NASCAR changes inspection schedules based on teams’ feedback

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CHARLOTTE – NASCAR will experiment with shorter garage hours but longer inspection periods this season as it tries to give Sprint Cup teams relief on efficiency, expenses and quality of life.

Though the schedule will remain virtually the same at Daytona International Speedway, Sprint Cup director Richard Buck said there will be changes the rest of the season. The initial inspection of a race weekend after the NASCAR garage opens is expected to be shortened from five hours to three, and there will be more time built into the inspection between the end of practice and start of qualifying.

Last year, prequalifying inspection often turned into a major scramble as teams struggled to pass the laser inspection station. NASCAR changed some procedures after 13 cars missed qualifying at Atlanta Motor Speedway because of inspection problems.

Buck said new methods (mostly involving the use of Microsoft Surface tablets) will make the inspection process more efficient with a goal of also allowing teams to spend less time getting cars ready on Sunday race mornings.

Trying to reduce the 12-hour shifts that have become commonplace in the garage is in response to teams that have asked for shorter days in hopes of giving crew members more rest and perhaps saving money by arriving later at the track.

“We worked really hard with the schedules to be able to tailor and tweak on the schedules to try to help understand the teams’ travel, so they can have some economics to it (and) quality of life,” Buck said last week during the preseason Media Tour. “So we’ve been able to employ some of the new methods we have with the Microsoft Surface and some of the time management and some of that stuff behind the scenes, using technology to make the inspections more efficient.

“Daytona will look relatively the same just because of the amount of equipment and the events we have going on surrounding it. The schedule is very similar. But going forward, we’ll start the season with a different window.”

The news of potentially fewer garage hours for team members was well-received by veteran Denny Hamlin.

Buck also addressed some other changes and topics related to officiating:

–For Speedweeks at Daytona, there will be a minor reduction in the size of the restrictor-plate holes, which will decrease by 1/64th of an inch to 57/64ths.

–After doubling the restart zone for many of the races in last season’s playoffs, the expanded box will continue to be used this season, along with additional cameras and a senior official monitoring restarts from the pits.

“We were pretty pleased toward the last part of the year with the restart zones and checking with the drivers,” Buck said. “They felt it got to a point where it was a level playing field for everybody. We felt that we could officiate it accurately at that point by adding the extra resources and restart zones. We decided where we ended up is a good place to start 2016.”

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

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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.”