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Term ‘Encumbered finish’ becomes a phrase of the past to NASCAR

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NASCAR issued a rules bulletin Friday and the phrase “encumbered finish” was crossed off in a section on penalties, marking the end of a word that was reviled by fans and many in the sport.

Before celebrating too much, understand that while the term might not be used, the penalty will remain. Section notes that should a team receive an L1 of L2 penalty during the race or after it, they still face the fact that the finish will not count toward playoff eligibility, playoff points, advancement in the playoffs and determining the champion and other three finishers among the final four drivers in the title race.

In a sign of how hard it is to let go, the phrase “encumbered finish” still remains in multiple areas of Section 17 of the rule book (Points and Point Funds) when referencing that particular penalty.

Among a few other notes from the rules bulletin:

If a wheel is improperly installed and comes off after exiting the team’s assigned pit stall, the crew chief, tire changer responsible and jack man each will be suspended four races. Adding the jack man to those suspended for such a violation is new.

All L1 and L2 penalties discovered in pre-race may consist of a points deduction, and/or suspension of the crew chief and/or other team members, and/or fines. NASCAR may issue a points deduction less than the minimum outlined in the Minimum Penalty Options Chart.

Any engine that starts a race and completes 25 percent of the laps, or at NASCAR’s discretion, will qualify as a sealed engine for its next use. If a short block sealed engine is found to have any rule infractions when it is inspected, any resulting penalties will be imposed against every team that competed with that same short block sealed engine. If the same team used the short block sealed engine for multiple events, the penalty will be applied to each event separately.

If an individual or a team wishes to appeal an L1, L2, Safety or Member Conduct Penalty, they must make a written request for a hearing to the National Motorsports Appeals Panel within three business days of the penalty notice being issued. Previously, individuals and teams had to make a written request within 10 business days.

If a team member is ejected from an event, that position on the roster cannot be filled for that event.

If a car does not pass the rear wheel steer inspection after qualifying, the car’s time is disallowed. If a car does not pass the rear wheel steer after the race, the L1 penalty is a $65,000 fine, loss of 35 driver and owner points and a three-race suspension for the crew chief. Rear wheel steer will be among the areas examined by the new Hawkeye inspection system.

No Goodyear tire tests are scheduled this year for the Xfinity Series.

Cup teams will have a new right-side tire at Las Vegas, Bristol and Talladega in the first third of the season. Cup teams will have a new left-side tire at Auto Club Speedway, Texas, Kansas, Charlotte and Pocono in the first third of the season.

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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


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.