Rash of 13 speeding penalties mystifies many drivers at Atlanta

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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.”

Results, point standings after Truck race at Las Vegas

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Austin Hill won Friday night’s Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for his second win of 2020.

He beat Sheldon Creed for the victory.

The top five was completed by Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith.

IndyCar driver Conor Daly finished 18th and Travis Pastrana was 21st.

Click here for the race results.

Point Standings

With his win, Austin Hill is the first driver to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

Todd Gilliland is last in the playoff standings with 2,050 points. He is 13 points behind Ben Rhodes.

Click here for the standings.

Austin Hill wins Las Vegas Truck race

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Austin Hill won Friday night’s Truck Series playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, leading the final 39 laps to score the victory.

Hill took the lead on a restart and held off charges from Sheldon Creed over the final 20 laps.

Creed’s progress was slowed with 11 laps to go when he got loose and scraped the wall in Turn 1. He was never able to get close enough to Hill to make a challenge.

Creed dominated the early portion of the race, leading 89 laps before he struggled to get going on the final restart and briefly fell to seventh.

The win is the second of the year for Hill. He’s the first playoff driver to win in the postseason and it come after he finished 25th at Bristol.

“We didn’t have the best truck tonight by no means,” Hill told FS1. “Pit crew did a hell of job on that last pit stop getting me into the position I needed to. I just had to go out there and get it. … Sheldon was definitely way faster than me. … I was probably looking in my mirror more than I was our front. I knew he was better than we were.”

The top five was completed by Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith.

More: Race results and point standings

STAGE 1 WINNER: Sheldon Creed

STAGE 2 WINNER: Sheldon Creed

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith all matched their best results of the season … While he was the first driver to finish one lap down, IndyCar driver Conor Daly placed 18th in his first career Truck Series start … Travis Pastrana placed 21st in his second start of the season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Rachael Lessard finished 20th after he had to pit early in the race following contact with the wall … Ben Rhodes finished 23rd after he spun from contact with Stewart Friesen and hit the inside wall on Lap 84 … Jordan Anderson’s engine expired on the ensuing restart. He finished 32nd.

NOTABLE: Natalie Decker, who was not medically cleared to compete Friday night, was treated and released from the infield care center.

WHAT’S NEXT: Race at Talladega Superspeedway, 1 p.m. ET Oct. 3 on FS1

 

Natalie Decker not medically cleared for Las Vegas Truck race

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NASCAR announced right before Friday night’s Truck Series race that Natalie Decker hadn’t been medically cleared to compete.

No details were provided about the issue that prevented Decker from being cleared. During the final stage of the race, NASCAR announced she had been treated and released from the infield medical center.

The Niece Motorsports driver would have started 23rd. Due to her No. 44 truck having cleared inspection and having been placed on the starting grid she was credited with a last-place finish.

Decker has made 11 starts this year. She missed the June 28 race at Pocono after she was hospitalized due to bile duct complications related to her gallbladder removal in December.

Decker provided this update Saturday morning.

Brandon Brown hopes to shed underdog role in Xfinity playoffs

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Brandon Brown knows the odds are against him advancing beyond the first round of the Xfinity playoffs.

“If I went out and we did a survey and we asked 1,000 NASCAR fans to create a playoff bracket, I guarantee that 90 to 99 percent of them have me getting eliminated in the first round,” he told NBC Sports.

But that’s not stopping him.

Brown is in the Xfinity playoffs for the first time, earning the final spot last weekend with his family-run team. He enters Saturday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) last in the 12-driver field. Brown has 2,000 points and is 10 points behind Ross Chastain, who holds the final transfer spot, entering the first round.

MORE: Saturday’s Xfinity race start time, lineup, forecast

Regardless where he is in the standings, Brown still met the team’s preseason goal of making the playoffs.

“It’s hard to put it into words,” the 27-year-old said of making the playoffs. “It’s so exciting and so thrilling. We’re just happy. Life is good. We’re seeing the fruits of our labor.”

Much of the Xfinity playoff focus will be on Chase Briscoe, who enters with a series-high seven wins. Or Austin Cindric, who won the regular-season title. Or Justin Allgaier, who has won three of the last seven races and could be the favorite if he makes it to the championship race at Phoenix Raceway.

Brown, who is in his second full season in the series, has four consecutive top-20 finishes going into this weekend. He knows the challenge he faces.

He said a key for this weekend is to have no mistakes, be running at the end and try to take advantage of any mistakes other playoff drivers have.

Then, he’ll look to Talladega. He’ll have an upgraded Earnhardt Childress Racing engine for that race, the team spending the extra money for the engine upgrade.

“I go into that track with confidence,” he said. “I need to go out there and make it happen, go win and make an name and go ahead and punch my ticket.”

While Brown knows most look at him as the underdog of these playoffs, he hopes to drop that title someday.

“The goal will be to get rid of that underdog title and to build that program that is going to be looked on as a powerhouse of the NASCAR Xfinity Series,” he said. “I enjoy the ride (as underdog), but now I’m ready to advance past it.”

Points entering Xfinity playoffs 

2,050 – Chase Briscoe

2,050 – Austin Cindric

2,033 – Justin Allgaier

2,025 – Noah Gragson

2,020 – Brandon Jones

2,018 – Justin Haley

2,014 – Harrison Burton

2,010 – Ross Chastain

2,002 – Ryan Sieg

2,002 – Michael Annett

2,001 – Riley Herbst

2,000 – Brandon Brown

First Round races

Sept. 26 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Oct. 3 – Talladega Superspeedway (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Oct. 10 – Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC)