Friday 5: How one Cup team’s playoff slogan reinforces ‘Every Point’


Seeking a rallying cry for the NASCAR Cup playoffs, Joey Logano contemplated a few ideas.

He pondered “Every Lap” and considered “Every Lug Nut” as slogans, noting how details matter in a 10-race journey scheduled to cover 3,693.4 miles.

Logano then decided on “Every Point” as the No. 22 team’s motto for the playoffs, which begin with Sunday’s Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway (6 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

“We’ve seen this come down to one point way too many times,” Logano told NBC Sports. “No matter if you’re 25th and it’s going to be one of those days – well, 25th-place points might be what we need to get. We need to get every point we can, and we cannot roll over.”

Kevin Harvick, last year’s regular-season champion, found himself one point shy of advancing to the title race when the white flag waved at the cutoff race at Martinsville. His banzai attempt to pass Kyle Busch spun both and kept Harvick from having a chance to race for the championship.

In 2018 at the Charlotte Roval, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Larson and Aric Almirola tied for the final two transfer spots to the second round. Larson, who finished 25th that day, and Almirola advanced on tiebreakers. Johnson’s title hopes ended.

Logano said the “Every Point” slogan is “a good reminder. To be honest with you, it’s as much a reminder for me as it is for (the team). When you get it and get behind it and say it enough, you kind of get into that mindset.”

But there’s also the concern about focusing too much on points inside the car and not just performing. One mistake can have significant repercussions. The difference between second and 16th place in the playoff standings this year is 22 points. That gap last year was 47 points.

Focusing too much on points is something Denny Hamlin – seeking his first Cup title in his 15th playoff appearance – once struggled with.

“Early on in my career in the playoffs, I would panic in the middle of the races thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m losing points to this guy or that guy’ when there was so much race left to be had,” Hamlin told NBC Sports.

Hamlin, seeded seventh and 10 points above the cutline entering Darlington, says he’s become better at controlling his emotions in such situations.

Logano, seeded ninth and eight points above the cutline, concedes that it’s impossible not to think about points inside the car during the playoffs.

“You’re not going to block that out,” he said. “In the week leading up to (the race), you know who you’ve got to beat and how much you’ve got to beat them by. Good luck blocking that out. If you can block that out, God Bless you. I know I’m not going to, so I might as well embrace it and make it a thing.”

2. Hendrick’s “fourth guy”

One of the intriguing playoff storylines is what to make of Hendrick Motorsports’ Alex Bowman.

Only teammate Kyle Larson has more victories this season with five. Bowman’s three wins are tied with Ryan Blaney – the hottest driver in the series with back-to-back victories entering the playoffs – and Martin Truex Jr., whose three wins in the first half of the year made him the early title favorite.

Bowman’s season also includes seven finishes of 20th or worse. He’s not had more than four top 10s in a row this year.

NASCAR Cup Series Drydene 400
While he might be easy to overlook, only one Cup driver has won more races than Alex Bowman this year. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

In a playoff format that rewards winning, consistency doesn’t have to be the main path to the title race. One of Bowman’s wins this year came at Richmond, the second stop in this opening round.

The inconsistency this season can make it easy to overlook Bowman on a team that includes Larson, Chase Elliott and William Byron

“I think that’s just how it’s going to be,” Bowman told NBC Sports. “I think I can go win the championship and still, in the media’s eyes, be ‘the fourth guy’ there. That’s fine with me. I’m not here to win a popularity contest.

“I don’t really mind it. I read what people say, and I see it. It is what it is. Last year, we had a great playoff run. I think just about everybody that was covering the sport had us going out in the first round last year and we finished sixth in the points and scored the (second) most points of everybody in the playoffs. That stuff, it is what it is.

“I feel like the biggest thing that I can do to change that is just to improve our consistency. We’re just not consistent. We’re streaky. Can be really good for a couple of weeks and then struggle. If we could ever improve on that, I think that might change a little bit.

“At the same time, I have quite possibly the most talented race car driver of our generation as a teammate (Larson). I have the most popular race car driver of our generation as a teammate (Elliott). And I have ‘Boy Wonder’ in William Byron as a teammate.

“I’m just a guy that likes to wrench on race cars, spend time at home with my dogs. I’m a very regular person. I don’t mind if the media thinks I’m fourth in line to those three because they’re all pretty special and it’s just cool to be their teammate.”

3. Paying it forward

Tyler Reddick’s entry into the playoffs makes him the second alum from Brad Keselowski Racing to have a chance at the Cup title this year.

Reddick joins Ryan Blaney. Both raced for Keselowski’s former Camping World Truck Series team in 2014 and ’15.

NASCAR Cup Series 62nd Annual Daytona 500 - Practice
Ryan Blaney drove for Brad Keselowski’s Truck Series team in 2014-15. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

“I’m finally catching up to Dale Jr.,” Keselowski told NBC Sports about having 1/8 of the playoff field come from his operation.

Both Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. got their breaks in NASCAR with Earnhardt’s operation. Truex won two titles in what is now the Xfinity Series with Earnhardt’s Chance 2 Motorsports. Keselowski drove for JR Motorsports.

“That was part of the deal to pay it back forward the way (Earnhardt) paid it to me,” Keselowski said. “Kind of realizing that dream in some ways. I suspect that when Austin (Cindric) gets to Cup, he’ll be able to do the same. I’ll get to 3/16 of the (playoff) field, which would be cool.”

The list could expand in future years if Chase Briscoe makes the playoffs. Briscoe and Cindric were the two BKR drivers in 2017, the final season for the organization.

Blaney went from Keselowski’s Truck team to running select Xfinity races for Team Penske and select Cup races for the Wood Brothers in 2015. Blaney ran a full Cup schedule for the Woods in 2016 and ’17, then joined Team Penske in 2018.

“I honestly wouldn’t be here without Brad giving me that opportunity, and it’s led to so many more doors opening,” Blaney told NBC Sports.

4. A year of tests

Aric Almirola was headed toward his worst season since 2017 before he won at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July to earn a playoff bid.

He finished 30th or worse in four of the first seven races. That left him 28th in the points after the Bristol Dirt race in late March. Almirola had only one top-10 finish in the first 16 races of the year.

In the last 10 races, Almirola has a win, two top-five finishes and nine top-20 results. He remains the only SHR driver to win a Cup race this season.

While it’s gotten better, struggles remain.

“This year tested me in a lot of ways,” Almirola told NBC Sports. “It tested me personally just with perseverance and waking up every morning with kind of a renewed sense of hope even after a bad weekend.

NASCAR Cup Series Foxwoods Resort Casino 301
Aric Almirola overcame the challenges of a difficult season to make the Cup playoffs. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

“It tested me professionally, like, ‘Man what is going on? Why is this happening? Why are we running bad? Why are we not performing at the level that I’m used to or the organization is used to?’ Just a lot of questions.

“When you start questioning yourself, it certainly takes a toll on you and tests you. And it tested my faith. I felt like for so long, my faith – I’ve kind of walked lockstep with my faith and my performance. I became a very devout Christian in 2018 and went on to have my best year ever, finishing fifth in the point standings and just had an incredible year.

“Years after, I have still had a lot of success and run really well, and this year, all that stuff wasn’t happening. I would at times find myself questioning, not my faith, but just like questioning ‘What is going on? What’s the Lord trying to show me?’ So battling that and questioning is also a form of testing.

“In many ways this year, I’ve questioned a lot of things, but I’ve always held on to a sense of hope, a sense of faith and a sense that this is all temporary. At a certain point this year, I got to a really good spot to where I realized, ‘Hey, this is all temporary. I’m not going to run bad forever. It’s temporary. I’m not going to race forever. It’s temporary.’ I don’t know if it’s going to last one more year or 10 years or whatever it is, that’s still to be seen.

“It’s all in the grand scheme of things. It’s all temporary. I got to a really good place, actually before Nashville. I felt all that testing throughout the year set me up for that win at Loudon.”

5. History repeat?

A few days before the 2011 Cup playoffs (then it was called the Chase), Tony Stewart took a sheet of paper that listed all the playoff drivers.

He marked those he thought had a chance to win the championship.

He did not include himself.

Stewart entered the playoffs winless. Ten weeks – and five wins later – he was celebrating this third championship.

What I was really frustrated about – and people didn’t really pick up on, I think, in 2011 – was I felt like there were drivers and teams that were ready for the playoffs that didn’t make the cut and had the potential to finish in the top five, and I took that spot away,” Stewart told NBC Sports. “I didn’t feel like our team was ready for it.”

Stewart won the Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway. He won the next week at New Hampshire.

“To win there at Loudon the next week, then that was like, ‘Wait, what’s going on here?’” Stewart said. “It wasn’t just a one-off win from the week before. To win back-to-back like that made us go, ‘Wait a minute, something is going on here.’”

 He won at Martinsville in the seventh race of the Chase. That moved him to second in points. He won the next week at Texas, putting more pressure on Carl Edwards, the points leader at the time.

Stewart won the season finale at Homestead, as he and Edwards finished in a tie for points (the format was different from today’s version, where the best finish in the finale wins the title). Stewart won the championship because he had more wins.

In some ways, it’s easy to spot the parallels to this season. Kevin Harvick, who drives for Stewart, is winless this season. Could this be a case of history repeating?

“I don’t know if it’s necessarily a rallying cry in the shop, ‘remembering 2011’ and go ‘Hey, we’ve done this in the past, we can do this,’” Stewart said. “We have something that we’re fighting in the shop that we can’t put our hands on (this season).

“It was like that in 2011. I’m not going to say that it’s not possible, because we’ve proven it is possible.”

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NASCAR fines Daniel Suarez $50,000 for pit road incident


NASCAR fined Daniel Suarez $50,000 for running into the cars of Alex Bowman and teammate Ross Chastain on pit road after last weekend’s race at Circuit of the Americas.

Suarez was upset after a potential top-five finish was lost in an incident in overtime.

MORE: Appeals Panel rescinds 100-point penalty to Hendrick drivers 

Suarez restarted fifth in the second overtime restart but left the inside lane open. Alex Bowman, with Ross Chastain and Chase Briscoe aligned behind, charged and got beside Suarez as they approached Turn 1.

As Bowman slowed to make the tight turn, he was hit from behind and that sent him into Suarez, who clipped the left rear of Martin Truex Jr.’s car. Truex spun in front of Suarez and blocked his path, allowing the rest of the field to drive by and costing Suarez a top-five finish. Suarez finished 27th.

Suarez spoke briefly with Bowman before having a discussion with Chastain.

“It’s uncharacteristic of Daniel,” Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “There’s no excuse for what happened.”

Appeals panel rescinds 100-point penalty to Hendrick drivers


Alex Bowman is back leading the points after the National Motorsports Appeals Panel rescinded the 100-point penalty to each Hendrick Motorsports driver and team Wednesday. The Appeals Panel also rescinded the 10-point playoff to each Hendrick driver and team.

The Appeals Panel found that Hendrick violated the rule by modifying the hood louvers on the cars of Bowman, William Byron, Kyle Larson and Josh Berry at Phoenix. The louvers were taken after practice that weekend.

The Appeals Panel kept the $100,000 fine and four-race suspension to each Hendrick crew chief: Cliff Daniels, Alan Gustafson, Blake Harris and Rudy Fugle. All four sat out the past two races, meaning they’ll miss this weekend’s race at Richmond and next weekend’s race on the dirt at Bristol before returning the following weekend at Martinsville.

The Appeals Panel did not give a reason for its decision.

Bowman had been 16th in the standings with the 100-point penalty. He now has a 15-point lead on Ross Chastain after getting all those points back.

Byron goes from 22nd to third after getting his points back. He’s 29 points behind Bowman, 14 points behind Chastain and five points ahead of Kyle Busch. Byron also gets his 10 playoff points back for his wins at Las Vegas and Phoenix.

Larson goes from 27th to ninth with getting his points back.

“We are grateful to the National Motorsports Appeals Panel for their time and attention,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, in a statement. “Today’s outcome reflects the facts, and we’re pleased the panel did the right thing by overturning the points penalty. It validated our concerns regarding unclear communication and other issues we raised. We look forward to focusing on the rest of our season, beginning with this weekend’s race at Richmond (Raceway).”

NASCAR stated its displeasure with part of the penalty being rescinded.

“We are pleased that the National Motorsports Appeals Panel agreed that Hendrick Motorsports violated the rule book. However, we are disappointed that the entirety of the penalty was not upheld. A points penalty is a strong deterrent that is necessary to govern the garage following rule book violations, and we believe that it was an important part of the penalty in this case and moving forward. We will continue to inspect and officiate the NASCAR garage at the highest level of scrutiny to ensure a fair and level playing field for our fans and the entire garage.”

The panelists on the appeal were former driver Bill Lester, Kelly Housby and Dixon Johnston.

Here is the updated points

1. Alex Bowman       226 points

2. Ross Chastain      211

3. William Byron       197

4. Kyle Busch           192

5. Joey Logano        186

6. Kevin Harvick       186

7. Christopher Bell   184

8. Ryan Blaney         177

9. Kyle Larson          170

10. Austin Cindric     166

11. Martin Truex Jr.   165

12. Brad Keselowski 162

13. Tyler Reddick       161

14. Denny Hamlin      161

15. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 159

16. Chris Buescher     157

17. Daniel Suárez        144

18. Corey LaJoie         139

19. Michael McDowell 125

20. Ty Gibbs                 118

21. Bubba Wallace      103

22. AJ Allmendinger    103

23. Erik Jones                99

24. Chase Briscoe         96

25. Todd Gilliland          95

26. Austin Dillon            93

27. Noah Gragson        86

28. Aric Almirola            70

29. Ryan Preece           69

30. Harrison Burton      66

Drivers to watch in NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway


The NASCAR Cup Series’ first short track points race of the season is scheduled Sunday at Richmond Raceway, a presence on the NASCAR schedule since 1953.

Tyler Reddick is coming off his first win of the season last Sunday at Circuit of the Americas. He gave Toyota its first victory of the year.

MORE: William Byron is No. 1 in NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

The Richmond race is the first of three consecutive events on short tracks. The series will race on the dirt surface at Bristol Motor Speedway April 9 and the Martinsville Speedway half-mile April 16.

A look at drivers to watch Sunday at Richmond:


Tyler Reddick

  • Points position: 13th
  • Best seasonal finish: 1st (COTA)
  • Past at Richmond: No finish better than 11th in five career starts

Reddick showed the promise of what could be a strong season by dominating Sunday’s race at COTA. His victory boosted him five spots in points to 10th. Richmond, a track where he has never led a lap, will be a test.

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Best seasonal finish: 1st (Las Vegas 1, Phoenix 1)
  • Past at Richmond: Led 122 laps in April race last year

Byron had a top car in this race last season but was passed by Denny Hamlin for the win with five laps remaining. Byron finished third, his career-best run at Richmond.

Denny Hamlin

  • Points position: 14th
  • Best seasonal finish: 6th (Auto Club, Atlanta 1)
  • Past at Richmond: Four consecutive top-four runs, including a win

Hamlin can be counted on to challenge for the win every time the tour rolls into Richmond. He has won there in 2009, ’10, ’16 and ’22.


Daniel Suarez

  • Points position: 17th
  • Best seasonal finish: 4th (Auto Club)
  • Past at Richmond: Best career finish is 7th

After opening the season with top-10 runs at Daytona, Fontana and Las Vegas, Saurez has plummeted into the 20s in three consecutive races. Richmond will present another big challenge. Suarez has five consecutive finishes of 16th or worse there.

Ryan Preece

  • Points position: 29th
  • Best seasonal finish: 12th (Phoenix 1)
  • Past at Richmond: Top finish of 20th in five career starts

Preece’s first full-time season in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 has started poorly. He has been sidelined by accidents in three races and was more upset than most after being parked by a multi-car crash Sunday at COTA.

Alex Bowman

  • Points position: 1st
  • Best seasonal finish: 3rd (Las Vegas 1, COTA)
  • Past at Richmond: Three top 10s, including a win, in past five races

Bowman seems poised to score his first victory of the season. He has been among the tour’s most consistent drivers to date, with five top-10 finishes in six races.




What takes place in a NASCAR appeal hearing? Here’s a look


Hendrick Motorsports is scheduled to have its appeal hearing at 10 a.m. ET Wednesday.

So what will happen in the appeal hearing? Here is a look at the process, based on the NASCAR Cup Rule Book.

NASCAR penalized Hendrick Motorsports for modifications to hood louvers. Those penalties were:

  • Docked Alex BowmanKyle Larson and William Byron 100 points and 10 playoff points each.
  • Suspended crew chiefs Cliff Daniels, Alan Gustafson, Rudy Fugle and Blake Harris four races each and fined each $100,000.
  • Penalized each of the four Hendrick teams 100 owner points and 10 playoff points.

Before the appeal hearing starts, both sides — in this case, Hendrick Motorsports and NASCAR — must file a written summary presenting their case before the hearing.

The summary must not be longer than two single-spaced pages. Any attachments or appendices either side intends to present during the hearing must be included. Such attachments or appendices may include, but are not limited to, video, written statements, diagrams, photographs and charts.

The summary is to be filed by 5 p.m. ET two days before the beginning of the hearing. The summary shall be confidential and not released to the public. The Cup Rule Book says that releasing the summary to the public “may result in a penalty.”

The appeal will be heard by three members. They will come from a pool of panelists. The Cup Rule Book lists 19 panelists. That group includes former drivers Mike Skinner, Lake Speed, Bill Lester, Shawna Robinson and Lyn St. James, along with others in various roles in motorsports.

The Cup Rule Book states that “in seating an Appeals Panel, the Administrator shall take into consideration the panelists’ availability, background, professional experience and knowledge.”

The Cup Rule Book states “the burden rests on NASCAR to show that it is more likely than not that a violation … has occurred, and that the Penalty Notice issued is within the guidelines of the NASCAR Rules.”

Both parties are allowed in the hearing room while each side presents evidence. NASCAR goes first.

After both sides finish, there is a break before an optional rebuttal period. NASCAR has the chance to go first, followed by those appealing.

Once that is complete, NASCAR is permitted one last opportunity to “argue, explain, or present rebuttal on the facts and violation” to the appeal panel since NASCAR carries the burden of proof.

The appeal panelists may ask questions to either group or any witnesses at any time during the hearing.

Decisions by the three-member National Motorsports Appeals Panel do not need to be unanimous.

The National Motorsports Appeals Panel can affirm the penalty or adjust it. The panel can rescind some or all of the penalties or increase any or all penalties.

When NASCAR penalized William Byron 25 points and fined him $50,000 for spinning Hamlin during a caution in last year’s playoff race at Texas, Hendrick Motorsports appealed. The National Motorsports Appeals Panel rescinded the 25-point penalty but increased his fine to $100,000. NASCAR amended its rule book after the panel’s decision.

NASCAR does not have the option to appeal the panel’s decision. Those who filed the appeal can further appeal the panel’s decision to the Final Appeal Officer. That decision can’t be appealed.

Kaulig Racing and Denny Hamlin each will go through this process when their appeals are heard. Kaulig Racing’s appeal is April 5 for modifications to a hood louver. Hamlin’s appeal is April 6 for intentionally wrecking Ross Chastain on the last lap of the Phoenix race.