Jimmie Johnson’s team wins appeal but still seeking clarification on NASCAR warnings

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CONCORD, N.C. — Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 team won its appeal Tuesday to overturn a P1 penalty, but crew chief Chad Knaus still awaits more clarity on its exposure to future punishment.

NASCAR issued the penalty of last choice in pit stalls for the next race after the team received written warnings in consecutive Sprint Cup events (the All-Star Race and Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway). The punishment was deferred for Tuesday’s appeal hearing at the NASCAR R&D Center.

Written warnings are cumulative over the course of a season, and if a team receives six over a six-month period following the first, it could result in a P2 penalty. Per the 2015 NASCAR rulebook, a P2 penalty would result in at least one (and possibly more) of the following: loss of 10 championship driver and owner points; $10,000-$25,000 fine; suspension for the crew chief,and/or any other team members for at least one race; probation through the end of the calendar year for the crew chief.

Johnson’s team has received three warnings this season and could face another after failing prerace inspection three times Sunday at Pocono Raceway.

At a news conference with a small group of news reporters shortly after the result was announced, Knaus said Hendrick Motorsports’ appeal was as much about understanding the new system, which was introduced last year, as contesting the penalty.

“If you look at the way warning schedule is, and the way the penalties can start to accumulate over a period of time, we needed to understand the methodology behind that, and we have a better understanding of that now,” he said. “I think that with all the teams and NASCAR, we’re all going to have some more conversations in the future about how the warnings are applied and can be contested.

“That was the big reason we’re here. We need to get in here and understand the format, the system and thankfully, we have a system like this. I think it’s great that NASCAR is willing to have an open forum to where we can get together, chat and have a face to face conversation about it and try to get some clarification.”

Knaus, who attended the appeal hearing with team owner Rick Hendrick and car chief Ron Malec, said the team was unsure if there would be a reduction in warnings.

“That’s the reason we’re here, to understand the format and how all that stuff is going to play out,” Knaus said. “As of right now we’re waiting to get clarification on the warnings from the hearing. So we know the penalty is gone. We’ll know more probably around the same time you guys do.”

According to the rulebook, NASCAR can issue written warnings instead of penalties “for certain types of very minor, first-time infractions.”

The tricky part of the new system is a warning isn’t appealable, but a punishment resulting from a warning is. NASCAR, at its discretion, can issue P1 penalties based on multiple warnings or warnings in consecutive events.

P1 penalties can include one or more of the following: Last choice in pit selection; reductions in track time during practice; reduction in track time during qualifying; delay in order of inspection; selected for postrace inspection; delay in unloading the car at the beginning of an event weekend; temporary suspension of annual hard card credentials; reduction or suspension of event privileges (such as parking passes); community service.

“We talked about the warnings,” Knaus said. “We all understand there needs to be discussion about that moving forward. We came in here to talk about that and try to get the penalty stricken. The penalty’s been dissolved. That’s a good thing from our standpoint. Then the rest of it, we’re waiting to hear back from NASCAR.”

Knaus said the team contested the reasons for both of its warnings. The first at the Sprint All-Star Race was for repairs that apparently caused an illegal modification to the No. 48 Chevy’s side skirt. The second was for needing too many attempts at prequalifying inspection for the Coca-Cola 600.

The appeals panel of Richard Gore, David Hall and Jay Signore ruled there was a “preponderance of evidence presented that the side skirt violation … did occur. There was conflicting evidence about the inspection violation which led to the second warning instead of preponderance.”

Did Knaus want to share the details of how the team made its case?

“No, not really,” he said, smiling broadly.

NASCAR, which must accept the panel’s decision as final, didn’t make a representative immediately available to address the appeal.

Talladega Xfinity starting lineup: Austin Hill wins pole

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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

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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

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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?

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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.