Kyle Larson says data shows Bubba Wallace spun intentionally at Texas

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AVONDALE, Ariz. — Kyle Larson said his team examined data from Bubba Wallace’s car and had no doubt Wallace spun intentionally to cause a caution after suffering a flat tire last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

Wallace’s flat and spin came in the middle of a green-flag pit cycle and impacted Larson’s race. Larson was running in the top five before he pitted shortly. Wallace spun a couple of laps later and trapped Larson a lap down. Larson finished 12th and enters Sunday’s event at ISM Raceway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC) 23 points out of the final transfer spot for next weekend’s championship race.

Teams have the ability to examine each other’s throttle traces and steering and other aspects with shared data.

“We looked at Bubba’s data the next day,” Larson said Friday at ISM Raceway. “You could definitely see, because we have SMT where you have the digital car, you could see him like swerving, he turns right and at the same time he turns left and stabs the throttle and spins out. It’s whatever at this point.”

Asked about his spin, Wallace told NBC Sports: “I learned from Brad (Keselowski) and Joey (Logano).”

Asked if he was worried about any repercussions, Wallace told NBC Sports: “Until they do anything, no. I’m not the only one to do it. I’m racing for myself. Not for Larson. Not for Chevrolet at that moment. For myself and going multiple laps down.”

Larson was upset after the Texas race and called for NASCAR to take action. Asked if he still believes NASCAR should take action, Larson said Friday:

“I’m just a driver, so I don’t really know exactly what the proper thing is, whether it is a penalty or a fine or what. (NASCAR is) good at coming up with that stuff.

“(Intentionally causing a caution) affects the race. It saves them, but it could hurt guys. Sometimes you end up on the right side of it and whatnot, but last week we didn’t, so that’s obviously why I was upset. We’ve all done it. I’ve done it. I got penalized a lap and still was able to recover and win (2016 Eldora Truck race). We’ve all done it. It can affect the race.”

Questions have been raised the past two weeks about drivers intentionally causing a caution by either staying out while having a flat tire or spinning in either the Cup or Xfinity playoff races. More scrutiny has been paid to what some drivers have said is a common occurrence because of the impact in the playoff race.

In the driver/crew chief meeting before Friday night’s Gander Outdoors Truck race, series director Brad Moran told competitors: ”Let’s keep in mind, playoff, cutoff race. Make good decisions. Let’s put on a great show for our fans.”

The concern among competitors is if NASCAR begins to make judgment calls on what is a legitimate spin or caution and what isn’t.

“I would say the more NASCAR is in a position to make tough calls like that, the worse it is,” Chase Elliott said Friday. “That’s such a tough thing and it’s such a tough call. I don’t know how you would ever get that right.”

Said Kyle Busch on Friday: “When people have flat tires and are spinning out and drawing cautions, you can’t penalize one and then not everybody else. So they better be careful.”

If NASCAR won’t make the call, then what?

“I don’t know who else is going to take care of it,” Martin Truex Jr. said. “It’s been getting pretty popular to have a flat tire and spin out on purpose. I don’t know, it’s definitely not good. It could affect the championship race. If last week were Homestead, a lot of people would be pretty upset. I’m not sure how to handle it. I don’t run the sport, NASCAR is pretty good at doing that. It’s definitely frustrating when you’re out there leading or doing something good and it could potentially ruin your day by the caution coming out at the wrong time.”

Denny Hamlin says NASCAR can rule on such matters.

“I think they can use judgment on that for sure,” he said Friday. “A lot of us have gotten penalties by intentionally causing cautions in the past, so I’d say it should be no different now.”

Hamlin was penalized two laps for stopping on course with a flat tire to cause a caution in the 2008 spring Richmond race. Once the caution waved, Hamlin took off.

As for Wallace, Larson said he had not talked with the Richard Petty Motorsports driver this week but didn’t indicate a need to do so. 

“It’s really not an issue with him personally,” Larson said Friday of Wallace. “It is what it is. Afterwards you can be mad, but I’m still 23 points down. It doesn’t matter. We’ve got to go out here and have a good weekend and try to score a lot of points and try to get a win also.”

Earlier this week, Hamlin said: “Bubba’s (spin) this weekend was pretty obvious and obviously it hurt some people and helped others. He’s just following in everyone else’s footsteps. It’s been going on for a long time.”

Some also have questioned Joey Logano’s spin at Martinsville after he had a flat tire. Logano has denied he intentionally spun.

“At Martinsville, I had a flat tire,” Logano said Friday, repeating what he said last weekend at Texas. “Trying not to crash. Trying not to hit anything. Trying not to have your quarters torn up. Trying to live to race another day basically.”

Larson defended Logano.

“I know people have said that Joey spun out on purpose at Martinsville,” Larson said. “I don’t think he did. The tires are different there. You don’t have an inner liner like you do at Texas. It’s much easier to run on a flat at Texas than Martinsville. I don’t know if he spun out on purpose there.”

Winners and losers from Las Vegas

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WINNERS

Paul Wolfe — Great call to have Joey Logano not pit before the final restart. Of course it helped that six other cars stayed out. Still, the top two cars came down pit road and Logano, running third, stayed out and won.

Matt DiBenedettoFinishes second in his second race with the Wood Brothers.

Jimmie JohnsonScored his first top-five finish since last summer’s Daytona race.

Bubba Wallace Decision not to pit allowed him to finish sixth, giving him his best Cup finish on a 1.5-mile track.

LOSERS

Todd Gordon and Greg Ives— For every high, there is a low. Gordon apologized on the radio to Ryan Blaney for calling him to pit road while leading before the final restart. Blaney finished 11th. Ives called Bowman to pit road while running second before the final restart. Bowman finished 13th. Ives tweeted that he was “VERY frustrated with my call at the end not to game on old tires, especially in Vegas.”

19 pit crew — Martin Truex Jr.’s pit crew got him into the lead under caution after Stage 2 but he had to return to pit under that caution to tighten loose lug nuts. Said Truex after the race: “We just need to quit having mistakes on pit road.”

William ByronLined up second on the final restart but contact with Matt DiBenedetto led to a tire rub and Byron falling back before he was involved in the crash that ended race. He finished 22nd.

Ross Chastain says his finish ‘unacceptable’ in place of Newman

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He scored a 10th-place finish in the first stage and ran as high as fifth Sunday in a car he never raced before.

Ross Chastain still had a harsh evaluation of his 27th-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the No. 6 Ford, which he drove in place of an injured Ryan Newman.

Chastain finished two laps down after causing the final caution on a Lap 262 spin, which he judged “unacceptable,” along with his restart performance (“guys kind of ate me alive”) as a substitute for Roush Fenway Racing.

“It’s hard to get out of the car after you have a top-10 car, and you go and run into people and pick the wrong lanes on restarts and then spin it out at the end,” Chastain said. “That’s pretty silly. Just a lot of mistakes on my end and then at the end just overdriving and for one position to be the first car a lap down. That’s unacceptable.”

Chastain had an average running position of 16.87 over the 400-mile race, which went south after he pitted under green from 15th on Lap 217 of 267. The yellow flag flew five laps later, and Chastain took a wavearound to restart 21st.

(Photo by Will Lester/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

On the restart, he made contact with Kurt Busch and pitted under green to fix a tire rub, which left him a lap down when he spun with five laps remaining.

“There were a lot of small mistakes on my end, but I learned a ton,” he said. “The car deserved a lot better finish.  Obviously, we showed that early and I just didn’t have great restarts. I just have to be better.

“RFR and everybody puts so much into these cars, and ultimately I’m the one holding the wheel.  We had such a good first stage and had so much confidence and from there I just started making mistakes.”

Chastain, who finished 10th in Sunday night’s rain-delayed Xfinity race, will be driving the No. 6 for Roush while Newman recovers from his Daytona 500 crash. In a statement from the team Sunday morning, Newman indicated he plans to drive again this season, but no timetable has been provided for his return.

Chase Briscoe wins rain-delayed Xfinity race in Las Vegas

Chase Briscoe
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Chase Briscoe won Sunday’s rain-delayed Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, beating fellow Ford driver Austin Cindric by almost three seconds to claim his third career Xfinity win.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver led 89 laps in the race, which began late Saturday afternoon but was red flagged on Lap 51 due to rain.

Briscoe and Cindric were the only Ford drivers in the field.

Ryan Sieg placed third to earn his sixth career top-five finish and his first on a 1.5-mile track.

The top five was completed by Daytona winner Noah Gragson and Harrison Burton.

“That was really a team win,” Briscoe told Fox Sports. “We were really good, then as soon as the sun went down when we were in dirty air, we just weren’t really good. In clean air, obviously there at the end we were really good. … This is something I feel we can do all year long.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: Chase Briscoe

STAGE 2 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

More: Click here for race results.

More: Click here for the point standings.

WHAT’S NEXT: Production Alliance Group 300 at Auto Club Speedway at 4 p.m. ET Feb. 29 on FS1.

Chevy drivers positive about new Camaro body after Las Vegas

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Positive reviews are in from a few Chevrolet Cup drivers after their first race on an intermediate track with the updated Camaro ZL1 1LE body, which was introduced this year in an effort to improve the manufacturer’s performance after two lackluster seasons.

Those reviews are backed by the final results for Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

After the chaos created by a last-lap crash, six Chevrolets finished in the top 10. They were led by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Austin Dillon and Jimmie Johnson placing in the top five.

That followed Chase Elliott leading 70 laps and winning both stages before his one-car incident in the middle of the final stage.

In last year’s spring race on the 1.5-mile track, only two Chevys – Kurt Busch (fifth) and Elliott (ninth) – finished in the top 10. Three Chevy drivers combined to lead 23 of the race’s 267 laps.

“We’re trying to just understand this new Camaro body and the setup that needs to go with it,” said Johnson. “We’re close, but there’s still a little bit more work for us to do on our car to get the balance between the clean air and the traffic closer. But for the first try on a downforce track, the guys did a really nice job.”

Johnson earned his first top five since last July’s race at Daytona. He placed 19th in this race last year.

“It’s really rewarding to see,” Johnson said. “Last year when we left here, we had quite the opposite feeling and were pretty worried about what the year was going to hold for us. So, it’s really nice to have that change of perspective now. There’s a lot of Chevys up front, one of our Hendrick cars led for a while. So, we’re going the right way.”

Johnson’s teammate, Alex Bowman, was running in second when the final caution came out inside 10 laps to go. After his team chose to pit, Bowman placed 13th.

“This new Camaro, for its first time on a downforce track, I’m just really pleased with it so far,” Bowman said. “I think it’s going to be really good for us. Obviously, I’m bummed out to finish 13th after staring at a second place or a win. But it’s part of it; it’s how racing goes. We win as a team and lose as a team. It just didn’t go our way there at the end.”

Last year, Chevrolet only earned seven wins, with two coming on 1.5-mile tracks. Bowman claimed one of those at Chicagoland Speedway.

Added Bowman: “Compared to how we started the last two seasons, I think we’ve got something for them this year.”

One Chevrolet driver said it was “still early” for assessing the new bodies.

“I think the Hendrick cars were really good,” said Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson, who placed ninth. “I felt about the same as last year. So, we just have to continue to get better.”