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NASCAR community offers best for Brian France; confident in Jim France

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Competitors and colleagues remained confident in NASCAR’s ability to move beyond Brian France’s arrest and wished the best for the grandson of the sport’s founder Tuesday.

NASCAR announced Monday that France would take a leave of absence from his role as Chairman and CEO after he was arrested Sunday night by Sag Harbor (New York) Police. France was cited for aggravated driving while intoxicated and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the 7th degree after he failed to stop at a stop sign. He was cited for possession of oxycodone pills.

France spent Sunday night in jail. He had a court appearance Monday morning and was released on his own recognizance.

Jim France, NASCAR vice chairman and executive vice president, has assumed the role of interim Chairman and CEO, NASCAR stated.

“Obviously it’s disappointing news, no way around that,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said on his podcast, the Dale Jr. Download, on Tuesday. “It’s very disappointing. I’m sure that Brian is disappointed in himself.

“The one thing that I hope is that Brian gets in front of the people that he needs to get in front of and gets the assistance and help that he needs to make sure this is something that doesn’t happen again. Regardless of his role in NASCAR going forward, it’s important that he’s healthy and that he takes care of himself. So, I’m wishing that on him.

“With that said, I’m very confident in the people that NASCAR has in the industry. I know all of them very, very well. I feel incredibly optimistic about being able to move forward and beyond (Monday).”

Kevin Harvick also offered his best wishes to Brian France.

“From a personal standpoint, you obviously want to see somebody be well and have their health and do the things that it takes to be healthy in life,” Harvick said on his SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show on Tuesday.

Harvick admitted he hasn’t had much contact with Jim France in the past, but appreciates his racing background.

“It’s good to have a racer,” Harvick said. “That’s the most important thing. It’s not like he’s hands off. He knows the ins and outs of what’s going on to this very minute in the sport, has been around the sport for a long time. That’s what you need is that racing perspective of just making sure we stick with the roots of what made NASCAR racing what it is, and he’s been around it and know how that went.

“I think from the drivers’ perspective, it’s really important whoever is in that position to become more connected. I think that’s the most important thing right now is this sport needs to be connected in a lot of different directions, but they need to all come together and go in the same direction instead of having so many different ideas.”

Denny Hamlin, attending Washington Redskins training camp, told reporters Tuesday: “Lesa (France Kennedy) and Jim are going to do a great job. I’m confident in the leadership of NASCAR. I know all of the executives really, really well. I get invited into some very intense meetings with them at times, and am very confident that those guys can take the reins and do a great job.”

Jim France, son of NASCAR founder William H.G. France, also is Chairman of the Board of International Speedway Corp. Lesa France Kennedy is ISC’s CEO. 

Watkins Glen winner Chase Elliott said on a teleconference Tuesday that he knows Jim France.

“I haven’t ever had any issues with Jim,” Elliott said. “I expect them to do fine, and it doesn’t change my job, so I’m going to do my thing.”

Bruton Smith, executive chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc., told The Associated Press that the sport will continue to go forward.

“Our sport is big, big, big and it’s bigger than just one person,” Smith said. “We go forward. We have to in this sport. At this point in time, NASCAR needs friends and people that will help. It’s a great sport and we go forward and we all should be very protective of it and be willing to lend a helping hand.”

Results, point standings after second Xfinity race at Kentucky

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Austin Cindric dominated to win Friday night’s Xfinity race at Kentucky Speedway, leading 130 of 200 laps.

He completed a sweep of the series’ doubleheader races at the 1.5-mile track.

The top five was completed by Chase Briscoe, Justin Haley, Ross Chastain and Justin Allgaier.

Click here for the results.

Check back for the point standings.

Noah Gragson, Harrison Burton fight after Xfinity race

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Noah Gragson punched Harrison 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.

Gragson and Burton were battling for fourth on Lap 188 of the 200-lap race when Gragson, on in the inside of Burton, drifted up the track into Burton’s car. Both cars hit the wall. There was no caution and both fell back. Gragson finished seventh. Burton finished 12th. Austin Cindric won for the second consecutive night.

FS1 cameras caught Burton and Gragson having a discussion after the race. The cameras caught Burton pushing Gragson away. They continued to talk when Burton shoved Gragson again and Gragson punched Burton. Crew members jumped in. NASCAR officials broke up the fight.

A NASCAR spokesperson told NBC Sports that series officials spoke with both drivers and that no penalties are anticipated.

Burton told FS1: “Just frustrated. That’s two times since we’ve come back after the COVID-19 pandemic on restarts, same situation. We rallied all night to get … (into) fourth place and (Gragson) happens to start in third and just, I don’t know, forgets what racetrack we’re at or what. Both times puts us in the fence, Charlotte and now here. I had a lot of people coming up to me afterwards saying that was a long time coming, so I guess that was a popular move. But honestly, it’s about these guys that work on these racecars and give me fast racecars.”

Gragson told FS1: “This track is so much about track position and restarts. … We’ll go on to Texas and rebound.”

FS1’s Jamie Little told Gragson that Burton noted their incident at Charlotte and asked if he saw what happened Friday coming: “Not really. We’re all racing hard. Us teammates are beating and banging for the finishes at the end and whatnot. I really don’t have a comment.”

Austin Cindric completes Xfinity sweep at Kentucky

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A night after claiming his first oval track win in NASCAR, Austin Cindric followed it up with a victory in Friday night’s Xfinity Series race at Kentucky Speedway.

The Team Penske driver completed a sweep of the series’ doubleheader races on the 1.5-mile track, dominating with a stage win and leading 130 of 200 laps.

Cindric crossed the finish line with a 2.2-second advantage over runner-up Chase Briscoe.

The top five was completed by Justin Haley, Ross Chastain and Justin Allgaier.

Unlike Thursday night, Cindric celebrated with a burnout on the frontstretch.

“I hope I laid enough rubber down to make up for Watkins Glen last year, that was pathetic,” Cindric told FS1. “I’m just so excited. … what we did tonight was really impressive. Because we ran one setup last night and won the race. We came with another setup and won the race again. That happens at the shop, that happens with the guys on the (pit box).”

Later in his press conference, Cindric said a change in setup was in part due to the tracks that are coming up, at Texas Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway.

“Obviously with mile-and-half-tracks being really important in the second round of our playoffs with Texas and Kansas, our next two races being Texas and Kansas, and the question of having practice or not is looming very big for me,” Cindric said. “Obviously, Phoenix (site of the championship race) is the most important race of the year, but you’ve got to get there first. I feel like those are two really important steps other than Martinsville to get there. So deciding on what we want to run at those race tracks given those characteristics and more … that’s why we decided to change the game tonight.”

After the race, Harrison Burton and Noah Gragson got into a scuffle. They had made contact on a restart with 13 laps to go. Gragson finished seventh and and Burton placed 12th.

STAGE 1: Noah Gragson

STAGE 2: Austin Cindric

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Chase Briscoe finished in the top two for the seventh time in 15 races this season … Justin Allgaier finished in the top five after he spent just 33 of 200 laps on the lead lap after a flat tire brought him to pit road early in the race and put him a lap down … Ross Chastain placed fourth for his 13th top-10 finish of 2020, most of all drivers.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Ryan Sieg spun in Turn 2 on Lap 3. He finished 35th … Riley Herbst finished 10th after he was caught speeding on pit road with 52 laps to go … Brandon Jones spun and wrecked with 22 laps to go while racing for second with Daniel Hemric. It’s his fourth consecutive DNF.

NOTABLE: Cindric is the first driver since Richard Petty in July 1971 in Cup to win races in the same series in consecutive days.

WHAT’S NEXT: Race at Texas Motor Speedway at 3 p.m. ET July 18 on NBCSN

NASCAR to teams: Address ‘complacency’ to COVID-19 mask protocols

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NASCAR sent a memo to teams earlier this week advising them to address “pockets of complacency” toward its COVID-19 mask protocols.

The memo was first reported by WCNC, NBC’s Charlotte affiliate.

In the memo, NASCAR said it was “seeing more and more van loads of crew members rolling up to the track without masks on, and people wearing their mask down around their chin.”

The memo stated that further flouting of the protocols “will threaten our ability to continue racing.”

“More people in our industry are going to contract the virus,” the memo added. “The key is limiting it.”

“It is important for everyone to do their part ALL THE TIME. One cluster outbreak can derail our season.”

In May, NASCAR issued a bulletin stating failure to comply with COVID-19 rules could result in a $50,000 fine.

The memo comes after seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson tested positive for COVID-19 last week, forcing him to miss the Brickyard 400. Earlier this week Johnson had two negative tests, allowing him to be cleared for Sunday’s race at Kentucky Speedway.

Previously, Stewart-Haas Racing had two employees test positive for virus and Team Penske had one employee test positive.

In North Carolina, where most NASCAR teams are based, the state now has 81,000 cases and it has reached 1,000 hospitalizations for the first time.

The Cup Series is scheduled to hold its All-Star Race on Wednesday at Bristol Motor Speedway in Northeast Tennessee. Tennessee has just over 59,000 confirmed cases and has had 86 deaths since Sunday, a single-week record.

NASCAR is scheduled to compete next weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. Texas has more than 235,000 cases and almost 3,000 deaths. On Thursday, it recorded 10,000 new daily cases for the second time.