Dale Jr. Download: Did Roger Penske change opinion on last-lap contact?

3 Comments

It was the shot heard around the racing world Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, where Joey Logano moved Martin Truex Jr. on the final lap for the win.

And it reminded Dale Earnhardt Jr. of another last-lap shot three years earlier at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Regan Smith, driving for JR Motorsports, bumped Alex Tagliani of Team Penske out of the lead for the Xfinity Series win in the Aug. 15, 2015 race.

“Really what (Smith) did, he just pushed (Tagliani) off the road; there was no question what happened,” team owner Roger Penske told Claire B. Lang on SiriusXM after the race. “I guess if that’s the way these guys want to play, we’ll remember that. There will be another time.

“That, in my mind, didn’t give me the reason I’d hire a guy like Regan Smith, because he pushed a guy off on the last lap,” Penske added. “He should have raced him clean.”

During his weekly Dale Jr. Download podcast (video above starting around the 5:00 mark), Earnhardt was struck by how Penske’s opinion seemed markedly different when Team Penske’s Logano moved Truex in a fashion that wasn’t entirely dissimilar, causing Truex to brand it a “cheap shot.”

“(Truex is) a racer and should know better than to say that,” Logano’s car owner Roger Penske retorted after Logano’s victory advanced him to championship race in Miami. “That was as clean a shot as you can have in a race like this.”

Earnhardt was amused by the differing views.

“Roger said, ‘Well, Martin knows better, being a race car driver. That was probably the nicest shot he could have expected to get at a race like this,’ ” Earnhardt said. “(Penske was) saying Martin should be ashamed of saying (it was a cheap shot) being the race car driver he is … that he got handled with kid gloves.

“But! Do you remember Mid-Ohio? Pushing (Tagliani) out of the way in the last corner? You know what Roger said about that? I will never hire a driver that will win a race that way. So all right, think about that. It depends on who’s doing it. If it’s your favorite driver, boy, you’re all for it. If it’s your favorite driver getting bumped out of the way, it’s (expletive). Even if you’re Roger Fricking Penske.”

Whether Logano’s move was clean or dirty seemingly depended entirely on one’s perspective.

“He just ran in the back of me and knocked me out of the way,” Truex said on NBCSN after the race. “Short track racing, but what comes around, goes around. He just took a cheap shot at the end there.”

After Martinsville’s race, Denny Hamlin may have summed it up best: “It depends on who is doing it. If it’s your favorite driver, you love it. If (it’s not), it’s dirty.”

Some of the times that haunt a driver most are when he’s too nice, according to Earnhardt.

“I’ve been a nice guy,” Earnhardt said. “There’s a lot of those moments in my career that I certainly regret. … You relive every race that you didn’t win. What you could have done differently. What you should have done. There’s moments when I know… if I’d been more aggressive. Or I could have run over the guy. So when I see Martin doing that I’m like ‘Argh, Martin come on, don’t do this again. ‘ ”

In the video above, Earnhardt also described a battle between himself and Kevin Harvick in the April 3, 2011 race at Martinisville when he unsuccessfully tried to move Harvick in the closing laps after yielding the lead.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter

Long: Will Roval open door to Cup race on street course?

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
5 Comments

With NASCAR President Steve Phelps saying that “everything is in play” in regards to the sport’s future combined with the successful debut of Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval this past weekend, now is the time to think bigger.

Along with the notion of midweek races, doubleheaders and a race on a dirt track for Cup, the thought of a street course race shouldn’t be too far-fetched.

The Roval, as close to a street course as any road course with its walls and minimal run-off space, showed that NASCAR drivers and cars could handle running on a tight circuit. And do it two-wide and even three-wide in at times.

Now, the sport should look to take that racing to the people and compete on the streets of a city.

“I think if somebody wanted to do that and put that on, it would be very interesting,” said car owner Roger Penske, who brought the Detroit Grand Prix to the streets of Belle Isle.

Justin Marks, a road racer who competed in this weekend’s Xfinity and Cup races at the Roval, is all for a NASCAR street course event because of what it could mean to the sport.

“I’m a huge believer you have to take your product to the people,” Marks said. “In 2012, I went to the Long Beach Grand Prix as a competitor in the Pirelli World Challenge Series and I remember spending the weekend at that race there looking around at 100,000 people and thinking that 90,000 of these people aren’t racing fans. They’re here because it’s a great cultural event.

“I think that the days of people driving 500 miles from their home to spend four days at a race track camping are numbered.”

Marks admitted there would be challenges to do a Cup street race but “I think it could be a hell of a show if they did it, especially if they went to a market like Detroit or LA or South Florida or if they managed to pull something off in Nashville or Austin or something like that, great cultural hubs and great markets.

Former IndyCar driver Alex Tagliani, who has run select Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series along with competing full-time in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series, said Toronto could be a good place for NASCAR to run. IndyCar runs on a street circuit there.

“I would not give up (on) a track like this because it would be tough to reproduce the atmosphere, the event downtown, the feeling,” Tagliani said. “I think it’s worth to have an event like this in our country.”

The challenges or racing on a street course, though, wouldn’t be only for teams and competitors.

Marcus Smith, chief executive officer of Speedway Motorsports Inc., and the creator of the Roval for Charlotte, raises questions about a street race.

“For a driver, it’s not really a problem, but hosting the race is a big problem with street courses, they’re incredibly expensive to put on,” Smith said on the NASCAR on NBC podcast. “They’re temporary so you have no benefit to amortize expense over the years.

“Street courses just tend to fail. I’m not a fan of street courses for that purpose. It’s interesting, but they’re just incredibly expensive and bad business models. Things that are good for NASCAR overall need to also be good for the business of the sport.”

The Detroit Grand Prix and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, which oversees Belle Isle, reached an agreement in August to continue the event there for three more years. The deal includes an option to extend the length two more years.

As part of the agreement, the Grand Prix will increase its annual total contribution to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for hosting the event on Belle Isle from $200,000 to $450,000 each year.

Among the series, the Grand Prix hosts are the IndyCar Series and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Series.

Now could be a good time to consider at a street course option. NASCAR is looking to revamp its schedule beginning with the 2021 season. NASCAR’s five-year contracts with tracks expire after the 2020 season.

“There are a lot of things in play,” Phelps said. “We would rule out nothing at this particular point. We need to make sure that we have all the input, all the information necessary to make an informed decision that will allow us to get to what that 2020 schedule will look like.”


Jimmie Johnson was two turns from advancing to the second round of the playoffs. He was safe, running second and needed only to finish to keep his hopes alive for a record eighth Cup championship.

Instead, Johnson went for the win, locked his brakes, spun and took out leader Martin Truex Jr., allowing Ryan Blaney to win.

Johnson crossed the line eighth to finish in a three-way tie for the final two transfer positions. Kyle Larson and Aric Almirola grabbed those spots over Johnson because they each had a better finish than him in the first round.

Johnson’s title hopes are over.

But he made the right decision to go for the win.

A seven-time champion who was on a 51-race winless drought showed how much winning means to him when he risked it all to be victorious. This isn’t an aging athlete mailing it in.

Frankly, Johnson would have made the playoffs had Jeffrey Earnhardt not spun after contact from Daniel Hemric and stalled less than 100 yards from the finish. With Earnhardt unable to cross the line, Larson chugged by after blowing a tire and hitting the wall twice in the final third of a mile to gain the spot — and the extra point that forged the three-way tie with Johnson and Almirola.

Yes, Johnson was greedy. Yes, it would have been easier to back off but what if he had finished second? 

Just as no one could have imagined Larson, driving a battered and broken vehicle, would pass a car stopped so close to the finish line to knock Johnson out of the playoff, who is to say Johnson might not have needed those playoff points with a win to get to the third round?


While it’s easy to say Jimmie Johnson’s move at the end of the Roval cost him a chance to advance in the playoffs but he had opportunities to get that one extra point throughout the playoffs and couldn’t.

Looking back at the end of the first two stages at Las Vegas and Richmond, one can see the opportunities lost earlier in the first round.

At Las Vegas, Johnson scored no points in the first stage. In the second stage, he was sixth with five laps to go. He gained two spots, collecting two additional points.

But at Richmond, he was 11th with eight laps left in the first stage and could not get into the top 10 to score any points. In the second stage, he was eighth with eight laps to go and couldn’t gain another spot.

Meanwhile, Larson found himself in a desperate situation at the end of the Roval race because of what happened in the first two stages at Las Vegas and Richmond.

The biggest blow to Larson was that 10 laps from the end of stage 1 at Las Vegas, he had to give up third place and pit for a right front tire issue. Had he finished third in that segment, he would have had eight more points and would not have been in a three-way tie for the final two transfer spots.

Aric Almirola can look back at a move at Las Vegas with helping create that tie after the Roval race. Almirola was 10th with five laps to go in the first stage. He passed Clint Bowyer before the end to finish the stage ninth and gain an extra point. If Almirola doesn’t get that spot, he’s not tied with Johnson and is eliminated.

Every point matters.


Saturday’s Xfinity race lasted 1 hour, 32 minutes, 35 seconds. It was the shortest Xfinity race on a road course since June 1991 at Watkins Glen. That race lasted 1 hour, 36 minutes, 5 seconds.

Excluding the Dash4Cash races that had been shortened when those were paired with heat races, last weekend’s event was the shortest Xfinity race since Darlington in September 2015. That race lasted 1 hour, 25 minutes, 14 seconds.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, said that the sanctioning body would increase the number of laps for the race next year. It was 55 laps this year.

The question is what should be the proper length of a race? The Xfinity Series has had one race last three hours (season opener at Daytona) and seven races last more than 2 hours, 20 minutes. The series has had five races (other than the Roval) last less than two hours. The shortest race had been Michigan (1 hour, 45 minutes) before the Roval.

So what should be the proper length of a race? Does it matter if a race lasts barely 90 minutes?

 and on Facebook

Preliminary entry lists for Road America, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Cup Series is enjoying its final off-week of the 2018 season. That leaves the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series to enjoy the spotlight.

Both series will be on their own, competing on different road courses. Xfinity teams return to Road America near Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. The Truck Series travels to Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada, to race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Here are the entry lists for both races.

Xfinity – Johnsonville 180 (3 p.m. ET on Saturday on NBCSN)

There are 41 entries for the race, including Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, who will drive GMS Racing’s No. 23 Chevrolet in his first NASCAR start since 2012.

James Davison is entered in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota, making his second consecutive start for the team at Road America.

IndyCar driver Conor Daly will attempt to make his NASCAR debut in Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 6 Ford.

Last year, Jeremy Clements was the surprise upset, scoring his first career NASCAR win.

Click here for the entry list.

Trucks – Silverado 250

There are 31 entries for the race.

Alex Tagliani is entered in Young’s Motorsports’ No. 12 Chevrolet.

Jesse Iwuji will make his national NASCAR series debut in Reaume Brothers Racing’s No. 34 Chevrolet.

Last year, Austin Cindric won his first career NASCAR race after spinning Kaz Grala on the last lap.

Click here for the entry list.

Michael McDowell wins first Xfinity Series race at Road America

2 Comments

Michael McDowell survived a rash of cautions inside the final 10 laps of the Road America 180 and then held off his teammate, Brendan Gaughan, for his first career win Saturday afternoon.

In his 94th Xfinity Series start, and his first since 2014, McDowell led 24 of the race’s 48 laps driving the No. 2 for Richard Childress Racing. He took the lead for the final time with 19 laps to go, after making contact with Alex Tagliani. Tagliani won the pole in the No. 22 for Team Penske and was dominant early, but he never recovered from the contact and failed to contend for the win.

As for Richard Childress Racing, it was the third consecutive year the organization was victorious at Road America.

The top five were McDowell, Gaughan, Brennan Poole, Daniel Suarez, and Ryan Reed.

“It’s huge, I’m so thankful and blessed,” McDowell told NBCSN in victory lane. “Thank God, first and foremost. RCR, Rheem, this Chevrolet was super fast. I’ve got to thank all of my guys back in Michigan, Circle Sport – Leavine Family Racing for letting me be here, they know how bad I wanted this victory at Road America. So thankful to do it.

“(Crew chief) Justin Alexander, all the guys called the right shots. I had track position there at the end when we needed it and this ECR Chevy was on rails, it was awesome.”

McDowell competes full-time in the Sprint Cup Series for Circle Sport – Leavine Family Racing and received a one-race deal in the No. 2 with RCR for Road America. Following the victory, he will fly to Michigan International Speedway to compete in Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race.

HOW MCDOWELL WON: McDowell took the lead on Lap 29 and never relinquished it.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Brennan Poole had a quiet day and finished third … Ryan Reed scored his first top-five finish of the season with a fifth-place effort … Darrell Wallace Jr.‘s ninth-place finish was his first top-10 in three road course starts this year … JJ Yeley finished 10th, which was his first top-10 finish of the season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Erik Jones was spun with two laps to go and finished 21st … Justin Marks ran inside the top 10 throughout most of the event but was spun on the last lap and finished 32nd … Garrett Smithley earned his second DNF of the season after crashing on Lap 2 and finishing 40th.

NOTABLE: Michael McDowell became the third first-time winner this season following Justin Marks (Mid-Ohio), and Daniel Suarez (Michigan). McDowell is also the fourth first-time Xfinity Series winner at Road America, the others being Nelson Piquet Jr. (2012), AJ Allmendinger (2013), and Brendan Gaughan (2014).

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I love this racetrack. It didn’t matter if it rained or it was dry, I know I’m the guy who wants it wet, but I didn’t care either way. I love this track.” — Brendan Gaughan

WHAT’S NEXT: The Xfinity Series makes their first and only visit to Darlington Raceway for the VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 on Sept. 3 at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.

Follow @KellyCrandall

WATCH LIVE: NASCAR Xfinity race from Road America at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Leave a comment

The NASCAR Xfinity Series races today in the Road America 180 Fired Up By Johnsonville at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

NBCSN will televise the race. Coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN with Countdown to Green. The green flag is expected to fall shortly after 3 p.m. ET.

Veteran road course specialist Alex Tagliani starts from the pole. Michael McDowell is on the outside of the front row.

Justin Marks, who won two weeks ago in the rain at Mid-Ohio, will start from third position and is looking for his second career Xfinity Series victory.

Owen Kelly and Daniel Suarez round out the top five starters.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular Paul Menard won this race last year.

If you’re not near a TV, you can watch online or on the NBC Sports app at the NASCAR stream on NBC Sports.

If you plan to stream the race on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 3 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Follow @JerryBonkowski