NASCAR on NBC podcast, Ep. 71: Steve Letarte on the mystery of pit speeding penalties

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Why were so many NASCAR drivers penalized for speeding in the pits at Atlanta Motor Speedway and why will it happen again?

NASCAR on NBC analyst Steve Letarte provided an answer on the most recent episode of the NASCAR on NBC podcast.

In a breakdown of the 13 speeding penalties at Atlanta (around the 18:00 mark of the episode), Letarte explained that the debut of the digital dashboard last year and the shortening of speeding vectors in the pits have combined to make it more likely for drivers and teams to err on speeding.

“That dash is electronic, and there’s a little bit of a delay,” Letarte said. “If I text you, it says it was delivered, but is it 1 second or 6 seconds? It doesn’t matter in a text conversation. But it makes a really big difference if you’re trying to run exactly at pit speed.

“The driver controls the speed with his foot, but it takes a few milliseconds of delay (for the speeding gauge). There’s a delay to the dash, and it’s the same for every team.”

There is no speedometer in a Cup car, so drivers must rely on other means for limiting their speeds since electronic timing was introduced in the pits 13 years ago. After once using tachometer meters, teams now use a system of lights connected to the tach.

“The only reason people speed is there’s an advantage to be had,” Letarte said. “It’s real simple, with the diameter of the tire, you can tell the RPM you’re shooting for from the engine.

“Forever you had this cool little tach, and you just had to look at the needle, like in your car.”

But that’s changed with the introduction of lights that are based on data received from the digital dash.

And with NASCAR virtually doubling the number of timing zones in the pits since the midpoint of last year (speeding is measured by time over distance), there’s less margin for error.

Teams are given a buffer of 5 mph over the speed limit, and Letarte said teams easily could avoid getting busted if they played it safe – but no one can.

“If you shot for 58 (with a 60 mph limit), you couldn’t be over because of this so-called delay,” Letarte said. “But you can’t because the next guy is going for 59.5 mph.”

Other topics discussed

–How crew chiefs handle a postrace confrontation similar to Kyle Busch and Joey Logano at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. “The only person who has the ability to make the decision (to fight) is the driver,” Letarte said.

–Whether the lower downforce rules package is having an impact on racing in the 2017 Cup season (with respectful apologies and sincere gratitude to SiriusXM Satellite Radio host Pete Pistone for inadvertently suggesting the topic).

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the AudioBoom embed below or download and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes by clicking here. The free subscription will provide automatic downloads of new episodes to your smartphone. It also is available on Stitcher by clicking here and also can be found on Google Play, Spotify and a host of other smartphone apps.

 

NASCAR shares prayers for Stewart-Haas Racing engineer

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FORT WORTH, Texas — The NASCAR garage is sharing its prayers for Stewart-Haas Racing engineer DJ VanderLey, who was injured Thursday night in a crash during a micro sprint Outlaw race at the Texas Motor Speedway dirt track.

He suffered several fractured vertebrae and has a spinal cord injury, according to a post from his wife Jordan on her Facebook page. 

Two GoFundMe accounts have been set up to help the family with medical costs. 

VanderLey was Chase Briscoe’s engineer for four years, and they are good friends.

“I hate that it happened to anybody,” Briscoe said Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway, “but for it to hit close to home has definitely been tough for me.”

Briscoe said he planned to visit VanderLey in the hospital on Saturday and that “I just hope that everybody continues to pray. That’s really all we can do at this point, trying to hope he gets better.”

Christopher Bell calls VanderLey among his best friends. VanderLey was Bell’s engineer at Kyle Busch Motorsports in 2016. 

Bell spent the night at the hospital and also picked up Jordan VanderLey at the airport when she arrived. 

Stewart-Haas Racing had a decal for VanderLey on Riley Herbst‘s No. 98 Xfinity car for Saturday’s race.

Starting lineup for Texas Cup race: Brad Keselowski wins pole

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Brad Keselowski will be at the front of the field to start Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway (3:30 pm ET, USA Network).

Keselowski, who is not a part of the 12-driver playoff group, won the pole Saturday afternoon with a speed of 188.990, edging Joey Logano‘s 188.805.

MORE: Texas Cup starting lineup

The race is the first of three in the second round of the Cup playoffs. Round of 12 races will follow at Talladega Superspeedway Oct. 2 and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval Oct. 9.

MORE: Waffle House a headquarters for race winners

Also starting in the top five Sunday will be William Byron, Tyler Reddick and Michael McDowell. It is McDowell’s best oval start of the season and his ninth top-10 start of the year.

Brad Keselowski wins Cup pole at Texas Motor Speedway

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Brad Keselowski, hoping to extend Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing’s turnaround, won the pole Saturday for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway.

It was the second piece of good news for RFK Racing in two weeks. Chris Buescher,  Keselowski’s teammate, won last week’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway, the first victory for the team under the RFK banner.

Keselowski, who ran 188.990 mph, is not a part of the 12-driver playoff group. Nine of the first 14 starting positions were filled by playoff drivers.

MORE: Texas Cup qualifying results

Following in the top five Saturday were Joey Logano, William Byron, Tyler Reddick and Michael McDowell. Playoff point leader Chase Elliott will start sixth.

“Texas is a really tough track,” Keselowski told NBC Sports. “As hot as it’s going to be, that will be even tougher.”

Race-time temperatures are expected to be in the mid-90s Sunday.

The race (3:30 p.m. ET), the first event in the second round of the playoffs, will be televised by the USA Network.

Sunday Texas Cup race: Start time, TV info, weather

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The first race in the second round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs is scheduled Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

Twelve drivers are racing for eight spots in the next round. Chase Elliott leads the standings by 15 over Joey Logano entering Sunday’s 500-mile event, the only Cup points race at TMS this year. Ryan Blaney, who is in the playoff group, won the All-Star Race at the track in May.

Chase Briscoe, Alex Bowman, Daniel Suarez and Austin Cindric are below the cutline entering the 3:30 p.m. ET (USA Network) race.

MORE: Big race celebration? Try Waffle House

The playoffs will continue at Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 2) and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Oct. 9).

Details for Sunday’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway:

START: The command to start engines will be given by “Top Gun: Maverick” actors Jay Ellis and Lewis Pullman at 3:38 p.m. (ET) … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:49 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 12:30 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Bret Shisler of Texas Alliance Raceway Ministries at 3:30 p.m. … The 1st Cavalry Division Band will perform the anthem at 3:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 334 laps (501 miles) on the 1.5-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 105. Stage 2 ends at Lap 210.

MORE: Ryan Blaney’s team to appeal penalty

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 3:30 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 2:30 p.m. on USA Network. The post-race show will air on USA Network. … Performance Racing Network coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. and also will stream at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Partly cloudy skies. High of 96 with a 5% chance of rain.

LAST TIME: Kyle Larson won by .459 of a second over William Byron last October. Larson led 256 of the race’s 334 laps.

CATCH UP ON NBC SPORTS COVERAGE

Friday 5: Waffle House a headquarters for winning drivers

Brandon Jones wins Texas Xfinity pole

Dr. Diandra on the art and science of the pass

Red Farmer: A racer and a winner at almost 90 years old

NBC Sports Power Rankings entering Texas race