Garrett Smithley

Chase Briscoe looks to move on after Kansas incident with lapped car

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Chase Briscoe admits he “kind of felt bad” for Garrett Smithley upon seeing the comments directed toward Smithley after he caused Briscoe and Christopher Bell to crash as they raced for the lead late in last weekend’s Xfinity Series race at Kansas Speedway, but Briscoe said that “it doesn’t take away from the fact that we should be locked into Homestead right now.”

Briscoe made the comments Tuesday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Briscoe and Bell were racing for the lead with 16 laps left when Smithley, who was running five laps behind the leaders, drifted up the track and into their lane. Bell and Briscoe made contact. Briscoe recovered to finish third. Bell finished 12th. Brandon Jones scored his first Xfinity win.

The race was the opener in the Round of 8, meaning a win would have locked a playoff driver into next month’s championship race in Miami. Jones was eliminated in the previous round. At least two of the final four spots in Miami will be based on points. Instead of winning to guarantee a spot in the title event, Briscoe is fifth in the points heading to the Nov. 2 race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Briscoe was asked on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio what the etiquette should be for cars laps down when the leaders approach:

“I think it’s so tough,” he said. “Those guys, they’re racing their own race, too. They’re trying to prove they deserve to be there. Obviously they aren’t racing for a championship, but they are racing for their lives. They have every right to use whatever lane they want to use.

“There is a certain etiquette, I think, that comes, especially when two guys are clearly batting for the chance to make it to Homestead. That was what kind of frustrated me. There were a couple of guys even before we got to (Smithley) that ran right on the fence right in front of us. It just made it tough for us to race it out.

“It’s one of those deals that you can’t change it now. You’ve just got to have general awareness of what is going on. It is tough to see out of these cars but we have spotters too. I heard that there was a little bit of a misunderstanding there. Just go on. Hopefully they’ve learned from it and we’ve learned from it and go on and just do better next time.”

Smithley said after the incident that he didn’t know the leaders were approaching.

“I just didn’t get the memo that he was coming,” Smithley said of the leaders. “(Spotter) Freddie (Kraft) usually does a good job, he always does a good job. I’m sure it wasn’t his fault. Something didn’t get transmitted or what.”

Kraft resigned as Smithley’s spotter after the incident, according to spotter Brett Griffin on the “Door Bumper Clear” podcast.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, said Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that officials talked with Smithley about his role in causing Briscoe and Bell to crash.

Smithley stated in a tweet after Saturday’s race that he took “full responsibility” for the incident with Briscoe and Bell.

Briscoe said that as of Tuesday morning he had yet to talk to Smithley.

“He texted me I saw (Monday) and I was so busy (Monday) I didn’t even have the opportunity to talk to him,” Briscoe told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “ I’m sure this week I’ll reach out to him and tell him to call me. I understand where he’s coming from, it’s a situation he certainly doesn’t want to be.

“I kind of felt bad honestly for him because he tagged us in that tweet and I saw a lot of people kind of ridiculing him. The fans can definitely be brutal. It was just a mistake. It’s obvious he didn’t do it on purpose. I understand that.

“It doesn’t take away from the fact that we should be locked into Homestead right now, but if we go do our job these next two weeks we can still do that and hopefully it doesn’t come back to bite us.”

NASCAR will not penalize Tyler Reddick, Cole Custer for altercation

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Tyler Reddick and Cole Custer will not be penalized for their altercation after Saturday’s Xfinity Series race, a NASCAR executive said Monday morning on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, told “The Morning Drive” that series officials will look at the role of crew members in the altercation.

“In those situations, the key for us is to make sure that the crew members are not coming in and escalating things,” O’Donnell told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “If anything, we’ve just got to go back and look and make sure that’s not the case from our perspective.

“There’s a lot on the line there for the drivers and we certainly don’t want to encourage that but understand that it gets heated at times. Our thing is to make sure crew members are not getting in there and piling on a driver so to speak vs. trying to deescalate the situation.”

Reddick and Custer approached each other after the race on pit road to discuss an incident between them late in the race. Cuter made a comment and put his hand on Reddick’s shoulder. Reddick responded by grabbing Custer with both hands. Crew members swarmed.

O’Donnell also addressed other topics on his appearance:

He said that series officials talked with Garrett Smithley after Saturday’s Xfinity Series race. Smithley was five laps down when the leaders approached but ran in their lane and caused Chase Briscoe and Christopher Bell to crash late in the race.

“We talked to the driver afterwards,” O’Donnell said. “Spotter communication was not where it should have been. I think you look at the history of what’s happened on the track with each particular driver and address it from there. We do have mechanisms we can pull if it’s something we see a pattern with. This one was certainly unfortunate with the leaders out there and created an entirely different race. We communicate from the tower as well as we’re coming down the closing laps to let it play out and give the leaders room. That one was not how we wanted it to play out for sure.”

Smithley had been in the center of an incident with Kyle Busch in the Cup playoff opener at Las Vegas when Busch ran into the back of Smithley’s slower car.

O’Donnell also addressed the caution that came out that led to the second overtime restart in the Cup race. An NBC Sports replay (see below) showed the caution light on as Denny Hamlin was within about a car length of the start/finish line. Had Hamlin reached the line before the caution, the field would have been frozen and the race would have ended under caution.

“If you look at the language, it’s when the leader takes the white at the line,” O’Donnell said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The white flag was certainly out but there is a human element to the sport in terms of timing. It’s not an automatic where a light goes on and flag waves. In this case, the light actually came on, I think it was .125 (seconds) before (Hamlin’s) car hit the start/finish line. It was a caution at that point. Certainly very close.”

Winners and losers at Kansas Speedway

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WINNERS

Joe Gibbs Racing — Team scored its 16th win in 32 races this season with Denny Hamlin recording his fifth victory of the year. All four of the team’s cars placed in the top seven with Kyle Busch third, Martin Truex Jr. sixth and Erik Jones seventh. Also, Brandon Jones won his first Xfinity race Saturday, giving JGR a sweep of the weekend.

Chase Elliott He raced his way into the Round of 8 for the third consecutive year. He is Hendrick Motorsports’ lone playoff car remaining.

Ryan Preece A few days after JTG Daugherty Racing’s hauler was damaged by a fire and his crew had to convert teammate Chris Buescher’s backup car into Preece’s primary car for this weekend, Preece finished 12th. That’s his best result since a seventh-place run at Michigan in August.   

LOSERS

Brad Keselowski Lost six spots on the final overtime restart, costing him a spot in the next round of the playoffs by three points. He entered the race 24 points ahead of Chase Elliott for the final transfer spot.

Slow cars — A tough weekend for a couple of slower cars. In the Xfinity race, Garrett Smithley, who was five laps down, said he didn’t realize the leaders were approaching and moved up the track, causing Chase Briscoe and Christopher Bell to wreck. On Sunday, Kyle Larson turned Joey Gase, causing Gase’s race to end. Said Larson: “I was just trying to get a big run up top. There was a lot of us. I was hoping I could get a lane and I didn’t get one. I was already to his back bumper, so yeah. It wasn’t really a message, I was just in a hurry and he was doing his best to get out of the way of the guys below. It was more so impatience on my part.”

Ryan TruexMaking his sixth and final start of the season in the Xfinity Series, his race ended after four laps when the engine in his JR Motorsports car expired. Tough break for a driver trying to get back to a full-time ride.

Watch NASCAR America from 6-7 p.m. ET today on NBCSN with Steve Letarte, Jeff Burton and Dale Jarrett for more on Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway. 

Garrett Smithley calls wreck with leaders a career low point

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Garrett Smithley said he felt “probably the lowest of my career” Saturday after causing the leaders to wreck late in the Xfinity Series playoff race at Kansas Speedway while he was five laps down.

Smithley said he wasn’t aware the leaders were behind him when he exited Turn 4 and moved up toward the wall. Chase Briscoe, who was leading, and Christopher Bell, who was second, made contact as Briscoe tried to avoid Smithley.

Briscoe finished third. Bell 12th.

“I just didn’t get the memo that he was coming,” Smithley said of the leaders. “(Spotter) Freddie (Kraft) usually does a good job, he always does a good job. I’m sure it wasn’t his fault. Something didn’t get transmitted or what. I glanced up. David Starr was back there. I was just riding. We were on like 70-lap tires just riding not even pushing hard. I hated it.”

Asked about the line he ran, going from the bottom in the corners to high on exit, Smithley said:

“I was running my line. If I had known he was back there, I wouldn’t have even done that. I was just riding. I was on 70-lap tires, not even pushing it. Just stupid mistake. I hate that it happened. I hate it for everybody that got involved. I do not want to be that guy by any means. I’ve never been that guy. I hate that that happened.”

It’s the second time in about a month that Smithley has been hit by a faster car while running laps down in a race.

In the Cup playoff opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch ran into the back of Smithley’s car and criticized Smithley’s credentials.

Asked if he feared people would start associating him with those incidents, Smithley said:

“No. What happened at Vegas happened. People spoke and most people were on my side. It was a mistake. People forget how hard this stuff is. Things happen in a split-second decision. Like I said, I didn’t know he was up there. I glanced up and didn’t see him and ran my line and that was it.”

Briscoe demurred on being overly critical of Smithley, saying “I still haven’t seen a replay” when he talked to reporters.

“It is frustrating even without that lap car, just in general,” Briscoe said. “I totally understand lap cars are obviously off the pace and that makes it tough for them. At this place, the fast guys are running the top and there were a lot of guys that would run the top in front of you.

“We are literally racing for our lives trying to lock into a championship. I haven’t seen the replay so it is hard to say. I know I got tagged in the left rear by Bell but at the same time it felt like (Smithley) was going to put me in the fence regardless.”

Told that Smithley said he wasn’t aware Briscoe was behind, Briscoe said: “I feel like he should have general awareness of what is going on. I totally get where he is coming from. It is tough in those situations. I don’t know. I don’t want to comment on it because I have not been in his position, so I am sure it is tough but it is frustrating to say the least on my end. We go from 15 to go thinking we are going to win the race and lock into Homestead and then you are two points back. It is frustrating. I am sure he will reach out and I appreciate that, but it doesn’t much help the fact.”

Said Bell: “I haven’t seen (a replay) so it’s hard for me to say. Obviously I didn’t mean to wreck the 98. It sucks that we tore up two race cars.”

While Bell and Briscoe were judicious in their words, some Cup drivers expressed their feelings on Twitter:

Smithley took responsibility on Twitter:

 

 

Friday 5: Is this Kyle Busch’s time?

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Will this become the fall of Kyle Busch?

Not fall as in stumble but fall as in season — when he takes control of the Cup playoffs.

Busch, the regular-season champion, has been many things this postseason — moody, controversial and mistake-prone — but he’s not been a dominant figure on the track.

His average finish in the first half of these playoffs is 16.6 — marking the fourth time since 2015 he’s had an average finish of 14th or worse halfway through the postseason.

Busch, though, made it to the championship race each of those four years, winning the title in 2015.

But with Busch, there’s always something more.

Instead of a streak of Championship 4 appearances, it is his winless streak that draws more attention. Busch has failed to win in the past 17 races, his longest drought since going 36 races between Cup victories in 2016-17.

Since Busch last won at Pocono in early June — before Justin Haley’s improbable win at Daytona, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. losing his ride at Roush Fenway Racing and then signing with JTG Daugherty Racing and Bubba Wallace and Busch beating and banging at Watkins Glen — he’s seen Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones all win.

Miscues have hindered Busch’s playoffs. He hit the wall on Lap 3 of the opener at Las Vegas. Busch rallied from two laps down to be back on the lead lap before running into the rear of Garrett Smithley’s car. After the race, Busch called out Smithley and Joey Gase, questioning their credentials to be in the Cup Series.

Busch’s Dover run was hurt by a speeding penalty. He had a flat tire after contact with Kyle Larson on a restart at the Charlotte Roval and had to pit. A suspension issue later led to his day ending. Several laps down and with nothing to gain, Busch drove the car back to the garage during a red flag. His Talladega race was impacted by an accident, just like about every other driver. The only playoff driver not involved in an incident in the race was winner Ryan Blaney.

But things could be changing for Busch.

For all his struggles, he’s finished second three times during his winless drought and had six top-five results. Only Hamlin (10 top fives), Truex (eight) and Kevin Harvick (seven) have had more top fives than Busch in this stretch.

Provided Busch advances — he is 41 points ahead of Alex Bowman, the first driver outside a transfer spot — he’ll likely be the points leader heading into the Round of 8 after Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC).

The Round of 8 begins at Martinsville Speedway. Busch finished third there in the spring. He’s not placed worse than eighth in any of the five short-track races this season. He led 66 laps before finishing 10th at Texas and won at ISM Raceway near Phoenix, leading 177 of 312 laps.

Get Busch to Miami (again), and he could leave as a two-time champion.

2. Tough challenge for hopefuls 

The most likely way Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Clint Bowyer or William Byron — the four drivers outside a playoff race — will advance to the next round will be to win Sunday’s elimination race at Kansas Speedway.

Bowman trails Joey Logano, who holds the final transfer spot by 18 points. Elliott trails Logano by 22 points. Bowyer trails Logano by 24 points, and Byron trails Logano by 27 points.

The only time Byron and Bowyer outscored Logano in a race by as many points as they trail was at Dover in the playoffs when Logano spent the first 24 laps in the garage.

Bowman has outscored Logano by 18 points in three races this year: Dover playoff race, Talladega in April (Bowman was second) and Kansas in May (Bowman was second)

Elliott has had better results. He has outscored Logano by 22 or more points in a race five times this year: Martinsville in March (Elliott outscored Logano by 28 points), Talladega in April (22 points), Kansas in May (29 points), Watkins Glen (46 points) in August and the Bristol night race (25 points) in August. Elliott won at Talladega and Watkins Glen. He was second at Martinsville, fourth at Kansas and fifth at Bristol.

That’s the challenge those four drivers face this weekend trying to knock Logano out of the final playoff spot.

3. Looking to help 

Brad Keselowski expressed his concern about team members who will be or could be losing their jobs in the near future as the sport goes through change.

He recently sent this tweet:

So what can Keselowski do?

“I haven’t gotten an answer to it yet, but I’m looking at it, trying to think about what ideas there might be” Keselowski said. “I haven’t come up with a solution yet. I just wanted those people to know that are affected by it that I cared about it. I can’t employ the couple of hundred people that are probably going to get laid off in the next few weeks, but I’m sure I can do something for someone.”

4. Youth movement?

The last three races have been won by three of the five youngest drivers in the playoffs: Chase Elliott (Charlotte Roval), Kyle Larson (Dover) and Ryan Blaney (Talladega).

Elliott is 23, Larson is 27 and Blaney is 25. The playoffs also include William Byron (21 years old) and Alex Bowman (26). Erik Jones (23) was eliminated in the first round.

5. Drought busters

Five drivers have ended winless streaks of 30 or more races this season: Kyle Larson (75 races) Denny Hamlin (45), Erik Jones (42), Ryan Blaney (37) and Kurt Busch (30).

Among drivers with long winless droughts: Paul Menard (299 races), David Ragan (237), Chris Buescher (118), Ryan Newman (99), Jimmie Johnson (90), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (86), Austin Dillon (66), Clint Bowyer (52), Aric Almirola (36),

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