NASCAR says it warned teams during race about restarts

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LOUDON, N.H. – Sprint Cup series director Richard Buck said teams were given plenty of fair warning ahead of Brad Keselowski being black-flagged for jumping a restart at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

“We made sure the rules were very clear to everybody in the last couple drivers meetings,” Buck said after Sunday’s Sylvania 300. “We made sure we got everybody informed.

“Today, during the race again, we reminded them on each restart before the race and on each restart about the rules. If we saw something that was creeping toward (a violation), we made sure we informed the spotter and crew chief, so they knew how we were thinking in the tower and what we were seeing. That’s what brought us to the decision on the restart.”

Keselowski, running second, was shown the black flag on the final restart with 58 laps remaining even though he didn’t pass leader Greg Biffle. Buck said NASCAR ruled that Keselowski accelerated in the restart zone ahead of Biffle, who controlled the restart as the leader. NASCAR marks a zone off Turn 4 during which a leader restarts the race.

Keselowski said NASCAR made an example out of him with the call.

“It’s an entertainment sport, not a fair sport, but we had a great car,” said Keselowski, who rebounded to finish 12th after falling to 25th.

“The first person to ever be penalized for jumping a restart when I didn’t pass anyone, so that’s a new one, but we moved on and we made the most of a good day with the Miller Lite Ford and got a solid finish.”

Buck intimated that NASCAR didn’t factor Keselowski’s positioning into the call.

“We reviewed it, and that wasn’t part of the equation at all today,” Buck said when asked if Keselowski wouldn’t have been penalized if he had been viewed as yielding the spot.

So the interpretation is a driver doesn’t have to gain a position to be penalized?

“We’ve articulated that quite a few times in the drivers meetings as well as anytime anyone asks,” Buck said. “We have an open-door policy. We have said it very clearly in the drivers meeting. The leader is the control car and has earned the right to restart the race in the restart zone. If the leader hasn’t restarted the race by the single red line, then we take over, and we will throw the flag, and that restarts the race.”

Restarts have been a hot topic in NASCAR the past month, and Buck addressed it before last week’s playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway.

But NASCAR didn’t say specifically that drivers would be punished without gaining a spot (Kyle Busch suggested last week that competitors should be allowed to give back a spot without facing a black flag, one of many suggestions made by stars about how NASCAR should police restarts).

NASCAR began positioning a “senior official” near the restart box at Chicagoland. On Sunday, Camping World Truck Series director Elton Sawyer and Chad Little were watching restarts from the end of the pits.

“We wanted that input,” Buck said. “It’s on the ground with a senior official. You really get a 3-D, with all your senses of a human being, and that helps confirm what you’ve seen on the tape and make sure you haven’t missed it. And we did get 100% confirmation on the ground as well as what we saw on the tapes and the data available to us.”

Buck said it helped make the black flag on Keselowski “fairly clear cut in our mind. Based on the video we have, the different angles we have.

“Sometimes, it can tell a portion of the story,” Buck said. “So we like to try to put together that three-dimensional video from all the data and video we get. By having that individual on the ground directly across from the restart box with eyes, ears, all their human senses, they can really get a good understanding to close that picture up and allow us to feel 100% that we stamped it with a very good decision.”

Did it send a message to NASCAR teams about how it would judge Chase drivers on restarts in the future?

“Most importantly, we listen to the garage,” Buck said. “We listen to what they say. They wanted clarity. We gave them clarity.

“It’s very clear and very defined in the regulations. We’re not out to get anybody. We’re the keeper and enforcer of the rules. All anybody asks for is to be treated fairly. We believe we did our job today.”

Buck said he hadn’t met with Keselowski, Penske or anyone from the No. 2 Ford after the race but would be willing to share video and data with any team representatives.

“We’ll talk to the crew chief, team manager, team owner,” he said. “It’s part of the educational process to help them understand how we made that call. So they have a true understanding going forward.”

Dustin Long contributed to this report

 

Sunday Cup race at Las Vegas: Start time, TV channel

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The second round of the Cup playoffs begins with the Sunday Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The 1.5-mile track kicks off the Round of 12. Winning the race and stage points are a premium for playoff drivers before the races at Talladega and the Charlotte Roval.

Kevin Harvick, who won at Bristol, starts from the pole.

Here is all the info for the Sunday Cup race at Las Vegas:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given by Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis at 7:07 p.m. The green flag waves at 7:17 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at Noon. Drivers report to their cars at 6:50 p.m. The invocation will be given at 7 p.m. by Motor Racing Outreach Chaplain, Billy Mauldin. The national anthem will be performed by Sierra Black at 7:01 p.m.

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 6 p.m with NASCAR America, followed by Countdown to Green at 6:30 p.m. Race coverage begins at 7 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage will begin at 6 p.m. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the broadcast.

STREAMING: Watch the race on the NBC Sports App

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for sunny skies with a high of 96 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST RACE: Kevin Harvick beat Kyle Busch to win at Bristol and claim his ninth win of the season.

LAST POINTS RACE AT LAS VEGAS: Joey Logano beat Matt DiBenedetto and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in February.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the lineup.

CATCH UP ON NBC SPORTS’ COVERAGE:

Kurt Busch seeks first Las Vegas win but without hometown fans

Michael Jordan excited for NASCAR future with Denny Hamlin

Carolina Blue: Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan bonded by NASCAR

Germain Racing sells charter, will exit sport at end of season

Charlotte Roval to host limited number of fans

Friday 5: Team’s departure adds to ‘extremely stressful’ time

NASCAR fines Hendrick Motorsports $100,000

NTSB releases final report on Dale Jr. plane crash

Bubba Wallace to receive Stan Musial award for extraordinary character

Long: 100 days left in 2020, what else can happen?

Kurt Busch seeks first Las Vegas win, but without hometown fans

Kurt Busch
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A win by Kurt Busch in tonight’s Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7 p.m. ET on NBCSN) couldn’t come under more bittersweet circumstances for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver.

Should Busch claim the victory on the 1.5-mile track, he’d go from being the last driver on the playoff grid (3,001 points entering the race) to the first driver to advance to the Round of 8.

While it would be his first victory of the year, it would also be his first NASCAR win at his home track in 23 starts across the Cup and Xfinity Series.

More: Stage points critical at Vegas

“The Vegas track has definitely been one of the tough ones for me over the years with results and finishes not where I would have expected them to be,” Busch said this week. “And the teams that I’ve raced for just have never quite found that right magic set-up or combination. And then for me, it’s a track that I just have that trouble with.

“There are a few tracks like Indianapolis and Martinsville; those are a few places where I struggle. And so with Vegas, I always put that little extra hometown pressure on myself and I would love to win there.”

The 42-year-old Las Vegas-native rolls off ninth on the 1.5-mile track. It’s his fourth while driving for Ganassi.

In his 21 Cup starts in Las Vegas, Busch’s best result is third in 2005 when he competed for Roush Fenway Racing. He has just one other top five. That came in last year’s spring race when he drove a throwback paint scheme to his 1999 NASCAR Southwest Series championship.

That day he led 23 laps. It was only the seventh time he’d led laps there and just the third time he’d totaled more than six laps led.

In February, Busch finished 25th.

If Busch were to finally make it to Vegas’ Victory Lane, the celebration would be somewhat muted.

It was announced last weekend that fans would not be allowed to attend the races at Las Vegas due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would love to win through the spirit of the camera and everything on NBC Sports; and I know the fans there, local, will be watching and cheering on the Busch brothers,” Busch said. “So, that’s where I would connect. And hopefully do it through the TV side of it. We’ll get fans back one day and we’ll come back and race.”

Busch enters the Round of 12 having earned just one top 10 in the first round, an eighth-place finish at Darlington. He finished 13th at Richmond and 15th at Bristol.

“What I like is we have had better lap times at all three races so far compared to maybe the five or six races leading into the playoffs,” Busch said. “We know that our cushion is gone. We ended Bristol with 33 points to the good. And now we start Vegas minus four (points behind Austin Dillon in the cutoff spot). So that’s just part of the system and now we have to be perfect. We have to get every point possible that we’re able to get on our own at Vegas, Talladega, and the Roval. And, that should help us advance.”

Carolina Blue: Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan bonded by NASCAR

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Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan were teammates from 1982-84 at the University of North Carolina and Eastern Conference rivals throughout the 1980s and ’90s in the NBA.

But their friendship was about more than just hoops. While growing up on opposite ends of the Tar Heel State, Daugherty and Jordan both developed a passion for following NASCAR.

Tobacco Road meant fast cars and hard-driving heroes for these two North Carolina natives.

LIFELONG FAN: Michael Jordan explains why he’s partnering with Denny Hamlin

In a NASCAR on NBC feature, Daugherty recalls how NASCAR impacted his life and Jordan’s and led both into team ownership. Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin announced they will form a team to field cars for Bubba Wallace next season.

Daughterty notes in the feature that Wallace “has led a dynamic transformation as NASCAR banned Confederate flags and recommitted to inclusion amidst times of great unrest. This is a huge moment for NASCAR, a cultural momentum shift. This is people of all colors coming together to create an all-American race team already with championship lineage.

“With proper funding, equipment and crewmembers, this will be the best chance ever for a Black driver to win – and while driving for a Black owner. An opportunity to shock the world like Muhammad Ali once did.”

Watch the feature above on Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan or by clicking this link.

Las Vegas Xfinity results, driver points

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Chase Briscoe‘s victory Saturday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway sends him into the next round of the Xfinity playoffs.

Noah Gragson led a 2-3-4 finish for JR Motorsports. Gragson was second and followed by Daniel Hemric and Justin Allgaier. Ryan Sieg finished fifth.

Briscoe dominated the race, leading 164 of the 200 laps.

Click here for Xfinity race results

POINTS

Ross Chastain finished 16th, last among the playoff drivers, and fell out of a transfer spot to the second round. He’s two points behind Harrison Burton for the final transfer spot. Michael Annett is 10 points behind Burton. Riley Herbst is 14 points behind Burton. Brandon Brown is 20 points behind Burton.

Click here for driver points report