Text chain helps drivers receive clarification from NASCAR on securing lug nuts outside box

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CHARLOTTE – NASCAR Cup drivers confused over the lack of a penalty to Jimmie Johnson’s team Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway sought clarity in the most 21st century of ways.

Their smartphones.

Denny Hamlin, the founder of the series’ Drivers Council, said a text chain his group uses with NASCAR executives Scott Miller and Steve O’Donnell helped explain why Johnson didn’t receive a penalty for his team securing lug nuts outside its pit stall.

“I had questions along with many other drivers,” Hamlin said Tuesday during a news conference to unveil his No. 11 Toyota’s Martinsville paint scheme that highlights a FedEx partnership with Walgreens. “So I went to our Driver Council texts, and Miller and O’Donnell both explained it the same way as they did everyone else. I thought for sure it was a penalty, but I can also see sometimes you’re gassing the car as the cars are rolling through the pit stall, and that’s not ever a penalty.

“I think it’s kind of a judgment call. The way they explained to me is that they chose for it not to be a penalty; not that anything is written black and white in the rulebook about being able to secure lug nuts outside the pit box.”

Miller explained in a Monday interview on SiriusXM Satellite Radio why NASCAR hadn’t communicated the policy to teams.

During a test at Martinsville, Kyle Larson said he didn’t agree with the call because NASCAR’s rulebook says that service must be completed within the pit stall (NASCAR officials have said Johnson wasn’t penalized because the team tightened lug nuts – a maneuver to ensure safety — after the stop was complete).

“I’m sure Jimmie and their team would agree … they didn’t follow the rule,” Larson said. “I would like to see NASCAR just use the rule, make us back all the way up to our pit stall like we typically do. I know I think they said that him losing spots on pit road was already a penalty in itself. Not really, because if he would have gotten the penalty he deserved, he would have been behind the lapped cars.

“I don’t think it was the right penalty. I would hope that if it happens to us or anybody else they would do the right thing.”

Hamlin said the Drivers Council primarily started the text chain with NASCAR officials to set times for meetings, but it also is used for communication in other ways (such as this clarification). “We constantly have advice for O’Donnell and Miller,” he said.

Contributing: Dustin Long in Martinsville

Denny Hamlin posts fastest lap in Saturday morning Cup practice

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LOUDON, N.H. – Denny Hamlin had the fastest lap in Saturday morning’s Cup practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, leading the field with a lap of 132.942 mph.

He was followed by Ryan Blaney (132.526 mph), Martin Truex Jr. (132.462), Kyle Busch (132.406) and Kevin Harvick (132.356).

Harvick ran the most laps at 50. Harvick told NASCAR on NBC broadcaster Rick Allen in the garage that he ran so many laps to see how much the speed falls off as the tires wear. Jimmie Johnson was next with 42 laps run.

There were no incidents in the 50-minute session.

Ryan Blaney had the best 10-lap average at 131.767 mph.

Click here for the speed chart.

Start time of Sunday’s Cup race moved up to 1 pm ET

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LOUDON, N.H. – The start time for Sunday’s Cup race has been moved up to 1 p.m. ET because of the threat of rain, NASCAR announced.

NBCSN will broadcast the race. NBCSN’s coverage begins at noon ET.

The wunderground.com forecast for 1 p.m. ET Sunday calls for a 49 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms. There is a threat of rain throughout the day.

Kurt Busch won the pole for Sunday’s race.

Two Cup teams to be penalized practice time Saturday at New Hampshire

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LOUDON, N.H. – Denny Hamlin and Kasey Kahne each will miss 15 minutes of Saturday’s final practice session at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for inspection issues, NASCAR announced.

Hamlin is being penalized for failing pre-qualifying inspection twice last weekend at Kentucky. Kahne is being penalized for failing pre-qualifying inspection twice Friday at New Hampshire.

Final practice is scheduled to go from 12:35 – 1:25 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

NASCAR’s Saturday schedule for New Hampshire Motor Speedway

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Today’s schedule at New Hampshire Motor Speedway includes two Cup practice sessions and the Xfinity Series race at the “Magic Mile.”

Here’s the full schedule with TV and radio info.

(All times are Eastern)

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)