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Six Cup teams to be penalized practice time Saturday at Kansas

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KANSAS CITY, Kansas – Chase Elliott‘s team is among six that will be docked practice time Saturday at Kansas Speedway, NASCAR announced.

Four cars will be penalized 15 minutes of Saturday’s first practice session for being late to qualifying inspection. Docked practice time will be the teams of Landon Cassill, JJ Yeley, Timmy Hill and Kyle Weatherman.

Two cars will be penalized 15 minutes of Saturday’s final practice session for failing qualifying inspection twice Friday. Docked practice time will be the teams of Elliott and Matt DiBenedetto.

First Cup practice Saturday is from 10:30 – 11:20 a.m. ET on CNBC.

Final Cup practice Saturday is from 1:05 – 1:55 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

 

Nine Cup cars to be docked practice time at Talladega

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UPDATE: NASCAR has announced that three additional teams will be docked practice today. Those will be the teams of playoff contender Brad Keselowski, DJ Kennington and Landon Cassill after their spotters missed the mandatory spotters meeting.

TALLADEGA, Ala. – Six Cup teams, including playoff competitors Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr., will be penalized practice time Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway.

All the violations stem from inspection issues last weekend at Dover.

The teams of Kyle Busch, Daniel Suarez and David Ragan will be docked 15 minutes for being late to pre-race inspection.

The teams of Kurt Busch and Truex will be docked 15 minutes for failing pre-race inspection twice.

The team of Bubba Wallace will be penalized 30 minutes for failing pre-race inspection three times. Wallace said that he will not have a backup car this weekend. The penalty should lessen the impact of not having a backup car.

Final Cup practice will be from 11:05 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

 

Friday 5: Jeffrey Earnhardt is tired of being ‘bullied’ on the track

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Jeffrey Earnhardt is tired of being “bullied” on the track and says he’s “not going to take shit” from other competitors.

Earnhardt, who has had an indirect role in key moments in recent races, made his comments Wednesday night on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Dialed In” show.

“You don’t want to feel used, and I feel like we have been used here lately,” Earnhardt told host Claire B. Lang. “We’re tired of being the victims. Whether we start making the other people the victims, whatever it takes, but we don’t want to keep feeling like we’re being bullied and we feel like we are right now.”

Earnhardt’s latest frustration is with Daniel Hemric. They raced together into the final chicane of last weekend’s race at the Charlotte Roval. Earnhardt’s car spun after contact from Hemric’s car.

Earnhardt’s car stalled less than 100 yards from the finish line. That allowed Kyle Larson’s wrecked car to pass him and gain the one position he needed to advance to the second round, which begins this weekend at Dover International Speedway.

“I like to think that I race clean and give people room and then they do shit like that, it gets under your skin,” Earnhardt said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio about the contact from Hemric.

This marked the third time in the last four races that Earnhardt has had an impact on a race.

At Indianapolis, he and Landon Cassill wrecked, setting up the final caution that changed the race’s outcome.

Of that incident, Earnhardt said: “We went into the corner and his story and my story are two different things.”

That caution eliminated Denny Hamlin’s lead and allowed Brad Keselowski to pass Hamlin coming to the white flag and win.

A frustrated Hamlin said afterward: “Just those meaningless cautions at the end by drivers multiple laps down. What they’re doing crashing with three laps to go, I have no idea. It cost us the race.”

Earnhardt did not appreciate Hamlin’s comments.

“The meaningless driver comment was just not smart,” Earnhardt told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “It shows a lack of respect for me or anyone else that are back there that are fighting to make a career out of this.”

At Richmond, Earnhardt caused the only caution of the race — other than the two stage breaks — after contact from Matt Kenseth. NASCAR penalized Kenseth for a commitment line violation and speeding entering the pits on Lap 321. His contact with Earnhardt led to a caution at Lap 327.

On the radio after the incident, Kenseth said: “Tell him, my bad. I drug up the splitter and hit. My bad. Tell him I’m sorry about that.”

Earnhardt was frustrated about that incident as well.

“He can say he was on the splitter if he wants … I don’t agree with what he says,” Earnhardt said.

“It does suck. These guys that feel they can pick on us and use us as a crutch to make their day better. Who knows. There have been several races we didn’t fire off that great, I was wishing for a caution. Maybe I’ll start doing the same. Maybe I’ll use them to get a caution so we can come in and work on our car and make it better.”

2. Manufacturer support

Throughout NASCAR’s explanation this week for deciding on a 2019 rules package that includes a tapered spacer to limit engines to 550 horsepower at many big tracks and 750 horsepower at other tracks was how that could help entice more manufacturers to enter the sport.

It’s no secret that NASCAR would like at least another manufacturer at the Cup level.

“It’s not just today,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, said about the impact of the new rules package. “It kind of falls into where we want to go with the next Gen car.

“A lot of that is going to be based on new technology in the car and a lot of that is going to be based on efficiencies, potentially for the team owners, (manufacturers), putting an engine in place from a horsepower level that could be more relevant in the future that could attract new (manufacturers), which is key and make the owners that we have in this sport healthier and also attract new owners.”

A new manufacturer or manufacturers could be critical to the sport. Even with the charter system, teams must still rely heavily on sponsorship to fund teams. Additional manufacturers could provide greater financial support for charter teams and potentially balance the competition.

Toyota, which backs five teams, has won 12 of 29 races this season. Ford, which backs more than twice as many teams as Toyota, has won 15 of 29 races. Chevrolet has two wins this season (Austin Dillon in the Daytona 500 and Chase Elliott at Watkins Glen).

O’Donnell said that NASCAR is hearing from manufacturers investigating the series.

“Lot more of our calls are being answered, a lot more meetings are taking place with potential new (manufacturers),” he said. “I think where we landed on 2019 sets us up well for the immediate future but long-term as well.”

We’ll find out.

3. Step forward

Chase Briscoe’s victory in last weekend’s Xfinity race at the Charlotte Roval was another key moment for Ford and its driver development program.

Briscoe was the first driver signed to the multi-tiered program Ford announced in January 2017.

Briscoe and Austin Cindric joined Brad Keselowski Racing’s Camping World Truck Series team in 2017. Each won a race.

Cindric is in the Xfinity playoffs this season. Briscoe isn’t because he’s not running the full schedule. Other Ford development drivers are Cole Custer, who also is in the Xfinity playoffs and has one career series win, and Ty Majeski.

“It won’t pay dividends until they actually get to the Cup level because that’s ultimately the goal of what we want to do,” said Mark Rushbrook, Global Director, Ford Performance, of the driver development program. “But we are happy with the start that we’ve had to our development program over the last two years and look forward to continuing to expand that,”

4. Betting at the track

With sports betting legal in Delaware, fans will be able to bet for the first time at a NASCAR track this weekend.

Dover International Speedway will have two kiosks accepting sports bets.

Sunday’s race will have extra gambling options, including bets on driver vs. driver, number of cautions and if the winning car number is an even number or odd number, among other prop bets.

Betting won’t be limited to Saturday’s Xfinity and Sunday’s Cup race. Fans can bet on pro football, baseball, college football, MMA and other sports at the kiosks.

5. Say what?

Consider this: Jimmie Johnson has more wins at Dover (11) than 28 other Cup drivers entered this weekend have in their Cup career.

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12 questions to ponder for Round of 12

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1. Will the Big 3 dominate this round?

They will at Dover. Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex have combined to win four of the last six Dover races. Twice members of this group finished first and second at this track in that time. Truex has four consecutive top-five finishes there, including one win.

The question becomes Talladega, the middle race of the round. Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have combined to win five of the last seven races there.

The round ends at Kansas. The Big 3 have combined to win each of the last five races there.

So expect to see a lot of Harvick, Truex and Busch running toward the front, particularly at Dover and Kansas.

2. Are we seeing the emergence of Team Penske as a title threat?

Ryan Blaney’s surprise win at the Charlotte Roval gives Team Penske four victories in the last five races.

To put that into perspective: Team Penske had four wins in the 58 races before its recent streak.

That’s a nice run for Team Penske but let’s see what Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Blaney can do against the Big 3 this weekend at Dover and later in the round at Kansas Speedway. Those will be key tracks. If Team Penske can beat the Big 3 there, than it might be time to say this group could crash the Big 3’s get together in Miami.

3. What will happen next to Kyle Larson?

Larson looked to be one of the main title contenders last year until this round when a blown engine at Kansas prevented him from advancing. He wasn’t strong in this round last year, placing 10th on the Charlotte oval (he finished behind seven of the other 11 playoff drivers) and 13th at Talladega.

In a year where he’s winless but been the runner-up six times, he needed a wild set of circumstances — Jimmie Johnson spinning while battling for the lead on the last chicane and Jeffrey Earnhardt being spun and unable to continue less than 100 yards from the finish line — to advance to the second round.

Larson has lamented in the past how luck has not gone his way, particularly in the playoffs.

Will last week’s remarkable finish lead this team deeper into the playoffs, or will fate strike a cruel blow to the team’s playoff hopes in this round?

4. What type of warning sign would be apropos for this round?

Be careful in the final stage. In the opening round, six of the 13 cautions that took place in the final stage at Las Vegas, Richmond and the Charlotte Roval involved at least one playoff contender.

5. What’s something to keep an eye on for the rest of the playoffs?

Pit road. Penalties could play a key role in who advances.

Uncontrolled tire violations have been called seven times in the playoffs. Five of those infractions have been committed by playoff teams.

“I feel like if they stay in the box, what’s the big deal? I think our fans want to see hard racing,” said Martin Truex Jr., whose team was penalized for an uncontrolled tire at Richmond. “They want to see the guys that are up front battling, not going to the rear once every two or three weeks for a tire sitting there with a guy that’s a foot too far away from it. I don’t agree with it. I think we should look at it, but I don’t make the rules.”

6. Stewart-Haas Racing had all four of its drivers advance. How many can get to the next round?

Kevin Harvick is among the favorites to go all the way to Miami. Kurt Busch has been consistent. His 39 stage points in the playoffs rank second to Martin Truex Jr.’s 45 stage points.

Clint Bowyer was outside the cutline going into the race at the Charlotte Roval and advanced. Aric Almirola advanced via a tiebreaker. Almirola’s team has had speed at times but not been able to put together a whole race often. He enters this round seeded 11th of the 12 drivers.

Odds are against all four advancing. With the expectation that the Big 3 — Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. — advance, that leaves a small margin for error for SHR to have all four teams move into the third round.

7. What about Hendrick Motorsports?

Jimmie Johnson is gone, but Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman remain in the playoffs.

Both Elliott (ninth) and Bowman (12th) start the round outside the cutoff to advance to the next round.

Elliott has eight top-10 finishes in the last eight races and is a good candidate to advance. Bowman has three top-10 finishes in the last 10 races. That won’t be good enough to keep going.

8. Who could be an X factor?

It’s remarkable how Jeffrey Earnhardt has played a key role lately.

In the regular-season finale, he was involved in a late-race incident with Landon Cassill that caused the final caution and allowed Brad Keselowski to pass Denny Hamlin for the win.

At Richmond, a caution for Earnhardt was the only yellow other than the two stage breaks. He spun after he was hit by Matt Kenseth. The caution came after Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch and Ryan Blaney had pitted, putting them two laps down with less than 80 laps to go. None of those three drivers finished in the top 15.

At the Charlotte Roval, Earnhardt spun off the final turn of the final lap after contact from Daniel Hemric. Earnhardt was stalled less than 100 yards from the finish line but couldn’t get his car restarted. Kyle Larson, running well off the pace, blew a tire and hit the wall in Turn 4 of the oval and then hit the wall after exiting the final chicane before passing Earnhardt. That one position — and one point — was the difference in Larson advancing to this round.

9. An average of 15 cars was eliminated by accidents in the last three Talladega races. Do you take the over or under?

If it helps you decide, 24 cars were eliminated by accident in last year’s playoff race there. Take the over.

10. Will this round match the drama of the first round?

With Talladega coming up, it certainly could. No one expected Las Vegas to have such fireworks. Maybe that happens at Dover or Kansas in this round.

11. Who advances?

Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney.

12. Who is eliminated?

Alex Bowman, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano and Aric Almirola.

NASCAR America: Chris Buescher, analysts take a lap around the Roval

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“This is my actual training here.” Landon Cassill told Parker Kligerman as he began his hot lap of the Charlotte Roval in the iRacing simulator on Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR America.

He wasn’t joking.

No one knows what to expect this weekend when NASCAR visits the Roval for the first time. Testing brought about reconfigurations and there are plenty of unknowns on this hybrid road and oval course.

Cassill had a clean lap going until he hit the frontstretch chicane that would have launched him to the checkered flag. He overcooked the center of the turn and spun into the outside wall.

“If you sit on the pole for this race, whoever does that is going to say ‘you know what I could never do that lap the same way again,’ ” Kligerman added during his lap around the track.

A more conventional lap around the Roval was provided by Chris Buescher’s in-car camera during a test session in July.

“Some corners are going to come more natural,” Cassill said while watching video of the No. 37 navigating the track. “I’m probably going to find out where the low hanging fruit is.”

Cassill will pilot the No. 00 StarCom Racing Chevrolet in Sunday’s race (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

“Look at this,” Kligerman said. “As we ride along with Chris Buescher here from the test. I mean, elevation change, now you’re going to take this hard left onto the banking and start ripping through the gears to I believe 180 miles per hour as they are going to head for his fast chicane. This is probably the most insane part of the race track.”

For more, watch the videos above.

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