Is social media going too far in influencing NASCAR penalties?

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Kevin Harvick believes social media played a role in his team’s penalty this week, and Kyle Busch says series officials should “not pay attention to it sometimes and do what they think is best for the sport.’’

The role social media could have in influencing NASCAR officials has grown since photos of the rear window of Harvick’s car were posted shortly after his victory last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

NASCAR penalized Harvick’s team Wednesday for a rear window brace that failed and also for having steel side skirts instead of aluminum. NASCAR docked Harvick the seven playoff points he earned, fined crew chief Rodney Childers $50,000 and suspended the team’s car chief two races, among other penalties.

Asked if his team would have been penalized without the pressure of fans on social media, Harvick said Friday: “I don’t think so.’’

This marks the second time since last year’s playoffs that social media has been viewed as playing a role in a penalty. Last September, a post on Reddit noted that a crew member appeared to remove tape from the top of the spoiler of Chase Elliott’s car while he did an interview on NBCSN after the race.

NASCAR responded two days later by suspending crew chief Alan Gustafson and the team’s car chief one race each along with a 15-point penalty for Elliott, among other penalties. NASCAR stated that modification of components to affect the aerodynamic properties of the vehicle was not allowed.

Asked if he was concerned that NASCAR has made decisions based on social media, Busch didn’t hesitate Friday.

“Absolutely,’’ he said. 

Joey Logano doesn’t it see it that way.

“I wouldn’t assume that NASCAR makes calls off of social media,’’ he said Friday at ISM Raceway. “I wouldn’t think that is the case. I would think NASCAR is bigger than that.’’

Busch worries social media has become too loud in some cases.

“I think there’s too many voices,’’ he said when asked if the perceived social media impact on officiating as a good thing or bad thing.

“I think the powers that be that are way higher than me need to figure out how to shut that off and not pay attention to it sometimes, and do what they think is best for the sport as what we’ve done for 60 years. It seems the last 10 (years) especially has been more so. And listening to those that are watching it and those who are watching it have too many varying opinions. You’re not going to please them all. It doesn’t seem as though we’re setting ourselves up for the best going forward by listening to too many of them.”

Harvick said he had a solution on how not to let social media influence series officials.

“Keep your executives off of it during the race,’’ he said.

Harvick noted the issues social media has presented in calling for penalties in golf, mentioning the penalty to Lexi Thompson in an LPGA major in April.

A viewer emailed tournament officials alerting them to an infraction Thompson committed the day before. After reviewing the situation, she was issued a four-stroke penalty. She was notified of the penalty with six holes left in the final round. The penalty dropped her out of the lead. She eventually lost in a playoff.

In December, the U.S. Golf Association and the game’s major professional tours announced they would no longer accept calls and emails from fans who think they have spotted rules violations. The governing bodies, in conjunction with the PGA Tour, LPGA, PGA European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America, agreed to assign at least one rules official to monitor all tournament telecasts and resolve any rules issues.

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Saturday schedule for Cup at Sonoma, Trucks at Gateway

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Cup cars are only on the track for qualifying today at Sonoma Raceway, and Camping Work Truck teams will qualify and race at Gateway Motorsports Park.

Johnny Sauter has won three of the last five Truck races. Brett Moffitt won last weekend’s Truck race at Iowa.

Here’s today’s schedule at both tracks:

(ALL TIMES ARE EASTERN)

At SONOMA RACEWAY

10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. — Cup garage open

2:45 p.m. — Cup qualifying; multi-vehicle/two rounds (FS1, Performance Racing Network)

4:30 p.m. — K&N Pro Series West race; 64 laps, 127.36 miles (airs at 6 p.m. ET June 28 on NBCSN)

At GATEWAY MOTORSPORTS PARK

11 a.m. — Truck garage opens

Noon – 1 p.m. — Final Truck practice (No TV)

5:45 p.m. — Truck qualifying; multi-vehicle/three rounds (airs from 7-8 p.m. on FS1)

7 p.m. — Driver/crew chief meeting

8 p.m. — Driver introductions

8:30 p.m. — Villa Lighting delivers the Eaton 200; 160 laps/200 miles (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Kurt Busch fastest in final Cup practice at Sonoma

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Kurt Busch posted the fastest single lap in the final practice for the Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Sonoma Raceway with a speed of 94.061 mph.

He beat second-place Denny Hamlin (94.012 mph) by .040 seconds.

Martin Truex Jr. (93.718) had the third fastest lap, but the team will have some work to do before Saturday’s qualification. With nine minutes remaining on the clock, he ran into the back of Bubba Wallace in the esses and did significant damage to his nose. Wallace landed 34th on the chart with a speed of 91.641 mph.

Jamie McMurray (93.549) and Kevin Harvick (93.441) rounded out the top five.

Harvick (91.468) had the quickest 10-lap average – leading a sweep of the top three by Stewart Haas Racing. Busch was second quickest at 91.452 mph with Clint Bowyer third quick at 91.443 mph.

William Byron broke an axle seal in final practice, but the team was able to get him back on track with 24 minutes remaining in the session. His speed of 92.279 mph was 25th fastest.

Click here for the full report from final practice.

Friday Truck Series practice report from Gateway

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Second practice

Last week’s winner, Brett Moffitt topped the speed chart in Friday evening’s practice session for the Eaton 200 with a speed of 137.191 mph.

He beat second-place Myatt Snider (136.658 mph) by .128 seconds.

Johnny Sauter (136.608), Riley Herbst (136.355), and Ben Rhodes (136.219) round out the top five.

Herbst is making his Truck Series debut this week.

Also making his Truck debut is Zane Smith, who posted a lap of 136.120 mph to land sixth on the chart.

Christian Eckes (135.906) failed to back up his series-leading speed from the first practice session and was only ninth fastest, but he had the quickest 10-lap average of 135.039 mph.

Click here for complete results from practice 2.

First practice

Rain canceled the practice session at Gateway that was scheduled to run from 3:35 – 4:25 p.m. Eastern time.

When they finally got on track, Eckes posted the fastest single lap in the first practice session with a speed of 134.360 mph. He is making his Truck series debut this week.

Eckes’ speed was .009 seconds faster than Noah Gragon (134.324), who landed second on the speed chart.

Rhodes (134.120), Moffitt (133.817) and Matt Crafton (133.706) rounded out the top five.

Rhodes had the quickest 10-lap average of 133.466 mph.

With the first practice canceled at Gateway, NASCAR added a final practice session scheduled for Noon – 1 p.m.

Click here for complete results from practice one.

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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