Bump and Run: Should NASCAR penalize crew members for interceding in fights?

8 Comments

After another driver altercation featured crew members swarming and escalating the situation, should NASCAR create a rule that any crew member who intervenes in an altercation be fined or suspended? Or is there another way to address the matter?

Nate Ryan: No. If people get injured, react accordingly. Otherwise, no discipline for shoving matches, provided they don’t become a weekly recurrence for a driver or team.

Dustin Long: Suspend any crew members a minimum two races for getting involved. Leave it to NASCAR and security to break it up if two drivers want to fight.

Daniel McFadin: Absolutely. The bigger the altercation, the more dangerous it is. The only exception I can think of is if crew members are trying to keep a driver from going after another driver who is still sitting in their car (like Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman in the All-Star Race).

Jerry Bonkowski: While watching fights between drivers and teams is high drama and makes for good TV, yes, NASCAR should implement a rule that prevents crew members from becoming involved in altercations that begin with drivers. However, it’s understandable if team members want to protect their driver, especially if the fight becomes one-sided — either the one driver dominates the other, or team members jump in to outnumber the other driver. But if other sports can eject/fine players that leave the sidelines/bench/dugout to be involved in brawls, why can’t NASCAR do the same?

In Saturday’s Xfinity race, a car five laps down got in the way of the leaders and caused them to crash late in the event. To avoid a slower car impacting a race like that in the future, should NASCAR have a rule that any car more than three laps down with 20 laps left is parked? Or is there a better solution?

Nate Ryan: I think Kyle Larson is onto something about raising minimum speeds. But lapped cars always will play a role in races with at least 30 cars and a three-hour duration.

Dustin Long: No. If you think a rule like this is necessary, then maybe you should look at the approval process for drivers. Lapped cars are part of racing. What are you going to do next? If a team has a mechanical issue they get a do-over? Stop with the nonsense and overreaction. Quit trying to micro-manage things!

Daniel McFadin: No thank you. Incidents like Saturday’s don’t happen often enough to warrant that. Also, if you take away lapped cars, you’re removing an element that can help set up exciting finishes or a dramatic lead change.

Jerry Bonkowski: While I understand the rationale to park out-of-contention cars late in a race, does any other sport allow non-playoff teams to compete with playoff teams? Or do other sports force teams to end a game early if one team is so far behind it has no realistic chance of catching up in a limited amount of time? Of course not. If cars three or more laps down are parked, is it fair to see them intentionally sidelined, particularly at short tracks where they — in theory — have the potential to make up one or two laps in the closing laps? Again, of course not. Short of NASCAR forcing out-of-contention cars to only run below the white line wherever possible (not factoring in a place like Talladega) in the final 20 laps, thus keeping those cars out of the way of playoff cars as much as possible, is there really a viable other option?

Who are the four Cup drivers you think will make it to Miami and race for a Cup title?

Nate Ryan: My Championship 4 picks on Feb. 12 were: Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin. Before the playoffs began, I subbed Martin Truex Jr. for Elliott.

Dustin Long: Joe Gibbs Racing reunion (Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr.) and Chase Elliott.

Daniel McFadin: Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson

Jerry Bonkowski: This year’s playoffs has been one of the most unpredictable ones to date under the current format. Drivers you thought might make it to Miami have either been eliminated or didn’t even qualify. That being said, I predict Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch will advance to Miami.

Kyle Busch dominates to Truck win at Las Vegas

Getty Images
Leave a comment

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Kyle Busch extended his NASCAR Truck Series victory record to 57 in his hometown Friday night, leading 108 of 134 laps at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion swept both stages and finished 5.958 seconds ahead of Johnny Sauter. Busch has won seven straight races in the series, including all five he entered last season.

Austin Hill was third, followed by defending series champion Matt Crafton and Ben Rhodes. Grrant Enfinger, who opened the season with an overtime victory at Daytona, did not finish after an accident with 43 laps to go.

Christian Eckes was right behind Busch in the opening two stages, but he finished 23rd after an early final-stage wreck.

Results

Driver standings

Jimmie Johnson tops final Cup practice at Las Vegas

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jimmie Johnson was the fastest driver in Friday’s second and final NASCAR Cup practice of the weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The seven-time Cup champion hasn’t won a race since 2017, but showed plenty of speed, pacing the 38 cars that took to the 1.5-mile track, clocking a best speed of 179.432 mph.

Johnson and his Chevrolet were followed by five Fords.

Clint Bowyer, who was second-fastest in the first practice earlier in the day, was once again second-fast in the final session at 179.271 mph.

Aric Almirola, who was fastest in the first practice, was third-fastest in the final session at 179.170 mph.

Rounding out the top-5 were Kevin Harvick (179.015 mph) and Matt DiBenedetto (178.814 mph).

Sixth through 10th were Ross Chastain (178.660 mph), who will be filling in for the injured Ryan Newman in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400, followed by Kyle Larson (178.424), Ryan Blaney (178.359), John Hunter Nemechek (178.259) and Alex Bowman (178.089).

Final Cup practice results

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Next goals for Daytona winner Denny Hamlin: double-digit wins, Cup crown

Getty Images
Leave a comment

There was a time when Denny Hamlin’s best memories of the Daytona 500 were to just go home relatively unscathed.

Consider this: In Hamlin’s first six appearances in the Great American Race, his highest finish was 17th.

But after a breakthrough 4th-place finish in 2012, he has become the best overall performer in the 500 among active drivers.

“I don’t know what it is, but I think I started studying more about superspeedway racing around that time because I had been so unsuccessful for a very long time,” Hamlin said Friday during a media session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“We went a long time and I’ve won a lot of the Clashes and Duel races, but not many like Talladega – I think I have one win there – but it just seems like it’s that seven or eight years ago that the car came around and whatever techniques I use or I’ve adapted to this car have seemed to work.”

In the last seven editions of the 500, Hamlin has finished 2nd (2014), 4th (2015), 1st (2016), 17th (2017), 3rd (2018), 1st (2019) and 1st again this past Monday.

Do the math and that’s three wins – making him only the sixth driver in NASCAR history to win the 500 three or more times – and seven overall top-5 finishes in the last nine season openers.

Hamlin knew that getting his second 500 win in a row – both outcomes being the closest finishes in the race’s 62-year history – and third in the last five years was basically going to come down to a battle between him, Ryan Newman and Ryan Blaney.

With emphasis on Newman, that is, before he was involved in that horrific last lap crash on the front stretch heading toward the checkered flag.

“I pulled the block on (Newman) coming to the white (flag) and I stayed in front and I knew he was going to back up to (Blaney),” Hamlin said. “I was trying to back up myself, but once (Newman) was attached (to Blaney), I knew they were going to come with a run I could not stop.

“I just held my line because if I started going sideways, the next thing you know (Newman) starts moving sideways and (Blaney) is already hooked to him, so he’s probably going to push him sideways into me.

“I just wanted to hold a straight line to let them know hey, pass this way, and when I did I was able to back to (Blaney) and was able to unattach him from (Newman). When I slowed his momentum, that allowed me to really tuck in right behind him. I don’t know if he checked up to keep us attached but once we got attached, I knew we were going to have a run back on (Newman).

“I knew he was going to get there, I didn’t know what was going to happen when he did get there, but certainly it worked out in my favor. I thought I was going to get back around (Blaney) at the (finish) line if there was no crash, but I wasn’t sure I was going to get all the way back to (Newman). I knew those two were going to jostle and I was just hoping to be in the right place when it happened and I was.”

Not having any 500 wins of his own, Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch is envious of Hamlin’s three triumphs.

“Denny has really gotten way better ever since this car,” Busch said of Hamlin and how he’s adapted to the Gen 6 car in recent years. “He was always an aggressive plate racer, one that would make moves that you’re kind of, ‘Man, if he would just stay in line, I think this would turn out better.’

“He still does that today, but he’s making it work for himself, that not staying in line is better for Denny. I think since this car came though, he’s been a real good plate racer.

“He’s been fantastic at the game, he’s understood it, he’s made moves that I sometimes wouldn’t make that have worked, he’s able to pass a guy to get in line. … He’s very knowledgeable and skillful In making his moves and passes.”

Going forward from Daytona, Hamlin said his next goal is double-digit wins this season. If so, he’d become the first driver to earn 10 or more wins in a season since Jimmie Johnson did so in 2007 when the seven-time champ won 10 races.

“I’d be satisfied with that and then beyond that would be nice,” Hamlin said. “I think that the championship is an easy goal that anyone just throws out – win a championship, but that comes down to one race.

“If you can win a significant amount of races, it shows a bigger picture of your full year. If you make it to the Final Four, that’s a bigger picture of your entire year (Hamlin has reached the final four just twice since the format was introduced in 2014 — third that year and fourth last season). I think the championship – a successful year is making the Final Four. Anything after that is just whatever it is.

“Certainly we set lofty goals. I think everyone sets huge and lofty goals, but certainly we’re going to push ourselves to better what we did last year and it starts with Daytona and we’re able to repeat there so then let’s get a win now before we get to Texas to keep ourselves on pace or better from last year.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Johnny Sauter on pole for tonight’s Truck race in Las Vegas

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Johnny Sauter will start from the pole in tonight’s Strat 200 Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Sauter earned the eighth career pole of his Truck Series career – and first since 2018 – by topping the other 34 drivers that made qualifying attempts with a speed of 177.836 mph.

Sheldon Creed (177.643 mph) will start alongside Sauter on the front row for tonight’s race.

The rest of the top 10 qualifiers were Kyle Busch (177.282 mph), making his first Truck Series start of the season, followed by Christian Eckes (177.189 mph), Ty Majeski (177.189), Austin Hill (176.788 mph), Tyler Ankrum (176.275), Raphael Lessard (176.056), Grant Enfinger (176.010) and Brett Moffitt (175.890).

Tonight’s race starts shortly after 9 p.m. ET (FS1, Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Trucks qualifying results

Follow @JerryBonkowski