‘Edgy’ practice session paints daunting picture at Dover

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DOVER, Del. — The Next Gen car’s Dover debut has Cup drivers on edge entering Sunday’s race.

Saturday’s practice saw five drivers crash during the day’s two 17-minute sessions: William Byron, Josh Bilicki, Tyler Reddick and rookies Todd Gilliland and Harrison Burton.

Asked if his No. 8 Chevrolet received damage following two on-track incidents, Reddick offered the most candid response.

“Oh yeah. Back bumper, the right side. I’m pretty sure I’ve wet myself in the seat a few times so we’re gonna have to put a new insert in it too,” Reddick said with a laugh. “More to come.”

Reddick may have been able to joke away some of his struggles, but the crashes justified early nerves expressed by the drivers even before they got onto the racetrack.

Last week’s winner Ross Chastain and defending series champion Kyle Larson both expressed uneasiness before hopping into their cars for practice Saturday.

“I think probably all us drivers are a little nervous before we go out for this practice session …,” Larson said. “It’s been edgy, and this place is already naturally edgy getting into the corner, so I think we could see some cars crash but it’s pretty cold and should hopefully have more grip than if it was hotter.”

Reddick spun once and later contacted the wall exiting Turn 2 while following Ty Dillon. The two-time Xfinity champion was less than pleased with his car.

“As of right now, I just need to survive the race,” Reddick said. “I mean I’m not even gonna make the end of Stage 1 the way this weekend’s been going for us.

“Something’s really, really wrong. I like things that are hard to drive, but this is beyond that.”

Byron and Bilicki suffered the hardest hits and will start Sunday’s race in backup cars. In Group A’s session, Bilicki got loose at the exit of Turn 2 and slammed into the inside wall nose-first, destroying the front of the No. 77 Chevrolet.

Byron crashed at the beginning of Group B’s session, when an overconfident drive into Turn 3 sent the No. 24 Chevrolet sideways and slamming into the Turn 3 wall. Byron took full blame for his crash but noted the aerodynamic changes from the previous car to the Next Gen car still provide a learning curve.

“This track is one of those that you rely on downforce the most. Downforce and sideforce,” Byron said. “So the fact that we have no sideforce on entry now with a symmetrical car, it’s the place where that’s going to be the biggest penalty. Not surprised that it happened, but there’s a lot of things I could’ve done to not make it happen.”

Erik Jones, who qualified 25th, fears passing will be a significant challenge Sunday.

“It’s always tough to pass here,” Jones said. “And seeing what we’ve struggled with a bit. I don’t know, hopefully we can pass. I mean I hope we can pass. I just think it’s going to be tough (Sunday) for sure with as edgy as the cars are and the way Dover’s raced the last few years, it’s going to be tough.”

Logano’s TV time no small factor

Of the 10 Xfinity Series races this season, Joey Logano has joined FOX Sports to broadcast seven. The only ones he missed were Daytona, Martinsville and Talladega.

To contribute to the television side of NASCAR has been a conscious decision for Logano, who at age 31 is already in his 14th full-time Cup season.

“It’s something I would like to do some day when I retire,” Logano said, “but I’ve got a long ways before that. Not too soon, but I enjoy doing it while I can.”

Logano is also keen on contributing to the growth of NASCAR in part of creating what he hopes is one day a Hall of Fame career.

“To me, that’s what a Hall of Famer is, right? And a goal of mine is to be in the Hall of Fame,” said Logano, the 2018 Cup champion. “I don’t believe you are a Hall of Famer if you just win races and leave. That’s just taking and not making the sport a better place than it was when you got there. That, to me, is how you define a Hall of Famer.

“Everyone has their own ways of defining what that is, but I think if you’ve found a way to make the sport better than it was when you got here for the next generation, that’s deserving.”

Toyota talks continue for Busch

One week after stirring controversy over whether he would return to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2023, Kyle Busch said he, Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota spoke further this past week.

Toyota Racing Development President David Wilson told NBC Sports last week Busch’s comments left him a “little disappointed,” but Busch indicated all parties have cleared the air.

Busch, who wore a T-shirt with the word, “clickbait,” sprawled across his chest, was asked at Talladega where he stood in contract discussions with JGR: “I’m not getting antsy about it. If it happens, it happens. If it don’t, it don’t. Goodbye.”

“It frustrates me that short comments are sometimes taken out of context,” Busch said at Dover. “I answered the questions and didn’t elaborate, and it takes elaboration to kind of fully tell a story. So you can tell the story as you want with less words.”

“Lot of stories this week,” he added, clearing his throat and gesturing to his T-shirt.

NBC will broadcast final six NASCAR Cup Series playoff races

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The final six races in the chase for the NASCAR Cup Series championship will be televised by NBC.

The races remaining on the schedule are at Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 2), the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Oct. 9), Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Oct. 16), Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 23), Martinsville Speedway (Oct. 30) and Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 6).

NBC’s broadcasting team will be on hand Sunday for what is typically a seasonal highlight — a 500-mile race at Talladega Superspeedway. The next week the playoffs move on to Charlotte for a cutoff race. The lowest four drivers in the playoff point standings will be eliminated from championship competition.

The Round of 8 is scheduled at Las Vegas, Homestead and Martinsville, with the tiny Martinsville track serving as the final cutoff race. The four drivers who advance from Martinsville will race for the title at Phoenix Nov. 6.

The high drama of the Phoenix race, in which the championship will go to the highest finisher of the four competing drivers, will be carried by both NBC and Peacock.

Post-race commentary and analysis for all six remaining Cup races will be carried on Peacock.

Kyle Larson is the series defending champion. Joey Logano carries the point lead into Sunday’s race at Talladega.

NASCAR viewer’s guide for Talladega Superspeedway

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After a messy Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs move on this weekend to another potentially messy spot — Talladega Superspeedway.

Home to the Big One — an almost certain multi-car crash, Talladega also occasionally produces unexpected winners, including Richard Brickhouse, James Hylton, Lennie Pond, Ron Bouchard and Brad Keselowski.

The mix of tight drafting, the Next Gen car and general playoff tension should make Sunday’s 500-mile run quite the adventure.

On Sunday at Texas, Tyler Reddick became the second driver (after Chase Elliott) to score three wins this season.

Joey Logano enters Talladega with the playoff point lead.

Playoff rookies roll on

The four drivers participating in the Cup playoffs for the first time remain factors approaching the second race in the second round.

Ross Chastain is second in the standings, 18 points above the cutline entering Talladega.

MORE: NBC NASCAR rankings put Denny Hamlin first

Daniel Suarez, Chastain’s Trackhouse Racing teammate, is seventh. He’s four points above the cutline.

Two other playoff rookies — Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric — will start Talladega below the cutline. Briscoe is four points below the cutline. Cindric is 11 points below the cutline.

Looking for wins

Only six of the remaining 12 playoff drivers have won races at the two remaining tracks in the second round (Talladega and Charlotte Roval).

Among the six, Joey Logano has the best win record at Talladega, having finished first there in 2015, 2016 and 2018.

Other Talladega winners in the group: Ryan Blaney (two), Denny Hamlin (two), Chase Elliott (one), Ross Chastain (one).

The Charlotte Roval is relatively new, of course, but Chase Elliott already owns two wins there. Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson also have won at the Roval.

An opening for Brad?

Few people who watched it will forget the first Cup Series victory scored by Brad Keselowski.

It occurred at this week’s tour stop — Talladega Superspeedway — in April 2009. Keselowski and Carl Edwards made contact approaching the finish line and notched the win, even as Edwards’ car flew into the frontstretch fence, spraying car parts into the grandstands.

Thirteen years later, Keselowski returns to NASCAR’s biggest track having recorded six Talladega wins. No other active drive has more than three.

Keselowski’s refurbished team — Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing — has new fire with Chris Buescher winning at Bristol and Keselowski winning the pole and finishing eighth at Texas.

RFK Racing has led 309 laps in the past two races, more than the team had led in the prior 105 races combined.

Although he hasn’t won a Cup race since scoring a victory in a Team Penske Ford in April 2021 at Talladega, Keselowski must be considered a threat Sunday.

Entry lists

Thirty-seven drivers, including Xfinity Series star Noah Gragson and reigning Xfinity champion Daniel Hemric, are entered for Sunday’s Cup race.

Talladega Cup entry list

The Xfinity entry list includes 41 drivers for 38 spots. Among those joining the series regulars are Trevor Bayne, Parker Kligerman, Timmy Hill and Jeffrey Earnhardt.

Talladega Xfinity entry list

Forty-one drivers are entered for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race. Included are Kaz Grala, Ryan Preece, Natalie Decker, Jennifer Jo Cobb and Parker Kligerman.

Talladega Truck entry list

This week’s schedule and forecast

(All times Eastern)

Friday, Sept. 30

Forecast: Partly cloudy. High of 77. (Weather note: There is the possibility that Hurricane Ian could impact the race weekend, depending on its path).

  • 3:30 – 5 p.m. — Truck Series qualifying
  • 5:30 – 7 p.m. — Xfinity Series qualifying (USA Network)

Saturday, Oct. 1

Forecast: Overcast with showers at times. Potential for heavy rainfall. High of 73. 60% chance of rain.

  • 10:30 a.m. – Noon — Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series race (94 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 4 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (113 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Oct. 2

Forecast: Sun in the morning, increasing clouds in the afternoon. Slight chance of a shower. High of 74.

  • 2 p.m. — Cup Series race (188 laps, 500 miles; NBC, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

 

 

 

 

NASCAR fines Ty Gibbs $75,000 for pit road incident at Texas

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NASCAR fined Ty Gibbs $75,000 and docked him 25 points for door-slamming Ty Dillon on pit road during last weekend’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Crew members from other teams were nearby when Gibbs hit Dillon’s car, causing it to swerve. No crew members or officials were hit.

NASCAR has made it a priority that drivers are not to cause contact that could injured crew members or officials on pit road. NASCAR also penalized Gibbs 25 Cup driver points and docked 23XI Racing 25 car owner points for the No. 23 Cup car that Gibbs drives.

NASCAR penalizes William Byron for spinning Denny Hamlin

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NASCAR has docked William Byron 25 points and fined him $50,000 for spinning Denny Hamlin under caution in last weekend’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Byron drops from third in the playoff standings to below the cutline heading into Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Chase Briscoe moves up to hold the final transfer spot with 3,041 points. Austin Cindric is the first driver outside a transfer spot with 3,034 points. Byron is next at 3,033 points.

Hendrick Motorsports was docked 25 owner points as well.

Hendrick Motorsports stated it would appeal the penalty.

The caution waved at Lap 269 for Martin Truex Jr.’s crash. As Hamlin slowed, Byron closed and hit him in the rear. 

Byron admitted after the race the contact was intentional, although he didn’t mean to wreck Hamlin. Byron was upset with how Hamlin raced him on Lap 262. Byron felt Hamlin forced him into the wall as they exited Turn 2 side-by-side. Byron expressed his displeasure during the caution.

“I felt like he ran me out of race track off of (Turn) 2 and had really hard contact with the wall,” Byron said. “Felt like the toe link was definitely bent, luckily not fully broken. We were able to continue.

“A lot of times that kind of damage is going to ruin your race, especially that hard. I totally understand running somebody close and making a little bit of contact, but that was pretty massive.”

On the retaliatory hit, Byron said: “I didn’t mean to spin him out. That definitely wasn’t what I intended to do. I meant to bump him a little bit and show my displeasure and unfortunately, it happened the way it did. Obviously, when he was spinning out, I was like ‘I didn’t mean to do this,’ but I was definitely frustrated.”

Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart argued and questioned NASCAR for not putting Hamlin back in second place — where he was before Byron hit him — and also questioned Byron not being penalized.

“I guess we can just wreck each other under caution,” Hamlin said after the race.

Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, told reporters after the race that series officials did not penalize Byron because they did not see the incident. 

“When we were in the tower, we were paying more attention to the actual cause of the caution up there and dispatching our equipment,” Miller said. “The William Byron-Denny Hamlin thing, we had no eyes on. We saw Denny go through the grass.

“By the time we got a replay that showed the incident well enough to do anything to it, we had gone back to green.”