NASCAR executive explains why no caution for Carl Edwards’ spin and more

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Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s executive vice president and chief racing development officer, made his weekly Monday morning appearance on “The Morning Drive’’ on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and answered questions about recent events.

Here’s what he said:

On no caution flag on the final lap of Sunday’s race after Carl Edwards spun

“It’s going to be a judgment call. We’ve stated that we’re going to make every effort to try to finish under green-flag conditions. That’s what the fans want to see. We’ve got to be obviously mindful of what’s occurring on the racetrack. It’s a split-second decision.

“I think yesterday if you look at the circumstances that played out with Carl, when we initially saw him get loose, he was down on the apron. As we made that quick decision, it was ‘OK, he’s clear we can go.’ Just as you make that, his car slides up across the track. That’s something you don’t want to see green- or yellow-flag conditions, but, at the time, if we would have thrown the yellow, then it’s too late because he’s already up and across the track. We elected to let it play out. We certainly didn’t like to see how Carl came across the track but ultimately we were able to come back under green-flag conditions.

“People want to point to who’s leading, who’s not leading, what could have happened, what didn’t happen. I know it’s hard to believe for some folks, we don’t look at that. We look at the circumstances of the incident. We’ve got to make that call. We’re not always going to be right. We know with each decision we open it up for debate. That’s sports.

“We’ll talk to Carl and the competitors about that but did like seeing us being able to finish under green.’’

On the new qualifying format for restrictor-plate events:

“Ultimately, I think you saw it play out correctly. We’ll follow up with everybody … and ask if there is anything we can change to continue to improve upon it. I think we liked what we saw and the results were certainly good as well with everybody having a shot at the pole.’’

On no penalties at the end of Saturday’s Xfinity race for cars pushing in the pack:

“It’s a very tough rule to police. It’s such a small gap that can exist between cars. Drivers were hooked up and not hooked up. When you were about to make a call, they break loose. We took some cars from the race to go back and look at in the wind tunnel to see if there are things we can do to not have to be in that business  of making a rules call there because it is so difficult. We’re going to look really hard at that rule and the continuation of policing it.’’

On the recent fires on pit road and what NASCAR is doing:

“I think we will certainly review each one of those. We did from the incident at Richmond and looked at some of the safety equipment some of the individuals were wearing and made adjustments there and you can see that already occurring on pit road. We’ll continue to look at the equipment also. That’s something we’ll work with the race teams this week, especially Tuesday at the R&D Center and see what we can continue to do.’’

On the Sprint Cup schedule after Kevin Harvick’s comments calling for change with it:

“We feel like we’ve struck on a really good balance on the schedule. One of the things that is also a challenge that you hear from the promoters is knowing when their date is. Historically, we’ve been on year-to-year sanction agreements. We’d like to get much further out. We’d like to be talking about the Daytona 500 date is set in 2018 and 2019 so fans can make plans.

“That’s the path we’re on. We certainly receive a lot of interest from tracks that are out there. We’ve got to balance that with the fan base, television partners, sponsors. A lot goes into that, but again we’re happy with the schedule that we have now. There certainly could be tweaks and we’ll work with the promoters to look at that. Kevin has always got great ideas. We have a lot of dialogue with Kevin, he’s our champion. We’ll continue to do that. Ultimately, we’ve got to make the decisions in the best interests of all the stakeholders in the sport.’’

On the status of granting Kyle Busch a waiver: 

“I talked to Kyle last week and he talked about his plans. The next step for us is to hear from Joe Gibbs and the organization and let us know officially when Kyle is coming back and from there we’ll have to make a determination.’’

 

Retro Rundown 2018: Paint schemes for the 69th Southern 500

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The 69th Southern 500 might seem like it’s a long way aways, but you only have to wait 74 days for the Sept. 2 race at Darlington Raceway, which will air on NBCSN.

That night, the latest batch of throwback paint schemes will race for our affections and the win.

Here’s a roundup of the six paint schemes that have been announced so far.

No. 2 – Brad KeselowskiWill drive Rusty Wallace’s paint scheme from the 1990 Cup season.

Team Penske

No. 4 – Kevin Harvick: Will drive a scheme based on Busch Beer’s can design from 1996.

Stewart-Haas Racing

 

No. 12 – Ryan Blaney: Will drive a scheme based on the car his father, Dave Blaney, raced in the 2003 Cup season.

 

No. 24 – William Byron: Will drive Jeff Gordon‘s iconic Du Pont “Rainbow Warriors” scheme he raced full-time from 1993 -2000.

Hendrick Motorsports

 

No. 32 – Matt DiBenedetto: Will drive Jeff Burton‘s paint scheme from the 2000 Cup season.

 

No. 41 – Kurt BuschWill drive his own paint scheme from the 2003 season when he was part of one of the closest finishes in NASCAR history at Darlington Raceway, losing to Ricky Craven by 0.002 seconds. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the race.

 

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Five Cup drivers set for K&N West race at Sonoma

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Even though the Xfinity Series is off and the Camping World Truck Series is racing on the outskirts of St. Louis, that’s not keeping five Cup drivers from pulling double duty.

Alex Bowman, Erik Jones, Aric Almirola, William Byron and Daniel Suarez will compete in Saturday’s K&N Pro Series West race at Sonoma Raceway, the Carneros 200.

The extra track time will be beneficial for a set of drivers who don’t have much experience on the road course.

Bowman has two Sonoma starts, but none since 2015. Both Suarez and Jones will make their second Cup starts on the track and Byron is making his first start.

MORE: Bowman, Suarez and others on what it takes to race on road courses

Almirola has six Sonoma starts, but he missed last year’s race due to a back injury.

Five of the last seven K&N West races at the road course have been won by current or former Cup drivers, with Kevin Harvick the latest last year.

Harvick was joined in the race by Suarez and Ryan Blaney. Suarez finished 11th.

Also entered into the 64-lap race are NASCAR Next drivers Will Rodgers, Hailie Deegan and Derek Kraus.

NASCAR America: Dale Jarrett’s son Zach follows new path for racing family

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Zach Jarrett grew up around the racetrack with a generation of NASCAR drivers’ kids who essentially never left.

So the youngest son of 1999 Cup champion Dale Jarrett naturally questioned whether taking a swing at another professional sport was the right move.

“I was wondering if that’s something that was sort of expected of me, because you see so many drivers get into it,” Zach said in a NASCAR America feature about his father’s support of his career. “You see Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney, kids I grew up with, all racing now and doing great.

“But there’s something about baseball that really stuck out and I grew a love for and wanted to see how long I could play.”

NBCSN analyst Dale Jarrett said his son always loved being at the racetrack, but Zach’s passion for baseball was evident.

“I can remember once after a race I was tired, and he wanted to hit a baseball, so that’s what we did,” Dale said. “This was something he wanted to do.”

Having learned baseball through time spent with his maternal grandfather, Jack Spears, who played in the Brooklyn Dodgers organization, the 23-year-old Zach is an all-star this season for the Delmarva Shorebirds, a Single-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles that is based in Salisbury, Maryland.

“You have to have a tremendous passion to want to do this,” Dale said. “That’s where his heart has taken him and he’s following that.”

Watch the video above from Monday’s NASCAR America.

Bump & Run: Should NASCAR look at a future street race for Cup?

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Should NASCAR run a Cup race on a street course?

Nate Ryan: Absolutely. It’s the best avenue for getting into some major metropolitan areas where NASCAR belongs (Seattle, New York, perhaps Denver) but has little chance of gaining a foothold with a permanent facility. It would add a wrinkle to the right-turn racing that has delivered some great action for the past decade at the two road-course stops in Cup. And despite there being a lack of current momentum, there is past evidence it’s worked for lower stock-car series in cities as large as Los Angeles in the past.

Dustin Long: It would be a good move to get into markets the sport doesn’t race in now, but the key question is what will the racing be like? For those who imagine it would be beating and banging on a tight circuit, well, there’s less of that now on short tracks, in part, because of how little contact damages fenders and can create tire rubs. Open up the fenders then that could encourage the type of racing.

Daniel McFadin: Please? There’s precedent for it with the old NASCAR Southwest Tour holding three races in the streets of Los Angeles from 1998-2000. I sincerely believe a stock car race on a street course would be a better product than IndyCar could ever provide. With the close quarters, it would encourage more beating and banging and there’s no pesky penalties for “avoidable contact.” Like this year’s Roval race, let’s just try it once.

Dan Beaver: Absolutely. NASCAR’s schedule is already among the most diverse in all sports. To be crowned the champion, the driver should be able to show skill on every type of track. My vote is Central Park, which would give NASCAR their much-coveted venue in the Big Apple. For that matter, they should also run on a dirt track.

What is a memorable road course moment that stands out to you?

Nate Ryan: Because it’s Sonoma weekend, I’ll pick Marcos Ambrose stalling his car while leading and trying to save fuel under caution with seven laps remaining in the June 20, 2010 race. The massive blunder dropped Ambrose from first to seventh for the final restart, and it was historically significant for two major reasons: 1) It was the most agonizing of seven winless trips to Sonoma for Ambrose, a two-time Cup winner at Watkins Glen and one of the greatest road-course drivers in NASCAR history; 2) The gaffe handed the victory to Jimmie Johnson, who led the final seven laps for his only win on a road course in NASCAR.

Dustin Long: Tony Stewart‘s last Cup win in 2016 was a last-lap thrill ride at Sonoma. Stewart led starting the final lap, lost the lead to Denny Hamlin after contact in Turn 7 and got it back after making contact with Hamlin on the final corner. 

Daniel McFadin: Anytime I’ve encountered someone who decries NASCAR as just a bunch of guys going in circles, I make sure to show them video of the last lap of 2012 Cup race at Watkins Glen. It’s everything you’d want on the last lap of any race: the leader getting spun, NASCAR not throwing a caution, multiple lead changes, cars going off track and a drag race through the final turn. I think it was the watershed moment for road course racing in NASCAR.

Dan Beaver: The 1991 Sonoma race. Whether Ricky Rudd deserved to be black flagged for spinning Davey Allison on the next-to-last lap might be open to debate, but the timing of the penalty – more than a full lap later, with Rudd in sight of the checkered flag – was startling. Equally surprising was the fact that NASCAR decided to penalize Rudd just the one position he made up with that contact  – restoring the running position from before the contact.

Between these two groups, who would you take this weekend at Sonoma — The field or Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch?

Nate Ryan: Repeat season won’t be ending anytime soon in NASCAR: Take the Big Three.

Dustin Long: Considering that Harvick, Busch and Truex have won three of the last five Sonoma races and the other two winners (Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards) aren’t in the series, it’s hard not to take the Big Three.

Daniel McFadin: The field. There’s been nine different winners at Sonoma in the last nine races and only once in the last seven races has the winner started in the top five. I think we’re in store for the most unpredictable race of the year that hasn’t been on a restrictor-plate race.

Dan Beaver: The field: There are so many variables on a road course that this is one of the best opportunities for the field to beat Harvick, Busch, and Truex by employing an alternate strategy.