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NASCAR threatens maximum penalties for next rear window violation

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After hitting Kyle Larson‘s team Tuesday with the fifth rear window violation in the Cup Series this season, a NASCAR official said the next penalty will be much harsher.

Senior vice president of competition Scott Miller said NASCAR will issue a maximum L1 penalty — a three-race suspension of a team member, a 40-point deduction and a $75,000 fine — for the next rear-window penalty. By comparison, Larson’s No. 42 Chevrolet team lost 20 driver and owner points, car chief David Bryant was suspended two races, and crew chief Chad Johnston was fined $50,000.

“We really got to, as an industry, wind out of ‘Penalty Wednesday,’ and one of the things we’ve seen is all this rear-window stuff,” Miller told SiriusXM Satellite Radio host Dave Moody during a late Tuesday afternoon interview. “It’s not to single the (Larson’s team) out. We’ve had too many of these rear-window violations, and so we are prepared to write the same penalty we’ve been writing for the 42, but this has to stop.

“From this point forward, we’re prepared to ramp up penalties, and we’re going to go to the high end to see if we can get the message across because obviously what we’re doing now is not really working. If we get down the road and that doesn’t work, we’ll ramp the penalties for this violation up even further. It’s just one of those things as an industry we have to stop.”

The penalty range for an L1 penalty is a one- to three-race suspension, a 10- to 40-point deduction and a fine of $25,000 to $75,000. Miller said “Yes, sir,” when asked by Moody if the next penalty would be the maximum in every category.

“I know you guys don’t want to talk about it, the teams don’t want to talk about it, the fans don’t want to hear about it,” Miller said. “This is the first step to us trying to get our arms around it. I would expect the message will be enough to rethink their engineering in that area, but I guess only time will tell.”

This is the second consecutive week that NASCAR has announced penalties three days after the race. Last week, the teams of Clint Bowyer, Daniel Suarez and Austin Dillon were dinged for violations at Dover International Speedway.

NASCAR rarely addresses penalties extensively in public, but Miller said an exception was made in this case to send the message to teams.

“What I”m most frustrated about is we’re talking about this and we’re not talking about an exciting event coming up this weekend at the All-Star Race that a lot of work has gone into and not only NASCAR but a huge amount from the teams and engine builders,” Miller said. “I think it’s going to be a really fun event, and we’re not talking about that. I’d like to touch on that for a minute instead of the penalties.”

Sam Bass, famed paint scheme and race program designer, dies

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Sam Bass, the artist known for designing many iconic NASCAR paint schemes and race programs, died Saturday.

His wife Denise confirmed Bass’ passing on Twitter. He was 57.

Bass, who designed Jeff Gordon’s striking “Rainbow Warriors” paint scheme, had spent the last few years looking for a new kidney. That was a result of a sepsis infection that originated in a blister on his left foot in 2005 and led to a below-the-knee amputation in 2008. Bass also had Type 1 diabetes, which he was diagnosed with at the age of 29.

Bass was inspired to become a NASCAR artist when he was 7 after attending his first race at Southside Speedway in suburban Richmond, Virginia.

“I was so amazed that night not only by the excitement and watching those cars run around and beat and bang on each other, but also the color – how all the cars were painted so many different colors,” Bass told NBC Sports in 2017. “I was like, ‘How cool is this?’ I couldn’t wait to get home to pull out my markers.”

The first car Bass designed was Bobby Allison’s Miller High Life car in 1988. That car went on to win the Daytona 500.

He went on to design the first Cup schemes for Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Bass first designed a race program for the 1985 World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He designed programs for it and other Speedway Motorsports, Inc. tracks through 2018.

Marcus Smith, the CEO and President of SMI, issued the following statement.

“Our deepest sympathies are with Denise and her family today. Sam Bass has been a significant part of NASCAR’s history. He poured his heart, soul and talent into producing souvenir program covers at many speedways including Charlotte for more than 30 years. His work provided our fans a keepsake to treasure, and that was so appropriate, because Sam was always such a fan of our sport and he was such a treasure to the entire NASCAR family. His body of work will be a legacy that lives forever. We will miss Sam’s smile and positivity.”

Michael McDowell leads final Daytona 500 practice

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Front Row Motorsport’s Michael McDowell was fastest in the final practice session for Sunday’s Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on Fox).

McDowell and his No. 34 Ford recorded nine laps and a top speed of 191.440 mph.

The top five was completed by Ty Dillon (191.432 mph), pole-sitter William Byron (191.339), Alex Bowman (191.278) and Daniel Hemric (190.921).

Only 20 cars made at least one lap in the session.

Kurt Busch recorded the most laps in the session with 16 and was 11th on the speed chart at 189.741 mph.

Of four drivers to make a 10-lap run, Bowman had the best average at 190.334 mph.

There were no incidents in the session.

Click here for the practice report.

Jeffrey Earnhardt honors grandfather Dale Earnhardt with helmet design

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Xfinity Series driver Jeffrey Earnhardt is honoring the “GOAT” in his family with a helmet he’s debuting this weekend at Daytona International Speedway.

The “GOAT” – or “Greatest of All-Time” – is his grandfather, NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt.

The helmet, which you can see below, bears an image of the seven-time Cup champion riding a horse while shirtless and wearing a cowboy hat.

Next to the image is the text, “Just a goat on his horse!”

Earnhardt will have the helmet today as he starts on the front row of the Xfinity Series season opener (2:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1).

It is the first of nine Xfinity races he’ll start for Joe Gibbs Racing this season.

MORE: Jeffrey Earnhardt ready for challenge of winning in Xfinity

Today’s Xfinity race at Daytona: Start time, lineup and more

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The NASCAR Xfinity Series kicks off the 2019 season today with the NASCAR Racing Experience 300 at Daytona International Speedway.

The 38-car field will feature defending series champion Tyler Reddick, who seeks to become the first driver to defend his Xfinity championship since Ricky Stenhouse Jr., won in 2011 and repeated in 2012.

Here’s how today’s pre-race schedule looks:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given by Drew Patey, VIP Partner of the NASCAR Racing Experience, at 2:37 p.m. The green flag is scheduled for 2:49 p.m.

PRERACE CEREMONIES: Driver introductions begin at 2:10 p.m. The invocation will be given at 2:30 p.m. by Sonny Gallman, Pastor of Central Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Florida. The National Anthem will be at 2:31 p.m. and sung by Gina Marie Incandela.

DISTANCE: The race is 120 laps (300 miles) around the 2.5-mile track.

TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race. Coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. Motor Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 2 p.m. and also can be heard at MRN.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for cloudy skies with a high of 74 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain for the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Tyler Reddick won last year’s season-opening race. He started 11th and led 11 laps en route to the victory.

TO THE REAR: Pole-sitter Tyler Reddick will start from the rear after changing a tire with an air leak.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.