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Former NASCAR executive Robin Pemberton sheds light on why some decisions were made

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Although he’s no longer at NASCAR, Robin Pemberton isn’t retired and said Tuesday night on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio “I’m not done by any means.’’

Pemberton, who spent 11 years with NASCAR before leaving after last season as senior vice president of competition and racing development, spent 90 minutes on the “Late Shift” with co-hosts Brad Gillie and Kenny Wallace. Pemberton shared insights into how NASCAR does things and stories from a career that spans 37 years in various roles from mechanic to crew chief to series executive.

Pemberton said he’s joined his son, Bray, who has started a consulting business in the sport, but Pemberton said he’s also looking to do more.

Before joining NASCAR in Aug. 2004, Pemberton worked on teams with such drivers as Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin and Kyle Petty. Pemberton scored 26 wins in 17 seasons as a crew chief.

He revealed Tuesday that he had planned more than a year ago to make last year his final year with the sanctioning body, deciding a change was needed after more than a decade in one place.

While there, Pemberton was in the middle of many key decisions from the Chase to the cars to various rule changes. He shed some light on some of those decisions.

Although the elimination format in the Chase debuted in 2014, Pemberton noted that it was not a new topic in NASCAR, saying “there was a lot of talk for years prior to that” about such a concept.

He also shared a reason why NASCAR went to fuel injection in 2012 in place of carburetors.

“It was a time a number of years ago, there were some different meetings going on and it was about technology and it was about the potential of new manufacturers coming in, which happens all the time,’’ he told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Some of the feedback was ‘Your engines are antiques. There’s no fuel injection.’ So, we got kind of slapped around that there wasn’t enough technology from what people viewed NASCAR.

“You and I both know,’’ Pemberton told Wallace, “that there was a lot of technology in those engines. It just didn’t have the fuel injection and the computer running everything. That was the first tap on the shoulder. Yeah, we need to step up a little bit and get some fuel injection.’’

Another key move made while Pemberton was at NASCAR was the series moving to what was then called the Car of Tomorrow, which debuted in March 2007 and featured a rear wing.

The rear wing was not well received and series officials eventually replaced the wing with a spoiler.

“We were getting a lot of static on the wing,’’ Pemberton said. “The wing is very efficient. It’s the way to go. It’s low drag. It makes a lot of downforce. It was right for one application, but so many people said that stock cars are not winged cars, stock cars are spoilers.

“Best I can remember, we got a lot of static about it. I’m thinking we turned that thing around in six months from doing all the runs in the wind tunnel.

“When a car turned around and got airborne, these cars can get airborne. The thing that we did learn is that the wing was efficient and didn’t develop a lot of drag, so when the car turned around, it never slowed down. With a spoiler … you can feel that thing start to grind to a halt, it’s a lot of drag, it’s a big parachute hanging out when you start to spin. The wing wasn’t necessarily causing it to fly, it just wasn’t slowing the car down when the car got out of shape and turned around.’’

Pemberton also discussed how NASCAR reviews potential infractions in the control tower during races.

“There’s a tremendous replay system in the tower that is NASCAR’s only,’’ Pemberton said. “Every camera is up on a display and you review and look at different things. It really helps you try to improve your calls. It has minimized some of the potential bad calls at times.’’

Pemberton noted how cameras played a key role in NASCAR deciding to penalize Jimmie Johnson’s team in last year’s season finale in Miami and what happened after that.

NASCAR ordered Johnson to pit to fix a body panel issue after the jackman leaned into quarter panel to push it in to give it an aerodynamic advantage.

“I think when you look back at the penalty on (Johnson’s team) at Homestead when they caved the body in during a pit stop, that was something we saw from an in-car camera or something else on pit road,’’ Pemberton told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Our liaison told NBC what happened and they found the footage themselves and Steve Letarte was able to explain it (on NBC’s broadcast). That’s what you need. Fans want proof. You have to do everything you can to help educate them of the calls.’’

Brandon Brown hopes to shed underdog role in Xfinity playoffs

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Brandon Brown knows the odds are against him advancing beyond the first round of the Xfinity playoffs.

“If I went out and we did a survey and we asked 1,000 NASCAR fans to create a playoff bracket, I guarantee that 90 to 99 percent of them have me getting eliminated in the first round,” he told NBC Sports.

But that’s not stopping him.

Brown is in the Xfinity playoffs for the first time, earning the final spot last weekend with his family-run team. He enters Saturday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) last in the 12-driver field. Brown has 2,000 points and is 10 points behind Ross Chastain, who holds the final transfer spot, entering the first round.

MORE: Saturday’s Xfinity race start time, lineup, forecast

Regardless where he is in the standings, Brown still met the team’s preseason goal of making the playoffs.

“It’s hard to put it into words,” the 27-year-old said of making the playoffs. “It’s so exciting and so thrilling. We’re just happy. Life is good. We’re seeing the fruits of our labor.”

Much of the Xfinity playoff focus will be on Chase Briscoe, who enters with a series-high seven wins. Or Austin Cindric, who won the regular-season title. Or Justin Allgaier, who has won three of the last seven races and could be the favorite if he makes it to the championship race at Phoenix Raceway.

Brown, who is in his second full season in the series, has four consecutive top-20 finishes going into this weekend. He knows the challenge he faces.

He said a key for this weekend is to have no mistakes, be running at the end and try to take advantage of any mistakes other playoff drivers have.

Then, he’ll look to Talladega. He’ll have an upgraded Earnhardt Childress Racing engine for that race, the team spending the extra money for the engine upgrade.

“I go into that track with confidence,” he said. “I need to go out there and make it happen, go win and make an name and go ahead and punch my ticket.”

While Brown knows most look at him as the underdog of these playoffs, he hopes to drop that title someday.

“The goal will be to get rid of that underdog title and to build that program that is going to be looked on as a powerhouse of the NASCAR Xfinity Series,” he said. “I enjoy the ride (as underdog), but now I’m ready to advance past it.”

Points entering Xfinity playoffs 

2,050 – Chase Briscoe

2,050 – Austin Cindric

2,033 – Justin Allgaier

2,025 – Noah Gragson

2,020 – Brandon Jones

2,018 – Justin Haley

2,014 – Harrison Burton

2,010 – Ross Chastain

2,002 – Ryan Sieg

2,002 – Michael Annett

2,001 – Riley Herbst

2,000 – Brandon Brown

First Round races

Sept. 26 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Oct. 3 – Talladega Superspeedway (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Oct. 10 – Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC)

Saturday Las Vegas Xfinity race: Start time, TV channel

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The NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs get underway with the Saturday Xfinity race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The race is the first of seven to determine the champion.

Chase Briscoe is on the pole after his win last weekend at Bristol

Here is all the info for the Saturday Las Vegas Xfinity race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 7:38 p.m by Cup driver Bubba Wallace. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 7:47 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage access health screening begins at 1 p.m. Drivers report to their cars at 7:20 p.m. The invocation will be given at 7:30 p.m. by Motor Racing Outreach Chaplain, Billy Mauldin. The national anthem will be performed by Mackenzie Mackey at 7:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 200 laps (300 miles) around the 1.5-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 45. Stage 2 ends on Lap 90.

TV/RADIO: Coverage begins on NBCSN with Countdown to Green at 7 p.m. Race broadcast begins at 7:30 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage will begin at 7 p.m.. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the broadcast.

STREAMING: Watch the race on the NBC Sports App. Click here for the link.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for clear skies with a high of 95 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST RACE: Chase Briscoe beat Ross Chastain and Austin Cindric at Bristol.

LAST RACE AT LAS VEGAS: Chase Briscoe beat Austin Cindric and Ryan Sieg for the win.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for Xfinity starting lineup

General Motors announces leadership for technical center

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General Motors has announced the leadership for its new performance and racing technical center in Concord, North Carolina.

GM has tapped Dr. Eric Warren of Richard Childress Racing to be the director of NASCAR operations at the facility, which was unveiled in January.

Warren will be responsible for competition duties for NASCAR programs, “as well as expanding the involvement of GM’s product development resources in the technical strategy for the Chevrolet race teams,” GM said in a statement.

GM’s 75,000-square-foot facility will feature Driver-in-the-Loop simulators, vehicle simulation, aero development and other practices designed to advance racing and production capabilities.

Warren had been RCR’s Chief Technology Officer since 2017 and part of the team since 2012.

GM also named Mark Stielow to its new Director of Motorsports Competition Engineering position. Stielow will be responsible for overall engineering and technical direction for the NHRA, IndyCar, IMSA and Motorsports Operations. He will have a direct link to GM’s vehicle integration organization.

Charlotte Roval to host limited number of fans

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Charlotte Motor Speedway will host fans for its NASCAR Xfinity and Cup races and its IMSA race on the Roval Oct. 10-11, the track announced Friday.

The announcement comes after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper stated this week that outdoor sports venues with a capacity in excess of 10,000 could have up to 7% capacity.

The track stated that because of the limited capacity allowed, no additional tickets will be sold for the Oct. 11 Cup playoff race. Remaining ticket holders will have the option to receive a 120% credit toward a 2021 event or a refund for the full purchase amount.

Tickets remain for the Oct. 10 Xfinity playoff race and the IMSA WeatherTech  SportsCar GT Championship Series event. Adult tickets are $50. Tickets are available by calling 800-455-FANS (3267) or online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com. Kids 13 and under get in free.

“Throughout the summer, we’ve been working with local and state officials to bring fans to the Bank of America Roval 400 weekend for what promises to be one of the season’s most anticipated events,” said Charlotte Motor Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager Greg Walter in a statement. “While we regret that we cannot accommodate every fan who would like to be part of this spectacular race weekend, we are committed to providing the best and safest experience possible for those who are able to attend.”

Among the safety protocols for the events:

  • Mandatory temperature checks at entry gates
  • Contactless ticketing
  • Socially distanced grandstand seating
  • Cashless souvenir and concession purchases.
  • Fans and staff must wear approved face coverings at all times, except while eating and drinking.
  • Limited grandstand seating will be in groups of up to six people properly socially distant from any other group.

Fans can bring food and unopened beverages in a soft-sided clear bag no larger than 14 inches on its longest side. To limit contact, cash will not be accepted.