Elton Sawyer

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NASCAR makes change to uncontrolled tire rule

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NASCAR no longer will use the standard of an “arm’s length” from a crew member to determine if to penalize teams for an uncontrolled tire on pit road, removing that requirement from the rule book after complaints from competitors.

Tires will be considered uncontrolled if they create a safety issue or interfere/impede another competitor’s pit stop.

    • Safety issues include but are not limited to tires rolling into the traffic lane of pit road.
    • Tires may not be bounced or thrown at any time.
    • Tires may be rolled from the outside half of the pit box to the pit wall, providing they do not create a safety issue or interfere/impede another competitor’s pit stop.
    • Once tires are returned to the inside half of the pit box they may not roll back to the outside half of the pit box.
    • Tires, servicing equipment and crew members may not interfere or impede with another team’s pit stop. Tires contacting a vehicle while being carried to the outside half of the pit box may be considered a no call.
    • The penalty for an uncontrolled tire under green flag conditions will be a pass through, and starting at the tail end of the field under caution conditions.

Click here for diagram on what is a penalty and what is not a penalty for a tire on pit road

“After discussions internally and with competitors and teams, NASCAR will adjust how we officiate the uncontrolled tire rule to focus on preventing a safety hazard rather than concentrating on the subjective “arm’s length” criteria,” said Elton Sawyer, NASCAR vice president of officiating and technical inspection, in a statement. “To be clear, tires must still be returned from the outside of the pit box in a controlled manner.

Denny Hamlin was critical of NASCAR’s rule for uncontrolled tires after his team was called for its fifth uncontrolled tire penalty this season at Chicagoland Speedway.

“I don’t know what they can change, but I would like to see a change,” Hamlin said the following week at Daytona when asked about his issues with the rule. “I think rules have to evolve and this is not about us in particular. I made a comment and it has 3,000 likes, 500 retweets, 300 comments, so it touches the fan base. These are people that aren’t Denny fans; they just don’t get it. If they don’t get it at home, then it’s probably not a rule that needs to be in place in the Cup series because you can’t explain it to them.

“It’s hard to explain when a tire is just sitting there that it’s uncontrolled. It’s not moving. It is controlled. I don’t know the answer, and I don’t know how to fix it. They are pretty smart, and I’m sure they can make adjustments to fix it to make it a little more simple. But overall, everyone’s arms are a different length. So, what is an arm’s length? Do they have some kind of technology that says ‘Ok this distance from the tire changer to the tire is more than an arm’s length and they can pull a measuring out and they can measure it?’ I don’t know, but that’s just too much rules. Too many things that can change the ultimate outcome of a race.

“We had earned our spot up front. That’s the crappy part about it. We had earned our position up there. Then, you have to go to the back and in today’s racing, it’s harder than that ever to be able to come back. It’s virtually impossible to be able to come back now, no matter how fast your car is because everyone is running so much wide-open throttle. It changes your race; it changes how you are going to finish. It’s up to us to play by the rules that have been given to us, let’s be clear about that, but we think we are doing that. Sometimes, that judgement call doesn’t go your way and it’s been multiple times this year, that we don’t know what we could have done differently, and we are going to need that explanation so that we don’t do it again.”

In Wednesday’s bulletin to teams, NASCAR also added a rule that states: “When changing all four tires, crew members must change/remove the outside tires first. The penalty for changing/removing the inside tires first will be restarting at the tail end of the field under caution or a pass-through under green.”

That change comes as NASCAR soon heads to road courses. Xfinity and Cup race next week at Watkins Glen International. Cars pit in the opposite direction there as they do on ovals and there have been times when teams changed the inside tires (those closest to the wall) first.

“Additionally, beginning at the Watkins Glen race weekend, we are mandating that outside tires must be changed first during a four-tire stop, to reduce crew members’ exposure to adjacent vehicles departing their pit stalls,” Sawyer said in a statement. “Our commitment to safety remains unchanged, and these rules adjustments will lessen potential danger for crew members.”

NASCAR official: Nothing wrong with Joey Logano’s overtime restart

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There was nothing “out of bounds” about Joey Logano‘s overtime restart Monday at Michigan International Speedway, according to Elton Sawyer, NASCAR’s vice president of officiating.

Sawyer discussed the controversial restart Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive.”

Martin Truex Jr. was unhappy about the restart by Logano. Truex restarted to the inside of Logano. Truex, who finished third, accused Logano of jumping “a whole car length before the restart zone” as the field took the final green.

Kyle and Kurt Busch, who restarted in the second row, also questioned Logano’s restart.

But Sawyer cleared Logano of any wrongdoing.

“We review all starts and restarts from the tower and we looked at it and felt like he was in the restart zone,” Sawyer said. “Looking back at all the data it looked like Joey and Martin both fired at about the same time, although Joey had a little bit of wheel spin there, but we didn’t see anything that was out of bounds there.”

Logano defended his final restart, which led to his second win of the year and his third Michigan win, all of which have come from the pole.

“I did it when I got there (to the restart zone),” Logano said. “That was a good start wasn’t it? That was a good one. That one felt good.”

Ben Kennedy named general manager of Truck Series in NASCAR executive moves

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NASCAR announced multiple leadership moves Tuesday, including the naming of Ben Kennedy as general manager of the Camping World Truck Series.

Kennedy, a former Truck Series driver, is the nephew of NASCAR CEO and Chairman Brian France and son of International Speedway Corporation’s CEO, Lesa France Kennedy.

Kennedy, 26, will work closely with Brad Moran, the managing director of the Truck Series and Jeff Wohlschlaeger, managing director of series marketing. He will report to Elton Sawyer, vice president of competition.

“Ben will draw upon his years of experience across NASCAR’s grassroots and national series to bring valuable commercial and competition insights to our NASCAR Camping World Truck Series,” said NASCAR President Brent Dewar in a press release. With promising young drivers and experienced veterans battling it out in close, side-by-side racing, Ben truly understands from experience that every lap matters and we are excited about his future leadership in this important national series.”

Kennedy has made 73 starts in the Truck Series and 17 in the Xfinity Series. In 2016, he earned his lone Truck Series win at Bristol Motor Speedway, becoming the first member of the France family to win a national NASCAR race.

MORE: Spotlight Q&A with Ben Kennedy

NASCAR also announced it has appointed Jim Cassidy to the new role of chief international officer. Cassidy was previously the vice president of racing operations.

In his new role, Cassidy will oversee all international competition and commercial operations, which includes the Pinty’s Series in Canada, the PEAK Mexico Series and the Whelen Euro Series.

“NASCAR racing is broadcast in over 185 countries and territories, with race fans engaging stock car racing in person at events in Canada, Mexico and across Europe,” Cassidy said in a press release. “The demand for NASCAR racing internationally has never been stronger and we look forward to bringing our sport closer to race fans everywhere.”

Cassidy will report to Steve O’Donnell, executive vice president and chief racing development officer.

“Jim brings nearly two decades of racing operations and industry leadership experience,” O’Donnell said in the press release. “He has worked tirelessly to grow our existing motorsports properties outside of the U.S and will lead our efforts to identify important growth opportunities internationally for our sport and its growing fanbase.”

Joining Cassidy in his efforts will be:

  • Chad Seigler as vice president of international business development
  • Celeste Griffin-Churchill as senior director, international
  • Joe Balash as director, international competition
  • Bob Duvall as senior director, international & weekly/touring business development

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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.”