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ThorSport Racing requests NASCAR reinstate its teams to Truck playoffs

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CONCORD, N.C. — ThorSport Racing sent a letter Friday to NASCAR requesting that series officials reinstate its two teams eliminated from the Gander Outdoors Truck Series playoffs because of engine issues that the manufacturer claimed responsibility for.

ThorSports Racing teammates Grant Enfinger, the regular-season champion, and Johnny Sauter were eliminated in the first round Sept. 13 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after their engine issues. Teammate Matt Crafton’s engine also failed but he advanced to the second round, which begins Oct. 12 at Talladega Superspeedway.

ThorSport Racing made the request for reinstatement in a one-page letter to NASCAR.

“We feel the right thing for us is we were never allowed to race at Vegas for the playoff positions,” David Pepper, general manager of ThorSport Racing, told NBC Sports. “We’re not asking to reset Vegas. We’ll take our last-place finishes. We’re just asking to move the cutoff date to Phoenix, eliminate four of us instead of two (after Vegas) and two (after Phoenix.)

“Allow it to be settled on the race track and not by an outside source that has openly said, ‘Hey, we made a mistake.’ I don’t want to beat on them. They made a mistake, but we shouldn’t be the victims of the mistake.”

NASCAR and Ilmor Engineering, which provides engines to nearly every Truck team, each issued statements Thursday about the multiple engine failures at Las Vegas, the cutoff race in the opening round of the Truck playoffs.

Ilmor Engineering stated that “we deeply regret the impact that the engines issues created for our NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series partners.” Illmor cited “high engine load condition combined with the extreme weather conditions in Las Vegas resulted in some engines suffering severe detonation.”

Asked about ThorSport Racing’s request to have its teams reinstated in the playoffs, NASCAR issued a statement Friday to NBC Sports: “NASCAR’s focus remains on this weekend’s races at Charlotte Motor Speedway.”

Pepper notes that while the rule book doesn’t contain anything about reinstating playoff teams, it would follow under section Section 1.6 of the Truck Series rule book.

Section 1.6.b states that “On occasion, circumstances will be presented that are either unforeseen or are otherwise extraordinary, in which strict application of the NASCAR Rules may not achieve this goal. In such rare circumstances, the NASCAR Officials, as a practical matter, may make a determination regarding the conduct of an Event, the eligibility of a Competitor, or similar matters that are not contemplated by or are inconsistent with the NASCAR Rules, in order to achieve this goal.”

Illmor Engineering’s NT1 engine is used almost by nearly every Truck team. It was introduced before the 2018 season as a cost-savings move for teams.

Pepper said action should be taken for ThorSport even though nearly every team uses the same engine and was at risk of the same issue at Las Vegas.

“People keep bringing up that we choose to run them,” Pepper said of the NT1 engine. “Well, not exactly. That’s not entirely accurate. We are presented the NASCAR Ilmor motor and it is the motor of preference because the rules have been changed several times to impede the built motor.

“You cannot be competitive and win with that built motor (from a source other than Ilmor). They’ve cut RPM. We’ve changed the gear rule. I want to make sure that everybody understands there are reasons why we are forced into running that. It’s not by coincidence that everyone ran the Ilmor but one or two trucks (at Vegas).”

Pepper said if the NT1 and one built by another manufacturer were more even, the team could have the choice of which engine to use.

“If we chose one and it blew up, then that is on us because we’re controlling our own destiny,” Pepper said. “We want to be able to control our own destiny. Our outcome of our season and our races should be a product of what we choose to run, not what we have to run because of just the way things are.”

Ryan Blaney thankful for support after Daytona 500 incident

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Ryan Blaney said he didn’t want to talk to many people the night of the Daytona 500 after contact with Ryan Newman triggered Newman’s horrific last-lap crash.

But when Blaney got home, his parents were there.

“That was nice of them to be there,” Blaney said Friday at Auto Club Speedway, the first time he’s talked to the media about the Daytona 500 since that night.  

Blaney was ashen when he spoke briefly to the media after the season-opening Daytona 500. As he spoke, an ambulance drove by on the frontstretch, taking Newman to the hospital.

Blaney was intent on pushing Newman, a fellow Ford driver, to the victory when it became clear to Blaney he could not win the race. But as he pushed Newman coming to the finish, the contact unsettled Newman’s car and it turned right into the outside wall. Newman’s car went airborne and was slammed in the driver side area while upside down by Corey LaJoie.

Newman walked out of a Daytona Beach hospital two days later. Newman said last weekend in a statement that he suffered a head injury but did not disclose any details. He has since been to Roush Fenway Racing to see team members and also did a video for one of the team’s sponsors that day. Newman will not race this weekend, missing his second consecutive race but said in his statement he looks forward to racing again.

MORE: Ryan Blaney talks to Ryan Newman, looks forward to seeing him at track

Blaney said several people helped him in the aftermath of Newman’s accident. All that was known the night of the race was that Newman was in serious condition with a non-life-threatening injury.

Blaney said close friend Bubba Wallace spent time with him the day after the Daytona 500.

“We talked about some stuff,” Blaney said Friday of what he and Wallace did. “I stayed off social media and all that stuff. You have people that aren’t even involved and have never even watched the sport that have their own opinion on bad things.

“The outreach I got from the calls from former drivers and current drivers that week was pretty remarkable. Their support was good. Even though it is unintentional and it is racing, it still takes a toll on you when it is off of your nose. You never want to see anyone get hurt in this sport. We are all competitors, but we are also a big family.

“Ryan and I have gotten along really well and that was just a bad circumstance and it is great that it worked out for the best. It was nice to have the friends and family and drivers and teams (offer their) support. That really helped me out.”

Blaney cited a couple of former drivers whose calls were impactful.

Jeff Burton and Bobby Labonte called me, people that I looked up to a lot as a kid,” Blaney said. “It was neat that they called me and gave me their peace of mind. That was good.”

Friday also marked the first time for Blaney to speak publicly since last weekend’s race at Las Vegas. Blaney led but a late caution changed the race. He and Alex Bowman, running second, were among drivers who pitted. Joey Logano, running third, did not pit, inherited the lead and went on to win. Blaney finished 11th.

Blaney said Friday it took him 10 minutes to get over how that race ended.

“Yeah, it was over,” Blaney said. “Moving on. I went and stayed in a teepee and forgot about it.”

About his experience staying in a teepee, Blaney said:

“I already had that planned no matter what happened. I like camping. I was out on a ranch in the middle of the desert for a couple days and just hanging out and all that stuff. It was fun.”

As for what he did, Blaney said: “Go hiking a little bit. Cook by the fire. Clear your head. It is just relaxing. I have always kind of been that way. It was nice to get out there. I was out there. I had to be out there for Tuesday night anyway and figured I would stay somewhere other than the (Las Vegas) Strip. I can’t do the strip for very long. I wanted to stay somewhere opposite to the Strip.”

Alex Bowman fastest in final Cup practice at Auto Club Speedway

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Alex Bowman completed a sweep of Friday’s Cup Series practice sessions at Auto Club Speedway by posting the top speed in final practice. He was also fastest in first practice.

Bowman’s top speed was 176.626 mph. He recorded 32 laps in the session.

The top five was completed by Ryan Blaney (176.186 mph), Bubba Wallace (176.177), Kurt Busch (175.816) and Christopher Bell (175.695).

Bowman also had the best 10-lap average at 175.317 mph.

Kurt Busch recorded the most laps with 47.

The only incident in the session was defending race winner Kyle Busch brushing the wall in Turn 3 after his car got away from him on the bumps in the corner. Repairs were made to the car and Busch returned to the track with 17 minutes left in the session.

Click here for the speed chart.

 

Alex Bowman tops field in opening Cup practice at Auto Club

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Alex Bowman posted the fastest lap in opening Cup practice Friday at Auto Club Speedway. Bowman ran a top lap of 179.439 mph.

Bowman was followed by Kyle Larson (177.703 mph), Tyler Reddick (177.607), Kurt Busch (177.375) and Matt DiBenedetto (176.609).

Click here for full practice report

There were no incidents in the session.

Final Cup practice is scheduled from 5:35-6:25 p.m. ET today. Qualifying will be Saturday.

Xfinity practice report at Auto Club Speedway

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Harrison Burton was fastest in the final Xfinity Series practice session Friday at Auto Club Speedway.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver recorded 22 laps and posted a top speed of 174.474 mph in the 25-minute session.

The top five was completed by Noah Gragson (173.779 mph), Austin Cindric (173.775), Chase Briscoe (173.578) and Brandon Jones (173.578).

Burton also had the best 10-lap average at 170.422 mph.

Gragson recorded the most laps in the session with 25.

There were no incidents in the session.

Click here for the practice report.

First practice

Noah Gragson led the way for the Xfinity Series in the opening practice session that saw more than half the 50-minute period under caution at Auto Club Speedway

Gragson ran a top lap of 177.139 mph. He was followed by Austin Cindric (176.022), Daniel Hemric (175.400), Brandon Jones (175.366) and Harrison Burton (175.187).

Click here for full practice report

Alex Labbe brought out the caution when an oil line came loose and he put oil down on the track. The cleanup took about 20 minutes.

Tommy Joe Martins brought out the caution late in the session with smoke coming from the car and then a small fire in the right front of the car.