Changes won’t be made to overtime rules following Ryan Newman‘s violent crash in an overtime finish of the Daytona 500, a NASCAR executive said Saturday.
Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, spoke Saturday about NASCAR’s response to Newman’s crash in the immediate seconds after the car came to rest and in the days since with its investigation.
O’Donnell also said he’d “stand by” NASCAR’s caution procedures in the wake of the crash.
O’Donnell appeared with John Bobo, NASCAR vice president of racing operations, whose duties include overseeing the sanctioning body’s medical policies and procedures, and John Patalak, NASCAR senior director of safety engineers, who oversees safety functions and NASCAR’s R&D Center.
O’Donnell provided no information on Newman’s medical status, citing HIPAA laws. It was stated that Newman’s medical team will have to clear Newman to return to racing. NASCAR also will have to clear him. After Newman was released from the hospital Wednesday, Roush Fenway Racing said there was no timetable for his return.
During the news conference, O’Donnell outlined the response by safety and medical crews to Newman’s crash:
The safety truck arrived on the scene 19 seconds after Newman’s car came to rest.
One of the three trauma doctors arrived 33 seconds after Newman’s car came to rest.
A paramedic entered Newman’s car two seconds later.
For the next 3 1/2 minutes, two doctors and a paramedic attended to Newman.
The decision was made to roll Newman’s car over while continuing to aid the driver 4 minutes, 5 seconds after the car came to rest.
The car was rolled over and the extrication team began cutting the roof as a doctor continued to provide treatment to Newman 6:56 after car came to rest.
The roof was removed from the car 11:10 after Newman’s car came to rest.
The extrication of Newman completed 15:40 after the car came to rest .
During the entire time doctors and paramedics were attending to Newman except when the car was rolled over.
NASCAR took the cars driven by Ryan Newman and Corey LaJoie to its R&D Center to continue the investigation.
“On Tuesday, that started with the laying out of the vehicles in a secure space, where we have all the components and associated elements that come from the cars on the race track as well as the driver’s safety equipment,” Patalak said. “Really starting from the outside of the vehicles, slowing working our way in and assessing each of the individual safety systems and how they’ve performed individually, as well as together as a complete assembly, then ultimately how the two cars interacted together during the crash.”
Patalak listed “many sources of data” NASCAR is using during the investigation:
The incident data recorder in each car.
Footage from the high-speed camera that is inside each Cup car and pointed at the driver to see what a driver goes through in a collision.
ECU data and available telemetry data from the cars.
Broadcast and non-broadcast video sources.
“We’re currently working on synchronizing all of those data sets together in time … to create full picture of what happened as the crash unfolded,” Patalak said. “We’re working together with Roush Fenway Racing as well as outside experts as we continue to investigate and look forward to being able to provide more information sometime soon.”
O’Donnell said one of the reasons details on the wreck weren’t provided Saturday was that NASCAR hasn’t “had the chance to go through this with Ryan and his team, with the other drivers in the garage, but Ryan’s feedback as we go through this will be key. I think that’ll be a key component as it’s always been throughout the process when he’s been racing.”
O’Donnell expressed surprise that “we haven’t heard a lot (from drivers) about blocking or different things that occurred during the race.”
With the crash having happened five days ago, O’Donnell said “Our job now is to have continued dialogue with the drivers, see what happens in terms of this race package. Where there any changes from Talladega to Daytona in terms of how they races? How that may have contributed or not to this incident and if we can make some changes we will.”
Roush Fenway Racing President Steve Newmark will speak to the media for the first time after the crash in a news conference scheduled for 12:45 p.m. ET on Sunday.
Roush Fenway Racing announced the news in a release and via Twitter, posting a photo of Newman, clad in T-shirt and jeans, walking from Halifax Medical Center while holding the hands of his two daughters.
It was the second photo that the team had posted Wednesday; earlier reporting that Newman was walking around the hospital in good spirits and playing with his daughters.
Speedway Motorsports’ Marcus Smith and Jerry Caldwell each pushed back Tuesday on critical comments made by a Nashville Fair Board Commissioner alleging SMI has “failed to engage” with it regarding plans to bring NASCAR to the historic Fairgrounds Speedway.
The comments by Commissioner Jason Bergeron, reported by The Tennessean, were made at Nashville’s monthly Fair Board meeting and revolved around the dispute over a $335 million Major League Soccer stadium that has been approved by the city and, pending approval by the mayor, would be built next to the speedway.
“We need to decouple any notion of racing from this right now,” Bergeron said. “That process hasn’t even started because (Speedway Motorsports) has failed to engage.”
Smith, the CEO and president of SMI, responded on Twitter by calling Bergeron’s accusation “just not true.”
Wow, this is just not true! I’ve spent so much time in Nashville over the last few years, I almost don’t need maps! STAY tuned for more info… @yihyun_jeong @Tennessean “because (Speedway Motorsports) has failed to engage," Bergeron said. https://t.co/zdZcD2JqC9
Bristol Motor Speedway, which has spearheaded the attempt to bring NASCAR racing back to Nashville, released the following statement from Caldwell, the track’s vice president and general manager:
We’ve presented the city – Mayor Cooper and the Fair Board – with a plan to restore the historic speedway and give it an economically viable future. In meetings with Mayor Cooper, his team and other city officials during the past several weeks, we’ve been asked to evaluate different operating scenarios and have provided information to the city as requested. We’ve done everything we have been asked to do and have met with everyone we have been asked to meet with. We will continue to provide any assistance necessary as the city considers what’s best for the future of the Fairgrounds.
Because the Fair Board has a Metro Charter-obligation to maintain the speedway, we have been and continue to be optimistic that the commissioners and the mayor will be supportive of a partnership with BMS to modernize and financially sustain the speedway.
Our team has long believed in the future of the historic speedway and the Fairgrounds. We became even more excited about that future when Nashville was awarded an MLS franchise and committed to build a new soccer stadium. It is within the city’s reach to have a thriving multi-use sports and entertainment complex to create a true landmark for the city
“One historical use is auto racing, which is mandated by our Metro Charter,” Cooper wrote. “I’m working to find a path for racing’s success, and in these negotiations, I’ve secured additional space to allow for necessary speedway improvements. Higher-level auto racing will attract more visitors and ensure the long-term sustainability of the fairgrounds.”
CONCORD, N.C. — Jimmie Johnson is not chasing history. He seeks to enjoy it.
Johnson’s revelation this week that he has ditched #chasing8 for #One FinalTime as the slogan for his final Cup season is not a sign of surrender, he insists.
Instead, he wants to be more focused on the moment and hope that leads to greater goals.
“I’m not chasing anything,” the seven-time Cup champion said Thursday at the Hendrick Motorsports complex.
Johnson used #6pack on his quest for a sixth title and #se7en in his bid for a seventh title. He had used #chasing8 while seeking an unprecedented eighth Cup title for a driver.
Even without the slogan, Johnson says he remains focused on this coming season.
“I’m going to get in that car, I’m going to give it 100% as I always do … I’ll lay it on the line and go,” he said.
But Johnson’s go has been slow in recent years. He is winless in 95 races, dating back to June 2017 at Dover International Speedway.
Since that victory, Johnson has six top-five finishes, 29 top 10s and led 216 laps. He has not finished better than third in a points race in that span.
Such struggles make it easy to discount a driver for championship contention — even one of only three seven-time champions in series history.
It’s not been just one thing, though, that has held the 44-year-old back. His struggles coincided with a decline in performance for Hendrick Motorsports in 2017 and ’18. Chevrolet’s Camaro had its issues. Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus split after the 2018 season. Johnson went on to change crew chiefs again in 2019 when performance soured.
“It was definitely frustrating,” Johnson said of missing the playoffs last year for the first time in his career. “I was angry, embarrassed.”
He cites last year as a learning experience in racing without Knaus on his pit box. Without Knaus’ leadership, there was a vacuum and Johnson had to understand how to help fill it. As his performance waned, the team struggled. A late-summer crew chief change failed to get Johnson into the playoffs.
Johnson, considered among NASCAR’s greatest drivers, said that “winning races, making the playoffs would be a good season (this year). A great season is going (multiple) rounds (in the playoffs). The ultimate season is being in that championship four.”
First Johnson must be able to run at the front. And win again.
While his 83 career Cup victories are tied for sixth with Cale Yarborough on the all-time list, Johnson’s focus is to win again to show his daughters what he can do. Genevieve is 9 years old and Lydia is 6.
“I think deep down inside it would be very satisfying,” Johnson said of winning again. “In my heart of hearts I still now I’m doing my best work out there.
“I can also say from a family perspective, to have another moment or two this year with my family in that environment and winning at the top level would be very special for us.
“I guess, ultimately, my kids don’t remember going to victory lane. They don’t have any vivid memories of it. They have no filters. To come home and especially Lydia is like, ‘so Dad, we didn’t win, what happened?’ Evie is so polite about it: ‘Dad you tried hard, good job.’
“To have that moment with them and a moment they will hopefully remember … would be really special.”
“We’re having great discussions with leadership in Nashville,” Marcus Smith, president of Speedway Motorsports Inc., told NBC Sports this week. “We think it’s a great opportunity for the city and for NASCAR and for Speedway Motorsports. … Everything we’re working on seems to be moving forward in a reasonable pace.
“I don’t think I can really put a timeframe on it right now because it would just be speculation. I’m very optimistic about NASCAR in Nashville.
“The timing is one of those things that once we get the agreement done, then we’ll have some planning and … the actual construction will take place. It’s a big project and one that when it’s done, the city of Nashville will be really proud of.”
Asked if Nashville was still a consideration for the 2021 schedule, Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, said: “I would say Nashville as a market is a high priority for us in 2021.”
3. Changes for 2020
Along with the changes to stage lengths this season — and how a race will be official once it hits the halfway mark (unless the end of the second stage occurs first) — NASCAR also revealed a few other changes for the coming season.
Last year, NASCAR typically took no more than one car to the R&D Center after a race. That was primarily to study trends in the sport and if NASCAR needed to adjust any rules. The point was to get away from issuing penalties days after the race.
This year, series officials said they would look at taking multiple cars back to the R&D Center after Cup races.
“We tried to do the best we could in response to the teams and try to curb development,” said Jay Fabian, NASCAR Cup director. “Part of that there is that there’s been a new set of rules as far as a parts freeze. Teams have to submit a significant amount of parts and they have to run those parts throughout the year. They have options of each part, they can mix and match as long as they are on that list.
“We will bring more cars back this year because that’s, quite honestly, a lot of work postrace. So we’re going to bring that back and make sure everybody is on the up and up.”
Fabian said if NASCAR found “a major, significant issue, we’d react to it” by issuing a penalty that week.
In regards to the Next Gen car, NASCAR’s next test will be March 2-3 at Auto Club Speedway. That’s expected to have only one car but NASCAR anticipates having two cars test by April. That would give officials more information on how a Next Gen car reacts behind another car. Teams are expected to take delivery of their first Next Gen car by July. Tests will be set up for August and beyond.
Five tests are expected to be held for teams before next season. How those tests will be done — whether only one car per organization is allowed or one car per team — will be determined later.
Also, NASCAR officials were scheduled to meet Wednesday with manufacturers in the sport and those that could join the sport about a new engine for 2023, among other issues.
As Brad Keselowski acknowledged this week, that type of season was good but not good enough.
“We want to be great,” he said. “We want to win championships. You’ve got to recognize that winning races is still a significant accomplishment in this sport. It’s great competition week in and week out, so winning is good but also emphasize that greatness is the championship. We didn’t win it. It means we’ve got work to do.”
Keselowski, who will be teamed with crew chief Jermey Bullins this season, also expressed his belief on why the change was made at Team Penske.
“I’ll be honest with you, I think the rules package is as much a factor as anything else,” Keselowski said. “The rules changed when we went to the high downforce and the really small horsepower. That’s really hard to accept. It’s hard to accept for the drivers. It’s really hard to accept for the teams with respect some of the things that we consider telltales of the past that are not necessarily the telltales of today.
“Used to get into this car and you were a good racecar driver if you could run every lap within half a tenth to a tenth (of a second). With these rules, the lap time variance is very significant. You might run one lap, let’s say around (Charlotte Motor Speedway), a 30 (second) flat and the next lap you catch the draft wrong in all the wrong places and you run a 31 flat and the team sees that and they say ‘What the hell? What is this guy out here doing? Is he drunk? Is he not focused? What’s going on?’
“I think it’s part of the package. When you’re not winning, when you’re having the bad days you’re going to have in this sport … it really has put a lot of stress on the team relationships, driver relationships, that dynamic. I think that dynamic has caused a fair amount of rift and ripples across the whole sport and the easiest way for Team Penske to fix it was this change because it forces everyone to think a little bit more thoroughly and different about it.
“That’s one of many examples, it’s not the only reason. I do think the rules change has had a drastic impact on the drivers’ and teams’ abilities to communicate with each other and value the right things.”
Andretti, the first driver to compete in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in the same day, won an IndyCar race, two Cup events, a Rolex 24 and even a USAC national midget race. He also competed in NHRA, reaching the semifinals once.
Of all that, there was one drive that illustrates Andretti’s essence.
It came in his 1999 Cup win at Martinsville Speedway for Petty Enterprises. Andretti won the day after Petty Enterprises claimed the Martinsville Truck race, completing a weekend sweep for the famed organization that no longer exists.
But Andretti’s path was not easy that day. He fell a lap down less than 50 laps into the event after he was hit from behind by Ward Burton and spun. No Martinsville Cup winner in the previous decade had come back from a lap down to win.
Andretti needed less than 100 laps to pass leader Jeff Gordon and get back on the lead lap. A two-tire pit stop with about 120 laps left played a key role and Andretti did the rest. He was third with 50 laps to go.
Andretti passed Gordon for second with about 12 laps to go as his car suffered a vibration.
“With 12 to go, I figure the heck with it,” Andretti said later that day. “Nobody is going to remember if you run third.”
Andretti challenged close friend Jeff Burton for the lead and drove past the Virginia driver with four laps to go as the crowd cheered.
After taking the checkered flag, Andretti took an extra victory lap. On his way to victory lane, he stopped to give car owner Richard Petty a ride.
The sight of Petty sitting on the driver’s window opening as Andretti drove the No. 43 to victory lane is a memory that won’t be forgotten.
Friday 5: As season nears, a bigger deadline looms for NASCAR
While the Cup garage opens in two weeks at Daytona International Speedway to begin the 2020 season, a bigger deadline is looming.
It is less than 10 weeks from NASCAR President Steve Phelps’ self-imposed deadline of announcing the 2021 schedule around April 1.
Phelps made it clear in November what will be key elements to the upcoming schedule.
“We’re looking at where we’re going to have the most competitive racing that we can have, where we’re going to have full grandstands, and what does that market look like, is it a new market that we can service,” Phelps said the morning of last season’s finale in Miami.
Tracks that host Cup races — now mostly owned by NASCAR — were put on notice by Phelps’ comments.
“The two things that teams need: We need butts in seats and eyeballs on the TV,” said Steve Newmark, Roush Fenway Racing president, this week.
He stated how important attendance is for teams by noting the growth at Watkins Glen International, which had its fifth consecutive sellout of grandstand seating last year.
“When I started in 2010, we didn’t take a lot of partners to Watkins Glen,” Newmark said of sponsors. “Now you take a partner to Watkins Glen in a heartbeat. It is sold out, the energy there. I understand the capacity at Watkins Glen is not the same but it has this feeling, and I think really what we’re trying from a team perspective, from a Roush Fenway perspective, that’s the most important thing.
“I want to go to areas that embrace having the race, that people show up in the stands, that there is a lot of energy. That’s where I want to take my partners. I want them to see their brand in that type of setting.
“Some venues can do that with two races. Other venues it’s been more of a struggle. I would love to see us try these new venues. There will be an energy around that.”
Among Newmark’s suggestions of where NASCAR should consider racing at some point: “Mexico, Canada, street courses, different road courses, different short tracks, look at it all.”
Ryan Newman, who enters his second year at Roush Fenway Racing, said that NASCAR should consider running a Cup race on dirt.
“I’m not trying to bash anybody, we just can’t keep doing the same things we’ve been doing,” he said this week. “We just can’t. We’ve got to mix it up as a sport. We’re working on doing that and I know that.
“But we’ve got to mix it up and make the fans want to see something different, want to see something new. A different driver. A different venue. A different type of anything. Not just a Next Gen car, that’s a part of it. … Going dirt racing can be done with the Next Gen car. If Junior Johnson was here, he’d tell you, ‘Let’s go race dirt.’ I’m telling you.”
Only the Truck series races on dirt, competing at Eldora Speedway. Cup last raced on a dirt track Sept. 30, 1970 at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, North Carolina. Richard Petty won that race.
As the sport continues to evolve — adding a night race at Martinsville, a doubleheader weekend at Pocono, and the debut of the Next Gen car next season — the makeup of the schedule in the coming years will be among the biggest tasks for NASCAR officials.
2. A big deal
After winning the Chili Bowl for the first time in 13 attempts, Kyle Larson said moments after the triumph on the MavTV broadcast: “Its a pretty different range of emotions 365 days later. I feel like I’m going to pass out. I’m sorry NASCAR, I’m sorry Daytona, but this is the biggest (expletive) race I’ve ever won. I hope to win Daytona in a few weeks but this is bad ass.”
Larson, who lost the Chili Bowl the previous year on the last lap, later explained his comment in his press conference.
“It will be fun to watch the dirt fans and the NASCAR fans go at it and maybe get a text from (NASCAR’s Steve) O’Donnell and probably (Chip Ganassi Racing chief operating officer) Doug Duchardt,” Larson said.
“I think they understand the energy that this race brings to me and how much I want to win and have wanted to win it. Obviously, I’ve said in the past that the Chili Bowl, to me, is bigger than the Daytona 500. Obviously, it’s not just because of the size of the crowd and the purse of the Daytona 500, nothing compares with that I’ve raced in.
“On a personal level, just how close I’ve been to winning this race, I think that’s where I think this race has meant more to me. But now maybe after winning the Chili Bowl, the Daytona 500 will be that next race that’s going to mean the most to me that I want to win. It’s just been a great little run and hopefully we can turn this into some good momentum into the NASCAR season.”
Ryan Newman, who competed at the Chili Bowl Nationals for the first time, defended Larson’s excitement with winning that event.
“There’s 360 drivers, 360 teams going for one trophy. That’s spectacular,” Newman said. “I raced midgets races before where I won and there were 16 cars that entered and I felt really good about it. Going back to the Kyle Larson (comment), when there’s 360 (drivers) and you have been working … your whole life to get that trophy, it makes it special. It makes it more special than anybody who is out of his shoes to understand.”
Brad Keselowski won the first Xfinity race at Indy (it was known as the Nationwide Series at the time) in 2012. That remains a special accomplishment.
“It sticks with you,” he told NBC Sports. “I’m proud of it. … It makes me … a little sad because I don’t get to compete in that series anymore with all the rules, it’s not feasible. So there is a little bit of sorrow I have with that question (of winning there) but it certainly was a defining moment for my career.”
Keselowski also won the final Xfinity race at Lucas Oil Raceway — where the series competed from 1982-2011 before moving to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
4. 15 and counting …
Call it a good sign for some, an omen for others or one crazy coincidence but each of the past 15 Cup champions have had an even-number car number.
The last driver to win the championship with an odd number on the car was Kurt Busch. He won the 2004 title (the inaugural Chase) driving the No. 97 car.
So, if one believes in signs, the even-number streak could be a bad sign this season for drivers with odd numbers, such as Busch (No. 1), Chase Elliott (No. 9), Denny Hamlin (No. 11) and Martin Truex Jr. (No. 19) among others.
The four-hour endurance race begins at 1:10 pm. ET (and will be streamed on the NBC Gold: Track Pass) and includes Xfinity drivers Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric. Also competing will be Hailie Deegan, who moved from Toyota’s development program to Ford’s in the offseason. She’ll spend most of her time this season running in the ARCA Series. Deegan and Briscoe will co-drive the No. 22 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4.
NASCAR executive explains Stewart Friesen penalty at ISM Raceway
Friesen, who started second, beat pole-sitter Austin Hill to the start-finish line after it appeared Hill spun his tires.
As a result, Friesen was forced to the rear of the field during a caution that came out on Lap 3.
Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s executive vice president and chief racing development officer, addressed why Friesen was penalized Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive.”
“At the beginning of the race the leader earns that right with the pole and has to be the car to cross the start-finish line first,” O’Donnell said. “In this case, we can’t make judgments on what may or may not happen to the pole-sitter. When Stewart’s truck beat the pole-sitter to the line, that’s an automatic penalty for us.”
O’Donnell also compared the rule for the initial race start to guidelines for restarts.
“When we have a restart the rule is the leader at that time earns the ability to restart the race and get on the gas so-to-speak first,” O’Donnell said. “But then once the leader does that anything goes and the race is basically started back up again and the line doesn’t come into play.”