NASCAR America Scan All: Two sides to every story

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In NASCAR, there are almost always two sides to every incident. This week’s Scan All features contact between Jamie McMurray and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer, as well as Michael McDowell and Austin Dillon.

“You got a granola bar or something down there you can give me?” Clint Bowyer asked crew chief Mike Bugarewicz during the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway. Unfortunately, all they could find was a mini peanut butter and jelly sandwich. When Bowyer’s spotter chimed in to note that there were granola bars in the goodie bags, it left Bugarewicz wondering why he didn’t get one.

The absence of a snack bar may have been just the thing that kept Bowyer from winning because he lost his composure after losing “three [expletive] spots every time we come down pit road” a little later in the race.

Other highlights included:

  • “The 1 door slammed me.” – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  • “Check the right side, the 17 turned into me on the backstretch.” – Jamie McMurray
  • “I see now. I had the wrong line. Two lines there; sorry about that.” – Brad Keselowski
  • “Yellow line to yellow line.” – Paul Wolfe, Keselowski’s crew chief
  • “I gotta know how far away he is from my door in the corner.” – Ryan Blaney
  • “Let the 43 know that I’m racing here; get the hell out of the way.” – Michael McDowell

For more, watch the video above.

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NASCAR fines three crew chiefs for lug nut violations

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NASCAR announced $10,000 fines Tuesday to crew chiefs Paul Wolfe (Brad Keselowski) and Mike Wheeler (Denny Hamlin) for their cars each having one lug nut unsecured at the end of last weekend’s Cup race at Chicagoland Speedway.

In the Xfinity Series, crew chief Chris Gabehart (Brandon Jones) was fined $5,000 for having one lug nut unsecured after that race.

NASCAR America: Chicagoland could provide opportunity for Team Penske

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The current Cup season has been a boon for Ford-backed teams, but Stewart-Haas Racing has carried most of the success.

One Ford team fighting for a larger share of the win total is Team Penske.

The team’s three drivers of Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney are all in the top 11 in points, but only Logano has visited Victory Lane.

One aspect working in Penske’s favor this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway is its record.

In 17 Cup races at the 1.5-mile track, Keselowski is the only driver to go Victory Lane with a Ford. He and Penske also won there in 2012 with a Dodge.

Keselowski, who is fourth in points behind Logano, also boasts his career-best average finish at Chicagoland (9.2).

He’s finished in the top 10 in his last seven starts there.

Two of his four top fives this season have come at 1.5-mile tracks.

Meanwhile, Logano has finished worse than seventh only once in his last six Chicago visits. Blaney has finished fourth and 11th in his two Chicago starts.

NASCAR America analysts Steve Letarte, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Burton discussed the team’s prospects this weekend in Chicago.

Of Keselowski, Burton said, “This is the longest he’s gone into a season without a win since 2013. He needs to win, he needs a win to establish himself as one of those guys that can go to Homestead and win. … With the success here from Brad I think you’ve got to watch him.”

Letarte said the hot and slick conditions could affect how Keselowski communicates with crew chief Paul Wolfe.

“They’re that team you can never get rid of,” Letarte said. “They’re in a race, you kind of rule them out in the first stage, next thing you know here they come again, they’ve made adjustments, they’ve improved their race car.”

Watch the above video for more.

Comparing Cole Pearn, Martin Truex Jr.’s record together to NASCAR greats

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Martin Truex Jr and Cole Pearn have a good thing going.

Truex’s win Sunday at Sonoma Raceway came in his 123rd start with Pearn serving as his crew chief.

The two have had an eventful tenure in their four years together at Furniture Row Racing.

Since teaming up in the No. 78 Toyota in 2015, Truex’s second year with the team, the duo has scored 16 wins, 45 top fives, 75 top 10s and an all important championship last season.

How does their record so far compare to the first 123 races of other notable driver-crew chief pairings in NASCAR history?

Racing Insights compiled the info of nine pairings, including Truex/Pearn and Kyle Busch/Adam Stevens, who have 119 starts together. They would have 130 starts together if not for Busch missing 11 races in 2015 due to injury.

Truex and Pearn would have 124 starts together if not for a one-race suspension for Pearn in 2015.

The data includes five active pairings: Pearn/Truex, Stevens/Busch, Chad Knaus/Jimmie Johnson, Rodney Childers/Kevin Harvick and Paul Wolfe/Brad Keselowski.

Among the nine pairings, the best is Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Hammond, who had two championships, 28 wins, 75 top fives and 91 top 10s in their first 123 races together.

The most comparable pairing to Truex/Pearn is Knaus/Johnson.

After 123 starts, they’re tied for 16 wins and 75 top 10s. While the Hendrick Motorsports pairing had two more top fives, Truex and Pearn earned their first championship faster.

Johnson and Knaus earned their first title in their fifth year together when they reached 176 starts together.

Check out the info below.

Pairing       Starts     Wins Top 5s   Top 10s Titles
Jeff Hammond/Darrell Waltrip 123 28 75 91 2
Cole Pearn/Martin Truex Jr. 123 16 45 75 1
*Adam Stevens/Kyle Busch 119 18 54 74 1
Rodney Childers/Kevin Harvick 123 13 59 84 1
Chad Knaus/Jimmie Johnson 123 16 47 75 0
Ray Evernham/Jeff Gordon 123 19 51 71 1
Kirk Shelmerdine/Dale Earnhardt 123 22 59 89 1 – Secured 2nd title in 125th start
Greg Zipadelli/Tony Stewart 123 14 47 76 0
Paul Wolfe/Brad Keselowski 123 11 39 61 1
 

*Only 119 starts together

Long: New season leads to new questions after Clash

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — So many questions. And so much work to do before next weekend’s Daytona 500.

While Brad Keselowski celebrated his first Clash win a few hours after Alex Bowman won the Daytona 500 pole, a level of uncertainty permeated the garage Sunday.

The elimination of the ride-height rule made the cars look like low-riders and altered their personalities. Drivers talked about getting big runs but having balance issues with their car when they made a move.

On a day when temperatures reached into the 80s, handling again was a key word. While Harry Hogge famously told Cole Trickle on the movie screen that “loose is fast,’’ reality Sunday was that loose was a handful.

It also was a day where slimmer pit crew — cut back by one over-the-wall person — debuted, creating an assortment of ways to service a car that will have teams studying videos of each other.

Although the Clash was not the jaw-dropping, eye-popping finish that a restrictor-plate track can produce at times, remember this was an appetizer, not the main course that the Daytona 500 is.

“Who would have thought they would have run single-file for 30 laps?’’ Kevin Harvick said after his ninth-place finish in the Clash. “In an exhibition race, there really shouldn’t be any strategy to it. That was a little bit surprising to me. I was trying to be aggressive and do things in the back and the next thing I know I’m losing the draft because everybody is single-file.

“Usually, they get mixing it up, two-wide and you can pull back up and get yourself back in it. My bad for losing the draft for trying to do something.’’

Sunday was the first race for drivers with the elimination of the ride-height rule. Stability is key. Not every car had it.

“You would think when the cars drive worse that the guys would wreck more, but the exact opposite happens,’’ Keselowski said after his first Clash win. “Everybody loses confidence and they fall in line and they don’t make as risky of moves, and then they don’t wreck, which is, it seems, completely backwards and counterintuitive for sure, but I think that’s what you saw today.’’

Now be careful of trying to take what happened in the Clash and projecting it to the 500. Teams will have time to adjust the cars and make the drivers feel more comfortable before next weekend’s checkered flag.

Even with the challenges, there were still some aggressive moves. Running third, Ryan Blaney dropped below reigning champion Martin Truex Jr. and squeezed back in front of Truex on his own.

“It was an aggressive move,’’ Blaney said after his fourth-place finish. “I had a big run. I was clear. I was looking in my mirror the whole time. I don’t care if I’m clear by 3 inches or 3 feet, I’m coming up.’’

Another time Chase Elliott pushed Denny Hamlin through part of the field with a big run. 

“He and I worked really well together,’’ said Elliott, who finished 13th after being collected in a last-lap crash. “He had a fast car and so did we. I think we kind of understood what we needed and was able to push our way forward a couple of times. It’s just all numbered dependent, who’s behind you, how good a pusher they are and how scared they are.’’

Such runs were attention-grabbing.

“The game may be a little bit quicker,’’ runner-up Joey Logano said.

“Just think the runs happen quicker. It’s kind of like in the Xfinity race. In the Xfinity races, the cars get these huge runs, and they’re hard to stop. This is maybe not quite to that extent, but the runs you can build are way bigger than they used to be, but that bubble, that imaginary bubble in between the cars that we always talk about seems to be — stop us just as hard. So we get a bigger run, but it kind of stops us just as much.’’

They’ll work through that just as teams will continue to refine pit road. New spec air guns and only five people servicing the car instead of six slowed the pit stops.

Racing Insights stated that the fastest four-tire pit stop Sunday was 16.6 seconds by Jimmie Johnson’s team. Last year, the fastest four-tire stop in the Clash was 11.8 seconds by Elliott’s team.

“We’ll have to go back and study all that and see,’’ said Keselowski’s crew chief Paul Wolfe, whose team only did a two-tire stop. “I’m sure there was a lot of different ideas and theories on pit road of what was going to be the fastest pit stop.’’

Among the different way of servicing the cars, Keselowki’s tire carrier had both front and rear tires when he went over the wall. When Harvick’s pit crew went from the right side to the left side of the car to change the tires, the jackman raised the car and then placed the left rear tire on. After the tire carrier placed the left front tire on the car, he went around the front changer and dropped the jack for Harvick to go.

“It was a learning day,’’ Wolfe said.

A new day, a new way to do things.

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