Brian France: “If we don’t get safety right, then nothing else really matters”


In an interview today on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NASCAR Chairman Brian France said that the sanctioning body would improve its efforts on track safety following Kyle Busch’s serious crash in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Daytona International Speedway.

As part of a 10-car incident with less than 10 laps to go on Saturday, Busch hit an inside retaining wall that was not protected by a SAFER (steel and foam energy reduction) barrier. Busch sustained a compound fracture of his lower right leg and another fracture in his left foot, and is now out indefinitely.

Following Busch’s crash, Daytona president Joie Chitwood vowed to install SAFER barriers on all concrete walls at the 2.5-mile oval. Additionally, NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell said that the sport would “accelerate” talks with other tracks to install more SAFER barriers at those facilities.

“Joie [Chitwood] was very clear that we didn’t get that right and if our effort’s not up – in particular in safety, in particular there – then we’re going to get it up,” France added today in his interview. “And we’ll sort that out and make sure going forward that, you know, what I’ve said publicly, which is what I’ve said privately, is, hey, look if there’s a sensitive area of the track and we can improve it with SAFER barriers then we need to do that.

“And so, that’s exactly where we are and I‘m really disappointed that we didn’t get that right and obviously disappointed for Kyle. But we will. We’ll get that right going forward. That’s a cornerstone of what we do. If we don’t get safety right, then nothing else really matters.”

In the moments after Busch’s crash on Saturday, many of his fellow drivers were critical on social media about the lack of a SAFER barrier where he hit. However, when France was asked if that would force tracks to make changes quicker than they would have if a crash like Busch’s didn’t occur, he replied in the negative.

“No, no, and the reason is it is instantaneous,” France explained. “My phone is going off, Mike Helton’s phone is going off – ‘Didn’t we get this right? Was there a SAFER barrier where it probably should have been?’ Those are instantaneous notes and as soon as someone says, ‘Nope, we didn’t get that right,’ it’s an automatic, ‘How do we correct that?’ It’s instantaneous.

“We’re not waiting for a bunch of social media traffic to tell us that. We get it. And we need to get that, that’s what we do. Joie Chitwood said it best – hey, look, that’s unacceptable. And we’re going to own that and move forward. That’s how we’re wired. That’s a cornerstone of what we do. Safety and performance are at the hallmark of NASCAR.”

At least two other tracks are planning to install more SAFER barriers following Saturday’s events.

Kentucky Speedway general manager Mark Simendinger has confirmed plans to add a SAFER barrier to the backstretch of the 1.5-mile oval in time for its NASCAR tripleheader (Cup, Xfinity, Camping World Truck) weekend in July.

“Sometimes, you have to see what can possibly happen before you realize that you’ve got a problem that needs to be corrected,” Simendinger said to the Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal. “Obviously, it’s an expensive thing to do. It takes time. But it’s something we’re committed to.

“I’ve always said safety is our No. 1 thing, so that’s what we’re going to do assuming we can get the work done between now and our races.”

Additionally, Talladega Superspeedway president Grant Lynch told USA Today that his 2.66-mile track – which is a restrictor plate track like Daytona – will also look to add more barriers before its spring NASCAR weekend in May.

“Based on what we saw [Saturday] and what Joie talked about, we’re going to be reassessing again the walls at Talladega with the mindset of where can we put it that can keep those things from happening in the future,” Lynch said. “I’m sure you’ll see us mirror what they decide to do at Daytona. We’ve always done that.”

Texas Truck race results: Carson Hocevar scores first series win

Texas Truck race results
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Carson Hocevar was in front after the leaders crashed in overtime and scored his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway.

MORE: Texas Truck race results

Rookie Nick Sanchez, who led 168 of the 172-lap race, dueled reigning series champion Zane Smith on the last lap when Sanchez’s truck hit Smith’s. As Sanchez tried to regain control of his vehicle, he was hit from behind by Hocevar. That contact sent Sanchez into Smith. Christian Eckes also was collected.

Hocevar’s first win came in his 59th series start.

Chase Purdy placed second. Stewart Friesen finished third. Ty Majeski was fourth. Jake Garcia completed the top five.


Richmond Xfinity results, driver points


RICHMOND, Va. — Chandler Smith won a stage, led a race-high 83 laps and rallied late to score his first career Xfinity win Saturday at Richmond Raceway.

MORE: Richmond Xfinity results

MORE: Xfinity points after Richmond race

John Hunter Nemechek placed second. The rest of the top five featured Josh Berry, Kaz Grala and Cole Custer. Austin Hill, who had won three of the first six races of the season, placed ninth.

Hill continues to lead the points. He has a 12-point advantage on Riley Herbst and an 18-point lead on Nemechek heading into the next series race in two weeks at Martinsville.

Chandler Smith scores first career Xfinity win with Richmond victory


RICHMOND, Va. — Chandler Smith held off John Hunter Nemechek to win his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series race Saturday at Richmond Raceway.

The 20-year-old Smith took the lead with 12 laps to go and withstood a restart with six laps to go to earn the victory for Kaulig Racing.

MORE: Richmond race results, driver points

His victory came about a month after being passed for the lead with two laps to go at Las Vegas and finishing third day.

“It obviously wasn’t in God’s works for me that and I was fine with that, I was good with that,” said Smith, who will make his Cup debut Sunday. “I knew there was something bigger and better that He was playing it out for me and I just had to be faithful and keep on trucking. Here’s proof of it.”

Nemechek was second. Josh Berry placed third and was followed by Kaz Grala and Cole Custer.

Justin Allgaier finished 13th to win the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus.

“Today was weird because of how we finished,” Allgaier said. “Given the same circumstances a year ago, two years ago, three years ago, 13th wasn’t going to win the Dash 4 Cash but today it did.”

Stage 1 winner: Chandler Smith

Stage 2 winner: Josh Berry

Who had a good race: A caution caught Justin Allgaier a lap down, ending his chances for a top-five finish but he was able to bounce back and win the Dash 4 Cash for a fifth time. … Derek Kraus finished 10th in his Xfinity debut. … Chris Hacker placed 14th in his Xfinity debut.

Who had a bad race: Riley Herbst had his career-long streak of top-10 finishes snapped after nine races. He placed 23rd after he was hit and spun late in the race.

Notable: This is the second time in the last four races that there has been a first-time series winner. Sammy Smith scored his first series win last month at Phoenix.

Next: The series is off until April 15 at Martinsville Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

Daniel Suarez, Ross Chastain move on from COTA incident


RICHMOND, Va. — Daniel Suarez says he’s been trying to “work on myself” after conflicts with teammate Ross Chastain and Alex Bowman last weekend at COTA but noted that if NASCAR doesn’t make adjustments with restarts on road courses, he’ll change his driving style.

NASCAR fined Suarez $50,000 on Wednesday for hitting another vehicle on pit road after the race. Suarez hit Chastain’s car at pit entrance and hit the back of Bowman’s car while they were both on pit road.

MORE: Cup starting lineup at Richmond 

“I’ve been trying to work on myself mostly during the week, trying to clear my mind and reset,” Suarez said Saturday at Richmond Raceway. “My team, we’re good. I think the issue wasn’t really with one driver. I feel like it’s more as an industry, how we are allowing to have those kind of bump-and-run restarts at the end of the races at road courses.

“I don’t think that’s right.”

Suarez restarted fifth in the second overtime restart. Alex Bowman, with Ross Chastain and Chase Briscoe aligned behind, charged and got beside Suarez as they approached Turn 1.

As Bowman slowed to make the tight turn, he was hit from behind and that sent him into Suarez, who clipped the left rear of Martin Truex Jr.’s car. Truex spun in front of Suarez and blocked his path, allowing the rest of the field to go by. Suarez finished 27th.

Chastain said he and Suarez have moved on from last week’s incident after talking this week.

“Every household on this earth has their moments of arguments and we had ours,” Chastain said Saturday.

“We’re family. We’re in the same house, right. It’s in our name. It’s Trackhouse. No matter what, we all think we have to put that behind and know that moving forward we’re brothers. … We’re brothers at Trackhouse and we’re going to be stronger together.”

Suarez is among the number of drivers who have raised concerns about the rough driving in the series. The Next Gen car is more durable and can take more hits — as evident in the Clash at the Coliseum to start the year when drivers barreled into the back of cars in the corners to slow down.

Add the emphasis of winning, less respect for one another and the result is the type of racing on display at the end of the race at Circuit of the Americas, as drivers charged down a long straightaway before braking hard for a tight turn and making contact with one another.

So, what can be done?

“I don’t have the answers to that,” Suarez said. “All I know is that NASCAR is working toward trying to make a better solution for some of these restarts. It doesn’t look right. This sport looks embarrassing.

“That’s not real. Just go into the corner and bump three cars to push people out of that way, that’s not real. We know that. That’s how some people got top fives and top 10s last week and some of the guys that were fast, like myself, finished 27th.

“If NASCAR does something about it, that’s amazing. If they don’t I’ll just join the party.”