NASCAR ‘disappointed’ in Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act

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NASCAR became the latest sports organization to issue a statement about Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signing into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which takes effect July 1.

The act prohibits laws that “substantially burden” a person’s freedom of religion unless the government can prove a compelling interest in imposing that burden.

The law has drawn sharp criticism from gay and LGBT groups, some corporations and leagues. Pence said in a news conference Tuesday morning that he wants legislation added that makes it clear that business have no rights to deny service to anyone under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

NASCAR’s Brett Jewkes, senior vice president and chief communications officer, issued a statement as Pence spoke Tuesday.

“NASCAR is disappointed by the recent legislation passed in Indiana. We will not embrace nor participate in exclusion or intolerance. We are committed to diversity and inclusion within our sport and therefore will continue to welcome all competitors and fans at our events in the state of Indiana and anywhere else we race.”

Indianapolis Motor Speedway also issued a statement Tuesday.

“For 105 years the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has engaged millions who want to celebrate the true spirit of American racing. IMS will continue to warmly welcome all who share our enthusiasm for motorsports – employees, participants and fans.”

The NBA, WNBA and Indiana Pacers issued a joint statement Saturday: “The game of basketball is grounded in long established principles of inclusion and mutual respect. We will continue to ensure that all fans, players and employees feel welcome at all NBA and WNBA events in Indiana and elsewhere.”

The NCAA, which has its Final Four men’s basketball tournament games in Indianapolis this weekend, issued a statement last week from President Mark Emmert:

“The NCAA national office and our members are deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our events.  We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees.  We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, (this) week’s Men’s Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill. Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.”

Indiana is the 20th state with existing Religious Freedom Restoration Act legislation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. NASCAR holds Sprint Cup races in 12 of those states. Arizona is included in that list. It passed a bill in 2012 but was vetoed in 2014.

NASCAR’s Xfinity and Sprint Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Xfinity race is July 25. The Cup series races there July 26.

 

Chaos or calm? What do drivers expect in playoff opener?

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LAS VEGAS — When the Cup drivers last raced at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, they were slowed only by two cautions for stage breaks in March. When they ran at this track in last year’s playoff race, there were 12 cautions, many for accidents.

So what do drivers expect for today’s playoff opener (7 p.m. ET on NBCSN) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway? Chaos or calm?

“I think you’re going to have more cautions than you did in the spring, without a doubt, maybe not to the extent of last year,” said playoff contender Ryan Newman, who starts 17th.

He starts next to defending race winner and playoff contender Brad Keselowski, who also shares Newman’s belief.

“I’m a little bit thinking there will be more this time than in the spring,” Keselowski said. “It’s hotter this fall than what I remember last fall and we’re way faster through the center of the corners. So I expect it to be very difficult on the tires. Probably see some tire failures, accordingly, that will kind of add to the cautions.”

The wunderground.com forecast for today’s race calls for a high of 100 degrees at the start. The temperature will still be in the 90s when the race is scheduled to end. This will be the hottest race of the season, topping the 96 degrees that drivers battled at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July.

MORE: Today’s Cup race details, start time & lineup

Playoff contender Kurt Busch, who starts fifth, says the heat will impact the racing.

“Track is hotter, (there’s) less grip, it’s the playoffs, everybody is on edge,” Busch said for his belief there will be more cautions than the spring race.

Playoff contender Alex Bowman, who starts 19th, also sees an increase in cautions from the March race.

“I think we’re going to have cautions,” he said. “I think you’re going to have tire failures with it being so hot. I think you’re going to have guys crashing their stuff. I think it’s just going to be a really slick race track, tough to drive and nobody is going to give an inch. I think that is going to create some cautions. I don’t think it will create the 12 we had last year.”

Aric Almirola, who starts fourth, notes that “if I was a betting man, which I’m not … I’d say we will have more cautions than just the stage breaks.

“As teams have gotten smarter and tried to make their cars go faster, the cars are trimmed out more and because of that are less stable, they’re harder to drive. It makes really, really challenging on restarts and around guys. We’ve seen that the last couple of months. I don’t think it’s specific to Las Vegas, just the last few months in general we’ve seen wreck on restarts and things just because the cars are a lot more difficult to drive.”

Newman adds another key factor that could lead to more cautions today.

“I think give-and-take is kind of gone in our sport now,” he said of how drivers race each other. “It’s still there, don’t get me wrong, but it’s less than it has been by a long shot then the last few years, let’s say five years ago.

“I think that you see that with guys blocking. When you start doing the blocking deal, give-and-take is gone. I think it’s going to be pretty amped up. Sixteen guys, eight of them kind of on the bubble already in the first race, it’s going to be intense.”

Today’s Cup race at Las Vegas: Start time, lineup and more

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The NASCAR Cup Series begins its 10-race playoffs with today’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Sixteen drivers will take the green flag in what each hopes will be the first step toward winning the Cup championship.

Here is all the info for today’s race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given by actor Cole Hauser at 7:07 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 7:16 p.m.

PRERACE: The Cup garage opens at 3 p.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 5 p.m. Driver introductions are at 6:30 p.m. The invocation will be given at 7 p.m. The National Anthem will be performed at 7:01 p.m. by Sierra Black.

DISTANCE: The race is 267 laps (400.5 miles) around the 1.5-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 80. Stage 2 ends on Lap 160.

TV/RADIO: NBCSN will televise the race. Coverage begins at 5 p.m. with NASCAR America on NBCSN. Countdown to Green begins at 6:30 p.m. on NBCSN. The Performance Racing Network broadcast begins at 6 p.m. and also can be heard on goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the broadcast.

STREAMING ONLINE: Click here for NBCSN’s live stream of the race.

FORECAST: Wunderground.com forecasts mostly sunny conditions with a temperature of 100 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Brad Keselowski won this race last year, leading 75 of 272 laps over Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr. Joey Logano won in March, leading 86 of 267 laps over Keselowski and Kyle Busch.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.

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Ryan Sieg’s car fails inspection at Las Vegas, 14th-place finish disqualified

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Ryan Sieg‘s 14th-place finish in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was disqualified by NASCAR after his No. 39 Chevrolet failed heights in post-race inspection. The car was found to be too low in the right and left front.

Sieg is now credited with a last-place finish.

The disqualification does not impact Sieg’s playoff eligibility or his seeding. He will start the playoffs in 11th with 2,001 points.

As a result of the disqualification, Ryan Truex is the new 14th-place finisher.

Sieg’s disqualification is the fifth time that has occurred this season in the Xfinity Series.

Denny Hamlin had a win at Darlington taken away and given to Cole Custer after his car failed heights.

Christopher Bell had his third-place finish at Chicagoland Speedway in June taken away when his car failed inspection. His car was found to be too low in the front and too high in the rear.

Kaulig Racing has twice had AJ Allmendinger‘s car disqualified. The car was disqualified after Allmendinger’s third-place finish at Daytona in July when inspection showed that the engine would not hold a vacuum. Allmendinger’s second-place finish was taken away when his car failed to meet minimum height requirements at Watkins Glen.

Results, points standings after Xfinity race at Las Vegas

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Tyler Reddick led the final 30 laps and saved enough fuel to win Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Reddick went the final 70 laps on one tank of fuel to beat Christopher Bell, Brandon Jones, Cole Custer and Justin Allgaier.

Reddick’s win is his fifth this season.

Ryan Sieg‘s 14th-place finish was disqualified after his car was too low on the right and left front. He will be credited with a last-place finish.

Click here for the updated race results.

The 12 driver playoff field was finalized with the conclusion of the race.

Here’s who will compete for the championship and their reset point totals.

Christopher Bell – 2,055

Cole Custer – 2,044

Tyler Reddick – 2,044

Austin Cindric – 2,017

Chase Briscoe – 2,012

Justin Allgaier – 2,012

Michael Annett – 2,009

Noah Gragson – 2,005

Brandon Jones – 2,004

Justin Haley – 2,003

Ryan Sieg – 2,0001

John Hunter Nemechek – 2,000

Click here for the point standings.