NASCAR Sprint Cup director on late-race decisions: ‘We feel very, very confident about our actions’

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Richard Buck, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series director, met with the media after Sunday’s race at Auto Club Speedway to explain a couple of NASCAR’s calls late in the race. Here’s what he said.

On calling a debris caution before the final scheduled lap, forcing the race to go to a green-white-checkered finish:

BUCK: “We got multiple reports over the radio and confirmed it that there was a piece of material, something in the racing groove and so, we went ahead to call the caution. By the time that we called the caution, somebody had hit it. I don’t have the piece back yet. We always ask the safety clean-up crews to return that to us, but there were multiple reports (of debris on the track).’’

On NASCAR not calling a caution, which would have ended the race, when Greg Biffle had his accident on the frontstretch:

BUCK: “Safety is No. 1. We always make our best effort to let them race back. We had well over a mile. The leaders were coming off of (Turn 2). We had multiple people in the tower watching multiple things, and we’re all communicating very quickly and at a high level. We could see the cars coming off 2, and we were watching the frontstretch. Biffle got it started back up and got it turned around and headed off. We had two folks in the flag stand that were right there on top of it. We had a birds-eye view from their perspective that there was no debris, so we could let it come back to a natural finish.’’

On the multiple reports of debris on the track before the scheduled finish:

BUCK: “It’s a process during the race. It’s pretty consistent. The driver will call it in, then we’ll check with our turn spotters. That’s heard over the radio, whatever the race control is … so the teams know in case there is a piece of debris they need to know about it for safety reasons. Then we’ll confirm it. We’ve got the pit open and the pit closed folks that are close to that area. We have the caution car. We have spotters on the backstretch and on the entrance to Turn 3. We’ll go through our process quickly and make sure that we have a confirmation that there is debris, if we can identify the debris, where it’s at, if it’s anywhere in the racing groove. As you know, this place, the racing groove’s all the way across.  If it’s anywhere in the racing groove, we’ll have to go to the caution and go get it.’’

On confirming the piece of debris was hit:

BUCK: “The piece should come back on one of the cleanup trucks. It was reported multiple times as a piece of metal.’’

On how does NASCAR balance letting the race end naturally and throwing a caution for safety:

BUCK: “Safety is No. 1 and if there’s any question whatsoever, we’ll throw the caution. We want to identify it first, obviously, because there was a lot of paper flying around today. We got definite confirmation on it that it was debris, actually that it was metal. It looked like a piece of metal.’’

On how calls or non-calls can impact the race:

BUCK: “It’s strictly a process that we go through. We don’t have any favorites. We try to keep every emotion out of it. Safety is No. 1. We’ve got over 100 years of experience in the tower with (NASCAR officials) Mike Helton, Robin Pemberton, David Hoots and myself in racing. Between us, we work every closely together in a very dynamic way to identity the situation and look for the solution to it, then that solution is backed up by multiple layers. We feel very, very confident about our actions.’’

Daniel Hemric fastest in first Coca-Cola 600 practice

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CONCORD, N.C. — Daniel Hemric was fastest in the first Cup Series practice session for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600.

Hemric posted a top speed of 182.791 mph around Charlotte Motor Speedway.

He was followed by Chase Elliott (182.340 mph), William Byron (182.211), Kyle Busch (182.168) and Jimmie Johnson (182.008).

Alex Bowman was seventh to put all four Hendrick Motorsports cars in the top 10.

Austin Dillon in eighth gave Chevrolet six cars in the top 10.

Landon Cassill recorded the most laps in the session with 37. He was 32nd on the speed chart.

Click here for the speed chart.

Shane Lee to drive for new Xfinity team with Circuit City sponsorship

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CONCORD, N.C. — Former Richard Childress Racing driver Shane Lee will compete for a new Xfinity Series team, H2 Motorsports, the team announced Thursday at Charlotte Motor speedway

Owned by 23-year-old entrepreneur and venture capitalist Matt Hurley, the team will be sponsored by Circuit City and will field Lee in the No. 28 Toyota with support from Toyota Racing Development. They’ll debut June 16 at Iowa Speedway with plans to compete for the rest of the season.

Circuit City, which is primarily an online store now, was notably a sponsor of Hut Stricklin from 1996-98 in the Cup Series.

“I grew up an avid race fan, my parents are from the Midwest and I’ve followed the sport very, very closely since I was a young kid,” Hurley said. “More recently felt like there was an opportunity to go into the sport and bring some of our invested brands back into the sport. I’ve really taken an interest in kind of trying to find a way in.

“We felt like now is the right time to enter the sport, to come in in a competitive way. … Felt like TRD was the right partner to help us do that in a competitive way.”

Lee, 25, competed in the Xfinity Series last year, making 13 starts in RCR’s No. 3 Chevrolet. His best result and only top five was a fourth-place finish at Kansas Speedway in October.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Lee said. “I met Matt at a couple races last year. We actually became pretty good friends and we weren’t really even working on a racing deal. Probably January or February we started talking about the race deal and wanting to get into racing. We sort of went from there and he got himself figured out and he really went down the line and hired some really good people.”

Lee will be paired with crew chief Pete Rondeau. Rondeau has 103 Cup races to his name, including as crew chief for Regan Smith’s 2011 Southern 500 win.

Rondeau also has one Xfinity Series win with Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Bristol in 2004.

“I’ve had a history of accepting challenges,” Rondeau said. “As we did with Furniture Row team, we worked hard and … it ended up flourishing into a championship-caliber team. To me this is no different right here. We have a good core group and I’m happy to work with them. It’s going to be fun and a whole lot of work at the same time.”

Gallery: Coca-Cola 600 patriotic paint schemes

Photos by Daniel McFadin
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With Memorial Day weekend here, many NASCAR teams will be racing patriotic paint schemes in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Here’s a look at the unique schemes that will compete in NASCAR’s longest race.

All photos by Daniel McFadin.

Landon Cassill – No. 00 Chevrolet

Brad Keselowski – No. 2 Ford

Ryan Newman – No. 6 Ford

Aric Almirola – No. 10 Ford

Ty Dillon – No. 13 Chevrolet

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – No. 17 Ford

William Byron – No. 24 Chevrolet

Corey LaJoie – No. 32 Ford

 

Michael McDowell – No. 34 Ford

Matt Tifft – No. 36 Ford

David Ragan – No. 36 Ford

Ryan Preece – No. 47 Chevrolet

Jimmie Johnson – No. 48 Chevrolet

Cody Ware – No. 51 Ford

Bayley Currey – No. 52 Ford

BJ McLeod – No. 53 Chevrolet

Alex Bowman – No. 88 Chevrolet

 

Kyle Larson wins Speed 51 Open kart race

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Kyle Larson kept his winning ways going Wednesday night when he won an Outlaw Kart race at Millbridge Speedway in Salisbury, North Carolina.

Four days after his win in the Monster Energy All-Star Race, Larson took the lead on Lap 2 of the 51-lap Speed 51 Open and led the rest of the way.

Larson held off Chase Majdic for the win, his second in the event.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver won despite losing his muffler in the middle of the race and having to replace his left side upper wing earlier in the night after a qualifying event.

Larson has a busy weekend ahead of him with World of Outlaws races at The Dirt Track at Charlotte on Friday and Saturday night, the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday, and the Word of Outlaws’ Memorial Day Classic at Lawrenceburg Speedway in Indiana on Monday.