Dale Jr. Download: Addressing repaves, rules packages and penalties

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Recorded on Monday after a Texas Cup race filled with controversy but not filled with a lot of on-track action, Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s weekly Dale Jr. Download podcast addressed the state of the sport, improvements already made and potential enhancements that are in the works.

Texas Repave and Reconfiguration (begins at about the 1:30 mark)

After the race, Chase Elliott complained about the repaving and reconfiguration of Texas Motor Speedway, saying: “I don’t know what genius decided to pave this place or take the banking out of (Turns) 1 and 2. Not a good move for the entertainment factor, in my opinion.”

Earnhardt notes that the repaving was a necessity. Texas was forced to reschedule an IndyCar race in 2016 because the track surface was unable to control weepers. His opinion about the reconfiguration was mixed.

“The reconfiguration, though; not sure that I would have done that,” Earnhardt opined. “With that said, I think the less banking in (Turns) 1 and 2 is maybe the only thing that created passing in the race. Guys going down in there and getting moved up the racetrack.”

2019 Rules package and beyond (4:20)

A new rules package for 2019 has drivers and teams already debating its efficacy. In a tweet after Sunday’s race, Denny Hamlin addressed the pending rules, saying it is naïve to think the new package will solve one-groove racing.

“One of the most important things to the racetrack is what connects (the car) to the road,” Earnhardt said. “The tire is the most important component to all of this. … That’s why Goodyear’s job is the toughest job in the sport. Tougher than the governing body. Goodyear is the key to all of our answers.”

Moreover, a new engine package needs to be created specifically with the new aerodynamic rules and tires in mind.

“There is a new engine package coming in a couple of years that is going to be an open engine with 550 or whatever horsepower,” Earnhardt said. “Until then, we’ve got this stopgap restricted engine … and that’s okay too. It helps us understand where we’re headed and what we need to do to fix it.”

Stop Listening to All the Drivers and Fans (5:45)

Earnhardt believes it is time for NASCAR to become more selective about who they listen to. Conflicting agendas make it impossible to get a clear picture of the path that needs to be taken, so the sanctioning body should find a few drivers they respect without feeling the need for an all-inclusive Drivers’ Council.

“NASCAR doesn’t need to listen to the drivers. NASCAR needs to listen to some drivers,” he said. “NASCAR doesn’t need to listen to every single fan when they have opinions. They need to listen to some fans.”

Make Penalties Fearsome (9:50)

“I’m a believer in a stern, strict system … that has penalties and deterrents that are incredibly severe that would make you never want to fail tech,” Earnhardt said.

Addressing the controversial mistake by NASCAR to send Jimmie Johnson to the back of the field after failing pre-race inspection twice, Earnhardt was in agreement with Tony Stewart’s comments earlier this week about ways to simplify the tech process. He believes fewer rules and zero tolerance is desirable.

“We need less rules – like tech shouldn’t be such a giant process – but the rules that we do keep, those are rules, and if you break those rules that should be it.”

On Wednesday, after the Dale Jr. Download podcast aired, NASCAR levied an L1 penalty against Kevin Harvick for an illegal spoiler. Later in the day, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition Scott Miller suggested harsher penalties might be coming in 2019 for similar infractions.

NASCAR announces changes to Kansas playoff weekend

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Citing “programming changes,” NASCAR announced shifts in the race dates and start times for its visit next month to Kansas Speedway.

The Xfinity, ARCA and Truck Series races have been shifted, while the Cup race remains at 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Oct. 18.

The biggest move is the Truck Series race shifting from Friday night to Saturday afternoon.

Here are the changes.

Friday, Oct. 16, 8:30 p.m. ETARCA Menards Series on FS1 or FS2; network TBD at a later date (previously at 10 p.m. ET)

Saturday, Oct. 17, 4 p.m. ETTruck Series on FOX (previously Friday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. ET on FS1)

Saturday, Oct. 17, 7 p.m. ET Xfinity on NBCSN (previously 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

 

Xfinity Series playoff standings after Las Vegas

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Chase Briscoe opened the Xfinity Series playoffs by earning his second consecutive win.

His victory Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway gives him 57 playoff points and an automatic spot in the Round of 8.

Harrison Burton holds the final transfer spot. He has a two-point advantage over Ross Chastain.

Behind Chastain below the cutline are Michael Annett (-10 points), Riley Herbst (-14) and Brandon Brown (-20).

Below is the full Xfinity Series playoff standings going into Saturday’s race at Talladega (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Drivers in red are below the cutline to advance. Drivers in yellow are in the remaining playoff spots.

Xfinity Series playoff standings

Cup playoff standings after Las Vegas

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Kurt Busch flipped the script on the Cup playoff standings with his win Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

He entered the Round of 12 as the last driver in the playoff standings, but is the first driver to clinch a spot in the Round of 8.

Replacing Busch in the bottom spot of the playoff standings is Austin Dillon. He is 32 points behind Alex Bowman, who holds the final cutoff spot.

Behind Bowman is Kyle Busch (-9 points), Clint Bowyer (-20), Aric Almirola (-27) and Dillon.

“Obviously, the 1 car (Kurt Busch) was not a car that we needed to win a race,” Clint Bowyer said after Sunday’s race. “It’s been a hell of a battle back there with cars that are kind of in the same wheelhouse as far as points-wise. (Kurt Busch) winning changes that landscape quite a bit, but we’re only 20 points out.”

Here is the full playoff standings entering Sunday’s playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Drivers in red are below the cutline to advance to the Round of 8. Drivers in yellow hold the remaining available playoff spots.

Cup playoff standings

 

 

Kurt Busch win capped off big racing weekend for family

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After hopping from the door of his No. 1 Chevrolet Sunday night, Kurt Busch let out a primal scream.

The source of his emotion?

“20 years of agony and defeat” at the his home track, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, had been replaced by “triumph.”

After the fortunate timing of a caution and pit strategy Sunday night, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver led the final 26 laps and visited LVMS’ Victory Lane for the first time, a day after his brother Kyle Busch experienced a special win.

There was plenty more for the 42-year-old driver to celebrate. He’d entered the Round of 12 as the last driver in the playoff standings. But with his first win in 46 races, Busch became the first driver to plant in his flag in the Round of 8.

But the Las Vegas native’s focus was on the 1.5-mile track, which he’d seen evolve from a “desert gravel pit” into the site of two NASCAR race weekends each year.

“This feeling of growing up here and watching the track get built … when Speedway Motorsports came in and bought it, I’m like, ‘Man, there’s going to be a Cup race there, I hope I can make my way up through Legend cars (and race there). And just all the memories, all the memories of everybody, my mom and dad, every Saturday night, all the commitment they gave me and my little brother (Kyle Busch) to make it in racing.

“For me it was a hobby. I never knew I’d get this far. A guy named Craig Keough here locally in Las Vegas, the owner of the Star Nurseries here in Las Vegas, took a chance on me and let me run his late model a few times and we won a couple races and started working our way up.”

Busch made his first NASCAR start on the Las Vegas oval in 2001 driving for Roush Fenway Racing. Between then and Sunday, he won 31 Cup races, the 2004 championship and the 2017 Daytona 500.

But his home track eluded him until his 21st year competing on the sport’s top circuit.

Busch said Sunday’s win is “right there underneath” his Daytona win and the championship.

“Any time you win, it’s special,” Busch said. “But to do it in front of my hometown crowd and nobody was there (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) and all the people that I see every time I come to Vegas and I get to say thank you and I can’t right now, that’s the hardest part. So this one is easily ramping up to being my third most favorite win ever.

“Right now it’s my favorite because it’s here, it’s Vegas, and I have so many people to thank. They know they helped me, and they know who they are, and it just all started with mom and dad taking me to the racetrack right here at the Bullring in Las Vegas.”

The Busch family got to celebrate more than one win over the weekend.

The night before Kurt’s Vegas breakthrough, a third generation racer got his first taste of victory.

Kyle and Samantha Busch’s son, Brexton, won his first karting race and celebrated with his parents in Victory Lane.

“It’s so much fun to watch him and just to see his excitement and how much he enjoys going to the race track and being with is friends,” Kyle Busch said after his sixth-place finish Sunday. “It’s three generations worth, I guess. My dad (Tom) did it, myself and Kurt and now him. It’s pretty fun to just be out there. My dad is kind of the truck driver, the team manager, the crew chief, the lead mechanic and all that stuff on his kart.

“He’s got a big task at hand in order to get it all ready to go and get us to the race track every week. It’s been fun to see (Brexton) and to see how excited he was when he was able to win and beat the other competition that was out there and to see his joy. I told him, ‘Whatever that feeling is, whatever you’re feeling, however that sits in you, that’s feasible, that’s possible a lot more often than just one time. So don’t rest on just getting one, we gotta go out there and fight for more.'”

Kurt Busch wasn’t there for his nephew’s win, but he got all the details from his sister-in-law as they flew to Las Vegas.

“It definitely felt like a generational shift was happening,” he said. “But maybe not. Maybe not. This old guy has still got it going on.”