Matt Kenseth loses final appeal, will miss next two races

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Matt Kenseth lost his final appeal Thursday evening and will miss the next two Sprint Cup races.

Kenseth will miss this weekend’s race at Texas Motor Speedway and next weekend’s race at Phoenix International Raceway. He’ll be able to return for the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“I feel like I was unfairly made the example instead of knowing where the line is and what the penalties are,” Kenseth said. “I’m extremely disappointed, but we’ll get through this and go to Homestead.”

Erik Jones will drive in place of Kenseth this weekend at Texas.

“Obviously I’m going to do the best I can for them and just to keep them in contention and hopefully have a good race for them,” Jones said of the prospect of driving Kenseth’s car this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

Kenseth’s case was heard Tuesday afternoon by Bryan Moss, the National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer. Moss’ decision is final.

Moss reduced Kenseth’s probation from six months to through Dec. 31, 2015. Moss did not state why he upheld the suspension but reduced the probation in a statement.

Moss stated: “Upon hearing this afternoon’s testimony, the National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer made the following decisions:

“The Appellant (Kenseth) violated the Rules set forth in the Penalty Notice. The Penalty is amended to: ‘Suspended from NASCAR until the completion of the next two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Events. Place on NASCAR probation through December 31, 2015.”

Moss could have altered Kenseth’s Behavior Penalty in any way  – increasing it, decreasing it, or keeping it the same.

The National Motorsports Appeals Panel upheld NASCAR’s penalty to Kenseth earlier in the day, setting up this final appeal. Serving on the Panel were Ken Clapp, a former motorsports executive, promoter and currently a motorsports consultant; Bill Mullis, a former driver and current owner of Langley Speedway; and Dale Pinilis, promoter at Bowman Gray Stadium. They were scheduled to hear an appeal involving Brandon Jones in the Camping World Truck Series but moved to the Kenseth case when it was expedited.  Jones’ appeal was rescheduled.

The burden of proof switched to Kenseth in his hearing before Moss. It was up to Kenseth to show by a “preponderance of the evidence” that (1) a violation did not occur, (2) the penalty assessed is not within the score of the Guidelines, and/or (3) that he or she was denied appellate rights as specified,” according to the Sprint Cup Rule Book.

This was Moss’ third hearing involving a Sprint Cup driver or team this season. He upheld NASCAR’s decision and the Appeal Panel’s decision to suspend Kurt Busch in February after a Kent County (Del.) Family Court Commissioner concluded that it was “more likely than not” that Busch committed an act of domestic abuse against his ex-girlfriend last year (the Delaware Attorney General declined to file charges). Moss upheld the amended penalties from the Appeals Panel to Ryan Newman‘s team for manipulating tires.

Issues for Kenseth started last month at Kansas Speedway when he was hit by Logano while they raced for the lead. Logano said he had been blocked repeatedly and held his ground. Kenseth spun, losing his chance to win the race. NASCAR Chairman Brian France called the contact “quintessential NASCAR.”

Kenseth got his revenge at Martinsville. His car was damaged in an incident with Logano’s teammate, Brad Keselowski. Kenseth was 10 laps behind the leaders when he ran into the back of Logano’s car while Logano led with 45 laps left. The contact sent both cars into the wall. NASCAR parked Kenseth for the race. Two days later, NASCAR announced that it would suspend Kenseth for two days, stating that Kenseth “eliminated” Logano’s chance to “continue to compete in the race.”

Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman ‘clear the air’ about All-Star incident

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CONCORD, N.C. — Five days after Clint Bowyer threw several punches at Ryan Newman as Newman sat in his car after the All-Star Race, the two sat side by side during an autograph session at a Bass Pro Shops near Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Bowyer was upset with Newman for contact that led to Bowyer crashing after last weekend’s race. After Bowyer drove to pit road, he ran to Newman’s car while still wearing his helmet — earning a rebuke from his team owner for not removing his helmet. After reaching Newman’s car, Bowyer unleashed a number of punches.

Both drivers talked this week before they got to the autograph session.

“It was good to have a conversation about it,” Bowyer said Thursday night after qualifying eighth at Charlotte Motor Speedway for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600. “At the end of the day there were a lot of things that escalated very fast and obviously got out of hand.

“There’s one thing I can always promise you about something like that and it is unfortunate, and you hate having things like that happen, (but) that’s probably the best attended autograph session at Bass Pro Shops that I’ve had in a long, long time.

“Obviously I don’t want to do that every weekend. At the end of the day we all love this sport, we are all passionate about this sport and every now and then that shows a little brighter.”

Bowyer was asked if he thought Newman would retaliate.

“I don’t know,” Bowyer said. “Hopefully it’s behind us. We both have a little better understanding of how it escalated into that and you’ve just got to get stuff like that behind you.”

Newman said it was good to talk to Bowyer about what happened.

“It was good to kind of clear the air,” Newman said. “It is what it is. It’s the past. Just something you always remember. You learn about somebody in a situation like that.”

Newman was asked if he’ll race Bowyer differently.

“I try to race everybody the same way and that’s hard because that’s what I get paid to do,” said Newman, who qualified 18th for the Coca-Cola 600. “I try to give-and-take when I came. The way it works anymore with stage points, especially in the All-Star race, you don’t give and take. You take.”

Starting lineup for the Coca-Cola 600

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William Byron will start first and Aric Almirola will start second for Sunday’s 60th running of the Coca-Cola 600.

Byron, 21, is the youngest pole-sitter in the race’s history.

The top five is completed by defending race winner Kyle Busch, 2017 race winner Austin Dillon and two-time 600 winner Kevin Harvick.

Click here for the starting lineup.

William Byron wins pole for Coca-Cola 600

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CONCORD, N.C. —  William Byron won the pole for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Byron claimed the top spot with a qualifying speed of 183.424 mph. At the age of 21, he’s the youngest Coca-Cola 600 pole-sitter.

It’s Byron’s second career Cup pole, joining his pole in this year’s Daytona 500.

He beat out Aric Almirola (183.069 mph), Kyle Busch (182.933), Austin Dillon (182.766) and Kevin Harvick (182.741).

“This is awesome, a dream come true,” Byron told FS1. “Obviously, I grew up in Charlotte so I came to this race every year. It’s a dream come true to qualify on the pole next to Hendrick Motorsports across the street over there. … Can’t think of a better way to start the weekend.”

Byron has qualified on the front row five time this year and four times in the last seven races.

The pole is the 12th for Hendrick Motorsports in the 600, which leads all teams.

Busch has qualified in the top three for the last three 600s.

Corey LaJoie‘s No. 32 Ford failed pre-qualifying inspection twice, resulting in the ejection of an engineer.

Click here for qualifying results.

Joey Logano and family mourn their dog

Photo: Logano family
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CONCORD, N.C. — Joey Logano provided a sobering update Thursday night about the family’s lost dog, Luigi.

The dog had been missing since Tuesday.

Logano’s wife Brittany wrote on a Facebook post for lost and found pets in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area that the family’s French Bulldog got out of their fence Tuesday night.

“Our little Luigi I believe he’s stolen, I think,” Joey Logano said earlier Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “We can’t really put a match to anything. We put a bunch of signs up and things on social media and we watched the cameras at our house and we see him running around the backyard and then you don’t see him again. Not really sure what happened there.”

“We’ve learned that Frenchies are one of the most stolen dogs around. It’s kind of sad that someone does that. It’s a member of your family. It’s a jerk move. Hopefully, we can figure it out.”