James Small

NASCAR penalizes
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NASCAR penalizes Xfinity owner, driver for testing violation; team will appeal

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NASCAR fined Xfinity car owner Mario Gosselin $50,000 and docked him 75 points for violating the private test policy last weekend at Daytona International Speedway with driver Alex Labbe.

NASCAR docked Labbe 75 points for the L2 violation. Labbe was 73 points out of the 12th and final playoff spot before the penalty.

DGM Racing stated that it will appeal the penalties. The team stated: “DGM Racing is aware of the allegations against us. We feel we followed all the proper protocol and will be appealing the penalty. We are unable to comment further. Thank you for the support we have received so far.”

The issue stems from an SCCA event last weekend on the Daytona road course that Labbe participated.

NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Truck teams will race for the first time on the Daytona road course this month. There will be no practice before each race. Drivers are not permitted to compete in more than one series event as a way to get extra track time.

Labbe was listed in Regional Race Group 7 in a 2019 Chevrolet Camaro. The 2019 Chevrolet Camaro is the approved model for Chevy teams in the Xfinity Series.

NASCAR viewed that as an illegal test because of the car used. Section 5.1.a of the Xfinity rule book states: “Private vehicle testing by any race team, employee,  contractor, affiliate, associate, subsidiary, or surrogate is strictly prohibited.”

Section 5.1.d of the Xfinity rule book states: NASCAR, in its sole discretion, will determine in advance what constitutes an authorized test. In general, only tests conducted under the NASCAR National Series Unified Testing policy are considered to be authorized tests.”

NASCAR also stated penalties that stem from last weekend’s Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and had already been announced.

Those penalties included suspensions for the New Hampshire race for crew chiefs Jerry Baxter and Ryan Sparks after ballast was found to be improperly mounted before the race. The teams also were docked 10 points and drivers Bubba Wallace and Corey LaJoie each were penalized 10 points.

NASCAR also stated that Clint Bowyer‘s crew chief, Johnny Klausmeier, will be suspended for Saturday’s Cup race at Michigan International Speedway (4 p.m. ET on NBCSN) after two lug nuts were found to be not safe and secure after the race. Stewart-Haas Racing has stated that Greg Zipadelli, the team’s director of competition, will fill in for Klausmeier for Saturday’s race.

NASCAR fined crew chiefs Jeremy Bullins, James Small and Randall Burnett $10,000 each for having a lug nut not safe and secure on their car after the race.

 

Poll: Vote for NASCAR’s greatest driver

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On Friday, NASCAR.com revealed the results of poll it conducted with 19 Cup drivers that covered six categories.

Among the topics drivers were polled:

# Greatest driver of all-time

# Driver who will win the 2020 championship

# Best active crew chief

We decided to take those questions, tweak them a little bit and pose them to you.

Greatest Driver of All-Time

With 37% of the vote, Jimmie Johnson‘s peers voted him the greatest NASCAR driver to grace the track, besting four other choices: Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Kyle Busch and David Pearson.

We’re giving you one more option in our poll, with the addition of four-time champion Jeff Gordon.

 

2020 Cup Championship Pick

The 19 drivers polled by NASCAR.com voted Denny Hamlin as their choice to win the title with 53% of the vote. Kevin Harvick got 47%.

We’re opening the choices to the current top 10 drivers in the Cup point standings, plus an “other” option.

 

Best Crew Chief

Behind every great driver is a crew chief calling the shots. NASCAR.com’s poll saw Rodney Childers, who works with Kevin Harvick, voted best crew chief with 63% of the vote. Second place, Chris Gabehart (Denny Hamlin’s crew chief), received 16%.

Who do you think is the best crew chief who can be found in the Cup Series garage?

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.

NASCAR Penalty report from Miami

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Six crew chiefs across the NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series were fined for not having properly installed lug nuts.

In the Cup series, crew chiefs James Small (for the No. 19 team of Martin Truex Jr.) and Chad Johnston (No. 42 Matt Kenseth team) each were fined $10,000 for the lug nut infraction.

In the Xfinity Series, crew chiefs Alexander Yontz (No. 11 Justin Haley team), Jeff Meendering (No. 19 Brandon Jones team) and Bryan Smith (No. 26 Colin Garrett team) each were fined $5,000 for the lug nut infraction.

In the Truck Series, crew chief Paul Clapprood (No. 44 Ross Chastain team) was fined $2,500 for the infraction.

NASCAR previously announced that crew chief Richard Boswell, car chief Nicholas Hutchins and engineer Daren Vanderley were suspended four races each after ballast fell out of Chase Briscoe‘s car.

NASCAR also previously announced that the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports team was docked 10 owner points for the track bar mount and support not meeting specifications.

Martin Truex Jr. ready to pick up where he left off at Martinsville

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If there ever was an event where Martin Truex Jr. would probably like to trade his sunglasses for working headlights on his Toyota, tonight’s race at Martinsville Speedway would be it.

The venerable .526-mile short track in southern Virginia — the shortest track on the Cup circuit — hosts its first-ever Cup night race under the lights this evening. It has been quite the anticipated event for the sport’s oldest legacy track, the only facility to host Cup Series races every year since the series was founded in 1949.

“It’s definitely going to be different, but I think it’s exciting to have our first night race there,” Truex said in a media teleconference. “Doing it mid-week, it should be fun so hopefully it goes over well. We’re all looking forward to it.”

Whether in the daylight or night time, Martinsville has been, is and always will be Martinsville. In other words, the racing will still be ultra-tight, tire wear will be ultra-significant and tempers are likely to flare up as much as brakes routinely overheat there.

“I think the biggest question for us right now is just the tires,” Truex said. “The tires are different and that can have such a huge impact at Martinsville.

“So, with no practice, kind of going back and building off of the things that we’ve learned there with our car and being able to win last fall, are those things going to work still?

“And, how is the tire going to change the way the car drives and what it needs to do to be fast? Definitely a lot of question marks there as far as that goes I think more so than just being at night.”

Tonight’s race – weather permitting (there’s a nearly 50% chance of rain in the forecast at race time, per wunderground.com) – marks the third mid-week race NASCAR has held since returning from the COVID-19 pandemic hiatus. It’s something Truex would like to see continue once things become more normalized as the virus is brought further under control.

“From a driver’s perspective, for me, I think it’s been good, I’ve enjoyed it,” Truex said. “The fact that we’ve had all one day shows and no practice, no qualifying has made it a little bit easier on the teams. I think I would be all for it.

“Everybody has always talked about how long our season is and it would certainly be a way to shorten up the schedule timeline wise. I think it falls more on the teams and what they are capable of. It’s a lot of work to prepare race cars and do all the things you need to do to show up to the race track and race.

“There’s a lot going on behind the scenes. I think for the drivers, it’s easy. You show up and you race. I think you have to ask the teams more about how they feel about it and how many races could they do in a short amount of time like that.”

Truex is adapting to the new normal, per se, in NASCAR – namely, no practice and in most cases, no qualifying before races. But he likes the get in and drive routine.

“I feel that I can get in and fire off and go just as hard as I need to,” he said. “It’s different from the perspective that you really don’t know what you have, and you have to kind of fly by the seat of your pants feel and just react and make adjustments on the fly.

“There is no, ‘Well, I’m going to go in the garage and make a few adjustments.’ You kind of just have to deal with what you have and wait for a pit stop to work on it. So, it’s been a little bit different from there. I definitely feel like I’m confident in being able to fire it off into turn 1 as hard as I need to each week.”

After a series-leading seven wins last season, the driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota has yet to visit victory lane this season. But the odds look optimistic tonight: his most recent Cup Series win was last fall’s playoff race at Martinsville.

“I feel real close, I feel we were in position to win three or four already,” Truex said. “It’s just one of those things where we haven’t had everything come together.

“This past weekend at Atlanta, I felt like we had a dominant car through the first two stages, and just lost the handling a little bit there in stage three. Track cooled off a little bit. The car changed a little bit and you find yourself not able to track down the leader again.

“We’ve been right there. I feel like we had a shot at winning Darlington and the Coke 600. Those are the past couple races. I feel like we are right there, and we are working to get better each week.”

Some may point to Truex’s failure to win thus far this season being tied to still getting used to new crew chief James Small, who replaced the now retired Cole Pearn after last season.

“As far as the things with James, it’s a learning process,” Truex said.

But at the same time, the Mayetta, New Jersey native believes the transition from Pearn to Small has “been pretty seamless, really.

“We know each other and we’ve worked together long enough (Small was previously Truex’s chief engineer) to know that, and I don’t think that’s anything that is holding us up. It’s just a matter of putting all the little details together and executing.”

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