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NASCAR fines Tony Stewart $35,000 for violating conduct guidelines

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Tony Stewart has been fined $35,000 by NASCAR, apparently for an angry rant about loose wheels Wednesday.

In a release posted late Thursday afternoon to NASCAR.com, the sanctioning body said the three-time series champion had violated the Sprint Cup Series Rule Book under Section 12, specifically member conduct guidelines.

Under rule 12.8.1.b, NASCAR can fine members $10,000 to $50,00 for “disparaging the sport and/or NASCAR’s leadership,” and “verbal abuse of a NASCAR official.”

It’s one of several behavioral penalty amendments that NASCAR announced in February. Senior vice president of racing operations Jim Cassidy then told reporters at Daytona that NASCAR would react to negative comments directed toward the series or NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France.

“That’s not new,’’ Cassidy said. “We’ve been pretty clear as it relates to taking on the sport versus taking on a call and so what you’ll see that is also part of it. You’ll also see part of it taking on media members, taking on fans, taking on partners. It’s an effort to state entirely what we expect of our members.’’

Stewart already had made news Thursday morning when he announced he would make his 2016 season debut at Richmond International Raceway after missing the first eight races with a fractured back. NASCAR also granted Stewart a waiver for playoff eligibility, meaning he would qualify in the Chase for the Sprint Cup if he were to win a race and finish in the top 30 in points through 26 races of the regular season.

In a meeting with the Associated Press Sports Editors organization Thursday in New York, NASCAR chairman Brian France took issue with Stewart’s comments about loose wheels.

“I would say this: Nobody has led, done more and achieved more in safety than we have,” France said. “It is a never-ending assignment and we accept that. We do take offense that anything we do is somehow leading towards an unsafe environment, so he’s wrong on that. And we’ll deal with that later.

“Safety .. that’s the most important thing we have to achieve, and we’re going to continue to do that.”

Here’s the full text of what Stewart said in his media session Wednesday when asked by NBC Sports and USA TODAY Sports about the recent issue of teams skipping lug nuts to improve the speed of pit stops.

Q: Rodney Childers was on SiriusXM this morning talking about the loose wheel phenomenon. He’s kind of frustrated because he feels the No. 4 team is erring on the side of caution on safety and tightening five lug nuts every time. Meanwhile, he’s seeing other teams take chances and beat his out of the pits and having loose wheels that potentially could be safety problems. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Stewart: “It’s something I’m really battling inside, and I haven’t talked about much, but I’m beyond mad. I’m P.O.’d at NASCAR about it, to be honest. For all the work and everything and all the bulletins and all the new stuff that we have to do to superspeedway cars and all these other things that they want us to do for safety, but we can’t even make sure that we put five lug nuts on the wheel. It’s not even mandatory anymore. It used to be mandatory. Now all the sudden, it’s a smart thing to not dictate. I mean, you don’t have to have but one on there if you don’t want. It’s however many you think you can get away with. So we’re putting the drivers in jeopardy to get track position at the end. It’s not bit anybody yet, but I guarantee you that envelope is going to keep getting pushed until somebody gets hurt. You will not have heard a rant that’s going to be as bad as what’s going to come out of my mouth if a driver gets hurt because of a loose wheel that hurts one of them. With all the crap that we’re going through with all the safety stuff, and for them to sit there and sit on their hands on this one. If you only want us to put one lug nut on, then give us hubs that have one lug nut like an IndyCar or a Formula One car, and then we don’t have to worry about it. But this is not a game you play with safety, and that’s exactly the way I feel like NASCAR is treating this. This is not the way to do this.”

Q: So it’s time for them to step in?

Stewart: “Yeah, absolutely. When they made the decision that they weren’t going to monitor it, that was the big mistake that they made right off the bat. When you preach about safety, why would you sit there and have cars that are running 200 mph at the end of a straightaway that don’t have all the lug nuts on the wheel that should be on it? If they want to design a new hub that has three lug nuts or one lug nut, that’s fine. But make sure it’s safe and make sure that it’s the same for everybody. We shouldn’t be playing games with safety to win races. It should be out-performing the other teams, not jeopardizing drivers’ lives by teams putting two lug nuts on to try to get two more spots off pit road.”

Q: How do you fix it? How do you undo that change?

Stewart: “I don’t know. We didn’t make the change to begin with. It’s not our responsibility. That’s their responsibility. We did it for how many years in the sport – 50-plus years? Sixty-plus years? And now in the last two years now we don’t have to do that. Last year, it started. This year, you see the problem getting worse. Well if a problem is getting worse like that, where do you think the bottom of that trend is going to happen? It’s going to happen when somebody gets hurt, and that’s going to be one of the largest black eyes I can see NASCAR getting when they’ve worked so hard and done such a good job to make it safe. In this one particular area, they are totally dropping the ball on, and I feel like really made a very grossly bad decision on.”

NASCAR Power Rankings: Kevin Harvick still No. 1 after quiet Vegas

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Kevin Harvick didn’t have a flashy night Sunday in Las Vegas, but it didn’t keep him from retaining the No. 1 spot in this week’s NASCAR Power Rankings.

After winning the Bristol night race, Harvick finished in the top 10 in the first two stages in Vegas before placing 10th at race’s end.

Kurt Busch’s win at his home track vaulted him into the top 10 as 12 drivers received votes.

More: Playoff standings after Las Vegas

Here is this week’s NASCAR Power Rankings:

1. Kevin Harvick (Last week No. 1): In the last eight races he’s won three times and finished outside the top 10 only twice.

2. Martin Truex Jr. (Last week No. 5): Placed fourth for his 11th top-five finish in the last 14 races.

3. Alex Bowman (Last week unranked): Finished fifth for his second top five and fifth top-10 finish in the last six races.

4. Denny Hamlin (Last week unranked): Left Vegas with a third-place finish to snap a three-race streak of finishing outside the top 10.

5. Kurt Busch (Last week unranked): Snapped a 46-race winless streak with his victory and advanced to the Round of 8.

6. Kyle Busch (Last week No. 3): Finished sixth after a “dismal” night. He has four consecutive top 10s.

7. Brad Keselowski (Last week No. 5): Finished 13th to give him two finishes outside the top 10 since he won at Richmond.

8. Chase Briscoe (Last week unranked): Opened the Xfinity playoffs with his second consecutive win.

8. Chase Elliott (Last week No. 2): Led 73 laps, but had to settle for a 22nd-place finish in Vegas.

8. Joey Logano (Last week No. 3): Finished 14th for his second straight finish outside the top 10.

Also receiving votes: Erik Jones and Chris Buescher.

NASCAR announces changes to Kansas playoff weekend

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Citing “programming changes,” NASCAR announced shifts in the race dates and start times for its visit next month to Kansas Speedway.

The Xfinity, ARCA and Truck Series races have been shifted, while the Cup race remains at 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Oct. 18.

The biggest move is the Truck Series race shifting from Friday night to Saturday afternoon.

Here are the changes.

Friday, Oct. 16, 8:30 p.m. ETARCA Menards Series on FS1 or FS2; network TBD at a later date (previously at 10 p.m. ET)

Saturday, Oct. 17, 4 p.m. ETTruck Series on FOX (previously Friday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. ET on FS1)

Saturday, Oct. 17, 7 p.m. ET Xfinity on NBCSN (previously 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

 

Xfinity Series playoff standings after Las Vegas

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Chase Briscoe opened the Xfinity Series playoffs by earning his second consecutive win.

His victory Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway gives him 57 playoff points and an automatic spot in the Round of 8.

Harrison Burton holds the final transfer spot. He has a two-point advantage over Ross Chastain.

Behind Chastain below the cutline are Michael Annett (-10 points), Riley Herbst (-14) and Brandon Brown (-20).

Below is the full Xfinity Series playoff standings going into Saturday’s race at Talladega (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Drivers in red are below the cutline to advance. Drivers in yellow are in the remaining playoff spots.

Xfinity Series playoff standings

Cup playoff standings after Las Vegas

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Kurt Busch flipped the script on the Cup playoff standings with his win Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

He entered the Round of 12 as the last driver in the playoff standings, but is the first driver to clinch a spot in the Round of 8.

Replacing Busch in the bottom spot of the playoff standings is Austin Dillon. He is 32 points behind Alex Bowman, who holds the final cutoff spot.

Behind Bowman is Kyle Busch (-9 points), Clint Bowyer (-20), Aric Almirola (-27) and Dillon.

“Obviously, the 1 car (Kurt Busch) was not a car that we needed to win a race,” Clint Bowyer said after Sunday’s race. “It’s been a hell of a battle back there with cars that are kind of in the same wheelhouse as far as points-wise. (Kurt Busch) winning changes that landscape quite a bit, but we’re only 20 points out.”

Here is the full playoff standings entering Sunday’s playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Drivers in red are below the cutline to advance to the Round of 8. Drivers in yellow hold the remaining available playoff spots.

Cup playoff standings