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Ryan Vargas set for Xfinity debut at Iowa Speedway

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Ryan Vargas, a member of the 2018-19 NASCAR Next class and 2019 Drive for Diversity program, is set to make his Xfinity Series debut next weekend at Iowa Speedway.

JD Motorsports announced Wednesday Vargas will drive its No. 15 Chevrolet in the July 27 U.S. Cellular 250, which will air on NBCSN.

Vargas, 18, competed full-time in the K&N Pro Series East last year for Rev Racing. Vargas was let go by Rev Racing in December and has spent this season racing late models and competing for the Irwindale Speedway track championship.

The race at Iowa will mark Vargas’ national NASCAR series debut. Vargas said making his Xfinity debut at Iowa “just makes sense” given his seventh-place finish there last year in the K&N Series.

“Last year, I felt that I was able to run my best race all year at the speedway, and to have the chance to drive for a well-respected team owner in Johnny Davis really adds to the excitement heading into the weekend,” Vargas said in a press release. “I think if we can keep all the fenders on my No. 15 Chevrolet and run as many laps as possible, the weekend will be a success. At this point in my career, I want to learn as much as I can so I can keep moving up the NASCAR ladder, so I am not necessarily worried about what the results show.”

Vargas will be sponsored by Cranio Care Bears, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness of Craniosynostosis, a condition that causes problems with a child’s brain and skull growth. Vargas underwent surgery when he was 11 months old to correct issues from it.

“It means a lot to me to be able to help bring awareness to this great charity in Cranio Care Bears through the sport that I love so much,” Vargas said. “I know that I will have a lot of little supporters cheering me on that look up to me as a role model in the Cranio community, and I want to show them that anything is possible, even with the condition.”

 

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Niece Motorsports’ Iowa penalty upheld

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A National Motorsports Appeals Panelist affirmed and upheld Ross Chastain‘s disqualification from winning Sunday’s Truck Series race at Iowa Speedway for his truck being too low.

Wednesday’s decision cannot be further appealed by the team 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.”

The appeal was heard by Bryan Moss, National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer.

The team released statements from owner Al Niece, general manager Cody Efaw and Chastain regarding the decision.

Chastain’s win Sunday at Iowa Speedway was given to Brett Moffitt after Chastain’s No. 44 Chevrolet was found to be too low, with Truck Series managing director Brad Moran describing it as being “extremely low.”

As a result, Chastain lost all the stage points and race win points he received and was given a last-place finish and just five points. He also lost the $50,000 “Triple Truck Challenge” bonus.

Team owner Al Niece said in a statement after the disqualification was announced that the truck “sustained minor damage during the event, which left the truck too low following the race.”

MORE: Ross Chastain “100 percent confident” he will make playoffs after penalty

With the penalty being upheld, Chastain enters this weekend’s race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway 35th in the standings with 43 points.

After switching his points declaration from Xfinity to the Truck Series after eight truck races, he must win in the next six races and be 20th in the standings to qualify for the playoffs.

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

 

Ross Chastain says DQ spurred ‘very bone-jarring words’ from truck owner

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Ross Chastain is “100 percent confident” he still will make the truck playoffs after having his first-place finish Sunday at Iowa Speedway tossed out on a postrace technicality.

But regardless of how Niece Motorsports rebounds from the disqualification, the repercussions still could threaten the future of the truck series team.

“There will be fallout from this for us for a long time,” Chastain said Tuesday during a taping of a NASCAR on NBC Podcast episode (which will be released next week; a video snippet is available above). “It shook (team owner) Al Niece and all of us to our cores (asking), ‘What are we doing? Why are we doing this?’ Al’s prepared for years to win races, and the amount of investment and infrastructure he’s put into this race team, and to get your second win, and they take it away.

“I think it really made him think about why is he doing this? And is this worth doing? It did. He’s a guy who wears his emotion on his sleeve just like I do. He’s honest. And he came in the shop (Monday) and had some, for me, very bone-jarring words that was like, ‘Holy cow, this could have a really bad effect on all our futures, his included, in NASCAR.’

“It’s scary stuff right now, and that’s why we will go win this weekend, and we will keep winning.”

The team’s appeal of the penalty will be heard today at 9 a.m., and Chastain will be in attendance (“If they want me to speak, I’ll speak”). Because his team is the first dinged under NASCAR’s revamped approach to postrace inspections this season, it’s difficult to gauge the team’s chances because there is virtually no precedent (the last time a driver was disqualified was more than two decades ago).

In the likelihood that the disqualification is upheld, Chastain faces a stiff challenge to make the playoffs. He must win one of the final six regular-season races and also erase a 69-point gap to hold a requisite top 20 spot in the standings.

Given that only 14 drivers have attempted all 10 truck races in 2019, making the top 20 should be easy, but Chastain has been earning points over only the past two races after electing to switch to truck points in early June. His May 10 victory at Kansas Speedway was ineligible for playoff consideration.

That doesn’t dissuade Chastain from believing he can contend for the truck championship. He will race Saturday night at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway with the Chevrolet he drove at Iowa.

“We gave them an eight-race head start, so what’s one more race? How big of a head start do these guys need in the points? No issues on my end,” Chastain said. “I don’t want to sound cocky, but I am confident, because I know what it’s like to not have speed, and you’re struggling and don’t have resources. We have the resources.”

The full podcast episode will be available on audio and video next week; you can watch a snippet above.

Penalty report from Iowa Speedway

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NASCAR has fined Carl Joiner Jr., crew chief on Matt Crafton‘s No. 88 truck, $2,500 for an unsecured lug nut at the end of Sunday’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series race.

Crafton finished the race in seventh.

NASCAR has also issued an indefinite suspension to Clifford M. Turner for behavior level penalties, including violating its substance abuse policy.

NASCAR suspends Johnny Sauter one race; he remains eligible for Truck title

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NASCAR suspended Johnny Sauter for this weekend’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series race, but he will remain eligible to compete for the truck series championship after intentionally wrecking Austin Hill under caution in Sunday’s race.

NASCAR did not penalize Hill.

“We look at the history of everything we’ve done and react with the precedents we have set while tailoring it with the situation we have at hand,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, in a statement. “In this case, Johnny Sauter’s actions certainly warranted being sat down for an event, but it felt a little too harsh to take him straight out of the championship. We think that we landed on what is fair and a deterrent.”

Section 17.6.2.1.c of the Truck rule book gives NASCAR the latitude to allow Sauter to be eligible for the playoffs despite missing a race. That rule reads:

17.6.2.1 ELIGIBILITY
a. “Unless otherwise authorized by NASCAR, driver(s) and Team Owner(s) must start all Championship Events of the current season to be eligible for the Playoffs. If a starting position was not earned, then the driver(s) and Team Owner(s) must have attempted to Qualify for the Race.”
The key phrase is “unless otherwise authorized by NASCAR.” Series officials felt that denying Sauter a chance to be in the playoffs was too harsh.

A ThorSport Racing spokesperson told NBC Sports that the team had not decided if to appeal. The spokesperson said the team would not be releasing a statement on the penalty and has not made a decision on who will drive Sauter’s truck this weekend.

Miller explained Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio what series officials will do with Hill.

“We’re not completely done with him,” Miller said. “I wouldn’t think that there is a penalty forthcoming for this. He’s definitely placed himself under a microscope when it comes to behavior out there on the race track.”

The penalty to Sauter is in addition to the action NASCAR took after the incident Sunday at Iowa Speedway. NASCAR parked Sauter after he retaliated and wrecked Hill.

The feud between the two drivers went back to the previous race at Texas Motor Speedway where Hill’s contact sent Sauter into the wall.

At Iowa, Sauter made slight contact with Hill and got by him. Hill responded by hitting Sauter and sending him into the wall. Sauter came back under that caution and wrecked Hill.

Section 12.8.1.c of the Truck rule book provided penalty guidelines for such an infraction. It reads:

“Member actions that could result in a loss of 25-50 driver and Team Owner Points and/or $12,500-$25,000 fine and/or one Race suspension, indefinite suspension, or termination:
  • Physical confrontation with a NASCAR Official, media members, fans, etc.
  • Member-to-Member confrontation(s) with physical violence and other violent manifestations such as significant threat(s) and/or abuse and/or endangerment.
  • Attempting to manipulate the outcome of the Race or championship.
  • Intentionally wrecking another vehicle, whether or not that vehicle is removed from Competition as a result.”

Meanwhile, Sauter announced on Twitter his new racing plans for Saturday.