Rash of 13 speeding penalties mystifies many drivers at Atlanta

1 Comment

HAMPTON, Ga. – Kasey Kahne joked that he picked the right day to be “probably way too slow on pit road.”

The Hendrick Motorsports driver’s fourth-place finish in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 was notable for two reasons: his first top five since a third at Charlotte Motor Speedway last October and a perfect driving record in the pits.

The latter was impressive given that Atlanta Motor Speedway’s pit lane turned into a speed trap on par with any interstate highway on a holiday weekend.

“I was probably being way too careful,” Kahne said. “They told me a few times the guys got caught speeding in section 1, section 2, so I was just pretty careful. The last thing I needed was a speeding penalty with trying to fight back the whole race. I took my time.”

Many others didn’t. There were 13 speeding penalties called over the course of 500 miles at the 1.54-mile oval, including four involving Hendrick teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson (who was tagged twice). Kevin Harvick led a race-high 292 laps but finished ninth after getting tagged speeding during his final yellow-flag stop.

It followed a Daytona 500 in which there were only four speeding penalties, and Kahne speculated that many teams discovered they were well under the limits.

“Last week at Daytona everyone was 2 mph from speeding,” Kahne said. “This week everybody is right at it. I think all the teams probably pushed a little harder this week after last week’s times.”

Elliott suspected he knew the reason why he was speeding but didn’t want to disclose it.

“Probably the same reason Kevin did,” Elliott said. “I think we were in the same spot. Same zone. He looked fast when he rolled through there. It was the same box that I got caught up in, so I think I know why, but that’s not for me to tell you.”

Elliott said it wasn’t attributable to shaking off the rust in the season’s second race.

“There’s something that I think a lot of guys are kind of aware of that goes on on pit road, and that’s something we need to address kind of internally,” he said. “But I have a pretty good reasoning, and I think why it was, but I really don’t want everybody else to know.”

This was the first race at Atlanta since NASCAR expanded its timing lines in the pits last season, and runner-up Kyle Larson said that could have been a factor.

“I stayed pretty cautious on my pit road lights because everybody was getting popped for speeding,” Larson said. “I was very, very shocked that Kevin had gotten caught that last pit stop.  I felt like me and Chase were closing on him down pit road.”

“(Team owner) Chip (Ganassi) always tells me to do the obvious things right, and No. 1 on that list is don’t speed on pit road.  I try and run to the cautious side of things where you’ve got a lot of guys that push the limits and get caught every now and then. It could be rust, it could be this is the first time we’d been here with the extra timing lines, so maybe everybody’s calibrations were off just a little bit.”

Cup cars aren’t equipped with speedometers, so drivers measure their speeds off the tachometers, with a system of lights, making it an inexact science. Because pit speeds are measured by time over distance, there previously was more dispensation to slow up during a sector and lower an average speed to avoid a penalty.

“It’s really easy to run past your speed,” Kahne said. “You’re not super fluent with it. It’s really a fine line if you’re running right at that mph. I think early in the year is a lot more difficult than once we get that routine going.”

Johnson and Earnhardt both said their teams would be researching the problem in their shops this week.

“We will have to look at our math and figure out what was going on there,” Johnson said. “The first one, I’m sure I could have gotten popped. The second one I made sure I didn’t get popped again, and I still got in trouble. So, we might have had something off on our end.”

Said Earnhardt: “We’ve got to look at that and see what we have wrong.  I was on my lights perfectly, but seems like a lot of guys got popped in the same segment.”

Cup starting lineup at Martinsville

Leave a comment

Fords flexed their muscle during Saturday’s qualifying, grabbing the first four spots and six of the first 11 for Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

Joey Logano will start from the pole, alongside Aric Almirola. Brad Keselowski will start in Row 2, alongside Kevin Harvick.

Row 3 will have Denny Hamlin and William Byron. Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott make up Row 4, while Martin Truex Jr. and Daniel Suarez will start from Row 5.

Click here for the full row-by-row Cup starting lineup.

Note that the starting lineup is provisional until Sunday morning’s pre-race inspection. Any car that fails inspection will lose its starting spot and move to the back of the field.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Joey Logano holds off Aric Almirola for Martinsville pole

1 Comment

Led by defending NASCAR Cup Series champion and pole sitter Joey Logano, Fords dominated qualifying, capturing the four top spots for Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

Logano covered the .526-mile oval with a speed of 97.830 mph, earning the 21st pole of his Cup career — with five of those now coming at Martinsville.

“You just have to be so precise and pushing yourself so hard in the corners, and a mistake is such a penalty,” Logano told Fox Sports 1. “It was awesome to get another pole here at Martinsville and hopefully we can top it off with … another win in the books.”

Aric Almirola was second fastest (97.643 mph), followed by Brad Keselowski (97.458), Kevin Harvick (97.832), Denny Hamlin (97.362), William Byron (97.202), Kyle Larson (97.098), Chase Elliott (97.053), Martin Truex Jr. (97.018), Daniel Suarez (96.830), Clint Bowyer (96.706) and Jimmie Johnson (96.573).

It appeared as if Almirola might take the pole, but Logano overtook him with just 34 seconds remaining in the final round.

“I just barely missed it by a little bit, and that’s all it takes,” Almirola told FS1. “We came up close, but just not enough.”

Kyle Busch failed to advance to the final round of qualifying. He’ll take the green flag Sunday from the 14th position in the 1,000th overall NASCAR start of his career. Just before Cup qualifying, Busch won the 201st race of his NASCAR career in the Truck Series race.

Click here for full qualifying results.

NOTES:

* The starting lineup is provisional until Sunday morning’s pre-race inspection. Any car that fails inspection will lose its starting spot and move to the back of the field.

* Daniel Suarez was penalized for speeding on pit road during the final round, but managed to bounce back for another try to earn the 10th starting spot.

* Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s first qualifying attempt was disallowed for speeding on pit road. He came back on-track to try again before the session expired, but could go no faster than 25th, failing to advance to the second round. “I didn’t feel I was going that fast (on pit road),” Stenhouse Jr. told Fox Sports 1. “Either way, our first or second time wasn’t good enough to make it. Definitely not the qualifying effort we wanted.”

* Cody Ware and Cory LaJoie did not make qualifying attempts, having to work on their race cars after being involved in wrecks during Saturday’s practice sessions.

* Sunday’s STP 500 (500 laps/263 miles) will take the green flag shortly after 2 p.m. ET (Fox Sports 1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Kyle Busch dominates en route to Truck win at Martinsville

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Less than a week after earning his 200th career NASCAR win, Kyle Busch began working on his next 200, capturing Saturday’s TruNorth Global 250 Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway.

Busch dominated the 32-truck event, leading 174 of the 250 laps around the .526-mile paper-clip shaped oval, winning under caution after Reid Wilson spun on the final lap. It was Busch’s third Truck start and win of 2019 – he also won at Atlanta and Las Vegas – and the 54th of his career.

Busch has two more Truck races left on his schedule this year (NASCAR limits full-time Cup drivers to a maximum of five starts in the Truck Series per year): Texas next Friday and Charlotte in May. If he wins those two races, he will have won all five this year and six in a row dating back to his last Truck start of 2018 at Pocono.

What’s more, Busch now has seven wins in 11 starts across all three NASCAR series thus far this season. He goes for career win No. 202 when he makes his 1,000th career NASCAR start in Sunday’s STP 500 NASCAR Cup race.

“We made wholesale changes to this thing all weekend long, to make it faster,” Busch told Fox Sports. “We had enough tire at the end to hold them off.”

Ben Rhodes finished second, followed by Brett Moffitt, Ross Chastain, pole sitter Stewart Friesen, Myatt Snider, Grant Enfinger, Matt Crafton, Johnny Sauter and Bubba Wallace.

“We just needed a little something more, we got beat by the best in the business,” Rhodes said of Busch to Fox Sports. “Overall, it was a good, happy day. We’ve got some momentum going and we go on to the next race and see if we can beat him the next time.”

Click here for full results.

Click here for updated point standings.

The only significant caution of note in the race occurred with eight laps to go in the first stage, when the No. 12 Chevrolet of Gus Dean went up in flames – possibly from an oil fire. He was uninjured.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Kyle Busch

STAGE 2 WINNER: Ross Chastain

WHAT’S NEXT: Vankor 350, March 29 at 9 p.m. ET, Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Chase Elliott leads Hendrick Chevy sweep of top three in final practice

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Chase Elliott paced the final Cup practice Saturday at Martinsville Speedway, turning a 97.542 mph lap on the 0.526-mile oval.

Teammate Alex Bowman was second fastest, and Jimmie Johnson made it a sweep of the top three speeds for Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets, which have been winless since Elliott’s win last October at Kansas Speedway..

Austin Dillon and Paul Menard rounded out the top five in the 50-minute session.

The rest of the top 10 were comprised of Ty Dillon, Daniel Hemric, Kevin Harvick, Erik Jones (the highest-ranked Toyota) and Martin Truex Jr.

Clint Bowyer, who won at Martinsville a year ago, was fastest in the first practice Saturday morning when Chris Buescher was the fastest Chevy in seventh.

The practice ended under a red flag after a crash for Cody Ware.

Qualifying for the STP 500 will be at 5:10 p.m. on FS1.

Click here for speeds during the final practice at Martinsville.