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NASCAR executive answers questions about inspection, issues from Chicagoland race


While Sunday’s Chase opener saw Martin Truex Jr. win at Chicagoland Speedway, much of the focus turned to the cars of Truex and Jimmie Johnson failing the Laser Inspection Station after the race.

NASCAR confirmed that both were off within the lowest range that triggers a penalty, thus both teams could face a P2 penalty later this week.

Nearly each Monday after a NASCAR race weekend, a series official, typically Steve O’Donnell, appears on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio to discuss the weekend’s events. O’Donnell, the executive vice president and chief racing development officer, was on Monday’s show and was asked several questions about inspection after the race and other issues. Here are his comments:

— On the Laser Inspection Station:

    O’DONNELL: “It’s something that we worked with the teams prior to the Chase even starting to make the LIS part of postrace inspection, so we’ve had that as part of postrace for this year. Then we looked at potentially ramping up the penalties as we headed into the Chase. We want to talk about the great competition on the track, winning cars moving on to the next round. In this case we wanted to make sure the penalties we had in place for the first 26 races really matched those in the Chase, but if someone were to go way outside the boundaries we would have to react and potentially make that an encumbered win. In both cases, the 78 and the 48, that wasn’t the case in terms of what their numbers were on the LIS postrace machine. We’re still going to look at that. Got to give a look at what happened at Richmond and now in Chicago. So still some discussions going on with our group. Again, it’s unfortunate we want to be talking about what’s taking place on the racetrack.

— O’Donnell confirmed that teams get a second chance go through the Laser Inspection Station after the race to pass:

O’DONNELL: “There are variances built into the system ahead of time, so it’s something we feel confident in. In this case, we didn’t see the results we needed to. We’ll go back and talk about that today and tomorrow at R&D (Center).’’

— On the purpose of the Laser Inspection Station and what is being inspected:

O’DONNELL:  “It’s really certain parts. We’ve got various stages of inspection that we do throughout he weekend. This is one as we look to implement newer technologies and look at skew and a number of different aspects on the car. We use it to set up the beginning of the race weekend, make sure it’s right and then look at tolerances and work with the race teams throughout the weekend to make sure they’re within tolerances. It’s something that everybody passes, obviously, before the race and we’ve got to look at it to make sure we’re as fair as possible postrace.

— Truex got hit by Kevin Harvick during the race. Is that factored into LIS measurements?

O’DONNELL: “We’ve had damaged cars go through before and pass, so it is something we look at. Each case, as I’ve said before, is unique but it is something that we also do factor in prior to any failures and then we have conversations that will take place again today.

— On if there is something for multiple infractions after that race compared to how multiple warnings in inspections before qualifying and the race can lead to a team losing its pit stall pick (in light of Truex’s car failing LIS a second race in a row):

O’DONNELL: “That actually exists. We do have a multiplier that is in effect and is a part of the rule book. If teams fail a certain aspect of any rule, it can be multiplied with offenses that take place kind of week after week. That is something that we’ll be taking a look at here.’’

— On the issue of the cars swerving wildly on the cool-down lap and how much of a concern that is for NASCAR:

O’DONNELL: “That’s absolutely something we’re looking into, and that’s why we put the rules in place that we did prior to the Chase. We don’t want to have react to this. We want to see the best racing possible. We want the cars to come in and race straight up. Unfortunately, it’s part of racing to push the limits. So we’ve got to find that balance. What we want to be talking about again is the racing on the track, not postrace, not what happens in cool-down laps. We’ve got a job to do with the team owners to talk about exactly the questions I’m being asked today, which is very fair. That’s where we’re headed versus talking about the terrific action heading into the final nine races and that’s what we need to be working on and not talking about how do we potentially get around rules or what are the rules and make sure again that we talk about what is happening on track.’’

— On the unapproved adjustment on Harvick’s car that forced that car to start at the rear of the field.

O’DONNELL: “It’s typical of what happened’s really every race when cars go through inspection and head to pit road and the car is really not to be touched. In this case, we believe it had been and put one of the templates on it and made the decision for the car to go to the rear of the field. Certainly a challenge but you saw Kevin put on a heck of a show in terms of passing a number of cars, got caught up, unfortunately, in that one caution but passed a number of cars all day long as did the 78.

— On the situation where Harvick was deemed to be a lap behind the leader on a pit stop when the caution came out:

O’DONNELL: “I think they contested (it) on the radio because if you don’t have a video screen right in front of you it feels like you had to have beaten the leader. When you looked at the camera shot we had right off the start/finish basically and where the leader was, you can see that the 48 was the leader at the time and the 78 was just behind. So it was the correct call.’’

Nashville Fair Board votes to terminate contract with operator of Fairgrounds Speedway

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The Nashville Metro Fair Board voted Tuesday to terminate its contract with the operator of Fairgrounds Speedway, a track being eyed for a possible NASCAR race, according to The Tennessean.

Last December, Formosa Productions and Bristol Motor Speedway announced “an agreement to explore bringing major NASCAR racing events” back to the .596-mile track. The earliest Nashville could potentially be added to the schedule is 2021, though the schedule for that season is expected to be revealed in April.

Bristol Motor Speedway released a statement Tuesday night saying it is still interested in pursuing future involvement with the Fairgrounds Speedway.

“We appreciate all that Tony and Claire Formosa have done to sustain local racing in Nashville over the years,” said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager for Bristol Motor Speedway. “Today’s news does not change our interest or belief that Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway can be returned to prominence to help create a true renovation of the Fairgrounds. There is huge local, regional and national interest in the future of the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway. As Mayor (John) Cooper, the Fair Board and Council determine what’s next for the historic race track, we are ready to engage with them on the vision that we believe can deliver a bright future for the Fairgrounds.”

The vote to terminate the contract with Formosa Productions, operated by Tony and Claire Formosa, is in response to a claimed breach of contract, which was first raised by the city in April and includes unpaid concessions commissions and rent payments.

A fairgrounds spokesperson told The Tennessean that the Formosas would owe the city nearly $180,000 by the end of the year. The Tennessean reports the Formosas have 90 days to vacate the premises.

According to The Tennessean, Nashville Fairgrounds Director Laura Womack said she and another board member met Oct. 14 with the Formosas and asked that they provide specific contract changes and documents regarding attendance and revenue records from this year’s racing season.

A meeting where those documents were due to be delivered was rescheduled to Nov. 6 before it was canceled by the Formosas.

“This shows little to no faith that we will be paid by the end of the year,” said Fair Board member Caleb Hemmer, according to The Tennessean. “Which begs the issue that we need to start looking to the future and what we need to do as a board to ensure there’s racing next year if the (Formosas) can’t fulfill their obligations as put forth by (the contract).”

Jim Roberts, an attorney representing the Formosas, attended the meeting according to The Tennessean. Roberts believed the meeting, which was delayed two hours due to winter weather, was in violation of the opens meeting act due to it not being properly noticed.

The Formosas have operated the track since 2010 and entered into a five-year agreement in 2017 after the city chose its bid over one from Bristol Motor Speedway

The deal between Formosa Productions and Bristol Motor Speedway, which would need to be approved by the Fair Board, would focus “on a long-range plan of significant track improvements and high-profile race events that could include NASCAR events upon the facility meeting standards.”

In May, Bristol officials revealed a $60 million proposal to renovate the track.

The plan would increase seating capacity of the .596-mile short track from its current size of 15,000 to 30,000, as well as include an expanded concourse, premium seating, pedestrian tunnels and sound barriers.


Penalty report from ISM Raceway

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NASCAR has fined five crew chiefs for unsecured lug nuts on their cars after last weekend’s playoff races at ISM Raceway.

Each fine was for having a single unsecured lug nut.

In the Cup Series:

Paul Wolfe, crew chief on Brad Keselowski‘s No. 2 Ford, and Mike Hillman Sr., crew chief on J.J. Yeley‘s No. 53 Chevrolet, were each fined $10,000.

In the Xfinity Series:

Taylor Moyer, crew chief on Zane Smith‘s No. 8 Chevrolet, was fined $5,000.

In the Truck Series:

Joe Shear, Jr., crew chief on Johnny Suater’s No. 13 Chevrolet, and Trip Bruce lll, crew chief on race winner Stewart Friesen‘s No. 52 Chevrolet, were fined $2,500.

Preliminary entry lists for Championship Weekend in Miami

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NASCAR’s final race weekend of the year has arrived with the championship races for all three of its national series at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for all three races.

Cup – Ford EcoBoost 400 (3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC)

A full field of 40 cars are entered into the race.

Drew Herring is entered in Gaunt Brothers Racing’s No. 96 Toyota for his Cup debut.

John Hunter Nemechek will make his third start in Front Row Motorsports’ No. 36 Ford in relief of Matt Tifft.

Joe Nemechek is entered in Premium Motorsports’ No. 15 Chevrolet.

Joey Logano won this race last year over Martin Truex Jr. to claim his first Cup title.

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity – Ford EcoBoost 300 (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

There are 39 cars entered. One car will not qualify for the race.

Jeb Burton is entered in JR Motorsports’ No. 8 Chevrolet.

Harrison Burton is entered in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota.

Tyler Reddick won this race last year over Cole Custer to claim the championship.

Click here for the entry list.

Trucks – Ford EcoBoost 200 (8 p.m. ET Friday on FS1)

There are 37 trucks entered. Five trucks will not qualify for the event.

K&N Pro Series West champion Derek Kraus is entered in Bill McAnally Racing’s No. 19 Toyota for his fifth start of the season.

Angela Ruch is entered in Niece Motorsports’ No. 44 Chevrolet.

Christian Eckes is entered in Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 51 Toyota.

NBC Sports analyst Parker Kligerman is entered in Henderson Motorsports’ No. 75 Chevrolet.

No drivers are listed for NEMCO Motorsports’ No. 87 Chevrolet and Reaume Brothers Racing’s No. 33 and No. 34 Toyotas.

Brett Moffitt won this race last year to claim the championship.

Click here for the entry list.

JJL Motorsports announces new team owner

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JJL Motorsports, Jesse Little‘s Gander Outdoors Truck Series team, announced Tuesday it has sold its assets to Logan Puckett, president of Diversified Utility Group, a turnkey general contractor specializing in fiber optic telecommunications construction.

The company will sponsor Little in Friday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway (8 p.m. ET on FS1).

Puckett will re-brand the team as Diversified Motorsports Enterprises in 2020 with plans to compete part-time with Little as its primary driver.

Little, 22, has made eight starts in the Truck Series this year in his No. 97 Ford.

More: Jesse Little to compete full-time for JD Motorsports in 2020

The team announced in early September that its assets were up for sale.

“I’m honored to represent Diversified Utility Group this weekend at Homestead,” Little said in a press release. “Logan has been so excited about the opportunity to enter the Truck Series as an owner in 2020, but to have his company be a part of our last race under the JJL Motorsports banner as a sponsor is even more awesome.

“Hopefully we can have a good performance for him on Friday night before looking ahead to 2020.”

Said Puckett: “I am really looking forward to taking over an outstanding program that JJL has put together as it provides a great foundation to build on and hopefully grow. I think the growth potential is what excites me the most.

“I am certainly looking forward to the challenge that this provides, and I hope that I can bring some value to the team and ultimately it would be awesome if I can bring value to the sport as a young owner with a fresh outlook.”