Dale Earnhardt Jr. lobbies to keep pit crew intact


CHARLOTTE – Despite a few problems in the pits Sunday at Dover International Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is lobbying to keep his new crew intact through next season.

It’s as much about chemistry and trust as the swiftness of its pit stops, which were slow at Dover because of loose lug nuts and a loose wheel – both on the left rear.

The team had a new front-tire changer, Scott Brzozowski, whom Earnhardt talked with Tuesday about staying with the team.

“I hope that Scott wants to stick around beyond this season,” said Earnhardt, who rallied at Dover to finish third and advance to the second round of the Chase. “It’s not like we need two new changers. We just need one key guy to elevate the standard and push everyone.

“Over the last couple of years, when (Hendrick Motorsports) had great crews, a lot of the guys we’ve been working with this year were on those teams. If you get one guy who is a key player or a bit of a superstar, like a wide receiver or quarterback is to football team, he can really elevate the play of everyone around him and boost the entire crew.

“Just the confidence those guys have changes the consistency of the team. We really want Scott to try to wrap his brain around sticking with us. I like him to raise his ability and the rest of the group. I’ve got a lot of faith in our guys. It’s not like we need to go crazy, blow it up and look outside the system.”

The addition of Brzozowski, who moved over from Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 when Nick O’Dell was hired, was the second change in three weeks on Earnhardt’s team. Dave Mayo, who had been promoted to tire changer before the Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway, returned to a backup role on the No. 88.

Earnhardt said the team’s backup changers helped on pit stops at Dover.

“When those guys get moved off and put on second string, sometimes it hurts you,” he said. “I looked over during one stop Sunday, and the backup guy is blowing the left-front wheel to get the brake dust off, another backup guy is catching tires.

“Everyone was trying to be a part of the pit stop and getting the car out as fast as possible. Everyone puts their egos to the side. If we can keep Scott and get him to where he sees an opportunity with us and wants to be part of the future, that can change things for everybody and the whole team.”

Earnhardt said the decision ultimately will rest with his crew chief, Greg Ives, and Hendrick general manager Doug Duchardt, but he isn’t interested in poaching any members of Jimmie Johnson’s crew now that his teammate has been eliminated from the Chase. In 2010, Johnson won the championship after his pit crew was swapped with Jeff Gordon’s crew over the last three races.

“I’d like to keep my guys,” Earnhardt said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. I might find out tomorrow someone got changed, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.

“I don’t think you build a guy’s trust that way. He needs to know you believe in him. The driver needs to know the team believes he can do it. It’s the same for the carrier and changer. You get in position where I take (Johnson’s) guys because they’re better, what do I do next year? All those guys are going to be pissed off because I don’t believe in them. You find a combination that works for us and gets us to the end of the season and beyond.

“I know teams have (changed) before, and I just feel you might get somewhere in the short term, but you’ve basically destroyed the integrity of the team you have. Having those guys back won’t be an option. They won’t work for you once you take them off the car in the middle of the Chase.”

NASCAR Cup playoff standings after Coca-Cola 600


The severe penalty to Chase Briscoe and his Stewart-Haas Racing team Wednesday for a counterfeit part dropped Briscoe from 17th to 31st in the season standings. Briscoe now must win a race to have a chance at the playoffs.

The penalty came a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for his retaliation in wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600. Elliott is 28th in the points. The 2020 Cup champion also needs to win to have a chance to make the playoffs.

Ten drivers have won races, including Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney. That leaves six playoff spots to be determined by points at this time. With 12 races left in the regular season, including unpredictable superspeedway races at Atlanta (July 9) and Daytona (Aug. 26), the playoff standings will change during the summer.

Among those without a win this season are points leader Ross Chastain and former champions Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Elliott.

Here’s a look at the Cup playoff standings heading into Sunday’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois. Drivers in yellow have won a race and are in a playoff position. Those below the red line after 16th place are outside a playoff spot in the graphic below.

NASCAR issues major penalties to Chase Briscoe team for Charlotte infraction


NASCAR fined crew chief John Klausmeier $250,000 and suspended him six races, along with penalizing Chase Briscoe and the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team 120 points and 25 playoff points each for a counterfeit part on the car.

The issue was a counterfeit engine NACA duct, said Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, on Wednesday. That is a single-source part.

MORE: Updated Cup playoff standings

The team stated that it accepts the L3 penalty.

“We had a quality control lapse and a part that never should’ve been on a car going to the racetrack ended up on the No. 14 car at Charlotte,” said Greg Zipadelli in a statement from the team. “We accept NASCAR’s decision and will not appeal.”

Asked how then piece could have aided performance, Sawyer said Wednesday: “Knowing the race team mentality, they don’t do things that would not be a benefit to them in some way, shape or form from a performance advantage.”

The penalty drops Briscoe from 17th in the season standings to 31st in the standings. Briscoe goes from having 292 points to having 172 points. He’ll have to win to make the playoffs. Briscoe has no playoff points at this time, so the penalty puts him at -25 playoff points should he make it.

Briscoe’s car was one of two taken to the R&D Center after Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 for additional tear down by series officials.

The penalty comes a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in last weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

NASCAR Championship Weekend returns to Phoenix in 2024


Phoenix Raceway will host the championship races for the Cup, Xfinity, Craftsman Truck and ARCA Menards Series in 2024, NASCAR announced Wednesday.

The races will be held Nov. 1-3, 2024. The Cup season finale will be Nov. 3, 2024. The only other Cup race for 2024 that has been announced is the Daytona 500. It will be held Feb. 18, 2024.

Phoenix Raceway has hosted the championship finale for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks since 2020. Chase Elliott won the Cup title there in 2020. Kyle Larson followed in 2021. Joey Logano won the crown there in 2022.

This year’s Cup finale at Phoenix will be Nov. 5 and air on NBC.



Drivers to watch at World Wide Technology Raceway


After the fireworks from the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR heads to World Wide Technology Raceway, a 1.25-mile speedway just outside of St. Louis. Sunday’s race (3:30 p.m. ET on FS1) marks the second time the Cup Series has raced at this track.

Much is at stake. The race to win the regular season championship has intensified. Tempers are high. The pressure to make the playoffs builds. Ten drivers have wins this season. Twelve races remain in the regular season.


Kyle Larson

  • Points position: 11th
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Richmond, Martinsville)
  • Past at WWTR: 12th last year

While a driver coming off back-to-back finishes of 20th or worse might not seem like a frontrunner, it actually does make Larson one. His topsy-turvy season has seen him place outside the top 10 in back-to-back races four times. In the three previous times he had consecutive finishes outside the top 10, he came back to finish second, first and second. Can he keep that streak going this weekend?

Bubba Wallace

  • Points position: 15th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Las Vegas I, Kansas I, Coca-Cola 600)
  • Past at WWTR: 26th last year

Wallace has scored three consecutive top-five finishes, his best streak in his Cup career. He has climbed from 21st to 15th in the standings during this run.

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Las Vegas I, Phoenix I, Darlington I)
  • Past at WWTR: 19th last year

Byron has finished no worse than seventh in the last five races. He’s led nearly 20% of the laps run during that time. Byron has averaged nearly 47 points a race during that streak.


Corey LaJoie

  • Points position: 20th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Atlanta I)
  • Past at WWTR: 36th last season

NASCAR’s one-race suspension to Chase Elliott gives LaJoie the chance to drive a Hendrick Motorsports car for the first time. This will be the best car LaJoie has driven in his career. Many eyes will be on him to see how he does.

Ross Chastain

Chastain has finished 29th and 22nd in the last two points races. He’s not gone more than three races without a top-10 finish this season. After his struggles last weekend at Charlotte, Chastain saw his lead cut to one point over Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney in the standings. Five drivers are within 17 points of Chastain in the season standings.

Aric Almirola

  • Points position: 26th
  • Best finish this season: 6th (Martinsville I)
  • Past at WWTR: 5th last year

Almirola has finished 13th or worse in all but one race this season for Stewart-Haas Racing. In the five races since placing sixth at Martinsville, Almirola has finished an average of 21.0.