Bump & Run: Saying you’d wreck your brother for a win a good move?

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Kyle Busch seemed slightly miffed that his older brother adamantly vowed multiple times he would have wrecked the No. 18 for the win. Is this the power dynamics of a 30-year sibling rivalry or part of the age-old debates over proper racing ethics?

Nate Ryan: It’s a little of both. While Kyle is right to question the wisdom of vowing you would have wrecked someone if you’d had the chance, Kurt’s repeated (and somewhat gleeful) promises in postrace interviews and on social media seemed indicative of getting inside his younger brother’s head. It felt as if we might be witnessing how Busch brother discussions would have gone after go-kart races in Las Vegas during the early 1990s. But it also was a fresh spin on how far a driver will go to win a race. Kurt has established the line he’ll cross next time to win at Bristol, and by owning it, that should help clear his conscience while also giving fans something to anticipate next time.

Dustin Long: Both. If I was racing my brother, I’d tell him we’re not brothers on the track, we are competitors. If I had to knock him out of the way to win, I would. If he didn’t like it, he could go cry to Mom and Dad.

Daniel McFadin: I imagine Kurt Busch would have said that regardless of who was in the lead, but it’s definitely amplified by their sibling rivalry. It’s really surprising how little they’ve gotten to go head-to-head over the years. But the way they’re both racing, it might happen more than once the rest of the year.

Jerry Bonkowski: If memory serves me correct, Kyle and Kurt have had a few skirmishes over the years, so it wouldn’t surprise me if either took out the other one in a future race or two. What I really want to see, though, is how the pair reacts to each other if one takes the other out. Will we see fists fly? Will they take each other off their respective Christmas present lists?

Was NASCAR right to penalize Brad Keselowski for restarting in the wrong position or should NASCAR have delayed the restart to ensure he was in the right spot and not unfairly impact others?

Nate Ryan: With fewer than 20 laps remaining, this was a less than ideal situation. It probably would have been better to hold the restart and avoid affecting others’ races. But by holding the restart, NASCAR is burning laps, which also negatively impacts the pit calls made by other teams (as the NASCAR America crew noted Monday). A red flag would have been too heavy-handed and set an unfortunate precedent just to position the order correctly. As Jeff Burton noted, five warnings and an extra lap was enough time for Keselowski to line up in the right spot, and at some point, the race had to return to green. And while Keselowski is at fault, the NASCAR tower hopefully learned a lesson about ensuring its communication is better next time, because the radio chatter indicated too much confusion.

Dustin Long: The penalty was justified, but NASCAR should have gotten the lineup right before restarting the race. Throw the red flag if you have to, but get the lineup right! With Brad Keselowski not in the proper spot, he forced Joey Logano and Austin Dillon to be three-wide on the restart. While NASCAR extended the caution a lap to try to get Keselowski in the right spot, it should have stopped the field on the backstretch and gotten the field aligned to go back racing. Get the lineup right!

Daniel McFadin: NASCAR was right to penalize Brad Keselowski, but NASCAR should have taken as much time as possible to rectify the situation in order to ensure a proper restart. The wacky three-wide position of Keselowski, Joey Logano and Austin Dillon doesn’t just impact one driver and as Keselowski admitted, likely affected the outcome of the race.

Jerry Bonkowski: NASCAR was correct in penalizing Keselowski, but at the same time, yes, the restart should have been delayed for another lap to get Keselowski in the right position. This was a very costly lesson for Keselowski. If he would have heeded NASCAR’s initial call, he had a good chance of winning – or at the very least, finishing top five instead of 18th.

Denny Hamlin has three speeding penalties in the first eight races. Is this a concern?

Nate Ryan: No. Hamlin’s speeding penalties receive more scrutiny than any other driver in Cup. He is culpable of putting his team in tough positions, but as Texas proved, it often gives the No. 11 team a chance to test its mettle and rebound. Though this penalty undermined a strategy call that could have put him in position to win a race, it didn’t cost him the race (he finished about where he ran in fifth), nor has his proclivity for speeding cost him a championship or playoff advancement. He and the team usually have figured it out when the stakes are at their highest.

Dustin Long: No. It’s not ideal, but I’m not going to worry too much about it. They’ve shown the speed to recover and win from such a penalty.

Daniel McFadin: Absolutely. Hamlin won at Texas despite two pit road penalties. If he’s off to the best start of his Cup car, there’s no telling how much more we’d be talking about him if not for his mistakes on pit road.

Jerry Bonkowski: There’s no one else to blame but Hamlin himself. Yes, it’s a concern that Hamlin has a heavy foot. For all we know, if he hadn’t have been caught speeding so many times, Hamlin may have had another win or two to his record by now. I understand wanting to get on and off pit road ASAP, but if this keeps up, Joe Gibbs needs to sit down with his driver to tell him to slow down.

Because this is the week of the Masters golf tournament — a tradition unlike any other, they say — what is a tradition unlike any other in NASCAR?

Nate Ryan: Not a big fan of traditions because they can impede the necessary progress for betterment. There are some Masters-esque traditions in NASCAR, but many have changed and then reverted over the years (Martinsville hot dogs, Southern 500 on Labor Day, etc.), and there are others that soon will end (Bristol night race in late August, Daytona’s July 4 race week). All of this is good if it keeps NASCAR headed in the right direction. The only tradition that matters is retaining the essence of why people attend races, which is compelling action mixed with passionate emotions.

Dustin Long: Awarding a grandfather clock to the winner at Martinsville.

Daniel McFadin: This will only be the fifth year of the tradition at this point, but I’m going with the Throwback Weekend at Darlington. It’s just a great, celebratory moment for the sport with a bunch of unique paint schemes to remind people about its deep history. I get excited with every car reveal and we’re already off to a good start with Richard Childress Racing’s cars.

Jerry Bonkowski: No question about it, the Daytona 500. The pomp and circumstances of the event – not to mention its illustrious history – is NASCAR’s pride and joy. Is it any wonder why so many non-NASCAR fans tune in or attend in-person? It’s a happening like the Super Bowl and everybody wants to see it.

Drivers to watch in Clash at the Coliseum

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The 2023 NASCAR season will begin with Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum, the second race on a purpose-built track inside Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Although a non-points race, last year’s Clash generated intense interest as NASCAR moved the event from its long-time home at Daytona International Speedway to Los Angeles. The race was rated a success and opened doors for the possibility of future races in stadium environments.

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings: 10 historic moments in the Clash

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Year Two will find drivers competing on a familiar landscape but still with a track freshly paved. Last year’s racing surface was removed after the Clash.

Drivers to watch Sunday at Los Angeles:

FRONTRUNNERS

Joey Logano

  • Points position: Finished 2022 as Cup champion
  • Last three races: Won at Phoenix, 6th at Martinsville, 18th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: Won in 2022

Logano put bookends on 2022 by winning the first Clash at the Coliseum and the season’s final race at Phoenix to win the Cup championship. He’ll be among the favorites Sunday.

Ross Chastain

  • Points position: 2nd in 2022
  • Last three races: 3rd at Phoenix, 4th at Martinsville, 2nd at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: Did not qualify last year

Chastain was the breakout star of 2022, winning a pair of races and generally putting himself front and center across much of the year. Can he start 2023 on a big note? If so, he will have to do so without replicating his Hail Melon move at Martinsville after NASCAR outlawed the move Tuesday.

Kevin Harvick

  • Points position: 15th in 2022
  • Last three races: 5th at Phoenix, 16th at Martinsville, 8th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: 10th in 2022

Sunday will begin the final roundup for Harvick, who has said this season will be his last as a full-time Cup driver. He is likely to come out of the gate with fire in his eyes.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Kyle Busch

  • Points position: 13th in 2022
  • Last three races: 7th at Phoenix, 29th at Martinsville, 9th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: 2nd in 2022

Welcome to Kyle Busch’s Brave New World. After 15 seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing, he begins a new segment of his career with Richard Childress Racing. He led 64 laps at last year’s Clash but couldn’t catch Joey Logano at the end.

Tyler Reddick

  • Points position: 14th in 2022
  • Last three races: 23rd at Phoenix, 35th at Martinsville, 35th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: 21st in 2022

Reddick ran surprisingly strong in last year’s Clash, leading 51 laps before parking with drivetrain issues. He starts the new year with a new ride — at 23XI Racing.

Ty Gibbs

  • Points position: Won Xfinity Series championship in 2022
  • Last three (Cup) races: 19th at Martinsville, 22nd at Homestead, 22nd at Las Vegas
  • Past at Clash: Did not compete in 2022

After a successful — and controversial — Xfinity season, Gibbs moves up to Cup full-time with his grandfather’s team. Will he be the brash young kid of 2022 or a steadier driver in Season One in Cup?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interstate Batteries extends sponsorship with Joe Gibbs Racing

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Interstate Batteries, which has been a Joe Gibbs Racing sponsor since the team’s first race, has expanded its involvement with the team for 2023.

Interstate, based in Dallas, will be a primary JGR sponsor for 13 races, up from six races, the number it typically sponsored each year since 2008.

Christopher Bell and Ty Gibbs will run the majority of Interstate’s sponsorship races, but Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. also will carry the sponsor colors.

MORE: NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

“We’re extremely proud of our partnership with our founding sponsor, Interstate Batteries,” said team owner Joe Gibbs in a statement released by the team. “They have been such an important part of our team for over three decades now, and it’s exciting to have them on board all four of our cars this season. The best part of our partnership is the relationships we’ve built with everyone there over the years.”

Bell will carry Interstate sponsorship in Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum, the All-Star Race May 21, the Coca-Cola 600 May 28, at Texas Motor Speedway Sept. 24 and at Martinsville Oct. 29.

Gibbs, in his first full season in Cup racing, will be sponsored by Interstate at Daytona Feb. 19, Bristol April 9, Nashville June 25, Chicago July 2, Texas Sept. 24 and Charlotte Oct. 8.

Hamlin will ride with Interstate sponsorship March 26 at Circuit of the Americas, and Truex will be sponsored by Interstate July 23 at Pocono.

Interstate was a key JGR sponsor in the team’s first season in 1992.

NASCAR announces rule changes for 2023 season

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CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR announced a series of rule changes for the 2023 season that includes outlawing the move Ross Chastain made at Martinsville and eliminating stage breaks at all six Cup road course events.

NASCAR announced the changes in a session with reporters Tuesday at the NASCAR R&D Center.

Among new things for this season:

  • Updated penalty for a wheel coming off a car.
  • Change to the amount of time teams have to repair cars on pit road via the Damaged Vehicle Policy.
  • Change to playoff eligibility for drivers.
  • Cars could run in wet weather conditions on short ovals.
  • Expansion of the restart zone on a trial basis.
  • Choose rule will be in place for more races.

MORE: Ranking top 10 moments at the Clash

NASCAR updated its policy on a loose wheel. Previously, if a wheel came off a car during an event, it would be a four-race suspension for the crew chief and two pit crew members. That has changed this year.

If a wheel comes off a car while the vehicle is still on pit road, the vehicle restarts at the tail end of the field. If a wheel comes off a vehicle while it is on pit road under green-flag conditions, it is a pass-thru penalty.

The rule changes once a vehicle has left pit road and loses a wheel.

Any vehicle that loses a wheel on the track will be penalized two laps and have two pit crew members suspended for two races. The suspensions will go to those most responsible for the wheel coming off. This change takes away a suspension to the crew chief. The policy is the same for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks.

With some pit crew members working multiple series, the suspension is only for that series. So, if a pit crew member is suspended two races in the Xfinity Series for a wheel coming off, they can still work the Cup race the following day.

The Damaged Vehicle Policy clock will be 7 minutes this season. It had been six minutes last year and was increased to 10 minutes during the playoffs. After talking with teams, NASCAR has settled on seven minutes for teams to make repairs on pit road or be eliminated. Teams can replace toe links on pit road but not control arms. Teams also are not permitted to have specialized repair tools in the pits.

NASCAR will have a wet weather package for select oval tracks: the Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Lucas Oil Raceway Park, Martinsville, Milwaukee, New Hampshire, North Wilkesboro, Phoenix and Richmond.

Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition for NASCAR, said that teams have been told to show up at these events prepared for wet weather conditions as they would at a road course. That includes having a windshield wiper. Wet weather tires will be available. 

“Our goal here is to get back to racing as soon as possible,” Swayer said. “… If there’s an opportunity for us to get some cars or trucks on the racetrack and speed up that (track-drying) process and we can get back to racing, that’s what our goal is. We don’t want to be racing in full-blown rain (at those tracks) and we’ve got spray like we would on a road course.”

NASCAR stated that it is removing the requirement that a winning driver be in the top 30 in points in Cup or top 20 in Xfinity or Trucks to become eligible for the playoffs. As long as a driver is competing full-time — or has a waiver for the races they missed, a win will make them playoff eligible.

With the consultation of drivers, NASCAR is expanding the restart zone to give the leader more room to take off. NASCAR said it will evaluate if to keep this in place after the Atlanta race in March.

NASCAR stated the choose rule will be in effect for superspeedways and dirt races.

NASCAR eliminates stage breaks for Cup road course events

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CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR will do away with stage breaks in all six Cup road course races and select Xfinity and Truck races this season, but teams will continue to score stage points. 

NASCAR announced the change Tuesday in a session with reporters at the NASCAR R&D Center. 

MORE: NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

NASCAR stated there will be no stage breaks in the Cup road course events at Circuit of the Americas (March 26), Sonoma (June 11), Chicago street course (July 2), Indianapolis road course (Aug. 13), Watkins Glen (Aug. 20) and Charlotte Roval (Oct. 8).

There will be no stage breaks for Xfinity races at Circuit of the Americas (March 25), Sonoma (June 10), Chicago street course (July 1), Indianapolis road course (Aug. 12), Watkins Glen (Aug. 19) and Charlotte Roval (Oct. 7).

There will be no stage breaks for the Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas (March 25).

In those races, stage points will be awarded on a designated lap, but there will be no green-and-checkered flag and the racing will continue.

The only road course events that will have stage breaks will be Xfinity standalone races at Portland (June 3) and Road America (July 29) and the Truck standalone race at Mid-Ohio (July 8). Those events will keep stage breaks because they have non-live pit stops — where the field comes down pit road together and positions cannot be gained or lost provided the stop is completed in the prescribed time by NASCAR.

NASCAR has faced questions from fans and competitors about stage breaks during road course races because those breaks alter strategy in a more defined manner than on most ovals.

Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition for NASCAR, said the move away from stage breaks at road courses was made in collaboration with teams and response from fans.

“When we introduced stage racing … we took an element of strategy away from the event,” Sawyer. “Felt this (change) would bring some new storylines (in an event).”

NASCAR instituted stage breaks and stage points for the 2017 season and has kept the system in place since. NASCAR awards a playoff point to the stage winner along with 10 points. The top 10 at the end of a stage score points.

It wasn’t uncommon for many teams to elect to pit before the first stage in a road course race and eschew points to put themselves in better track position for the final two stages. By pitting early, they would be behind those who stayed out to collect the stage points. At the stage break, those who had yet to pit would do so, allowing those who stopped before the break to leapfrog back to the front.