NASCAR addresses Denny Hamlin’s complaints on pit guns

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In the wake of Denny Hamlin’s pointed comments about pit guns, NASCAR senior executive vice president Steve O’Donnell said any that “any issues, we’ll get it fixed.” But he also expressed skepticism about snap judgments on the guns’ performance being made postrace by some drivers such as Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr.

During his weekly visit to “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, O’Donnell said Tuesday there would be a previously scheduled meeting with team owners this week in which the guns likely would be discussed. Car owner Joe Gibbs alluded to the meeting after Kyle Busch’s victory Monday at Bristol Motor Speedway.

“I think this is one of those topics we’ve always addressed, and to hit it head on on our part; it’s an initiative we continue to work on,” O’Donnell said. “We knew going in, the technology of the guns is not going to be what some of the teams were used to in the past. The hand speed (of pit crew members) is incredible. The talent is incredible.

“Somewhere in between lies the truth. … Any gun that malfunctions is not acceptable to us, but there are some occasions where someone may be moving a little too fast on a stop as well. That’ll be the dialogue that we discuss and really hearing from all the teams and what the feedback is. We’ve proven we’re going to get on that and work on that collectively and continue to improve on anything that might come up during a race.”

Both Hamlin and Harvick said the guns were faulty because they weren’t performing up to the air pressure and RPM standards that teams were accustomed to when they built their own guns prior to the 2018 season.

After consultation with the Team Owners Council, NASCAR mandated common pit guns that are issued randomly by manufacturer Paoli. The performance of the pit guns has been a significant storyline after at least three of seven races this season.

“Well, you look at the technology on the guns, the postrace reports, I’m frankly a little surprised that someone could come out after the race and talk about all the air pressures and everything when they have not diagnosed what may or may not have happened,” O’Donnell said. “So we do that. We work with our gun manufacturer to look through all those.

“When there is a gun failure, we absolutely will showcase it and admit it, but it’s also easy to say that the gun didn’t work. We understand that as well. Somewhere in there lies the truth. Any issues, we will get it fixed, but I’m also confident that we’re able to go out there and race and put on some great races as well. And not have that be the lead story going forward for sure.”

During an interview with NBCSports.com’s Dustin Long after Monday’s race, Hamlin said NASCAR should return to last year’s pit guns and suggested that Joe Gibbs Racing could supply pit guns to all teams.

Gibbs later downplayed that idea, though.

Appeals panel amends penalty of suspended former Xfinity crew member

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The National Motorsports Appeals Panel announced Wednesday it had amended a penalty assessed on May 9 to former Xfinity Series crew member Michael L. Hayden.

Hayden was suspended indefinitely by NASCAR after getting into an altercation with JP Motorsports owner Jerry Hataway in the infield of Dover International Speedway on May 4 and breaking his jaw.

After hearing Hayden’s testimony, the appeals panel rescinded the indefinite suspension.

Hayden is now required to pay a $1,000 fine and must immediately enroll in NASCAR’s Reinstatement Program and follow all requirements issued.

According to the Dover Police Department, Hayden, 33, and Hataway, 56, were in a “verbal argument over issues pertaining to Hayden’s employment with the team” when Hayden began punching Hataway.

Hayden later told ESPN that he was acting in self-defense.

“He came at me first,” Hayden said. “He put his hands on me first and I hit him. He kept coming after me after I had hit him. Even when we were getting separated from NASCAR officials and by people from other teams, he kept coming after me.”

The three-member appeals panel was made up of Richard Gore, Hunter Nickell and Mike Skinner.

Hayden can appeal the decision to the National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer.

 

Momentum building from some drivers to run All-Star package again

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Some Cup drivers are for trying the package used in the All-Star Race again, with one driver saying he’d be for running it again this year.

All-Star winner Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin both spoke highly this week of the racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“The show was better,’’ Harvick said on his SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show on Tuesday night. “Bottom line, the show was better to watch. Like I say, I don’t know that everyone can wrap around their arms around restrictor-plate racing every single mile-and-a-half race. I think the cars need to be faster. I think we need to figure out which race tracks that we want to race them on because the All-Star Race was a good test, but it wasn’t a 100 percent test of this is where we need to be and everybody just wants to jump right there.’’

As to running the package again this year, Harvick said on his show “Happy Hours” that the decision will have to come from others:

“That’s going to come down to NASCAR and the teams and whether they can financially make that happen and efficiently make that happen with the engine shops and all the people involved. The hardest thing about all of this is how do you do that. If I had to make a choice, and it was my decision, I’d love to see it on the race track in a true environment. In my opinion, we kind of dabbled something out there that everybody tried and looked really great on TV, but what’s going to happen when everybody is prepared, everybody is at the race track, there are 40 cars on the race track. What it’s going to look like then? I don’t think anybody knows.”

Hamlin is open to running the package again this season.

“As a driver, I had fun, I really did,’’ he said Wednesday after unveiling a FedEx Cares paint scheme for his car at Daytona in July.

“Didn’t have the fastest car, but at least there were moments where you had to be very strategic in what you had to do. It was a mix between a normal open race and a superspeedway. … I’d like to see it at a few other tracks. if it came this year, It would definitely be OK by me.’’

So where to run it?

“I think Michigan is the perfect race track for it honestly,’’ Hamlin said. “There’s no better track that I can think of than Michigan to have a package like this. Pocono would be another great candidate for it. Anywhere you got long straightaways where drafting could be a big factor would be a good place for this package to go.’’

The Xfinity Series is scheduled to run a similar package at Pocono (June 2) and Michigan (June 9).

If NASCAR chose to run the package in Cup at Michigan on June 10, what kind of challenge would it be for teams to make the switch?

“I think JGR and Toyota could actually do it and probably be at the forefront as anybody, but I think the engine package is probably a bigger concern,’’ said Mike Wheeler, crew chief for Hamlin, noting that engines are done further ahead of time. “I think as far as setups and tire data and areo data, we can get there pretty quickly. I’m not sure about other teams. Ultimately we didn’t have the parts to play with to do the testing beforehand. We would do that before we went there with points on the line.’’

Harvick suggested this package actually could be used elsewhere.

“I think that this would be a great Daytona and Talladega package,’’ he said. “It would be great to see the Daytona and Talladega package to be able to be the same type of package that you run at Indy, Pocono and Michigan, so that you could have the engines be able to be used. If you had to adjust the spoiler size and maybe the splitter size here and there to be able to get the speeds where you want them to be, instead of adjusting the engine, I think that would be more efficient for the teams.

“It’s still going to come down to a dollar and cents type of thing. In the end, the teams are the ones that flipped the bill to put on the show. … How do we make it efficient for the teams?’’

Richard Buck, managing director for the Monster Energy Cup Series, said “we’ve heard a lot of great response from the fans.’’

But he cautioned Wednesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio of doing too much too soon with the package.

“There’s a lot to digest there and that’s what we’ll do, we’re only a couple of days removed from the event,” he said. “There’s still a lot of data to look at. It definitely passed the eye-ball test.

“We’ll circle back with the industry. We’ve got some of the brightest minds and engineers and engines builders and manufacturers and we’ll all collectively take a look at it and start working on the details of what was good and what could be better and we’ll take that into the future for sure.’’

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NASCAR America: Hall of Fame inductees announcement at 5 p.m. ET

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The 2019 class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame will be announced tonight exclusively on NASCAR America on NBCSN.

The broadcast will air from 5 – 6:30 p.m. ET and will reveal the next five inductees into the Hall of Fame located in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the winner of the Landmark Award.

Krista Voda hosts with Kyle Petty in Stamford, Connecticut. Steve Letarte, Nate Ryan and Dave Burns join them from the Hall of Fame.

There are 20 nominees, including the new additions Jeff Gordon, Harry Gant, John Holman, Ralph Moody and Kirk Shelmerdine.

Gordon, 46, won four Cup titles and 93 races as a full-time driver from 1993-2015.

Gant, 78, competed in NASCAR from 1973-94, winning 18 races and 17 poles. He won four consecutive races in September 1991. He remains the oldest Cup winner. He was 52 years, 7 months, 6 days when he won at Michigan in August 1992. He’s also the oldest pole winner in series history. He was 54 years, 7 months and 17 days when he won the pole at Bristol in August 1994.

Shelmerdine, 60, won four championships as crew chief for Dale Earnhardt in 1986-87 and 1990-91.

Holman and Moody formed one of the sport’s most famous teams. Between 1957-73, Moody and Holman built cars that earned 83 poles and won 96 times. They won the 1968 and ’69 titles with David Pearson. Holman died in 1975. Moody died in 2004.

Here are the returning 15 nominees.

Davey Allison … 19-time Cup winner who won the 1992 Daytona 500. He was the 1987 Rookie of the Year. He died in a helicopter crash in 1993 at Talladega.

Buddy Baker … 19-time Cup winner who won the 1980 Daytona 500. He was the first driver to eclipse the 200 mph barrier, doing so in 1970.

Red Farmer … Records are incomplete but the 1956 modified and 1969-71 Late Model Sportsman champ is believed to have won well more than 700 races. Continued racing beyond 80 years old.

Ray Fox … Renowned engine builder, car owner and race official. He built the Chevrolet that Junior Johnson won the 1960 Daytona 500 driving. Fox won the 1964 Southern 500 as a car owner with Johnson as his driver.

Joe Gibbs … His organization has 148 Cup wins and four Cup titles (Bobby Labonte in 2000, Tony Stewart in 2002, 2005 and Kyle Busch in 2015).

Harry Hyde … Crew chief for Bobby Isaac when Isaac won the 1970 series title. Guided Tim Richmond, Geoff Bodine, Neil Bonnett and Dave Marcis each to their first career series win.

Alan Kulwicki … 1992 series champion who overcame a 278-point deficit in the final six races to win title by 10 points, at the time the closet margin in series history. He was the 1986 Rookie of the Year. He was killed in a plane crash in 1993.

Bobby Labonte … 2000 series champion who won 21 Cup races. He was the first driver to win an Xfinity title and a Cup championship in a career.

Hershel McGriff … Made his NASCAR debut at age 22 in the 1950 Southern 500 and ran his final NASCAR race at age 90 earlier this month in a K&N Pro Series West event. Was selected as one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998.

Roger Penske … Team owner whose organization has won 107 Cup races and one series title. Has been a car owner in auto racing for more than 50 years.

Larry Phillips … Weekly short track series driver believed to have more than 1,000 career wins. During an 11-year span, he won 220 of 289 NASCAR-sanctioned starts on short tracks.

Jack Roush … Team owner whose organization has won 137 Cup races and two series titles (Matt Kenseth in 2003 and Kurt Busch in 2004). Team has won more than 300 races across NASCAR’s three national series.

Ricky Rudd … Won 23 Cup races, including 1997 Brickyard 400. He is known most as NASCAR’s Ironman, once holding the record for consecutive starts at 788. He ranks second in all-time Cup starts with 906.

Mike Stefanik … Nine-time NASCAR champion with his titles coming in the Whelen Modified Tour and the K&N Pro Series East.

Waddell Wilson … Famed engine builder and crew chief. He supplied the power for David Pearson’s championships in 1968 and ’69 and Benny Parsons’ 1973 title. Wilson’s engines won 109 races. He won 22 races as a crew chief, including three Daytona 500 victories.

Nominees for the Landmark Award are Alvin Hawkins Sr., Barney Hall, Janet Guthrie, Jim Hunter and Ralph Seagraves.

Here are this year’s members of the voting committee.

National Motorsports Press Association (1)
1. Ben White, NMPA President

Eastern Motorsports Press Association (1)
1. Ron Hedger, EMPA President

American Auto Racing Writers & Broadcasters (1)
1. Dusty Brandel, AARWB President

Print & Digital Media (7)
1. Zach Albert, NASCAR.com
2. Jenna Fryer, AP
3. Mike Hembree, USA Today
4. Al Pearce, Autoweek
5. Nate Ryan, NBCSports.com
6. Jim Utter, Motorsport.com
7. Matt Yocum, FOXSports.com

Broadcast Partners (7)
1. Rick Allen, NBC
2. Jeff Burton, NBCSN
3. Alex Hayden, MRN
4. Jamie Little, FS1
5. Dave Moody, SIRIUS/XM
6. Doug Rice, PRN
7. Marty Smith, ESPN

Car Manufacturers (3)
1. Jim Campbell, Chevrolet
2. Edsel Ford II, Ford
3. David Wilson, Toyota

Drivers (3)
1. Ned Jarrett
2. Richard Petty
3. Ricky Rudd (recused)

Owners (3)
1. Tommy Baldwin
2. Junior Johnson
3. Eddie Wood

Crew Chiefs (3)
1. Dale Inman
2. Buddy Parrott
3. Waddell Wilson (recused)

Reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion (1)
1. Martin Truex, Jr.

NASCAR Community Leaders (5)
1. Paul Brooks
2. Mike Harris
3. Tom Higgins
4. Ken Squier
5. Humpy Wheeler

Fan Vote (1)

If you can’t catch the announcement on TV, watch it online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Weekend schedule for Cup, Xfinity at Charlotte Motor Speedway

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The weekend begins a day early for NASCAR teams this week. Cup and Xfinity teams will be on the track Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway in preparation for the weekend races. Those teams are on track Thursday because there is no track activity Friday before the action kicks in with the Xfinity race on Saturday and the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday.

Austin Dillon is the defending winner of the Coca-Cola 600.

Here is this the track schedule:

(ALL TIMES EASTERN)

THURSDAY, May 24

11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. — Cup garage open

1 – 9 p.m. — Xfinity garage open

2:35 – 3:25 p.m. — Cup practice (Fox Sports 1)

4:05 – 4:55 p.m. — Xfinity practice (FS1)

6:05 – 6:50 p.m. — Final Xfinity practice (FS1)

7:15 p.m. — Cup qualifying; multi-vehicle/three rounds (FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

9 p.m. — ARCA General Tire 150; 100 laps/150 miles (FS1)

FRIDAY, May 25

No track activity

SATURDAY, May 26

6:30 a.m. — Xfinity garage opens

7:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. — Cup garage open

9:05 – 9:55 a.m. — Cup practice (FS1)

10:10 a.m. — Xfinity qualifying; multi-vehicle/three rounds (FS1)

11:05 – 11:55 a.m. — Final Cup practice (FS1)

12:15 p.m. — Xfinity driver/crew chief meeting

12:30 p.m. — Xfinity driver introductions

1 p.m. — Xfinity Alsco 300; 200 laps/300 miles (FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

SUNDAY, May 27

12:30 p.m. — Cup garage opens

4 p.m. — Driver/crew chief meeting

5:20 p.m. — Driver introductions

6 p.m. — Coca-Cola 600; 400 laps/600 miles (Fox, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)