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.”

Zane Smith joins GMS Racing for full-time Truck Series ride

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Zane Smith will compete full-time for GMS Racing in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series next year, the team announced Tuesday.

Smith, 20, joins the team after competing part-time with JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series this year, where his best result in 10 races was fifth twice.

He will be GMS Racing’s fourth full-time entry next year, joining Brett Moffitt, Sheldon Creed and Tyler Ankrum. Sam Mayer will compete part-time.

Smith will have veteran Kevin “Bono” Manion as his crew chief.

“When I got the offer from Mike Beam asking me to run a truck full-time for GMS Racing, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity,” Smith said in a press release. “GMS is a championship-caliber team and to be a part of an organization like theirs is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’m looking forward to working with Manion again. He has a lot of experience and I know we will be a great team.”

Manion, who has 24 wins across all three national NASCAR series since 2003, joins GMS Racing after serving as a crew chief for DGR-Crosley in 2019, including working with Rookie of the Year Tyler Ankrum. Manion was crew chief for Smith in 2018 when he made his Truck Series debut at Gateway and finished fifth.

“I am really excited to join GMS Racing and Zane (Smith) for the 2020 season,” Manion said in a press release. “With GMS Racing’s championship caliber equipment and Chevrolet support, we have all the resources to win some races and be in the hunt for the 2020 Championship. I got the opportunity to crew chief Zane (Smith) in his first Gander Trucks start in 2018 at Gateway and we worked really well together. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish next season.”

Sponsorship and an assigned truck number for Smith will be announced at a later date.

Penalty report from Homestead-Miami Speedway

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NASCAR issued four fines and one suspension for lug nut violations during its championship weekend in Miami.

Cup Series

Mike Wheeler, crew crew chief on Matt DiBenedetto‘s No. 95 Toyota, was fined $10,000 for one unsecured lug nut.

Xfinity Series

Mike Shiplett, crew chief on Cole Custer‘s No. 00 Ford, was fined $5,000 for an unsecured lug nut.

Truck Series

Steve Lane, the owner of On Point Motorsports and crew chief on Danny Bohn‘s No. 30 Toyota, was fined $5,000 and suspended one points race for two unsecured lug nuts. The No. 30 truck competed part-time this season and made 16 starts. NBC Sports has asked the team if it will appeal the suspension.

Trip Bruce III, crew chief on Stewart Friesen‘s No. 52 Chevrolet, was fined $2,500 for one unsecured lug nut.

Other

NASCAR issued an indefinite suspension to Jeffrey Schmidt for violating its substance abuse policy.

Truck Series gets minor name change for 2020

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Four days after the end of the Gander Outdoors Truck Series season, NASCAR announced the series will receive a minor name change for the 2020 season.

The series will be called the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series when the season starts in February at Daytona International Speedway.

This is the second name change for the series in two years.

This season saw the name change from the Camping World Truck Series, which had been the title from 2009-2018.

Gander Outdoors and Camping World are owned by the same company.

Next year will also see a different name for the Cup Series. With the series going to a new sponsorship model, it will simply be called the NASCAR Cup Series.

Silly Season Scorecard: Post-Miami edition

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NASCAR’s championship weekend in Miami has come and gone and with it came a flurry of driver announcements from teams about the 2020 racing season.

Among them was the news that Cole Custer is being promoted by Stewart-Haas Racing to the Cup Series, where he will take over the No. 41 Ford driven by Daniel Suarez this year.

Here’s a look at all the official driver announcements made so far for next season.

OPEN RIDES ANNOUNCED FOR 2020

No. 38: Front Row Motorsports must replace David Ragan, who stated Aug. 14 that 2019 would be his final season running a full schedule.

No. 36: Front Row Motorsports announced Nov. 13 it was parting ways with Matt Tifft so he could focus on his health following his seizure at Martinsville in March. Tifft said he could not commit to racing in 2020.

ANNOUNCED CUP RIDES FOR 2020

No. 1: Chip Ganassi Racing announced on Nov. 1 a multi-year extension with Kurt Busch.

No. 6: Roush Fenway Racing announced Oct. 30 that Ryan Newman would return to the car as part of the news that Oscar Mayer would sponsor the No. 6 through 2021.

No. 8: Richard Childress Racing made it official Oct. 2 that Tyler Reddick will move to Cup in 2020 and drive the No. 8 car.

No. 10: Aric Almirola confirmed Oct. 11 he signed an extension to race for Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 13: Ty Dillon posted a video Sept. 6 on Instagram refuting rumors that he would retire after this season. He has a contract with Germain Racing through 2020.

No. 14: Clint Bowyer was announced Oct. 17 as returning to Stewart-Haas Racing for a fourth season.

No. 17: Chris Buescher will take over the Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 ride in 2020 after the team announced Sept. 25 that it would part ways with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. after this season.

No. 20: Joe Gibbs Racing announced Sept. 6 that it had signed Erik Jones to an extension. It is a one-year extension for the 2020 season.

No. 21: Matt DiBenedetto replaces Paul Menard at Wood Brothers Racing (announcement made Sept. 10). DiBenedetto’s deal is for 2020 only.

No. 41: Stewart-Haas Racing announced Nov. 15 Cole Custer will replace Daniel Suarez.

No. 95: Christopher Bell moves to Cup in 2020 and will drive for Leavine Family Racing (announcement made Sept. 24).

JTG Daugherty Racing: It was announced Oct. 16 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will join Ryan Preece at the two-car team, essentially swapping seats with Chris Buescher. The team said that an announcement on car number and sponsor would come later.

Rick Ware Racing: JJ Yeley will drive one of the team’s three full-time rides.

AMONG THOSE YET TO ANNOUNCE DEALS FOR 2020

Daniel Suarez — The driver revealed Nov. 14  he would not return to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2020 after one season driving the No. 41.

Corey LaJoie – The driver hasn’t announced his plans for 2020, but he said in October he and Go Fas Racing were “working toward” him returning to the No. 32 Ford. The team announced on Nov. 1 it would enter a technical alliance with Stewart-Haas Racing next year and that “2020 driver negotiations are still ongoing.”

Xfinity Series 

Ross Chastain – Kaulig Racing announced Oct. 15 he would compete full-time for the team in 2020 driving the No. 10 Chevrolet, joining Justin Haley.

Joe Gibbs Racing — Announced Oct. 17 Harrison Burton will drive its No. 20 Toyota full-time in 2020. Announced Oct. 31 Brandon Jones would return for a third year in the No. 19. Revealed Nov. 5 it would field a third full-time entry with Riley Herbst in the No. 18.

JR MotorsportsJustin Allgaier will return to the team for a fifth year in the No. 7 Chevrolet. The No. 8 car will be driven by Daniel Hemric for 21 races, Jeb Burton 11 races and Dale Earnhardt Jr. for one race. Noah Gragson will also return for a second season in the No. 9 car, while Michael Annett returns for a fourth year with the team in the No. 1 car.

Richard Childress Racing — Has not announced its driver plans for 2020, but Richard Childress said after Tyler Reddick claimed the Xfinity title that it would field a full-time entry.

Stewart-Haas Racing – The team has not announced plans for the No. 00 Ford with Cole Custer moving to Cup or whether Chase Briscoe will return to the No. 98.

JD MotorsportsJesse Little will compete full-time for the team.

Truck Series

GMS RacingDriver lineup will include Brett Moffitt, Sam Mayer, Sheldon Creed and Tyler Ankrum

Kyle Busch MotorsportsRaphael Lessard will drive the No. 4 full-time while Christian Eckes will drive the No. 18 full-time.

Hattori Racing EnterprisesAustin Hill will return to the No. 16 Toyota for a second year.

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