Bump & Run: What to do with the overtime line? (video)

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Are you OK with NASCAR making every attempt possible to finish a race under green even if it means officials might not call a caution in overtime until the leader has passed the overtime line?

Nate Ryan: No. After a 13-year run, it’s time to eliminate the overtime/green-white-checkered policy, which worked fine for roughly 56 years. End races at their schedule distances. The debate over how to end races has become endlessly intricate and pointlessly circuitous.

Dustin Long: It’s obvious that the overtime line is not the solution. It creates too many questions about NASCAR’s reaction to crashes as the leaders approach the overtime line. Fans like racing the way it was back in the day? Fine, give it to them. A 400-mile race ends … after 400 miles, not something that is extended to 408 miles. What a concept!

Daniel McFadin: I’m all for NASCAR making every attempt to finish under green, but they need to do it via rules they are consistent in enforcing. In the last few months they have been consistent in not calling cautions in a timely manner in overtime. I’ll give them a pass for Indy, since they were about out of sunlight.

Jerry Bonkowski: NASCAR will almost always attempt to finish a race under green, but sometimes there are — and need to be — exceptions. There wasn’t much choice at Indy because of approaching darkness, but I’m comfortable with the overall system the way it is. NASCAR will never be able to make everyone happy, but it puts forth what I consider an honest effort to complete races. 

How many drivers will make the playoffs on points?

Nate Ryan: None … or one. It depends on how you want to phrase this question. Five more drivers will lay claim to playoff berths on victories (Kyle Busch at Pocono, Chase Elliott at Michigan, Matt Kenseth at Bristol, Joey Logano at Darlington and Clint Bowyer at Richmond), and points will determine which 16 of 17 winners qualify for the 10-race championship run.

Dustin Long: Three. Unless Kyle Busch keeps finding ways to lose races, I expect him to win a race before the playoffs. I don’t foresee anyone else without a win pulling off a victory before the playoffs.

Daniel McFadin: I think we’ll get one more first-time winner this season in the next six races and three drivers get in on points.

Jerry Bonkowski: Just two drivers will point their way into the playoffs. 

Jamie McMurray, Chase Elliott and Matt Kenseth are the last three drivers in the playoff standings. Who has the best chance of making the playoffs?

Nate Ryan: As noted above, opportunities for wins are looming for Elliott and Kenseth. McMurray has been very consistent, though, and if there is a spot to be claimed on points, he has a solid shot.

Dustin Long: Jamie McMurray. Think the final races before the playoffs begin set up well for him and he should easily advance by points.

Daniel McFadin: Jamie McMurray. He and Elliott are tied with 11 top 10s this year, but McMurray has a better average finish through 20 races at 13.2. McMurray might not win, but he’ll continue his consistent performance. 

Jerry Bonkowski: I have to go with veteran experience for this one. While McMurray has had a good season, I’m leaning towards Matt Kenseth to make what could potentially be the final playoffs of his Cup career — if he doesn’t catch on with another team for 2018. 

Alex Bowman confident as he returns to racing from back injury


CONCORD, N.C. — Alex Bowman watched the rain-filled skies over Charlotte Motor Speedway Saturday with more than a touch of disappointment.

As weather threatened to cancel Saturday night’s scheduled NASCAR Cup Series practice at the speedway, Bowman saw his chances to testing his car — and his body — dissolving in the raindrops. NASCAR ultimately cancelled practice and qualifying because of rain.

MORE: Wet weather cancels Charlotte Cup practice, qualifying

Bowman suffered a fractured vertebra in a sprint car accident last month and has missed three Cup races while he recovers. Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, the season’s longest race, is scheduled to mark his return to the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet.

“It would have been really nice to kickstart that with practice today,” Bowman said. “I haven’t raced or competitively driven a race car in a month. I’m trying to understand where my rusty areas are going to be and where I’m still good.”

Bowman ran 200 laps in a test season at North Wilkesboro Speedway this week, but, of course, that doesn’t compare with the faster speeds and tougher G-forces he’ll experience over 400 laps Sunday at CMS.

Bowman admitted that he is still experiencing pain from the back injury — his car flipped several times — and that he expects some pain during the race. But he said he is confident he’ll be OK and that the longer race distance won’t be an issue.

“I broke my back a month ago, and there’s definitely things that come along with that for a long time,” he said. “I have some discomfort here and there and there are things I do that don’t feel good. That’s just part of it. It’s stuff I’ll have to deal with. But, for the most part, I’m back to normal.

“I’m easing back into being in the gym. I’m trying to be smart with things. If I twist the wrong way, sometimes it hurts. In the race car at the end of a six-hour race, I’m probably not going to be the best.”

The sprint car crash interrupted what had been a fine seasonal start for Bowman. Although winless, he had three top fives and six top 10s in the first 10 races.

“I’m excited to be back,” Bowman said. “Hopefully, we can pick up where we left off and be strong right out of the gate.”

He said he hopes to return to short-track racing but not in the near future.

“Someday I want to get back in a sprint car or midget,” he said. “I felt like we were just getting rolling in a sprint car. That night we were pretty fast. Definitely a bummer there. That’s something I really want to conquer and be competitive at in the World of Outlaws or High Limits races. Somebody I’ll get back to that. It’s probably smart if I give my day job a little alone time for a bit.”




Charlotte NASCAR Cup Series starting lineup: Rain cancels qualifying


CONCORD, N.C. — William Byron and Kevin Harvick will start Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series 600-mile race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the front row after wet weather cancelled Saturday night qualifying.

Rain pelted the CMS area much of the day Saturday, and NASCAR announced at 3:45 p.m. that Cup practice and qualifying, scheduled for Saturday night, had been cancelled.

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns to cockpit

The starting field was set by the NASCAR rulebook.

Following Byron and Harvick in the starting top 10 will be Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Bubba Wallace, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

The elimination of the practice session was particularly problematic for Alex Bowman, scheduled to return to racing Sunday after missing three weeks with a back injury, and Jimmie Johnson, who will be starting only his third race this year. Johnson will start 37th — last in the field.

Charlotte Cup starting lineup

Wet weather cancels Charlotte Cup Series practice, qualifying


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR Cup Series drivers will start the longest race of the season with no practice or qualifying.

Wet weather and predictions of more to come led NASCAR to cancel Saturday night’s Cup Series practice and qualifying in mid-afternoon. The field for Sunday’s 600-mile race was set by the NASCAR rulebook, placing William Byron and Kevin Harvick on the front row for the  scheduled 6 p.m. start.

MORE: Charlotte Cup starting lineup

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns to cockpit

Weather also could be an issue Sunday as more rain is predicted for the speedway area.

Drivers were scheduled to practice at 7 p.m. Saturday. That session was to be followed by qualifying at 7:45 p.m. The cancellations were announced at 3:45 p.m.

The time-trial cancellation marked the first time in 64 years that qualifying has been canceled for the 600.

Charlotte Xfinity race postponed to Monday by weather


CONCORD, N.C. — Persistent rain forced the postponement of Saturday’s scheduled 300-mile NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway to Monday.

The race is scheduled to start at noon ET. It will be televised by FS1 and broadcast by the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Driver introductions and other pre-race activities were held at the track Saturday, but rain that had dampened the track in the morning hours returned. After several attempts at drying the track, the race was postponed after heavier rain returned in mid-afternoon.

Justin Allgaier will start the race from the pole position.