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 America: Assessing Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus’ historic tenure

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After 17 years, seven Cup championships and 81 wins, the checkered flag will wave on Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus this weekend.

Sunday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway will mark the final time Johnson and Knaus will work together as driver and crew chief.

In 2019, Johnson will be paired with Kevin Meendering while Knaus will work with William Byron on the No. 24 team.

On NASCAR America, three-time Cup champion and Hall of Fame crew chief Ray Evernham and Kyle Petty discussed the legacy of the Johnson-Knaus pairing and how it compares to what was accomplished by Richard Petty and crew chief Dale Inman and Jeff Gordon and Evernham.

“The most underrated record in this sport is five (championships) in a row,” Petty said, referring to the No. 48 team’s title run from 2006-10. “Nobody gives them enough credit, I just don’t think so. … The crew chief job that Ray did is a completely different job than what Chad does. The crew chief job that Chad does, Dale Inman wouldn’t even recognize it in 1967, ’68.”

Said Evernham: “Jimmie and Chad are right there with those guys. Without a doubt it’s Petty-Inman, Johnson-Knaus. What Jeff I did together was great, but we weren’t together that long. … To me it’s incredible to win that many championships, not just mechanically, but what it takes emotionally to do that. To hold those teams together and be that good for that many years is to me incredible. That’s longer than most marriages.”

Watch the above video for more.

 

NASCAR penalty report from Phoenix

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NASCAR has fined two crew chiefs for unsecured lug nuts last weekend at ISM Raceway.

In the Cup Series, Luke Lambert was fined $10,000 for one unsecured lug nut on Ryan Newman‘s No. 31 Chevrolet.

In the Xfinity Series, David Elenz was fined $5,000 for one unsecured lug nut on Tyler Reddick‘s No. 9 Chevrolet.

There were no other penalties announced.

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Miami preview, Richard Petty and Dale Inman

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and continues to set up the final race weekend of the year in Miami.

Marty Snider hosts with Kyle Petty and Ray Evernham from Charlotte.

On today’s show:

  • We’ll discuss the final race together for Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus, and their lasting impact on NASCAR. Another legendary driver/crew chief combo, Richard Petty and Dale Inman, give their take on the success of their fellow seven-time champions.

  • It’s the final NASCAR race for Elliott Sadler. The panel, including Sadler’s former boss Ray Evernham, share their fondest memories of the 24-year NASCAR veteran.

  • Plus, we’ll reveal the final three members of this season’s Pit Crew All-Stars.

If you can’t catch today’s show 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.

‘A lot of tears shed’ as Furniture Row Racing departs for last Cup race

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The final chapter in Furniture Row Racing’s history began overnight as the team’s hauler embarked on its journey from Denver, Colorado, to Miami for Sunday’s Cup season finale (3 p.m ET on NBC).

The race, where Martin Truex Jr. will compete in the Championship 4, will mark the 451st and final Cup race for the team that owner Barney Visser started in 2005. The team announced Sept. 4 that it would cease operations at the end of the year due to a lack of sponsorship.

Truex will try to deliver the team’s second consecutive Cup title.

The team’s farewell at the Denver shop was marked by a large gathering of team members.

“I don’t think any of us were prepared for how emotional it was (Tuesday) night when we loaded up,” crew chief Cole Pearn said Wednesday in a teleconference. “I think we’ve just been head down, kind of pushing super hard, trying to do everything we can to get ready for this weekend, and once it was in the truck and saw the lift gate up, there was a lot of tears shed and a lot of sad faces, and I think all of us really realized that that was the last time we were going to do it together as a group.  … A lot of relationships have been built from that shop, and it’s a weird feeling for sure.”

Pearn said the occasion was marked with team members sharing “a few beverages” while they “told old stories and kind of reminisced.”

Visser said Furniture Row Racing “remained a team” in the months since the announcement of its impending closure.

“I am proud of the way they handled this difficult and emotional situation,” Visser said in a media release. “I think everybody who has had an opportunity to work in our shop is probably better for it. I believe they’re better craftsmen and have known or have learned what it takes to be a winner. On the flip side, I do feel a responsibility for moving the guys out here and want to see them get placed. That is very important to me.”

Visser said it will be “hard to give up” a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity.

“It’s so rare to get a group of people you like being with, and who accomplish things that other people can’t seem to do,” Visser said. “Pretty special to find that chemistry and the success that comes with it. It’s hard to give it up, but sometimes it’s taken away from you without having any recourse. I just couldn’t keep borrowing money over here to feed it over there. Just had to give it up.”

When it comes to how involved Visser will be in NASCAR going forward, the 69-year-old Vietnam veteran said he hopes to attend some races next season.

“I am a huge racing fan,” Visser said. “I love the cars, love the smell, love the sound and love the people. I will be coming as a guest and fan next year and hope to sit in the stands for a few races. Never did that. My wife and I are looking forward to taking weekend trips to races next year.”