Brad Moran

Kyle Larson says data shows Bubba Wallace spun intentionally at Texas

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AVONDALE, Ariz. — Kyle Larson said his team examined data from Bubba Wallace’s car and had no doubt Wallace spun intentionally to cause a caution after suffering a flat tire last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

Wallace’s flat and spin came in the middle of a green-flag pit cycle and impacted Larson’s race. Larson was running in the top five before he pitted shortly. Wallace spun a couple of laps later and trapped Larson a lap down. Larson finished 12th and enters Sunday’s event at ISM Raceway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC) 23 points out of the final transfer spot for next weekend’s championship race.

Teams have the ability to examine each other’s throttle traces and steering and other aspects with shared data.

“We looked at Bubba’s data the next day,” Larson said Friday at ISM Raceway. “You could definitely see, because we have SMT where you have the digital car, you could see him like swerving, he turns right and at the same time he turns left and stabs the throttle and spins out. It’s whatever at this point.”

Asked about his spin, Wallace told NBC Sports: “I learned from Brad (Keselowski) and Joey (Logano).”

Asked if he was worried about any repercussions, Wallace told NBC Sports: “Until they do anything, no. I’m not the only one to do it. I’m racing for myself. Not for Larson. Not for Chevrolet at that moment. For myself and going multiple laps down.”

Larson was upset after the Texas race and called for NASCAR to take action. Asked if he still believes NASCAR should take action, Larson said Friday:

“I’m just a driver, so I don’t really know exactly what the proper thing is, whether it is a penalty or a fine or what. (NASCAR is) good at coming up with that stuff.

“(Intentionally causing a caution) affects the race. It saves them, but it could hurt guys. Sometimes you end up on the right side of it and whatnot, but last week we didn’t, so that’s obviously why I was upset. We’ve all done it. I’ve done it. I got penalized a lap and still was able to recover and win (2016 Eldora Truck race). We’ve all done it. It can affect the race.”

Questions have been raised the past two weeks about drivers intentionally causing a caution by either staying out while having a flat tire or spinning in either the Cup or Xfinity playoff races. More scrutiny has been paid to what some drivers have said is a common occurrence because of the impact in the playoff race.

In the driver/crew chief meeting before Friday night’s Gander Outdoors Truck race, series director Brad Moran told competitors: ”Let’s keep in mind, playoff, cutoff race. Make good decisions. Let’s put on a great show for our fans.”

The concern among competitors is if NASCAR begins to make judgment calls on what is a legitimate spin or caution and what isn’t.

“I would say the more NASCAR is in a position to make tough calls like that, the worse it is,” Chase Elliott said Friday. “That’s such a tough thing and it’s such a tough call. I don’t know how you would ever get that right.”

Said Kyle Busch on Friday: “When people have flat tires and are spinning out and drawing cautions, you can’t penalize one and then not everybody else. So they better be careful.”

If NASCAR won’t make the call, then what?

“I don’t know who else is going to take care of it,” Martin Truex Jr. said. “It’s been getting pretty popular to have a flat tire and spin out on purpose. I don’t know, it’s definitely not good. It could affect the championship race. If last week were Homestead, a lot of people would be pretty upset. I’m not sure how to handle it. I don’t run the sport, NASCAR is pretty good at doing that. It’s definitely frustrating when you’re out there leading or doing something good and it could potentially ruin your day by the caution coming out at the wrong time.”

Denny Hamlin says NASCAR can rule on such matters.

“I think they can use judgment on that for sure,” he said Friday. “A lot of us have gotten penalties by intentionally causing cautions in the past, so I’d say it should be no different now.”

Hamlin was penalized two laps for stopping on course with a flat tire to cause a caution in the 2008 spring Richmond race. Once the caution waved, Hamlin took off.

As for Wallace, Larson said he had not talked with the Richard Petty Motorsports driver this week but didn’t indicate a need to do so. 

“It’s really not an issue with him personally,” Larson said Friday of Wallace. “It is what it is. Afterwards you can be mad, but I’m still 23 points down. It doesn’t matter. We’ve got to go out here and have a good weekend and try to score a lot of points and try to get a win also.”

Earlier this week, Hamlin said: “Bubba’s (spin) this weekend was pretty obvious and obviously it hurt some people and helped others. He’s just following in everyone else’s footsteps. It’s been going on for a long time.”

Some also have questioned Joey Logano’s spin at Martinsville after he had a flat tire. Logano has denied he intentionally spun.

“At Martinsville, I had a flat tire,” Logano said Friday, repeating what he said last weekend at Texas. “Trying not to crash. Trying not to hit anything. Trying not to have your quarters torn up. Trying to live to race another day basically.”

Larson defended Logano.

“I know people have said that Joey spun out on purpose at Martinsville,” Larson said. “I don’t think he did. The tires are different there. You don’t have an inner liner like you do at Texas. It’s much easier to run on a flat at Texas than Martinsville. I don’t know if he spun out on purpose there.”

Appeal hearing for Niece Motorsports set for Wednesday morning

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NASCAR announced that the appeal for Niece Motorsports will be heard at 9 a.m. ET Wednesday.

The Gander Outdoors Truck Series team took the checkered flag first with driver Ross Chastain on Sunday at Iowa Speedway only to have the victory taken away when the truck failed inspection after the race.

Brad Moran, managing director of the Gander Outdoors Truck Series said after the race: “We have a procedures and rules in place, trucks are restricted on their ride heights at the front and rear of the vehicles. Unfortunately, the 44 (Chastain’s truck) was low on the front, extremely low.

“We have a process of what happens at that point. They do get an opportunity to roll around. They put fuel in the vehicle, they air the tires. Give them at least five to 10 minutes. Check them a second time. Unfortunately, the 44 did not rise on the front at all.”

The team stated it would appeal and blamed “minor damage during the event” for the truck being too low.

When NASCAR announced before this season that winning vehicles that didn’t pass inspection would have the win taken away, series officials also announced an expedited appeals process.

That will allow the appeal to be completed this week before the Truck Series races this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway. Unlike other appeals, where a team or individual can appeal a penalty and then appeal again if they lose the first appeal, there is just one appeal hearing in an expedited matter.

NASCAR disqualifies Ross Chastain’s winning truck for failing inspection

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For the first time since NASCAR instituted a rule before this season that a winning vehicle would be disqualified if it failed inspection, Ross Chastain‘s winning Truck Sunday at Iowa Speedway failed inspection and was disqualified.

Brett Moffitt, who crossed the finish line second, was declared the winner and also gets the $50,000 bonus for winning a Triple Truck Challenge race.

Chastain’s truck was found to be too low in the front.

MORE: Updated race results  

MORE: Updated points report

Chastain’s team, Niece Motorsports, announced Sunday afternoon that it would appeal the decision. In a statement from team owner Al Niece, he said that Chastain’s truck “sustained minor damage during the event, which left the truck too low following the race.”

That appeal process will be expedited. Should the team lose that appeal, they cannot appeal the decision any further based on section 14.6.f of the rule book, which states:

“In a Race Disqualification Appeal, the decision of the Panelist, which could be an Appeals Panelist, FAO, or his/her alternates, under Section 14 Appeals to the National Stock Car Racing Appeals Panel, will be considered final and there is no ability to appeal the decision to the Final Appeals Office as outlined in Section 15 Final Appeal to the National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer.”

Brad Moran, managing director of the Gander Outdoors Truck Series said after the race: “We have a procedures and rules in place, trucks are restricted on their ride heights at the front and rear of the vehicles. Unfortunately, the 44 (Chastain’s truck) was low on the front, extremely low.

“We have a process of what happens at that point. They do get an opportunity to roll around. They put fuel in the vehicle, they air the tires. Give them at least five to 10 minutes. Check them a second time. Unfortunately, the 44 did not rise on the front at all.”

Here is the section in the rule book on ride heights:

Chastain was a part of Motor Racing Network’s broadcast of the Xfinity race on Sunday and addressed what happened in the Truck race to his team.

“It’s tough,” he said. “It was tough to walk up here (to the radio booth) across the frontstretch and walk by victory lane and where everything has happened, yeah, they took it away from us. It’s an old rule that they stand by and … the lower series of all the divisions still go by ride height rules and Cup Series has gotten away from it but we were just too low. The truck wouldn’t come back up. I’m not sure why. They wouldn’t let us look under the hood or anything. It went through (inspection) before the race.

“In any race car these days … it’s been this way for the last 25 years, the lower you get it, the better it handles. We, as racers and the race teams, our trucks, when we go around the race track are scraping the ground even though our ride height rules (are higher than that). You go through tech pre-race and it has to be up at that predetermined amount.

“As soon as we get into the truck and I come off pit road, every race truck in the field and race car in this Xfinity Series, it falls down on the ground and you race right scraping the ground. That’s why we have splitters and our side skirts are made to wear so that we can handle the bumps and still have the aero platform we want. Then, whenever you come in, you’re supposed to have it where it automatically comes back up. It’s just physics and mechanical parts and something on ours just didn’t push quite hard enough.

“I don’t know what the problem was, but we still won that race. Like you said, we won both stages, we led a ton of laps. It’s still a dream come true, but, yeah, they took it away. It’s kind of ironic now that we’re sitting next to NASCAR (officials) up here in the booth.”

This is Moffitt’s first win of the season and the eighth of his career. Ben Rhodes finished second and Harrison Burton placed third. Moffitt did not lead any of the race’s 200 laps. Chastain led 141. Racing Insights has no record of a winner in NASCAR ever leading zero laps but notes that lead lap information in the 1950s and ’60s is incomplete.

“It’s a big change of emotions and obviously this is not the way I want to win it as a race car driver, I still know I got beat on track, which is frustrating,” Moffitt said. “Back in the beginning of the year when NASCAR implemented this system, it was to clear up the Tuesday disqualifications and the encumbered wins and let the fans know and everyone else know who actually won the race. I’d still would rather take the checkered and be the first one to it, but I’ll take a win anyway I can get it and that solidifies our playoff spot.”

Moffitt said he was on the way to the airport when his team called him and told him to return to the track.

Should Chastain’s team not win the appeal, it could prove devastating to his playoff hopes. He changed what series he scored points in from Xfinity to Trucks on June 4. Chastain needs a victory in the last six regular-season races and be in the top 20 in points to be eligible for the playoffs.

With the disqualification, Chastain is listed as finishing last (32nd) and receives last-place points (five) instead of 60 he would have gotten. He loses all the points (and playoff points) for the win and also loses the stage and playoff points for winning both stages.

Chastain has 43 points. He’s 69 points behind Josh Reaume, who is 20th in the season standings.

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NASCAR makes personnel changes to competition executive team

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NASCAR announced six personnel changes to its competition executive team on Tuesday.

The changes include the promotion of Elton Sawyer to vice president of officiating and technical inspection, and the addition of John Probst in the role of managing director of competition and innovation.

Sawyer, who comes from being the managing director of the Camping World Truck Series, will oversee multiple areas of NASCAR including inspection/officiating; officials training and development; and the events and transportation groups. He will continue to report to Scott Miller, senior vice president of competition.

Probst joins NASCAR after serving as technical director for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, a role he held previously at Red Bull Racing. Probst also spent more than 11 years as engineering supervisor at Ford Motor Company. His role with NASCAR will include oversight of several competition and innovation projects.

The other changes include:

  • Brad Moran has been named managing director of the Truck Series, replacing Sawyer. Moran served a similar capacity over the NASCAR Touring Series.
  • Brandon Thompson will become senior director of touring series, transitioning into Moran’s former role. Thompson joined NASCAR in 2012 and his roles have included the coordination and administration of weekly race activities.
  • George Grippo will join the competition team as managing director of competition technology and timing & scoring. He provided oversight of NASCAR Productions’ Technology Field and Media Operations department as its managing director since September 2013.
  • Jusan Hamilton will become manager of racing operations & event management. He joined NASCAR in 2012 before transitioning full-time in 2013 to its Integrated Marketing Communications operation.

“With today’s announcement, NASCAR has aligned the Competition department to meet the ever-changing and challenging needs of a highly competitive sports landscape,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, in a press release. “We’re delighted to see the growth of a number of our colleagues throughout the company, as well as welcoming a new one with a long history in the industry.”