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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 …

NTSB releases final report on Dale Jr. plane crash

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Photo: Dustin Long
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Pilot error played a key role in the August 2019 crash of a plane carrying Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his family, a final report by the National Transportation Safety Board stated Wednesday.

Earnhardt, wife Amy and daughter Isla were on board the plane, which crashed after a hard landing at Elizabethton (Tennessee) Municipal Airport on Aug. 15, 2019. The report stated all three suffered minor injuries. 

The NTSB listed the probable causes of the accident as: “The pilot’s continuation of an unstabilized approach despite recognizing associated cues and the flight crew’s decision not to initiate a go-around before touchdown, which resulted in a bounced landing, a loss of airplane control, a landing gear collapse, and a runway excursion. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s failure to deploy the speedbrakes during the initial touchdown, which may have prevented the runway excursion, and the pilot’s attempt to go around after deployment of the thrust reversers.”

A “go-around” occurs when a pilot pulls out of a landing and gains altitude to make another landing attempt.

The report stated that “the flight crew made several comments about the airplane flying too fast and allowed the airspeed to increase well above the reference speed for the approach.”

The report stated that “the pilot did not extend the speedbrakes upon touchdown, which landing checklist required, but instead attempted to deploy the thrust reversers immediately after touchdown, which was a later item on the landing checklist.”

Earnhardt’s Cessna 680A Citation Latitude bounced twice upon landing as it traversed the 5,001-foot runaway.

After the fourth touchdown, the right main landing gear collapsed. The plane went off the road and through a 400-foot long area of grass. It went down an embankment, through a creek and a chain-link fence. It continued up an embankment. The plane came to rest about 600 feet beyond the runway at the edge of a four-lane highway.

The passengers and two pilots escaped as the plane burned.

The full report can be read here.

Champion or not, Chase Briscoe won’t let Xfinity title define season

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Like the 11 drivers he’ll compete against in the Xfinity Series playoffs, a championship is the endgame for Chase Briscoe.

However, with the Stewart-Haas Racing driver one win from matching his preseason goal of at least eight victories, Briscoe wouldn’t be too disappointed if he failed to claim the title at the end of the seven-race playoff.

“I feel like to this point if we don’t get to eight (wins) … I feel like I accomplished or proved what I was trying to say at the beginning of the year,” Briscoe told NBC Sports on Tuesday. “There’s still no reason why we can’t get to 10 wins. I feel 100% confident in my team that we’re going to have the cars capable of doing it, I just need to do my job. If we do that, hopefully we can get to Phoenix and then (whoever’s) the best team once we get there wins.”

As he prepares to open the playoffs Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN), Briscoe is wary of not letting “the championship define you and define your season. … Winning races is a big deal. That’s what you get paid to do is go win races and obviously win championships as well, but today’s format anything can happen in that final race.”

Briscoe can attest to importance of winning races. He enters the playoff with a series-leading seven wins, which has helped him start the postseason with 2,050 points and ties him with Austin Cindric.

Briscoe’s impressive numbers come a year after he had just one win in a season where Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer combined to win 21 of 33 races.

Briscoe believes the perception of his abilities as a driver are “way different” from last year as he struggled to chase those three drivers now competing in Cup.

“Personally, I felt like I could win races, and I think a lot of it was learning,” Briscoe said. “Last year, there were still a lot of tracks I had never been to before and didn’t even have 100 pavement starts in my entire career, and now I have that experience. I have the confidence to go with it and all of those things are totally different, and when I said what I said at the beginning of the year (about winning eight races) I felt like I was capable of doing that.

“If I could back it up, it would look even better. … I think I’ve proven my worth in this sport. I feel like if I do get the opportunity to move up, I feel like I’m ready, but I also feel like I could get a lot of benefit out of coming back to the Xfinity Series and running again.”

Briscoe, a Ford development driver, says he still doesn’t know what’s in store for him in 2021.

He said the uncertainty of his future is a “little bit easier” to handle compared to last year because of the wins he’s racked up.

Regardless of not knowing his NASCAR fate, if Briscoe can “somehow get to 10 wins this year and win the championship, then that would just make it, I feel like, a lot easier for the decision-makers.”

Mike Wallace’s appeal of indefinite suspension denied

NASCAR suspends Mike Wallace
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Mike Wallace‘s indefinite suspension by NASCAR was upheld by the National Motorsports Appeals Panel on Wednesday.

Wallace, who has made three Xfinity Series starts this season, was suspended Sept. 10 for violating Sections 12.1; 12.8; 12.8.1.e of the rule book.

According to the rulebook, a violation of section 12.8.1.e is any “Public statement and/or communication that criticizes, ridicules, or otherwise disparages another person based upon that person’s race, color, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, age, or handicapping condition.”

As part of the suspension, Wallace is required by NASCAR to attend sensitivity training.

The three-member appeals panel was made up of Dixon Johnston, Bill Lester and Kevin Whitaker.

Wallace has the right to appeal the decision to the National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer.

Wallace wrote the following on Facebook shortly after his suspension was originally announced:

“You know as I fly across the United States today I’m ready various people’s political views and I have to say a famous four star Military General that I spent time with in the MidEast told me Mike let me give you some advice don’t ever get in a conversation about politics or religion unless you are really smart. I said why do you say that comment His response it’s like being balanced on a single edge razor blade if you slip you will get cut!

Think about that before we all make foolish uneducated post! Moral of this story is most of use just repeat what we have heard we really don’t know.
Have a great positive day!”

Bubba Wallace to receive Stan Musial award for extraordinary character

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Following months of speaking out in support of racial justice and inclusion in NASCAR, Bubba Wallace‘s work has been recognized by The Musial Awards.

The Richard Petty Motorsports driver has been selected as the recipient of its Award for Extraordinary Character.

The award honors “an individual who demonstrates remarkable poise, perseverance and overall sportsmanship.”

The Musial Awards – presented by Maryville University in St. Louis – is named after Stan Musial, a former St. Louis Cardinal baseball player. St. Louis is also the home to one of Wallace’s sponsors, World Wide Technology.

More: Michael Jordan excited for NASCAR future with Denny Hamlin

In the wake of the death of George Floyd in May, the 26-year-old Wallace has been active in helping lead NASCAR through social changes, including the banning of the Confederate flag at series events and tracks.

He also drove a Black Lives Matter car at Martinsville Speedway in June.

“Bubba Wallace exemplifies what the Stan Musial Award for Extraordinary Character is all about,” Frank Viverito, president of the St. Louis Sports Commission, which produces the Musial Awards, said in a press release. “He has overcome much to be where he is, and he has courageously stepped forward to take an important stand for change. He is most deserving of an award that stands for sportsmanship and character, and is named for Stan Musial, whose own actions promoted racial acceptance and unity.”

Wallace joins baseball legend Hank Aaron as a 2020 Musial Awards honoree. Aaron is receiving the Stan Musial Lifetime Achievement Award for Sportsmanship.

The Musial Awards will air nationally on CBS on Saturday, Dec. 26.

After three full-time seasons in Cup racing for RPM, it was announced earlier this week that Wallace would compete in 2021 for a Cup team co-owned by Denny Hamlin and basketball legend Michael Jordan.