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NASCAR docks 3 Cup, 5 Xfinity teams practice time at Phoenix

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Jimmie Johnson‘s team is among three Cup teams that will be penalized track time during today’s practice session at ISM Raceway, NASCAR announced Friday morning.

Johnson’s team will lose 30 minutes for failing pre-race inspection three times last weekend at Las Vegas. The No. 15 team with Ross Chastain faces the same penalty for the same infraction.

Matt DiBenedetto‘s team will lose 15 minutes for failing pre-race inspection twice last weekend at Las Vegas.

Cup teams have a 50-minute practice from 12:35 – 1:25 p.m. ET today.

In the Xfinity Series, the cars of Kaz Grala, Chad Finchum, Josh Bilicki, Timmy Hill and Cole Custer will each be docked 15 minutes of practice. The teams of Grala, Finchum, Bilicki and Hill are penalized for being out of the garage late for inspection last weekend at Las Vegas. Custer’s team is penalized for failing pre-race inspection twice last weekend at Las Vegas.

Those penalties will be served in the first Xfinity practice, which is from 2:05 – 2:55 p.m. ET.

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Cole Custer glad to not make any headlines in Cup debut

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One of the more surreal moments of Cole Custer‘s Cup debut came in the middle of Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Looking out the windshield of his No. 51 Ford, Custer bore down on none other than seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson.

“It was definitely kind of surreal racing against some of those guys out there,” Custer told NBC Sports two days after his 25th-place finish in the Pennzoil 400.

When Johnson made his Cup debut in October 2001 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Custer was 3 years old.

Now 20, Custer is the latest member of NASCAR’s youth movement at the Cup level, albeit one race for now. Custer’s full-time job is driving Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 00 Ford in the Xfinity Series.

After starting 30th, Custer quickly found out his level of aggression in the lower series won’t cut it in the premier series.

Cole Custer pits during his Cup debut at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

“The restarts are always pretty crazy so it’s hard to just jump right in there and be really aggressive when you don’t really know what the car’s going to be doing around 10 other cars,” Custer said. “Just getting used to that and what it felt like and everything. That was probably the biggest thing and really just trying to get used to the track bar adjuster and just really the whole weekend. I’ve never had to do a qualifying trim setup. Just the whole weekend in general was a new experience.”

It wasn’t his first time in a Cup car. Custer took part in a Jan. 31 – Feb. 1 organization test at the 1.5-mile track. Then he drove the No. 32 Ford owned by Go Fas Racing.

“I was definitely pretty nervous, just trying to get used to not really knowing what to expect,” Custer said. “You do all the preparation you can leading up to it, watching a lot of video and looking at data and stuff like that. But it still really isn’t enough because you still have to try and get a feel for the car and what it feels at the end of the straightaways and the corners and the motor. It’s just a lot to take in.”

On Sunday, he drove the No. 51 owned by Rick Ware Racing with support from SHR.

Custer attempted to approach the race like it was any other, despite the fact he was racing against drivers like Johnson for the first time on their level.

With his parents, sister, aunts and uncles present, Custer outran Daniel Suarez, rookie William Byron and AJ Allmendinger. Custer took the checkered flag in one piece while veterans Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch and Jamie McMurray wrecked.

“For a first race I think it’s acceptable that we brought our car home,” Custer said. “Didn’t really have any scratches on it or anything.”

But it took until last November for Custer to be convinced he was worthy of competing in the Cup Series.

It came when he put together the most dominating performance of his young career in the Xfinity Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

After earning seven top 10s in the previous eight races, Custer led 182 of 200 laps and beat Sam Hornish Jr. by 15.4 seconds.

“When I was going into Xfinity last year I didn’t have the highest confidence or anything,” Custer said.

He attributed it to a lackluster final season in the Camping World Truck Series in 2016. He failed to win in 23 races and had five top fives. He had won one race in each of the previous two seasons as a part-time driver.

“By the end of (2017) I felt I had a decent amount of confidence and we won that race and that kind of makes you feel like you can kind of do it,” Custer said.

Custer believed a good day for his first outing would have been a top-20 finish. But he still managed to give Rick Ware Racing its best finish at a non-restrictor-plate track in 33 Cup starts (Justin Marks finished 12th in the Daytona 500).

Custer was surprised by one thing.

“It was actually not the hardest race in the world,” Custer said. “I thought it was going to be a lot harder. I thought the Xfinity race was actually a little harder than the Cup race, just because Saturday I was running around a lot more and had practices and qualifying and the race. So there was a lot more going on. The Cup race wasn’t too bad, I was surprised by that.”

As a native of Ladera Ranch, California, there was only one downside to his busy weekend.

He didn’t get the chance to enjoy his favorite fast food chain, In-N-Out Burger.

“I didn’t have any in Vegas because I was doing double duty, but I’m definitely going to get something next week in Fontana,” Custer said. “That’s always my No. 1 place to go.”

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NASCAR America: Scan All from Las Vegas

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Another race, another dominating Kevin Harvick performance.

The latest edition of NASCAR America’s “Scan All” looks back at Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where Harvick earned his second win of 2018.

Here are some highlights.

Watch the above video for more.

Rodney Childers explains what happened to Kevin Harvick’s rear window (video)

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Crew chief Rodney Childers said a brace failed, causing a portion of the right rear window to bow, but that he doesn’t believe it helped Kevin Harvick win last weekend’s Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Speaking on “The Morning Drive” Tuesday, Childers detailed what happened:

“Basically, we had a rear window brace fail and NASCAR mandates that we run a certain T-bar in the back glass and that T-bar is actually pretty strong,’’ Childers said. “Then also over the winter they wanted the rear package to raise the bottom of the rear glass to be really stiff and stay controlled — there were some guys that were having their rear package trays falling an inch at the end the year last year.

“The bottom of the glass got strengthened up and the T-bar is stiff and the center brace that holds that T-bar is what bent and failed and the T-bar ends up being stronger than the back of roof at that point and then pulled the back of the roof down.

“To be honest, that stuff has been a struggle over many, many years. I can remember being at Michigan with Mark Martin in 2012. You’re just going so fast at those intermediate tracks and you’ve got so much air pushing down on that stuff. I remember Mark coming off the race track and we had a 2-inch gap from the bottom of the glass to the deck lid when we came in from practice and had to modify all that stuff.’’

Childers said the team has made provisions to avoid a repeat of what happened at Las Vegas.

“We’re going to learn from this,’’ Childers told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “It’s not something that we wanted to happen. You definitely don’t want the back of the roof sharp. You want the back of the roof round and you want that to be a smooth transition. I think that everybody thinks that it helps. I would suggest that it probably didn’t help.

“The wind tunnels don’t blow fast enough to even to get to that speed to know whether it was good or bad. It’s something that we’ve got to address.

“We’ve already addressed on the California cars and making the roof stiffer in that area and trying to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. Like I said, the car was plenty fast enough before that happened, and I think everybody in the garage knows that and it’s just something that we need to put behind us and move on.’’

Asked if he anticipated any more conversations with NASCAR about the matter, Childers said:

“I wouldn’t think so. I think the biggest thing is getting it fixed and making sure that it doesn’t happen again. I think all the guys there they understand aerodynamics and they understand what goes on. We all communicate and we try to do the right things. I think also my reputation over there is pretty good.

“Like I said, it’s not something to be proud of. We’re proud of winning races and having fast cars. Whether a brace failed or not, we were going to win the other day. That’s really the whole story.’’

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Dale Jr., NBC analysts weigh in on rear window of Kevin Harvick’s car

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At least one team and many others on social media took notice of the rear window of Kevin Harvick’s winning car in Sunday’s Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

During the race, Chase Elliott and crew chief Alan Gustafson discussed the rear window of Harvick’s No. 4 Ford.

With about 100 laps to go, Gustafson asked Elliott if he saw the rear window of Harvick’s car and how it appeared bowed.

“The right side of the glass, yep kind of … between the orange jack screw and the black lining, it’s bowed from the right side of the jack screw over.’’

Gustafson responded and estimated that when Harvick’s car was at speed, the window pushed down 2-3 inches. Listen to the audio of their conversation in a clip below from Monday’s NASCAR America:

They weren’t the only ones talking about it. Some on social media posted pictures of the rear window and raised questions about what might be causing it.

NBC analysts Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett added their opinions during Monday’s NASCAR America.

“We heard about Chase Elliott seeing this particular instance on the 4 car, bringing it up to his crew chief,’’ Earnhardt said on his podcast, the Dale Jr. Download, which will be released Tuesday. “That’s common, too. I spent the last five years of my career telling my crew chief anything I saw on a car that I thought might help that car around me – where his track bar looked like it was, is his track bar high on the right side or low on the right side or the left side … does he look like he’s making skew somewhere? Does he have something flared?’’

Earnhardt related how he’d see cars with roof flaps open on speedways.

“You’d see cars out there running around with the roof flap about half an inch up in the air and when the car would slow down they would come back down just because they had found a way to change the pressure inside the car versus what was on the outside. At speed, it raised that flap up. This isn’t new. I think what we’re seeing out of Harvick’s car in these pictures is new in that space, which makes it so interesting to everybody who sees it.’’

Petty’s take on the matter:

“When Dale (Jarrett) and I raced … I would look at his car. If he was doing something, I’m not going to turn him in, I’m not going to put it on social media, I’m going to do it to my car so I can go out there and try to run as good as Dale Jarrett runs.

“It’s a different time now with so many cameras, with so many people out there. Having said that, if anybody watching NASCAR America or in NASCAR believes that Rodney Childers is that big of an idiot to do something that he can’t get back, that he’s going to go out and just blatantly throw it out there in front of people, that’s not Rodney Childers. Rodney Childers is above board, a great guy, has integrity. The way he looks at it, he wants to go outrun you heads up.’’

Petty said he didn’t believe there was any intent to what happened to the rear window of Harvick’s car.

Jarrett also had his opinion:

“You would have to think that there’s no reason for them to go this far, to be this noticeable. Probably an area they worked in starting last year to find something that they could lean on because that’s what they complained of with the Fords last year, was that they just couldn’t go through the corners and carry the speed that they wanted to.

“When something is this noticeable, as Kyle was just saying, probably something went wrong with what they were doing there that made it this noticeable. I don’t think they’re going to put themselves out there for anything like it.’’

For more on what each said, watch the video above.

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