Former champions concerned about how quickly ambulances transport drivers

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CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Two former Cup champions raised concerns Wednesday about ambulances not reaching the infield care center in a timely fashion this season.

Former champion Kevin Harvick was outspoken about the issue during Wednesday’s playoff media day at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

“The ambulances, for whatever reason this year, have been a little more of an issue as far as getting to the accident, getting back from the accident (and) getting lost in many circumstances going back to the infield care center,’’ Harvick said.

“That’s been an issue not only for myself, twice, but several other drivers as they’ve had their trips to the infield care center. I know they’re continuously working on trying to make that better. But the ambulances need to know where they’re going.’’

Former champion Matt Kenseth, who was involved in an incident last weekend at Richmond Raceway when an ambulance stopped at the entrance of pit road, said he also has had two similar issues as Harvick.

“I think it was actually the spring Richmond race,’’ Kenseth said. “I was (riding) around the infield for about five minutes with him and he was lost and couldn’t find the infield care center, so thankfully I wasn’t bleeding to death.

“Then the other one, it was after California or something like that, he drove so recklessly it threw me off the bench and I almost hit my head in the ambulance, so yeah, there’s been a couple of instances this year actually.’’

NASCAR issued a statement about the concerns raised by drivers.

“The follow-up discussions that centered around the ambulance issue at Richmond went well beyond where it parked and the procedure that led us to that point. It was all-encompassing, and we’ll continue to work with the tracks and safety teams to improve in every aspect of support.

“Safety is paramount, and it’s something we work hard at all year long, from the season-opening Summit to intensive weekly reviews of every incident response to continual training for crews. We hold ourselves to a very high standard of excellence.”

Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson has not had any such issues but says it has been discussed in the Cup Drivers Council.

“The times drivers have expressed their concern, NASCAR has been quick to make change, make sure that the person is not there and it doesn’t happen again,’’ Johnson said. “There’s a fine balance in trying to use active ER people and through the checks and balances of a  race weekend, working on routes, especially routes on the day of. As the weekend progresses, fences close, roads aren’t accessible, motorhomes get parked in different areas, the Xfinity cars leave and now’s there a new access point there. It does need to be looked at.

“Unfortunately, there’s been some learning experiences that we wish we didn’t have along the way. Thankfully, those guys have brought it up and they weren’t critical situations where those few precious minutes were needed. Everybody is trying hard. That’s the one good thing about the councils we have and the discussions that take place. Believe me, honesty is there in those conversations. There’s no sugar-coating anything.’’

Denny Hamlin said the issue was brought up in the Drivers Council after Aric Almriola’s crash at Kansas Speedway.

I think one example is Aric Almirola,’’ Hamlin said. I think his ambulance got lost inside the race track and he had a serious injury. That was an issue, for sure. I know they’re trying to do the best they can.’’

Hamlin said some suggest a traveling safety team and others state a safety team familiar with one particular track is best.

I don’t know what the correct answer is, but, we, for sure, can get better because we’re not good right now.’’

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NASCAR Awards: Scene on the red carpet

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The NASCAR community gathered at the Music City Center to commemorate the 2022 season and celebrate Joey Logano‘s second Cup title.

The event can be seen at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock.

Here is a look at the scene on the red carpet before Thursday night’s NASCAR Awards:

Joey Logano and Brittany Logano (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Ryan Blaney and Gianna Tulio (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kyle and Samantha Busch (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Chase Elliott (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Alex Bowman and Crystal Marsh (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Tyler Reddick and Alexa De Leon (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Denny Hamlin and Jordan Fish (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Daniel Suarez and Julia Piquet (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Chase Briscoe and Marissa Briscoe (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Christopher Bell and Morgan Bell (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Austin Dillon and Whitney Dillon (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kyle Larson (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

William Byron and Erin Blaney (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kevin Harvick (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Ross Chastain and Erika Turner (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Austin Cindric (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kurt Busch (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Harrison Burton and Jenna Petty(Photo: Dustin Long)
Mario Andretti (Photo: Dustin Long)

Chase Elliott wins NMPA Most Popular Driver Award

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Chase Elliott won his fifth consecutive NMPA Most Popular Driver Award on Thursday.

The announcement was made during the NASCAR Awards at the Music City Center. The show will air at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock.

Elliott is one of only five drivers to win the award since 1984.

Bill Elliott won it from 1984-88, 1991-2000 and 2002. Dale Earnhardt won the award posthumously in 2001. Darrell Waltrip won it in 1989-90. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won it from 2003-17. Chase Elliott has won it every year since.

Noah Gragson was voted as the Most Popular Driver in the Xfinity Series. Hailie Deegan was voted as the Most Popular Driver in the Camping World Truck Series.

Kevin Harvick to make decision on future by Daytona in February

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Former Cup champion Kevin Harvick says he’ll know by Daytona in February his plans beyond 2023.

Harvick’s contract with Stewart-Haas Racing ends after the upcoming season. 

Harvick said Thursday before the NASCAR Awards that “it could go either way at this particular point” on what he’ll do, but he affirmed that “going into Daytona, I’ll know what I’m going to do.”

The Daytona 500 is scheduled for Feb. 19. Harvick anticipates making an announcement by then.

“We’re at a point where everybody needs to know what’s going on,” Harvick said. “There’s too many tentacles to everything that happens. Whether it’s the race team, driver management company, every element needs to know. It’s not fair to anybody to have to start the season not knowing.”

Harvick turns 47 on Dec. 8. Next season will be his 23rd in Cup. His debut came a week after Dale Earnhardt’s fatal crash in the 2001 Daytona 500. Harvick was selected by car owner Richard Childress to drive for Earnhardt’s team. 

Harvick has gone to win the 2014 Cup championship and 60 races at Richard Childress Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing. He’s tied with Kyle Busch for ninth on the all-time Cup wins list.

Harvick won two races last season. His victory last August at Michigan snapped a 65-race winless streak. He followed that by winning the next weekend at Richmond. 

Harvick has won at least two races in nine of the past 10 seasons. He has scored 41 of his 60 Cup wins since he turned 37 years old.

“Kevin, I think, is probably the No. 1 leader of the drivers, as he should be,” two-time Cup champion Joey Logano said Thursday. “He’s been around the longest. He’s very accomplished. He’s very smart. He’s been through the ups and downs. He’s lived it. There’s wisdom in experience. It’s great to hear his opinion on where we are as a sport.”

Harvick’s business interests include a management company that represents Cup drivers Ryan Preece, Harrison Burton and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., along with other athletes. Harvick also has worked as a broadcaster on NASCAR Xfinity races for Fox Sports, earning positive reviews. 

Harvick’s son Keelan, who is 10 years old, races and has competed in karting in Europe. 

“He’s got one more race in Italy … and then we’ll start all over again,” Harvick said of his son.

Harvick went overseas after the season finale at Phoenix to watch Keelan race.

“I think he’s definitely matured a little bit since he’s been making these trips,” Harvick said. “I think it’s important to have that culturing aspect of life to be comfortable to do things like that anywhere in the world.”

The NASCAR Awards program airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday, Dec. 3 on Peacock. To sign up for Peacock, go here.

BJ McLeod, Live Fast team move to Chevrolet

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Driver/owner BJ McLeod and Live Fast Motorsports will race in Chevrolets beginning with the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season.

Based in Mooresville, North Carolina, Live Fast has been a Ford team.

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Live Fast is owned by McLeod, Matt Tifft and Joe Falk. Jessica McLeod, BJ’s wife, is the team’s chief operating officer.

“Our team is excited to make this transition to Chevrolet,” BJ McLeod said in a statement released by the team. “Chevrolet Camaros have proven great success on the track, and Live Fast Motorsports is looking forward to becoming a part of this advance.”

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The team will use ECR engines.

McLeod had one top-10 finish in 29 starts in the Cup Series last season.