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Ryan: Time for ‘encumbered’ to exit . . . and maybe take wins? Thoughts on Joey Logano penalty

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A few thoughts on the massive penalty Thursday morning to Richmond International Raceway winner Joey Logano.

–Time to eradicate encumbered: Euphemisms are a detriment to our society that generally preclude getting to the root of a matter by speaking bluntly.

When people say they are having “issues,” what they actually mean are “problems.” Yes, you might think you are “reaching out” … but what you really are doing is calling or emailing.

In NASCAR, when drivers talk about their teams having or lacking “resources,” they actually mean “money.” And when team executives talk about “sponsorship inventory,” that’s code for “we need more money.”

Which brings us to “encumbered.” Why should anyone be using this word, asked a highly influential member of the NASCAR community?

In its era of transparency, NASCAR would do itself some favors if it used franker language. An “encumbered” win is a “tainted” win – full stop.

Understandably, teams would resist such language because it leaves them sideways with corporate sponsors that want to avoid the optics of being associated with rulebreakers.

But NASCAR lets teams – and itself – off the hook by avoiding the most direct description of what’s at stake. There already is too much impenetrable nomenclature in explaining Logano’s penalty (“mating surfaces”, “planar” and “spacer/pinion angle” were some of my favorites). Sorry about the aspersions being cast at Team Penske, but inadvertently throwing shade shouldn’t be high on the priority list for NASCAR when it doles out punishments.

Time to take away wins? It’s debate that reignites whenever a race winner runs afoul of the rulebook in a major way.

Two months ago on NASCAR America, analyst Jeff Burton made an impassioned and sensible case that stripping race victories should be considered.

The refrain long was that NASCAR didn’t want to invalidate wins because it wanted fans to know who the winner was when they left the track. In 21st century America, it is very possible – if not probable – that fans could learn via social media of a win being stripped before the affected driver.

It would be a shame to have the storyline spoiled of Logano winning in his 300th career start. But if the penalty was severe enough to disqualify its playoff eligibility and sit crew chief Todd Gordon for two races, then it seems right to award the win to teammate Brad Keselowski (hey, there’s some Penske consolation, and he did seem to have the strongest car Sunday).

It always could be restored if Penske appealed and won.

–An unfortunate narrative: In its latest of umpteenth crackdowns on inspection, NASCAR officials said they wanted to issue penalties closer to when the infractions were committed.

The preponderance of practice holds, loss of pit selection, etc., stems from this new approach. It’s a noble goal that prevents the empty space of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (and an ensuing race weekend) from being swallowed whole by talking about penalties, which candidly are unremarkable as a storyline. (You might have heard stock-car racing started with outlaws.)

Despite this push, Team Penske has illustrated it hasn’t worked as NASCAR hoped, between Logano’s punishment and the neverending saga of Keselowski’s Phoenix penalty ordeal.

You can debate whether it’s the fault of NASCAR or the teams for the endless war in the Laser Inspection Stations, but there is no doubt about this: None of this nonsense helps attract new fans.

–Caught on tape? Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford was approved after its postrace teardown at the R&D Center, begging the question of how two cars equally built and prepared under the same roof could differ in compliance. Making the rounds on social media Thursday morning was video of Keselowski swerving on the cooldown lap while congratulating Logano.

Did Logano lack the time and discretion to execute a similar maneuver and ensure legality because he won the race (NASCAR has policed swerving because it helps reset suspensions to pass the postrace laser inspection)?

Or was this (regardless of swerving) a case of the setups of Logano and Keselowski being SO divergent that one of their cars (the slower of the two, oddly) could be out of compliance despite originating in the same building?

Regardless, it certainly puts the comments of Dale Earnhardt Jr. after Texas in a new light.

NASCAR Power Rankings: Kevin Harvick still No. 1 after quiet Vegas

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Kevin Harvick didn’t have a flashy night Sunday in Las Vegas, but it didn’t keep him from retaining the No. 1 spot in this week’s NASCAR Power Rankings.

After winning the Bristol night race, Harvick finished in the top 10 in the first two stages in Vegas before placing 10th at race’s end.

Kurt Busch’s win at his home track vaulted him into the top 10 as 12 drivers received votes.

More: Playoff standings after Las Vegas

Here is this week’s NASCAR Power Rankings:

1. Kevin Harvick (Last week No. 1): In the last eight races he’s won three times and finished outside the top 10 only twice.

2. Martin Truex Jr. (Last week No. 5): Placed fourth for his 11th top-five finish in the last 14 races.

3. Alex Bowman (Last week unranked): Finished fifth for his second top five and fifth top-10 finish in the last six races.

4. Denny Hamlin (Last week unranked): Left Vegas with a third-place finish to snap a three-race streak of finishing outside the top 10.

5. Kurt Busch (Last week unranked): Snapped a 46-race winless streak with his victory and advanced to the Round of 8.

6. Kyle Busch (Last week No. 3): Finished sixth after a “dismal” night. He has four consecutive top 10s.

7. Brad Keselowski (Last week No. 5): Finished 13th to give him two finishes outside the top 10 since he won at Richmond.

8. Chase Briscoe (Last week unranked): Opened the Xfinity playoffs with his second consecutive win.

8. Chase Elliott (Last week No. 2): Led 73 laps, but had to settle for a 22nd-place finish in Vegas.

8. Joey Logano (Last week No. 3): Finished 14th for his second straight finish outside the top 10.

Also receiving votes: Erik Jones and Chris Buescher.

NASCAR announces changes to Kansas playoff weekend

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Citing “programming changes,” NASCAR announced shifts in the race dates and start times for its visit next month to Kansas Speedway.

The Xfinity, ARCA and Truck Series races have been shifted, while the Cup race remains at 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Oct. 18.

The biggest move is the Truck Series race shifting from Friday night to Saturday afternoon.

Here are the changes.

Friday, Oct. 16, 8:30 p.m. ETARCA Menards Series on FS1 or FS2; network TBD at a later date (previously at 10 p.m. ET)

Saturday, Oct. 17, 4 p.m. ETTruck Series on FOX (previously Friday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. ET on FS1)

Saturday, Oct. 17, 7 p.m. ET Xfinity on NBCSN (previously 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

 

Xfinity Series playoff standings after Las Vegas

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Chase Briscoe opened the Xfinity Series playoffs by earning his second consecutive win.

His victory Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway gives him 57 playoff points and an automatic spot in the Round of 8.

Harrison Burton holds the final transfer spot. He has a two-point advantage over Ross Chastain.

Behind Chastain below the cutline are Michael Annett (-10 points), Riley Herbst (-14) and Brandon Brown (-20).

Below is the full Xfinity Series playoff standings going into Saturday’s race at Talladega (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Drivers in red are below the cutline to advance. Drivers in yellow are in the remaining playoff spots.

Xfinity Series playoff standings

Cup playoff standings after Las Vegas

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Kurt Busch flipped the script on the Cup playoff standings with his win Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

He entered the Round of 12 as the last driver in the playoff standings, but is the first driver to clinch a spot in the Round of 8.

Replacing Busch in the bottom spot of the playoff standings is Austin Dillon. He is 32 points behind Alex Bowman, who holds the final cutoff spot.

Behind Bowman is Kyle Busch (-9 points), Clint Bowyer (-20), Aric Almirola (-27) and Dillon.

“Obviously, the 1 car (Kurt Busch) was not a car that we needed to win a race,” Clint Bowyer said after Sunday’s race. “It’s been a hell of a battle back there with cars that are kind of in the same wheelhouse as far as points-wise. (Kurt Busch) winning changes that landscape quite a bit, but we’re only 20 points out.”

Here is the full playoff standings entering Sunday’s playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Drivers in red are below the cutline to advance to the Round of 8. Drivers in yellow hold the remaining available playoff spots.

Cup playoff standings