Mayor’s platform: NBC’s Jeff Burton discusses Jeff Gordon, Chase Elliott and the racing this season

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Jeff Burton was nicknamed the Mayor when he raced in NASCAR for his view on many topics. Those opinions remain for the NASCAR on NBC analyst, who addressed questions about the sport, Jeff Gordon, Chase Elliot and others as the Sprint Cup Series heads to Watkins Glen this weekend for Sunday’s race on USA Network.

Here’s what Burton had to say:

Q: How good of a chance does Jeff Gordon have of winning at Watkins Glen in his third race in the No. 88 car for Dale Earnhardt Jr.?

JEFF BURTON: I don’t think you can discount Jeff’s skill. At the same time, being perfectly blunt, it wasn’t like Jeff lit it up last year. I know that Jeff won Martinsville and made it to the Chase with a real chance to win the championship, but if you look at the number of laps that they led and if you look at the year they had last year, it wasn’t great by any means. And I believe that Hendrick Motorsports isn’t the Hendrick Motorsports we’re accustomed to seeing, but you’re going to a road course race and Jeff Gordon is a really good road racer.

Everything I heard from the test was that the track is different than it used to be. I think that this race is an opportunity for a lot of people to make something happen. I don’t necessarily think that Jeff is going to go out there and outrun, just go flat outrun say the 16 people that he’s going to have to just flat outrun, but I, without a doubt, believe that they can win the race. I know he’s good enough. I know he can make enough pace to put himself in position to take advantage of some things that can happen at Watkins Glen.

When you’ve raise your hand and said ‘‘OK it’s time for someone else to do this, I’m ready to go to the next phase of my career, my life’’ and you come back, it’s a different attitude. I think we saw that with Tony Stewart, too. I think Tony had moved on. I think Tony had emotionally said, ‘‘OK, I’m not having fun, I’m ready to do the next thing.’’ They put him in the position to win at Sonoma and he executed. Boom, like it’s a whole different Tony Stewart. I think the same thing can happen to Jeff Gordon.

When you put a guy like Jeff Gordon, when you put a guy like Tony Stewart, you put a guy who is competitive in nature and has a tremendous amount of pride and has had a lot of success and is considered one of the best ever, you put that guy in the right situation and light that wick, man, fantastic stuff can happen. That’s why I say that they can win, but by far they are not my favorite. You just can’t look at a champion like Jeff Gordon, driving for Hendrick Motorsports, going to Watkins Glen and not say that those guys that those guys will have a chance to win.

Q: Chase Elliott has finished outside the top 20 in five of the last six races. Although he’s still in a Chase spot, he’s fallen in the points. What kind of concern is there with five races to go?

BURTON: I think as a young driver or an experienced driver, when you have a string of races … where you’ve been in wrecks, it forces you to have to look at things a little differently. I think he summed it up best after the race. ‘‘Hey, I’ve got to figure a way to do something different’’ is basically what he said. I think that is astute. I think that is recognizing the situation that you’re in and understanding that there is five races to go. You have a good enough point lead, you don’t have to be spectacular and don’t slow your pace down, keep your pace up but be a little more in those few moments in the race where there’s a decision to be made, error on the side of caution a little bit.

That’s hard to do. You race the way you’re comfortable racing. When you start to change that it’s easy to get you knocked off your rhythm. It’s a fine line. It’s easy for me to say in the booth to say that Chase needed to not to make that mistake because of the position he’s in. It’s much harder in that race car to change who you are as a driver. That’s how you gotten there. It’s a delicate balance, but I do think that he has to look — and not every wreck that he has been in is his fault by any means — but as a driver you have to look at every wreck that you’re in as if it were something you could have done different. Because if you don’t look at it that way, you never learn. The attitude of any driver should be I always need to be doing something different.

He clearly said after the race what I thought was 100 percent correct. People get on Chase because he’s so hard on himself and people act like that is a sign of weakness. I believe the exact opposite. It’s a sign of confidence. It’s a sign of strength. It’s a sign of ‘‘Hey, I have confidence that I can do what I need to do … I have confidence to do what I need to do just that I need to experience it.’’ That’s what he’s saying. I’d much rather hear that than just say those (drivers) around me running all over people. I’d much rather hear what he says than what some other people say.

Q: Martin Truex Jr. had awful luck at Pocono and damaged the car he dominated the Coca-Cola 600 with. Should the team not have parked it after they went to the garage instead of going back out on track, which led to further damage to the car?

BURTON: For years our sport has been about having pride in getting back on the race track and doing everything you can do to never quit. I think there’s something to be said for that. Now, it is a different time. I could fully understand someone say we have nothing to gain. I get it. I still believe that there’s experiences can be drawn from every situation. I like a team that collectively says we’re not going to quit. Also it prepares the team and the driver to go through those situations because that might the difference between you moving to the next round or not. I think having done that experience is helpful.

As far as having a magic car, I think those days are over. If you have a car that goes to Charlotte and kicks everybody’s ass and you can’t replicate that car, there’s something wrong with your system. I would say that Cole (Pearn) would say if you can’t make the next car better, something is wrong with your system. As far as destroying cars and all that, we’re in a time where with all the technology available to the teams, teams should not have a favorite car. Those days are over.

Q: Kyle Larson raced Austin Dillon cleanly for the lead at the halfway mark Monday at Pocono when competitors thought the race would end soon. It was similar to how Larson raced Matt Kenseth at Dover for the win in May. What do you see out of how Larson raced at Pocono?

BURTON: I thought Larson on Monday didn’t have as fast a car as Austin had. Austin kept putting pressure on him, kept putting pressure on him. I thought he blocked Austin and did everything he could to slow that momentum down but Austin was coming. Once he got there, he had not choice but to give him room, which is the same thing he did earlier in that run and he was able to beat Austin off Turn 3. This time it didn’t work out because Austin got loose and ran into him.

I don’t know what else (Larson) could have done. When somebody behind you is faster, you’re trying to push your car a little harder than it needs to go because that’s the only way you’re going to stay in front of him. He blocked and didn’t make it easy for Austin. Ultimately, there was nothing he could do because Austin got loose and into the side of him.

Q: What else is on your mind?

BURTON: I would say this, after leaving Indy and all the negatives from Indy, fan attendance, quality of race, the next race on a 2.5-mile flat race track was freaking awesome. If you look at the number of the people that were at the race track (at Pocono) on Sunday and you look at the number of people that came on Monday. For a day when to be honest with you not many of us thought we were going to race, then you look at the quality of the race on a 2.5-mile race track, long straightaways and flat corners, to me it shows me the state of the sport can’t be valued on one race.

There was so much negativity, although the number of people that watched on TV was awesome, but there was so much negativity leaving Indy, like leaving Pocono was a completely different feel. I don’t think we should lose sight of that. Granted, I’m the ever optimist and tend to find the good things in that stuff. You compare the state of the sport after Indy versus the state of the sport of Pocono. It’s two completely different universes. I think that is worth noting. We can’t look at our sport after one great race or after one poor race and say that’s what NASCAR is. NASCAR is a collection of races that run throughout the whole year. There’s going to be good races, there’s going to be bad races. It’s just how it is. No different than football, basketball, and baseball.

Pocono was so good to me that the guy that had the fastest car on the race track without question was Kevin Harvick. I think it’s fair to say that Kevin Harvick did not get the majority of coverage. That’s because there were so many things going on … there were so many different strategies, Kevin Harvick wasn’t the main talking point even though it appeared to me he had the dominant car. I just left Pocono thinking about Indy and it just reminded me that we as a sport, the fans, the competitors, everybody involved has to be careful not to look at the sport as one race and look the sport as the collection of races and understand there’s good days and bad days. In whole, this year has been really good.

Texas shuffles NASCAR Cup playoff standings

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Texas marked the fourth consecutive playoff race that the winner didn’t advance to the next round.

All three races in the first round were won by drivers not in the playoffs. Tyler Reddick won Sunday at Texas, a week after he failed to advance from the Round of 16 and was eliminated from title contention.

Texas did shake up the playoff standings. Chase Elliott entered as the points leader but a blown tire while leading sent his car into the wall, ending his race. He falls to the No. 8 spot, the final transfer position with two races left in this round. He’s tied with Daniel Suarez, but Suarez has the tiebreaker with a better finish this round.

Chase Briscoe, who scored only his second top 10 in the last 22 races, is the first driver outside a transfer spot. He’s four points behind Elliott and Suarez. Austin Cindric is 11 points out of the transfer spot. Christopher Bell is 29 points out of a transfer position. Alex Bowman is 30 points from the transfer line.

The series races Sunday at Talladega (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

 

XFINITY SERIES

Noah Gragson’s win at Texas moved him on to the next round. The win was his fourth in a row.

Ryan Sieg and Sam Mayer are tied for the final two transfer spots to the next round. Riley Herbst is one point behind them. Daniel Hemric is eight points from the final transfer spot. Brandon Jones is 13 points from the last transfer spot. Jeremy Clements is 29 points shy of the final transfer position.

The series races Saturday at Talladega (4 p.m. ET on USA Network).

 

 

CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES

The series was off this past weekend but returns to the track Saturday at Talladega. Ty Majeski has advanced to the championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.

 

Winners and losers at Texas Motor Speedway

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A look at the winners and losers from Sunday’s marathon race at Texas Motor Speedway:

WINNERS

Tyler Reddick – Reddick isn’t acting like a lame duck. Headed for 23XI Racing in 2024 (if not sooner), Reddick now owns three wins with Richard Childress Racing, the team he’ll be leaving.

Justin Haley – Haley, who has shown flashes of excellence this season for Kaulig Racing, matched his season-high with a third-place run.

Chase Briscoe — Briscoe wrestled with major problems in the early part of the race but rebounded to finish fifth. It’s his second top-10 finish in the last 22 races.

LOSERS

NASCAR Officials – Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, admitted that series officials missed William Byron spinning Denny Hamlin under caution after Martin Truex Jr.‘s crash. Such a situation could have major playoff implications, although Miller hinted that series officials may still act this week.

Christopher Bell – Bell met the wall twice after blown tires and finished a sour 34th, damaging his playoff run in a race that he said was critical in the playoffs.

Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. – Harvick (finished 19th) and Truex (31st) were late-race victims of the day’s tire dilemma. Both crashed while leading.

Track workers  Somebody had to clean up all that tire debris.

Chase Elliott – Elliott remains a power in the playoffs, but he left Sunday’s race in a fiery exit after a blown tire while leading and finished 32nd. He holds the final transfer spot to the next round heading into Talladega.

 

 

Blown tires end race early for several Texas contenders

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FORT WORTH, Texas — A Goodyear official said that air pressures that teams were using contributed to some drivers blowing tires in Sunday’s Cup playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. all crashed while leading after blowing a tire. Among the others who had tire issues were Alex Bowman, Chris Buescher Cole Custer and Christopher Bell twice. 

“We’re gaining as much information as we can from the teams, trying to understand where they are with regard to their settings, air pressures, cambers, suspicions,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing Sunday. “For sure I can say without a doubt air pressure is playing into it. We know where a lot of the guys are. Some were more aggressive than others. We know that plays a part.

MORE: NASCAR says it missed William Byron spinning Denny Hamlin under caution 

“I’m not saying that’s the only thing, but it’s certainly a factor, so we’re just trying to understand everything else that is going on with regard to specific teams. We know a lot of guys have not had issues. We’ve had guys put full fuel runs on tires, but, obviously, other guys have had issues. We’ll be working with them to try to sort through that is.”

Eight of the 16 cautions were related to tire failures that caused drivers to spin or crash.

“It’s not a good look, that’s for sure,” Ryan Blaney said of the tire issues others had. “How many leaders blew tires tonight? Three or four?

“You just don’t understand what is making these things do that. From last week to this week, it’s really unfortunate. It’s just luck now.

“You never know if you’re going to blow one. You go into (Turn) 3 almost every lap with 40 laps on your stuff and I don’t know if one is going to blow out or not. That’s not safe. That’s for sure. Running (180) into (Turn) 3 and the thing blows out and you have no time to react to it. It’s unfortunate. I hope we can figure that out.”

Blaney said he was confused that the tires were blowing partly into a run instead of much earlier.

“It was weird because those tires didn’t blow right away,” he said. “Like the pressures were low. They blew like after a cycle or two on them, which is the weird thing.”

Asked how he handles that uncertainty, Blaney said: “Nothing I can do about it. Just hope and pray.”

After his crash, Elliott was diplomatic toward Goodyear’s situation:

“I’m not sure that Goodyear is at fault,” he said. “Goodyear always takes the black eye, but they’re put in a really tough position by NASCAR to build a tire that can survive these types of racetracks with this car. I wouldn’t blame Goodyear.”

Tyler Reddick, who won Sunday’s race at Texas, said his team made adjustments to the air pressure settings after Saturday’s practice.

“We ran enough laps, were able to see that we had been too aggressive on our right front tire,” he said. “So we made some adjustments going into the race, thankfully.”

This same time was used at Kansas and will be used again at Las Vegas next month in the playoffs. 

Reddick is hopeful of a change but also knows it might take time.

“I just think to a degree, potentially, as these cars have gotten faster and we’re getting more speed out of them, maybe, hypothetically speaking, we’re putting the cars through more load and more stress on the tire than they ever really thought we would be,” he said. 

“I know Goodyear will fix it. That’s what they do. It’s going to be a process. I know they’re going to be on top of it. Hey, they don’t want to see those failures. We don’t want to see them either. They’re going to be working on looking through and trying to find out exactly what is going on. We’ll all learn from it.

“It’s a brand-new car. It’s the first time in the history of our sport we’ve gone to an 18-inch wheel and independent rear suspension. All these things are way different, diffuser. All these things, way different. We’re all learning together. Unfortunately, just the nature of it, we’re having tire failures.”

NASCAR says it missed William Byron spin Denny Hamlin under caution

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FORT WORTH, Texas — A senior NASCAR executive admitted that series officials did not see William Byron spin Denny Hamlin under caution on the frontstretch of Sunday’s Cup playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway. 

The missed call could have major implications in the playoffs — even if series officials decide to penalize Byron later this week, as was hinted Sunday night. 

The issue occurred after Martin Truex Jr. blew a tire while leading and crashed in Turn 3 on Lap 269 of the 334-lap race.  

With the caution lights illuminated, Hamlin slowed. Byron hit him in retaliation for forcing him into the wall earlier. Hamlin spun across the infield grass. NASCAR did not put Hamlin back in his original spot before the contact and did not penalize Byron.

“When we were in the tower, we were paying more attention to the actual cause of the caution up there and dispatching our equipment,” Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition said after the race. “The William Byron-Denny Hamlin thing, we had no eyes on. We saw Denny go through the grass.

“By the time we got a replay that showed the incident well enough to do anything to it, we had gone back to green. I’m not sure that that issue is completely resolved as of yet. We’ll be looking at that when we get back to work.”

Miller did not elaborate on what NASCAR could do this week.

Hamlin expressed his shock on social media at Miller’s comments:

Miller explained how officials missed the Byron-Hamlin incident: “The cameras and the monitors that we’ve got, we dedicate them mostly to officiating and seeing our safety vehicles and how to dispatch them. By the time we put all those cameras up (on the monitor in the control tower), we don’t have room for all of the in-car cameras to be monitored.

“If we would have had immediate access to (Byron)’s in-car camera, that would have helped us a lot, being able to find that quickly. That’s definitely one of the things we’re looking at.”

Had NASCAR seen the incident or video sooner, Miller said officials would have reacted.

“If we had seen that good enough to react to it real time, which we should have, like no excuse there, there would probably have been two courses of action,” he said. “One would have been to put Hamlin back where he was, or the other would be to have made William start in the back.”

Race winner Tyler Reddick said NASCAR needs to address the situation to avoid other contact under caution in the future.

“In William’s situation, whether he ran him over on accident or on purpose, there should be some sort of penalty for him on that side because he’s completely screwed someone’s race up, whether it was on purpose or not,” Reddick said. “I feel like there should be something done there.

I’m sure (NASCAR will) make some sort of a decision. I’m sure there will be something they’ll address this week, updates, on NASCAR’s side. I’ll be curious to see what that is. We can’t really have this where you dump someone under caution, they go to the back and you don’t. That could potentially be an interesting situation in the future.”

Byron said he hit Hamlin to show his dissatisfaction for being forced into the wall. 

“I felt like he ran me out of race track off of (Turn) 2 and had really hard contact with the wall,” Byron said. “Felt like the toe link was definitely bent, luckily not fully broken. We were able to continue.

“A lot of times that kind of damage is going to ruin your race, especially that hard. I totally understand running somebody close and making a little bit of contact, but that was pretty massive.”

On the retaliatory hit, Byron said: “I didn’t mean to spin him out. That definitely wasn’t what I intended to do. I meant to bump him a little bit and show my displeasure and unfortunately, it happened the way it did. Obviously, when he was spinning out, I was like ‘I didn’t mean to do this,’ but I was definitely frustrated.”

Hamlin didn’t see it that way.

“I guess we can just wreck each other under caution,” Hamlin told NBC Sports’ Kim Coon. “I tried to wreck him back. I don’t think we touched. I’ve got to look. I don’t think we touched. Obviously he sent us through the infield under caution.”

Asked about having a conversation with Byron, Hamlin said: “I keep hearing these guys, but I’ll just add it to the list of guys when I get a chance they’re going to get it.”

Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart both were frustrated with NASCAR not putting Hamlin back to second after the contact. Instead, NASCAR put him outside the top 15. After pitting, Hamlin restarted 19th. Byron, after pitting, restarted 10th. 

“The man wrecks you under caution and he gets no penalty?” Gabehart said on the team’s radio. “What are they doing?”

Said Hamlin after the race: “I can’t argue the rules with them inside the car and the team did everything they could to try to make a case but ultimately we went spinning through the infield under caution.”

The result is that Byron finished seventh. That puts him third in the playoff standings. He’s 17 points above the cutline going into next weekend’s race at Talladega.

Hamlin finished 10th and is sixth in the playoff standings. He’s eight points above the cutline.