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All-Star Race features longer final stage, technical changes

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The Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race will feature a longer final stage for $1 million and some technical changes that could be implemented in the Gen 7 car.

NASCAR announced the technical guidelines and race format Wednesday night.

The two technical changes for the May 18 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway will be:

# A single-piece carbon fiber splitter/pan that is expected to offer improvements in ride height sensitivity for drivers. This is expected to provide a more stable aero platform and create more consistent performance in traffic.

# The car will be configured with a radiator duct that exits through the hood as opposed to the current design, which exits into the engine component. This feature is expected to create improved aerodynamic parity and reduce engine temperatures.

“Throughout its history, the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race has provided a platform to try new and innovative ideas, some of which we have incorporated on a full-time basis,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “Last year’s all-star rules package resulted in one of the most exciting all-star races in history. With a similar package, and added elements that we could see in the next generation race car, we expect another must-watch event.”

The format for the race is similar to last year with the exception of the final stage. That stage will be 15 laps — five laps longer than last year’s race. That will make the race 85 laps total.

The first stage will be 30 laps and the next two stages will be 20 laps each. Green flag and yellow flag laps will count in the first three stages. Only green flag laps will count in the final stage.

Each stage must end under green. Overtime procedures will be in place for each stage. If the race is restarted with two laps or less in the final stage, there will be unlimited attempts at a green, white, checkered finish.

As was the case last year, there is no mandatory pit strategy.

The Monster Energy Open, which also will be held May 18, will be three stages. The first two stages will be 20 laps. The final stage will be 10 laps. That is the same as last year.

Each stage winner in the Monster Energy Open advances to the All-Star Race.

Those eligible for the All-Star Race are winners from last season and this season, previous all-star winners who are competing full-time in the series, Cup champions who are running full-time in the series, the three stage winners from the Monster Energy Open and the winner of the fan vote, which is underway at nascar.com/fanvote.

Drivers who are eligible to compete are:

Aric Almirola

Ryan Blaney

Clint Bowyer

Kurt Busch

Kyle Busch

Austin Dillon

Chase Elliott

Denny Hamlin

Kevin Harvick

Jimmie Johnson

Erik Jones

Brad Keselowski

Joey Logano

Ryan Newman

Martin Truex Jr.

Kevin Harvick won last year’s All-Star Race. Alex Bowman, Daniel Suarez and AJ Allmendinger advanced to last year’s All-Star Race by winning a stage in the Open. Chase Elliott was the fan vote winner.

Also, the format for All-Star qualifying will remain the same. Qualifying will include a pit stop.

Weekend passes for the All-Star Race are $79 per person and include admission to the May 17 Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Charlotte, All-Star qualifying, the Monster Energy Open on May 18 and the All-Star Race after that. Kids 13 and under get in free on May 17 and for $10 with an adult purchase on May 18. For more ticket information, call 1-800-455-FANS or visit CharlotteMotorSpeedway.com.

 

Bump & Run: What should NASCAR do about inspection violations before race?

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Eight of 37 cars failed inspection before the Richmond Cup race and lost their starting spot. Is there a better way for NASCAR to handle such infractions to limit talk before a race being about penalties?

Nate Ryan: There has to be a solution, and whatever it is, NASCAR needs to implement it quickly. Switching from headlines about woes in postrace inspection to woes in prerace inspection is an improvement, but the preferred solution should be no headlines about inspection at all. 

Dustin Long: Until NASCAR figures out a way to do things differently, inspection failures will dominate talk before a race, especially if it involves more than 20% of the field as it did at Richmond.

Daniel McFadin: Unless you change the penalties for failing inspection (again), the cars will fail regardless of if you hold qualifying inspection right after qualifying or on race day. Only real solution I can think of is to have inspection before qualifying and for that to be the only inspection until after the race. That would just continue the endless cycle we seem to be in on the issue.

Jerry Bonkowski: It’s just the nature of the beast, particularly when you have such a large number of cars that failed pre-race inspection. The larger the number of cars penalized, the greater the attention that is placed upon the situation by the media. Perhaps more attention should be focused on what NASCAR could do to improve and streamline the overall inspection process. And if it has to swing the pendulum even further, increase penalties to keep crew chiefs from playing games with their cars. Kick out the crew chief from the race, or perhaps hold the car for the first five laps of the race. That will change things in a hurry.

NASCAR tried another format for Cup qualifying at Richmond, limiting each round to five minutes. Should this be the format at most tracks the rest of the season?

Nate Ryan: Makes no difference here as long as the focus is on qualifying results and whoever won the pole position, not on the process for getting there. 

Dustin Long: Whatever it does, NASCAR needs to get out of this rabbit hole soon.

Daniel McFadin: I’m 50/50 on this. I’d prefer the first round being 10 minutes at anything larger than 1 mile, which allows teams to make more than one run – but that’s based on the premise drivers won’t wait until the final minute to make their first.

Jerry Bonkowski: Five minutes works fine on short tracks. Not so much on longer tracks of 1.5 miles and greater. That’s why I believe open qualifying should be replaced by having two to four cars (depending on the size of the racetrack) go out at a time for two or three qualifying laps. This creates attention and a kind of race-within-qualifying excitement among fans to see which driver can “beat” the other drivers, so to speak.

There’s been a lot of talk about what Joe Gibbs Racing will do with its Cup lineup for next year with Christopher Bell’s continued success in Xfinity, but Cole Custer has won twice for Stewart-Haas Racing in Xfinity. What kind of dilemma could SHR face with its driver lineup for 2020?

Nate Ryan: With no disrespect to Cole Custer, he has yet to show he is in Christopher Bell’s league, nor is there the external pressure of a huge investment in his development to avoid letting a coveted prospect escape (as is the case with the millions Toyota Racing Development has spent on grooming Bell). Because Custer is related to the SHR executive Joe Custer and effectively sponsored by team owner Gene Haas, the dynamics are incomparable. If Custer shows enough promise for promotion, the team probably could make room in Cup next season, but there is no sense of urgency as exists with Bell.

Dustin Long: Gene Haas said last year that Cole Custer needed to win more often. If Custer continues to do so, it will make him a more inviting driver for a team, whether that is SHR or another Ford operation.

Daniel McFadin: Cole Custer is already in his third full-time Xfinity season, which makes him middle-aged in Xfinity driver years. While we’re not privy to driver contract lengths, Kevin Harvick is locked in to at least 2021, Daniel Suarez is in his first and Aric Almirola continues to be strong in his second year. Clint Bowyer probably has the biggest question mark being in his third year with the team. Gene Haas will have to decide who’s a better long-term investment: A 39-year-old Bowyer or a 21-year-old Custer. Bowyer grabbing some wins this year could complicate that.

Jerry Bonkowski: One potential option could be embedding Bell with another Toyota team such as Leavine Family Racing in 2020, like when Erik Jones was with Furniture Row Racing in 2017. I think you’ll see a similar embed of Custer with another Ford team, perhaps Front Row Motorsports. Or, because Custer’s father, Joe, is a top executive at SHR, it would not surprise me to see Daniel Suarez shifted to another Ford team to make way for the younger Custer at SHR.

The IndyCar race at Long Beach ended with series officials penalizing Graham Rahal one spot for blocking Scott Dixon on the last lap. Should blocking be a penalty in NASCAR?

Nate Ryan: No. Different series, different cars, different tracks.

Dustin Long: Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo. Don’t need any more judgment calls for NASCAR to make.

Daniel McFadin: Heck no. As much as Tony Stewart may have despised it, blocking is a racing maneuver. If a driver doesn’t like it, just show your displeasure with a love tap to the rear bumper.

Jerry Bonkowski: Yes, particularly if it puts the driver being blocked and other trailing drivers at risk of crashing. I’ve long felt that egregious blocking should be penalized. But if that were to happen, it could open a Pandora’s Box of additional issues, such as bump-and-run moving an opponent out of the way. How would NASCAR draw the line between egregious blocking/bumping and legitimate blocking/bumping?

Jimmie Johnson ran in Monday’s Boston Marathon. What is another event you’d like to see a NASCAR driver attempt to take part in someday?

Nate Ryan: Denny Hamlin in a PGA Tour event and paired with Michael Jordan.

Dustin Long: Kyle Larson as a bobsled driver. Also, Denny Hamlin in a PGA Tour event.

Daniel McFadin: Since Ryan Newman is sponsored by Oscar Mayer, he should enter the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on July 4.

Jerry Bonkowski: The Baja 1000 is the first one that comes to mind. That, to me, is the most grueling combination of man and machine. I’d also like to see more NASCAR drivers try their luck in the Indianapolis 500 and, conversely, do “the double” by racing later that same day in the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte. Lastly, although it would be difficult due to the Cup schedule, I’d also like to see some of the best golfers among Cup drivers try their luck at The Masters.

What Drivers Said after Richmond

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Here’s what drivers had to say after Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway:

Martin Truex Jr. – Winner: “I’m really excited to win here at Richmond. I’ve always really enjoyed this track. I’ve always loved coming here. The short track win – everybody kept asking me when it was going to happen. Tonight we didn’t have the best car, but we’ve lost here with the best car a bunch of times. We just fought, we battled. … (On Logano getting close late in the race) I was struggling the last 40 laps. I had no front turn. I was just real, real tight in that last run. You just had to hold them off. Being out front was important tonight.

“Thanks to the pit crew, they kept us out there. They had a tough year and a tough week last week. We beat up on them pretty good all week after Bristol and they had the best stop of the year tonight. Just really proud of everyone. Really, really happy to get our first win with (Joe) Gibbs and definitely our first short track win is pretty awesome too. … (How difficult was it late in the race) It’s like driving in the snow and trying to hit a line of six to eight inches in the center of the corner. It’s just – it’s lack of grip. The car wasn’t doing anything I wanted to do that last run. We got really, really tight. Being out front was really the key and trying to do all I could to not screw up and hold those guys off. It was definitely really, really difficult.”

Joey Logano – finished second: “We had a car that was capable of winning for the third week straight and we didn’t win. That part is frustrating. We need to clean up some mistakes on our end. We lost the lead there on a pit stop. We gotta get faster there. That is when we lost control of the race at that point and fell back to third and had a decent green-flag cycle that got us up and then we reeled in (Truex) and (Clint Bowyer) from pretty far back. I was watching them race and thought that if I was just patient and saved my tires, I saw them coming off the corner sideways every time. They were a little faster than me but I knew they were going to kill their stuff and they did. I got there, I was just a couple laps late getting there. I was able to get to (Truex) but it just wasn’t enough. It is kind of a double-edged sword. You go to the bottom and you can’t get the drive to clear ‘em and getting to the outside is pretty tough. Just couldn’t get there. Ran out of time. Needed a few more laps.”

MORE: Results, standings from Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond

CLINT BOWYER – finished third: “This place is a challenging race track. I got to him and couldn’t keep the nose with the air on it and it got really tight. As I continued running in his wake, I got tighter and tighter, and all of a sudden Joey ran us down. Next thing you know, he’s on the outside of you and the rest is history. I don’t know what I could have done any different. All-in-all, it was a good day for us. But man, you hate to get that close. I want to get to victory lane and thought this was our night but I guess we’ll have to wait ’till next time.”

Kevin Harvick – finished fourth: “I like nights like this when we can take a car that is a seventh to ninth place car and adjust on it and make it so it is capable of contending at the end. We ran those guys down but we just ran out of time. I am proud of everyone on our Mobil 1 Ford for hanging in there and fighting and we had another good night on pit road. It was a solid night.”

Denny Hamlin – finished fifth: We really closed on the leaders there at the end. We were fast, really fast the last 20 laps. We just didn’t have enough time. We battled from the back and really couldn’t gain a whole lot on restarts, but just really grinded our way two or three positions each run and found our way up in the top five there at the end. I could at least see the leaders. Certainly a great day for our FedEx Camry. We wanted to win but we just didn’t have the winning car. We would have liked to have tuned it during happy hour, we just didn’t have enough time. I think we maximized what we had out of our car. We just didn’t quite have the car to battle with those guys until late in the day and by then they had just built too big of a lead.”

Austin Dillon – finished sixth: “We had a meeting on Monday and talked about what we needed to do here at Richmond Raceway as a team and then we came here and we did it, so I am really proud of everyone on this Richard Childress Racing team. We had a really fast AAA Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 tonight, especially during the last run. I think we actually had a little something for at least the top three spots. We had a little bit of a mess-up on our last pit stop and lost some track position, but we passed some good cars there at the end, including Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski. I’m really proud of the AAA team. I just wish we could have been a little further forward to see what we had. I saved a lot of my stuff for the end and was ready for that last run. But, we didn’t have enough. I’m definitely excited about the direction our team is going. It’s always good to go into the off weekend with a solid, top-10 finish.” 

BRAD KESELOWSKI – finished seventh: “We had a lot of short run speed and unfortunately it came down to long runs at the end. Overall, it wasn’t a bad day. It was good. We needed the race to come to us with short runs at the end and it didn’t. I like short tracks, I think they are a lot of fun. It is hard to pass, but that is racing, that is how it is going to be. I can’t see the whole picture, I am only in the car. I know we cycled back, but I couldn’t tell you why.”

Ryan Newman – finished ninth: “Our Roush Performance Ford Mustang was good. We needed some track position to start and I think we could have done something with it. We had good lap times at points but just battled track positioning. We got blocked in on the first pit stop and set us back even farther than when we started. I am proud of the guys. They did a good job in the pits and we had a good car.”

Paul Menard – finished 10th: “It was kind of an uneventful night really, for Richmond. We started ninth and just kind of stayed in the back half of the top 10 all night long. The guys really stepped up their game on pit road and we gained some spots or we maintained and that is what you need when you start running up front. It was a really solid day for us.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – finished 16th: “We tried all kinds of adjustments but unfortunately they didn’t help my Fifth Third Ford,” Stenhouse said. “Our teammate had a strong run so we will look at his notes and see what we can improve on. We have an off weekend coming up so we can regroup and get ready for Talladega.”

Daniel Suarez – finished 18th: “We had a difficult race tonight, especially after my mistake on pit road. Our Haas Automation Ford Mustang was very good early in the race during the long green-flag run, but we couldn’t make the adjustments to stay that way until the end. It was tough to get through traffic and get spots back after we went down a lap. We learned a lot and we have a good team, so we will come back later this year and be better.”

Daniel Hemric – finished 19th: “Coming out of Richmond with a top-20 finish? We’ll take it. This No. 8 team is focused on putting one foot in front of the other. It’s great to have a group of guys that haven’t given up on me. We didn’t finish exactly where we wanted, but we definitely out-kicked our coverage from the positions we’ve put ourselves in over the last few weeks. We’ll take it and hopefully it’s a building moment for everyone on this No. 8 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet team. I still love racing at Richmond and I feel like I know what I need when we come here in the Fall to contend and run where our teammate Austin Dillon was tonight. Those guys had good speed all weekend, so hopefully we can trend a little bit in that direction and build on it.”

Kyle Larson – finished 37th: “It’s been a pretty crappy start to the year. We’ve had decent speed. We didn’t have great speed tonight, but on the weeks that we have speed, we still run into issues. I hate the start to the season I’ve had. On that restart, I got stuck in the middle. I probably squeezed whoever was underneath me and caused some tire damage and we had to pit to fix that. But they didn’t do a good job of pulling the fenders out and then I got a flat and was back in the wall. But, hopefully this break is a good time and we can re-group. I hate it for McDonald’s and Chevrolet and everybody on our team.”

By Jerry Bonkowski

Updated Cup starting lineup for tonight’s race at Richmond

Photo: Dustin Long
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RICHMOND, Va. – Kevin Harvick will still start on the pole but four cars that were to start in the top 10 will move to rear after failing inspection Saturday at Richmond Raceway.

Eight of the 37 cars in the field failed inspection on the first attempt and lost their starting spot.

Erik Jones was to have started second before his car failed to pass inspection. Others who lost top-10 starting spots were Chase Elliott (was to have started seventh), Daniel Suarez (ninth) and Jimmie Johnson (10th).

Click here for updated Cup starting lineup

Four cars in top 10 in qualifying fail inspection, will start at rear

Photo: Dustin Long
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RICHMOND, Va. – Four cars in the top 10 and eight total failed inspection Saturday and will start at the rear for Saturday night’s Cup race at Richmond Raceway.

Erik Jones, Chase Elliott, Daniel Suarez and Jimmie Johnson all were to have started in the top 10 before their cars failed inspection once.

Jones was to have started second. Elliott was to have started seventh. Suarez was to have started ninth. Johnson was to have started 10th.

Also failing inspection on the first attempt were the cars of Aric Almirola (was to have started 15th), Denny Hamlin (18th), Matt Tifft (20th) and Joey Gase (36th).

The cars of Elliott, Hamlin and Tifft each failed a second time. Each team had an engineer ejected.

With Jones failing inspection, Kurt Busch will move up to second and start on the front row next to Kevin Harvick.

The top 10 in the starting lineup will now be

1st – Kevin Harvick

2nd –  Kurt Busch

3rd – Joey Logano

4th – Kyle Busch

5th – Martin Truex Jr.

6th – Austin Dillon

7th – Chris Buescher

8th – Brad Keselowski

9th – Paul Menard

10th – Kyle Larson

Each of the cars that failed inspection also give up their spot in picking pit stalls and will pick after those who passed inspection.

Inspection is continuing at the track. Check back for more updates.