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NASCAR official says it is ‘unfortunate’ pit guns have caused problems for some

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Saying “a few problems is a problem,’’ a NASCAR executive said series officials will continue to look into issues with pit guns.

Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said Monday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that officials needed to gather more information on what happened with pit guns this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

“Everybody is always quick to blame the gun, not saying that it may not have been a gun problem, but we have to look at everything before we can flat out say we had a gun problem,’’ Miller said. “That’s what we do.

“The program has had a few more hitches in it than, obviously, we wished it would, but we’re making progress with it. We’ll continue to do that and continue to evaluate and continue to try to get better every week and make sure that we dig into whatever problems happen up and down pit road and get them rectified.

“Everything in motorsports is a development process and this is no different. It’s unfortunate that it’s caused some people some problems but development is what it is. We’ll continue to keep it ramped up and get it right.’’

Kevin Harvick was vocal about pit guns, saying issues with the guns impacted his team in both the Xfinity and Cup race there. This is the first year teams have been required to use NASCAR-mandated pit guns instead of their own. Not every team has been happy. Crew chief Cole Pearn was upset about the pit guns at Atlanta

Said Harvick on Sunday:

“The pathetic part about the whole thing is the pit guns. The pit guns have been absolutely horrible all year, and our guys do a great job on pit road, and the pathetic part about it is the fact you get handed something that doesn’t work correctly, and those guys are just doing everything that they can to try to make it right.

“It’s embarrassing for the sport.”

Harvick’s team also was in the center of another issue Sunday. NASCAR admitted after the race it should have penalized Harvick’s team for an uncontrolled tire late in the event.

Miller explained the process on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio of calling a pit road penalty.

“We will certainly dig into everything that led to those calls being made,’’ Miller said. “I’ve heard some other things speculating that every pit stop gets reviewed or things like that. That’s actually not how it works. When there isn’t a call made from the Pro Trailer (where officials monitor each pit stop) there is no review that gets triggered by anyone. There’s enough penalties on pit road where not every single one can be reviewed, so we have to rely on our staff in the Pro Trailer to make those calls.

We certainly look at them. One of the things that is great about our sport is our game, quote-unquote, doesn’t stop like it does in other sports when they stand there and look at the review. We have a race continuing to run as we’re looking at these penalties and reviewing them.

“Most of that is to learn because five or 10 minutes after the penalty happens is not the time to be calling the penalty. We use the review process not only to check on calls but to get better and have things to talk about in our meeting of ‘hey, this could have gone this way or this could have gone that way’ with our people so we can have constant improvement in our process.’’

As to what happened that led to no penalty to Harvick’s team for an uncontrolled tire, Miller said:

“There’s a lot of things on pit road that are absolutely 100 percent indisputable,’’ Miller said. “Pitting out of the box. We have a system that we use that sets up electronic lines that’s very easy to see if the car is in or out of the box, driving through too many pit boxes, same thing. The system flags all of those things. One of a few things that is left for the human to make the call on is the uncontrolled tire because there’s so many moving parts to a pit stop that we can’t automate that process.

“There’s judgment in those calls with the uncontrolled tire. In our guys’ judgment the other tires that were called got away further than these did. In retrospect looking at it, I think that certainly the penalty could have been called. (The tire) has to be within an arm’s reach of a guy as he’s trying to control that tire. It’s debatable whether or not this one got more than arm’s reach away. Close call.’’

Section 10.9.10.4.1.b of the Cup Rule Book on uncontrolled tires states:

“NASCAR considers a tire/wheel controlled when all of the following are met:

  • A crew member  must remain within arm’s reach and moving in the same direction as the tire/wheel when removing the tire/wheel from the outside half of the pit box.
  • The tire/wheel must never cross the center of pit road
  • The removed tire/wheel must not be allowed to roll free into an adjacent Competitor’s pit box.

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All-Star Race, Open entry lists

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It’s officially All-Star Race week.

For the first time the annual exhibition event that awards $1 million will be held at Bristol Motor Speedway (7 p.m. ET Wednesday on FS1).

Twenty drivers will compete in the 140-lap, four-stage main event. Sixteen drivers currently make up the field following Cole Custer’s win Sunday at Kentucky Speedway.

Three drivers will qualify for the main event via the All-Star Open, the 85-lap preliminary race that’s divided into three stages. The winners of all three stages will advance. The remaining driver will advance via a fan vote.

Here are the entry lists for each race.

All-Star Race 

Drivers who automatically qualified for the All-Star Race: Those who won points races in 2019-20, past All-Star Race winners and previous Cup champions.

Drivers who have clinched an All-Star Race spot: Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Cole Custer, Chase Elliott, Justin Haley, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Erik Jones, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr.

Click here for the entry list.

All-Star Open

Twenty-two drivers are entered in the preliminary race.

Notable drivers include Clint Bowyer, Matt DiBenedetto, William Byron, rookies Tyler Reddick, William Byron and John Hunter Nemechek, as well as Bubba Wallace.

Click here for the entry list.

NASCAR in ‘good place’ with Harrison Burton, Noah Gragson after fight

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Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, says that series officials will keep an eye on Harrison Burton and Noah Gragson moving forward but that the sanctioning body feels it is in a “good place” with those drivers after their fight last weekend at Kentucky Speedway.

Gragson punched Burton after Burton repeatedly shoved him in the garage area as they discussed their contact on the track late in Friday night’s Xfinity Series race at Kentucky Speedway. A NASCAR spokesperson said Friday night that no penalties were anticipated.

Asked about where matters stood between NASCAR and the two drivers, Miller told “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday morning:

“I personally wasn’t in the post-race conversations. (NASCAR Xfinity Series Managing Director) Wayne Auton does a great job with that and the report that I got from him is he talked to some of the crew members that were involved and obviously both of the drivers. I think we got to a good place. They’re going to have some words this week and try to make sure we’re in a good spot when we start the weekend next weekend in Texas. We feel like we’re OK.

“This is an emotional sport and there’s going to be things like that that crop up. It’s not a great situation for us to deal with as a sanctioning body, but we also want the emotion in the sport. That’s what makes it so special. Those things are unfortunate, but we do know from time to time those are going to happen. If we feel good about the conversations we’ve had, in a lot of cases we’re going to move on from that and keep an eye on those individuals moving forward.”

Race and Sports in America: Conversations to air at 8 p.m. ET Monday

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Damon Hack will host two roundtables with athletes and former athletes for a conversation on race and sports in America. The show airs at 8 p.m. ET Monday on NBCSN, Golf Channel, Olympic Channel and the NBC Sports Regional Networks.

Appearing with Hack will be Los Angeles Chargers coach Anthony Lynn, NBA superstar Steph Curry, NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, NFL player Kyle Rudolph, pro golfer Troy Mullins, former tennis player James Blake, Major League Baseball player James Rollins and Baseball Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith.

Among the topics discussed are: The conversations they’ve had with family in the last few months, what they hope things will be like in a year’s time, the level of optimism vs. pessimism and their experiences.

 

 

Winners and losers from Kentucky

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WINNERS

Cole CusterHe entered Sunday’s race well out of a playoff spot at 25th in the points. He took advantage of a series of events in the final laps to score a dramatic victory and earn a playoff spot.

Martin Truex Jr.Lost the lead on the last lap but recorded his first top-five finish since his Martinsville win last month.

Matt DiBenedetto He was 18th with 14 laps to go and finished third.

Christopher BellSeventh-place finish was his fourth finish of 12th or better in the last six races.

Austin Cindric Had not won on an oval in the Xfinity Series before sweeping both series races at Kentucky Speedway.

LOSERS

Matt KensethA week after finishing runner-up at Indianapolis, he spun twice and finished 25th at Kentucky.

Ryan PreeceFinished last for the second race in a row. He was eliminated in a pit road accident at Indy and by transmission issues at Kentucky. He has failed to finish five of 17 races this season (29.4%).

Jimmie JohnsonWas third on a late restart when contact with Brad Keselowski spun him. Instead of contending for his first victory since 2017, Johnson finished 18th and had a little warning for Keselowski.