Chris Gabehart

Penalty report from Pocono Raceway

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NASCAR has issued fines to five crew chiefs for unsecured lug nuts during the race weekend at Pocono Raceway.

Cup

NASCAR fined four crew chiefs $10,000 each for having one unsecured lug nut on their cars following the two Cup races.

Scott Graves (Ryan Newman‘s No. 6 Ford) and John Klausmeier (Clint Bowyer‘s No. 14 Ford) were fined for unsecured lug nuts after Saturday’s race.

James Small (Martin Truex Jr.‘s No. 19 Toyota) and Rodney Childers (Kevin Harvick‘s No. 4 Ford) were fined for unsecured lug nuts after Sunday’s race.

Truck Series

Danny Stockman, crew chief on Brandon Jones‘ No. 51 Chevrolet, was fined $2,500 for an unsecured lug nut after Saturday’s race. Jones was the race winner.

Drivers like idea of more NASCAR Cup doubleheaders

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Last weekend’s NASCAR Cup doubleheader at Pocono Raceway drew strong reviews, with several drivers hoping the sanctioning body continues the practice going forward.

Among those was Brad Keselowski, who took to social media and said emphatically, “I loooooovvvee the idea of running twice on a weekend. … Big thumbs up, NASCAR, and everybody else who pulled it off from the teams, track officials and everybody else.

“I think it was a big success. I hope everybody liked it.”

Added Kevin Harvick, who won Saturday’s Cup race and finished second to Denny Hamlin on Sunday: “I think the format was great. … I think overall everybody would be super happy with a much shorter season and multiple doubleheaders. Yeah, I think it went well.”

If there was a downside to the weekend to fully determine just how much of a success it was, it was the lack of fans in the grandstands.

Much like most other tracks that have held NASCAR events since the return from the COVID-19 hiatus, Pocono Raceway did not have fans for the entire weekend, which featured five races over three days: the two Cup races as well as single races for the Xfinity Series, Truck Series and ARCA Menards Series.

While drivers liked the hop-in-and-drive format, with no practice or qualifying, the doubleheader weekend did make things harder on teams in terms of preparation for both races, as well as scrambling to repair damage from Saturday’s race to run the same car Sunday.

NASCAR gave teams additional time in the garage for preparation and setup both before and after Saturday’s race, as well as before Sunday’s race.

“It’s very hard on the race teams,” said Hamlin’s crew chief, Chris Gabehart. “We didn’t leave the racetrack till after 11 (Saturday night). You drive over a half hour to the hotel, got to be back here at 7 (a.m. ET).

“There’s a lot of work that goes on in-between preparing a car that just raced 325 miles to race again for 350 miles, put a professional product on the racetrack.”

But, Gabehart said: “This is very hard, but these teams are the best in the business. Whatever NASCAR wants to do, we’ll support and adapt.”

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What drivers said after Sunday’s Cup race at Pocono

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Denny Hamlin — Winner: “I was just hoping for no cautions, I knew we had the car. I was just maintaining my gap right there and didn’t want to make any mistakes like I did at Bristol and threw that win away. I just tried to work through the traffic as best I could and obviously (crew chief Chris Gabehart) is paying attention to strategy there and made the right call. … A lot of adversity early. We got some nose damage and had to fix that. Then we just worked on the car and got it better and better. It finished the race there a lot better than we finished yesterday and I thought we had a race-winning car yesterday. We knew after yesterday’s race and showing the speed that we had, just don’t mess it up and we’ve got a good shot today and that’s what we did.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 2nd: “Car was actually better today than it was yesterday. Just the way that the end worked out.  We had to run in a lot of traffic there. Denny (Hamlin) kept clicking off laps. They did what they had to do, did the opposite of what we did as far as when we pitted.  We lost time going through that traffic, just came out behind him, wound up second today. …  I think overall you can’t be dissatisfied with a first and a second. I’d feel childish if I sat her and nitpicked that apart.”

Erik Jones — Finished 3rd: “Yeah, today was a lot better than yesterday for sure. It’s great to rebound like that. Unfortunately, I think we could have – definitely could have had two top-fives, and really, I think our primary car was quite a bit better than this car. I thought we could have probably contended both days a little more towards the win if we had our primary, but the Craftsman Camry was good. We made good changes overnight. We actually changed a lot of stuff and tried to kind of rebalance with what we had with this backup car. It’s nice to get a solid finish. I mean, we came off a good run at Talladega and went right back to a DNF and to come back here with a third. We just need to be consistent from here and keep it rolling.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 4th: “It was good to have a solid run for our NAPA team after yesterday being so poor. Obviously, we would’ve liked to of been a little better, but after starting in the back, I was pleased how I was able to move forward and gain a lot of that track position back. It was a good rebound. Looking forward to getting back on track at Indy.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 5th: “Another top five. I’m so proud of (crew chief Mike Bugarewicz) and al the guys on this 10 team. That’s four top fives in a row. What a weekend we had here in Pocono, got a lot of stage points and finished third yesterday and fifth today. We’re riding a wave of momentum … We’ll go to Indy, a place that’s very similar to the tunnel turn at Pocono and felt like we were really good there this weekend.  I’m excited about Indy and another top five.”

Matt DiBenedetto — Finished 6th: “Two races back-to-back was pretty cool. Knocked them both out in one weekend, but we got stage points in all four stages between the two races, so that’s good and I felt like we finished solid yesterday and today we had a good day. We got stage points in both and the second stage we were actually anticipating possibly giving up the stage points for our strategy to have a good finishing position, but it worked out to where we still had some solid restarts and got up there to get at least a couple points, so everything helps. That was big and today was just pretty much real smooth from start to finish, just was up there in that top 10 for most part start to finish for the day, so Greg and the team did a real solid job keeping us up there and having a real good strategy.”

William Byron — Finished 7th: “We ended up with a top-10 finish today which was good. It was definitely an improvement from yesterday – seven spots better to be exact – which is good. We still struggled a good portion of the race but I think we made the right calls and adjustments at the end. We had a lot of speed actually the last couple runs. I think the track kind of came to us and ultimately that’s what we needed. So we’ll go on to Indy and hopefully have a better run there.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 8th: “That was a tough race. We were just so loose today. By ourselves we were good and could turn in a good lap, but in traffic we struggled.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 9th: “It was an up-and-down day. So many people are on different pit strategies throughout the day here in Pocono. We had a top-10 car all day, just didn’t have the running positions to show for it. Greg (Ives) and the guys made great adjustments on pit road and really improved the car throughout the race. A top-10 finish today is good momentum for us going to Indy next weekend.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 13th: “The team made a lot of changes to the car from the race yesterday, but we still really struggled with the handling in traffic. The difference between dirty and clean air is crazy. The Monster Energy Chevy was good early on when we had track position (clean air) and we were able to lead all the laps and get the Stage 1 win, but just a tough ending for the No.1 team, a little Pocono Deja vu for us today!”

Austin Dillon — Finished 14th: “Everyone on the Symbicort Chevrolet team did a great job hanging in there today and working together to pull off a top-15 finish. We made a few adjustments to our car and strategy based on what we learned yesterday. There was a lot more grip on the track then what I figured there would be for a 4 p.m. race start. We just battled a tight-handling condition for most of the day today, especially at the beginning of the race. We had to free up a bunch. We missed stage points at the conclusion of Stage 1 by just one position, but then earned a few key Stage points at the end of Stage 2. During Stage 3, we worked our way into the top five before pitting for fuel with 13 laps remaining. All-in-all, can’t complain about a 14th-place finish.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 15th: “Overall, I think it was a solid weekend. We definitely learned some things on Saturday that we were able to adapt to for Sunday, but the track raced very differently on Sunday than it did on Saturday. We were really loose most of the race, but Brian (Pattie) made some great strategy calls to keep us running up front and ultimately get a top-15 finish at the end. We’re on a solid momentum streak and I’m looking forward to carrying that over to Indianapolis Motor Speedway next weekend.”

Cole Custer — Finished 17th: “Thank you so much, guys. We got the car a lot better today. We definitely made gains and got the car better during the race. Well go get them next week.”

John Hunter Nemechek — Finished 19th: “Wasn’t quite the day we were hoping for at Pocono Raceway, but we finished better than we did in yesterday’s race, and that’s an accomplishment for us. Our No. 38 Death Wish Coffee Ford Mustang was decent in clean air, but we just couldn’t make it work in traffic. I was too tight whenever I got behind another car and we couldn’t quite get the handling right in order to really make the kind of gains we wanted to on track. I’m proud of my team and thankful for their effort.”

Bubba Wallace — Finished 22nd: “Our Richard Petty Motorsports team made the right adjustments for what we fought yesterday, but it still was not the right adjustments; that is kind of the frustrating part. We did not have enough raw speed and couldn’t quite get the handling we needed. All-in-all, we came-out with a top-20 finish and it’s an improvement from yesterday. Good to get out of Pocono, and give us time to refocus before we come back.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 26th: “The balance of our CommScope Toyota was OK in Turns 1 and 3, but unfortunately we were still struggling in Turn 2, especially in the first 10 or 15 laps of the run. Obviously, we’re lacking overall speed, but we’ll just keep on digging. It was a good job by the guys all weekend. We just need to keep digging and we’ll get there.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 35th: “This weekend did not go at all how we wanted it to, but I’m proud of the No. 8 Caterpillar team for never giving up at any point. Unfortunately, when I came across the line to take the green flag today I lost all power steering and had to drop back to protect the car. Right as I was going to hit pit road to see what we could do to fix the handling, the caution came out for rain, which almost ended up helping us. I was able to pit and give my team the entire yellow to work on the car. We figured out we would be able to replace the alternator belt right as the red flag came out. Once the yellow flag came back out, my team worked as fast as they could to make the repairs but we still ended up a handful of laps down by the time we could rejoin the field. From that point on it was just a matter of capitalizing on everything that came our way to gain as many spots as we possibly could. Every point matters in the fight to make the Playoffs, and we weren’t going to go down without a fight. We got trapped a little bit with how the race played out, but we gave it our all today to get everything we could. I wouldn’t want to be racing with any other group than the one I have right now and am looking forward to getting back after it at Indy next weekend.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 38th: “I don’t know. The guys did an amazing job from yesterday to today. I guess it proves that if you get a little practice time in and we are going to be a force to be reckoned with so hopefully life gets back to normal eventually but we are in 2020, so it doesn’t surprise me getting crashed out of the lead. The M&M’s Camry was pretty fast today. Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and the guys did a great job. It’s just very frustrating and unfortunate. I know what happened but it doesn’t make any sense to talk about it. It will just come across in a bad way.”

Christopher Bell — Finished 39th: “I was kind of rolling out there by myself, and I had a good gap between the guy in front of me and behind me, and it just stepped out getting into Turn 2 there. It’s disappointing, but I’m really happy with the speed that we’ve had these last couple weeks. Obviously, yesterday here we were really fast and we had another great car today, so these guys keep bringing really fast Rheem Camrys to the racetrack and we will have good shows.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 40th: “Today was a real shame. The first few laps of today’s race felt really good and I thought that we were going to have the opportunity for another strong run. I’m still proud of the race that we had yesterday and the speed that we’ve been showing all year. Unfortunately, it’s all part of the ups and downs of racing. I’m really proud of the effort by everyone at Front Row Motorsports for bringing us a competitive car and I’m ready to head to Indianapolis Motor Speedway next weekend and hopefully rebound after today’s unfortunate events.”

Denny Hamlin holds off Chase Elliott to win at Miami

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It took longer than expected but on a day (and night) that saw the race stopped multiple times because of rain and lightning, Denny Hamlin celebrated a dominant win Sunday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Hamlin won both stages and passed Chase Elliott for the lead with 30 laps to go to score his third Cup victory of the season and 40th of his career. Hamlin led a race-high 137 of the 267 laps.

Elliott pressured Hamlin with about 15 laps to go before falling back and watching the chance for the victory slip away.

MORE: Race results, points report 

MORE: What drivers said after the race 

“I still don’t think we’re at the top of our game with our team yet,” Hamlin said. “I think we’re still got some room to get better. I’m pretty happy that we’re able to reel off some wins right now given the circumstances.

Said Elliott: “I just need to get through lapped traffic better.”

Hamlin’s victory came in crew chief Chris Gabehart’s first race back after a four-race suspension for ballast falling out of Hamlin’s car before the start of the Coca-Cola 600.

Elliott finished second and was followed by Ryan Blaney, rookie Tyler Reddick and Aric Almirola.

This was the first Cup race held with spectators since the season resumed. Up to 1,000 military members were guests of the track.

The start of the race was delayed 43 minutes by rain and lightning and then stopped for 81 minutes after the fifth lap because of lightning.

After that delay ended, teams fired engines again. But before cars could leave pit road, another lighting strike happened within 8 miles of the track, leading to another delay. That lasted 2 hours, 8 minutes, pushing the resumption of the race past 7 p.m. ET.

The race went to Lap 33 before another lightning strike delayed the race at 7:30 p.m. ET. That was the final delay of the night because of weather.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Denny Hamlin

STAGE 2 WINNER: Denny Hamlin

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Richard Childress Racing had both its cars finish in the top 10. Tyler Reddick placed fourth. Austin Dillon finished seventh. … Aric Almirola’s fifth-place finish was his first top-10 finish in the last six races.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Kevin Harvick‘s finished a season-worst 26th. He was hurt by a flat right rear tire after contact with the wall with less than 70 laps left. … Ryan Newman had a spin and struggled throughout the race, finishing 30th.

NOTABLE: Tyler Reddick’s fourth-place finish was the first top 10 by a rookie at Miami since David Ragan did so in 2007.

NEXT: The series races June 21 at Talladega Superspeedway (3 p.m. ET on Fox)

 

Three suspended from Chase Briscoe’s team for ballast violation

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UPDATE (11 p.m. ET): NASCAR announced late Saturday night that it has handed down four-race suspensions to three members of Chase Briscoe‘s Xfinity Series team: crew chief Richard Boswell, car chief Nick Hutchins and engineer DJ Vanderley, starting with Sunday’s Xfinity Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The suspensions stem from ballast that came loose from Briscoe’s No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford and fell on the race track surface during parade laps prior to Saturday afternoon’s race, the first of an Xfinity Series weekend doubleheader.

The safety violation, per the NASCAR Rule Book, is section 12.5.2.7.4.d. (Loss or separation of added ballast from the vehicle will result in a four Race suspension of the crew chief, car chief, and head engineer.)

In addition to missing Sunday’s race, the trio will also miss upcoming Xfinity races at Talladega, Pocono and Indianapolis. They are eligible to return at Kentucky Speedway on Thursday, July 9.

ORIGINAL STORY:

NASCAR Xfinity Series points leader Chase Briscoe got off to a rough start in Saturday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway even before the green flag fell.

At least one piece of ballast fell off Briscoe’s car during the pace laps.

NASCAR called Briscoe’s No. 98 to pit road where his team made repairs.

He returned to the race six laps down.

Per Section 12.5.2.7.4.d of the NASCAR Rule Book, here is the penalty for ballast coming out of a car/truck: “Loss or separation of added ballast from the vehicle will result in a four Race suspension of the crew chief, car chief, and head engineer. If NASCAR cannot identify which series or vehicle the lost ballast originated from, all vehicles entered for that Event from and associated with the team organization identified on the lost ballast may receive the suspensions.”

NASCAR will double-check the piece after the race before assessing the penalty. The Xfinity Series races again Sunday at the track.

Briscoe managed to come back and make up all six laps, finishing seventh.

Prior to the Coca-Cola 600 last month, Denny Hamlin had pieces of ballast fall off his car before teh race, resulting in four-race suspensions to three members of his team, including crew chief Chris Gabehart. Wednesday’s race at Martinsville marked the last event in the four-race suspension for Gabehart and the crew members, meaning all are eligible to return for Sunday’s Cup race in Miami.