NASCAR America: Failure to communicate ‘biggest issue’ with lack of Jimmie Johnson pit penalty

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One of the main stories to come out of Sunday’s Bank of America 500 was a late pit stop by Jimmie Johnson.

The pit stop took place on Lap 280 and saw Johnson start to leave his pit box before being stopped by his team due to an unsecured lug nut on the left front wheel.

Johnson backed up but his car, but he did not back all the way into the box before the lug nut was secured. NASCAR did not penalize the team. Johnson entered pit road fourth and exited 15th before finishing seventh.

The rule regarding pitting outside the box is rule 10.9.7.d:

“A vehicle may receive service only when they are in their assigned pit box and/or the garage area or at NASCAR’s discretion. Should a vehicle pit outside of its assigned pit box and begin to remove a wheel/tire(s), crew members must reinstall those same wheel/tire(s) and re-position the vehicle back within their pit box to avoid a penalty.”

Scott Miller, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition, said the team was not penalized because the lug nut is a safety issue and the act of securing the lug nut was self penalizing.

NASCAR America analysts Steve Letarte and Kyle Petty shared their thoughts on the pit stop.

“When I go back and I read the rules and I go through it, I completely understand that there shouldn’t be a penalty for the 48,” Letarte said. “It’s hard to explain but think about a car that slides long into the pit box. The tire changer starts to take lug nuts off. You push the car back, you jack it up, change the tires and everything’s fine.

“That’s also hitting the lug nuts outside the pit box. By the rule, the 48 shouldn’t have been penalized. I questioned it during the broadcast because it failed the eye test.”

Letarte’s “bigger issue” was that Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus, knew NASCAR wouldn’t penalize the team, but others, including race-winning crew chief Cole Pearn, did not.

“NASCAR gets criticized about consistency, this had nothing to do with consistency,” Letarte said. “I have an issue with communication. … Chad Knaus is a seven-time champion. If he needs a rule explained in further detail I think all the competitors should get a, ‘hey, guess what guys? This was a topic of conversation. If you have questions, come talk to us.'”

Petty also had an issue with some teams not knowing the rules and the “subtleties of the rules.”

“How can there be a subtlety for this rule, no subtlety for that rule and part of the guys know it and part of the guys don’t?” Petty asked. “I don’t know what sport we’re playing because that doesn’t make any sense to me.”

Said Letarte: “Words on paper are very different from a call in a race. It’s not in-bounds or out-of-bounds. It’s kind of the flow.”

New Hampshire to add traction compound to racing surface

Photo: Dustin Long
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New Hampshire Motor Speedway officials will add the PJ1 traction compound to the racing surface before this weekend’s racing, a track spokesperson confirmed to NBC Sports.

Track officials are scheduled to put the traction compound on the track today and are expected to do so again Saturday and Sunday, pending NASCAR approval. The track reapplied the traction compound the morning of last July’s race.

The traction compound is to be applied to the first groove (lowest groove) and third grove (just outside the main groove) in all four corners. A track spokesperson said the traction compound would be applied on the 12 feet at the bottom of the track from the yellow line on up. Then there will be a 12-foot section that will not be applied (the main groove) and the traction compound is to be applied on another 12 feet above the main grove

The track used the PJ1 compound for both Cup weekends last year to help enhance the passing.

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Weekend schedule for Cup, Xfinity at New Hampshire

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The NASCAR Cup and Xfinity teams will make their lone visit of the year to New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend. Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch combined to win 14 of the first 19 races. Will their dominance continue? In Xfinity, there have been six different winners in the last seven races. Will that streak continue.

Here’s a look at the track schedule for the weekend:

(ALL TIMES ARE EASTERN)

FRIDAY, JULY 20

8:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. — Cup garage open

10 a.m. – 6 p.m. — Xfinity garage open

Noon – 12:50 p.m. — Cup practice (NBCSN)

1:05 – 1:55 p.m. — Xfinity practice (NBCSN)

3:05 – 3:55 p.m. — Final Xfinity practice (NBCSN)

4:45 p.m. — Cup qualifying; multi-vehicle/three rounds (NBCSN, Performance Racing Network)

SATURDAY, JULY 21

7 a.m. — Xfinity garage opens

8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. — Cup garage open

10:05 – 10:55 a.m. — Cup practice (CNBC)

11:05 a.m. — Xfinity qualifying; multi-vehicle/three rounds (CNBC)

12:35 – 1:25 p.m. — Final Cup practice (NBCSN)

1:30 p.m. — Xfinity driver/crew chief meeting

3:30 p.m. — Xfinity driver introductions

4 p.m. — Lakes Region 200 Xfinity race; 200 laps/211.6 miles (NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

SUNDAY, JULY 22

8:30 a.m. — Cup garage opens

Noon — Cup driver/crew chief meeting

1:20 p.m. — Cup driver introductions

2 p.m. — Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 Cup race; 301 laps/318.46 miles (NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

NASCAR America: Kyle Busch believes Martin Truex Jr. is his biggest competition

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Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. have been so strong in 2018 that many believe the championship will come down to them – and only them.

Busch has five wins, Harvick matches him with five and Truex earned his fourth win last week on the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway.

Who is Busch’s greatest competition? Busch does not think the other five-time winner will be the driver to beat. Instead, he picked Truex as the top contender at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Wednesday’s NASCAR America.

“If you had to choose just one, I’d have to say Martin,” Busch said. “Just with the successes that they’ve had on mile-and-a-halves. Even though Harvick’s been just as good at mile-and-halves.”

Last year, Truex dominated the 1.5-milers – including a win in the final race that crowned him champion.

“Overall, the 78’s just so strong and they certainly know how to turn up the wick when it matters most,“ Busch said.

Busch is not ready to concede the title to Truex, however.

“I think you’ve seen the 78’s dominance of last year toned back,” he said. “They’re third, they’re fourth, they’re fifth – they’re still competitive, They’re still right there, but they’re not nine seconds out front. So I think the field has been closed up. … But they still have that little bit of edge when they need it.”

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter.

NASCAR America: Kyle Busch would have accepted Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s call on Friday

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If Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had called Kyle Busch as late as Friday morning before the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway, none of last week’s verbal conflict between the two would have happened.

At least that is Busch’s opinion of the situation.

“If he would have made the call: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday – even Friday morning still counts,” Busch said. “He could have talked about how I hurt his feeling for the things I said over the radio when I blasted him because I was mad over knocking a wall down.

“He could have said, ‘Hey man I’m sorry I got into you – you know I pushed up,’ or whatever happened … and ‘Hey, by the way, those things that you said after the crash were pretty rough.’ And I would have been, like ‘Ricky, you’re totally right. That was over the top.’

Then, when the question was posed about whether they the two had talked, the answer would have been “yeah, we’re all fine.”

And that would have been the end of the story.

“I learned, after making that mistake a few times that it’s just easier to make the call,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. “Sometimes you don’t even think you’re in the wrong. … But it’s just easier to go ahead and make the call, because that guy’s annoyed. It goes into the next week – and then, like (happened with) you guys, y’all had it play out in front of everybody at Kentucky.”

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter.