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Kevin Swindell back in Tulsa for Chili Bowl in new role as team owner

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The passion, will and body are all still there. But lingering recovery and rehabilitation make it impossible for Kevin Swindell to climb back into a race car just yet.

Even so, Swindell is back in Tulsa, Oklahoma this week for the 30th Chili Bowl Nationals. But this year, Swindell – who has placed in the top-2 each of the last six years – will not be racing, as he continues to recover from severe lower back and spinal cord injuries suffered in a sprint car race last August in a race at the Knoxville Nationals.

Despite his injuries and recovery, Swindell will be involved in this year’s race in a different capacity, that of team owner. He and partner Bernie Stuebgen have joined forces to campaign the No. 39 car, to be driven by Kevin Thomas Jr.

“I mean, it’s a lot of fun,” Swindell said in a press conference on Monday. “You definitely want to race after being on the podium those six years in row. It’s tough to not even be able to get into a car, but it’s fun to be a part of this however you can be.

“I definitely wanted to do everything I could to be as involved as I could. I was hoping I would heal enough to maybe jump in, but that didn’t happen quick enough. I’m just trying to enjoy it and maybe make somebody else get up there. If I can win as an owner, at least, would be fun.”

Added father Sammy Swindell, who has won the Chili Bowl a record 10 times, “It’s just something they put together and they got here with. It’s different for all of us, it’s a lot different for me, not being able to work with him on our car. I’m glad he could do it and hope he has a good time.”

The younger Swindell has gone through more than four months of physical therapy and rehabilitation to strengthen his back. He’s made great progress, but there’s still a significant journey ahead.

“It just depends on what heals,” he said. “I’ve got a lot back, but I haven’t got enough back yet to do it properly.”

Still, it’s clear by his words and actions that Swindell is itching to get back into a race car, even one that may have some modifications to make it easier on him.

“We’ve got the hand control stuff in my car over there right now,” he said. “But it probably wouldn’t be very good on my back yet if I jumped in and tried to race now.

“But we’ll see where I’m at a few months from now. And if I have to do it with my hands, I’ll try like hell to do it with my hands.”

Swindell has received a great deal of support from not only the sprint car and midget community, but racers of all types and in various series, as well as fans, have been very supportive.

That support has come in a number of ways, including cards, emails and financially to help with the monstrous medical bills Swindell has and will continue to incur.

“It’s huge,” Swindell said. “This whole community really is one big family. They always say it, but until something like this happens, you don’t really see it.

“It’s amazing, the outpouring of everything and stuff that still happens to this day. The therapy and stuff and amount I have to go through is going to take ungodly amounts of hospital bills, so everything has been a huge help and hopefully I’ll be walking around here next year.”

Swindell acknowledges that what happened to him at Knoxville was so far from the norm. Yet at the same time, he’s helping to lead a charge within the sprint and midget world to make cars even safer, particularly for lower back injuries.

“Over the years, they’ve worked a lot on not breaking our neck,” Swindell said. “Nobody really looked at breaking the bottom of your back.

“That was one of the softest crashes of my entire career and it just landed right. It’s kind of a freak deal and you haven’t really seen it at all, but it’s something we’re looking at real hard to try and eliminate and make sure nobody else has to go through us.”

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Power Rankings: Kevin Harvick reigns going into All-Star Race

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Kevin Harvick‘s dominance of his Cup competitors continues in this week’s NBC Sports power rankings, as the Stewart-Haas Racing driver is the unanimous No. 1 driver for the second week in a row.

That comes after Harvick placed fourth at Kentucky Speedway in a race won by rookie Cole Custer.

Fourteen drivers earned votes this week following a weekend of four NASCAR races, including two Xfinity Series events.

Here is this week’s top 10:

 1. Kevin Harvick (30 points): Fourth-place finish is his fourth consecutive top-five finish. Last week: First.

 2. Aric Almirola (22 points): While Almirola finished eighth, he led a career-best 128 laps, won Stage 1 and earned his sixth consecutive top-10 finish. Last Week: Second.

(Tie) 3. Cole Custer (19 points): Custer became the first rookie of the year candidate to win a Cup race since 2016 and the first 2020 rookie to score consecutive top fives with his win. Last week: Ninth.

(Tie) 3. Matt DiBenedetto (19 points): Earned his second top five of the year and his second top 10 in three races. DiBenedetto has earned points in the last eight stages. Last week: Unranked.

(Tie) 5. Brad Keselowski (16 points): His ninth-place finish was his 10th top 10 in the last 12 races, but he didn’t earn any applause from Jimmie Johnson after contact spun Johnson. Last week: Third.

(Tie) 5. Martin Truex Jr. (16 points): Runner-up finish marked his fifth top 10 in the last eight races. Last week: Unranked.

 7. Austin Cindric (12 points): The Xfinity driver dominated his series’ doubleheader in Kentucky and came away with his first oval track wins in NASCAR. Last Week: Unranked.

 8. Kurt Busch (8 points): Placed fifth for his first top five since the second Charlotte race in May. Last Week: Unranked.

 9. Denny Hamlin (7 points): Forgettable day at Kentucky. On to the All-Star race at Bristol. Last week: Fourth.

 10. Tyler Reddick (6 points): Placed 10th to earn his first consecutive top 10 of his Cup career. Last Week: Unranked

Others receiving votes: Chase Briscoe (3 points), Ryan Blaney (3 points), Christopher Bell (3 points), Sheldon Creed (1 point)

NASCAR video explains Choose Rule for All-Star Race at Bristol

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NASCAR detailed in its drivers meeting video how the Choose Rule will be used for restarts in Wednesday night’s NASCAR All-Star Race (8:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

The non-points race marks the first time Choose Rule — which allows drivers to determine what lane they restart — will be used in a NASCAR Cup event. Drivers have been vocal about trying the rule since May.

The Choose Rule will be used for restarts only. It will not be used for the start of the All-Star Race, which is being held for the first time at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The video states that drivers must be single file under caution when crossing the start/finish line at the time to choose their restart lane. The video states that a V shaped painted mark on the track will show where drivers must decide what lane they wish to restart.

To restart in the inside lane, drivers must have their right side tires on or below the painted line at the V shaped mark.

To restart in the outside lane, drivers must have their left side tires on or above the painted line at the V shaped mark on the track.

If in NASCAR’s discretion, a driver has not chosen a lane at the V shaped mark on the track, changes lanes, tires touch the painted box after the V shaped mark or impedes the process, that driver will have to restart at the tail end of the field in the longest line of cars.

Xfinity team owner fined for violating COVID-19 protocol at Kentucky

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NASCAR announced on Tuesday the first fine for a violation of its COVID-19 protocols.

Anthony Clements, owner of Jeremy Clements Racing, was fined $10,000 for violating section 12.8.1.b of the Member Conduct Guidelines and section 7.7.2.j Team Event Roster Guidelines in the rulebook.

Among the potential violations in Section 12.8.1.b is that a member can be fined $5,000-$25,000 for: “Failure to comply with NASCAR’s COVID-19 Event Protocol Guidelines and/or instructions from NASCAR including screenings, social distancing, compartmentalization, and use of required personal protective equipment, etc.”

Last week, NASCAR issued a memo to teams requesting them to address “complacency” regarding its COVID-19 mask policy.

Section 7.7.2.j says “If a team is not in compliance with the Team Event Roster Rules and guidelines, that team will be subject to a Penalty as outlined in Section 12 Violations and Disciplinary Action.”

NASCAR also issued a $5,000 fine to crew chief Dave Rogers for one unsecured lug nut on Riley Herbst‘s No. 18 Toyota.

NASCAR did not issue any penalties for Friday’s post-race fight between Noah Gragson and Harrison Burton.

Last Saturday, NASCAR announced L1 level penalties for three Truck Series teams that failed pre-race inspection.

Wednesday’s Bristol All-Star Race: Start time, lineup and more

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History will be made Wednesday night when NASCAR holds the All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway for the first time.

The night will be filled with many other firsts. Cars will have unique paint schemes centered around their sponsors. Drivers who automatically qualified for the All-Star race will have underglow lights on their cars. This will be the first national NASCAR event with the choose rule.

Here’s all you need to know ahead of Wednesday night’s event.

(All times are Eastern)

START: All-Star Open: Command to start engines is at 7:02 p.m. Green flag is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. All-Star Race: Command to start engines is at 8:56 p.m. Green flag is at 9:01 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage access health screening begins at Noon (teams are assigned specific times). All-Star Open: Driver introductions at 6:43 p.m. Drivers report to cars at 6:45 p.m. Invocation at 6:54 p.m. All-Star Race: Driver introductions at 8:35 p.m. Invocation at 8:47 p.m. National anthem at 8:49 p.m.

DISTANCES: All-Star Open: 85 laps around the half-mile track. All-Star Race: 140 laps.

SEGMENTS: All-Star Open: 35 laps / 35 laps / 15 laps. All-Star Race: 55 laps / 35 laps / 35 laps / 15 laps (only green-flag laps count in final segment)

CHOOSE RULE FOR ALL-STAR RACE: Competitors can choose which lane to restart. Rule is detailed here.

ADVANCING: The winners of each stage in the Open will advance to the All-Star Race. A fourth driver will advance through a fan vote.

TV/RADIO: FS1 will televise the race. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. Motor Racing Network’s radio coverage will begin at 6:30 p.m. and also can be heard at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the broadcast.

FORECAST: For the All-Star Open, wunderground.com forecasts partly cloudy skies, a high of 87 degrees and chance of rain at the start. For the All-Star Race, it forecasts a high of 81 degrees and no chance of rain.

LAST ALL-STAR RACE: Kyle Larson beat Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch to claim his All-Star Race win.

ALL-STAR OPEN STARTING LINEUP: Click here for NASCAR Open starting lineup

ALL-STAR RACE STARTING LINEUP: Click here for All-Star Lineup

Catch up on NBC Sports’ coverage:

Bump and Run: All-Star Race picks, surprising wins, and more

Cash App to sponsor Bubba Wallace in multi-year deal

Xfinity team owner fined for violating COVID-19 protocol at Kentucky

Cup playoff grid after Kentucky Speedway

Cup rookies shine going into All-Star Race

NASCAR in ‘good place’ with Harrison Burton, Noah Gragson after fight