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JR Motorsports announces driver, crew chief lineup

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JR Motorsports announced Monday the driver, crew chief lineup for its four Xfinity Series entries this season, including two returning drivers.

The entries include the full-time efforts of veterans Justin Allgaier and Michael Annett, in addition to rookie driver Noah Gragson.

Alllgaier, the senior driver with the team at four years, will drive the No. 7 Chevrolet under the direction of crew chief Jason Burdett, who has led the team since 2015.

At 32, Allgaier is the oldest driver at JRM. He’s older than Annett by 18 days.

Annett is back in the No. 5 Chevrolet for his third season with the team. He is paired with crew chief Travis Mack, who took over crew chief duties on the No. 5 for 13 of the last 14 races in 2018.

Gragson makes the move to the Xfinity Series after two seasons in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series with Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Gragson will step into the No. 1 Chevrolet to replace Elliott Sadler who stepped away from full-time racing after 2018. Gragson will have crew chief Dave Elenz and the crew that worked with champion Tyler Reddick in 2018 on the No. 9 team.

The No. 9 team will be a multi-driver effort this season anchored by eight races with Zane Smith in the cockpit. The team will be led by first-time crew chief Taylor Moyer. Moyer joins JRM after four years with Hendrick Motorsports as a race engineer for Kasey Kahne and William Byron.

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Xfinity practice report at Charlotte Roval

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CONCORD, N.C. – Cole Custer topped the field in Thursday’s second Xfinity practice at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

The two-hour session was stopped 20 minutes early because of severe weather in the area.

Custer posted a lap of 103.223 mph. He was followed by Austin Cindric (102.896 mph), Tyler Reddick (102.895), Daniel Hemric (102.759) and Justin Allgaier (102.708).

Chase Briscoe ran the most laps in the session at 26. Custer ran 25 laps. Reddick ran 24 laps.

Thirty cars ran at least a lap in the session.

Allgaier had the best average over 10 consecutive laps at 102.034 mph. He was one of only four drivers to run 10 consecutive laps. Cindric was next at 102.004 mph.

First Practice

Austin Cindric posted the fastest lap in the first of two optional Xfinity practices Thursday at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

Cindric topped the field with a lap of 102.603 mph.

ref=”https://nbcnascartalk.files.wordpress.com/2018/09/835f446b-b85b-4d9d-82f5-f5a12190c117.jpeg”> Damage to Spencer Gallagher‘s car Thursday at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. (Photo: Dustin Long)[/ca
He was followed by Daniel Hemric (101.495 mph), Ryan Truex (101.139), Ryan Preece (101.075) and Justin Marks (101.022).

Matt Tifft was sixth on the speed chart with a lap of 100.902 mph. He was followed by Elliott Sadler (100.626 mph), Brendan Gaughan (100.601), Justin Allgaier (100.524) and Alex Labbe (100.490)

Click here for practice report

Twenty-five cars ran at least one lap in the session.

There were no cautions for incidents on track. Spencer Gallagher had damage to the right rear of his car. His team pulled out the backup car.

Ryan Reed ran the most laps in the two-hour session that was interrupted by moisture on track. Reed ran 21 laps. Michael Annett ran 20 laps. Tyler Reddick ran 17 laps. Teams will have another practice. The track will be open from 2-4 p.m. ET. Teams will have two practices on Friday before they race on Saturday (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Tifft said the course is challenging. He said the infield section reminded him of the back section at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. He said he ran most of that infield course section on the Roval in second gear.

He also said the backstretch chicane is attention grabbing.

“You go in so hard and use up all the curbs there and you’re jumping curbs right,” he said. “Right now with the blue curbs (which are larger), you are probably going to just pull out the transmission because they’re so stacked so high right there it’s going to be dangerous for the cars. That’s a little bit strange.

“The entry off the oval to the frontstretch chicane … the transitions there are pretty interesting. I had to pass a slower car getting through there. That’s the part I think that is going to be interesting when we do start working in traffic. There are so many awkward spots on this track that it’s going to put drivers in a really tight position to try to get around those guys. I think it’s going to be a race of attrition and trying to make sure you get yourself in the right spot because if you catch anybody in the wrong spot, there’s just not really that many places to get around somebody, you’re just kind of stuck.”

Tifft also said Turns 3, 4, 5, 6 on the infield portion of the course remained slick. The track had run the tire dragon in those sections only but Tifft said morning rain made those areas slick.

Four Cup cars to be penalized practice time Friday at Richmond

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RICHMOND, Va. – Cup playoff drivers Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer are among four drivers who will be docked practice time Friday, NASCAR announced.

Bowyer and Jamie McMurray will be penalized 15 minutes of practice for being late to inspection before last weekend’s race at Las Vegas.

Busch will be docked 15 minutes of practice time because his car failed inspection twice before last weekend’s race.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will be penalized 30 minutes for failing inspection before last weekend’s race three times.

Cup teams practice is from 1:30 – 2:20 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

In the Xfinity Series, eight cars will be docked practice time in the opening session. Missing 30 minutes will be Matt Tifft and Brandon Jones for failing inspection three or more times before last weekend’s race at Las Vegas.

Missing 15 minutes for failing inspection twice last weekend will be Cole Custer, Michael Annett, Ryan Truex, Timmy Hill, Ryan Preece and Daniel Hemric.

 

Three Xfinity crew chiefs suspended for lug nut violations at Bristol

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NASCAR announced Wednesday that it has suspended three Xfinity crew chiefs for lug nuts that were not secured at the end of last weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Matt Swiderski, Austin Cindric‘s crew chief, was fined $20,000 and suspended three races because Cindric’s car had three lug nuts not secured at the end of the race. The team has been penalized 35 driver and owner points. Even with the penalty, Cindric remains in a playoff position. He is 110 points ahead of Michael Annett, the first driver outside a playoff spot, with four races left in the regular season.

Jason Miller, Spencer Boyd‘s crew chief, was fined $20,000 and suspended three races because Boyd’s car had three loose lug nuts not secured at the end of the race. The team has been penalized 35 driver and owner points.

Brian Wilson, Joey Logano‘s crew chief, was fined $10,000 and suspended one race because Logano’s car was found to have two lug nuts not secure at the end of the race.

In the Camping World Truck Series, NASCAR announced the following penalties:

Three-race suspensions to crew chief Danny Gill, truck chief Melvin Burns Jr. and mechanic William Guinade for loss of a ballast container on Clay Greenfield‘s truck at Bristol.

A $2,500 fine to crew chief Carl Joiner Jr. for having one lug nut not secured on Matt Crafton‘s truck after the Bristol race.

Friday 5: Former Cup champ proposes rule change for road courses

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Are there too many stages in a road course race?

Former champion Kevin Harvick wonders that after racing at Sonoma and Watkins Glen this year — and a playoff race at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval to come for the Cup Series.

“I don’t like the two stages for the road races,” Harvick said on his SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show this week. “The reason that I don’t like the two stages is we waste about 8-10 laps of caution between the end of the two stages. It takes some of the strategy out of the race. This week we had three sets of tires. You had two stages, so most guys put two sets of tires on and you had to stop one time (in the final stage). Then you had another set of scuffs that you used in qualifying that were available as your emergency set of tires.

“One thing about road racing to me is strategy. You see so many strategies as you go through the years and you see guys doing different things and put themselves in position to win. To me, it might be worth looking at a single stage with double points for winning the stage.’’

He’s for putting that stage beyond a fuel window, meaning teams would have to pit before the stage ended. Harvick noted that the Watkins Glen race was 90 laps and suggested putting the single stage at Lap 40 since the fuel window was about 35 laps.

“To me it doesn’t flow well at the road courses,” Harvick said of two stage breaks at a road course race. “I would like everybody to think about and look at eliminating that second stage and going to maybe just one stage, double points.”

OK, let’s look at the issues.

At Sonoma, each stage break lasted three laps. So, six of the eight caution laps in that race were related to the stage breaks.

Still, that means that 92.7 percent of the race was run under green — the second highest percentage of laps run under green in a Cup race this year (the most was the spring Martinsville race, which had 93.4 percent of the laps run under green)

At Watkins Glen, each stage break lasted three laps. So, six of the 11 laps of caution were because of stage breaks.

That means 87.7 percent of the laps run were under green. That ranks 13th best among the first 22 races.

Strategy still was a factor in both road course races. At Sonoma, teams decided if they wanted to win the stage and get the playoff point or put themselves in position to win the race.

Sonoma winner Martin Truex Jr. pitted from the lead with two laps to go in the opening stage, sacrificing one playoff point to better position himself to win the race and score five playoff points. AJ Allmendinger won that stage.

Harvick pitted from the lead before the end of stage 2 to set himself up for the finish. Denny Hamlin won the stage. Harvick went on to finish second to Truex that day.

At Watkins Glen, Kyle Busch pitted from the lead before first stage. Truex stayed on course and won the stage. Truex went on to finish second in the race to Chase Elliott, who pitted before the stage ended.

Elliott stayed on track and won the second stage. Most of the field did not pit before that break.

Strategy seemed to matter in both races even with two stage breaks.

2. A rule change to consider

Denny Hamlin’s pole last weekend at Watkins Glen wasn’t official until about 13 hours after he completed his run.

NASCAR impounded the cars after qualifying on Saturday night and inspected them Sunday morning. Any car that failed inspection the first time through had their qualifying time disallowed and started at the rear of the field.

Had Hamlin’s car failed, he would not have been recognized as the pole winner. That would have gone to the next highest qualifier that passed tech.

If NASCAR continues to have inspection the day after qualifying and take the chance of the pole winner failing, maybe it’s time for the sport to do more for race winners who fail inspection.

An argument used to be that the sport didn’t want fans who watched the race to find out hours later that there was a different winner. Admittedly, any winner that fails tech after a race loses points, loses playoff points, can’t have that win count toward playoff eligibility and that result can’t count in any tiebreaker scenario. That’s pretty powerful.

But if NASCAR is willing to strip the pole from a driver because his car failed inspection the next day, then it would seem time to do the same for a win — either leave the position vacant or give it to the next highest finishing driver that passes inspection.

If the team still wants to claim the victory and put up a winner’s banner in the shop so be it, but let the record book show something else.

3. A memorable win

Without a full-time ride, Bubba Wallace was unsure of his future last August when he competed in a Camping World Truck Series race at Michigan.

Wallace went on to win that race. It’s his last victory in NASCAR’s national series.

So how does any driver deal with such a gap since their last win?

You go through these moments where you get signs of success and the other times when you’re fighting and crawling,” Wallace said. “And those moments make you stronger, I believe. So, those days when you do click and find something, you have extra fuel to add to the fire from those tough days to go out and really get the job done.

“So, it’s not a matter of us dwelling on not winning, it’s just a matter of us trying to find something that makes our cars much more competitive. That’s a win for us right now.”

Wallace enters this weekend 25th in the points. He scored a career-best second-place finish in the Daytona 500 for Richard Petty Motorsports. His only other top-10 finish this season was eighth at Texas in the spring.

4. Bidding for a playoff spot

JD Motorsports driver Ross Chastain holds the final transfer spot for the Xfinity playoffs with six races left in the regular season. Chastain is in that position while also running the No. 15 Cup car for Premium Motorsports.

With Cup and Xfinity in two different locations this weekend, Chastain will be with the Xfinity team at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and head to Michigan after Saturday’s Xfinity race (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN). He’ll have Reed Sorenson practice and qualify his Cup car (the Cup race is at 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN).

Chastain told Jay Robinson, owner of Premium Motorsports, that he would never miss an Xfinity on-track session if he got the ride in the No. 15 car.

“There’s no fair way I can take away from the 4 car,” Chastain said of his Xfinity ride.

Chastain leads Michael Annett of JR Motorsports by 40 points for what would be the final playoff spot. Ryan Sieg of RSS Racing is next, 75 points behind Chastain.

5. Familiar phrase

Since Brian France’s arrest and leave of absence from his role of NASCAR Chairman and CEO, a phrase is starting to be uttered more often by competitors.

After each wishes France well with his health, drivers have a commonality in what they say next:

Kevin Harvick said on his SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show this week: “I think from the drivers’ perspective, it’s really important whoever is in that position to become more connected.”

Brad Keselowski, who has been outspoken about the need for this sport’s leader to be the track more often, said: “I would definitely be encouraged to have a relationship with (Jim France, interim NASCAR Chair) and see the garage have a relationship with him. That’s never a bad thing.”

Tony Stewart, who also has been outspoken about NASCAR’s leader needing to be at the track, said: “Jim is very grounded and I feel like Jim is a guy who is in touch with what is going on and that’s what you’ve got to have.”

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