hendrick motorsports

Tire issues derail several competitors at Indy

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INDIANAPOLIS — Denny Hamlin was among at least eight drivers whose cars had tire issues in Sunday’s Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, saying “it’s kind of roulette if you’re going to get one that will stay together or not.”

Hamlin’s team was one of three at Joe Gibbs Racing that had tire issues or vibrations throughout the race. Hendrick Motorsports had two drivers suffer tire problems, and Aric Almirola had to pit out of sequence because of tire vibrations before rallying to finish third to winner Kevin Harvick. Ryan Newman also hit the wall after a right front tire went down.

Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing, explained in a statement what happened with tires Sunday: “The importance of air pressure, and getting it right, is something that we cautioned about before the race. With the high amount of downforce on the Cup cars down the straightaways, we asked teams to respect our recommended pressures so as not to hurt the tire. 

“Early in the race, without having the benefit of any practice, teams obviously had to be very mindful of that. Most of the race was run in the heat and teams were obviously searching for grip, while several issues happened later in the event when track temperature cooled off a bit and speeds picked up. We had our engineers on the ground all race, working with teams as we do every week, trying to emphasize the importance of right-front pressures.”

The 2.5-mile speedway is difficult on tires and has created challenges in the past, most notably in 2008 when cautions had to be called throughout the race to prevent tires from blowing.

Hamlin crashed when his right front tire went out while leading with eight laps left.

“I had a fast car obviously and was stretching it out there but wasn’t pushing right front at all,” Hamlin said. “It’s kind of roulette if you’re going to get one that will stay together or not and mine didn’t. You saw the end result.”

Hamlin’s teammate, Erik Jones, crashed earlier in the race after a right front tire went down.

“I felt it pop, and I was kind of along for the ride,” Jones said.

Kyle Busch said he “had vibrations at various points throughout the race with different sets of tires so we had to stay on top of that and make sure we changed those.”

Hendrick Motorsports’ drivers also had issues. William Byron blew a left front. Alex Bowman crashed after a right front tire blew.

“We suffered a tire issue right before we made a green flag stop, which ended our day,” Bowman said.

Almirola finished third despite tire issues.

“We kept having left front tires come apart,” he said. “They would start shaking and vibrating so bad, I could hardly see where I was going on the straightaway. We had to pit for that. We kept getting off our pit sequence for our strategy.”

Brad Keselowski, who finished fourth, also had some tire issues.

I felt us have a problem one time and my crew chief confirmed we did,” he said. “Every time the tires would have an issue it was really concerning.  You blow a tire out here you wreck really hard and there’s no chance of saving it, so definitely concerned about that all race.”

Harvick said he had no tire issues in winning his third Brickyard 400.

“We had great tire wear today,” he said. “They hit the cambers and everything right on. I was able to really push my car hard, as hard as I could push it.”

Jimmie Johnson uncertain how he got COVID-19

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INDIANAPOLIS — Jimmie Johnson says he doesn’t know how he and wife Chandra tested positive for COVID-19 after being careful in interactions with others and wearing a mask, but that is just among the many questions he has.

Johnson revealed Friday that he had tested positive after his wife had tested positive. Both of their children tested negative.

The seven-time Cup champion will miss Sunday’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (4 p.m. ET on NBC and the NBC Sports App). It will be the first time in his career he will have missed a scheduled Cup start. Justin Allgaier will drive the No. 48 for Johnson.

When Johnson returns is uncertain. He must have two negative tests more than 24 hours apart and have a doctor’s release.

Johnson, who is in Aspen, Colorado, talked with the media Saturday morning. Here are details of the conversation:

WHAT WAS THE TIMELINE FOR JIMMIE JOHNSON AND WIFE CHANDRA ON TESTING POSITIVE?

His wife had some allergy-like symptoms earlier in the week and Johnson said that “being the rule follower and the ever-cautious individual she is, she felt she needed to go to the local hospital here in Colorado and have a test done just to be responsible and do her part and then we waited on her test results, which took a couple of days and those came in (Friday) morning at 9 o’clock (Mountain Time). From that point on, we were just dealing with the issues at hand and trying to understand if I was positive. I was lucky to get in and be tested and get a quick result for myself and my children.”

Johnson said that his wife tested positive on Wednesday (July 1)

WHAT IS THE FAMILY’S STATUS?

Johnson and his wife have tested positive for COVID-19.

Both their children have tested NEGATIVE.

WHAT SYMPTOMS DOES JOHNSON HAVE?

He is asymptotic … They don’t know how many days he was positive before the test.

HOW DID HE GET THE VIRUS?

Johnson: “I have more questions, honestly, than I do answers at this point. I don’t think you can be careful enough. Clearly we weren’t. With our best intent we ended up positive somehow. We’re unclear how we ended up positive.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR JOHNSON AND WHEN MIGHT HE RETURN TO RACING?

Jeff Andrews, vice president of competition at Hendrick Motorsports said this is what Johnson needs to have done before returning to the track:

— Two negative tests with a minimum of 24 hours between those tests followed by a doctor’s release.

JOHNSON SAID HE PREVIOUSLY DID AN ANTIBODY TEST AND TESTED POSITIVE.

Johnson: “Earlier this year, early into lockdown when I found out there was a semi-reliable antibody test, I did take that. I did test costive for the antibodies. There was a big gap in the rate of being positive … success rate or whatever it might be. … (he was positive and his wife was not)

“We didn’t know how much to trust the antibody test. … I was warned by my physician then although I did test positive for antibodies, there was a 20% chance rate of being incorrect.”

HOW IS JOHNSON DOING EMOTIONALLY?

Johnson: “Thankfully, I am asymptomatic. We don’t know how many days in that I am right now so there is some concern that my conditions could worsen. I literally have had zero symptoms. … I feel great.

“I think our biggest concern right now is for our children. They are negative as of (Friday) . We are being very responsible in our home to self isolate but at the same time we have to parent. That’s really the tricky hurdle we’re trying to sort out right now on top of managing their fears. … For a 9- and a  6-year old, trying to manage the fear right now, they can’t come around mom and dad. We’ve got to feed them. We’re concerned feeding them and passing them the virus. … On the homefront with our kids, we’re heartbroken right now to see the fear in their eyes and watching them try to manage what is going on right now.”

JOHNSON’S RECENT TRAVELS (other than Cup races)

— Has been in Aspen, Colorado the last few weeks.

— Said they went back to Charlotte about 8-10 days ago

— Was in Indianapolis on July 2 at Dallara to drive their simulator to prepare for July 8 IndyCar test.

— Was preparing to head to Indy on Sunday morning

— He has been at Chip Ganassi Racing for a seat fitting for IndyCar test within the past 14 days.

BACKUP PLAN

— Crew chief Cliff Daniels said that Justin Allgaier had been set as the team’s backup driver since the season resumed in May.

WHAT ABOUT JOHNSON’S HOPES TO TEST AN INDYCAR?

Johnson: “That IndyCar test will be there. Hopefully I’m cleared soon and can get back to the track. To get in the 48 car is my first priority of course. … As long as I’m healthy and the world stays open, I really believe there will be that (IndyCar) opportunity. IndyCar has a high priority to help with driver development. So with the interest I have from teams and the relationships and friendships I have in various teams, I do feel that opportunity will be there later in the year.”

Jimmie Johnson tests positive for coronavirus

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Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson has tested positive for coronavirus, becoming the first NASCAR Cup driver do so.

Johnson, a four-time Brickyard winner, will miss Sunday’s Cup at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and next week’s IndyCar test on the Indy road course for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Hendrick Motorsports said in a statement Friday that Johnson will not return until he is cleared by a physician.

Johnson, 44, has not experienced symptoms of COVID-19, according to the Hendrick Motorsports statement.  He was tested upon learning Friday morning that his wife Chandra tested positive after experiencing allergy-like symptoms.

Justin Allgaier will drive for Johnson in his absence.

“My first priority is the health and safety of my loved ones and my teammates,” Johnson said in a statement from Hendrick Motorsports. “I’ve never missed a race in my Cup career, but I know it’s going to be very hard to watch from the sidelines when I’m supposed to be out there competing. Although this situation is extremely disappointing, I’m going to come back ready to win races and put ourselves in playoff contention.”

Johnson, who is in his final full-time Cup season, has the longest streak for consecutive starts among active drivers at 663. He was to have started fourth in Sunday’s race.

Said car owner Rick Hendrick in a statement: “Jimmie has handled this situation like the champion he is. We’re relieved he isn’t showing symptoms and that Chani is doing great, and we know he’ll be back and ready to go very soon. It’s going to be difficult for him to be out of the car and away from his team, but it’s the right thing to do for Jimmie and everyone involved.”

NASCAR announced that it has granted Johnson a playoff waiver should he win a race before the playoffs begin. NASCAR also stated:

“Following the guidelines outlined in the Event Operations Protocol manual, Jimmie Johnson has alerted NASCAR that he has tested positive for COVID-19.

“NASCAR has outlined the steps for Johnson’s return, in accordance with the CDC’s current guidelines, which includes that Johnson is symptom free and has two negative COVID-19 test results, at least 24 hours apart. NASCAR requires Johnson to be cleared by his physician before returning to racing.

“Jimmie is a true battle-tested champion, and we wish him well in his recovery. NASCAR has granted Jimmie a playoff waiver, and we look forward to his return as he races for an eighth NASCAR Cup Series championship.”

Hendrick Motorsports stated that as a precaution, it identified one member of the No. 48 traveling crew to self-quarantine due to close contact with Johnson.

Last month Stewart-Haas Racing confirmed that two employees had tested positive for coronavirus. Team Penske confirmed last month that one of its employees tested positive.

Hendrick Motorsports stated that it has implemented detailed procedures to protect the health of its team members. That includes daily COVID-19 screenings at the team facilities; the separation of facility operations and traveling personnel; split work schedules; stringent face covering and social distancing requirements; and an increased level of disinfecting and sanitization of all work areas.

The announcement about Johnson came shortly after Major League Baseball announced Friday that 31 players have tested positive. Nineteen different teams had at least one player test positive.

This comes as the nation sees a surge in coronavirus cases. The United States reported more than 55,000 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, a daily global record. Global coronavirus cases exceeded 11 million on Friday, according to a Reuters tally.

This weekend’s Cup, Xfinity and IndyCar races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be held without fans because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Joey Logano: ‘I’ve tried to treat everyone like they have COVID-19’

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With a recent uptick in positive test results for COVID-19 in parts of the country, NASCAR driver Joey Logano isn’t taking anything to chance.

“I’ve tried to treat everyone like they have COVID-19,” Logano said during a media teleconference Friday afternoon. “That’s at least my way of trying to stay safe.”

The philosophy works for Logano, which is significant partly because one member of Team Penske tested positive for the virus nearly a week ago, along with two employees of Stewart-Haas Racing.

There is also a reported increase of positive tests and hospitalizations in the Charlotte area, according to The Charlotte Observer.

“If you look at Team Penske, I can’t speak for all the teams, but they are very strict at how seriously they’re taking this virus,” Logano said. “Everybody in that place has a mask on all day long. If you get on a team plane, you’re (wearing a) mask and rubber gloves the whole time.

“They’ve done a really good job at that. If you look at who else they needed to quarantine after that, it’s a very small group because everybody has been so strict at Team Penske to where it doesn’t shut down our whole race shop.

“We’ve done a real good job social distancing where we can, but also wearing our PPE (personal protective equipment) all the time. That’s the most important things we can do.”

“Some of the best advice I’ve gotten out of this whole thing is assume everybody has coronavirus and what would you do? You’re obviously not going to shake someone’s hand, you’re going to stay a little more distant, you’re going to wear your mask, you’re going to wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer. You’re going to do that stuff.

“If you have that mindset that the person next to you has COVID-19, you’re going to obviously be nervous about it. So I’ve tried to treat everyone like they have COVID-19. That’s at least my way of trying to stay safe. Our sport has done a real good job at it and I think Team Penske has done even better, in my opinion.”

In another teleconference earlier in the day, Greg Ives, crew chief for Alex Bowman and the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE also spoke about precautions he and the organization are taking — particularly when teams are on the road at races — in light of the virus resurgence.

Greg Ives, crew chief of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro of Alex Bowman. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

“On an individual basis, you have to have those conversations with each guy that you have on your team,” Ives said. “From the comfort level of traveling to different areas. I’ve had that conversation with them.

“The other thing is, everybody at Hendrick Motorsports is taking this time seriously. When we are traveling to Pocono, how are we going to feed our guys and supply them with the food they need? It may sound trivial, but (one way is) not having them go to restaurants to potentially expose them.

“And we’ve come up with plans where basically we give them the meals they need so they are only going to one location. Making sure they eat at the track versus going out to somewhere else. Those types of things, even from how we are feeding the guys to how we are protecting them, is definitely very much important to not only myself, but everybody at Hendrick Motorsports.

“I feel like we’re doing it the best way, the safest way. For those that may feel uncomfortable in those scenarios or situations, we’re definitely hearing their voice and taking the proper protocol.”

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NASCAR penalty report from Martinsville

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NASCAR on Friday issued three penalties to Cup Series teams for violations incurred Wednesday at Martinsville Speedway:

  • Lee Leslie, crew chief of the No. 51 Petty Ware Racing Ford, has been issued an L1 penalty, fined $25,000 and the team has been assessed with the loss of 10 owner points for an at-track penalty (race equipment does not meet applicable specifications during pre-race inspection). The No. 51 car failed pre-race inspection five times.
  • Alan Gustafson, crew chief of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, has been fined $10,000 for a loose lug nut violation.
  • Adam Stevens, crew chief of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, has been fined $10,000 for a loose lug nut violation.

NASCAR also announced:

  • Team member Zach Yager has successfully completed NASCAR’s Road to Recovery Program and his suspension has been lifted.
  • Team member Josh Young has been reinstated.

There were no other announcements.