Jerry Markland/Getty Images

Loose wheel debate continues: ‘We don’t need drivers getting hurt . . . tires in the stands’

4 Comments

A Sprint Cup championship crew chief said NASCAR’s loose wheel phenomenon was “the worst I’d seen” at Bristol Motor Speedway and cautioned about safety risks for competitors and fans.

“Hopefully it gets a little more under control as we go along here,” Rodney Childers, who guided Kevin Harvick to the 2014 title, told The Morning Drive during a Wednesday interview on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “We don’t need drivers getting hurt. We don’t need tires in the stands and anything else. So hopefully, it gets a little bit better.”

Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. were among the contenders who had trouble with loose wheels in Sunday’s Food City 500, prompting renewed debate about the practice of hitting fewer than five lug nuts to gain position with a quicker pit stop.

Executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell said NASCAR would discuss the issue at an upcoming competition meeting with teams.

In moving to a remote system of monitoring stops that reduced the number of officials present in the pits last year, NASCAR stopped penalizing teams that elected to tighten fewer than five lug nuts on a tire.

Asked if NASCAR should return to policing the practice, Childers said teams initially handled the transition well.

“It was kind of nice when that part went away and teams did their thing and went on with it,” he said. “The teams did a good job with it. Now, honestly, the teams aren’t doing a good job with it. The teams have made it out of control. Somebody will have to step in and say something or do something to fix it, but it’s not NASCAR’s fault. It’s not NASCAR’s problem. It’s the teams’ problem.

“It’s one of those risk vs. reward things. We’re going to have to work through it together.”

Childers has erred on the side of caution with Harvick, who virtually qualified for the Chase for the Sprint Cup with a victory last month at Phoenix International Raceway. While the No. 4 pit crew hasn’t been affected by loose wheels, playing it safe has resulted in often being beat out of the pits.

“I guess you could call it a sensitive subject, to be honest,” Childers said. “We’ve tried to play the conservative route, and the bad thing is we’ve played the conservative route and not had loose wheels, but when we get beat off pit road, we get crucified for it. That’s something that’s a team choice.

“If you want to take a chance on having to come back down pit road all the time and have loose wheels and give races away that way, it’s just as big of a risk getting beat off pit road. There’s been a lot of talk around here. I actually had a good practice with my guys yesterday. We tried it, just go as fast as you can and see how many (lug nuts) you have loose, and it’s up to me to decide if it’s worth it at that particular time in the race.”

Childers believes there are some instances in which missing lug nuts never are worth the risk to a team.

“If you’ve got a seventh-place car, there’s no reason to take these chances every time you come down pit road,” he said. “Put four tires on it, don’t make mistakes and try to get a top 10. There are so many people with all these loose wheels, I don’t understand it myself. But on the other hand, if you don’t beat everyone off pit road these days, you’re not going to win the race. We’ve already given away a couple of races because of situations like that. We’ve had cars good enough to win races, and we’re going to have to take more chances.”

During a separate interview Wednesday morning on SiriusXM, Logano said he had reviewed his Bristol stop and concluded it wasn’t human error that caused his loose wheel but might have been because of the forces generated by the high-banked 0.533-mile oval.

“It looks (the tire changer) did a very good job of putting the wheel on and hitting the lugnuts,” Logano said. “I didn’t see anything wrong with that. Bristol is a tough place with a lot of vibrations and things are shaking. We got aggressive with four or five lug nuts. It’s a question we have every time we go there. We know the speed gain is there. We have to figure out the little minor details.”

Does Logano prefer having five lug nuts or fewer?

“That is not my call,” he said with a laugh. “I drive the car. Those guys live it. They live pit stops. (Crew chief) Todd (Gordon) knows what is going on there. If I focus on that, I wouldn’t be able to drive the race car as well as I do. When it comes to decisions like that, I’m not involved with them.”

Results, Xfinity point standings after Iowa

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Justin Allgaier had a career day, leading 182 laps and sweeping all three stages in his win at Iowa Speedway.

The JR Motorsports driver claimed his seventh career Xfinity win.

Allgaier was followed by Christopher Bell, Daniel Hemric, Cole Custer and Brandon Jones.

Click here for results.

Points

After his second straight finish of 28th or worse, Elliott Sadler‘s point lead after 14 races is down to a four-point advantage over Custer.

The top five is completed by Hemric (-7 points), Tyler Reddick (-31) and Bell (-3).

After his win Sunday, Allgaier is sixth in the standings, 51 points back from his JR Motorsports teammate.

Click here for the full standings.

Justin Allgaier dominates in Xfinity win at Iowa Speedway

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Justin Allgaier fended off Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell to win Sunday’s Xfinity Series race at Iowa Speedway.

Allgaier held Bell and the rest of the field at bay in a 12-lap shootout to capture his second win of the year.

The top five was completed by Daniel Hemric, Cole Custer and Brandon Jones.

Allgaier led a career-high 182 laps and swept every stage.

“We had a great car today, these guys did a fantastic job,” Allgaier told Fox Sports 1.

The JR Motorsports driver took the lead for the first time with two laps to go in Stage 1 when he passed pole-sitter Austin Cindric.

The win qualifies Allgaier for the playoffs. His first win at Dover was disqualified toward playoff contention after his car failed post-race inspection.

Bell placed second after starting from the rear. His car failed to get through qualifying inspection, resulting in him not making a qualifying attempt.

“Man, I just needed to be in front of (Allgaier)” Bell told FS1. “It was really good on the bottom in both corners. I just didn’t have enough to clear him.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

STAGE 2 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

MORE: Race results, point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: Christopher Bell earned his fourth top-two finish of the season … Daniel Hemric claimed his fourth top-three finish in the last five races … Riley Herbst placed sixth in his series debut … Justin Haley placed 12th in his debut … Kaz Grala placed 10th for his second top 10 in four starts for Fury Race Cars … Ty Majeski finished seventh, giving Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 60 team its first top 10 of the season.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Elliott Sadler cut a tire and got into the wall late in Stage 1. He finished 28th for his second straight finish outside the top 25. He had finished in the top 10 in the first 12 races … Brandon Hightower wrecked with 17 laps to go to set up the final restart. He finished 30th.

WHAT’S NEXT: Overton’s 300 at Chicagoland Speedway at 3:30 p.m. ET on June 30 on NBCSN

Austin Cindric wins pole for Xfinity race at Iowa Speedway

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Austin Cindric won the pole for tonight’s Xfinity Series race at Iowa Speedway, claiming his first career pole.

The Team Penske driver earned the pole with a top speed of 131.409 mph.

The rookie is followed by Daniel Hemric (130.988 mph), Brandon Jones (130.836), Elliott Sadler (130.532) and Cole Custer (130.435).

“It’s huge for me, it’s a huge weight off my shoulders as well …Being so close to so many poles these last few races with these Penske guys,” Cindric told Fox Sports 2.

Kaz Grala will make his best-career start in eighth. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Riley Herbst will start ninth in his series debut.

Seven of the starting top 10 have never won a series race.

Justin Haley will start 13th. He will be followed by Shane Lee, John Hunter Nemechek, Ross Chastain, and Ty Majeski.

Christopher Bell and Ryan Reed will start from the rear after they failed to get through inspection in time to make a qualifying attempt.

The race is scheduled to start at 5:14 p.m. ET.

Click here for qualifying results.

Today’s Xfinity race at Iowa: Start time, lineup and more

Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The NASCAR Xfinity Series enjoys the spotlight with the Cup Series off and no Cup drivers competing in today’s race at Iowa Speedway.

There’s a good chance of seeing a new winner for this season. Only three drivers who have won this year (Tyler Reddick at Daytona, Christopher Bell at Richmond and Justin Allgaier at Dover) are entered in today’s race.

Here are the details for today’s race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: Craig Abel will give the command to start engines at 5:07 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 5:14 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 250 laps (218.75 miles) around the 0.875-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 60. Stage 2 ends on Lap 120.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: Garage opens at 11 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 2 p.m. Qualifying is at 2:35 p.m. Driver introductions are at 4:30 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Specialist Michelle Monroe from the Iowa National Guard 34th Army will perform the anthem at 5:01 p.m.

TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race beginning at 5 p.m. Coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. Motor Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 4:30 p.m. and also can be heard at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will have MRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for mostly sunny skies with a high of 90 degrees and zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: William Byron won this race last June. Ryan Sieg was second. Tyler Reddick placed third. Ryan Preece won the July race. Kyle Benjamin was second. Brian Scott placed third.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the lineup.