Getty Images

Bump & Run: Is William Byron worthy of a Cup ride in 2018?

2 Comments

Nate Ryan and Dustin Long debate some of the key issues in the sport this week:

William Byron has won the past two Xfinity races and easily could have won three in a row. Is he showing you he is worthy of a Cup ride next year?

Nate Ryan: Absolutely. He seems less of a risk every week for promotion by Hendrick Motorsports. (And he also seems more of a bargain at a Cup rookie salary.)

Dustin Long: Yes. His ability to adapt despite his relative lack of experience is stunning. Still, there’s a big difference between Xfinity and Cup. Hendrick is an organization that can put a good support group around him to help with a move to Cup and the challenges — and setbacks — he’ll likely face. If his success continues, maybe its worthwhile to go ahead and move him up to Cup for next year.

Kasey Kahne is running five nights of sprint car races this week and Kyle Larson is running four night of sprint car races. If you were their boss, how would you handle their desire to race those cars?

Nate Ryan: Let them run if it keeps them happy and if their cars are held to the most stringent of safety standards. Tony Stewart often proved that extracurricular racing didn’t detract from his Cup results (and honing his restart ability in a sprint car actually might have helped his push to the 2011 championship), and Larson seems to be in that same place now.

Of course, Stewart missed half a season with a broken leg in a crash four years ago, and team owners Chip Ganassi and Rick Hendrick understandably are leery about their drivers racing cars that occasionally can seem like deathtraps, which is partly why Larson is limited to 25 races and Kahne didn’t race sprint cars from 2013-15.

But Larson also made a compelling case recently for why drivers should compete on the grass-roots level as often as possible, and the greater good of NASCAR needs the benefit of that exposure and outreach.

Dustin Long: Chip Ganassi Racing’s model of limiting Larson to 25 races seems a fair and reasonable way to doing it. No driver needs to be racing all the time in another series. That’s a hobby and their main job is the Cup team — which many people depend on to succeed for jobs.

There has to be a balance. Just as Jimmie Johnson skies (people get hurt doing that), or he and other drivers bike (again people get hurt or could be killed in accidents), team owners aren’t going to be able to stop these drivers from living.

There can be a benefit to allowing these drivers to race. Look at the confidence Larson is building with his sprint car success. Owners say the most important part of their team is people. Confidence can mean a lot during a long, rigorous season. Let them race.

Steve O’Donnell said on the NASCAR on NBC podcast that officials are looking to move the overtime line to the start/finish line in 2018. What should NASCAR do about overtime?

Nate Ryan: Get rid of it altogether. Let races end under caution the way they did from 1948 to 2004. If there’s a wreck late in a race but still possible to let the lead pack race back to the flagstand without putting anyone at risk, hold the yellow until the leader reaches the line when possible. Or perhaps revisit the idea of red-flagging a race once if there’s a caution within a window of five to 10 laps remaining. But always follow this priority list for concluding a race: 1) safety; 2) competitive integrity; 3) entertainment value.

Dustin Long: NASCAR needs to decide what its goal is. I grew up with races ending under caution. Yes, it’s a downer, but I’m fine with that. However, I understand, that the entertainment factor of a green-flag finish provides more excitement and buzz for the sport than cars going under the checkered flag at 55 mph or less.

Let’s be honest, a good number of people judge how good a race is by the finish. In that sense, the sport is going to look for a way to end races under green while trying to limit the potential danger to drivers.

I’m fine with one attempt at a green-flag finish — whether that is overtime similar to what is the case now or red flagging a race when there’s a late caution — but I’m not for endless attempts at a green-flag finish that puts drivers in jeopardy.

For more on what’s happening in NASCAR, watch NASCAR America from 5-6 p.m. ET today with Carolyn Manno, Steve Letarte and Kyle Petty.

Harrison Burton, Paul Menard exchange words after trading hits

1 Comment

LOUDON, N.H. – There’s a 20-year gap between Paul Menard and Harrison Burton and seemingly just as wide a gulf in how they viewed their incident Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Burton, 18, finished 29th in the Xfinity Series race after being wrecked by Menard, 38, with 45 laps remaining.

Parking his No. 18 Toyota after completing 169 of 200 laps, Burton waited for more than 20 minutes until the race ended and then strode purposefully from the entrance of the Xfinity garage to the pits and confronted Menard for a terse but civil conversation.

“I wanted to get across to him that I got wrecked for no reason,” said Burton, who competes full time in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series was making the third start of his Xfinity career and the first on a track at least a mile in length. “I barely touched him. There’s barely a mark on his door. I don’t know if he’s heard of NASCAR before, but this isn’t F1 where if you touch someone, there’s a 5-second penalty.

“I barely touched him, and I got wrecked. He says that I got into him on the restart. I’m on the apron, and he comes down across my nose and then gets mad about it. When he watches the film, I think he’ll see that. I think that we just worked our butts off and didn’t get the result we deserve. We’ll just come back and race harder and beat him next time.”

Menard said he was justified to tap Burton in the left rear and spin the Joe Gibbs Racing driver into the Turn 1 wall.

“He ran into me a couple of times,” said the driver of the No. 12 Ford for Team Penske. “So I voiced my displeasure. He’s a young kid. He’s got a long time in this sport. He’s got to figure that stuff out pretty early. As he races more in Xfinity, and especially if he gets to the Cup level, they don’t put up with that stuff. I felt it was my place to tell him that’s not cool.

“A lot of these kids are good clean racers. He kind of stood out from the crowd. He had a fast enough car he could have been clean. I hate tearing up race cars. I didn’t really want to tear up his race car, that’s for sure. But sometimes enough is enough.”

Menard singled out Chase Briscoe and Noah Gragson, both in their early to mid-20s, for having raced him cleaner than Burton.

“Some of these kids are really fun to race with, and some of them just don’t get it,” said Menard, a veteran of 14 seasons in the Cup series who was teamed with Burton’s father (and NASCAR on NBC analyst), Jeff, for three seasons at Richard Childress Racing. “So I think you have to cut that shit out at an early age.”

“Some of these kids have a lot of talent and don’t have to run into you to try to pass you. Harrison, I’ve never met the kid before. I know his dad really well. I’ve got a lot of respect for Jeff. Really good man. But the kid ran into me a couple of times, and that was enough of that.”

Though he had the chance to air his grievances, Burton was skeptical it would make any difference with how Menard would race him in the future.

“He doesn’t care,” Burton said. “He doesn’t care about anyone else but himself. But I’m going to just go out and beat him on the racetrack like I was going to today. I was driving away from him. I was gone.

“We were going to beat him on the racetrack, and that’s all you can do is just beat people on the racetrack and show them you’re going to outwork them. I’m fired up and ready to go for the next one.”

Results, points after Xfinity race at New Hampshire

Leave a comment

Christopher Bell led 186 of 200 laps on his way to winning Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Bell beat Cole Custer to claim his fifth of the year.

The top five was completed by Justin Allgaier, Tyler Reddick and Paul Menard.

Click here for the race results.

Points

Tyler Reddick continues to lead the standings despite having two few wins than Bell and Custer.

He has a 56-point lead over Bell and 76-point advantage over Custer in third.

The top five is completed by Justin Allgaier (-146 points) and Austin Cindric (-163 points).

Click here for the full standings.

Christopher Bell wins Xfinity race at New Hampshire

Leave a comment

Christopher Bell won Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in dominating fashion, leading 186 of 200 laps and beating Cole Custer.

With the win, Bell’s second in a row on the 1.058-mile track, he is again tied with Custer for the most wins on the season with five.

Bell and Custer have finished 1-2 four times this year.

“I just had a really good race car,” Bell told NBCSN. “This track’s been really good to us and our team.”

The top five was completed by Justin Allgaier, Tyler Reddick and Paul Menard.

Bell’s win is the 13th of his Xfinity career in just his 59th start, tying him for the most by that point with Darrell Waltrip.

Custer, who started from the pole, never led a lap.

“There at the end I felt like we had a car that could compete with him, but I just wasn’t driving the car right at the start of the race and I got us behind on adjustments,” Custer said. “From there, we were kind of playing catchup.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: Brandon Jones won in a three-wide finish over Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick.

STAGE 2 WINNER: Christopher Bell won with a 6.5 second lead over Justin Allgaier

MORE: Race results and points

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Justin Allgaier earned his first top-five finish at New Hampshire in his ninth start … Ryan Sieg placed eighth for his first finish better than 15th at New Hampshire in six starts.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: John Hunter Nemechek finished 36th after he wrecked in Turn 1 on Lap 32 … Harrison Burton finished 29th after he was spun from contact with Paul Menard with 46 laps to go. That was after Burton had fought his way back into the top five following a slow early pit stop when a pit gun malfunctioned. The drivers had a tense post-race discussion on pit road.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I don’t care what series he races in or who he is. He raced me in a terrible way and I just decided I needed to hear from him what his story was. I didn’t like his story so I’ll race him accordingly.” – Harrison Burton to NBCSN after his discussion with Paul Menard.

WHAT’S NEXT: U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway at 5 p.m. ET July 27 on NBCSN

Check back for more

Ryan Blaney fastest in final Cup practice at New Hampshire

Leave a comment

Ryan Blaney was fastest in the Cup Series’ final practice session at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Blaney posted a top speed of 133.572 mph.

He was followed by Denny Hamlin (133.226 mph), Kyle Busch (132.739), Kevin Harvick (132.688) and Martin Truex Jr. (132.646).

Brad Keselowski (sixth) and Kurt Busch (14th) each recorded the most laps in the session with 61.

Blaney also had the best 10-lap average.

Click here for the speed chart.

Alex Bowman wrecked in Turns 1 and 2 in the middle of the session.

Bowman, who was already in a backup car after he had a driveshaft failure in qualifying Friday, will now go to a second backup car. The No. 88 team will use Jimmie Johnson‘s backup car.

Matt DiBenedetto‘s left-rear tire shredded twice during the session.

“Not a lot of warning, I’ll tell you that,” DiBenedetto told NBCSN after the first tire problem. “I went down into (Turn) 1 and I was passing (Landon Cassill), as soon as we got down into the corner I don’t know if we ran over something or what but the left rear went down in a hurry.”

DiBenedetto, who qualified seventh for Sunday’s race, was able return to the track to make a lap right before the session ended.