NASCAR allows teams to make safety modifications

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NASCAR teams may employ safety modifications to the their cars starting this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, NASCAR announced Wednesday.

The modifications are a result of NASCAR’s investigation into the damage to Kyle Larson‘s car after it was hit by Ryan Preece‘s car in last month’s Talladega race. The severe impact moved the right side door bars on Larson’s car.

NASCAR is allowing teams to add six right side door bar gussets to prevent the door bars from buckling in such an impact. NASCAR is providing the gussets to teams at no charge.

NASCAR states that the front clip V-brace must be removed from the assembly.

Teams were provided this information in a May 12 memo from NASCAR. The memo stated that additional chassis updates are under consideration. NASCAR is conducting two days or crash testing Wednesday and Thursday at a facility in Ohio.

Here is a look at where the gussets will be located on the right side door bar:

A look at the locations of gussets teams can place in the right side door bars. (Photo: NASCAR)


Kyle Larson leads Cup practice at North Wilkesboro


NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. — Kyle Larson posted the fastest lap in Friday’s Cup practice session at North Wilkesboro Speedway, marking the return of the series to this track for the first time since 1996.

Larson led the field with a lap of 109.144 mph around the 0.625-mile speedway.

MORE: North Wilkesboro Cup practice results

RFK Racing’s Brad Keselowski ranked second on the speed chart with a lap of 108.408 mph. Denny Hamlin was third with a lap of 108.204 mph. Keselowski’s teammate, Chris Buescher, was fourth on the speed chart with a lap of 108.064 mph. Chase Briscoe completed the top five with a lap of 107.965 mph.

Briscoe ran the most laps in the session at 81. Ryan Preece was next at 78 laps. Ross Chastain ran 77 laps.

The only incident in the 50-minute session was a spin by Daniel Suarez in the opening moments.


Dr. Diandra: The eight Cup Series drivers with the most untapped potential


While some teams are fulfilling their potential — doing everything their equipment and skill allow — I’ve identified eight drivers with significant untapped potential.

By “untapped potential,” I mean a difference between average running position and average finishing position. In other words, drivers who run better than they finish. Not by just a little, but by two or more positions.

With half the regular season complete, Cup Series drivers have only 13 more races to cement playoff spots. Seven of the top-16 drivers remain winless, including points leader Ross Chastain.

Who are the Big Eight?

Eight drivers have average running positions from two up to almost five positions better than their average finishes. I show the eight drivers and the size of their untapped potentials in the graph below.

An arrow graph showing the eight drivers with the highest unfulfilled potential in terms of running and finishing averages

Each driver’s bar extends from his average running position (the upper edge of the bar) to his average finishing position (where the arrow ends). The number underneath indicates how big the difference is. I arranged drivers from left to right in order of highest untapped potential.

The table below, which summarizes some additional stats, shows that each driver faces his own challenges. The drivers rank between first and 32nd and include the driver with most wins and top 10s, as well as drivers with no wins and no top-10 finishes.

A table comparing stats of the eight drivers with the highest unfulfilled potential

DNFs are the most-obvious culprit for low finishing averages, but they don’t explain why drivers aren’t getting the finishes they’ve shown they are capable of.

Failing to finish races isn’t the only issue affecting these drivers. Chastain has only one DNF and Denny Hamlin none. In fact, Hamlin is the only driver to finish every race this year on the lead lap. Yet Hamlin is still an example of untapped potential.

As you might guess, penalties and “incidents” (which include accidents, spins, tire issues and wheel issues) are the primary drivers of gaps between running and finishing positions.

Some of these weaknesses are addressable by the driver and some by the crew. Some are harder to address than others. But addressing them means better finishes and a better season.


Penalties are an obvious area for improvement because teams can (mostly) avoid penalties. I plotted each of the eight drivers’ penalties by type below.

I do not include what I deem to be intentional infractions here. An intentional infraction is one incurred because the penalty is less damaging than the consequences of not committing the infraction. That includes things like pitting before pit road is open or speeding when pitting after an accident. My penalty counts may thus differ from others.

A vertical bar chart showing the penalties incurred by the eight drivers with the most unfulfilled potential

The diagonally striped, yellow areas indicate an off-track excursion at a road course. While not a pit road penalty, they do hinder a driver’s track position.

As with the other statistics, this group of drivers exhibits a broad range of penalty numbers. Aric Almirola’s only penalty this year is a wheel coming off the car on track at Phoenix. Chastain and Kyle Larson each have only one speeding penalty. Preece and Gragson, on the other hand, each incurred seven penalties.

Penalty impacts stretch beyond the race at which the penalty is incurred. For example, Preece sped on pit road at Martinsville after leading every lap up to that point. The penalty sent him to the back of the field. Although Preece finished 15th, a win (or top-five finish) would have boosted driver self-confidence and team morale.

Penalties also hit harder when they happen in latter stages of races because there isn’t as much time to recover. For example, three of Daniel Suárez’s four speeding penalties happened in the third stage of races.

Speeding on pit road is the most common penalty and — in theory — entirely preventable. I remain surprised by the sheer number of reports of incorrectly set dash lights causing speeding penalties. The calculations for pit road speed are not complicated.

The rest, however, is up to the driver.


The graph below tallies the number of caution-causing incidents each driver has been involved in. This number doesn’t include minor contact that may impact track position but doesn’t cause a caution.

A vertical bar chart showing the participating in caution-causing incidents for the eight drivers with the most unfulfilled potential

Larson is an incident magnet this year. It doesn’t seem to matter what track or where in the field he runs. Apart from the Bristol dirt race (where he spun) and Almirola losing a wheel at Atlanta, the remaining eight of Larson’s 10 incidents are accidents.

Larson was collateral damage in the first four accidents. His run-ins with Chastain in the last month all occurred while he was running in the top 10. A frustrated Rick Hendrick addressed the situation after Darlington, suggesting there would be payback.

Chastain leads the points but hasn’t won a race, in large part because of his own actions. His team owner put Chastain on notice, even while reassuring the pilot that the team is fully behind him. The problem is that — if Chastain changes — it may be too late. He’s already antagonized a significant fraction of the field. Like Larson, Chastain should have more wins by now.

Speaking of winning, William Byron’s presence on this list may seem a surprise. While making news for other reasons, he quietly became the statistically best driver this year. And he should be finishing almost four positions better than he is already. If Byron can tap into that untapped potential, this might be his year to make it all the way.

Dover Cup starting lineup


Kyle Busch and Christopher Bell will start Sunday’s Cup Series race at Dover Motor Speedway from the front row after rain cancelled Saturday qualifying.

The 36-car starting lineup was set by the rule book after showers eliminated qualifying.

MORE: Hendrick Motorsports president says no changes in driver policy

Brad Keselowski led Saturday morning’s practice session and will start the race fifth.

The green flag is scheduled Sunday at 1:11 p.m. Rain is in the forecast.

Dover Cup starting lineup

Ryan Preece: ‘I feel good’ after Talladega accident


Ryan Preece says he feels fine two days after he T-boned Kyle Larson’s car at Talladega Superspeedway, but he plans to make some adjustments to his safety equipment.

Preece’s car slammed into the right side of Larson’s car as it shot up the track in overtime. He’s called it the hardest impact he’s had in racing. An in-car camera pointed at Preece showed his body moving and his visor flying open in the crash.

Both Preece and Larson were released from Talladega’s infield care center shortly after the accident. Preece said he was sore Monday but still did his workout.

NASCAR is inspecting both cars from that accident at its R&D Center in Concord, North Carolina. Preece said he is scheduled to meet with series officials Wednesday to discuss the incident.

Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick talked to Preece on Monday about the accident and Preece’s safety equipment.

“One of the things (Harvick) said was, ‘You moved a lot,’ ” Preece said. “I said, ‘Yeah, I guess I’ve got a lot of mass that those seat belts have to hold in.’

“Kevin made a great point. I kind of had the opinion that everything did its job. I feel great, so why change anything?

“But he brought up the point of you can always make it better. You can look at this as, ‘OK, how do you feel here? What can you do different with your belts or your HANS (device)?’ … Kevin’s really good at helping you raise questions to yourself and to continue pushing, whether that is safety, performance or whatever.

“There’s a few things I’m going to go back and look at and say, ‘Hey, can we look at maybe changing this or this?’ I’m still really happy with everybody at SHR that mounts my seat (and) the way we put the seat belts (in) and the devices that we use for safety. I’m proud of the job they do because at the end of the day, I was able to do everything I wanted to do (Monday).”

One adjustment Preece plans to make is with his helmet visor. He said he doesn’t lock his visor out of habit. He will look to change that moving forward to prevent it from opening in an accident.

He’s not the only one making changes after a crash this past weekend.

Riley Herbst, who competes in the Xfinity Series for Stewart-Haas Racing, had a similar accident as Preece at Talladega last weekend. Daniel Hemric came up the track in the Xfinity race, and Herbst T-boned Hermic’s car.

Herbst was uninjured in the crash. He competed in the Cup race the next day. He said Tuesday that he talked with Preece on the team plane home after last weekend’s Cup race and said “we were complaining about the same things, a little bit of stiffness in the neck and things like that.”

Herbst said he had adjustments made to his seat belts this weekend because of what his body went through in his accident.

“Other than that,” Herbst said, “I feel like I’m good and ready to strap in the car (this weekend) at Dover.”