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

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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.”

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Austin Hill wins Truck Series opener at Daytona in overtime finish

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Austin Hill won Friday’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series season opener at Daytona in an overtime finish, claiming his first career Truck Series win.

The win comes in Hill’s 52nd series start and his first with Hattori Racing Enterprises. Hill, a former member of the NASCAR Next driver program, took over for defending champion Brett Moffitt in the No. 16 Toyota.

Hill, 24, beat Grant Enfinger, Ross Chastain, Spencer Boyd and Matt Crafton in the second attempt at an overtime finish.

Hill, who is from Winston, Georgia, led 39 laps and survived a race that saw 11 cautions and 26 of 32 trucks involved in accidents.

“Man, this truck was fast,” Hill told Fox Sports 1. “I knew we had a truck that could compete. Got a little scared there at the end. I thought (Enfinger) was going to get me, he got a big run. We were able to protect it. I can’t believe my first win came at Daytona. It’s so surreal, I can’t wait to party with these guys.”

Hill’s win is the third in a row for Hattori after Moffitt won the last two races of 2018.

The overtime period was created by a wreck with two laps left in the scheduled 100-lap distance that involved 10 trucks and nearly every remaining frontrunner. The final restart was setup by a two-car incident on the first overtime attempt.

Only nine of the field’s 32 trucks took the final green flag.

“It was a crazy night … carnage everywhere,” Enfinger said. “We tore up a lot of crap tonight.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: Sheldon Creed

STAGE 2 WINNER: Johnny Sauter

Click here for the race results.

Click here for the point standings.

NOTABLE: Billy Rock, the jackman on the No. 28 of Bryan Dauzat, was awake and alert after he was hit on pit road early in the race by Dauzat, who had lost his brakes. Rock was transported to a local hospital … Angela Ruch, the niece of Derrike Cope, placed eighth in NEMCO Motorsports No. 8 truck. She is just the second woman to earn a top 10 in the Truck Series. Jennifer Jo Cobb placed sixth at Daytona in 2011.

NEXT: Active Pest Control 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway at 4:30 p.m. ET on Feb. 23 on Fox Sports 1

Christian Eckes wins Truck Series pole at Daytona

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Christian Eckes won the pole for tonight’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series season opener at Daytona.

Driving the No. 51 Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports, Eckes posted a top speed of 182.604 mph.

It is the first career pole for 18-year-old Eckes in his fifth career start.

“I felt way more confident in our car in the draft yesterday,” Eckes told Fox Sports 1. “I really wasn’t sure where we would qualify but here we are on the pole.”

He will be joined on the front row by David Gilliland (182.556 mph).

The top five is completed by Todd Gilliland (181.686), Harrison Burton (181.357) and Grant Enfinger (181.349).

Burton will start from the rear after an engine change was made on his No. 18 Toyota on Thursday.

The race is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.

Click here for the starting lineup.

Meet the ‘Gen 7 for NASCAR’ that could include shorter races and capped costs

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Are shorter races better? That’s a discussion taking place in NASCAR, along with the length of the season and other key topics.

“We have to keep (fans) engaged,” car owner Jack Roush said Friday at Daytona International Speedway. “We have to think about their attention spans. The races may need to get shorter.  That could be cost savings all the way around. Probably need to get shorter. 

“People say we need to race fewer times. I’m not sure that’s true. I used to tell (NASCAR Vice Chairman) Mike Helton, if he had three or four races a week, I’d be there for him. I don’t know if I’d say that today.”

Already this week, Kevin Harvick has advocated eliminating the Clash, and Denny Hamlin has noted one of the most popular events in the Olympics is the 100-meter dash instead of the marathon, a hint to shorter races

These comments have been made as the sport looks to cut costs for teams and energize fans who can become weary over a 38-race season that goes from February to November. NASCAR President Steve Phelps said last year that various ideas would be considered for the 2020 schedule and beyond. 

Car owner Roger Penske, whose organization is coming off Joey Logano’s Cup championship season, likens the sport’s look at race lengths to its focus on the next car, which is targeted to debut in 2021.

“I think we’re really talking about Gen 7 for NASCAR,” Penske said, using the term for the next car. “It’s not just the car or the engine. I think it’s the show, it’s the length of the races, it’s where we’re going to run, are we going to run more at night, short tracks. Let’s call it Gen 7 for NASCAR, not just the car.”

A shorter season could limit how many weekends NASCAR goes head-to-head against the NFL in the fall. Shorter races could provide the opportunity for midweek races. The belief from those advocating shorter races is that it would create a better show for fans.

“I think it’s an exciting time for us really in the sport,” car owner Joe Gibbs said. “You know, there’s times that you struggle, and I think we have struggled some, but I honestly think (NASCAR Chairman) Jim France is on board and after it.  I think we, having constant meetings with everybody has kind of put everything on the table. 

“We’ve got a great fan base, but I think everything is really out there, scheduling, everything that you’re talking about, cost savings, everything is on the table. And so sometimes when you go through a tough time, those wind up being the best times because it causes you to really think your way through things.”

Just as important to teams are the costs, which NASCAR continues to look to cut. There’s also been talk of some type of spending limitation for teams.

“You’re going to see other things happen with the cars, engine packages, that’s going to reduce the cost,” car owner Rick Hendrick said. “So NASCAR is really on it. When you look at it, we talk about a spending cap. I don’t know how you regulate that with all we have going on. I mean, everything is on the table.”

Bob Jenkins, car owner for Front Row Motorsports, said cost containment can make an impact for his three-car organization.

“The ultimate goal has always got to be how can we do more with less with any team,” he said. “I think some of the larger teams have felt the financial pinch maybe more so than we have. When you’re in a constant evolution mode, it’s hard for us to keep up. We can make suspension changes a few times a year. Like Roger said, we can’t change cars every week.

“In previous years, we were always a generation or two behind and it shows on our performance. I think now when they come with these common parts that are produced by a third-party manufacturer that can’t be tweaked or re-engineered it only helps a team like us.”

Menard, McMurray, Stenhouse fastest in second Cup practice at Daytona

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Paul Menard (200.758 mph) was fastest in Friday’s second Cup practice session at Daytona International Speedway.

Jamie McMurray in his Chevrolet Camaro was second-fastest (200.696 mph) and the only driver not in a Ford in the first 13 positions.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (200.664) was third-fastest, followed by Ryan Newman (200.638) and Clint Bowyer (200.588).

Sixth through 10th were Aric Almirola (200.571), Daniel Suarez (200.535), defending Cup champion Joey Logano (200.450), Ryan Blaney (200.428) and Brad Keselowski (200.428).

Only 29 of the 40 cars entered in Sunday’s Daytona 500 took part in the second practice. There is one final practice scheduled for Saturday.

Click here for the full second practice speed chart.

In the first practice session earlier in the afternoon, Kyle Busch led a Joe Gibbs Racing juggernaut.

Busch paced the 40-car field with a top speed of 200.285 mph, followed by JGR teammates Martin Truex Jr. (200.200) in second, Erik Jones in fourth (200.156) and Denny Hamlin was seventh-fastest (200.044). Ryan Preece was third-fastest in a Chevrolet at 200.169 mph, while Ryan Newman rounded out the top five at 200.093 mph.

Click here for the full first practice speed chart.

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