Bump & Run: What to do about teams failing inspection?

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NASCAR’s Steve O’Donnell said this week the sanctioning body has felt it has ramped up penalties for teams failing inspection multiple times but conceded “it hasn’t seemed to work.’’ What should NASCAR do next to further encourage teams to pass without making so many attempts?

Nate Ryan: Fix it. If NASCAR knew how to do that, it would have already. While a fair amount of culpability – perhaps the majority of the blame – lies with the teams, it doesn’t ultimately matter who is at fault. The situation just needs to be fixed. NASCAR and team executives need to hold a closed-door meeting and do as much screaming and deal-making as necessary to reach a suitable solution.

Dustin Long: Increase the penalties. There’s a line and if teams are going to cross it, then they suffer the consequences.

Daniel McFadin: First penalty that popped in my head regarding pre-race qualifying is the team is allowed to compete in the race, but they won’t earn any points, no matter where they finish.

Dan Beaver: Give up. It doesn’t matter how stiff NASCAR makes the penalties, so long as teams believe they can gain a competitive advantage, they are going to keep pressing the envelope. If NASCAR doesn’t want to concede the inevitable, perhaps they should limit the number of times repeat offenders can go through: If a team failed three times last week, only give them two attempts this week.

Is an All-Star Race needed in NASCAR?

Nate Ryan: It is if something inventive were to be done with it. The plates and aero changes this weekend are a step in the right direction, but even better would be a truly radical move such as moving the race to South Boston Speedway or Nashville (as Jeff Burton suggested in this column last year). The weekend also needs more of the “event” feel that Kevin Harvick has advocated; try some irreverent “driver skills” competitions to showcase their personalities.

Dustin Long: Yes and no. If NASCAR is going to do something different with the event — and making the event a glorified test session is not that — than keep it. If not, then dump it.

Daniel McFadin: Yes, if only as an exhibition for testing new features in a competitive environment, like we’re getting with the restrictor plates and aero package. But honestly, the event needs to be held at a new venue. It’s not 1986 anymore, or the year it was held at Atlanta Motor Speedway in front of a sparse crowd. It has years of history behind it and would likely thrive on a short track. Say, Martinsville under the lights?

Dan Beaver: The All-star race is always a lot of fun, but it doesn’t need its own weekend. Move it to Thursday night and test the viability of a mid-week show.

What will you be looking at in this week’s All-Star Race with the new rules package?

Nate Ryan: Speeds could be slower than the laps made by amateurs on the same track in the Richard Petty Driving Experience, but hopefully it will bring the “pack racing” that is found in the Indianapolis 500 (the plates won’t re-create the conditions seen at Daytona and Talladega). If holding the accelerator wide open for the duration of the lap brings more side-by-side racing, the 160-mph pace won’t be nearly as noticeable.

Dustin Long: How racy that drivers can get with this package.

Daniel McFadin: How competitive the top three cars are 10 laps into a run. If there’s not a healthy battle for the lead at that point, it’s time to be concerned. 

Dan Beaver: The fan reaction. Last year’s Xfinity race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was widely considered a success with similar rules, so it is going to be interesting to see if the fans support those changes in Cup. With most of the 1.5- and 2-mile races this year being marked by one driver dominating, something needs to be done to encourage passing.

Talladega Xfinity starting lineup: Austin Hill wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Austin Hill will lead the field to the green flag Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway after scoring his first career Xfinity Series pole.

Hill won the pole Friday with a lap of 182.036 mph. He will be joined on the front row by fellow playoff contender Ty Gibbs (181.981 mph).

MORE: Talladega Xfinity starting lineup

Playoff drivers will start in seven of the top eight spots. The exception is Sheldon Creed, who will start third after a lap of 181.870 mph. Hill and Creed give Richard Childress Racing the first and third starting spots.

Justin Allgaier (181.529) qualified fourth and Brandon Jones (181.305) completed the top five. Noah Gragson, who has won four races in a row, starts sixth after a lap of 181.134 mph and is followed by playoff drivers Josh Berry (181.052) and AJ Allmendinger (180.932).

The Xfinity Series race is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network.

Talladega Truck starting lineup: John Hunter Nemechek wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — John Hunter Nemechek will start on the pole for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race.

Nemechek earned the pole with a lap of 178.767 mph.

Nemechek is one of four playoff drivers starting in the top six: Chandler Smith (second, 177.732 mph), Zane Smith (fourth, 177.061) and Ty Majeski (sixth, 176.744). Majeski clinched a spot in next month’s championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.

MORE: Talladega Truck starting lineup

Also qualifying in the top five were Carson Hocevar (177.068) in third and Matt Crafton (176.960) in fifth.

Failing to qualify are Tim Viens, Spencer Boyd, Jason White and Natalie Decker.

Saturday Talladega Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather

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The second race of the opening round of the Xfinity playoffs takes drivers to Talladega Superspeedway.

Noah Gragson secured his spot in the next round by winning last weekend at Texas. Ryan Sieg holds the final transfer spot. Riley Herbst is the first driver below the cutline, one point behind Sieg. Also below the cutline are reigning series champion Daniel Hemric (-8 points), Brandon Jones (-12) and Jeremy Clements (-28).

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:09 p.m. … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:21 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3:30 p.m. … The invocation will be given at 4 p.m. … The Brookwood High School choir will perform the anthem at 4:02 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 113 laps (300.58 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 25. Stage 2 ends at Lap 50.

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 4 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 3:30 p.m. on USA Network. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 78 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Noah Gragson won and was followed by Jeffrey Earnhardt and AJ Allmendinger.

 

Could Talladega open door for a record 20th winner?

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Talladega Superspeedway is known for fast speeds, huge drafting packs, sensational wrecks and tight finishes.

On Sunday (2 p.m. ET on NBC), it could be the site of an unexpected record.

Nineteen different drivers have won Cup races this season, tying a record. If a new winner shows up in Talladega victory lane Sunday, it will mark the first time in the sport’s history that 20 drivers have won races in a single season.

One of the remarkable things about that possibility is that the driver who has far and away the best record at Talladega among active drivers is among the group still looking for a win in 2022. That’s Brad Keselowski, who has won six times at NASCAR’s biggest track. No other active driver has more than three. (Keselowski is tied for second on the all-time Talladega win list with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. Dale Earnhardt tops that list with 10).

Talladega and Daytona tend to reject repeat winners. The past nine races at the two tracks have been won by nine different drivers.

Other seasonal non-winners who could break through at Talladega:

Ryan BlaneyBlaney’s only win this year is in the All-Star Race, so he’s still looking for his first points win while continuing to chase the championship. He won at Talladega in 2019 and 2020.

Martin Truex Jr. — Superspeedways have been a pox on Truex’s career. In 70 races at Talladega and Daytona, he has failed to win.

Aric Almirola — In what has been a disappointing season, Almirola’s best finish is a fifth — twice. He won at Talladega in 2018 but hasn’t had a top 10 in his last four runs there.

Michael McDowell — McDowell’s best finish at Talladega is a third, but he is usually very competitive in the Talladega and Daytona drafts, winning the 2021 Daytona 500.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Stenhouse won at Talladega in 2017 and usually is a factor in the draft.

Harrison Burton — Burton has had a tough rookie season, but the peculiarities of the Talladega draft should play in his favor. The No. 21 team’s next win will be its 100th.

Justin Haley — Haley has no top-10 runs in five Talladega starts, but he showed potential last week with a third-place finish at Texas.

Corey LaJoie — LaJoie has started nine Cup races at Talladega and has led exactly one lap. His best finish is a seventh.

Noah Gragson — Gragson, the star of this Xfinity season, is in the No. 48 for Hendrick Motorsports with Alex Bowman out because of concussion-like symptoms. In the Talladega draft he could be a threat.