NASCAR America Championship Roundtable: Debating driver code, playoffs

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NASCAR America on NBCSN will host a special Championship Roundtable at 7 p.m. ET tonight, putting myriad issues before NBC Sports analysts Jeff Burton, Ray Evernham, Steve Letarte and Kyle Petty.

For more than three hours on a set in Charlotte, N.C., the quartet addressed the hot topics in the Sprint Cup Series entering Sunday’s race at Phoenix International Raceway, where the field of four will be set for the championship finale Nov. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The panel will make its picks for the championship as well as sharing some personal memories (such as their first cars).

The discussion gets started at 7 p.m. on NBCSN and also is available via the NASCAR stream on NBC Sports. 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 plug in that information, you’ll have access to the stream. Click here at 7 pm ET to watch live via the stream.

A sneak preview of how some of the conversation went:

  • Will we see another driver make a move as Ryan Newman did on the last lap last year and knock aside a car for a point or position?

Burton: “They praised it (at Kansas). They said Joey Logano did the right thing. It was quintessential NASCAR. He wrecked the leader, and the head of NASCAR says that’s OK.”

Evernham: “Well, he wrecked the leader, but also the leader was blocking. Both guys have to have some responsibility in that accident.”

Burton: “But still, the head of NASCAR said it was quintessential NASCAR. That’s what he said. If you need to spin the leader out to take that spot, it’s OK. I think there is no rule. If you intentionally wreck a guy and you’re 10 laps down, (there’s a penalty), but if you’re second and wreck him, there’s no penalty coming from that.”

Petty: “There appears to be one set of rules if you’re a Chase driver, and one set if you’re not. What’s on the line right now is there’s only one winner. Everyone else is racing for points. What if you see the same thing that happened last year for 10th or 12th? How will they react after everything leading up to this? Everything is on the line for those seven guys. There’s a lot on the line because there are seven guys on that line. Some guys have to win, others can point their way.”

Burton: “What happened if Kevin Harvick has a problem and is two laps down and there’s a car in front of him that needs to go away? Then what does NASCAR do? It’s not for the lead. It could be for 25th. Then where is the line? This thing about, ‘The drivers know where the line is,’ I don’t think they do. I think your morality will be tested in certain situations.”

  • Is “quintessential racing” only for the lead or can you do it to advance yourself?

Petty: “There’s not a rule. I look at what Matt and Joey did at Kansas, that could have happened in the second race of the year, the 10th race, the 15th race of the year, but I think Brian France would look at it and say ‘quintessential NASCAR racing.’ We’ve seen guys lean on each other for a win (and) move a guy for a win. When we go to Martinsville and talk about a line, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that. I’ve been around a long time and to see a car that was laps down eliminate the leader of a race. I’ve never seen anything that blatant in my life. Ever. Not that many laps down that took out a leader. I saw Richard Petty and Bobby Allison go at it like you wouldn’t believe. I saw Cale (Yarborough) and (David) Pearson, and we can talk the history of (Dale) Earnhardt and Rusty (Wallace).

“The thing with Carl (Edwards) (wrecking Brad Keselowski at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March 2010) was the most blatant that I’d ever seen. NASCAR sat on their hands and didn’t do anything. That was an opportunity to do something, and they didn’t do anything. So here we end up years later, and it just keeps escalating and escalating and escalating. Somebody doesn’t step in and rein it back in, and they let it go, let it go. I look at Matt two ways. It was wrong. At the same time, NASCAR should have at some point in time reined someone in, we watched something happen that should never have happened. In that way, Matt Kenseth is a martyr to a lot of fans because people are applauding what he did because they’ve been told it’s quintessential NASCAR racing. Competitors believe the same thing. This accident is far more reaching and broader than what happened on the racetrack. It’s what competitors and fans believe is right or wrong. Is there a rip in the NASCAR fabric? What old fans and new fans believe are two totally different things. I talk about The King and how those guys raced, the one thing they never lost for each other was respect. They respected the equipment and the other people. There seems to be a lack of respect for each other on the racetrack sometimes on whether you help or hurt a guy. We’ve gone to a different place.”

Burton: “That’s the difference is NASCAR has stepped away from it. In the interest of the ‘Boys, have at it’ mantra, we’ll step away and let you guys handle it. And letting those guys handle it is OK until the line gets crossed. It’s from years of NASCAR wanting the action and excitement on the track and willing to float in this area here where there is no rule. Matt Kenseth knows it was wrong. But in the environment that’s been created because NASCAR wasn’t willing to step in, Matt Kenseth had a reasonable expectation that he was going to be in trouble, but he never considered he would be penalized that way. His penalty should have been no more than Jeff Gordon’s penalty unless NASCAR stepped in and said, ‘Look, it’s different.’ And they had time to step in and say it’s different, and they didn’t do it. So Matt Kenseth messed up, no question about it, but NASCAR messed up, too. This is a chance for the whole NASCAR community learning how to operate with this points structure. It’s never happened before, and it’s so much pressure.”

Petty: “Let’s go back in time. Richard Petty has this reputation of never getting upset. I can point out 15 drivers who say he has the longest finger in the world when he talks to you. When he got to the garage area, I can’t tell you how many times I’d follow him to another driver’s truck to talk to another driver. That’s the way it used to be done. Tweeting, texting, phone calls. BS. If I’ve got a problem with you, we should man up, sit down and talk about it. Forget social media.”

Letarte: “This isn’t Matt Kenseth against Joey Logano, it’s Roger Penske against Joe Gibbs. Matt Kenseth didn’t go into Martinsville saying I’m going to wreck Joey Logano, because if he did, he would have wrecked him the first time. Instead, Penske messes with the restarts. I heard the radio, ‘I got dumped by (Keselowski).’ So my point is there’s this big pile of dry hay, and instead of the crew chief or the team or the spotter trying to put water on it, they’re over here striking matches instead of trying to put a little water on it. No one, top to bottom, in the organization tried to defuse it at all.”

Petty: “If you talk to NASCAR, they cited video of (Kenseth’s) team high-fiving each other, which meant it was the whole organization that felt like they had been wronged, not just the driver.”

Burton: “That culture has been created by the culture of ‘Boys, have at it.’ I agree 100 percent. Someone should have stepped in and said, ‘Look Matt, you have a long career. These things have a way of washing themselves out. Chill out, be cool.’ No question that should have happened. But if you lay the scenario out of here’s what is going to happen two months ago, what’s the penalty going to be? You think anyone would have said a two-race suspension? Nobody. That feeds the culture. If people knew – crew members, team owners, sponsors – that NASCAR isn’t going to tolerate this, it would have never happened.”

  • Can you explain what a driver code is?

Burton: “There is a driver code. If there are 43 drivers, there are 43 codes. I’ve been part of the group for years, and I have yet to find a book that says here’s the way you behave. Everybody drives the way they think is appropriate. Some drivers are more willing to push buttons than others. What one guy thinks is perfectly acceptable, the other guy thinks is way out of bounds. I’ve heard a lot the last several weeks about this driver code, but the fact of the matter is everyone looks at it differently. If you sat 30 drivers in here, you’d have 30 opinions. I don’t buy this driver code thing.”

Petty: “It’s so abstract. Everyone has their own way. Part of your code comes from your parents, your grandparents, how you were raised. It’s parallel to what your moral code is. What are you willing to do for something? But it’s a different time, too. … The (veterans) taught you how to race. The Allisons learned from Ned (Jarrett) and Lee Petty. It was passed on. You got to the sport later in life, in your mid- to late-20s. You’d spent time running with guys who taught you. Now we’ve got kids coming out of simulators straight into a Cup car. Where is that code? Where is that learning period? That time? If I don’t spend a lot of time understanding what real racing is, if I’m just iRacing, how do I learn to race? They learn a different route than the way I came. We’re at a place where we have two different roads that get us to the same place, so the code can’t be the same for everybody.”

Burton: “Multi-car teams have completely changed how young drivers came into the sport. I had to reach out to Mark Martin and Davey Allison. You don’t have to do that today. As long as you have teammates, you have someone to talk to, you have information coming, you have probably way more information than my generation ever had. So you don’t need other people in the garage. Part of what has changed from a philosophy standpoint is when a young guy used to come in, you couldn’t piss the older guys off. They had to respect you. Today, you just have to have your buddies. As long as your team says, ‘Hey, we’re going to help him,’ you don’t need the other guys. That really matters.”

Evernham: “In some ways, you want to see drivers stick up for themselves. But I’m from the old school. I want to see a driver stick up for himself by walking down there and punching that guy in the nose, don’t wreck my race car because guys work too hard on that and it’s too expensive. I think part of the problem is race cars have become so expendable. Cars used to mean something to people. We named our cars. There’s a lot of work and time; they weren’t built on an assembly line. I’m a fan of a driver sticking up for what he feels is right and needs to set that example to the group. I’m not a fan at all of using a race car to get it done. To tear up a car or use cars to settle the score, I’ve never been fan of it.”

Letarte: “I’m from the new school in that cars have no identity to me. None. If Jeff Burton was my driver and went out and tore the right side off the car proving a point to somebody, I would support him. It doesn’t make it right, but I’m from a different generation than Ray. The way these cars are built, templated and inspected. If we win a race and don’t hit anything, the first thing we do is come home and cut the car completely apart. If my driver tears up my car while trying to race or putting a bumper to somebody, I’m OK with that. … It really comes down to the car isn’t the point, it’s the racing code that does or doesn’t exist.”

Petty: “Talking to Donnie Allison, Richard Petty and those old guys, they condemn (Kenseth’s wreck of Logano at) Martinsville. They all thought (Kansas) was straight-up racing. That’s the old guys. You think Donnie Allison or Richard Petty knows what quintessential means? That is racing. They look at it as racing and the proverbial catch-all phrase: One of those racing deals.”

Letarte: “The issue I have with what Matt Kenseth did is after he was out of contention for the win, he then chose to change the outcome of the race. I have no problem that he wrecked Joey Logano. The problem is Joey Logano didn’t wreck Matt Kenseth saying, ‘I’m going to wreck Matt Kenseth.’ Joey Logano said, ‘I’m going to stand my ground. He’s going to come down, I’m going to give the bumper because I’m going to win the race.”

Burton: “And don’t forget for the entire Joey Logano career, there were people (telling him) ‘Go take care of yourself. You need to learn how to defend yourself.’ Part of the driver code book, somewhere in some chapter, it says if you have an altercation and you came out the winner, you might want to take a little bit of time, even to disagree, to look Matt Kenseth in the eye and say, ‘Look, dude, here’s the way I see it. You blocked me. I felt I had the position. You took it from me.’ Just have a conversation. You could leave there swinging at each other.”

  • Is this new format a good way to decide the champion and how has it changed NASCAR?

Letarte: “The biggest issue I have with the Chase is this: I’m fine with 10 weeks. I’m fine eliminating some of the field. I just don’t like that a sport that has such a huge variety of playing fields has the same 10 (tracks) in the playoffs. I think Jimmie Johnson hand-picked them. I’m not taking anything away from Jimmie. So then, this might still be called the Chase, but this is nothing like the 10-race Chase. This is truly a bracket playoff system.”

Burton: “This is what NASCAR wanted from Day 1. I believe the original Chase, they wanted it to look like this, but it was just too radical that they stepped into it. They made the radical change and then the next change. This is the format they wanted from Day 1. I love the NCAA and NFL playoffs because you win or go home. It creates a tremendous amount of pressure for the teams, but it makes it fun to watch. I like the intensity. I like that you have to perform every single week. I don’t think I’d have been successful with it. This didn’t suit who I was as a driver. I like it. It’s completely changed the sport.”

Petty: “It’s made the sport different. I’m not going to say better. The emphasis on winning in this format is there and greater. But I always kind of fluff that off because I think the emphasis was great on every race you went to; I thought that was the whole point you went to the racetrack was to win races. When they say we’re going to make winning important, where have I been all these years? I thought it was important. I agree with Jeff that this is where they wanted to be. This is a huge departure from the old way. Think about how fans would have reacted if he went from that to this.

“The one thing I don’t enjoy about this system — I enjoy the competition, and the intensity – to me, it’s a sports game of survival. Sometimes the strong teams get eliminated. I hate to see a full season, and right now, arguably with Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano and Brad K., you’ve got four or five of the strongest teams in the sport that might not have a shot at a championship. That’s the piece of it that I don’t like. It’s not unfair. I just don’t like the way it plays out sometimes.”

Burton: “All those teams are really good teams. Under the format 15 years ago, only two or three of them would still be eligible for the championship, at the most.”

Evernham: “It’s what sports have evolved to, and even though it’s not football, we compete against football, basketball and those other sports. This is compelling to our audience. Generations of fans have changed, too. This is exciting to them. The traditionalist in myself doesn’t really like it. I think, ‘Oh, I want to see the guys who have been strong all year, he deserves to be champion.’ But under this format, it doesn’t always happen. It’s interesting. I get more emotionally involved in the race watching it under this format than any other time. I’ve got that heart rate up again because of this format.”

NASCAR teams say ‘broken’ economic model needs to be fixed

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Cup team executives say they need additional revenue streams to fix a “broken” business model and said NASCAR recently rejected their seven-point proposal that would have addressed those concerns.

“We’re very far apart,” Jeff Gordon, vice chairman of Hendrick Motorsports, said of the teams and NASCAR.

Gordon is one of four members of the negotiating committee for teams. They spoke with select media members for more than 90 minutes Friday to share their concerns. Gordon was joined by Curtis Polk, an investor in 23XI Racing and Michael Jordan’s longtime business manager, Joe Gibbs Racing President Dave Alpern and RFK Racing President Steve Newmark.

“The economic model is really broken for teams,” Polk said.

Polk declined to say what the proposal to NASCAR included, but he said that all Cup organizations need help.

“The sustainability of the teams in this sport is not very long-term unless we have a fundamental change in the (business) model,” he said. 

Gordon stated that Hendrick Motorsports, which has won the past two Cup championships, will not make a profit this season. He also said that it had been “awhile” since the organization had done so.  

“Where we’re currently at is not sustainable,” Gordon said. 

Newmark said the feedback from the majority of the 16 teams that own the 36 charters in Cup is that “they continue to lose money in this economic model.”

NASCAR issued a statement Friday afternoon in response to the concerns stated by the team executives: “NASCAR acknowledges the challenges currently facing race teams. A key focus moving forward is an extension to the Charter agreement, one that will further increase revenue and help lower team expenses. Collectively, the goal is a strong, healthy sport, and we will accomplish that together.”

Unlike other sports leagues, which receive numerous revenue streams from leagues, NASCAR is built differently.

The sport is owned by the family of founder Bill France Sr. The France family also owns a majority of the tracks. Speedway Motorsports also owns a collection of tracks, while a few are independent. 

Polk said that the group’s calculations showed that 93% of the sport’s value resides with NASCAR and the tracks. The remaining 7% is with teams.

“There’s not a sport that I know of where the inequity is so severe,” Polk said. 

He also said that the sport is a “money-printing machine, but the teams put on the show. The teams are the content. The drivers, the team owners and the cars are what fans turn on for every week and what the media companies pay the big money.”

NASCAR, tracks and teams share TV revenue — a 10-year deal estimated at $8.2 billion that will end after the 2024 season. 

For each race, 65% of the TV money goes to the tracks, 25% goes to teams and 10% goes to NASCAR.

After Dover Motorsports was sold to Speedway Motorsports in 2021, it provided financial projections for 2021-2024 for Dover Motor Speedway and Nashville Superspeedway.

The estimated revenue from broadcasting rights for one race at Dover and one at Nashville in 2021 was $37 million. That’s after NASCAR takes its 10%. With NASCAR’s cut included, that is $40.7 million total.

Dover Motorsports financial report filed in December 2021 showing estimated totals for 2021 and projected totals for 2022-24 for Dover Motor Speedway and Nashville Superspeedway.

The approximate breakdown of that $40.7 million would be $26.45 million to the tracks, $10.55 million to teams and $3.7 million to NASCAR based on the model of 65% to tracks, 25% to teams and 10% to NASCAR for those two events (one at Dover and one at Nashville). 

None of the negotiating committee members cited a specific percent of the TV money wanted but talked of a better revenue stream model.

With teams getting a smaller percentage of the TV money, they have to rely on sponsorship to cover costs.

Newmark said that sponsorship makes up about 60-80% of a team’s overall revenue. He noted how that is out of line with other sports. 

The Fenway Sports Group, which is a co-owner of RFK Racing, also owns the Boston Red Sox in Major League Baseball, the Pittsburgh Penguins in the National Hockey League and Liverpool Football Club in the English Premier League.

Newmark noted that in Major League Baseball, 8-12% of a team’s overall revenue comes from sponsorship. In the NHL, that figure is 17-18% and for the Premier League it is closer to 26-27%.

All those totals are significantly lower than the NASCAR model. The impact of sponsorship on teams was evident this year with Joe Gibbs Racing losing Kyle Busch after this season.

Kyle Busch
With Mars, Inc., which owns M&M’s leaving after this season, Joe Gibbs Racing was unable to find a sponsor to keep Kyle Busch after this season. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Long-time sponsor Mars, Inc. announced last December that it would not return to the team or sport after this season. That began a search by JGR for a company that could invest an estimated $20 million into the No. 18 team and Busch. 

After a deal with another company fell through earlier this year, Gibbs was left without a sponsor and unable to sign Busch — the only active multi-time champion in the sport — to a new contract.

The end result is that Busch and JGR will part ways after this season in one of the biggest driver moves in years.

“There is no other pro sport where the signing of your top athlete is completely dependent on the decision of someone at a brand,” Alpern said. “Imagine if Aaron Rodgers of the (Green Bay) Packers had a contract held up because the stadium sponsor hadn’t made their decision on what they’re doing.

“That’s what we’re faced with as race teams. And, if I’m honest, we’ve almost become full-time fundraisers. We spend the majority of our time raising money, not to make money (but) to survive.”

23XI Racing came into the sport after financial problems for another team. Germain Racing was going to lose sponsor GEICO after the 2020 season. Unable to find a sponsor to take over, the team shut down, selling its charter to 23XI Racing. That provided the charter for Bubba Wallace in the team’s first season. 

Germain Racing
GEICO’s decision to leave Germain Racing led to the team shutting down and selling its charter to 23XI Racing. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

23XI Racing purchased a second charter in December 2021, paying $13.5 million for StarCom Racing’s charter, making it the most expensive charter purchased. 

Charters were created before the 2016 season to give teams value after seeing so many teams close shop and sell parts and pieces for significantly reduced prices. While talk in the garage is that charter prices are nearing $25 million with so few looking to sell, it is still a small value when compared to other sports leagues. The current charter deal expires after the 2024 season. 

While not a direct comparison, the value of a NASCAR team is well below other sports teams. In 2021, Forbes ranked all 32 NHL franchises in value. Ranking last was the Arizona Coyotes, which had a value of $400 million.

Polk sees where NASCAR team valuation is at and where it can be. He said the maxim is “all well-managed teams should be able to compete for a Cup championship and make a reasonable profit.”

As for “reasonable profit,” Polk said: “We’re not looking to make two, three, four times our money in a given year but if we can squeak out a little bit of a profit after paying all of our overhead, I think everybody will be happy.

“When you have a model like that, it will attract investors, like myself and Michael Jordan.”

The teams say they keep hearing from NASCAR to cut costs but suggest that they have done so. Additional cuts could impact what fans see on the track.

Polk said that with the proposal from teams rejected, they received a proposal from NASCAR “with a minimal increase in revenue.

“The emphasis was on cutting costs dramatically. With the Next Gen car, the costs of the car are somewhat fixed. So what would that lead to? It would lead to massive layoffs at our teams.”

Alpern raised an issue with the notion of additional cuts.

“When it comes to cost-cutting, one of the things that’s kind of surprising in our sport is that when any of the other stakeholders spend money on something, an upgrade, signing someone from another league, it’s viewed as an investment within the sport. 

“But when teams spend money, it’s we’re reckless and you need to cut. We’re investing in our business as well, whether it’s people, our facilities, we’re all trying to grow the sport and the answer to everything is not cut costs. I don’t know of another sports league or business, for that matter, who came to prosperity through cutting.”

Friday 5: NASCAR President says ‘We care’ about driver safety

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NASCAR President Steve Phelps says that he will tell drivers this weekend that “we care” about them and safety.

Phelps and other series officials are scheduled to meet with drivers Saturday morning to discuss safety measures with the Next Gen car.

Three drivers will miss Sunday’s Cup playoff race at the Charlotte Roval because of crash-related injuries. 

It is believed to be the first time in more than 20 years that three full-time Cup drivers will sit out the same race because of injuries suffered in on-track accidents.

Kurt Busch will miss his 12th consecutive race Sunday. Concussion-like symptoms have sidelined him since a July 23 crash in qualifying at Pocono Raceway. He said recently that he is “hopeful” of returning but didn’t have a timeline. Five races remain in the season.

Alex Bowman will miss his second consecutive race because of continued concussion symptoms after his Sept. 25 crash at Texas Motor Speedway.

Cody Ware is sitting out Sunday’s race while he recovers from an impaction fracture to his right ankle suffered in a Sept. 25 crash at Texas. Ware stated this week on social media that given the “extensive footwork required for a road course event, I don’t feel I’m able to give 100% effort to my team, my sponsors or to Ford.” He plans to be back in the the car the following week at Las Vegas.

Drivers says that the impacts they are feeling this year are harder with the Next Gen car. Busch and Bowman were injured in rear-end impacts.

The car was strengthened to help protect drivers in severe crashes, such as Ryan Newman’s 2020 Daytona 500 crash and Joey Logano’s 2021 Talladega accident. In making the car safer for those types of crashes, it’s made the impacts feel harder in more common crashes. 

Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin have been the most outspoken among drivers about NASCAR’s safety efforts. 

Hamlin questioned NASCAR’s leadership and called for the car to be redesigned last weekend at Talladega. Phelps met with Hamlin a day later.

“Denny and I have a good relationship,” Phelps told NBC Sports and The Associated Press on Wednesday. “We do. He says things that sometimes I disagree with. I’m sure there’s things I say that he disagrees with. 

“I probably would have gone with a different approach, understanding kind of what he knows what’s going on in the process. I’m certainly glad we had a discussion. I gave him my opinion. He gave me his. I thought there was a healthy discussion.”

More drivers began raising concerns last week about safety concerns with the car, including Chase Elliott.

“We need to make sure that we are doing everything we can to make our drivers feel safe in the vehicles and have them understand that we certainly care about their safety because we do,” Phelps said. 

“We’re working on things with our own people internally, our race teams, (manufacturers) and drivers to make sure that we have a plan in place moving forward so that — I don’t know that it’s gaining the trust — but doing better. 

“Our goal is to be the safest motorsports on the planet … that’s what we’re aspiring to do.”

NASCAR conducted a crash test of a rear clip and rear bumper structure at an Ohio facility this week. Series officials are also examining elements with the headrest foam and working with Wake Forest University to test mouthpiece sensors that track a driver’s head movements in a crash. 

Jeff Burton, director of the Drivers Advisory Council and an analyst for NBC Sports, says he’s had regular communication with NASCAR on behalf of the drivers.

“We feel like we have cooperation with NASCAR,” Burton said last week at Talladega in regards to safety issues. “We know the commitments from NASCAR. They’ve made real commitments to us. We want to see those commitments through. I believe that we will in regards to changes to the car.”

As for his message to drivers in Saturday’s meeting, Phelps said he would tell them: “We’re going to do our best to make sure that when you strap in that car, you feel safe.”

2. “Ridiculous statement”

NASCAR suspended crew chief Rodney Childers four races and penalized Kevin Harvick 100 points for modifications to a deck lid this week.

The penalties were discovered at NASCAR’s R&D Center. Series officials typically take a couple of cars back from most events to the R&D Center. More complete inspections can be done there than at the track.

NASCAR took the cars of Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. after last weekend’s race at Talladega. Truex’s car had no issues.

There are some who would suggest that NASCAR was getting back at Harvick for recent critical comments of NASCAR’s safety efforts. 

NASCAR President Steve Phelps’ response to that notion?

“I would say it’s ridiculous,” he said. “No one has a vendetta against Kevin Harvick or Rodney Childers at all. Or Stewart-Haas Racing. That’s a ridiculous statement.”

As for the inspection process, Phelps said: “Our (officials) are going to look at it, look at it again, look at it a third time to make sure that if there is a penalty given, that penalty is right. If the No. 4 team thinks that is not right, they will file an appeal and we’ll go through the appeal process.”

Stewart-Haas Racing announced Friday morning that it is appealing the penalty to Harvick and his team. However, Childers will sit out this weekend’s race at the Charlotte Roval. That way, regardless of the outcome, he will be able to return for the season finale at Phoenix. 

3. Report card

During a panel discussion at the Women in Motorsports seminar this week at Charlotte Motor Speedway, NASCAR President Steve Phelps said that The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport provided a racial and gender report card for NASCAR, its teams and the industry for the first time. 

The NBA, NFL, WNBA, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer also have had reports done on their leagues and had the results made public. 

The report looks at the race and gender of athletes and front office personnel in those sports. Some reports examine the race and gender of officials and even broadcasters.

Phelps said that he would not disclose the results for NASCAR.

“We are doing some terrific work,” Phelps said during the panel discussion.

Phelps noted that the grades “are not going to be what they should be, but you need to face it. … We’re going to do better. One thing I will say is that the programs that we have put in place over the last few years have gotten an A.”

Asked by NBC Sports about the report, Phelps said: “It validated where I thought we were, which is why I want to keep it quiet. We’re actually doing really good work. … Hiring people of color, hiring women, promoting people of color, promoting women.

“I don’t want to lose that momentum to where our Diversity Industry Council is like, ‘Wait, wait, you said you’re doing all these things but it’s not working.’ 

“It’s going to take time. It’s not a snap your fingers (and it’s all done). Proud of the programs we’re doing.”

Thursday, NASCAR announced that 13 drivers have been invited to the Drive for Diversity combine. The program was created in 2004 to develop and train ethnically diverse and female drivers both on and off the track.

4. Change of strategy  

An appeal panel rescinding the 25-point penalty to William Byron moves him back into a transfer spot heading into Sunday’s elimination race at the Charlotte Roval (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Chase Briscoe drops out of the final transfer spot and is tied with Austin Cindric, 12 points behind the cutline. Daniel Suarez holds the final transfer spot.

Cindric said Thursday — before Byron’s penalty was amended — that what happened to Byron would impact how he races.

“It completely changes how our race looks this weekend, how our race strategy looks, what our priorities are,” Cindric said on if Byron got his points back.

“Even if (the points) get returned, we’re still in a reasonably good spot to think we could still point our way in. It’s not a must-win for us either way, but I think it definitely changes the race strategy for us.”

Cindric explained how the strategy could change with Byron moving back into a transfer spot.

“You probably have to take higher risk to get points … or take a higher risk to just go after the race win,” he said. 

5. Appeal Panel’s changes 

William Byron’s penalty marked the fourth time this year the National Motorsports Appeals Panel or Final Appeals Officer has amended or rescinded a penalty by NASCAR.

In January, the Final Appeals Officer rescinded a $50,000 fine and six-week suspension to Ryan Bell, crew chief for Mike Harmon Racing. The team and Bell had been penalized when Harmon used one of his team’s Xfinity cars for a charity event at Rockingham Speedway. 

Roger Werner, the National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer, wrote in his decision that “the decision of the National Motorsports Appeals Panel, upholding the original penalty that was issued by NASCAR, was incorrect in light of the NASCAR rulebook modification made on January 24, 2022.”

In May, the National Motorsports Appeals Panel overturned a disqualification to Matt Crafton following his fifth-place finish in the Camping World Truck Series race at Darlington.

Crafton’s truck was disqualified after NASCAR deemed the vehicle was too low in the front. The panel determined “the Appellants did not violate the Rule(s) set forth in the Penalty Notice.”

Crafton’s fifth-place finish was reinstated. No other reason from the panel was given. The panel consisted of Dixon Johnston, Tom DeLoach and Hunter Nickell. 

In September, NASCAR penalized Jeremy Clements for an intake manifold violation after his win at Daytona. NASCAR’s penalty did not allow the win to count toward playoff eligibility. 

Clements and his team took the engine to the NASCAR R&D Center to be inspected but left the intake manifold on, which was not required to be a part of the inspection. 

Clements and his team noted to the panel that they shouldn’t have been penalized for a part that was not inspected on other engines. The panel agreed and rescinded the penalty, allowing the win to count toward playoff eligibility. The panel consisted of Richard Gore, DeLoach and Johnston. 

Then came Thursday’s decision by the National Motorsports Appeals Panel to rescind the 25-point penalty to Byron for spinning Denny Hamlin at Texas. 

The panel did not state why it eliminated the point penalty but increased Byron’s fine from $50,000 to $100,000. The panel consisted of Dale Pinilis, Kevin Whitaker and Nickell.

Appeal panel gives William Byron his 25 points back

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William Byron is back in a transfer spot after the National Motorsports Appeals Panel rescinded his 25-point penalty Thursday for spinning Denny Hamlin at Texas.

By getting those 25 points back, Byron enters Sunday’s elimination playoff race at the Charlotte Roval (2 p.m. ET on NBC) 14 points above the cutline.

Daniel Suarez is now in the final transfer spot to the Round of 8. He is 12 points ahead of Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric. Christopher Bell is 45 points behind Suarez. Alex Bowman will not race this week as he continues to recover from concussion symptoms and has been eliminated from Cup title contention.

NASCAR did not penalize Byron after his incident with Hamlin because series officials did not see the contact. Two days later, NASCAR penalized Byron 25 points and fined him $50,000 for intentionally wrecking Hamlin.

The National Motorsports Appeals Panel stated that Byron violated the rule but amended the penalty to no loss of driver and owner points while increasing the fine to $100,000.

The panel did not give a reason for its decision. NASCAR cannot appeal the panel’s decision.

The panel consisted of Hunter Nickell, a former TV executive, Dale Pinilis, track operator of Bowman Gray Stadium and Kevin Whitaker, owner of Greenville-Pickens Speedway.

Here is the updated standings heading into Sunday’s race at the Roval:

Byron’s actions took place after the caution waved at Lap 269 for Martin Truex Jr.’s crash. As Hamlin slowed, Byron closed and hit him in the rear. 

Byron admitted after the race that the contact was intentional, although he didn’t mean to wreck Hamlin. Byron was upset with how Hamlin raced him on Lap 262. Byron felt Hamlin forced him into the wall as they exited Turn 2 side-by-side. Byron expressed his displeasure during the caution.

“I felt like he ran me out of race track off of (Turn) 2 and had really hard contact with the wall,” Byron said. “Felt like the toe link was definitely bent, luckily not fully broken. We were able to continue.

“A lot of times that kind of damage is going to ruin your race, especially that hard. I totally understand running somebody close and making a little bit of contact, but that was pretty massive.”

On the retaliatory hit, Byron said: “I didn’t mean to spin him out. That definitely wasn’t what I intended to do. I meant to bump him a little bit and show my displeasure and unfortunately, it happened the way it did. Obviously, when he was spinning out, I was like ‘I didn’t mean to do this,’ but I was definitely frustrated.”

Drivers for Drive for Diversity combine revealed

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The 13 drivers who will participate in the Advance Auto Part Drive for Diversity Combine were revealed Thursday and range in age from 13-19.

The NASCAR Drive for Diversity Development Program was created in 2004 to develop and train ethnically diverse and female drivers both on and off the track. Cup drivers Bubba Wallace, Daniel Suarez and Kyle Larson came through the program.

The 2020 and 2021 combines were canceled due to the impact of COVID-19.

“We are thrilled that we are in a position to return to an in-person evaluation for this year’s Advance Auto Parts Drive for Diversity Combine,” Rev Racing CEO Max Seigel said in a statement. “We are energized by the high-level of participating athletes and look forward to building the best driver class for 2023. As an organization, we have never been more positioned for success and future growth.”

The youngest drivers are Quinn Davis and Nathan Lyons, who are both 13 years old.

The group includes 17-year-old Andrés Pérez de Lara, who finished seventh in his ARCA Menards Series debut in the Sept. 15 race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Also among those invited to the combine is 15-year old Katie Hettinger, who will make her ARCA Menards Series West debut Oct.. 14 at the Las Vegas Bullring. She’s also scheduled to compete in the ARCA West season finale Nov. 4 at Phoenix Raceway.

 

 

Name

Age Hometown
Justin Campbell 17 Griffin, Georgia
Quinn Davis 13 Sparta, Tennessee
Eloy Sebastián

López Falcón

17 Mexico City, Mexico
Katie Hettinger 15 Dryden, MI
Caleb Johnson 15 Denver, CO
Nathan Lyons 13 Concord, NC
Andrés Pérez de Lara 17 Mexico City, Mexico
Jaiden Reyna 16 Cornelius, NC
Jordon Riddick 17 Sellersburg, IN
Paige Rogers 19 New Haven, IN
Lavar Scott 19 Carney’s Point, NJ
Regina Sirvent 19 Mexico City, Mexico
Lucas Vera 15 Charlotte, NC