Todd Gordon on not pitting Joey Logano late at Martinsville: ‘I missed the call’

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Crew chief Todd Gordon said he should have pitted Joey Logano after a tire rub late in Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway and knows it impacted teammate Brad Keselowski’s bid to make it to the championship round.

“I missed the call,’’ Gordon said Tuesday morning on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I just own that I missed the call myself.’’

Logano was running third with 12 laps left when contact with Kyle Busch created a left rear tire rub. Logano’s Team Penske teammate, Brad Keselowski, held a 1.4-second lead at that point and seemed headed to a victory that would put him in the championship race in Miami.

Instead, Logano — who is not in the playoffs — stayed out and spun, creating a caution that erased Keselowski’s lead. Keselowski, a playoff competitor, chose the outside lane on the ensuing restart and was moved up the track for the lead by Chase Elliott a lap before Denny Hamlin ran into the back of Elliott and wrecked Elliott for the lead. Keselowski finished fourth.

A question after the race was if Logano should have pitted to avoid being a caution. That would have allowed Keselowski to keep his lead. Logano said after the race he was not called to pit road. Gordon declined to talk to media after the event.

Both Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe said after winning Talladega on Oct. 15 that they viewed Martinsville as a must-win situation in this round because of their struggles on 1.5-mile tracks (Sunday’s race is at Texas Motor Speedway, a 1.5-mile track) and the uncertainty of Phoenix.

Gordon admits he was more focused on his No. 22 team in those final laps at Martinsville.

“We were third at that point,’’ Gordon said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, explaining his mindset. “As big of a struggle as it has been all year, the piece that we looked at ahead of time was that this was a place we could build some momentum. A place that we have run well very frequently. I think it’s a racetrack that Joey gets very well. I think we’ve got a good setup for what we do there. In the time Kyle got into us, we were third and fighting, really (Elliott) was playing defense against us. I only got a couple of glimpses of (the tire rub). It was smoking.

“The first lap and half of that, I wasn’t sure how bad (the tire rub) was and as I saw, I didn’t know with a few laps left whether it was an external rub or whether it was on the tire contact patch, and the smoke kind of clouds it a little bit for me. Honestly, it was looking at the fact that I felt like if it was just a tire rub we might sacrifice a top-five finish out of the day, which for a momentum piece for this whole Shell-Pennzoil team would have been a great kind of add to the situation.

“As we saw it get worse — and it got worse — we were in a position where we had cars on the inside of us. I didn’t call him to pit road from the outside lane. By the time we finally got to the bottom, it blew in (Turns) 1 and 2.

“I guess I should have called him in earlier with the grander picture in my head. I missed the call. I just own that I missed the call myself.

“Regretful for that for our teammates and everybody here at Team Penske. Brad had a dominant car all day, and I think was in a great position. Wish you could take those things back but you can’t. At that time, my focus was on a momentum builder for our team. Saw that opportunity, didn’t know how bad the rub was and as it became more clear it became too late to react to that.’’

Asked on “The Morning Drive” about the balance of making decisions in the best interest of the No. 22 team while also factoring in what’s best for the entire organization, Gordon said:

“Emotionally you’ve got to figure out how to handle those things. I’ve looked back at it. There’s things I could have done differently. You always asses the situation afterwards to try to understand how you should have looked at the situation and how you can better prepare yourself because these things do happen and how you can better prepare yourself to make the right call.

“It’s tough there because it’s a two- to three-lap penalty to pit under green. There’s 13 to go. Your day is what it is. It’s a heat of the moment decision. I’ve talked to Paul about it and I’ve shared with him my shortcomings and thought process. I think we’re good with where we’re at.

“Obviously he was disappointed with it as he should be. I told him … I’d be upset if he weren’t upset. This is a passionate sport and we’re all trying to do great things, and they were in a good position, they are still in a good position, they are in a great position. Not to say something couldn’t happen in the last nine laps that would have caused a caution other than us, but we did cause a caution and it’s something we’ll move on from.’’

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Denny Hamlin offers advice on how to deal with critics on social media

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Denny Hamlin, who has been fined by NASCAR for comments on Twitter, and was vocal toward critics after this year’s Daytona 500, says he’s found peace on how to deal with those on social media who don’t agree with him.

“I’ve been very good this year about not replying to mean people, and you all should do the same,’’ Hamlin said Friday at Sonoma Raceway.

“I’m making a (request) right now to every driver, every team owner, every NASCAR executive and every media member, stop replying to people who make nonsense comments. They have 16 followers. Don’t give them your 100,000. Do not give them your 100,000 as their stage. No one will ever see their comment, just brush it by, talk about the positives and I’m not a positive person.”

Asked how does one ignore such divisive comments, Hamlin said: “You just scroll by it. Forget it. That person doesn’t exit. They’re an admirer that has lost their way.’’

Hamlin has been better at doing so since the Daytona 500. He faced negative reaction on social media to the contact he and Bubba Wallace had at the end of the Daytona 500.

They engaged in a brief shouting match in the garage area after Hamlin learned that Wallace had taken a dig at him on national TV about a recent comment about drivers using Adderall.

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Clint Bowyer leads opening Cup practice at Sonoma

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Clint Bowyer was the fastest in the first of two Cup practices Friday at Sonoma Raceway.

Bowyer, the winner of the most recent Cup race two weeks ago at Michigan, posted a lap of 93.590 mph. He was followed by Ryan Blaney (93.546 mph), Joey Logano (93.172), Jamie McMurray (93.049) and Daniel Suarez (92.746).

Sixth was Jimmie Johnson (92.661). He was followed by Michael McDowell (92.650), Martin Truex Jr. (92.614), AJ Allmendinger (92.596) and Ryan Newman (92.595).

Click here for full practice report

Final Cup practice will be from 5:40 – 6:55 p.m. ET. Qualifying will take place Saturday.

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Kyle Larson: ‘I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t love NASCAR racing’

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Kyle Larson‘s comment on Twitter earlier this week that he would like to run full-time in the World of Outlaws sprint car series “before I’m 40” might have riled some fans, but Larson says it was not meant as anything bad toward NASCAR.

“I don’t know, I think maybe some people aren’t quite as open-minded, maybe,” the 26-year-old Larson said Friday at Sonoma Raceway. “It’s like they read it as if I said in two years from now I wanted to do it. I mean 15 years from now that would put me 20 years in Cup. So, that is a long time. 

“I think Jeff Gordon spent about that much time in the sport (Gordon raced in Cup 23 full-time seasons), but I don’t know, maybe I don’t do the best job in the world of talking about how much I love NASCAR as much as I do sprint cars, but I do. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t love NASCAR racing.

“I enjoy sprint cars, and I feel like I talk about sprint cars a lot just to open people’s eyes to that style of racing because it’s a great form or racing and so is NASCAR. So, I don’t know, I just want fans to be fans of motorsports not just NASCAR and not just sprint cars. I would like to see everybody just enjoy all of racing and I think that is what I do. Maybe I don’t do a good job at it sometimes, but you know, I enjoy racing all types of vehicles. Most fans get it, but some fans aren’t quite open-minded enough.”

It was on the official World of Outlaws podcast in December where Larson expressed his desire to eventually transition to the World of Outlaws.

“NASCAR is where I wanted to make it, but I would have been perfectly fine if I didn’t make it either,” Larson said on that podcast in the offseason. “I’d probably be on the Outlaw (sprint car) tour probably right now, racing and loving life … I would say racing on the World of Outlaws tour full-time is my main goal.”

Larson just finished running five nights of Ohio Sprint Speedweek. He won two of those nights. Rain postponed a sixth event before the feature that Larson was to have run. Larson said he has the dirt track race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on his schedule. Indianapolis is building a quarter-mile dirt track inside Turn 3 to run during the NASCAR weekend there in September.

Larson is in his fifth full Cup season. He has five career series wins. Although winless this season, Larson has finished runner-up three times (Auto Club Speedway, Bristol and Pocono).

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Four Cup cars to be docked practice time at Sonoma

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Four cars will miss time in today’s opening practice at Sonoma Raceway for violations, NASCAR announced Friday.

David Ragan will miss 30 minutes for failing inspection before the race at Michigan three times.

Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson and Kasey Kahne each will be docked 15 minutes for failing inspection twice before the Michigan race.

Today’s opening Cup practice goes from 2:40 – 3:55 p.m. ET.

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