NASCAR Softens Chase Rules

One week after announcing a new policy of levying potentially stiffer penalties for substantial violations of technical regulations found in post-race inspection, NASCAR officials said Wednesday that the sanctioning body will not penalize Sprint Cup teams for minor infractions discovered during routine post-race laser inspection.  Last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, the cars of race winner Martin Truex Junior and twelfth-place finisher Jimmie Johnson failed post-race inspection by small measurements that were slightly outside approved tolerances.  NASCAR said yesterday that it will not penalize those teams, which were among the nine subjected to post-race laser inspection following the opening round of the 2016 Chase … Truex was not the only winning driver whose vehicle failed post-race inspection at Chicagoland.  Kyle Busch won the Camping World Truck Series American Ethanol 225, but his Toyota lost in the inspection line afterwards.  Laser inspection is not used in the Truck Series, where Busch’s Tundra was found to be too low.  Minor penalties were handed down Wednesday, with crew chief Wes Ward fined six thousand dollars and the team docked ten championship points – dropping it from a tie for thirtieth into a tie for thirty-first in the owner standings.

On To Loudon

The 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup now moves from the Midwest to New Hampshire for Sunday’s New England 300.  Chase drivers have won this race all twelve years the current post-season structure has been in place.  Matt Kenseth, the Number-7 seed in this year’s Challenger Round, is the defending winner and also won this season’s first stop at “The Magic Mile” on July 17th.  No Cup Series driver has won three in a row at New Hampshire Motor Speedway since the track began hosting the series in 1993 … Just twice in the Chase era (2004 to the present) has the winner of the fall race in New Hampshire gone on to win the title that same year: Kurt Busch in 2004 and Tony Stewart in 2011 … Nine of the sixteen drivers in the Challenger Round are past winners on the one-mile Loudon oval: Kenseth, Stewart, Kurt and Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski … There are forty drivers on the preliminary entry list for Sunday’s New England  300, the fourth of six races to be contested on one-mile ovals this year.  Harvick won at Phoenix International Raceway back in mid-March, with Kenseth winning at Dover and New Hampshire.

Denny Hamlin Grabs The Number 3 Seed With Weekend Victory

Denny Hamlin took his final lead of the night with seventy-nine laps remaining Saturday at Richmond International Raceway and kept the Number-11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in front through six subsequent restarts, closing the regular season with his third victory of the year and securing the Number-3 seed in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup that opens next weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.  Hamlin’s margin of victory over runner-up Kyle Larson was six-tenths of a second.  Martin Truex Junior led a race-high 193 laps and nabbed third place with Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick completing the top five.  Hamlin started from the pole and led 189 laps to give J-G-R a season sweep on the three-quarter-mile Fairgrounds oval.  Carl Edwards was victorious in April but finished thirty-second in his bid for back-to-back wins there … With The Chase Grid now filled, championship points have been reset.  Keselowski and Kyle Busch are tied at the top by virtue of their four victories during the regular season.  Busch gets the Number-1 seed by winning the tiebreaker, which is based on second-place finishes.  He has three, Keselowski one.  With two wins this year, Harvick – the regular-season points leader – holds the Number-4 seed … The four drivers who went into the weekend holding the final four provisional spots in the Chase – Chris Buescher, rookie Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon and Jamie McMurray – came out of the weekend with their post-season tickets punched after finishing among the top twenty-five in the forty-car field.

Next Stop Richmond International Speedway

Next Stop… Richmond International Raceway for the Sprint Cup Series’ final race of the regular season, Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400.  Thirteen drivers have won races this season, led by Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski – who have four victories apiece.  Rookie Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon currently hold provisional Chase berths based on the regular-season standings with Jamie McMurray leading Ryan Newman by twenty-two points in the fight for the final “playoff” spot.  The Chase opens September 18th at Chicagoland Speedway … Roush Fenway Racing’s Greg Biffle will be making his five hundredth career start in Saturday’s race.  He’s winless in 2016 and needs a victory at Richmond to qualify for the post-season Chase … And Furniture Row Racing, expanding to two Sprint Cup teams in 2017, has named Chris Gayle crew chief for Erik Jones’ Number-77 Toyota.  Gayle joins F-R-R after spending fourteen years as an engineer and crew chief at Joe Gibbs Racing.  Jones will join Martin Truex Junior in the organization’s Sprint Cup lineup for next season.

Kevin Harvick Was “The Closer” Sunday At Bristol

Kevin Harvick lived up to an old nickname of “The Closer” on Sunday at Bristol, taking command in the second half of the race and leading the final seventy-one laps to notch his second victory of the season.  The race ended some twenty-three hours after it originally started on Saturday night, when just forty-eight laps were run before rain moved in and pushed the event to a late-afternoon green flag on Sunday.  Kyle Busch started third and was dominant throughout the first half of the race, leading 184 of the first 250 laps.  But what appeared to be a broken part on the suspension of his Number-18 Toyota sent the car spinning across the track.  Contact from Justin Allgaier ended Busch’s day with a thirty-ninth-place finish.  Harvick entered the fray soon after, charging from his Number-24 starting spot to grab his first lead at Lap-286 of five hundred.  Harvick ran consistently among the top five the rest of the way, passing Denny Hamlin seventy-one laps from the finish and never looking back to record his thirty-third career win – loosening Joe Gibbs Racing’s tight hold on short-track competition in 2016.  Before Sunday, J-G-R had won all three races run on ovals less than one mile in length … Harvick’s margin of victory over runner-up Ricky Stenhouse Junior was two seconds with Hamlin finishing third, Austin Dillon fourth and rookie Chris Buescher fifth – which lifted him into thirtieth place in the point standings as he now becomes eligible for a post-season Chase berth with his win at Pocono earlier this month.

Forty For The Glen

There are forty drivers on the preliminary entry list for Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at The Glen Sprint Cup Series race led by defending winner Joey Logano and regular-season points leader Kevin Harvick.  With just five races remaining in the regular season, five drivers have clinched spots on The Chase Grid – Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski.  Those five account for fourteen wins through the first twenty-one races of the year … Logano, Harvick, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Junior, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart and Chris Buescher have one win apiece – leaving four post-season spots that will be available based on the point standings.  Jamie McMurray currently holds a nine-point lead over Kyle Larson, his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, in the fight for what would be the final “playoff” spot.

Next Stop Pocono Raceway

Next Stop is Pocono Raceway  for Sunday’s Pennsylvania 400.  With just six events remaining in the regular season, defending race winner Matt Kenseth is one of five drivers who’ve clinched spots on The Chase Grid – joining Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski in the sixteen-driver title field.  Those five account for fourteen wins through the first twenty races of the year … Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Junior, Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart have one win apiece – leaving five post-season spots available based on the point standings.  Kyle Larson currently holds a ten-point lead over Kasey Kahne in the fight for what would be the final “playoff” spot.

Kyle Busch Makes NASCAR History

Kyle Busch made NASCAR history with his dominating performance at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway winning the Crown Royal 400 at the Brickyard Sunday afternoon. Busch’s bid for history started Saturday when he won the NASCAR Xfinity Series Lilly Diabetes 250 from the pole leading all but one lap in the sixty-lap main event. Taking the green flag on the pole Sunday afternoon was the next step. History would be made three hours later when Kyle Busch took the checkered flag and became the first driver in NASCAR history to sweep a weekend’s races from the pole position. However, the win was not without a little late race drama as the Joe Gibbs Racing driver had to survive several late race restarts including the first double overtime since NASCAR’s new rules went into effect this year. Matt Kenseth restarted on the outside of Busch on the final restart but quickly settled into the runner-up position to give JGR a one-two finish. Jimmie Johnson battled back from an early speeding penalty to finish third. Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson rounded out the top-5. In his final race at the speedway, Tony Stewart raced up front in the early portion of the race. A pit road speeding penalty that put him a lap down looked to spoil the Columbus, Indiana native’s last race at his “home track.” Stewart battled back to finish eleventh and took a special lap around the track with Jeff Gordon, who finished thirteenth filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr., saluting the fans on their final race at the famed speedway together. The race featured four lead changes among three drivers and eight cautions for thirty-four laps.

The NASCAR X-FINITY Series Visit Indy For The Lilly Diabetes 250

THE NASCAR X-FINITY SERIES … also visits the famed Indy oval this weekend for Saturday’s Lilly Diabetes 250. Saturday’s race will be the final Dash 4 Cash race of the season offering four drivers the opportunity to win a one-hundred-thousand dollar bonus. For Ty Dillon it also is an opportunity to lock himself into the NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase should he win the Dash 4 Cash by virtue of winning the bonus at Richmond. Winning the race would also snap a sixty-four race winless streak stringing back to his first series victory at Indianapolis in 2014. He will be up against tough competition, not only from the series regulars but also six Sprint Cup Series drivers who will be pulling double duty. Those drivers are Joey Logano, Paul Menard, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, Matt DiBenedetto and Kyle Busch, who was able to sweep the weekend last year.

Johnson Joins ‘Unlimited’ Field

Jimmie Johnson has joined Greg Biffle, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Junior, Carl Edwards, Joey Logano, Austin Dillon, Kyle and Kurt Busch, and rookie Chase Elliott on the list of drivers newly eligible for next year’s Sprint Unlimited non-points special event as a result of their qualifying efforts in 2016.  The non-points special event features pole winners from the previous season and traditionally kicks off Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway.  Johnson earned the Number-1 starting spot for this past weekend’s race in New Hampshire with a lap of 133.971 miles per hour.  He finished twelfth in Sunday’s race … Next stop in the Sprint Cup Series is this coming Sunday’s Crown Royal 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.


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