JJ Yeley

A streak worth celebrating, but just don’t talk about it

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To know the information is one thing. To share it is another. But to reveal the fact to the driver it pertains to is to invite the potential for scorn even though that fact is quite an achievement.

“Oh thanks, I appreciate that,” Kevin Harvick says in jest after being told he has gone more than one year since his last speeding penalty in a Cup race.

Mind you, he was told that two days before last weekend’s Texas race, which he won to clinch a spot in the Nov. 17 championship race in Miami.

So it was understandable with all that was at stake, being informed about his perfect streak on pit road — where drivers toe the line on being too fast — might make a driver uneasy.

But Harvick’s run of 38 consecutive races without a pit road speeding penalty isn’t the longest streak in the series. Fellow playoff driver Joey Logano has gone 69 races, dating to last year’s Daytona 500 without speeding on pit road in a Cup race.

Told of his achievement, he jokingly looks to knock on wood and laughs. Logano often laughs, sometimes at himself, sometimes as a reflex and sometimes because it is just good to be him, the reigning series champion. 

“Maybe it means I’m not pushing hard enough,” Logano says, laughing.

What Logano and Harvick have done is remarkable in a series where a hundredth of a second matters and going too fast on pit road can prove costly. The only other full-time Cup driver without a pit road speeding penalty this season is Chris Buescher. He has gone 65 races since being penalized for speeding at Auto Club Speedway in March 2018.

A pit road speeding penalty this weekend at ISM Raceway could impact who makes the championship race in Miami. Six drivers are contending for the final two spots. One mistake could end a driver’s title hopes.

Last year’s Cup playoff race at ISM Raceway had 10 pit road speeding penalties — including one by Chase Elliott, whose infraction came while leading with about a quarter of the 312-lap race left. The penalty played a role in his playoff elimination.

“You can’t come down pit road leading the race and speed and expect to race for a championship the next week,” Elliott said after that race.

Elliott has been better at watching his speed. He last had a pit road speeding penalty in the Coca-Cola 600 in May, a stretch of 21 races. Or think it about it this way — it’s one race longer than Kyle Busch’s winless streak.

Busch has the most pit road speeding penalties among the eight remaining playoff drivers. He’s been caught six times, including the Dover playoff race.

“I’ll bet you all the money in the world that I can go a whole year without speeding on pit road if you want to make that bet,” Busch says.

No bet is taken.

“It’s all about where your tolerances are set,” Busch says of the series of lights on the car’s dash that is tied to RPMs, which is how teams measure their speed because their cars don’t have a speedometer as passenger vehicles do. “You have that tachometer that we all work off of and our lights and everything else … that we set our pit road speeds to. Some guys’ tolerances are way tighter and closer to that limit than others. It’s just a matter of it.

“There’s a sheet that we get every week that gives us a rundown of pit road speeds and guys on pit road and how fast they are and all of that sort of stuff. The 18 car, we’ve been No. 1 on that sheet for the past four years. We will keep doing what we do and continue to be No. 1 on that sheet. Sometimes, we will have to pay that price with a speeding penalty, and you just have to know when you have to back it down a little.”

All teams get that weekly report card on their time driving on pit road, giving competitors a sense of how fast or slow they are compared to the field.

Michael McDowell, who has been penalized seven times for speeding on pit road this year, says that data is meaningful.

“All of us analyze this on Monday, and you get a ranking,” he says. “I don’t want to be 30th on pit road. I want to be top 10 on pit road every week. I don’t want to leave anything on the table, and neither does anyone else.”

Still, a speeding penalty can set a driver back and ruin their day, so why risk it?

“I think that it is a challenge on pit road to not leave anything on the table,” McDowell says. “That is what everybody is doing. You’re pushing as hard as you can to not lose half a second on pit road. The reason I’ve had more penalties than most is I push it really hard. I try to get as much as I can, and sometimes you overstep it.”

The reverberations of even one pit road speeding penalty can be felt months later. Kyle Larson knows.

He was leading at Atlanta in February when he was caught speeding two-thirds of the way through the race. He never recovered and finished 12th.

Say he hadn’t had that penalty and gone to win, he would have collected five playoff points. He enters Sunday’s race at ISM Raceway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC) 23 points out of the final transfer spot. As Logano noted earlier in the playoffs, every point matters.

And every moment on pit road matters.

“If you lose focus for a second trying to launch out of your stall or you don’t get slowed down enough coming in, it’s very easy to step over and be a thousandth of a mile an hour over the speed limit or a hundredth and get popped for speeding,” says Larson, who has had only one other speeding penalty this year. “I try not to push it. I’d say I’m on the slower end.”

That Harvick, Logano and Buescher have gone all season without a speeding penalty is remarkable considering all that takes place on pit road.

Drivers watch their dashes, making sure they don’t go over the speed limit as cars pull in or pull out of pit stalls around them. Add to it that the easiest place to pass cars often can be pit road, and the pressure to not lose any time increases.

“As you look at it, I feel like it is one of the reasons our team is still in it,” Harvick says of not having a pit road speeding penalty this year. “I don’t feel like we have had that knockout speed that the (Joe Gibbs Racing) cars have had on a week-to-week basis. We have had it a few times and been able to capitalize on that, but I feel like we have done a good job minimizing the mistakes.

“Hopefully, you don’t jinx us.”

Logano credits his team for keeping him from speeding on pit road.

“When you look at pit road and drivers that get penalties more often than others, it’s not just the driver in this case,” he says. “In some cases, it is. In other cases, if the team doesn’t calculate the lights the right way, you’re going to get a pit road speeding penalty.

“As long as you’re in tune with what your team is doing, and they’re in tune with how you’re going to run down pit road, you can maximize it and not go over. You got to be cautious, but you got to push it.”

Sunday night, after Harvick had crossed the finish line first, celebrated in victory lane and came to the media center, he found the person who had asked him earlier that weekend about not having a pit road speeding penalty.

“Yes … we made it through the whole night without having a speeding penalty, so I don’t have to find you this next week to … we didn’t have a speeding penalty,” Harvick said with a smile, “so you’re off the hook.”

Of course, two races remain. Two more chances to make a mistake, and if it happens in Miami, it could cost a driver the championship.

 

Here is a list of the playoff drivers and their last speeding penalty:
Driver Date Track
Joey Logano 2/18/18 Daytona
Kevin Harvick 10/21/18 Kansas
Chase Elliott 5/26/19 Charlotte
Kyle Larson 8/11/19 Michigan
Kyle Busch 10/6/19 Dover
Denny Hamlin 10/13/19 Talladega
Martin Truex Jr. 10/13/19 Talladega
Ryan Blaney 10/13/19 Talladega

Racing Insights 

 

Drivers with the most pit road speeding penalties this season:
7 – Ty Dillon
7 – Michael McDowell
6 – Kyle Busch
4 – Denny Hamlin
4 – Martin Truex Jr.
4 – JJ Yeley
3 – Ryan Blaney
Racing Insights 

NASCAR entry lists for Martinsville

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Eight drivers remain in the playoffs for Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway.

In addition to the Cup Series, the Gander Outdoors Truck Series is also in action this weekend at Martinsville, on Saturday. The Xfinity Series is off this weekend.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for both series:

Cup – First Data 500 (3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN)

There are 38 cars entered.

One car does not have a driver listed yet on the entry list: The No. 52 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet.

JJ Yeley is in the No. 53 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet. B.J. McLeod will be in the No. 51.

Joey Logano won this race last fall. Denny Hamlin finished second and Martin Truex Jr. was third.

In this year’s spring race, Brad Keselowski won, followed by Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch.

Click here for the entry list.

Trucks – NASCAR Hall of Fame 200 (1:30 p.m. ET Saturday on FS1)

There are 32 Trucks entered in the middle race of the Round of 6 of the Truck playoffs.

One Truck does not have a driver listed yet: The No. 0 Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing Chevrolet.

Tanner Gray, who won the 2018 NHRA Pro Stock championship, makes his Truck Series debut in the No. 15 DGR-Crosley Toyota.

Sam Mayer makes his second start of the season in the No. 21 GMS Racing Chevrolet.

Danny Bohn makes his first career Truck Series start in the No. 30 On Point Motorsports Toyota.

Carson Ware makes his first career Truck Series start in the No. 33 Reaume Brothers Racing Chevrolet.

Dawson Cram makes his first Truck Series start of the season and fourth of his career in the No. 34 Reaume Brothers Racing Toyota.

Jeb Burton makes his second Truck Series start of the season in the No. 44 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet.

Also, one week after clinching the ARCA championship, Christian Eckes will make his seventh Truck start of the season, once again piloting the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota.

Johnny Sauter won this race last fall. Brett Moffitt was second and Myatt Snider was third.

Kyle Busch won this year’s spring race, followed by Ben Rhodes and Brett Moffitt.

Click here for the entry list.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Updated entry lists for Dover playoff races

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Like a heavyweight championship fight, we’re ready for Round 2 of the NASCAR Cup playoffs.

After four of the 16 Cup playoff contenders were eliminated following the Roval race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Sunday’s race at Dover International Speedway kicks off the Round of 12.

Meanwhile, the elimination race in the first round of the Xfinity Series playoffs will be held Saturday at Dover.

The Gander Outdoors Truck Series is off until Oct. 12 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for this weekend:

Cup – Drydene 400 (2:30 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN)

There are 38 cars entered.

Joe Nemechek will start his fourth race of the season in the No. 27 Premium Motorsports Chevrolet.

Garrett Smithley is listed for the No. 54 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet.

B.J. McLeod is back in the No. 51 Rick Ware Racing Ford, while JJ Yeley is back in the No. 52 Rick Ware Racing Ford.

Chase Elliott won this race last year. Denny Hamlin finished second and Joey Logano was third. Martin Truex Jr. won there on May 6, followed by Alex Bowman and Kyle Larson.

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity – Use Your Melon Drive Sober 200 (3 p.m. Saturday on NBCSN)

There are 38 cars entered.

Harrison Burton makes his sixth start of the season in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

Bayley Currey makes his 10th start of the season, but just the second in the No. 38 Chevrolet for RSS Racing.

Stefan Parsons makes his fifth start of the season in the No. 99 B.J. McLeod Motorsports Toyota.

Mike Harmon listed on the preliminary entry list for the No. 74 Mike Harmon Racing Chevrolet.

Christopher Bell has won the last two Xfinity races at Dover. Cole Custer and Justin Allgaier finished second and third in last fall’s playoff race, while Allgaier and Tyler Reddick were second and third in this spring’s race at Dover.

Click here for the entry list.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Tonight’s Cup race at Richmond: Start time, lineup and more

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The Cup playoffs continue tonight with a race under the lights at Richmond Raceway.

Can Martin Truex Jr., who has advanced to the second round of the playoffs with his Las Vegas win, complete a sweep of this year’s races at the short track?

Here’s all the info you need for tonight’s race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: Federated Auto Parts CEO Rusty Bishop will give the command to start engines at 7:37 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 7:44 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage opens at 1:30 pm.  Driver/crew chief meeting is at 5:30 p.m. Driver introductions are at 6:50 p.m. The invocation will be given at 7:30 p.m. The National Anthem will be performed at 7:31 p.m. by Lieutenant Colonel D.C. Washington.

DISTANCE: The race is 400 laps (300 miles) around the 0.75-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 100. Stage 2 ends on Lap 200.

TV/RADIO: NBCSN will televise the race. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with NASCAR America. Countdown to Green begins at 7 p.m. Motor Racing Network’s broadcast begins at 7 p.m. and also can be heard on mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.

WATCH ONLINE: Click here for NBCSN’s broadcast 

FORECAST: Wunderground.com forecasts sunny skies with a high of 81 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Martin Truex Jr. won in the spring over Joey Logano. Kyle Busch won this race last year over Kevin Harvick and Truex.

TO THE REAR: Bubba Wallace (failed inspection), JJ Yeley (failed inspection)

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for Cup starting lineup

Starting lineup for Richmond Cup race

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Playoff drivers Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick are on the provisional front row for Saturday’s Cup Series playoff race at Richmond Raceway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

The top five is completed by playoff drivers Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer.

The highest qualifying non-playoff driver is Jimmie Johnson (10th).

The lowest qualifying playoff driver was Joey Logano (28th).

The starting lineup will be made official after pre-race inspection Saturday. One failure will result in a qualifying time being disallowed.

UPDATE: All 16 playoff cars have passed inspection. Only the cars of Bubba Wallace and JJ Yeley failed inspection and will start at the rear for tonight’s race.

Click here for Cup starting lineup