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Crew chief describes ‘frightening’ scene on pit road at Indy

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Crew chief Todd Gordon said it was “frightening” to see rear tire changer Zach Price hit on pit road and then try to scoot away from cars during Sunday’s Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Price, who changes tires for Ryan Blaney’s team, was injured when he was struck by Brennan Poole’s car during a melee near the entrance of pit road early in the race.

Gordon, speaking Monday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, said indications are that Price’s injury was a “fracture someplace in the knee area.”

Price was treated and released from an Indianapolis hospital on Sunday night and traveled home with the team. Gordon said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that Price was scheduled to see a doctor Monday.

“Just hope to get him back and get him back going again and healthy,” Gordon said.

Gordon described what he saw as cars made contact.

“A really frightening moment for me,” he said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I was really terrorized when I saw (Price) drag himself back across the pit box arms only for a while there. As the situation kind of progressed and the medical staff was working with him, I could see in his face he was better off than I thought he was to start with.

“Fortunate that the guys got up and got at least in the air. The jackman (Graham Stoddard) got on top of the car. Just one of those terrible situations. I felt like those accidents happened mid-pit road. That’s why I picked way back there to be behind it.”

Said Justin Allgaier, who was involved in the accident on pit road that led to six cars eventually being eliminated:  “The No. 15 (Poole) actually got in the back of me. I didn’t know if I got the gentleman on (Blaney’s pit crew) or not. Once the wreck started happening in front of us and we all got bottled-up there, one car after another were getting run into.”

Indianapolis’ pit road is the most narrow of all the tracks the Cup Series races. The two travel lanes are 24 feet wide. The pit stall for each team is 15 feet wide.

Joey Logano says no reason to give Chase Elliott ‘extra room’ at Miami

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Joey Logano says he’ll continue to race Chase Elliott as he did at the end of last weekend’s race in Miami until “respect is rebuilt” after their incident last month at Bristol.

Logano discussed the situation Wednesday morning on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Elliott made contact and wrecked both as they raced for the lead in the final laps May 31 at Bristol. Brad Keselowski won that race. Logano expressed frustration that Elliott did not immediately offer an apology after the race.

Their paths crossed late in the race at Miami. Logano was a lap down when Elliott, who led, approached to put Logano a second lap down. Logano raced Elliott hard. Denny Hamlin, running second, closed on Elliott at the same time. Hamlin passed Elliott with 30 laps to go for the lead and went on to win.

Logano said what happened at Bristol played a role in how he raced Elliott in Miami.

“You think I’m going to make his life easy after two weeks ago?” Logano said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Right? That’s racing, man. That’s the consequences. That’s how this whole thing works. I would expect it if I did the same thing. You kind of race how you get raced. You race how they race you. At the end of the race there, I wasn’t going to give any extra room. No reason I should.”

Asked about how there are many ways to get a point of view across to another competitor without wrecking them, Logano said:

“I’m not a big fan of crashing cars just for a few different reasons. For No. 1, it’s not safe. You don’t want to get someone back and hurt them. You don’t want to do that. It’s not anybody else’s fault. You don’t want to destroy someone’s race car and put all that on his team or something like that. That’s not what I want to do. I don’t know if people think that’s how retaliation is supposed to work, but I don’t really see it that way.

“But I do think that when things like that happen toward the end of the race and something that has happened so fresh a couple of weeks ago that a win got taken away from you, shoot I didn’t even finish second. I got crashed and was the last car on the lead lap after all of that.

“I felt like, you know, at that point, I just wasn’t going to make his life easy. Wasn’t planning on making his life easy here for the next few months. So, that’s just how it’s going to have to be. Eventually you just move on and everything is fine when that respect is rebuilt.”

Asked by a caller about the incident, Logano said: “I’m just looking to win races. I think it’s just kind of time heals everything, and I think that’s how that stuff works. You race people the way you get raced. Until I get raced differently, I race the same way he raced me.”

NASCAR All-Star Race moves to Bristol this year, will host up to 30,000 fans

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The July 15 NASCAR All-Star Race will move to Bristol Motor Speedway, marking only the second time in the event’s history it will be held away from Charlotte Motor Speedway, Marcus Smith announced on FS1 Race Hub.

Motorsport.com. first reported the change.

Speedway Motorsports owns both Bristol Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway. 

Smith, Speedway Motorsports President and CEO, said up to 30,000 fans will be permitted to attend the event. Jerry Caldwell, general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway said the facility can hold 155,000. The crowd allowed would be less than 20% capacity. Tickets are on sale now.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday morning that having races with fans is important. NASCAR has announced its revised schedule through Aug. 2.

“As you see some areas open up, I think we start to concentrate on where could we have fans back,” he said about the rest of this year’s schedule. “Obviously, we want to keep the integrity of the championship in place and race at as many facilities as possible that were on the original schedule, but if we have the opportunity to make one or two additional adjustments where we could get fans back, obviously that is important for the sport.

“We want fans to be at the racetrack. We want new fans to be at the track. It’s also important … to our race teams. They’re involved in the sport, to bring their sponsors out and entertain customers. So if we can open some of those opportunities here toward the tail end of the season, we’re going to do that. Probably one or two adjustments to make.”

The Coca-Cola 600 was held in May at Charlotte Motor Speedway without fans, but North Carolina continues to see an increase in COVID-19 cases.

“Right now, they’re not trending in the right direction,” N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper said of the COVID-19 statistics on Monday.

Tennessee has allowed fans at large attractions, including racetracks, since May 22. The announcement was made too late for Bristol to have any fans for its May 31 Cup race. Moving the event could allow the track to have fans. 

“We are proud to welcome the return of live sports in Tennessee at the iconic Bristol Motor Speedway,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said in a statement. “The All-Star Race is a historic opportunity for our state and I look forward to seeing the World’s Fastest Half-Mile back in action.”

Last weekend’s Cup race at Homestead-Miami Speedway was allowed to have up to 1,000 military members and family members as guests, marking the first time since NASCAR resumed last month that there were fans in the stands. Up to 5,000 fans will be allowed to purchase tickets for Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

Cup races at Pocono Raceway (June 27-28), Indianapolis Motor Speedway (July 5) and Kentucky Speedway (July 12) will be held without fans, those tracks have announced. That would make the All-Star Race, scheduled for July 15, the next event after Talladega to have fans with a move to Bristol.

Drivers currently eligible include: Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliot, Justin Haley, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Erik Jones, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr.

The final four spots in the All-Star Race field will go to the two stage winners, race winner from the All-Star Open and the All-Star Fan Vote.

Voting for the All-Star Fan Vote is open at www.nascar.com/fanvote and the NASCAR mobile app. Fans may vote for one eligible NASCAR driver per ballot submission and submit one ballot per day per unique email address. Voting closes at 12 p.m. ET on July 14.

The All-Star Race debuted in 1985 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, moved to Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1986 and returned to Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1987. It has been held every year since at Charlotte.

This year’s race was postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic and rescheduled for July 15.

Friday 5: Work remains for NASCAR after extraordinary week

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When NASCAR President Steve Phelps spoke about racial injustice last weekend, as cars sat silent at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and pledged that “our sport must do better,” he set NASCAR on a path toward seismic changes.

Giving competitors the ability to peacefully protest during the national anthem and banning the Confederate flag shattered iron-clad beliefs of some fans but proved a welcome sign to many others that NASCAR was ready to listen to them.

Drivers delivered that message in a video they posted last weekend, condemning racial inequality and racism.

“The process begins with us listening and learning because understanding the problem is the first step in fixing it,” drivers said in the video. “We are committed to listening with empathy and with an open heart to better educate ourselves. We will use this education to advocate for change in our nation, our communities and most importantly in our own homes. Even after the headlines go away.”

It’s a promise drivers must keep.

Bubba Wallace has taken the leadership role thrust upon him as the lone full-time Black driver in NASCAR’s national ranks.

“I’m really proud of what he’s doing, the effort he’s putting in, in wanting to kind of lead the charge,” Ryan Blaney said of his close friend. “I stand behind him. A lot of guys stand behind him in NASCAR, not only the drivers, but a lot of teams, as well, crew members.”

While NASCAR officials were discussing various changes to make, it was Wallace who went on CNN, saying of the Confederate flag: “Get them out of here.” Two days later, NASCAR did so.

It was really cool to see what Bubba was able to do,” Joey Logano said. “He should be proud of the movement he’s made for the African-American community in our sport. He always has just by being here, but when you look at the comments he made on CNN the other day and then NASCAR completely answered it. Kudos to NASCAR. Kudos to Bubba for bringing it up and using his platform for something good.”

The youngest daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. was among many who applauded NASCAR on social media for prohibiting the display of the Confederate flag at all its events and properties.

“We want change, it starts with us,” Wallace said Thursday on the “Today” show. “We have to start basically from the roots and go from (the) ground up and really implement what we’re trying to say in our message.”

While now is a time to listen, there will be a time where more action is needed.

“There’s a lot of different ways you can go about this,” said Tyler Reddick, who was among the first Cup drivers to publicly support Black Lives Matter. “Just trying to make NASCAR a more friendly environment for all fans. The step that we made this week with the Confederate flag is one of those steps. I’m sure there are many others that they’re working on.

“Some of the drivers have talked about ideas and other things, and I don’t want to spoil their ideas, but just continuing to not lose sight of it. As they say, when the headlines finally clear and it goes back to a sense of normalcy, if you will, it’s just important to remain adamant that we need to go out there in our communities or we need to go vote and get the right people that we feel that are going to make those changes that we’ve been crying out for the last couple of weeks. … Stay diligent, and not lose sight of what’s important here.”

2. Enforcing Confederate flag ban

Shortly after NASCAR announced that the display of the Confederate flag would be prohibited at all its events and facilities, questions began to be raised about how that could be enforced.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, discussed that matter Thursday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

“That will certainly be a challenge,” O’Donnell said of enforcing the ban. “We’ll try to do that the right way. We’ll get ahead of it as we are today in letting people know that, ‘Hey, we’re all about pride, we’re all about America, fly your U.S. flag high, fly your driver’s flags high and come on into the track.’ But if we see something displayed at the track we’re going to have react and we will. More details to come but I’m confident we’ll do that and we’ll do that in a smart way.”

Chuck Rosenberg, an NBC legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, notes that those who think they are protected by First Amendment rights at a NASCAR track or event would be wrong.

“NASCAR facilities are private property and so First Amendment protections do not apply,” he said. “NASCAR has the right to make the rules regarding how people must behave inside their facilities. It will be important for NASCAR to issue clear and thoughtful guidance so fans can comply.”

The first race with fans in the stands is Sunday’s Cup race at Miami. That will have up to 1,000 military guest and family members. The June 21 Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway will have to up 5,000 fans. There will be no fans for Cup races at Pocono Raceway (June 27-28), Indianapolis Motor Speedway (July 5), Kentucky Speedway (July 12).

3. Grueling week

Sunday’s Cup race at Homestead-Miami Speedway marks the third Cup race in a week. While this isn’t the first time this season that the Cup series has had as many races within seven days, Brad Keselowski says of this stretch: “I don’t know if there’s ever been a more grueling stretch in Cup racing.”

Consider:

Last Sunday, Cup ran 500 miles at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The high was 84 degrees. Drivers spent much of the day fighting their cars as tires wore on the old pavement.

“Atlanta was a grueling race, very humid, 500 miles,” Keselowski said.

Wednesday night, Cup ran 500 laps at Martinsville Speedway. The high was 87 degrees during the day. While it cooled some at night, drivers noted how hot it was.

“I think a lot of guys, including myself a little bit, thought a night race at Martinsville wasn’t going to be hot,” Tyler Reddick said. “It was one of the hottest races that I’ve done in a very long time.”

Sunday, Cup drivers are set to run 400 miles at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The forecast calls for a high of 86 degrees.

“Honestly, Miami will probably be the hottest one we go to, most humid,” Blaney said.

While there is something to not having practice or qualifying for drivers and teams, that lack of track time can impact drivers during such a stretch.

“One thing about the practices – yes, it’s time on track, but it gives your body a little hint and a look into what you’re going to be experiencing for 500 miles or 500 laps, whatever it may be at the track that we go to,” Reddick said. “So, if you’re having any issues with the car, issues with your back, arms hurting after a 40- or 50-lap run or something in particular that’s bothering you from the week before, you have no insight to that going into the race and you’re going to have to fight it all race long.”

As for the challenge of this week, Keselowski said: “It’s the same for everybody. We all got to toughen up. I think it’s a great test of will, a great test of the drivers. I think it’s what makes these few weeks so compelling not just as a participant but as a fan myself.”

4. Streakin’

A few streaks to keep in mind this weekend for the Cup Series.

Kevin Harvick has had 12 consecutive top-10 finishes in Miami.

Jimmie Johnson enters this weekend having finished in the top 10 in each of the last three races. Since he won his seventh Cup title in 2016, this is only the second time he’s had three consecutive top-10 finishes.

In Martin Truex Jr.‘s last three Miami starts, he has one win and two runner-up finishes, leading a total of 201 laps.

No rookie has finished in the top 10 at Miami since David Ragan placed 10th in the 2007 race. Rookie Tyler Reddick won his last two Xfinity starts there and finished runner-up in a Truck race there.

5. Coming Tuesday

NASCAR Hall of Fame voters selected the 2021 Class on Tuesday. The votes have been tabulated and will be announced at 5 p.m. ET Tuesday (June 16) on NASCAR America. Among those eligible for the Class of 2021 are Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton, Carl Edwards, Ricky Rudd, Neil Bonnett and Harry Gant in the Modern Era category.

NASCAR official: Sport ‘in a better place’ with Confederate flag ban

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After NASCAR announced Wednesday that it was prohibiting the Confederate flag at all its events and properties, some fans stated on social media that they would no longer purchase tickets or watch the sport.

Asked how he would respond to those feeling that way, Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Thursday:

“I say I feel sorry for them,” he said. “I’m sad, but for us long-term we’ll be in a better place and the amount of people that are talking about NASCAR, that are now interested in NASCAR, that now feel like it’s a potentially safe place to actually go and watch a race, which I can’t imagine someone would feel it wasn’t in the past but that was true, and to be able to open our sport to all, I’ll take that all day long.

“I’ll defend that all day long and any message that I get on social media I’m happy to defend and think we’re making the right move today. It’s not an easy move but long-term it’s the right move for the sport and it’s the right move, I believe, for the country.”

Sunday’s Cup race at Homestead-Miami Speedway will be the first series event with fans in the stands since racing resumed following the COVID-19 hiatus. Up to 1,000 South Florida military service members will be invited to watch the race. The June 21 Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway will have up to 5,000 fans in attendance.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. (Photo: Getty Images)

Asked how NASCAR will enforce the Confederate flag ban, O’Donnell told “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio:

“That will certainly be a challenge. We’ll try to do that the right way. We’ll get ahead of it as we are today in letting people know that, ‘Hey, we’re all about pride, we’re all about America, fly your U.S. flag high, fly your driver’s flags high and come on into the track.’ But if we see something displayed at the track we’re going to have react and we will. More details to come but I’m confident we’ll do that and we’ll do that in a smart way.”

O’Donnell also discussed the decision to prohibit the Confederate flag.

Asked when the discussions first began, O’Donnell said:

“I think it actually has been for a while when you look at the initiatives we’ve had internally to really and try to promote diversity within our sport and do what we can. Really over the past year, I think you look internally for us, speaking to our diverse employees, trying to be more diverse as a sanctioning body, as an industry and candidly doing a lot of listening.

“What you hear is just a divisiveness regarding the flag was one of the biggest issues. I understand how some people may want to fly the flag and feel as though that it is their right, but the impact that has, the negative impact that (it) has had not only on potential fans but even on our own employees, and to hear the emotion from them especially over the last couple of weeks on what that has meant to them, how they have to defend it to their friends who want to be NASCAR fans and can’t be candidly because of that.

“It just makes you sad and you talk to co-workers who are friends of yours and you want to do the right thing. I think it was just a tipping point internally that a lot of us said enough and let’s do what we all believe is right. Why wouldn’t we want the sport open to as many people as possible? We all love it and let’s expose it to everyone and have everyone be a fan.”