NASCAR looking at slight alteration with qualifying rule

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Could a tweak to NASCAR qualifying be coming? Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief operating officer, hinted so during his appearance Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive” show.

Last weekend at Pocono Raceway, Denny Hamlin spun with less than a minute left in the final round. That prevented Hamlin and four other drivers from recording a time in the final round.

NASCAR’s rules state that if more than one driver is unable to complete a lap in a round, their position is determined based on who had the fastest lap in the previous round.

Hamlin had the second-fastest lap in the second round. That placed him ahead of the four other drivers who had yet to record a time in the final round even though Hamlin caused the caution. That policy could change.

“It’s something we are going to look at,’’ O’Donnell said. “In this case is it the right decision to have a driver, not on purpose, cause a caution and therefore they qualify ahead of … drivers who may have not been able to go out and qualify? Some folks could say that’s on them, they should have gone out earlier, but you also look at it if that is the right move. We’re taking a hard look at that this weekend. We’ve had some dialogue with some of the industry and we’ll make a decision here shortly.’’

In other areas:

O’Donnell, who was in the meeting with the drivers council at Dover, said he expects such meetings to take place quarterly. “The drivers council, the first one, I thought was terrific. We’re not always going to agree, but I think you can get some really good input and you can really decipher where you want to go and how that will affect certain teams.’’

O’Donnell again reiterated that talks continue on how to enhance the racing: “It’s a big front-burner (topic). A lot of conversations going on not only from the driver council but also with the teams. You’ll see us do some things here and ratchet up those conversations here in the next 30 days. I think it’s important, though, to really look at what we’re all striving for. These guys are the best in the world. It’s tough to continue to make it better – that’s what we want to do. How do you continue to make that better? How do you continue to allow for more passing? That’s the goal.

“I think everybody understands that. The good news is that entire industry is aligned for what makes the best racing and how do we get there. I think you’ll see some good things continue to develop in terms of what you see on the racetrack.’’

On penalizing teams practice time or making them pick last in pit stall selection for issues in inspection, O’Donnell said: “I think when you look at it, there are certain things we can look at depending on what the warning is. When we look at the inspection process, we want it to relate as much as possible to either the event or the upcoming event. We do use and have used practice time as an element, so that is something that is in place. We elected to put pit selection in and this is the first year of that. We’ll see how that goes and review it at the end of the year. If we need to make some changes we will, but so far I think it’s working fairly well. We’ve got some things that we’ve learned along the way and we’ll adjust where we need to.’’

On the bumps in the tunnel turn at Pocono and the track planning to fix that area before the August race, O’Donnell said: “We’ll either have someone up there when they address it or very soon after and make sure we’re OK with the changes that are made prior to heading back for the weekend. Once we get there, I’m sure we’ll take some drivers out … ahead of time to look at it to make sure everything is in place.’’

On foreign venues that NASCAR could entertain for taking the sport (O’Donnell was at the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series event last weekend at Brands Hatch Circuit in Kent, England), he said: “I think we look at not necessarily where we can put a race and leave. That’s really not our model. Where we’ve been successful is really starting from a grassroots effort like you’ve seen in Mexico, where we have a successful tour and we can see some drivers come up in the system, similarly in Canada and now that’s what is happening in Europe. I say maybe taking some of our national series drivers over from time to time to help seed those series and the growth would be important for us. As you look, South America certainly an area that we’d like to emerge and China and India, not necessarily right away, but I think when you look at a lot of the partners and especially the (car manufacturers), certainly growth areas. We’ll take a look at those as well. First and foremost for us, it’s concentrating on the U.S. and making sure we have the best thing going every Sunday here in the United States.’’

 

Updated entry lists for Cup, Truck at Martinsville

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Here are the entry lists for this weekend’s races.

Cup – STP 500 (2 p.m. ET Sunday on Fox Sports 1)

Thirty-six cars are entered for the sixth Cup race of the year. D.J. Kennington is listed in the No. 77 Spire Motorsports entry.

Jeb Burton is entered in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 52 Ford.

Click here for the entry list.

Gander Outdoors Truck – Martinsville 250 (2 p.m. ET Saturday on Fox Sports 1)

Thirty-nine trucks are entered. Those also entered in the Cup race are Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon and Ross Chastain. Bubba Wallace is entered in AM Racing’s No. 22 truck.

Click here for the entry list.

NASCAR America Motormouths at 5 p.m. ET with Bubba Wallace

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America presents Motormouths airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Rutledge Wood hosts with Kyle Petty and they’ll be joined by special guest Bubba Wallace.

Fans will have the chance to call into the show to ask questions.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Indy 500 analyst role part of looking forward for Danica Patrick

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It’s been 10 months since Danica Patrick last competed in an auto racing event and she is completely fine with that.

Patrick was last seen in a cockpit in last May’s Indianapolis 500, part of her mini-retirement tour from racing that also included a run in the Daytona 500.

Now she’ll be back at the track, serving as an analyst for NBC’s broadcast of the 103rd Indy 500 on May 26.

It will be an interlude to her post-racing career.

“I really don’t miss racing,” Patrick said during a teleconference Wednesday.  “I’m really happy. I selfishly set out (with) the intention I wanted to travel a lot. I’ve definitely done that. Also working on my other businesses.”

Without racing, Patrick is able to look over her “Warrior” clothing line and her Somnium wine. She’s also been a host of ESPN’s Espy Awards show.

“I’m not a look-back kind of person, I’m a look-forward (person),” Patrick said. “This is something that’s part of looking forward. This is something totally new and different for me. It’s coming at a place where I have a lot of history, but it hasn’t been my job, which is why I’m going to work really hard to make sure I’m ready, like anything else I do that’s different.

Since retiring, Patrick said she watches racing “when I can.”

“I’m not going to lie, I’m happy doing what I’m doing,” Patrick said. “It’s allowed me new opportunities like this.”

This won’t be the first time Patrick has served in an analyst role for a race. She did the same for some Xfinity Series race broadcasts in the last few years of her NASCAR career.

“It’s very good to have had that experience,” Patrick said. “Obviously I was giving my driving experience sort of perspective and that insight, which is something I’m going to be doing again. But it was a guest spot.

“This is firm and established, part of a small team of two with Mike (Tirico) and I. I think there’s going to be a lot more preparation involved, I’m going to need to know a lot more information.”

Patrick said there will be one difference in her Indy 500 experience this year compared to the eight times she competed in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

“I didn’t purposely look at the buildup of the day,” Patrick said. “I didn’t want to see the fans rolling in, all the pomp and circumstance. I really liked to keep it quiet. I wanted to just walk out there and have it be the event, not let myself get built up too much in my head with nerves, just the platform, the iconic event that it was, the millions of people. I just wanted to stay focused and go do it.

“This time, I’m sure I will see the buildup. I’m sure I’ll see the place fill in and turn from a quiet, peaceful, magical place, (and) at the shot of a cannon it’s going to start unraveling. That will be a cool perspective for me that I purposely haven’t really watched closely.”

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Bubba Wallace entered in Truck race at Martinsville

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AM Racing announced Wednesday that Bubba Wallace will drive the No. 22 entry in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series race Saturday at Martinsville Speedway.

AM Racing tweeted: “In an effort to advance the performance component of our program, we will be putting a different Chevrolet driver in the seat of the No. 22 Chevrolet Silverado for Martinsville Speedway this weekend.”

AM Racing stated that Wallace “has been selected with very specific objectives regarding program feedback and development. His record at the track speaks for itself.”

Wallace, who will be on Wednesday’s NASCAR America (5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN), has two wins in four starts in the Truck series at Martinsville. He won there in 2013 and in 2014. Both times he won driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Austin Wayne Self had driven the No. 22 entry in the first three Truck races of the season. He finished ninth at Daytona and followed that with a 27th-place finish at Atlanta and a 15th-place finish in Las Vegas. He is 12th in the points.