time things are going better and something happens I get crashed or am in a crash. Especially a place like this, a brake rotor, when we are using 200-300 pounds of pressure seems odd. Unfortunately there were two of us that got collected and while I am okay, one of these times one of these really big accidents someone is not going to be okay. Aric (Almirola) is not okay and his car looked the best of everybody. You never know when it is going to be the wrong hit. I have a team that works hard and put another car on the track and I hope we are saving up for a really good run of good luck.”

Joey Logano — Finished 37th:  I’m okay. Just saying a lot of prayers for Aric (Almirola) right now. A lot of us took a hard hit. Something broke on my car, I don’t know what it was. I noticed it as I was trying to go in. I tried to back it off but you’re going 215 (mph) and it’s hard to check up. The car just took a bit step sideways into the corner and I hooked Danica (Patrick). I haven’t seen a replay yet, I don’t know what happened. I just hope everyone is okay. I hope Aric is alright. That’s the last thing you want to see, a big hit like that for anyone. It’s unfortunate for everyone.”

Ryan Newman — Finished 40th: “The bottom end of the motor just broke. We finally got the Caterpillar Chevrolet running well, not to where we needed to be, but better from how we started the race. We knocked a hole in the grill from a spring rubber or something. I watched what I hit, but I couldn’t tell what it was. Finally got enough tape on it so it would run warm and stick a little bit better and made a whole bunch of changes to the car, but just something in the motor broke, bottom end for sure, but I’m not really sure what happened first.”

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