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Pocono won’t use traction compound this weekend

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Pocono Raceway won’t have the PJ1 traction compound on its race surface for this weekend’s NASCAR racing, the track confirmed Tuesday to NBC Sports.

The possibility of it being used was raised Monday by Scott Miller, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition, in an appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive.”

“There will be no traction compound applied to Pocono for this event weekend,” track CEO Nick Igdalsky said in a statement. Igdalsky left the door open for the compound’s use for the July 29 race weekend at the 2.5-mile track.

“We have entered into a process with NASCAR, OEM’s, and Goodyear to explore this option in future events,” Igdalsky said. “Nothing has been determined at this time.”

On “The Morning Drive,” Miller was asked about plans for more tracks to use the compound.

“There’s ongoing talks,” Miller said. “New Hampshire I believe is on the plan for doing it again. The only new track that hasn’t done it yet that I know we’re having some discussion about is potentially Pocono and I think there will be a plan I believe for just Turn 3 if I’m not mistaken. I’m not in all those early discussion, but it kind of bubbled up that there was some talks about Pocono. I don’t know exactly what the plan is.”

Should Pocono ever use the traction compound, it would join New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway in utilizing it in an effort to improve chances for passing.

Charlotte has used it for all its races since last year’s Coca-Cola 600.

“It really works well at Bristol to accomplish what was set out to accomplish at Bristol,” Miller said. “I think the jury’s starting to be out on whether or not it’s actually accomplishing what we need at some of these other places. …

“There will be ongoing dialogue about how we use it. We’ve been trying to get a lot more scientific with it with monitoring the grip of the surface before and after and how much it diminishes as cars run on it.”

NASCAR official: Discussion ongoing to use All-Star package again in 2018

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Less than two weeks after Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, expressed caution that the series would use the All-Star rules package again this year, NASCAR is looking at doing so in 2018.

Feeding off a rising tide of enthusiasm in the garage area for the package, Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that discussions about the package are ongoing with key industry stakeholders.

Miller told “The Morning Drive” that “I think we certainly … feel like it has a lot of potential for especially some race tracks.

“We did kind of have an industry stakeholders meeting after the All-Star Race and talked about a lot of different things.”

Among the topics of conversation was if to use the All-Star package in a NASCAR Cup points race this season.

“Before we totally commit to putting races on the schedule for ’19 … we all kind of felt it would be interesting if we could take another look at it somewhere this year,” Miller said. “Those discussions are ongoing. It’s certainly … a whole lot more complex than it seems on the surface with these teams and engine builders having these schedules and car builds and engine builds particularly down to a science. Anything we do to change that up effects a lot of things in the eco-system.

“We’re working with the industry to come up with a plan to potentially look at it again, but we don’t have anything etched in stone at the moment.”

As soon as the checkered flag waved over the All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, conversation began about using that race’s rules package again in the Cup series.

After the All-Star Race, O’Donnell sat in the media center and addressed the new package:

“From an eye test, we were certainly pleased with what we saw. I think you’ll hear drivers say directionally there’s some things we can look at. We agree. But would certainly say we’ve got to take time to digest what we saw, look at a lot of facts, see where we go from here.”

The period of reflection might have gained more urgency following Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600.

In the 600, Kyle Busch was never seriously challenged for the victory. He led 377 of 400 laps, won each stage of the race by margins of his choosing and was passed only during pit sequences.

The rules package – designed to slow the cars, create additional stability and increase the drafting effect on the cars – drew mixed reviews from the drivers, but seemed to have support from the majority of fans.

Equally important, two Hall of Fame car owners supported using the package again in 2018.

“Anything that is good for our sport right now, which I think it would be, I’m for it,’’ Richard Childress said. “I’m putting RCR aside and looking at the sport itself. If everybody in this garage will do that … put the sport first and we all go out and put the best show for the fans in the stands, that’s what we’ve got to do.’’

Roger Penske said: “Directionally, I think it’s the right thing to do. What I like about it is we’re trying something.’’

“We all do believe this is something healthy for the sport,’’ said Ritchie Gilmore, president of ECR Engines last week.

NASCAR will implement a version of the rules package in the next two Xfinity races at Pocono Raceway and Michigan International Speedway. Both tracks also host Cup races during the next two weeks as well as later in the summer. Some engine builders are beginning to anticipate what it would take to use this package at the top level.

Pocono, Michigan, and Indianapolis Motor Speedway are each raised as potential venues for the new package.

“I think that’s the feedback we’re going to talk about (this) week,” Gilmore said. “Where is the best place to do this, as far as scheduling. I think we all feel this is something we can do as far as reliability. I think the next thing is just scheduling.’’

NASCAR explains decision to open pit road quickly after end of Stage 1

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Because NASCAR has no rule stating when pit road opens after a stage ends, the sanctioning body changed its common procedure to prevent multiple cars from running out of fuel during Sunday’s Cup race at Dover, a series official told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

NASCAR opened pit road immediately after Stage 1 ended because many cars were close to running out of fuel.

“We don’t really have a firm policy,’’ said Scott Miller, senior vice president of competition, on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday morning. “Basically, the way we’ve been handling the end of the stages is to give our broadcast partners a little bit of time right there for a break and then come back for the pit stops and then have another break as we lead into the start of the next stage.

“The unique situation that we had (Sunday) was the time the caution came out early in the stage put everybody in kind of fuel conservation mode. We had a couple of cars running out of gas there at the end of the stage. The last thing that NASCAR wanted was to have to push 10 or 12 cars in that ran out of fuel while we were waiting to open pit road. So the decision was made kind of a little bit on the fly because we’re obviously in the entertainment business, and I don’t think any of the fans would have liked to have seen 10 of their favorite drivers end up five laps down because they were getting pushed back by the tow truck.

“We just tried to take advantage of the situation that we saw developing that we’ve run into before and it’s not a great situation. … It’s not a very good thing to have cars out on the race track running out of fuel when we can open pit road. We’ve kind of gotten into a procedure with the broadcast partners to doing it the way you’re used to seeing it, but there are no rules that dictate when pit road opens or anything like that during those stage breaks.’’

Todd Gordon, crew chief of Joey Logano, told “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio he was happy NASCAR opened pit road quickly in that case.

“I know there was a lot of anxiety on the pit boxes on pit road, not only about whether we would make it to the end, but once we made it to the end how many laps would we go before we could get fuel back in the cars,’’ he said.

Asked if teams running out of fuel before the end of a stage should be more of an issue for teams willing to take that gamble than NASCAR adjusting its procedures to accommodate such tactics, Gordon said:

“If that were the case, the piece I would ask for at that point is a definition that pit road is going to open “X” number of laps after the stage break and we don’t have that as a sport. To me, how do I, from the information I have on a normal race weekend, I don’t have a defined, ‘we’re going to run four laps of caution or we’re going to run six laps of caution before pit road opens.’ If you had that defined, we could calculate our fuel mileage back and make the risk/reward call on that one.’’

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Bump & Run: Who are drivers worth watching?

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A newspaper headline recently asked: Is there any driver in NASCAR worth watching these days? What do you say?

Nate Ryan: Yes. The premise of the headline seems flawed (though maybe I need more context to understand the story). There are several drivers “worth watching” in NASCAR for their impressive skill sets and verve on track. Besides being one of the greatest drivers in the world, Kyle Busch is worth watching because there’s the potential of him doing something mesmerizing in every race.

Dustin Long: Yes there are drivers worth watching. Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch rank toward the top for what they can do with their cars. But they aren’t alone. Put Brad Keselowski and Busch in close quarters and enjoy the show.

Daniel McFadin: Absolutely. Kyle Larson is a delight to watch. Seeing what he’s able to do when put in a predicament, like starting from the rear, makes for exciting TV. Also, you always have to keep any eye on Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, especially when they’re racing angry.

NASCAR’s Scott Miller stated this week it could take 5-10 minutes to review a potential penalty and in that case that “is not the time to be calling the penalty.’’ Is there a better way penalties or potential penalties can be reviewed by NASCAR?

Nate Ryan: Having been in the PRO system truck, I think NASCAR’s system is good. Any potential infraction is sent to the tower by the video reviewers and then the call is made by NASCAR’s primary stewards on whether a penalty is necessary. I think Miller is referring to looking at borderline calls and determining later if the call should have been made differently. That doesn’t affect how the process happens in real time. It always will be a split-second judgment.

Dustin Long: I hate reviews in all sports. The games are played by humans and officiated by humans. Mistakes are going to be made by all. I accept that. But if we must review penalties or potential penalties — and I’m not convinced it needs to be done — then do it. If it takes 10 laps, so be it. If it takes 20 laps, so be it.

Daniel McFadin: If NASCAR is reviewing a pit penalty that occurred under caution, simply don’t restart the race until the review is complete. If it occurred under green, NASCAR could stop scoring the driver while it’s under review while allowing them to stay on the track. If it confirms the penalty, bring them to pit road. If not, resume scoring the driver.

At Atlanta, Kevin Harvick suggested the next time a young driver could win a Cup race would be at Talladega later this month. When do you think a young driver will win?Nate Ryan: I don’t know “will,” but Erik Jones could be in victory lane at Bristol Motor Speedway, given that he almost was last August.

Dustin Long: I consider Joey Logano (age 27) young and I could see him winning either at Bristol or Richmond, so I think it happens soon.

Daniel McFadin: I think you could see a young driver – specifically Erik Jones or Kyle Larson – win this weekend in Bristol. I’ve been somewhat surprised Austin Dillon‘s been the only one to steal a win so far, but the veterans have flexed their muscles each and every race since when closing time came.

Kevin Harvick on inconsistent pit guns: ‘It’s becoming a safety issue’

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Kevin Harvick heightened talk about pit guns Tuesday night by saying the inconsistent equipment was creating “a safety issue.”

Harvick made his comments on his “Happy Hours’’ show on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, Harvick said the pit guns were “pathetic” and “embarrassing to the sport” after pit gun issues led to loose wheels.

He had more say on his radio show Tuesday night.

“I think in theory, I think the pit gun idea is a good idea,’’ Harvick said. “I just don’t think at this particular point it’s being executed to the point where it’s fair for the race teams and safe. It’s becoming a safety issue.

“We saw five loose wheels on the run that I had a loose wheel on on Sunday. Five cars had loose wheels on that particular run. That is way outside the norm of what we do on a weekly basis. As a driver, I’m very uncomfortable in the car because I don’t know whether, is it a loose wheel, then you see some tire issues creep up during the race. Is it a loose wheel, is it a tire coming apart? In your mind you’re running through these things (thinking) ‘What the hell do I do?’

“If it was the first week where something has happened, it would be like, ‘Oh maybe we just made some mistakes, maybe it could be this or maybe it could be that.’ But there’s so much doubt about what you have as a gun. On Saturday (in the Xfinity race at Texas) it was a rear tire issue. On Sunday, it flipped. The rear tire changer had no problems. His gun turned probably 2,000, 3,000 RPMs more because the front guy drew the short straw on Sunday. It’s kind of Russian Roulette at this particular point.’’

In the first 10 minutes of the discussion of the pit guns, Harvick used the word safety or a form of it eight times.

On Monday, Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, addressed the pit gun issue on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

“Everybody is always quick to blame the gun, not saying that it may not have been a gun problem, but we have to look at everything before we can flat out say we had a gun problem,’’ Miller said. “That’s what we do.

“The program has had a few more hitches in it than, obviously, we wished it would, but we’re making progress with it. We’ll continue to do that and continue to evaluate and continue to try to get better every week and make sure that we dig into whatever problems happen up and down pit road and get them rectified.

“Everything in motorsports is a development process and this is no different. It’s unfortunate that it’s caused some people some problems but development is what it is. We’ll continue to keep it ramped up and get it right.’’

Harvick also cut through the banter Tuesday on what teams voted for and what teams did not vote to go with standard pit guns as a cost-cutting measure before the season.

“For me, I’m in the I don’t care who voted for it, I don’t care what team you’re on, I don’t care what the situation is at this particular point, I want to be safe inside the race car, and I want my wheels to be tight,’’ said Harvick, who has won three of the first seven Cup races of the season. “This is the same type of situation that we went through with the three lug nuts. Is it safe or is it not safe?

“Right now, if you have a good gun, you’re going to have tight wheels. If you don’t have a good gun, and as the race goes on it seems like the guns get progressively worse, they don’t work as well as they do at the beginning of the race. For me, I just want to be safe in the car.’’

Harvick alluded to April 2016 when his boss, Tony Stewart, complained about NASCAR not requiring teams to tighten all five lug nuts on each wheel.

Stewart said then about the lug nut issue: “For all the work and everything, all the bulletins and all the new stuff we have to do to superspeedway cars and all these other things they want us to do for safety, we can’t even make sure we put five lug nuts on the wheel.

“It’s not even mandatory anymore. I mean, you don’t have to have but one on there if you don’t want. It’s however many you think you can get away with. So we’re putting the drivers in jeopardy to get track position. It’s not bit anybody yet, but I guarantee you that envelope is going to keep getting pushed until somebody gets hurt.’’

NASCAR fined Stewart $35,000 a day later for his comments and mandated that teams must secure all five lug nuts less than a week later.

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