NASCAR on NBC podcast, Ep. 88: Steve O’Donnell on his special connection to an international push

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As the day-to-day overseer of NASCAR’s competitive direction, chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell is a man of action who spends most of his time listening.

Whether drivers, team owners, sponsors, media or fans, the 21-year employee of NASCAR constantly solicits the opinions of those who are impacted by his organization’s decisions.

“When you’re listening, you probably are going to learn something or gain a perspective you hadn’t heard about before,” O’Donnell said on the NASCAR on NBC podcast. “You have to make some tough calls. The toughest part is you’re not going to be everyone’s best friend. You have to make calls that drivers and teams don’t like.

“All you can do is hope they respect or understand why you made that call. The idea you’re going to be friends with everyone is something that’s tough and something you learn the hard way.”

O’Donnell gained an appreciation for the diversity of thought while growing up in Egypt, where his family moved to a town near Cairo from Massachusetts when he was in seventh grade.

Living amidst the volatility of the Middle East (one of O’Donnell’s close friends was Andrew Kerr, the younger brother of Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, whose father was assassinated in Beirut in 1983) brought real-world lessons in the importance of communication and compromise for common ground.

“It’s probably the greatest thing my parents have given to me,” he said about the exposure to “different cultures and traveling around the world.

“It was an interesting perspectcive to sit in a class on the Egypt-Israeli War, which Egypt clearly struggled with, and have an Israeli kid to your right, an Egyptian to your left, and both believe they destroyed each other in this war. It was fascinating to listen to those two kids who had a completely different perspective. You learned quick.”

Besides the lessons of human nature, O’Donnell also developed a worldly understanding, which he remains keen on in helping NASCAR’s international push. Citing the NBA as a model, O’Donnell believes NASCAR can put down roots by creating leagues in other countries to foster drivers coming to America as Joe Gibbs Racing driver Daniel Suarez did from the Mexico Series.

NASCAR also has circuits in Canada and Europe, and O’Donnell said China and India could be on the horizon.

“You look at the car culture just emerging there, and some of the things that were built around NASCAR, the family aspect, the automobile, are coming together in both those countries and even parts of South America,” O’Donnell said. “If we can, in a smart way, go with OEMs to partner to create a series where NASCAR is part of the development, that can be a huge opportunity for us.

“It’s got to make sense for U.S. partners where they’re trying to break into those markets. One of things you’ve seen in other series, they’ve taken a race to a certain country that doesn’t really help any team owners or sponsors, and that doesn’t make a lot of sense for us.”

During the podcast, O’Donnell also discussed:

–How NASCAR is seeking more technology with its next Gen 7 model and the timeframe for rolling it out;

–His role in being a public face of NASCAR and dealing with negative feedback on social media.

–Why he believes NASCAR drivers need more swagger;

–What’s ahead for several key topics – the overtime line, monitoring lug nuts, making pit speeds available in real time, debris cautions.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the AudioBoom embed below or download and subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts 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 a host of other smartphone apps.

Two crew chiefs fined for loose lug nuts at Kentucky

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NASCAR has issued two fines to crew chiefs for loose lug nuts last weekend at Kentucky Speedway.

Brian Wilson, crew chief for Paul Menard in the Xfinity race, was fined $5,000 for a loose lug nut. Menard finished ninth.

Kevin Bellicourt, crew chief for Justin Haley in the Camping World Truck Series, was fined $2,500 for a loose lug nut. Haley finished 10th.

There were no other penalties.

NASCAR America: ‘Big 3’ achieves mark not reached since 1974

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The drivers labelled the “Big 3” keep reaching new milestones as they tear through the 2018 Cup season.

Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. are the only drivers to win on 1.5-mile tracks this season, sweeping all seven so far.

They’ve combined to win 14 of the first 19 races this season, with Truex claiming the latest on Saturday at Kentucky Speedway.

Truex’s win gives him four this season while Busch and Harvick have five each.

With Truex’s victory, the “Big 3” are the first trio of drivers to win four or more races each through 19 races since 1974.

That year, the “Big 3” were Cale Yarborough (eight wins), Richard Petty (six) and David Pearson (four).

On NASCAR America, Steve Letarte said despite their dominance so far, he doesn’t believe all three members of the “Big 3” will make the Championship 4 in November.

“I don’t think the three in any way shape or form are guaranteed to make Miami,” Letarte said. “Everybody’s ready to put the ‘Big 3’ in Miami in the final four, I’m not. There’s way too many challenges along the way. I’m confident that all three won’t be at Homestead.”

Watch the videos above and below for more.

Cup teams to test Charlotte road course today

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The second half of Cup tests on Charlotte’s road course will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET today. It is open to the public.

Testing today are: Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Alex Bowman, William Byron, Austin Dillon, AJ Allmendinger, Trevor Bayne and Ty Dillon. Chris Buescher is in a Chevy wheelforce car.

Last week, several Cup drivers tested on the course for a day. Bubba Wallace crashed early and left the test because his team did not have a backup car.

Jimmie Johnson had the fastest lap in last week’s session, according to NASCAR timing and scoring. Johnson had a lap at 1 minute, 17.4 seconds. Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin each had a lap at 1:17.5 last week.

 

 

 

NASCAR America: Paul Menard, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. among winners, losers at Kentucky

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On Monday’s NASCAR America, Steve Letarte and Jeff Burton discussed the winners and losers among drivers in Saturday’s Cup race at Kentucky Speedway.

Letarte singled out Ricky Stenhouse Jr. as one of the losers after he failed to overtake Alex Bowman in the playoff standings. Bowman entered the race as the last driver above the cutoff line for the 16 driver field in the playoffs.

Bowman earned his first DNF after he crashed from a flat tire and finished last.

Meanwhile, Stenhouse finished 26th, one lap down after he had to pit twice early in Stage 1, the first time for a cut tire. He is now nine points behind Bowman for the final playoff spot.

“To only gain 10 points on a driver who finished last in the field is a huge missed opportunity,” Letarte said. “When you look at drivers scoring 30, 40, 50 points each, Paul Menard picked up over 30. So the chance was there to gain (on) that bigger group and he just didn’t do it. So when I look at what Ricky Stenhouse did, he really missed probably 15 or 20 points. I know it was a flat tire, there’s always a reason. But in the end you have to make the playoffs, you have to go out there and take it from Alex Bowman, who has put him in that position.”

Burton picked Menard as a winner. The Wood Brothers Racing driver placed 11th Saturday after finishing fifth in Stage 1 and 10th in Stage 2.

He is now 18th in the standings, 23 points back from Bowman

“They performed well, got good stage finishes and did what they needed to do,” Burton said. “This team is starting to get a little bit better every single week. I find it very interesting that back there for that 16th spot it’s really a fight of mediocrity, to be honest with you, and who is going to not mess up.”

Watch the above video for more.