President Trump singles out NASCAR in anthem tweets; Dale Earnhardt Jr. supports peaceful protests

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President Donald Trump tweeted his support of NASCAR on Monday morning while Dale Earnhardt Jr. took a stance in favor of peaceful protests about 30 minutes later.

The 14-time most popular driver used a quote from John F. Kennedy in a tweet.

President Trump, who ignited a weekend controversy that involved anthem protests across professional sports when he said NFL owners should fire players who kneel during “The Star Spangled Banner”, singled out NASCAR and its supporters during a series of tweets this morning about the flag.

Team owners Richard Childress and Richard Petty both told reporters before Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway that they would fire team members who took a knee during the anthem as a show of protest.

Earnhardt cited comments by team owners when cautioned by a Twitter user about broaching the topic.

NASCAR issued a statement Monday afternoon.

“Sports are a unifying influence in our society, bringing people of differing backgrounds and beliefs together. Our respect for the national anthem has always been a hallmark of our pre-race events. Thanks to the sacrifices of many, we live in a country of unparalleled freedoms and countless liberties, including the right to peacefully express one’s opinion.”

During his weekly appearance on SiriusXM’s “The Morning Drive,” NASCAR senior vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell addressed whether NASCAR had a policy on respecting the anthem.

“I think it’s something that we’ve always talked about in the industry as a sport, if you look at our history, we’ve always as a sport demonstrated a respect for the American flag and the freedoms it represents,” O’Donnell said. “We celebrate the servicemen and women who have sacrificed to be part of that. That’s part of the sport. From our standpoint, we view ourselves as a sport and want to continue to celebrate the flag but respect others’ opinions.

“But going forward, that’s where we stand, and we’ll leave it at that and hope people can contribute or look at NASCAR as something to tune into on a Sunday and enjoy a sporting event.”

Brad Keselowski, who carries an American flag in his car during victory celebrations, also addressed the protests on Twitter late Sunday night.

What’s next for All-Star rules package? That’s what NASCAR faces

Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images
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CONCORD, N.C. — The fans stood even as Kevin Harvick held the lead for the final 10 laps.

They stood because this was unlike anything they had seen at Charlotte Motor Speedway — cars bunched on a track that typically stretches them like taffy over 1.5 miles; cars two-wide often, three wide at times and four wide once.

This was so different even though there wasn’t a lead change in the final stage — duplicating the finish of last year’s race.

“I think you knew on Lap 7 that Kyle Busch had won the All-Star Race, I think we all knew that last year,’’ said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer.

Not Saturday night. A new aero package combined with restrictor plates created a form of racing that Harvick suggested could be a seminal moment years from now.

But for fans wanting more of what they saw Saturday, when will it return to Cup?

Not until next year.

While O’Donnell said “never say never’’ to the rules package being run this year, the reality is it won’t. NASCAR’s charter agreement precludes rule changes that would create significant costs for teams unless it is safety related. That’s not the only reason this package will not return this year.

Many questions need to be examined and that goes deeper than what took place on the track, O’Donnell said.

“For us, we’ve got to take the time, be smart about this, really look at it, see where we can go from here,’’ O’Donnell said. “But I think it’s fair to say that this is something we absolutely want to look at.’’

The question will be where else to run it.

“I wouldn’t want to take it to every 1.5-mile track,’’ said Kyle Larson, who finished seventh. “I’d hate to see this at Homestead or Chicago or something like that. I’d think Kentucky would be a nice one to try at it. It seemed like you could run with people on your right side a little bit a lot better than normal, so I’m thinking Kentucky when somebody’s on your door into (Turn) 3, maybe you won’t get as loose getting in, but yeah, I don’t think every track, but there’s some it could work for.’’

Denny Hamlin, who finished fourth, was open to the possibilities.

“I thought the race looked decent from my perspective,’’ he said. “Maybe it could use some refinement but overall if the fans or the stakeholders believe they saw a good race, then we can work on it from here. I’m not really opposed to anything, really.’’

What to do next is just another obstacle to hurdle. One that Marcus Smith, chief executive officer of Speedway Motorsports, has been doing for the past few months.

Smith spearheaded the push to run this package in the All-Star Race before the season when NASCAR discussed a plan with the sport’s key stakeholders to try this package in 2019.

Not everyone liked Smith’s idea. So he and other SMI officials worked for a few months to convince team owners it was worth the additional cost. The point being teams could do this in a test and pay for the costs or they could do it in a race that paid the winner $1 million.

But there’s much to consider before such changes can be instituted. Team executives told NBC Sports that restrictor plate motors are typically more expensive than a regular motor, so more races with this setup could prove more costly. Also, with cars running closer together, there’s the great chance of more multicar crashes and the added costs of repairing or replacing cars.

“It’s going to be different than our other packages,’’ said Greg Zipadelli, vice president of competition at Stewart-Haas Racing. “It’s a motor package, potentially a body change from what we race on downforce racetracks. We’re just creating more work for ourselves which just takes more resources. It puts good racing on, the races are spread out, we’ll all figure it out as teams.  Dumping it on us right now wouldn’t be the right thing to do.’’

Of course, cost shouldn’t be the determining factor for why something isn’t done. The ultimate goal, as Smith sees it, is simple.

“To me the measure is highlights, and we had a lot of highlights tonight,’’ he told NBC Sports. “Highlight-worthy racing is something I like to talk about, that’s my goal with every single race. Tonight I spent most of the day from 10:30 this morning to just now out with the fans … I was able to observe a lot and hear a lot and I saw a lot of fans standing on their feet, they weren’t using their seats much.’’

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Kyle Larson takes the heat after getting spun by Joey Logano

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CONCORD, N.C. – It wasn’t quite the slam-bang action of a vintage NASCAR All-Star Race, but there was one memorable moment of retaliation Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Racing for a top-five position late in the race, Kyle Larson’s No. 42 Chevrolet squeezed Joey Logano’s No. 22 Ford into the wall off Turn 4.

After slapping the concrete, Logano came down the track and tagged Larson’s car in the right rear, causing the event’s final caution as Larson spun through the frontstretch grass.

Larson wasn’t upset, taking the blame after finishing seventh and rebounding from one of only two multicar incidents over the 93-lap event.

“Yeah,” the Chip Ganassi Racing driver told NBCSports.com with a smile when asked if he felt it was payback by Logano. “I didn’t mean to run him into the fence. I was trying to stay clear of him on exit. I got really tight because I tried to carry a lot of throttle through there and just stay in front of him.

“I tried to bail to leave him a lane but kind of shoved him up in the wall. He’s got a fairly short temper. He took it out on me. Thankfully, it’s not a points race or anything like that. I put myself in that spot. Obviously, you don’t want to be crashed on purpose, but I felt like I put myself in that spot a little bit.”

Asked whether the contact was intentional, Logano somewhat demurred but clearly felt Larson deserved the result.

“He fenced me, then I bounced off the wall, then there he was,” Logano said. “After he fenced me, I bounced off. He happened to be there. Probably shouldn’t have fenced me.”

The Team Penske driver hung on for third after the incident, delivering a critical bump to winner Kevin Harvick that helped push him past runner-up Daniel Suarez on the final restart.

“Kevin and I always end up together at superspeedway races, and we did again tonight, which is kind of funny,” he said. “I didn’t have quite a good enough run to go three-wide, and if I did, the bottom lane would have gone by both of us, and there would have been no gain for any of us. We wouldn’t have won anyway.

“My only shot was to push (Harvick) ahead and try to clear (Suarez), which I couldn’t. It was a hard-fought night. You can tell by the right side of my car that it was hard fought. It was crazy.”

What drivers said after the All-Star Race

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Kevin Harvick – Winner: “I thought on that last restart that my best opportunity was (Joey) Logano. He is one of the best on the restarts. I knew he would work with me as good as possible because that is just the way that most of us do it from Ford. We were able to just stay even through (Turns) 1 and 2, and I really thought once we got to the backstretch, we could clear him. I didn’t want to be on the bottom. I didn’t feel my car was stable enough to be under someone when they were on my right side. I had to take my lumps through (turns) 1 and 2 and hope that the guy behind me was still with me when we got to the exit of 2, and we were able to win.”

Daniel Suarez – Finished 2nd: “I felt like we had a car actually capable to win the race. We were very strong, competitive. For whatever reason (on) restarts, my car was taking like one lap to go and those guys, when two Fords were connected, they were pretty strong. We just – I needed a little bit more right there. (Denny Hamlin) got disconnected with myself a little bit. I tried to side draft (Kevin Harvick), but it was just tough. After that it was pretty much game over because I started racing (Joey Logano) instead of (Harvick), but proud of my guys. We’ve been racing really in the All-Star twice already, two times, so that’s not bad. It hurts to be close and to not get it.”

Joey Logano – Finished 3rd: “We wanted to be up in the lead, and I thought we were in the best spot. We put tires on, and the cars ahead of us didn’t have as good of tires as us. We restarted fifth, and the bottom is just rough down there. We were able to push ahead, and the car in front of me got pushed back and the bottom lane fell apart. I lost like five spots at least and started making them back up and got tangled up and put in the wall and got back and thought I had a decent shot there at the end hooking up with Kevin. Kevin and I always end up together at superspeedway races, and we did again tonight, which is kind of funny.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished 4th: “I think in general our cars were just too slow to be up front. Once we did get the lead, it was complete defense mode. It looked like when (Kyle Busch) and (Martin Truex Jr.) were up front as well, it was just constant defense where when (Kevin Harvick) got up front, he could just kind of run his line. Hard to overcome that seven tenths that we were off from speed, especially in a drafting type race. Still, we did a good job there. Tried to get (Daniel Suarez) free of (Harvick) there on the bottom, I just came off his bumper there just slightly there and he wasn’t able to get us free of (Harvick).”

Chase Elliott – Finished 5th: “Yeah, I actually had some fun, really. It was different for sure, but it wasn’t all bad, I don’t guess. Obviously, there was way more potential to crash and what not, which is I guess good and bad depending upon who you are. If you are sitting at home and watching it was probably fun because we are all close. If we see this package more, I’m sure you will see some more torn-up cars, too.  And I’m sure the teams will get better at building and preparing for it too, but proud of our night. To be able to come from last to fifth, and I get the fan vote and end up coming home with a top five wasn’t all bad.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 6th: “I mean, it’s funny how there ends up being a sweet spot. It doesn’t matter if it’s a restricted motor or not.  The outside lane was really the place to be to keep the momentum up.  Depending on the restart you had and the lane you are in and how to time a pass, I spent plenty of time kind of coming through the field. I really couldn’t get past second or third.  The times I tried to make a pass on the leader, I would get pinned on the bottom and go to the back and have to start all over again.”

Kyle Larson – Finished 7th: “It was just tough.  I felt like I could get to around second or third, just getting to the lead was tough.  I never really got to lead. The times I would get to lead, they would get a run on me and pass me right back.  We just didn’t have the speed the Toyotas had.  I thought the Toyotas were super-fast and then obviously, (Kevin Harvick) I mean he won, but (Martin Truex Jr.) was ridiculous. But, yeah it was a pretty fun race.”

AJ Allmendinger – Finished 8th: “The first stage was pretty awesome to go 18th to fourth in a couple of laps.  The car handled really good. I just got a little bit tight there with the track getting going into the night.  We were a little bit draggier down the straightaway, so I had to keep the momentum up that second stage. I just got too close to (Truex), and it snapped loose and got some body damage.  The guys did a good job to fix it. Kind of salvaged the third session there.  I thought if we could have got back up there we could have maybe had a chance to fight inside the top three or top four again. I cost us a little bit there, but I was getting after it.  It was a fun night.  Really competitive and proud of the guys.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished 11th: “We weren’t very good tonight. We were slow. The car drove about the same with this package as it did with the other package, and everybody else was just a lot faster. It was a bummer we couldn’t take that front row start and do something with it. We were kind of a moving road block out there.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 12th: “What a race! I had a blast out there tonight, and I hope it was as fun to watch as it was to drive. Throughout the race, we made quite a few adjustments to the Dow Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. With limited practice and this being the first time we have raced this package, we were a little off on the setup. We got it pretty close, though. At the end, we opted to pit. Looking back, it’s a toss-up on whether that was the right call or not.”

Ryan Newman – Finished 16th: “This one is on me. I miscounted the green-white-checkered flag to end Stage 3, and I left off the gas too soon. It cost us a top five on the final restart and instead we took the green in 11th. I hate it for the Caterpillar/Grainger team. We got off sequence on pit stops and the way the cautions fell from there, it really worked in our favor. I simply messed up. I did all I could do to regain the ground I had lost. On the final restart, we climbed back into the top five, but unfortunately when we took the white flag, I made contact with the wall and lost all our momentum resulting in the 16th-place finish. We had nothing to lose so I went for it in the end.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished 17th: “This was the first time running this package and we had to gamble a little bit. We had to roll the dice a little bit, and we were off when we came in. Had a lot to learn today and we used it well. The guys did a really good job with our car. Pit stops were really good tonight again. We had a lot to be proud of, just sucks that we couldn’t finish it off. We had a really strong race car and felt like we maybe had a shot to win it, just four wide going into three there we all just ran out of room. (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.), I had him squeezed down so low, I just don’t know that he could hold it down there. I was trying to keep (Clint Bowyer) to my outside and just one those deals at the end of the race.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 20th: “You definitely seem to draft more, which has its highs and lows. Track position, power and drag is super important. Give us a few weeks to work on the race cars with a package like this, and I am sure we can mess it up.”

Alex Bowman – Finished 21st: “Yeah, just got loose. We had been really tight all night.  I knocked the nose off of it early.  We got slid, and I wasn’t happy about it and instead of checking up, I didn’t lift.  I probably should have lifted because it hurt me more than the guy that ran us like that.  I’m just frustrated.  I feel like these guys have taken advantage of me quite a bit this year, and I’m over lifting for guys.  I’m not going to go out of my way to slow myself down to help somebody else out.  They would race me the same way.  I’m just kind of over it, but as far as the crash, I just got loose, and it stepped out. I saved it, it stepped out again, and I couldn’t save it.  Really frustrating.  I hate it for my guys, it’s my fault that we were in the situation further back than we should have been.  I should have just been more patient and not knocked the nose off of it early.”

Results, stats for the Monster Energy All-Star Race

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Kevin Harvick claimed his second All-Star Race win Saturday night in an overtime finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Harvick led twice for 36 laps and beat Daniel Suarez and Joey Logano.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver won all but one of the race’s four stages.

The win came 11 years to the day of Harvick’s first All-Star win in 2007

Click here for the results.