NASCAR’s Brian France says Matt Kenseth suspended for impacting Chase


NASCAR Chairman Brian France defended the different penalties to Matt Kenseth and Danica Patrick for their retaliations at Martinsville and said that penalties were increased to Kenseth to deter any other driver from doing the same thing again.

France, who spoke Wednesday afternoon on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, also said reiterated that contact is acceptable, mentioned Ryan Newman’s slamming of Kyle Larson at Phoenix last year to advance to the championship round as an acceptable form of racing.

NASCAR suspended Kenseth two races on Tuesday for wrecking Joey Logano while Logano led with 45 laps to go at Martinsville and was in position to advance to the championship round with a win. Kenseth was 10 laps down at the time.

France said on “Sirius Speedway” that Kenseth deserved a stiffer penalty than Patrick ($50,000 fine and docked 25 points) because her retaliation against David Gilliland involved two drivers not racing for the championship.

“They’re similar in many ways but they are very different because of the stakes that were on the line with the Chase,’’ France told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Going back to Richmond we’ve been very clear when anybody in the industry, any driver or participant intentionally tries to alter the outcome of events or championships, that crosses a different line than a racing problem between two drivers. So obviously the significance of what was on the line had to be taken into consideration.’’

France also told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that the Kenseth penalty would be used to prevent similar actions toward drivers in title contention.

“What’s important for us to make sure to deter that in the future,’’ France said. “I know there’s a lot of discussion about consistency in our penalties and there should be and that’s part of the equation.

“We issue penalties for two reasons. We’ve got to punish you for what we think you’ve done wrong, and we have to make sure that we deter somebody else from doing exactly what you did or worse. That’s why we can’t be consistent with every single penalty because sometimes we’ve got to up the ante with a penalty because we don’t believe the current remedy is a deterrent.

“That’s one of the reasons that we arrived at a two-race suspension (to Kenseth) in this particular case. It has to be a deterrent because there are clear rules of the road.’’

But France also stated that contact can be acceptable – as it was between Kenseth and Logano in the final laps at Kansas, as it was between Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon last year at Texas and between Newman and Larson at Phoenix.

“How many times have you heard me say that this is a contact sport?’’ France said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “There’s likely to be contact throughout an event, particularly late in the race. It happens all the time. It happened, as an example, Ryan Newman at Phoenix … where he leaned on pretty hard, with some contact with Kyle Larson with a lot on the line. That’s part of NASCAR. Kyle Larson got the short end in that particular exchange.

“Ryan Newman was operating within the rules of NASCAR. You can drive aggressively and if there’s a little bit of contact, then we understand that. There’s nothing new that went on at Kansas that doesn’t go on all the time.

“Now it was very unfortunate with the circumstances Matt got dealt on that particular day because he needed to win, he was trying move on in the round, we understand that. What happened, frankly, as I said before, was quintessential NASCAR.’’

France also was asked about Denny Hamlin’s comment that he questioned where the line was with what was acceptable after NASCAR’s penalty to Kenseth and if that was a valid concern.

“No,’’ France said. “The reason is we have a door that is wide open every day at the race track. Richard Buck, who is our series director … is happy to explain exactly where the lines are in NASCAR. We have 60 years of competing and having races run in a certain style. If you have any questions about that, you can walk in and he will explain it in five minutes for you. It’s very simple, it’s very easy to understand.’’

Asked if NASCAR needed to formalize a driver code, France was emphatic.

“The code of conduct is the rule book,’’ France told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Naturally, there’s all kind of things that we can’t regulate in words with a rule book that are going to happen with 43 teams out there competing on a high level, we’re going to have make some calls along the way. We can’t predict every scenario in the rule book.

“The most importing thing, there’s 60 years of experience with drivers and races and how we look at what is good, old-fashioned, great NASCAR competition, that tight, close racing that does have contact from time to time. There is a 60-year history of lines that are crossed, what’s acceptable and what’s not. It’s there for anybody to see. We try to be as consistent as we can in making calls along the way.

“Having said that, sometimes we have to increase penalties because the circumstances are much different than what they were 10 years ago. Monetary fines may not mean so much to somebody, but what we’ve got to do with any penalty is to deter somebody from doing something in the future. So we have to make sure the penalty matches the proper deterrence. That’s a balancing act for us because we want to be consistent. We don’t want to surprise people with penalties out of nowhere, but we also have to make sure that we’re looking ahead.’’

Charlotte Cup race postponed to Monday by weather


CONCORD, N.C. — All-day rain Sunday forced the postponement of the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Cup Series race to Monday.

The postponement means that Charlotte Motor Speedway is scheduled to host 900 miles of stock car racing Monday. A 300-mile Xfinity Series race, originally scheduled Saturday and first postponed to noon Monday, has been rescheduled for 11 a.m. ET Monday (FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The Cup race is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. (Fox, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Sunday’s Cup race was scheduled to start at 6:21 p.m. ET, but light rain was still falling at that time in the speedway area near Charlotte. Rain intensified a few minutes later and, despite an evening forecast that showed slight improvement, officials decided at 6:30 p.m. to postpone the race.

Monday’s forecast calls for a 34% chance of rain at the start of the Xfinity race and a 30% chance at the start of the Cup race.

William Byron will start the race from the pole after qualifying was washed out Saturday night.

RFK Racing gains sponsorship from submarine recruiting group


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR racing and submarines? Yes.

RFK Racing announced Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway that it has entered a partnership with BlueForge Alliance, which is involved in securing workers for the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Industrial Base (SIB) program. will be a primary sponsor for RFK drivers Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher in 10 Cup Series races this year and in 18 races per season beginning in 2024.

The sponsorship will showcase the careers related to the submarine-building program across the nation.

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“I’m proud to support a cause of such vital significance to our country with this new partnership,” Keselowski said. “The synergies between a NASCAR team and our military’s needs to stay on track fast are countless. We hope to inspire the workforce of the next generation across the country when they see RFK race and hear our message.”

The sponsorship will support the mission to recruit, hire, train, develop and retain the SIB workforce that will build the Navy’s next generation of submarines, the team said.

“We are excited and grateful to be teaming with RFK Racing to drive awareness of the thousands of steady, well-paying manufacturing jobs available across the nation. Innovation, working with purpose and service to others are hallmarks of both of our organizations,” said Kiley Wren, BlueForge chief executive. “Together, we aim to inspire NASCAR fans and all Americans to pursue career opportunities that will support our national defense.”

Kyle Larson visits Indianapolis Motor Speedway to survey the scene


Former NASCAR champion Kyle Larson, who is scheduled to run the Indianapolis 500 in 2024 as part of an Indy-Charlotte “double,” visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway garage area Sunday on Indianapolis 500 race day.

Larson said he wanted to familiarize himself with the Indy race-day landscape before he becomes immersed in the process next year.

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Larson later returned to Charlotte, where was scheduled to drive in the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday night. Next year, he’s scheduled to run both races.

“I love racing,” Larson told NBC Sports. “I love competing in the biggest races. In my opinion, this is the biggest race in the world. I wanted to be a part of it for a long time, and I finally feel like the timing is right. It’s pretty cool to have a dream come true.

“I wanted to come here and kind of experience it again and get to experience how crazy it is again before I’m in the middle of it next year. I kind of want as little surprise as possible next year.”

In the 2024 500, Larson will be one of four drivers with the Arrow McLaren team.

Earlier this month, Larson and Hendrick Motorsports vice chairman Jeff Gordon attended an Indy 500 practice day.

Larson said Sunday he hasn’t tested an Indy car.

“I don’t know exactly when I’ll get in the car,” he said. “I’ve had no sim (simulator) time yet. I’ve kind of stayed back. I didn’t want to ask too many questions and take any focus on what they have going on for these couple of weeks. I’m sure that will pick up after today.

“I look forward to the challenge. No matter how this experience goes, I’m going to come out of it a better race car driver.”




Jimmie Johnson: Building a team and pointing toward Le Mans


CONCORD, N.C. — These are busy days in the life of former NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.

Johnson is a co-owner of Legacy Motor Club, the Cup Series team that has struggled through a difficult first half of the season while it also is preparing for a switch from Chevrolet to Toyota next year.

Johnson is driving a very limited schedule for Legacy as he seeks to not only satisfy his passion for racing but also to gain knowledge as he tries to lift Legacy to another level. As part of that endeavor, he’ll race in the Coca-Cola 600 in Legacy’s No. 84 car, making his third appearance of the season.

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And, perhaps the biggest immediate to-do item on Johnson’s list: He’ll race June 10-11 in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s biggest endurance race and another of the bucket list races the 47-year-old Johnson will check off his list.

“I’m excited, invigorated, exhausted — all of it,” Johnson said. “It has been a really exciting adventure that I’ve embarked on here — to learn from (Legacy co-owner) Maury Gallagher, to be a part of this great team and learn from everyone that I’m surrounded by. I’m in a whole new element here and it’s very exciting to be in a new element.

“At the same time, there are some foundational pieces coming together, decisions that we’re making, that will really help the team grow in the future. And then we have our job at hand – the situation and environment that we have at hand to deal with in the 2023 season. Depends on the hat that I’m wearing, in some respects. There’s been a lot of work, but a lot of excitement and a lot of fun. I truly feel like I’m a part of something that’s really going to be a force in the future of NASCAR.”

Johnson is scheduled to fly to Paris Monday or Tuesday to continue preparations for the Le Mans race. He, Jenson Button and Mike Rockenfeller will be driving a Hendrick Motorsports-prepared Chevrolet as part of Le Mans’ Garage 56 program, which is designed to offer a Le Mans starting spot for a team testing new technologies.

“For me, it’s really been about identifying marquee races around the world and trying to figure out how to run in them,” Johnson said. “Le Mans is a great example of that. Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600 — these are the marquee events.”

He said his biggest concerns approaching the 24-hour race are being overtaken by faster prototypes in corners and racing at night  while dealing with the very bright lights of cars approaching in his rear view mirrors.

At Legacy, Johnson has work to do. Erik Jones has a top finish of sixth (and one other top 10) this season, and Noah Gragson is still looking for his first top-10 run. He has a best finish of 12th – at Atlanta.

“I think Erik (Jones) continues to show me just how good he is,” Johnson said. “He’s been in some challenging circumstances this year and keeps his head on — focuses, executes and gets the job done. I’ve really been impressed with his ability to stay calm and execute and just how good he is.

“With Noah, from watching him before, I wasn’t sure how serious he took his job in the sport. I knew that he was fast, and I knew that he liked to have fun. I can say in the short time that I’ve really worked with him closely, he still has those two elements, but his desire to be as good as he can in this sport has really impressed me. So I guess ultimately, his commitment to his craft is what’s impressed me the most.”