Team R&D departments are keeping busy after recent rule change

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LOUDON, N.H. — NASCAR’s recent decision to change the penalty structure with the Laser Inspection Station after races has R&D departments working furiously to help Chase teams maximize the new tolerances heading into this weekend’s race at Dover International Speedway.

The change, which came after the first Chase race, has some teams scrambling and had New Hampshire winner Kevin Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers frustrated.

“We just haven’t been racing with the same types of scenarios that a lot of the other cars have,’’ Harvick told NBC Sports after his win last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “I have no doubt we’ll figure it out, but it’s just a short amount of time to figure it out. That’s really my biggest concern. I don’t care what the rules are. Just tell me what the rules are and we’ll figure it out.

“At this particular point, you get one week into the Chase and go and knock on the R&D department’s door and say, ‘Hey, guess what? The rules are different now, and you’ve got to go out and figure it out.’ ’’

NASCAR’s decision came after the cars of Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson failed on the Laser Inspection Station following the opening Chase race at Chicagoland Speedway won by Truex. NASCAR said after the race that both teams faced a P2 penalty, the lowest level for such an infraction.

A few days later, NASCAR announced that neither driver would be penalized, noting that Truex would advance because of his win, but the penalty could hinder Johnson’s chances of advancing with him facing a 10-point deduction.

By eliminating the possibilities of a P2 and P3 penalty, teams have a greater amount that their cars can be over the standard before being penalized. The P4 penalty remains and carries the loss of 35 points, a three-week suspension for a crew chief and a $65,000 fine. If it happens to a winning team, the victory won’t count for advancing to the next round.

NASCAR also announced last week that every car eligible for the championship would go through the Laser Inspection System after each Chase race. All 16 cars passed last weekend at New Hampshire, NASCAR announced. 

Harvick wasn’t alone in his frustration. Crew chief Rodney Childers was not pleased because he felt like he was suddenly behind in the midst of the playoffs.

“To be honest, I was mad about it,’’ Childers told NBC Sports. “I talked to (NASCAR) about it. They understood. We’ve been over there a lot of times and we’ve never had one issue. We’ve passed LIS the first time across every time for three years. When we go to the R&D Center, we’ve never had anything loose, we’ve never had truck arm mounts moving or trackbar mounts moving. We’ve never had anything.

“To be honest, I was frustrated. I was told that all that stuff was going to go away and get taken care of. When we opened the window up even bigger, it was a huge disadvantage for us going forward and makes us feel like we’re in a hole and we’re six months behind in development to make something like that work.’’

Truex said he appreciated NASCAR’s decision last week, noting that he has questions about the Laser Inspection System’s reliability. NASCAR has defended the Laser Inspection System’s integrity and dependability.

Furniture Row Racing stated the left rear of the car was off by about 10-thousandths of a degree of rear toe after the Chicago race, while the right rear was within the acceptable tolerance.

Truex found the matter perplexing.

“A Sprint Cup car has a solid rear axle,’’ he said. “Both wheels, they can’t move independently. So let’s say you go across the lasers before the race and your right rear is 40-thousandths to the good and your left rear is 40-thousandths to the good. Go race. All of a sudden your right rear is still 40-thousandths to the good but your left rear is 10-thousandths to the bad. How did one side move and the other side stay in place? Solid rear axle. The rear end housing is not going to bend during a race.

“If the laser platform in my opinion was consistent, both wheels should have been off the same amount that they were before the race.’’

Truex questions how much of a difference even 40-thousandths can make based on an experience his team had at Kansas Speedway earlier this year. He was second fastest in the practice session before qualifying. When they went through pre-qualifying inspection, Truex said his car was off between 20- and 40-thousandths.

“It was quite a bit,’’ he said, not recalling the number exactly.

“It was like how in the heck is it this far off when we went through before practice and it was where it needed to be? Nothing changed. Obviously the measurement was off. So we moved it that much and still went out and got the pole.’’

“Everybody wants as much as they can get. Is 10-thousandths worth a thousandth of a second? I can’t tell you. I think it depends on the racetrack and a lot of other things.’’

NASCAR Championship Weekend returns to Phoenix in 2024


Phoenix Raceway will host the championship races for the Cup, Xfinity, Craftsman Truck and ARCA Menards Series in 2024, NASCAR announced Wednesday.

The races will be held Nov. 1-3, 2024. The Cup season finale will be Nov. 3, 2024. The only other Cup race for 2024 that has been announced is the Daytona 500. It will be held Feb. 18, 2024.

Phoenix Raceway has hosted the championship finale for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks since 2020. Chase Elliott won the Cup title there in 2020. Kyle Larson followed in 2021. Joey Logano won the crown there in 2022.

This year’s Cup finale at Phoenix will be Nov. 5 and air on NBC.



Drivers to watch at World Wide Technology Raceway


After the fireworks from the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR heads to World Wide Technology Raceway, a 1.25-mile speedway just outside of St. Louis. Sunday’s race (3:30 p.m. ET on FS1) marks the second time the Cup Series has raced at this track.

Much is at stake. The race to win the regular season championship has intensified. Tempers are high. The pressure to make the playoffs builds. Ten drivers have wins this season. Twelve races remain in the regular season.


Kyle Larson

  • Points position: 11th
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Richmond, Martinsville)
  • Past at WWTR: 12th last year

While a driver coming off back-to-back finishes of 20th or worse might not seem like a frontrunner, it actually does make Larson one. His topsy-turvy season has seen him place outside the top 10 in back-to-back races four times. In the three previous times he had consecutive finishes outside the top 10, he came back to finish second, first and second. Can he keep that streak going this weekend?

Bubba Wallace

  • Points position: 15th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Las Vegas I, Kansas I, Coca-Cola 600)
  • Past at WWTR: 26th last year

Wallace has scored three consecutive top-five finishes, his best streak in his Cup career. He has climbed from 21st to 15th in the standings during this run.

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Las Vegas I, Phoenix I, Darlington I)
  • Past at WWTR: 19th last year

Byron has finished no worse than seventh in the last five races. He’s led nearly 20% of the laps run during that time. Byron has averaged nearly 47 points a race during that streak.


Corey LaJoie

  • Points position: 20th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Atlanta I)
  • Past at WWTR: 36th last season

NASCAR’s one-race suspension to Chase Elliott gives LaJoie the chance to drive a Hendrick Motorsports car for the first time. This will be the best car LaJoie has driven in his career. Many eyes will be on him to see how he does.

Ross Chastain

Chastain has finished 29th and 22nd in the last two points races. He’s not gone more than three races without a top-10 finish this season. After his struggles last weekend at Charlotte, Chastain saw his lead cut to one point over Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney in the standings. Five drivers are within 17 points of Chastain in the season standings.

Aric Almirola

  • Points position: 26th
  • Best finish this season: 6th (Martinsville I)
  • Past at WWTR: 5th last year

Almirola has finished 13th or worse in all but one race this season for Stewart-Haas Racing. In the five races since placing sixth at Martinsville, Almirola has finished an average of 21.0.

NASCAR suspends Chase Elliott one race for incident with Denny Hamlin


NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one Cup race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600, the sanctioning body announced Tuesday.

“We take this very seriously,” Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition, said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The incident that happened off Turn 4, again after looking at all the available resources — in-car camera, data, SMT, which basically gives us (a car’s) steering, throttle, gives us braking — it was an intentional act by Chase in our opinion.”

Hendrick Motorsports stated that it would not appeal the penalty. Corey LaJoie will drive the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway. Carson Hocevar will drive LaJoie’s car this weekend.

Hendrick Motorsports also stated that it would submit a waiver request for Elliott to remain eligible for the playoffs. Sawyer said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “I don’t see any reason at this point in time why wouldn’t (grant the waiver) when that request comes across our desk.”

This weekend will mark the seventh race in the first 15 that Elliott will have missed. He missed six races after breaking his leg in a snowboarding accident in early March. Elliott, who is winless this season, is 29th in points.

Elliott and Hamlin got together shortly before the halfway mark in Monday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

As they ran together, Hamlin forced Elliott toward the wall. Elliott’s car slapped the wall. Elliott then made contact with the right rear of Hamlin’s car, sending Hamlin into the wall.

“I got right-rear hooked in the middle of the straightway,” Hamlin said after the incident. “Yes, it was a tantrum. He shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

Said Sawyer on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: “In the heat of the battle, things happen, but they have to learn to react in a different way. … Our drivers need to understand that you have to handle that in a completely different way than hooking someone in the right rear and putting them in harm’s way, not only with just a major head-on collision like Denny had, but also other competitors.”

Sawyer also said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “nothing gave us the indication that on that particular contact with the fourth-turn wall … that anything was broke” on Elliott’s car and could have caused him to come down and hit Hamlin’s car in the right rear.

NASCAR also announced that Scott Brzozowski and Adam Lewis, crew members on Michael McDowell‘s team, had each been suspended two races after McDowell’s car lost a tire in Monday’s race.

Winners and losers at Charlotte Motor Speedway


A look at winners and losers from Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway:


Ryan Blaney — Blaney stopped his winless streak at 59 races and gave team owner Roger Penske his second major race victory in two days. Blaney had the best car but had to fight through restarts late in the race to win.

William Byron — Byron, the winningest driver this season, barely missed getting victory No. 4. He finished second and scored his fifth straight top 10.

Martin Truex Jr. — Truex logged his third top five of the season.

23XI RacingBubba Wallace was fourth and Tyler Reddick fifth, giving 23XI Racing a pair of top-five finishes for the first time in a points race.


Jimmie Johnson — The seven-time champion admitted having problems adjusting to the Next Gen car on a 1.5-mile track. He crashed early and finished last.

Legacy Motor Club — It was a bad night for Jimmie Johnson and his team’s drivers. Johnson finished last in the 37-car field. Noah Gragson was 36th. Erik Jones placed 32nd.

Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin — Two drivers who had strong cars didn’t make it to the finish after crashing near the halfway point. Hamlin said Elliott “shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”