CONCORD, N.C. — Clint Bowyer sprinted to Ryan Newman‘s car after Saturday night’s All-Star Race and began swinging at Newman while Newman remained in the vehicle.
Bowyer’s action came after contact on the cool-down lap sent Bowyer’s car into the wall.
Both drivers were called to the NASCAR hauler after the race.
Asked what was the deal with Bowyer, Newman said: “You ask him.”
Newman later told Fox Sports 1: “(Bowyer) chopped me on the front straightaway earlier in the race. “Then after the race, I just tapped him in the back, let him know I didn’t appreciate the way he raced me. Then he body-slammed me, then I hit him back on the back straightaway and he cut across my nose in Turn 3. It doesn’t take much of a man try to fight someone with a helmet on. I think he should be embarrassed by himself.”
Bowyer told Fox Sports 1: “It was a damn sure surprise fight. “I don’t know what his beef was. I thought he was a lap down. Our day was over, we lost track position there, got sideways and crossed up and basically just biding time there, seeing if something is going to happen there at the end. … I thought he was a lap down.
“I checked up and he run into my left rear and that’s the last I saw of him. Then after the race, he comes and runs into my back and turns me all around. I pull up next to him and he dumps me in four. Where I come from, you get poked in the nose for that. That’s what he got.”
Bowyer finished 12th. Newman placed 13th.
Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, met with both drivers after the race.
“Obviously they had a little difference of opinion out there on the race track and they had a little difference of opinion here in the trailer but we think we understand what happened out there. We think they’re in a pretty good place We’re going to keep an eye on it. We think we’re in a good place with them. We’ll have to certainly monitor that next week and moving forward with those two.
“If there starts to be any shenanigans, we will intervene.”
Asked if there will be any penalties, Miller said: “I don’t think so, no.”
NASCAR will go back to single-car, single-round qualifying for all three of its national series at all race tracks except road courses. This begins this weekend at Dover International Speedway.
At oval tracks measuring 1.25 miles in length or less, qualifying will consist of two timed laps. At oval tracks measuring more than 1.25 miles in length, qualifying will consist of one timed lap. The group qualifying format will remain in place at road courses.
“We talked about a whole lot of other things but nothing really jumped out as something that would work for us over the long haul except this,” Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said Wednesday of the changes.
“Group qualifying worked at some tracks. There’s no question about it, but to be consistent … this is where we landed, this is what will work in our eyes everywhere.”
Asked why NASCAR didn’t go to a single-car qualifying format when it made changes to the car this year that encouraged drafting, Miller said: “We obviously want to put on the best show that we can. We thought that had potential. That’s why we gave it a go.
“Obviously, it didn’t work out like we thought it would. We’re in the business of trying to put on great racing and a good show at the same time. We will adjust and do what we feel like we need to do whenever we feel like we’re not delivering as much as we should be.”
The qualifying order draw will be determined by the previous race’s starting lineup. For example, in Cup, the top 20 starters from the previous race will draw to take their qualifying lap in positions 21-40 (the second half of qualifying). The remainder of the cars will draw to qualify in positions 1-20.
“To make a compelling show, we need to make sure that a car that stands a chance to win the pole is actually the last car out,” Miller said. “We think that typically that everybody that qualifies in the top 20 at an event, stands a chance of sitting on the pole at a subsequent event.”
Other than at road courses, Wednesday’s announcement ends group qualifying, which was introduced in 2014.
The first series to use this format for qualifying will be the Gander Outdoors Truck Series. That series has qualifying at 1:10 p.m. ET Friday at Dover. Cup qualifying is scheduled for 3:40 p.m. ET Friday at Dover. Xfinity qualifying is scheduled for 10:10 a.m. ET Saturday at Dover.
Miller said that officials expect qualifying to be completed in an hour. He said there could be some places where there will be two cars on track to speed the process. In those cases, a car could take off from pit road as the car on track completes its first lap. Miller also said that there will be three breaks, lasting two minutes each, to allow TV to go to commercial so fans watching will not miss any of the qualifying.
The change comes as qualifying has been plagued with complaints from drivers, fans and series officials this season.
Drivers said they warned series officials before the season what could happen in the group qualifying format with the draft so important at some tracks. No one would want to go first.
Miller said then that “we really don’t want to go back to single-car qualifying. There may not be another way. We want to exhaust every possibility before we do that because that’s not as fun, not as intriguing of a show as the group situation.”
NASCAR stated that competitors who did not start a timed lap before the clock expired due to “excessive waiting” would have their qualifying times from earlier sessions disallowed and start at the rear. Previously, if a car failed to complete a lap before time expired, it started behind all the cars in that particular round.
If NASCAR determined that a competitor blocked or impeded another vehicle from taking off properly or blocked on the track, that competitor would have their posted qualifying times disallowed from the earlier sessions and start at the rear.
The changes didn’t stop most teams from waiting until the end of a round to make a lap March 29 at Texas. More complaints from drivers followed.
“I guess this is a make-up-the-rules-as-we-go event in qualifying,” Clint Bowyer said. “It’s sad. Those people up (in the stands) there paid a lot of money to bring their families here and watch a qualifying sessions and people try to go out and do their best. You’re just sitting around (on pit road) and waiting because you only know your best is good enough if the guy in front of you does a good job. That’s not qualifying.”
Jay Fabian, Cup managing series director, said that day that series officials would look at all options.
“We’re obviously disappointed with what happened,” Fabian said. “We’re disappointed with what we saw. Nobody deserves to see that. Our fans don’t deserve it. We’re going to take whatever steps we have to to clean it up so we don’t have this problem again. Pretty much everything is on the table as far as what we’ll do moving forward.”
All three rounds of Cup qualifying Friday at Richmond Raceway will be five minutes each, NASCAR told teams in a memo Thursday.
The change cuts the first round and second rounds from 10 minutes to five minutes each. The final round remains unchanged.
In the memo from Scott Miller, senior vice president of competition, the reason for the change this weekend was “in an effort to improve the quality of our qualifying broadcast.”
The change is intended to reduce the time teams sit parked on pit road waiting to go out. When the second round of Cup qualifying started last week at Bristol Motor Speedway, none of the 24 cars eligible to make a run went on track in the first five minutes of the 10-minute session.
NASCAR stated that the change for this weekend at Richmond should not be viewed as the new qualifying format moving forward for Cup.
Also, the change does not impact Xfinity Series qualifying. The first and second rounds of Xfinity qualifying will remain 10 minutes each. The final round of Xfinity qualifying will be five minutes.
After O’Donnell’s comments were played, Harvick was asked how the format can be fixed.
“Well, one way is not to air your dirty laundry on the radio,” Harvick said. “I feel like calling the drivers out and saying that they’re sitting at the end of pit road on purpose is probably not something that you should publicly say even if you think it.
“I wouldn’t flatter yourself with that thinking because of the fact we’re all sitting down there trying to figure out how to be first. I don’t want to be fourth. I want to be first. The best way to be first with this particular rules package is to be last. Qualifying is a drafting game and you have to wait. Nobody wants to go out first. Daniel Suarez went out and made a lap by himself and he was good with being fourth.
“I think as I look at that side of it, our job is, if it’s coming down to NASCAR and the teams trying to outdo themselves, that’s bad for everybody. (O’Donnell) referred to the drivers having a meeting. Those were driver council meetings, private meetings that were held, and I think a lot of us voiced our concern. … We all like group qualifying. Group qualifying is great. You’ve got multiple cars on the race track, you’ve got a lot of things happening, but it doesn’t work when you can draft because you wind up in these situations.”
On changes to make, Harvick said:
“The only way to fix qualifying with cars that draft is to have single-car qualifying on the superspeedways and the mile-and-a-half race tracks. That’s the only way to fix it.
“Any time that you have a draft, the guy in second is going to be faster than the guy in first as long as he’s close enough. That’s one of the unforeseen consequences that have come with this rules package that have impeded qualifying sessions that we’ve had this year at Texas, at (Auto Club) Speedway, at Las Vegas.
“It didn’t happen at Atlanta. I don’t know if that was for handling or we just didn’t know enough at that particular point, but it doesn’t work and we told them it wouldn’t work in September and now we’re kind of getting the finger pointed at us from a drivers standpoint and referred to as trying to sit at the end of pit road and do this on purposes so it will go away. That’s not the case.
“We’re all sitting down there and trying to figure out how we can somehow manage ourself in a hole to be first. That’s really what it’s about. Whatever the rules are, however you want to manage everything, it’s about being first at the end of the day and trying to be the pole-sitter and the best way to do that is to wait until you get in position behind the most amount of cars to be last (in line).”
At Auto Club Speedway, all 12 drivers in the final round failed to complete a lap before time expired because they waited on someone else to go out to lead the draft.
Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said that day: “I saw obviously what our fans don’t want, obviously, having the last 12 cars wait until they couldn’t get a time posted on the board and kind of making a mockery out of the qualifying is not what we expect for our fans.”
After NASCAR sent a memo to teams about changes to how cars are to be aligned on pit road during qualifying, there were still issues last weekend at Texas. Harvick’s teammate, Clint Bowyer, failed to advance from the first round and expressed his displeasure with the format.
“I guess this is a make-up-the-rules-as-we-go event in qualifying,” Bowyer said. “It’s sad. Those people up (in the stands) there paid a lot of money to bring their families here and watch qualifying sessions and people try to go out and do their best. You’re just sitting around (on pit road) and waiting because you only know your best is good enough if the guy in front of you does a good job. That’s not qualifying.”
What can be done?
“Learn from your mistakes,” Bowyer said. “That’s how you get better. Learn from your mistakes. We already had this failure and here we are doing it again. Come on.”
O’Donnell was asked Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio about qualifying and what could be done.
“We’re going to look at every option, including the possibility of going to single-car qualifying,” O’Donnell said. “The reason we haven’t is that’s on the teams. That’s parts and pieces. We’ve tried to be as efficient as possible trying this method of (group) qualifying.
“But we’re definitely going to look at it and see what we can do. We’ve got a couple of weeks to do that. We’ll make adjustments as needed.”
Asked if he was angered by what’s happened in qualifying, O’Donnell said “absolutely” and added:
“I think it’s ridiculous, candidly,” he said. “I know the drivers did not like this qualifying before the season. Part of you says, ‘Are we doing this on purpose to get rid of it?’ I know it can be done. I know we have the best drivers in the world and crew chiefs to figure it out. We seem to want to outdo each other, and that results in sitting on pit road.
“We’ll react to it. We’ll make the right call and get it right. We don’t want to see cars sitting on pit road for 8 minutes. That’s not NASCAR racing. We’ll make the fix there.”
FORT WORTH, Texas — Any other year, Denny Hamlin likely doesn’t win. But a new rules package, combined with key strategy calls and a tire that didn’t fall off much, allowed Hamlin to rally from two pit road penalties to win Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway.
No driver had come back from two pit road penalties in the same race to win since Brad Keselowski did it in October 2014 at Talladega. But that was restrictor-plate racing, and Keselowski’s penalties came during the same caution period a third of the way through that race.
Hamlin faced a much different situation at Texas.
The first half of Hamlin’s race was a mess. He missed pit road on Lap 63 and was speeding on pit road when he made it there on Lap 64.
“I was just beating my head against the steering wheel thinking, ‘Man, we’re going to finish bad with a really fast car,’“ Hamlin said.
An uncontrolled tire on Lap 173 of the 334-lap race sent Hamlin to the back.
“It was a very rough day,” crew chief Chris Gabehart said.
Gabehart could do so because of the rules and the tire.
The new rules package is intended to keep the field closer together. That creates more opportunities to pass. Previously, the fields at Texas Motor Speedway would spread out, making it harder to gain ground a few laps after a restart.
Gabehart said that this was not a track position race because how cars could move through the field. Just as important was that the tires did not have a significant drop off in time during the course of a run. Had these been tires that wore, Gabehart would not have been able to call for no-tire stops. He would have had to change four tires each stop and Hamlin would not have been able to leapfrog some cars through strategy.
A no-tire stop put Hamlin in the lead on Lap 156, and he won the second stage, which ended at Lap 170. Hamlin came down pit road during that caution for four tires. He was penalized for the uncontrolled tire during that stop, dropping him outside the top 15.
Gabehart called for a no-tire stop a second time during caution on Lap 256. Hamlin restarted sixth behind three cars that did not pit and two others that also did not take tires.
“For our scenario each time, it just made the most sense,” Gabehart said of the no-tire calls.
Hamlin took the lead on Lap 303 from teammate Erik Jones when Jones pitted for two tires and fuel. Hamlin relinquished the lead on Lap 319 for enough fuel to make it to the end. When the field cycled through, Hamlin was back in front because of how little time he had spent on pit road.
“This is a complete different style of racing than what I used to do in the past,” Hamlin said. “I have to adapt. Seems like I’m adapting quickly.”
As is Gabehart.
Rarely do you hear NASCAR officials so candid and raw as Steve O’Donnell was Monday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
The topic was group qualifying and the issues that have pervaded the sport the past month.
Asked if he was angered by the controversy, O’Donnell said: “I think it’s ridiculous, candidly. I know the drivers did not like this qualifying before the season. Part of you says, ‘Are (they) doing this on purpose to get rid of it?’ “
O’Donnell’s comments were part of an offensive that series officials have gone on since Auto Club Speedway last month when all 12 cars failed to complete a lap before time expired in the final round.
Driver complaints about the qualifying have been constant since.
NASCAR President Steve Phelps appeared on “The Dale Jr. Download” (5:30 – 6:30 p.m. ET Tuesday on NBCSN) and was vocal about what has happened in qualifying.
“That was unacceptable if I was a race fan and unacceptable if I was at the race track,” Phelps said of this past weekend.
Scott Miller, senior vice president of competition, expressed his displeasure with what happened March 15 at Auto Club Speedway, saying the actions of drivers made “a mockery” of qualifying. Miller also said of the drivers not completing a lap in time: “It surprised me that they weren’t smart enough to go out.”
Last weekend at Texas, Jay Fabian, Cup series director, also raised questions about the drivers’ actions, saying: “Some of it is a little confusing because they say they don’t want to go out first … but (Daniel Suarez) went out by himself and transferred twice by himself. They say you got to follow somebody, but they chose to not follow him. I don’t understand why they didn’t.”
Since Auto Club Speedway, various NASCAR officials have used the term “mockery,” “ridiculous,” and “unacceptable” in discussing qualifying, and O’Donnell even said it makes one wonder if the drivers are doing this on purpose to get rid of the format.
Strong words but the time will come for action. The draft won’t be a factor in qualifying until Kansas next month (Talladega already has single-car qualifying) so NASCAR has some time to address the matter. The question is how strong will NASCAR’s response be?
The driver who might have had the most reason to be upset with NASCAR moving the championship race from Miami to ISM Raceway in 2020 would be Kyle Larson, but he wasn’t.
Miami is one of Larson’s best tracks and had he qualified for the championship race, he likely would have been the favorite regardless of who the other contenders were.
“Even though Homestead has been a track where I can lead a bunch of laps and also challenge for the win, I’ve always felt like it needs to go somewhere else,” Larson said. “I would like to see it go … to a different track every year.”
Kyle Busch has one more race left this season in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series. Busch, who has won his first four starts this season, is limited to five races in that series because of his Cup experience.
Busch’s remaining race is next month’s event at Charlotte. It will mark the earliest his Truck season has ended. Part of the reason he races in the Truck series is to help improve his equipment at Kyle Busch Motorsports for his other drivers. With being done so early in the season, how will that impact the organization’s performance the rest of the year?
“For us, we aren’t a Cup team and so we move a lot slower than the Cup teams do,” Busch said. “You all talked about how when everybody got done with the West Coast swing, the first time people would have updates to their cars would be Texas. I don’t think we would see an update to our stuff for two months. It just takes a bit longer to kind of get all that instilled into our stuff.
“If you look at me running the front side of the season and running as much as I do right now, we’ve been building some notes, and we’ve been building some things that we can work on and get better and do a little bit differently, so when we get to say July, August – that’s when you’ll start seeing some stuff coming out.
“That will be the brunt of the season, kind of closing in for the playoffs and then the playoff push. I’d like to run more or maybe I’d like to run a little bit later, but I just don’t know that the races fall, especially with me – like going to Iowa, I’ve never been to Iowa. Gateway, those places, I don’t need to go to those places, so it doesn’t make any sense for me to go to those places.”
Tyler Ankrum was excited after his sixth-place finish in Friday night’s Truck race. It was just the fourth career start in the series for the 18-year-old. That tied his career-high finish. He also placed sixth at ISM Raceway but Friday’s run was special because it was his first race on a 1.5-mile speedway.
“It’s kind of still surreal,” Ankrum said after the race. “I”m racing against (Matt) Crafton, Kyle Busch and (Johnny) Sauter. It’s crazy. I even passed Sauter on the outside! I don’t think you realize how important that is for me. I had a ton of fun and can’t wait to come back.”
He wasn’t the only driver who had a memorable weekend. Saturday’s Xfinity race saw Jeb Burton finish fifth in his first start of the season for JR Motorsports (Burton is back in the car next month in Charlotte).
As Burton talked about his finish to Performance Racing Network, he got emotional.
Other notable finishes from the weekend: William Byron‘s sixth-place finish matched his career-best result in Cup. Ryan Sieg won his first stage in the Xfinity Series on Saturday. Ronnie Bassett Jr. finished 15th in the Xfinity race, the second-career start for the 23-year-old.