Photo by Josh Hedges/Getty Images

Kevin Harvick says key NASCAR change might be one many are overlooking

4 Comments

While the focus has been on NASCAR’s landmark decision to disqualify cars, including the winner, for failing postrace inspection, Kevin Harvick said it is what NASCAR will do all race weekend that is as important.

Harvick also discussed if he’ll do anything different this year with burnouts and how aggressive he believes his team should be with these new rules.

Harvick told NBC Sports on Tuesday morning that he liked what NASCAR will do all weekend in the garage.

“As you look at the whole process, it’s really not about postrace in my opinion,” he said. “I think it really starts in prerace and making sure that the officials and the teams are on the same page as to how things are interpreted.”

NASCAR announced Monday that during a three-day race weekend, a car that fails prerace inspection twice will start at the rear of the field, have a crew member ejected and lose 15 minutes of practice at the next event.

Should a car fail inspection before the race three times, the team also will have to serve a pass-through penalty at the start of the race and lose an additional 15 minutes of practice the next weekend.

Should a car fail inspection four times before the race, it will be classified an L1 penalty. Minimum penalty options would be a reduction of 10-40 owner and driver points, and/or suspension of a crew chief or team member for one to three races and/or a fine between $25,000 – $75,000.

NASCAR also stated Monday that it plans to have officials dedicated to each national series garage. NASCAR plans to have 12 officials dedicated to the Cup garage, 10 dedicated to the Xfinity garage and eight dedicated to the Truck garage. Other officials will move from one series garage to another to support those dedicated officials.

Harvick said such a change will help NASCAR try to keep up with teams.

“What happens in today’s world in every practice, somebody has got a group of pictures that come from every car throughout practice,” he said. “Everybody has got people back in the shop watching videos and analyzing them and listening to radios. So as soon as the teams find a weakness that NASCAR is doing, they exploit it pretty quickly. The teams are very good at analyzing things and sometimes much quicker than NASCAR is at figuring things out because there are just so many more of us.

“I like the fact that there are specific officials for each garage because each garage is different. I think a lot of times there were just so much going on for the guys and the gals in the garage inspecting the cars, that they just got worn out. There were so many things that were going on. In order to keep it under control, you have to keep it under control from the first week. You have to be able to police the things you did the first week on the 25th week and not have those trends keep growing.”

Another key area is how will NASCAR officiate burnouts by the winner? Exuberant burnouts have led to tires blowing and damaging the car. If that happens, will that prevent a car from passing inspection after the race and lead to its disqualification? It’s a tricky issue for NASCAR.

“We’re in show business,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR 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.”

Harvick, who won eight races in 2018, is among those who have blown tires in past victory celebrations but he toned it down last year.

“We chose as a group to not have tires blow out,” Harvick told NBC Sports. “There were a couple of races where we didn’t do burnouts at all. Really that was out of respect to NASCAR asking just to help deliver a better message by not having everything blown out of the back of the car so they could inspect it.”

Even though he was more careful on burnouts, Harvick admits that a team can’t always be that way. After his team was penalized at Texas in the playoffs, Harvick said on his SiriusXM NASCAR show that “if you’re going to be one of the good teams, you’re going to have to push the limits. You’re going to have to be on the verge of getting trouble.”

Has his philosophy changed after NASCAR’s decision to disqualify cars that fail postrace inspection?

“You have to push to right up to where it is and sometimes it’s going to be questionable and sometimes it’s going to be too far and sometimes it’s going to result in positives,” Harvick said. “You have to be aggressive but you also have to be smart.

“I think there are a lot of areas that you can still work in, but right now, from a car standpoint, we’re just guessing on what we need because we don’t really know what we’re going to be battling as far as what happens when they drop the green flag at Atlanta (with the new rules package). We have no idea what’s going to happen, how we’re going to race or whether we’re fast or slow. There’s a lot of things to work on and obviously the inspection policy is going to be different.”

 and on Facebook

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

1 Comment

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.”

 and on Facebook

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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).

Follow @JerryBonkowski

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

Leave a comment

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).