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Ryan Blaney’s restart penalty sign of NASCAR’s vigilance but leaves questions

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CONCORD, N.C. — Ryan Blaney doesn’t know what more he could have done on the restart he was penalized for during Saturday’s Sprint Showdown.

His question raises an issue as NASCAR officials have scrutinized starts and restarts more closely the last two weekends. This could play a role in Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star Race.

NASCAR penalized Blaney for jumping a restart with one lap left in the opening segment of the Sprint Showdown. The penalty forced Blaney to start at the rear in the second segment and played a role in him not advancing to the All-Star event.

Chase Elliott was the leader and on the bottom lane while Blaney was next to him on the outside lane when trouble occurred.

“(Elliott) was spinning his tires on the bottom and (Trevor Bayne) was pushing me,’’ Blaney said. “I was half-throttle on the brakes, and I don’t know what to do. I’ve got someone driving me forward and (Elliott) is spinning his tires and I don’t know what I could have done to stop. I really don’t.’’

All that mattered to NASCAR was that Blaney jumped the restart.

Sprint Cup drivers called for NASCAR to be more strict on officiating restarts last year. NASCAR has been particularly vigilant lately. Officials penalized Cole Custer for jumping a restart in last week’s Camping World Truck Series race at Dover. The next day, officials penalized Elliott Sadler for jumping a restart in his Xfinity heat race.

“(Sadler) got screwed,’’ said Greg Biffle, who won the second segment of the Sprint Showdown and advanced to the All-Star race.

Biffle noted that in Sadler’s case, leader Daniel Suarez spun his tires and Ty Dillon pushed Sadler.

“(Sadler) didn’t do anything to aggravate that start,’’ Biffle said. “(Suarez) spun his tires. There’s got to be a compensation factor. If that man spun his tires, you’ve got to say that’s on you.’’

That’s not what NASCAR is doing. They’re calling it close as drivers wanted last year.

“I don’t think you should ever make rules that you can’t police and they have that rule on the restart and they’ve got a lot of flak for not policing them, so now they’re policing them,’’ Matt Kenseth said. “I’m OK with that and yeah, they’ve been calling them really, really close, but I restarted second at least two or three times last weekend (at Dover) and I knew that I could not start before the leader and I knew I could not beat him out of the box, and that’s the way it should be.’’

Kevin Harvick said that a restart infraction is a “pretty black-and-white call.

“I think they probably didn’t view it as that until we were like, it just needs to be black or white,’’ he said. “You’re either good or you’re bad. When I started in this sport, in a rookie meeting that was the first thing they tell you. You’re on the front row, the second-place car does not beat the leader to the line, ever; spinning tires, no matter what. The leader has earned the right to be the leader.’’

Kyle Larson wins final Sprint Showdown segment, advances to first All-Star Race

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Kyle Larson will race in his first Sprint All-Star Race after coming out on the better end of a drag race with Chase Elliott in the third segment of the Sprint Showdown.

Larson fended off multiple pass attempts by Elliott before locking doors with the rookie coming to the checkered flag.

After the sparks and smoke, it was Larson advancing to the All-Star Race while Elliott got in on the Fan Vote. It’s Larson’s first All-Star Race in three seasons in the Sprint Cup Series.

“I knew Chase was going to be good on four tires and I knew he was probably going to win the fan vote, so I knew I had to win,” Larson told Fox Sports 1. “I knew I had to win because I probably wasn’t going to win the fan vote.”

Elliott started the final segment deep in the field and after passing four cars on the first lap, had put his No. 24 Chevrolet within a car length of Larson with three laps to go.

Elliott pulled even with Larson on the frontstretch with two laps to go and was about to complete the pass entering Turn 1 when Larson lightly touched his right-rear quarter panel. That got Elliott loose enough for Larson to pull back ahead.

On the final lap in Turns 3 and 4, Elliott went high, again pulling even with Larson entering the tri-oval. That’s when the door banging started.

“I hate racing like that, sucking on people’s doors,” Larson said.

Said Elliott:”He did what he thought he had to do to beat us back to the line.”

They entered Turn 1 with significant sheet metal damage to both cars.

“Hopefully they can repair the right side good enough, or we can pull out a backup,” Larson told FS1. “I’m sure Chase is angry with me. He has all the reason in the world to be. But hey, later tonight, we’ll be going for a million bucks, and I’ve never had the chance to do that before.”

Larson joined Greg Biffle and Trevor Bayne as segment winners who advance to the All-Star Race. Danica Patrick, who finished ninth, also transferred by finishing second in the fan vote.

The top five of the final segment was comprised of Larson, Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Aric Almirola and AJ Allmendinger.

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Greg Biffle wins second Sprint Showdown segment

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Greg Biffle led the final 14 laps of the second segment of the Sprint Showdown to advance to the Sprint All-Star Race. It’s the second year in a row Biffle has won a Showdown segment. Roush Fenway Racing won the first two segments, with Trevor Bayne nipping Chase Elliott in the 20-lap opener.

Biffle was followed by Kyle Larson, AJ Allmendinger, Elliott and Aric Almirola.

Though Chase Elliott was the leader at the start of the segment, Austin Dillon took the lead on the first lap.

Dillon led until he was caught by Biffle on Lap 6, completing the pass on the inside while exiting Turn 4.

“We’ve been getting better and better and just don’t have any results to show for it,” Biffle told FS1. “The pit crew won me this one. They got me off pit road third (after segment one).”

On Lap 9, Dillon fell off the pace after getting loose in Turn 4. He fell to sixth and finished eighth.

Ryan Blaney, who started 24th because of a restart violation in the first segment, rallied to to fifth during the second 20-lap segment.

 

Sprint Showdown and Sprint All-Star Race rules

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With non-points races come unique rules and there are many for the Sprint Showdown and the Sprint All-Star Race.

Here’s a look at those rules:

SPRINT ALL-STAR RACE

* The 113-lap race will be divided into three segments.

*SEGMENT 1 (50 laps)

  • All laps (green and yellow) count.
  • Teams must make a mandatory green-flag pit stop with a minimum two-tire change.
  • After the first segment ends, teams must pit and make at least a two-tire change.
  • The starting lineup for the second segment will be based on how cars exit pit road after the mandatory pit stop.
  • After the lineup is set, the field will be brought down pit road again so NASCAR officials can check the lug nuts on each car. NASCAR states that “lug nuts must be up against the wheel. Missing or loose lug nuts must be corrected and the car will start at the tail of the field.”

*SEGMENT 2 (50 laps)

  • All laps (green and yellow) count.
  • Teams must make a mandatory green-flag pit stop with a minimum two-tire change before Lap 85 (Lap 35 of the segment).
  • After the second segment, there will be a random draw to decide if the top nine, 10 or 11 cars must enter pit road for a mandatory four-tire pit stop. Pit road is closed for all other cars.
  • The starting lineup for the third segment will be based on how cars exit pit road after the mandatory pit stop, lining up behind the cars that did not pit.
  • After the lineup is set, the field will be brought down pit road again so NASCAR officials can check the lug nuts on each car. NASCAR states that “lug nuts must be up against the wheel. Missing or loose lug nuts must be corrected and the car will start at the tail of the field.”

*SEGMENT 3 (13 laps)

  • Only green-flag laps count.
  • Overtime rule is in effect.
  • Winner gets $1 million.

*GENERAL ALL-STAR RACE RULES 

  • Teams are allowed to work on their car if there is a red flag.
  • NASCAR stated in the drivers meeting that teams are not allowed to take tires in the last 15 laps of the second segment or in the final segment unless approval from officials.
  • Penalty for taking a tire after Lap 85 is a 1-lap penalty and can’t take tires again.
  • NASCAR stated that its 100 percent rule is in effect. Rule 7.5.a states: “NASCAR requires its Competitor(s) to race at 100% of their ability with the goal of achieving their best possible finishing position in the Event.”

 

SPRINT SHOWDOWN

* The 50-lap race will be divided into three segments.

*SEGMENT 1 (20 laps)

  • Winner advances to the Sprint All-Star Race and does not continue in the Sprint Showdown
  • All laps (green and yellow) count
  • Pit road will be closed with three laps to go
  • After the first segment ends, teams must pit and make at least a two-tire change.
  • The starting lineup for the second segment will be based on how cars exit pit road after the mandatory pit stop
  • After the lineup is set, the field will be brought down pit road again so NASCAR officials can check the lug nuts on each car. NASCAR states that “lug nuts must be up against the wheel. Missing or loose lug nuts must be corrected and the car will start at the tail of the field.”

*SEGMENT 2 (20 laps)

  • Winner advances to the Sprint All-Star Race and does not continue in the Sprint Showdown.
  • All laps (green and yellow) count.
  • Pit road will be closed with three laps to go.
  • After the second segment ends, teams must pit and make at least a two-tire change.
  • The starting lineup for the third segment will be based on how cars exit pit road after the mandatory pit stop.
  • After the lineup is set, the field will be brought down pit road again so NASCAR officials can check the lug nuts on each car. NASCAR states that “lug nuts must be up against the wheel. Missing or loose lug nuts must be corrected and the car will start at the tail of the field.”

*SEGMENT 3 (10 laps)

  • Winner advances to the Sprint All-Star Race.
  • Only green-flag laps count in this segment.
  • Overtime rule is in effect.
  • Fan vote winners to the Sprint All-Star Race will be announced after the event.

 

Rain washes out Sprint Showdown, NASCAR Truck race

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Persistent rain kept any NASCAR vehicles — other than the Air Titans — from getting on the track Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, setting up a busy Saturday schedule.

Today’s schedule is:

All times are Eastern

8:30 a.m. — Sprint Cup garage opens

9:30 – 10 a.m. — Sprint All-Star teams practice (FS1)

10:05 – 10:15 a.m. — Sprint All-Star teams pit practice (FS1)

11 a.m. — Sprint Showdown (FS1, Motor Racing Network)

12:30 p.m. — NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race (FS1, MRN)

5 p.m. — Sprint All-Star drivers meeting

7:10 p.m. — Sprint All-Star qualifying (three laps with a pit stop) (FS1, MRN)

8:35 p.m. — All-Star driver introductions

9 p.m. — Sprint All-Star Race (113 laps in three segments) (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

The Wunderground.com weather site calls for a high of 77 degrees Saturday and a low of 56 degrees. The chance of rain is 24 percent at 9 a.m. and drops to 15 percent from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. There is a 71 percent chance of rain at 7 p.m., dropping to 52 percent at 8 p.m. and less than 40 percent the rest of the night.