NASCAR official fires back at Kevin Harvick’s comment

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A senior NASCAR executive fired back Tuesday at Kevin Harvick’s comment about the Next Gen car’s woes due to “crappy-ass parts.”

Harvick made the comment after a fire forced him out of the Cup playoff opener Sept. 4 at Darlington Raceway. 

Harvick doubled down Monday after his left front tire came off when he exited his pit stall in last weekend’s race at Bristol, costing him a chance to win and advance in the playoffs. Harvick began selling a T-shirt that said: “Happy’s Crappy-Ass Parts 4 Less”

Some teams had power steering issues and others had right front tires blow this past weekend at Bristol.

Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, was asked on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio about the issues at Bristol.

“Bristol is definitely a unique load case,” Miller said. “Some things cropped up with the steering that weren’t expected. Honestly no excuse, but with the newness of this car and the newness of everything, I think that it’s not acceptable to have problems, but it’s probably part of the learning process for us. 

“All the teams and (manufacturers) were involved in the RFP process when we chose the parts. Everybody’s got a stake in this, and it’s not just NASCAR choosing quote-unquote, crappy parts.”

Asked about the state of the car heading into the final seven races of the playoffs, Miller said:

“With every part of this car actually being a new part and a new design, I think historically in racing, and in any walk of life, when you do something completely new … there’s a learning curve. 

“We’re in that learning curve and working really hard to make sure that everything works. I think for the most part it has.

“We did have some steering issues at Bristol. That is, again, a part that was chosen through the RFP process, and it is team-serviceable. That’s where we are right now. 

“Are we looking to improve on when we have problems? We absolutely 100% are every single day. What happened at Bristol was not acceptable. We will diligently work to come up with a solution to where that doesn’t happen again.”

Miller also addressed when cautions were called or not called at Bristol for tires blowing.

“Every incident is unique,” Miller said. “Every visual that we have on an incident is also unique. We don’t have 36 sets of eyes glued to each and every car. We have a bunch of us up there (in the NASCAR booth) that kind of act as spotters. We don’t always see the beginning of an incident. 

“We have to point that out. Whoever sees it, points it out to the race director. The race director analyzes the situation as he sees it and puts the caution out at his discretion on what he sees. Now we don’t have the ability to go, obviously, watch replays and watch the incident. 

“Cautions are … a quick call and there is going to be some judgment in those no matter how you look at it. I would love to be able to define what creates a caution and what doesn’t, but it’s impossible because every incident is completely different from the last one and completely different from the next one.”

The issue of when cautions are called came up in the May 22 All-Star Race when NASCAR stated the race director “prematurely” called a caution flag for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. hitting the wall on the last scheduled lap of the event. 

The caution waved just as Ryan Blaney crossed the finish line. Thinking he had won, Blaney lowered his window net, only to be told that the All-Star Race — unlike other Cup races — had to end under green-flag conditions.

Blaney scrambled to put the window net in place before the race resumed. Officials were satisfied with what he did and allowed him to remain on track. He won in overtime.

Elton Sawyer, NASCAR vice president of officiating and technical inspection, told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on May 24 that there would be changes in the process of how NASCAR calls cautions to avoid a repeat of that situation

“The race director is filtering through that information to ultimately make the decision,” Sawyer said of the call for a caution during a race. “As we go forward, what we’re looking at is how do we get more voices involved in that process there to make sure it is not just one person having to say, bam, put (the caution) out.”

Cup playoffs continue theme of ‘crazy year’ in NASCAR

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How to describe these Cup playoffs? 

Well, Kevin Harvick came up with a slogan to explain why he’s no longer competing for a championship. He put it on a T-shirt. For $20 you can have one.

But there are other ways to look at what’s transpired and what could come in the second round at Texas, Talladega and the Charlotte Roval. 

Three races in, these playoffs have seen fire and rain (both at Darlington) and much, much more. 

All four playoff drivers with ties to Richard Childress Racing past, present or future have been eliminated. Two former champions are gone. A playoff newcomer with one top-10 finish in the last five months (!!) advanced to the second round. The series leader at the end of the first round is now tied for the final transfer spot entering the second round after the points reset.

“As far as the cutline goes, nobody is safe,” said former champion Chase Elliott, who enters this round as the points leader. 

Oh yeah, each of the first three playoff races were won by a driver not in the playoffs: Erik Jones (Darlington), Bubba Wallace (Kansas) and Chris Buescher (Bristol).

That’s never happened before. 

“Imagine if the playoffs started a couple weeks later,” Joey Logano said. “Holy cow. What a crazy year, which is what we expected. We expected this year to just be very unpredictable and no one really being able to figure this car out, and it really seems like there are still so many questions.”

Yes there are. 

Will the chaos continue? Will non-playoff drivers keep winning? Who is the next former champion eliminated? Who is the next surprise to advance? How will the Next Gen car further impact these playoffs?

“This car has reset that whole thing,” Ross Chastain said. “Like you can’t bring different headers here. You can’t bring a new aero package. 

“You’re trying to maximize everything, but we all have the same parts. You can’t build a new right front spindle and save it for the playoffs. You can’t bring different brake pads that they’ve found in testing to be better and bring them now. There’s nothing else to bring. We all order the same stuff.

This has been the greatest reset that this sport has ever seen.”

With Talladega in the upcoming round — where anyone can win — and the Charlotte Roval as a cutoff race — imagine if it rains there — the second round could be more volatile than the first round. It makes Sunday’s race at Texas critical for teams because of the uncertainty of the following two races.

Logano noted how much will be different this time from when NASCAR held its All-Star Race there in May. 

“The car has developed and changed,” he said. “It’s gonna be different than where we were last time. Weather will be different. Resin and how it’s applied – those type of things – will be different. IndyCar has raced there since we’ve been there, so there is a lot of change that can happen, but this next round is a pretty tough one. 

“When you think of Texas being maybe the most normal race and then you have the Roval and Talladega on top of that, it’s definitely gonna be a unique round for sure, as it always has been.”

While there remain questions about safety aspects of the Next Gen car and it has been criticized for how it races on short tracks, the new car has worked best on 1.5-mile tracks. Sunday’s race at Texas returns to the focus on such tracks. 

Three of the next five playoff races will be on 1.5-mile tracks (Texas in the second round and Las Vegas and Homestead in the third round). That could make an impact on who advances.

Another key is the points reset.

Christopher Bell had an average finish of 4.0 in the opening round and was the points leader when the checkered flag waved at Bristol last weekend. 

The remaining 12 playoff drivers had their points changed to 3,000 and then had their playoff points added. While Bell won a stage at Bristol to collect a playoff point, he’s not scored as many playoff points as others. The result is that he’ll start this round tied with Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney for the final transfer spot.

The four drivers outside the transfer spot entering this round are Chase Briscoe (-4 points from the cutline), Alex Bowman (-6), Daniel Suarez (-6) and Austin Cindric (-7).

Briscoe advanced despite having one top-10 finish in the last 21 races, dating back to early April. He finished 27th (Darlington), 13th (Kansas) and 14th (Bristol) in the opening round. That was good enough to place 14 points ahead of Tyler Reddick, the highest driver in points eliminated in the first round.

“Guys are gonna keep eliminating themselves,” Briscoe said. “We’ve just got to limit our mistakes. If we do that, we know we’ve got to have a little bit more speed, but if we can just eliminate our mistakes, it gives us a chance to go to the next round.”

Anything is possible in these unpredictable playoffs.

Points reset jumbles Cup playoff grid after Bristol

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Four drivers are gone in the Cup playoffs, including former champions Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, as the Round of 12 begins Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET on USA Network).

While Christopher Bell finished the first round as the points leader, the points are reset and Bell, due to lack of playoff points earned throughout the year, finds himself tied for the final transfer spot with Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney. Chase Elliott, who finished the opening round in fourth, is back atop the standings after the reset because of his 40 playoff points.

This round has the potential for even more tumult for playoff drivers. The round has races at Texas, Talladega and the cutoff event at the Charlotte Roval. Anything can happen at Talladega. The Roval can present its own challenges as the final road course on the schedule (racing in rain?).

XFINITY SERIES

The Xfinity playoff field was set at Bristol. Ryan Sieg earned the final spot. Now, the field prepares for the start of the playoffs Saturday at Texas (3:30 p.m. ET on USA Network).

Noah Gragson, who won six races in the regular season, leads the field with 2,051 points. Ty Gibbs, who won five races in the regular season, is next at 2,038 points. The opening round features races at Texas, Talladega and the Charlotte Roval.

CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES

Ty Majeski’s win last week at Bristol earned him a spot in the Nov. 4 championship race at Phoenix. Two races remain in this round: Oct. 1 at Talladega and Oct. 22 at Homestead.

Bristol winners and losers

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A look at the winners and losers from Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway:

WINNERS

Non-playoff drivers — Chris Buescher made it a clean sweep of drivers not in the playoffs winning each of the three first-round races. Erik Jones won at Darlington, Bubba Wallace won at Kansas, and Buescher won at Bristol. It is Buescher’s second career Cup victory. He led a race-high 169 of 500 laps.

RFK Racing — Chris Buescher and Brad Keselowski combined to lead 278 laps. Keselowski, who won a stage, finished 13th after a tire went down while leading. Buescher gave the team its first points win since Keselowski became a part owner at the start of the season. 

Christopher BellFinished fourth and won a stage to collect a playoff point for the second round. Had an average finish of 4.0 in the first round. 

William ByronAfter scoring one top-10 finish in the last 18 races of the regular season, Byron scored top 10s in each of the three races in the first round. He was eighth at Darlington, sixth at Kansas and third at Bristol. 

Austin CindricWas four laps down less than 100 laps into the race but kept going. He was helped by trouble to others to secure the final transfer spot to the second round despite finishing 20th, seven laps behind the leaders. 

LOSERS

Next Gen car on a short track — Some durability issues created issues for teams, and drivers said the cars are going too fast to race well at Bristol. Work remains on this car. 

Kevin HarvickA fire ended his race at Darlington. A crash, when two cars in front took the air off his note, ended his race at Kansas. In position to challenge for the lead late at Bristol, his left front wheel came off and forced him to back into his pits to have it put back on. That cost him a chance at a win and ended his title hopes. Fire, crash and wheel coming off — that aptly describes some of the major issues this year with the new car.

Richard Childress Racing — All four playoff drivers with connections to this team, whether past, present or future, all failed to advance. RCR drivers Tyler Reddick and Austin Dillon failed to advance, as did Kevin Harvick, who raced for RCR in Cup from 2001-13, and Kyle Busch, who will join the team in 2023. 

Kyle Busch — Two engine failures in the first round ended his last chance to win a third Cup championship with Joe Gibbs Racing. 

Long: Bristol tests, torments Cup playoff field, ending title hopes for some

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BRISTOL, Tenn. — On a night when attrition turned Bristol’s dizzying 500 laps into a series of math equations, and one of the most tense battles for position involved a damaged car on track and one that had been loaded into a team’s hauler, maybe it wasn’t surprising that any playoff driver with connections — past, present and future — to Richard Childress Racing was eliminated from title contention.

Kyle Busch was “flabbergasted” after his second engine failure in this round means he will not win the championship in his final season with Joe Gibbs Racing. His next title attempt will come in the No. 8 car for Richard Childress Racing in 2023. 

Tyler Reddick, the current driver of the No. 8, also was eliminated after his car was damaged in a crash and couldn’t gain enough positions. Both Reddick (25th) and Busch (34th) finished two points behind Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric — who overcame multiple tire failures and finished seven laps behind winner Chris Buescher in 20th— to secure the final playoff spot. 

Also failing to advance in the playoffs: Austin Dillon, who finished 31st, and former Childress driver Kevin Harvick, who placed 10th.

This marked the first time that Harvick and Busch each were eliminated in the first round.

“If I get done with my media obligations and NASCAR releases me, I’m going to the house,” Busch said after exiting the event. “I’ve got kids at home.”

Harvick saw his chances of winning — essentially his only way to advance — end when a wheel did not get tightened and fell off, forcing him to back up to his stall on his final pit stop. What should have been a 10-12 second pit stop took more than 30 seconds. 

“Just went from having a chance to lead the parade to being a part of the parade,” Harvick said.

But this was more than two former champions falling out of title contention. This was tires blowing, power steering systems failing and an engine puking smoke, fluids and anything else in a smokescreen that nearly took out Cindric.

Chris Gabehart, crew chief for Denny Hamlin, forecasted the chaos last week at Kansas, telling NBC Sports that the Bristol race was “the last challenge of the Next Gen car.”

Nothing carried over from the spring race on the dirt. The other concrete tracks are way different then Bristol and the demands put on the cars. There were concerns of how much this new car could take. 

The result was a mish-mash of mishaps that forced drivers and crew chiefs to recalculate points, refine priorities and refocus on the task at hand. 

Cindric was four laps down before the race was 100 laps old. His hopes of advancing seemed over. With such a long night ahead, he had to find a way to stay motivated.

“I guess the funny thing is that when I prep for these races, I don’t have much too much weight to lose, much to burn, so I always hydrate a ton,” he said. “I was sitting there (in the car) thinking, ‘You know what, you hydrated for a reason, you have to pee really bad for reason. You might as well use it (as motivation). 

“So I’d say it’s a small motivating things maybe that’s a little weird, I don’t know, but I came prepared and might as well give it all we got.”

Yes, that is weird motivation, but it worked.

Things changed dramatically when Busch’s engine blew on Lap 270. 

“That happened right in front of me,” Cindric said. “He had smoke coming out, stopped on the straightaway and I about ran into the back of him. I had a front row seat for about everything that happened. I guess that’s what happens when you’re in the back.”

Cindric’s chances improved on the restart when several cars crashed, including those of Reddick, Dillon and Daniel Suarez.

The incident started when Suarez got out of shape, tagged another car and triggered a pile up. Dillon tried to continue but eventually ran out of time on the Damaged Vehicle Policy. Reddick finished 31 laps behind because of needed repairs. Suarez continued, finishing six laps behind the leaders in 19th, good enough to advance. 

Cindric later got a wave around and gained enough spots to pull ahead of Busch and Reddick. 

When the checkered flag waved on the wackiness, Cindric’s crew chief, Jeremy Bullins, threw a fierce arm pump in celebration and high-fived those around him on the pit box. 

“Obviously, you’re not celebrating a win,” he told NBC Sports, “but celebrating an accomplishment.”

It’s on to the next round of the Cup playoffs and one can only imagine what’s to come.