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Long: NASCAR makes decision worth celebrating

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About time.

The notion that a winner could fail inspection after a race and still be credited with the victory was ridiculous. That such penalties often weren’t announced until a few days after the race dragged down the sport.

NASCAR finally did the right thing Monday, stating that  it will disqualify the winning vehicle if it fails inspection after the race at the track. This is for Cup, Xfinity and the Truck series. 

It’s simple now.

Do not pass inspection … do not collect your race-winning check and trophy.

“Bring your cars right,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, said of the message to teams. “We are not going to take 24 hours to inspect 40 cars postrace. Get it right.”

Two special areas will be with lug nuts and engines. A team can have up to two lug nuts not secured and still keep the win.

Because teams use sealed engines for two races, it’s possible a race-winning engine could be on its first race and not be inspected at the R&D Center until it is run a second time. Should a violation be found after an engine is run a second time, there will not be a disqualification because NASCAR does not want to alter the results from a race weeks or months earlier with that engine. Instead, NASCAR will issue an L2 penalty (75 points, six-race suspension of crew chief or other team members and fine between $100,000 – $200,000 and finish will not count toward playoff eligibility or determining the champion in final race) and apply it to both races. 

Other than that, series officials said a violation found in inspection after the race will lead to that car being disqualified. (Teams will have the chance to appeal and that will be heard by Wednesday after the race.)

So, if a winning car doesn’t pass the ground clearance measurements after the race, it is disqualified. If the splitter does not meet the rules after the race, the winning car is disqualified. If there is a violation with the rear window that is found after the race, the winning car is disqualified.

You get the point.

NASCAR will drop a disqualified car to last in the results, take away any stage points it scored and withhold the money it would have earned for the win. The victory will not count toward playoff participation or advancement to the next round. 

NASCAR also stated that the winning driver of a disqualified car will not have that victory count toward their career record.

It will be as if the win never happened for that car and driver.

As it should.

Finally.

The runner-up car also will be inspected after the race. In a case where the winning car fails inspection, the runner-up will be declared the winner provided it passes inspection.

NASCAR also will take a random car for inspection after the race and series officials conceded it often could be the third-place car in case the top two fail. Last year’s Texas playoff race had the top two finishers fail inspection after the race — winner Kevin Harvick and runner-up Ryan Blaney.

Monday’s announce will impacts other areas. NASCAR estimated it would take more than 90 minutes after the race before a winner could be declared.

That’s for every race. So the winner of the Daytona 500 could change well after the confetti falls on their celebration in Victory Lane, photos are taken and interviews complete.

Yes, that will be awkward but it will be better than having a team keep a victory with a car that doesn’t pass inspection. Getting it right matters. 

Even with NASCAR ratcheting penalties last season to winners, the record book still listed those drivers as the victors. Monday’s announcement won’t mean rewriting the record book for those who won races with illegal cars, but it’s a start and a direction NASCAR needs to go.

Another key impact with this ruling could be on the postrace celebrations.

Cars have blown out wheels and damaged parts of the body with crowd-pleasing burnouts.

So what happens with this?

“We’re in show business,” Scott Miller, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition. “Fans like burnouts. It’s a hard decision to make, and I don’t think we’ve actually landed on whether or not we’re going to say they can’t do that. But let’s just say that, at the very least, if there are habitual offenders of that, that’s not going to be OK.”

That issue might be a bit muddy but the the fact that NASCAR is willing to disqualify a winning car and remove it from the record books is something that needed to be done. A long time ago.

Now on to the next issue in the sport …

NASCAR America Presents MotorMouths at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN with Kyle Busch

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This week’s episode of NASCAR America’s MotorMouths airs today from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and features 2015 Cup champion Kyle Busch.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver joins Rutledge Wood and Kyle Petty to discuss this week’s news as well as take fan phone calls.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch 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.

Chevrolet boss happy with three-race Cup winning streak but wants more

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Even with a three-race Cup winning streak, the head of Chevrolet’s NASCAR program wants more victories as the playoffs near.

Jim Campbell, vice president of performance and motorsports for Chevrolet, made the comments Wednesday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

In the last three races, Chevrolet has won with Alex Bowman (Chicagoland Speedway), Justin Haley (Daytona International Speedway) and Kurt Busch (Kentucky Speedway). Until that string, Chevrolet had won only once this year with Chase Elliott’s victory at Talladega Superspeedway.

Last year, Chevrolet had four Cup wins, its fewest victories in Cup since scoring three wins in 1982.

“We have really, really, I think, increased the collaboration (among Chevrolet teams) to another level, and I think we need to because we’ve got to put more wins on the board,” Campbell said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The Chevy camp is used to putting 10, 12, 15 wins on the board a year. Right now we’re at four. We expect more of ourselves. I know the teams are looking for more wins and I’ll call it top-five finishes. Talladega was kind of a turbocharger for us to get everyone really working at the next level.”

Chevrolet won at Talladega after an increased effort to have its teams work together throughout the weekend and during the race. Chevrolet made the effort after seeing how successful Toyota and Ford teams were at Daytona and Talladega by working together. Until then, Chevrolet had allowed its teams and drivers to go their own way at those tracks.

“Over the years, Chevy results were pretty doggone strong without a massive work-together effort,” Campbell said during the radio interview. “I think we go back to ’16 and Toyota put together an effort to get some of the (Joe) Gibbs (Racing) guys working together and I think in the fall, the Ford camp was doing that. So, it was time, it was time that we just pulled ourselves together and really worked across all of our teams.”

With seven races left until the Cup playoffs begin, Chevrolet has three drivers set for the playoffs via wins: Elliott, Bowman and Busch. Chevrolet also has three competitors who would qualify for the 16-driver playoffs as of today via points with William Byron 12th in the standings, Kyle Larson 13th and Jimmie Johnson 15th.

Johnson’s position is tenuous. He is 10 points ahead of Ford’s Ryan Newman, who holds the first spot outside a playoff position.

“I look at the trajectory,” Campbell said of Chevrolet’s progress. “Are we on the trajectory up or are we flat or are we down? I would say the momentum is going up, but it’s all performance based. We’ve got to put wins on the board, more top 10s.”

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AJ Allmendinger to drive in Watkins Glen Xfinity race for Kaulig Racing

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NASCAR On NBC analyst AJ Allmendinger will climb back behind the wheel for the August 3 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Watkins Glen International.

Allmendinger will pilot the No. 10 Chevrolet for Kaulig Racing for the second time this season.

Allmendinger is a past winner at Watkins Glen, having won the 2014 Cup race there. He has 10 prior Cup starts at the upstate New York road course, with the win, three top-five and six top-10 finishes, plus one pole.

He also has competed in one Xfinity race at Watkins Glen, starting fourth and finishing second for GMS Racing last year.

It’s an honor to be able to compete for Kaulig Racing at one of my favorite tracks, Watkins Glen International,” Allmendinger said in a team release. “I’ve been fortunate enough to win there in the Cup Series and had a strong run finishing second last season in my only Xfinity start there.

Matt Kaulig, Chris Rice and all of the guys made Daytona so enjoyable and fun, I can’t wait to get to The Glen.”

Allmendinger raced for Kaulig Racing two weeks ago in the Circle K Firecracker 250 at Daytona International Speedway on July 5, leading 33 laps and finishing third before the car was disqualified for failing post-race inspection, leaving Allmendinger with a last-place finish in the 38-car field.

Allmendinger has three additional Xfinity road course races scheduled with Kaulig Racing this season: Mid-Ohio (August 10), Road America (August 24) and Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval race (September 28).

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NBC Sports Power Rankings: Kyle Busch back to No. 1; Kurt Busch to No. 3

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When it comes to this week’s NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings, all we can say is, “Oh brother” … as in siblings Kyle and Kurt Busch.

Younger brother Kyle once again regained the top spot in this week’s rankings, knocking Joey Logano from the No. 1 perch after Logano held it the last two weeks.

And after not being ranked in the top 10 last week, older bro Kurt rockets up the rankings to No. 3 by virtue of his come-from-behind win last Saturday at Kentucky Speedway.

Also making a big move is Erik Jones, who goes from unranked last week to No. 4 this week. By contrast, six drivers from last week’s rankings dropped out of this week’s tabulations.

Here’s how this week’s rankings shape up:

1. Kyle Busch (39 points): Tenacious performance at Kentucky puts him back atop the rankings. Last week: 2nd.

2. Joey Logano (36 points): Car wasn’t wide enough to block all those behind him on the final restart. In his last three races on a 1.5-mile speedway, he’s finished seventh (Kentucky), third (Chicagoland) and second (Charlotte). Last week: 1st.

3. Kurt Busch (32 points): What a difference a win makes. But Busch’s ranking isn’t a total surprise. He’s been knocking at the door all season. Had he not pitted at Daytona two weeks ago, he may be riding a two-race win streak now. Last week: Unranked.

4. Erik Jones (23 points): Returns to playoff territory and seems to have momentum for a finishing kick. Third-place finish was his fourth top 10 in the last five races on a 1.5-mile speedway. That includes a third at Kansas and Kentucky and a fourth at Texas. Last week: Unranked.

5. Denny Hamlin (22 points): His pit crew has been called for an uncontrolled tire violation five times this year, tying the series high. That’s unacceptable. Despite the penalty at Kentucky, Hamlin finished fifth. Last week: 7th.

6. Kyle Larson (20 points): Top 10s in three of last four races – including a second (Chicagoland) and fourth (Kentucky) – have solidified his standing for the playoffs. Last week: Unranked.

7. Ryan Newman (16 points): Is in full grind-it-out mode for solid finishes exactly when he needs them. Finished ninth at Kentucky after starting at the rear because his car failed inspection. While he fell out of a playoff spot, he’s only two points away after scoring his fourth top-10 finish in the last five races. Last week: 8th.

8. Cole Custer (9 points): Kentucky victory in the Xfinity Series was his series-high fifth win of the year. Last week: Unranked.

9. Clint Bowyer (7 points): Ends four-race tailspin but still needs to work on amassing stage points. Last week: Unranked.

10. Chris Buescher (5 points): If all the tracks on the circuit were 1.5-milers, he’d likely be ranked higher. All four of his top 10s this year have come at 1.5-mile tracks. He’s been sixth at Charlotte, ninth  at Atlanta and 10th at Kansas and Kentucky. Last week: Unranked.

Others receiving votes: Christopher Bell (4 points), Martin Truex Jr. (4 points), Tyler Ankrum (3 points).