AVONDALE, Ariz. – NASCAR will suspend Kevin Meendering, crew chief for Elliott Sadler, for next weekend’s championship race because Sadler’s car had two loose lug nuts after Saturday night’s race at Phoenix International Raceway.
The penalty for two loose lug nuts (out of 20 on the car) is that the crew chief is suspended for one race and is fined $10,000.
This is the second consecutive weekend the team has had at least one loose lug nut after the race. Meendering was fined $5,000 last weekend for having one lug nut loose after the Texas race.
Scott Miller, NASCAR vice president of competition, told NBC Sports that inspectors found two lug nuts not secure against the wheel Saturday night. The rule states that the lug nuts must be safe and secure against the wheel.
Sadler said he’s unsure who will be his crew chief at this point. Former crew chief Ryan Pemberton is JR Motorsports’ director of competition and would be a likely choice. He was last a crew chief in 2014 for the team with Regan Smith.
“It’s going to be tough,” Sadler said of losing Meendering for the title race. “No driver wants to go to Homestead with a chance of legitimately winning a championship and not have your right-hand man sidekick there with you, but we still have a chance to win it so we can’t count ourselves out of it.”
Is this Toyota’s weekend?
Chevrolet won the first four races of the season. Ford won last weekend with Joey Logano at Atlanta. Is it Toyota’s turn to win its first Cup race of the season? Or does Chevrolet return to dominance?
Chevrolet drivers have won 11 of the past 12 Cup races on road courses. The exception was Christopher Bell‘s win for Toyota at the Charlotte Roval in last year’s playoffs. Chevrolets have won the two previous Cup races at COTA: Chase Elliott in 2021 and Ross Chastain in 2022.
Details for Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas
(All times Eastern)
START: Brendan Hunt, who plays Coach Beard in “Ted Lasso” on Apple TV+, will give the command to start engines at 3:38 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:49 p.m.
PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 12:30 p.m. … Drivers meeting at 2:45 p.m. … Driver introductions at 3:05 p.m. … Invocation will be given by Sage Steele, ESPN broadcaster, at 3:30 p.m. … Jaime Camil, actor from “Schmigadoon” on Apple TV+, will perform the national anthem at 3:31 p.m.
DISTANCE: The race is 68 laps (231.88 miles) on the 3.41-mile, 20-turn road course.
STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 15. Stage 2 ends at Lap 30.
TV/RADIO: Fox will broadcast the race at 3:30 p.m. Pre-race coverage begins at 2 p.m. on FS1 and moves to Fox at 3 p.m. … Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. and will also stream at goprn.com; SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.
STREAMING: Fox Sports
FORECAST: Weather Underground – Mostly clouldy with a high of 74 degrees and a 9% chance of rain at the start of the race.
STARTING LINEUP: Qualifying is at 11:30 a.m. ET Saturday
LAST YEAR: Ross Chastain scored his first career Cup win in a physical battle with AJ Allmendinger on the final lap. Alex Bowman finished second. Christopher Bell placed third.
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Saturday will be a busy day at Circuit of the Americas, as all three national series are on the track.
Cup will qualify ahead of the Craftsman Truck and Xfinity Series races.
The forecast Saturday calls for sunny conditions and no chance of rain all day. The high is expected to be 69 degrees during Cup qualifying, 76 degrees at the start of the Truck race and 81 degrees for the start of the Xfinity race.
Zane Smith looks to win his second consecutive Truck race at the road course in Austin, Texas. AJ Allmendinger seeks his second consecutive Xfinity win at COTA.
Saturday, March 25
(All times Eastern)
- 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. — Cup Series
- 10:30 a.m. — Truck Series
- 2 p.m. — Xfinity Series
- 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup qualifying (FS1)
- 1:30 p.m. — Truck race (42 laps, 143 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
- 5 p.m. — Xfinity race (46 laps, 156 miles; FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
AJ Allmendinger, who won this race a year ago, will start on the pole for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Circuit of the Americas.
Allmendinger earned the pole with a lap of 92.173 mph Friday on the 20-turn, 3.41-mile road course.
He will be joined on the front row Sammy Smith (91.827 mph).
Ty Gibbs (91.665) will start third. Sheldon Creed (91.652) qualified fourth. Parker Kligerman (91.195) will start fifth.
Cup driver William Byron will start ninth. Byron’s time was disallowed for cutting the esses. Cole Custer, who will start 10th, didn’t make a lap in the final round of qualifying.
Cup driver Aric Almirola (91.269) qualified 13th. Truck Series racer Carson Hocevar (90.669) will start 17th. Alex Labbe (90.476) will start 23rd. He’s filling in for Josh Williams, who is serving a one-race suspension for parking his car at the start/finish line of last weekend’s race at Atlanta.
Ross Chastain will start on the pole for Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas.
Chastain earned the top starting spot in Friday’s qualifying with a lap of 91.877 mph. He’ll be joined on the front row by Kyle Busch (91.490 mph).
Ty Majeski qualified third with a lap of 91.225 mph. Rookie Nick Sanchez (90.993) will start fourth, and Christian Eckes (90.937) will complete the top five.
Alex Bowman failed to make the race. Bowman had a flat right front on his qualifying lap.