NASCAR official explains why Jimmie Johnson’s team not penalized for pit stop

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Although NASCAR said it routinely has not penalized teams for securing a lug nut outside their pit box, as Jimmie Johnson’s team did Sunday, a senior series official said Monday that not all teams might be aware that they can do that.

Johnson started to pull out of his pit box before being stopped by his team because of an unsecured lug nut late in Sunday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Johnson backed up but his car was not entirely in his pit stall when the tire changer secured a lug nut on the left front wheel. NASCAR did not penalize the team. Johnson entered pit road fourth and exited 15th on the Lap 280 pit stop. He finished seventh.

A NASCAR rule states that teams servicing a car outside its pit box are subject to a one-lap penalty.

A NASCAR spokesman explained after Sunday’s race that officials view that as a safety issue and that Johnson endured a penalty with the slower stop to immediately fix the problem.

Monday, Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, discussed the issue on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

“It’s funny that this has come up now because it’s high-profile now that the playoffs, we’ve been calling that particular thing consistently over the past couple of years with the lug nut,’’ Miller said. “The way we look at that one is they did their normal pit stop in the pit box. He left. They realized they had a lug nut and at that point to us it becomes a safety issue and allowing them to put the lug nut on. The penalty becomes they lost probably 10 or 12 spots during that pit stop. That’s a penalty.

“We let them do that because we want to make sure that it’s a safe situation out there on the race track. That’s the way we’ve been calling it. We like to give the teams the benefit of the doubt if we can, especially when it comes to something that might create an unsafe situation. That’s the basis for that call. It’s interesting that it’s so high on everybody’s list today when we’ve been calling it for a couple of years now.’’

Asked if that is communicated to the teams immediately that if they fix it, they won’t be penalized, Miller said: “We didn’t call it so obviously they got the information. I don’t know that every single team up and down pit road knows that’s the way we’ve been calling it. There’s a lot of subtleties up and down pit road and if we tried to communicate everything that we discuss in every one of our meetings about pit road officiating it would probably inundate the teams with information and they would probably end up more confused than they are now.

“Does everybody know that’s the way we’ve been calling it? Potentially not.’’

Cole Pearn, crew chief for Martin Truex Jr., told NBC Sports after the race that he was unaware of such an allowance.

“I was under the assumption that was a one-lap penalty, so I was a little confused on that call, but I was so nervous with what we were doing that I really didn’t put much attention to it.’’

Miller compared that situation to another on pit road that NASCAR doesn’t issue a penalty when a team corrects an issue.

“No different than when someone is out of the box and they have the fuel can plugged in and they push the car back in,’’ Miller said. “We don’t want to create an unsafe situation where the fuel man has got to pull out, re-insert and do all that. Along those same lines of safety is the way we’re looking at this.

“We will circle back with the industry now that this has become the big topic and see if we need to do anything different. For two years it has been consistent and it will continue to be consistent between now and the end of the year.’’

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NASCAR mourns Kobe Bryant

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Joining their brethren in other sports, the NASCAR world took to social media upon learning the tragic news of the death of Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant, killed Sunday morning in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

Bryant had met a number of NASCAR drivers in his career, including Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano. They were among a number of NASCAR notables who took to social media to mourn Bryant:

 

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Chad Knaus and wife expecting second child

Photo courtesy Brooke Knaus official Instagram account
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Seven-time NASCAR Cup champion crew chief Chad Knaus and wife Brooke are expecting their second child.

Brooke made the announcement Saturday on her Instagram account.

The couple, already parents to one-year-old son Kip, will soon be adding a daughter to their growing family.

Brooke Knaus’s Instagram post said the baby is due in July.

Kip figured prominently in the baby revelation, coming at the end of mom and dad’s ski run while vacationing in Telluride, Colorado:

 

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Kyle Larson flips, misses finals of Australia’s biggest sprint car race

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Kyle Larson’s hope of following up last week’s Chili Bowl win with a triumph in Australia’s prestigious Grand Annual Sprint Car Classic fell far short Sunday.

Larson’s bid to race his way into the 24-car finals of the three-day race at Premier Speedway in Warrnambool, Australia, ended when he flipped (uninjured) on the opening lap of a last-chance qualifying heat race earlier in the evening.

Instead of being one of the featured drivers in the Classic’s 40-lap finale – the largest and most popular sprint car race of the year in the land down under – Larson was left to watch the event from the pits and cheer on Dyson Motorsport teammate and fellow American Carson Macedo.

Even that didn’t go very well, as Macedo flipped his own sprint car on the first lap of the Classic, resulting in a last-place finish. The highest finishing American was Cory Eliason, who ended up fourth.

Meanwhile, it was an all-Australian podium, with James McFadden winning the Classic for the second time in his career, followed by James Veal and Kerry Madsen.

In eight days, Larson went from capturing what he called the biggest win ever of his racing career on all levels – the Chili Bowl in his 13th try last Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma – to nothing but bad luck and utter frustration throughout his Australian journey.

Larson’s first race on Wednesday in the King’s Challenge at Borderline Speedway was rained out.

Then, in the first night of the Classic on Friday, Larson wrecked heavily in his first heat race, including flipping (he was uninjured). After his team repaired his car, Larson went back on the track, only to suffer a blown engine that knocked him out of contention to race in that evening’s feature event.

After not being on the schedule to race in Night 2 of the Classic on Saturday, Larson had one last chance to make Sunday’s featured championship event.

A total of 80 drivers battled it out in the B, C and D Mains for the eight remaining spots in the A Main, but Larson would end up not being one of those — as can be seen in the second line of the following tweet by his team:

Larson now returns to the United States to prepare for the Daytona 500 on February 16.

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Kyle Busch feeling like ‘the new guy’ during his Rolex 24 debut at Daytona

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Kyle Busch was looking forward to his first stint at 6 p.m. Saturday in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

The two-time Cup champion was less enthused about his second turn behind the wheel in the IMSA season opener. Busch will climb back into the No. 14 Lexus RCF GT3 at 2 a.m. Sunday, just past the midpoint of the endurance race classic at Daytona International Speedway.

“That’s going to suck, yeah,” Busch deadpanned. “That’s exactly when I told them I did not want to run, and I got it.  Thank you very much.

“(I’m) the new guy.  I pulled the short straw.”

Click here to read more about how Busch felt about his AIM Vasser Sullivan car.