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.

Saturday NASCAR schedule at Talladega Superspeedway

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Both the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series will race Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway.

Cup cars will start the day’s action by qualifying for Sunday’s playoff race, followed by the Truck playoff race and then the Xfinity playoff race.

Talladega Superspeedway (Cup, Xfinity and Truck)

Weekend weather

Saturday: Sunny. High of 78.

Saturday, Oct. 1

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 9:30 a.m. — Truck Series
  • 1 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 10:30 a.m. – Noon — Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series race (94 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 4 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (113 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Talladega Xfinity starting lineup: Austin Hill wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Austin Hill will lead the field to the green flag Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway after scoring his first career Xfinity Series pole.

Hill won the pole Friday with a lap of 182.036 mph. He will be joined on the front row by fellow playoff contender Ty Gibbs (181.981 mph).

MORE: Talladega Xfinity starting lineup

Playoff drivers will start in seven of the top eight spots. The exception is Sheldon Creed, who will start third after a lap of 181.870 mph. Hill and Creed give Richard Childress Racing the first and third starting spots.

Justin Allgaier (181.529) qualified fourth and Brandon Jones (181.305) completed the top five. Noah Gragson, who has won four races in a row, starts sixth after a lap of 181.134 mph and is followed by playoff drivers Josh Berry (181.052) and AJ Allmendinger (180.932).

The Xfinity Series race is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network.

Talladega Truck starting lineup: John Hunter Nemechek wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — John Hunter Nemechek will start on the pole for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race.

Nemechek earned the pole with a lap of 178.767 mph.

Nemechek is one of four playoff drivers starting in the top six: Chandler Smith (second, 177.732 mph), Zane Smith (fourth, 177.061) and Ty Majeski (sixth, 176.744). Majeski clinched a spot in next month’s championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.

MORE: Talladega Truck starting lineup

Also qualifying in the top five were Carson Hocevar (177.068) in third and Matt Crafton (176.960) in fifth.

Failing to qualify are Tim Viens, Spencer Boyd, Jason White and Natalie Decker.

Saturday Talladega Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather

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The second race of the opening round of the Xfinity playoffs takes drivers to Talladega Superspeedway.

Noah Gragson secured his spot in the next round by winning last weekend at Texas. Ryan Sieg holds the final transfer spot. Riley Herbst is the first driver below the cutline, one point behind Sieg. Also below the cutline are reigning series champion Daniel Hemric (-8 points), Brandon Jones (-12) and Jeremy Clements (-28).

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:09 p.m. … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:21 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3:30 p.m. … The invocation will be given at 4 p.m. … The Brookwood High School choir will perform the anthem at 4:02 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 113 laps (300.58 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 25. Stage 2 ends at Lap 50.

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 4 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 3:30 p.m. on USA Network. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 78 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Noah Gragson won and was followed by Jeffrey Earnhardt and AJ Allmendinger.