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Even with struggles, Danica Patrick wouldn’t change a thing about move to NASCAR

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Although Danica Patrick’s NASCAR career has had its struggles going from open-wheel cars to stock cars, she does not look back on her decision to leave IndyCar with regret.

“I do not second-guess any of my decisions about being in IndyCar, leaving for NASCAR, not doing the double (Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in the same day), nothing,’’ she told reporters Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway. “I just don’t really live with a lot of regrets. I’m happy with where I am. If I would have changed anything, I wouldn’t be right here right now. I don’t think there’s any reason to look back.’’

Patrick, in her fourth full Sprint Cup season, enters this weekend at Pocono Raceway 24th in the points. She has six top-10 finishes in 131 career starts. Her best finish this season is 13th at Dover.

Among the challenges she has faced is finding the right crew chief. Tony Gibson served as her crew chief for two races in 2012, all of 2013 and most of 2014 (for a total of 71 points races) before a switch was made. Daniel Knost became Patrick’s crew chief for the final three races of 2014 and all of 2015 (a total of 39 points races) before another change. Billy Scott became Patrick’s crew chief this season.

“With Tony Gibson, it took a year and half before we really kind of fell into a good sync pattern where he knew me and I knew him and the car was close every weekend,’’ said Patrick, who was in Daytona to promote a ticket package for the July 2 Coke Zero 400, which will be shown on NBC. “So I know there’s no substitute for time on some level, but it doesn’t mean you can’t push. For me it’s about approaching things in a different way and seeing if we can improve our results.’’

While changing crew chiefs can lead to better results immediately, that’s not always the case. Some pairings take longer. Kyle Larson entered this year with Chad Johnston as his new crew chief. Larson is 21st in the points (he was 20th at this time last year), scoring a runner-up finish at Dover and a third at Martinsville along with four finishes of 34th or worse. Carl Edwards is in his first season with crew chief Dave Rogers and is fifth in the points (Edwards was 16th at this time last year) and has two victories.

“I feel like when a good combination comes together it tends to stick for quite a while, so I hope that Billy and I …  can be consistent from year to year and build and build and build, especially with the limited amount of testing we get these days,’’ Patrick said.

With a new crew chief comes a new way of looking at things to be better.

“Can we pinpoint a couple of things that we can do to at least just change our approach for now, whether it be in the car or out of the car, how we structure the weekend, which direction we go with things?’’ Patrick said. “Do we focus on our teammates or do we go on our own path?

“There’s a lot of different ways to approach the weekend and a lot of areas you can change the approach. It’s a matter of picking a couple of things that we can do different and seeing if they work. If they don’t, we’ll try something else. By no means will it be by a lack of effort if we don’t have a good race.’’

Among the lessons she’s learned since moving to NASCAR is just  what it takes to be successful.

“It’s not just the team, it’s not just the driver, it’s not just luck,’’ Patrick said. “It’s all those things. Everything has to be on and I feel like why there’s so much pride and so much excitement when you do run up front and get to victory lane because it’s so hard.

“I feel like at any point in NASCAR you could see great drivers struggle for a year and then all of a sudden they come back. We as drivers don’t forget how to drive. We don’t just learn how to drive. It’s just a matter of putting all the puzzle pieces together.’’

Then it’s a matter of performing in a race.

“Every now and again I may feel like it’s a little tougher out there for me, and I feel like I’ve heard some people say it looks a little harder for me to get by cars, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and it makes me a better driver,’’ Patrick said. “At the end of the day, my job as a driver is to pass a car that is in front of me, so if it’s difficult then it’s just difficult and I have to work that much harder. That is my job. I’m not looking for a handout or anyone to move over unless you are lapped traffic.’’

NTSB releases final report on Dale Jr. plane crash

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Photo: Dustin Long
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Pilot error played a key role in the August 2019 crash of a plane carrying Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his family, a final report by the National Transportation Safety Board stated Wednesday.

Earnhardt, wife Amy and daughter Isla were on board the plane, which crashed after a hard landing at Elizabethton (Tennessee) Municipal Airport on Aug. 15, 2019. The report stated all three suffered minor injuries. 

The NTSB listed the probable causes of the accident as: “The pilot’s continuation of an unstabilized approach despite recognizing associated cues and the flight crew’s decision not to initiate a go-around before touchdown, which resulted in a bounced landing, a loss of airplane control, a landing gear collapse, and a runway excursion. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s failure to deploy the speedbrakes during the initial touchdown, which may have prevented the runway excursion, and the pilot’s attempt to go around after deployment of the thrust reversers.”

A “go-around” occurs when a pilot pulls out of a landing and gains altitude to make another landing attempt.

The report stated that “the flight crew made several comments about the airplane flying too fast and allowed the airspeed to increase well above the reference speed for the approach.”

The report stated that “the pilot did not extend the speedbrakes upon touchdown, which landing checklist required, but instead attempted to deploy the thrust reversers immediately after touchdown, which was a later item on the landing checklist.”

Earnhardt’s Cessna 680A Citation Latitude bounced twice upon landing as it traversed the 5,001-foot runaway.

After the fourth touchdown, the right main landing gear collapsed. The plane went off the road and through a 400-foot long area of grass. It went down an embankment, through a creek and a chain-link fence. It continued up an embankment. The plane came to rest about 600 feet beyond the runway at the edge of a four-lane highway.

The passengers and two pilots escaped as the plane burned.

The full report can be read here.

Champion or not, Chase Briscoe won’t let Xfinity title define season

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Like the 11 drivers he’ll compete against in the Xfinity Series playoffs, a championship is the endgame for Chase Briscoe.

However, with the Stewart-Haas Racing driver one win from matching his preseason goal of at least eight victories, Briscoe wouldn’t be too disappointed if he failed to claim the title at the end of the seven-race playoff.

“I feel like to this point if we don’t get to eight (wins) … I feel like I accomplished or proved what I was trying to say at the beginning of the year,” Briscoe told NBC Sports on Tuesday. “There’s still no reason why we can’t get to 10 wins. I feel 100% confident in my team that we’re going to have the cars capable of doing it, I just need to do my job. If we do that, hopefully we can get to Phoenix and then (whoever’s) the best team once we get there wins.”

As he prepares to open the playoffs Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN), Briscoe is wary of not letting “the championship define you and define your season. … Winning races is a big deal. That’s what you get paid to do is go win races and obviously win championships as well, but today’s format anything can happen in that final race.”

Briscoe can attest to importance of winning races. He enters the playoff with a series-leading seven wins, which has helped him start the postseason with 2,050 points and ties him with Austin Cindric.

Briscoe’s impressive numbers come a year after he had just one win in a season where Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer combined to win 21 of 33 races.

Briscoe believes the perception of his abilities as a driver are “way different” from last year as he struggled to chase those three drivers now competing in Cup.

“Personally, I felt like I could win races, and I think a lot of it was learning,” Briscoe said. “Last year, there were still a lot of tracks I had never been to before and didn’t even have 100 pavement starts in my entire career, and now I have that experience. I have the confidence to go with it and all of those things are totally different, and when I said what I said at the beginning of the year (about winning eight races) I felt like I was capable of doing that.

“If I could back it up, it would look even better. … I think I’ve proven my worth in this sport. I feel like if I do get the opportunity to move up, I feel like I’m ready, but I also feel like I could get a lot of benefit out of coming back to the Xfinity Series and running again.”

Briscoe, a Ford development driver, says he still doesn’t know what’s in store for him in 2021.

He said the uncertainty of his future is a “little bit easier” to handle compared to last year because of the wins he’s racked up.

Regardless of not knowing his NASCAR fate, if Briscoe can “somehow get to 10 wins this year and win the championship, then that would just make it, I feel like, a lot easier for the decision-makers.”

Mike Wallace’s appeal of indefinite suspension denied

NASCAR suspends Mike Wallace
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Mike Wallace‘s indefinite suspension by NASCAR was upheld by the National Motorsports Appeals Panel on Wednesday.

Wallace, who has made three Xfinity Series starts this season, was suspended Sept. 10 for violating Sections 12.1; 12.8; 12.8.1.e of the rule book.

According to the rulebook, a violation of section 12.8.1.e is any “Public statement and/or communication that criticizes, ridicules, or otherwise disparages another person based upon that person’s race, color, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, age, or handicapping condition.”

As part of the suspension, Wallace is required by NASCAR to attend sensitivity training.

The three-member appeals panel was made up of Dixon Johnston, Bill Lester and Kevin Whitaker.

Wallace has the right to appeal the decision to the National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer.

Wallace wrote the following on Facebook shortly after his suspension was originally announced:

“You know as I fly across the United States today I’m ready various people’s political views and I have to say a famous four star Military General that I spent time with in the MidEast told me Mike let me give you some advice don’t ever get in a conversation about politics or religion unless you are really smart. I said why do you say that comment His response it’s like being balanced on a single edge razor blade if you slip you will get cut!

Think about that before we all make foolish uneducated post! Moral of this story is most of use just repeat what we have heard we really don’t know.
Have a great positive day!”

Bubba Wallace to receive Stan Musial award for extraordinary character

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Following months of speaking out in support of racial justice and inclusion in NASCAR, Bubba Wallace‘s work has been recognized by The Musial Awards.

The Richard Petty Motorsports driver has been selected as the recipient of its Award for Extraordinary Character.

The award honors “an individual who demonstrates remarkable poise, perseverance and overall sportsmanship.”

The Musial Awards – presented by Maryville University in St. Louis – is named after Stan Musial, a former St. Louis Cardinal baseball player. St. Louis is also the home to one of Wallace’s sponsors, World Wide Technology.

More: Michael Jordan excited for NASCAR future with Denny Hamlin

In the wake of the death of George Floyd in May, the 26-year-old Wallace has been active in helping lead NASCAR through social changes, including the banning of the Confederate flag at series events and tracks.

He also drove a Black Lives Matter car at Martinsville Speedway in June.

“Bubba Wallace exemplifies what the Stan Musial Award for Extraordinary Character is all about,” Frank Viverito, president of the St. Louis Sports Commission, which produces the Musial Awards, said in a press release. “He has overcome much to be where he is, and he has courageously stepped forward to take an important stand for change. He is most deserving of an award that stands for sportsmanship and character, and is named for Stan Musial, whose own actions promoted racial acceptance and unity.”

Wallace joins baseball legend Hank Aaron as a 2020 Musial Awards honoree. Aaron is receiving the Stan Musial Lifetime Achievement Award for Sportsmanship.

The Musial Awards will air nationally on CBS on Saturday, Dec. 26.

After three full-time seasons in Cup racing for RPM, it was announced earlier this week that Wallace would compete in 2021 for a Cup team co-owned by Denny Hamlin and basketball legend Michael Jordan.