Tire tampering in NASCAR? Jeff Gordon says, ‘it’s definitely being done. It’s just not clear on how’


MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Having seized tires for evaluation after the past two Sprint Cup races, NASCAR warned teams Friday morning at Martinsville Speedway about the severe penalties for tampering.

NASCAR confirmed Sprint Cup director Richard Buck discussed the issue among several other topics during a meeting with crew chiefs.

There has been rampant speculation that some teams might be poking tiny holes in their tires to “bleed” the air and maintain an optimum level of pressure, which prevents a dropoff in speed as pressure builds (and lessen traction) during the course of a green-flag run.

Jeff Gordon said he believes there are teams using the method.

“When it gets to this level when you’re hearing about it, I’m hearing about it, and they’re talking about things in meetings with crew chiefs, that tells me it’s definitely being done,” he said. “It’s just not clear on how it’s being done.”

NASCAR confiscated the tires of Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick after the March 15 race at Phoenix International Raceway and found no wrongdoing. After the March 22 race at Auto Club Speedway, NASCAR took the tires of Harvick, Kurt Busch, Paul Menard and Ryan Newman, and it has sent some to a third party for further scrutiny (though it wouldn’t confirm whose).

After qualifying second for Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway, Newman shrugged off being one of the teams under evaluation.

“In my educational career, I’ve been called to the principal’s office a few times, and a few times let go for whatever, so from my standpoint, it’s just a matter of them doing their job, whether you’re guilty or not guilty, it’s their job of keeping the sport at a level playing field,” the Richard Childress Racing driver said. “We’ll see what comes of it. I’m not worried about anything”

Alan Gustafson, Gordon’s crew chief, said he has heard the speculation but “didn’t have enough information that would warrant a comment” on whether teams were tampering.

“There’s a lot of smoke around that,” Gustafson said. “There’s a lot of talk, a lot of dialogue, there’s a lot of rumors in the garage. So yeah, I think it’s obvious that some people think something’s going on. Is NASCAR reacting to that or do they feel uncomfortable with what’s going on? I don’t know that answer. I do think it is something that’s in the forefront of a lot of people’s minds.

“Obviously NASCAR is trying to make sure we’re all on a level playing field, and if anyone is violating that, they’ll pay the price. Which they’ve reminded us (Friday) morning is very, very stiff. That’s all I know. Anything beyond that is speculation besides the fact that it’s a hot topic obviously.”

The NASCAR rulebook lists modifying or altering tires as a P5 penalty, which could mean a 50-point deduction, $75,000-$125,000 fine and a six-race suspension for team members.

Gustafson said he had heard teams might be applying the same practice as a bleeder valve, which commonly are used at short tracks. In addition to performance enhancements, Gustafson said there is an ancillary safety benefit, too, by decreasing the likelihood of a failure.

“A bleeder would do the exact same thing and probably do a better job than what is proposed that some people are doing,” Gustafson said. “I do think that’s something NASCAR can look at, and it’s something that potentially could help the durability of the tire because you can start higher on pressure and stay within that optimum operating condition of the tire. It’s a valid point. That’s something to look at for sure to see if it would improve our sport for tire durability and the fairness of competition.

“That’s the thing that is tough for NASCAR. If this is going on, as rumored, it’s a very difficult thing to police, a way to police it may just be to allow it through a more conventional tool like a bleeder.”

Chad Knaus, crew chief for Jimmie Johnson, joked he didn’t know much about the rumors because “I don’t have a lot of friends in the garage.

“I know I sent Richard Buck a text and said, ‘Hey man, can we poke holes in our tires, is that OK?’ ” Knaus said with a broad smile. “And he texted back and said, ‘Absolutely not.’ So that’s all I know.”

Gordon said he had “heard  a lot of things with valve caps and poking holes in tires for years. But I’ve never seen it done. I’ve never had proof it was done.

“It’s very interesting to me that NASCAR is investigating it further and looking forward to seeing what comes out of it. If they find a way to stop it and it’s really going on, I get excited about our chances because I know we’re not doing it, so it will close the gap for us to whoever may be doing it.”

Talladega Xfinity starting lineup: Austin Hill wins pole


TALLADEGA, Ala. — Austin Hill will lead the field to the green flag Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway after scoring his first career Xfinity Series pole.

Hill won the pole Friday with a lap of 182.036 mph. He will be joined on the front row by fellow playoff contender Ty Gibbs (181.981 mph).

MORE: Talladega Xfinity starting lineup

Playoff drivers will start in seven of the top eight spots. The exception is Sheldon Creed, who will start third after a lap of 181.870 mph. Hill and Creed give Richard Childress Racing the first and third starting spots.

Justin Allgaier (181.529) qualified fourth and Brandon Jones (181.305) completed the top five. Noah Gragson, who has won four races in a row, starts sixth after a lap of 181.134 mph and is followed by playoff drivers Josh Berry (181.052) and AJ Allmendinger (180.932).

The Xfinity Series race is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network.

Talladega Truck starting lineup: John Hunter Nemechek wins pole


TALLADEGA, Ala. — John Hunter Nemechek will start on the pole for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race.

Nemechek earned the pole with a lap of 178.767 mph.

Nemechek is one of four playoff drivers starting in the top six: Chandler Smith (second, 177.732 mph), Zane Smith (fourth, 177.061) and Ty Majeski (sixth, 176.744). Majeski clinched a spot in next month’s championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.

MORE: Talladega Truck starting lineup

Also qualifying in the top five were Carson Hocevar (177.068) in third and Matt Crafton (176.960) in fifth.

Failing to qualify are Tim Viens, Spencer Boyd, Jason White and Natalie Decker.

Saturday Talladega Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather


The second race of the opening round of the Xfinity playoffs takes drivers to Talladega Superspeedway.

Noah Gragson secured his spot in the next round by winning last weekend at Texas. Ryan Sieg holds the final transfer spot. Riley Herbst is the first driver below the cutline, one point behind Sieg. Also below the cutline are reigning series champion Daniel Hemric (-8 points), Brandon Jones (-12) and Jeremy Clements (-28).

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:09 p.m. … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:21 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3:30 p.m. … The invocation will be given at 4 p.m. … The Brookwood High School choir will perform the anthem at 4:02 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 113 laps (300.58 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 25. Stage 2 ends at Lap 50.

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 4 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 3:30 p.m. on USA Network. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 78 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Noah Gragson won and was followed by Jeffrey Earnhardt and AJ Allmendinger.


Could Talladega open door for a record 20th winner?


Talladega Superspeedway is known for fast speeds, huge drafting packs, sensational wrecks and tight finishes.

On Sunday (2 p.m. ET on NBC), it could be the site of an unexpected record.

Nineteen different drivers have won Cup races this season, tying a record. If a new winner shows up in Talladega victory lane Sunday, it will mark the first time in the sport’s history that 20 drivers have won races in a single season.

One of the remarkable things about that possibility is that the driver who has far and away the best record at Talladega among active drivers is among the group still looking for a win in 2022. That’s Brad Keselowski, who has won six times at NASCAR’s biggest track. No other active driver has more than three. (Keselowski is tied for second on the all-time Talladega win list with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. Dale Earnhardt tops that list with 10).

Talladega and Daytona tend to reject repeat winners. The past nine races at the two tracks have been won by nine different drivers.

Other seasonal non-winners who could break through at Talladega:

Ryan BlaneyBlaney’s only win this year is in the All-Star Race, so he’s still looking for his first points win while continuing to chase the championship. He won at Talladega in 2019 and 2020.

Martin Truex Jr. — Superspeedways have been a pox on Truex’s career. In 70 races at Talladega and Daytona, he has failed to win.

Aric Almirola — In what has been a disappointing season, Almirola’s best finish is a fifth — twice. He won at Talladega in 2018 but hasn’t had a top 10 in his last four runs there.

Michael McDowell — McDowell’s best finish at Talladega is a third, but he is usually very competitive in the Talladega and Daytona drafts, winning the 2021 Daytona 500.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Stenhouse won at Talladega in 2017 and usually is a factor in the draft.

Harrison Burton — Burton has had a tough rookie season, but the peculiarities of the Talladega draft should play in his favor. The No. 21 team’s next win will be its 100th.

Justin Haley — Haley has no top-10 runs in five Talladega starts, but he showed potential last week with a third-place finish at Texas.

Corey LaJoie — LaJoie has started nine Cup races at Talladega and has led exactly one lap. His best finish is a seventh.

Noah Gragson — Gragson, the star of this Xfinity season, is in the No. 48 for Hendrick Motorsports with Alex Bowman out because of concussion-like symptoms. In the Talladega draft he could be a threat.