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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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Austin Cindric’s car rolls over in Daytona Xfinity crash

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Austin Cindric was uninjured after his car rolled over twice in a 16-car accident that brought out the red flag with 18 laps left in Friday night’s Xfinity race at Daytona International Speedway.

Cindric was running in the top 10 in the bottom line when he was hit by Matt Tifft, turning him and triggering a crash that collected several cars.

“I was trying to go under and he came back down again,” Tifft said on the radio about the contact.

Cindric was sliding sideways in Turn 1 when he came up the track and hit Tyler Reddick‘s before rolling over twice.

Cindric radioed his team and said: “I’m OK” before exiting the car.

Cindric was cleared and released from the infield care center.

“I’ve got no injuries,” Cindric told NBCSN. “I feel fine.I just wish we could have better races.”

The red flag was displayed for 12 minutes, 18 seconds.

Among those also involved in the crash were Ryan Truex, Ryan Sieg, Jeremy Clements, Brandon Jones and Joey Gase, along with Cindric, Tifft and Reddick.

A second large wreck broke out on the front stretch with four laps to go that involved Ryan Reed, Jeff Green, Ryan Sieg and Cole Custer.

 

Today’s Xfinity race at Iowa: Start time, lineup and more

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The NASCAR Xfinity Series enjoys the spotlight with the Cup Series off and no Cup drivers competing in today’s race at Iowa Speedway.

There’s a good chance of seeing a new winner for this season. Only three drivers who have won this year (Tyler Reddick at Daytona, Christopher Bell at Richmond and Justin Allgaier at Dover) are entered in today’s race.

Here are the details for today’s race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: Craig Abel will give the command to start engines at 5:07 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 5:14 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 250 laps (218.75 miles) around the 0.875-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 60. Stage 2 ends on Lap 120.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: Garage opens at 11 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 2 p.m. Qualifying is at 2:35 p.m. Driver introductions are at 4:30 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Specialist Michelle Monroe from the Iowa National Guard 34th Army will perform the anthem at 5:01 p.m.

TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race beginning at 5 p.m. Coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. Motor Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 4:30 p.m. and also can be heard at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will have MRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for mostly sunny skies with a high of 90 degrees and zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: William Byron won this race last June. Ryan Sieg was second. Tyler Reddick placed third. Ryan Preece won the July race. Kyle Benjamin was second. Brian Scott placed third.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the lineup.

Today’s Xfinity race at Dover: Start time, lineup and more

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The final round of the Dash 4 Cash takes place today at Dover International Superspeedway. That means no Cup regulars will be in this race. Battling for the $100,000 bonus will be Elliott Sadler, Justin Allgaier, Brandon Jones and Ryan Sieg.

Here are the details for today’s race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: Bob Hurzeler, chief operating officer of OneMain Financial, will give the command to start engines at 12:39 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 12:46 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 200 laps (200 miles) around the 1-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 45. Stage 2 ends on Lap 90.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: Garage opens at 6 a.m. Qualifying is at 9:35 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 10:45 p.m. Driver introductions are at 12:05 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Dave Bray, U.S. Navy veteran and national recording artist, will perform the anthem at 12:31 p.m.

TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race beginning at 12:30 p.m. Coverage begins at noon. Motor Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at noon and also can be heard at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will have MRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for cloudy skies with a high of 69 degrees and zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Kyle Larson won this event last year (held in June). Ryan Blaney was second. Daniel Suarez finished third. In the September race, Blaney won, Justin Allgaier was second and William Byron placed third.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.

Breaking down the final four Dash 4 Cash drivers

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The last chance for four Xfinity Series drivers to walk away with $100,000 is here.

This weekend’s OneMain Financial 200 at Dover International Speedway marks the end of this season’s Dash 4 Cash campaign, where four drivers compete against each other for the bonus money in four races.

The final set of drivers was established last Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway by the top four finishing drivers competing for points in the Xfinity Series.

But the lineup hit a snag on Wednesday when it was announced that race winner Spencer Gallagher was suspended indefinitely for violating NASCAR’s substance abuse policy.

The set of four drivers now includes JR Motorsports’ Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Brandon Jones and independent driver Ryan Sieg. Sieg takes the place of Gallagher.

Sadler enters the race having won the last two Dash 4 Cash bonuses at Talladega and Richmond.

Just like with the first three Dash 4 Cash races, the four drivers will not have to compete against any Cup drivers in the race.

Here’s a look at each driver’s record at the 1-mile track.

Elliott Sadler

  • In 20 Xfinity starts at Dover, Sadler has three top fives, 13 top 10s and one pole (Oct. 2011).
  • Hasn’t finished better than sixth in last six Dover starts.
  • Has led 22 laps at Dover.
  • Sadler will try to earn his 100th career top-five finish. He has 99 top fives in 371 starts after placing fifth at Talladega.
  • Has finished in top 10 in every race this year.

Justin Allgaier

  • In 14 Xfinity starts at Dover, has four top fives and seven top-10 finishes. Finished second in last fall’s race.
  • Three of his top fives have come in last four starts there.
  • Has led 19 laps at Dover.
  • Has finished in top 10 in six of nine races this year.

Brandon Jones

  • Enters Dover off career-best second-place finish at Talladega and three consecutive top 10s.
  • This is Jones’ first time as a Dash 4 Cash participant.
  • In four starts at Dover, hasn’t finished better than 17th. DNFs in last two starts.
  • One top five and five top 10s through nine races this season.

Ryan Sieg

  • In eight Xfinity starts at Dover, has never finished better than 13th in his first start in 2014.
  • Hasn’t finished on lead lap since first two Dover starts.
  • Average finish of 16.1.
  • Has never recorded a DNF at Dover.
  • Sixth-place finish at Talladega was first top 10 of season.

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