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Hamlin survives by extremely small margin -- sound familiar?
RELATED: Full race results " Standings " Chase Grid SHOP: Chase gear Denny Hamlin got the nose of his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota out just in front of Kurt Busch 's No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet for a third-place finish in Sunday's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Round of 12 finale -- by a mere 0.006 seconds. Had he finished behind Busch, Hamlin would've been eliminated from the Chase -- and his day would've been much, much worse. "It was tough all day," Hamlin said after the race. "Really the first true, good Chase fortune I've had in 11 years. … I felt this was the best-case scenario for us." How close was @dennyhamlin to not advancing in #TheChase ? 0.006 at the stripe! https://t.co/gaKsWBxPaH — NASCAR (@NASCAR) October 23, 2016 Anybody else got a case of deja vu right now? Hamlin opened the season with a very similar finish -- for the win, too -- when he edged out Furniture Row Racing driver Martin Truex Jr . at the finish line of the Daytona 500 by 0.010 seconds. RELATED: Hamlin wins thrilling Daytona 500 Talladega and Daytona: two similar finishes, two afternoons that could've been drastically different for Hamlin had the game of inches not fallen in his favor.
Chase by the Numbers: Martinsville
As drivers head into the Round of 8 in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, here are some statistics to keep in mind at NASCAR's shortest track.
Backed by Junior Nation, Alex Bowman sees opportunity at Talladega
RELATED: Ailing Bowman presses on, nabs career-best finish With Dale Earnhardt Jr . slated to miss his first Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway since he broke into the big leagues full time as a rookie in 2000, many wonder which driver will replace the superspeedway ace as the one to beat in Sunday's Hellmann's 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN/NBC Sports App). How about, you know, the guy actually replacing him? Fresh off a seventh-place showing at Kansas Speedway on Sunday, Alex Bowman is set to drive Earnhardt's No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for the third consecutive week and the seventh time this season as the driver recovers from concussion-related symptoms. This weekend is perhaps Bowman's most significant start of the year. Because it's at Earnhardt's own Talladega. RELATED: Earnhardt-Talladega streak to continue Sunday "He's got a couple fans out there," Bowman told NASCAR.com at Kansas. "Man, I'm excited about (racing at Talladega). Speedway racing is always stressful, but … ( Hendrick Motorsports ) brings such fast race cars to the race track and their speedway stuff is amazing. Always fast. Especially the 88. So, just really looking forward to having a chance to win. "I'm going to sit Dale down and have a couple-hour conversation with him about speedway racing. If there's a speedway racer left in this garage, it's him, for sure." The man's got a point. From a wins standpoint, Talladega ranks as Junior's best track with six, only closely followed by four wins at Daytona, another Earnhardt cornerstone -- and another superspeedway. Bowman's 'Dega stats don't match Junior's, of course, but he did pilot the No. 7 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet to a 16th-place finish just last year. And while it's almost jarring to hear a driver say that he is "excited" for Talladega, it's unsurprising coming from Bowman, who'll have the roar of the crowd on his side -- a fanbase that has named the man he's replacing NASCAR's Most Popular Driver for 13 years running. "Junior Nation has been great," said Bowman, 23. "It's been really cool; they've just been really supportive. Every now and then there's one fan that hates me, but for the most part they've been awesome. Casey Mears fans hate me after (Charlotte), because apparently it was my fault that we blew a tire and wrecked him, but Junior Nation has been awesome." RELATED: Dale Jr. to join broadcasts for Talladega, Martinsville Not only does Bowman have full access to Earnhardt's Talladega insight, a wealth of knowledge so deep it likely needs its own Dewey Decimal System, he's sharing substitute driving duties with a four-time Sprint Cup champ and six-time 'Dega winner in Jeff Gordon . "It’s been really cool (to share a ride with Gordon). Jeff was my favorite driver growing up when I was a kid," Bowman said. "It's been really good to learn from him. He's an open book. All five of my teammates are complete open books. It's great to lean on them and learn as much as I can, but Jeff just has so much experience and has a really interesting view on a lot of things. "It's been a great time just listening and observing and learning everything I can from him." The lessons taken at "Gordon Drivers Ed, Inc." appear to be working, too. While the final results might not show the whole picture, Bowman, at times, has looked like the more competitive driver behind the wheel of the No. 88, and owns the car's best finish -- seventh -- since Earnhardt placed second at Pocono way back in June. Bowman says that some people joke with him and say "Oh, I'm glad to see you've finally learned how to drive." He's always known how to drive, it's just been more about opportunities. And if luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, "Bad Luck Bowman" -- a driver that once learned he'd been fired via Twitter -- knows the magnitude of the opportunity presented to him this weekend and in his remaining races. And you can be sure he'll be prepared. "I hope (this opportunity has put my name out there)," Bowman said. "We've talked to a lot of people and it always comes back to money. It's always 'Well, do you have any sponsorship?' 'Do you have any funding?' I don't, so it's just … the sport's such a business at this point that it really kind of limits what I can and can't get into and that's what's limited what I can and can't get into for the last four years. "I don't have anything lined up (for next year yet). I think my role that I had at Hendrick Motorsports before all this happened is still going to be the same. Still being a part of the team, still doing all the simulator stuff and helping as much as I can. I don't think that will change. Obviously, when Dale comes back and all that, I don't really know what that leaves for me as far as driving anything. "I don't know what the future holds there. I don't have anything going forward, really." In the short-term, at least, he'll have the full support of Junior Nation at Talladega. </p>
NASCAR TV schedule: October 24-30
Heads up: Martinsville weekend
Here are the hot topics, trending news and key story lines to get you ready for this weekend's races at Martinsville Speedway . WEATHER Another beautiful race weekend is forecasted for Martinsville. The National Weather Service says Friday will be sunny with a high near 70, and Saturday will be even warmer with a high of 77 and sunshine. Sunday is downgraded to only "mostly sunny," with a high of 74. Overall, it should be a perfect fall weekend. KEY TIMES Sprint Cup Series: The first practice will be Friday at 11 a.m. ET, with another pair of practices coming Saturday at 9 a.m. ET (CNBC) and noon ET. Coors Light Pole Qualifying is at 4:40 p.m. ET Friday. Aside from the Saturday morning practice, all race coverage will be broadcast on NBCSN and NBC SportsApp this weekend. Camping World Truck Series: The Camping World Truck Series has a pair of Friday practices, at 12:30 p.m. ET and 2:30 p.m. ET, both on FS1. The race is Saturday at 1:30 p.m. ET on FS1 with Keystone Light Pole Qualifying just before at 10:15 a.m. ET (FS1). CATCH DRIVERS LIVE We'll stream every driver press conference in the Martinsville media center at NASCAR.com/presspass . Notably, Jimmie Johnson speaks at 10:15 a.m. ET Friday, followed by Denny Hamlin is at 1 p.m. ET and Jeff Gordon at 1:30 p.m. ET. Click here for a full schedule. LAST TIME Jeff Gordon punched his ticket to Homestead-Miami Speedway in style, outracing Jamie McMurray in the final two laps as darkness fell at Martinsville Speedway . "We're going to Homestead!" Gordon bellowed after the win gave him a chance at the Sprint Cup title in his final season of full-time driving. It was Gordon's only victory of 2015. The storyline that grabbed all the headlines, however, was Matt Kenseth nudging then-race leader Joey Logano into the wall on Lap 454 of 500. At the time, Kenseth was 10 laps down. The move was widely viewed as retaliation for Logano bumping Kenseth out of the lead at Kansas two weeks earlier, which effectively eliminated Kenseth from advancing in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Kenseth was suspended for two races, and Logano did not advance to the championship round. YOU SHOULD KNOW • Jeff Gordon returns to his best track on the circuit as he gets behind the wheel of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet as a substitute driver for Dale Earnhardt Jr ., who continues to recover from a concussion. Gordon won here a year ago, and has some of the best statistics among any driver at Martinsville: nine wins, highest average finish (6.8) and most laps led (3,779). Can the 45-year-old recreate that magic at his eighth subsitute race of this season? This is Gordon's final scheduled race of the season in place of Earnhardt Jr. • This is the first of three races in the Round of 8, before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field is cut to the Championship 4 for the Homestead-Miami Speedway finale. • Somehow, this is the first time since the current format of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup began in 2014 that Jimmie Johnson has advanced to the Round of 8. He started the Round of 12 with a victory at Charlotte; can Six-Time repeat that feat with an opening-round win to punch his ticket to Homestead-Miami? He's an eight-time winner at Martinsville, so it's no stretch to imagine. • The addition of extra timing lines in the pits has added another layer to monitoring drivers for speeding penalties. In Martinsville's tight pits, if figures to have a big impact.
NASCAR's spotters: Drivers' eyes in the sky and so much more
Editor's note: Above photo of T.J. Majors courtesy of Nigel Kinrade. T.J. Majors and Kevin Hamlin walk from the garage to the spotters' stand at Michigan International Speedway this summer. As they approach the tunnel that goes under the track, a 20-something man shouts "T.J.!" and asks for his autograph. Majors -- arguably NASCAR's most well-known spotter, given that he works for Dale Earnhardt Jr . -- hands what he is carrying to Hamlin ( Kasey Kahne 's spotter) and calls him his secretary, which draws a laughing rebuke of, "Shut up." Now Majors steps off an elevator into a lobby above the track's grandstands and sees fellow spotters sitting on couches and on the floor. He greets them by pointing down the line, "He's cool, he's not cool, he's cool ..." The atmosphere among the two dozen or so spotters gathered in the lobby before a Saturday NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice is like the locker room in a stick-and-ball sport, only thank heavens everybody remains fully clothed the entire time. You can tell how much these guys like each other by how terribly they treat each other. The spotter community is not for the thin of skin or the faint of heart. If you see a snake at your feet, it's probably rubber, and Majors probably threw it there. If the skin around your eyes feel funny, check your binoculars for shoe polish. If you don't walk by and turn the volume on somebody's radio way up at least once in your spotting career, you're doing it wrong. As the banter continues, Tab Boyd, Joey Logano 's spotter, leans over and says, "This is all off the record," which in a journalistic sense is not true because this is a public place. But it doesn't matter anyway, because little of what transpires is repeatable in a "you would not say that in front of your mom" sense.
H2H: Chase's Round of 12 set to stir at Charlotte
RELATED: See the Chase Grid Story lines abound, and NASCAR.com's Holly Cain and Zack Albert tackle three pressing topics as the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup enters the Round of 12 at Charlotte Motor Speedway . 1. What surprised you most from Dover weekend in terms of who advanced in the Chase elimination race and who did not? Cain: I was surprised by the results in several areas, but more so by drivers who did not advance as expected. Like many, I believed Chip Ganassi Racing driver Kyle Larson would advance well beyond the Round of 16. In fact, I had him in my Championship 4. I do believe he will win another race before the season is over. And perhaps I was being sentimental in expecting Tony Stewart to advance, but I still remember the amazing Chase charge in 2011 and saw the motivation in the three-time champion's eyes after he won at Sonoma this summer. Albert: Austin Dillon 's advancement on the basis of pure consistency didn't send shock waves through the ol' surprise meter, but fate's cruel hand for Chip Ganassi Racing did. To see both Larson and teammate Jamie McMurray ejected from the Chase field at least qualified as a mild stunner. It's a solid dozen that remain, but Dover showed again how exacting this postseason format can be. RELATED: Larson, McMurray ousted from Chase after Dover woes 2. With the points standings reset for the Chase Round of 12, all drivers resume with a clean slate. Are there any incentives you would add to enhance the current format? Cain: A case could be made to give drivers who have won in the Chase a small points bonus in the ensuing round. But the equal reset given to all 12 drivers in the current format certainly increases the drama in a very different way from the Chase start, when regular-season wins are factored in. It's the first time since the Daytona 500 green flag that the top-tier drivers are ranked evenly, and it should make the next three races even more dramatic. Albert: It may not rate highly on the drama scale, but I've always maintained that the top points-earner during the regular season should be rewarded -- nominally if not handsomely. A first-round bye might be a stretch, but a bigger bounty of points would offer a larger incentive for consistent performance over the opening 26 events. Offering bonus points through each elimination round would be an inviting enhancement, but keeping them out of the championship race -- leaving the calculators at home -- has valuable merits. RELATED: Are added incentives for regular-season winners on horizon? 3. Among the remaining 12 Chase drivers, who's your pick to win this weekend at Charlotte and lock in early in the Round of 8? Cain: There's a certain six-time champion who I believe will collect his eighth win at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend. Jimmie Johnson has been close to wins already in the Chase only to fall victim to pit-road miscues -- something uncharacteristic of his Hendrick Motorsports organization. You've got to think that will be cleaned up, and I believe there's no one more motivated to remind naysayers why he is the modern era's very best. Albert: Is there any stopping the Truexpress? Wins in two of the first three Chase races have established the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota as a strong title favorite, and the team returns to the site of Truex's crushing victory in the Coca-Cola 600 in May. Placing former Charlotte winners Kevin Harvick , Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson under the heading of "sleepers" ranks as a testament to Truex's formidable stature this season. Upcoming wild-card races at Talladega and Martinsville have the potential to derail the No. 78's march; don't count on that happening this weekend at Charlotte.
Analysis: How guidelines affect race to all-time wins
RELATED: New guidelines put limits in place The updated 2017 driver guidelines will have an effect on many drivers, as it places a limit on the number of NASCAR XFINITY Series and Camping World Truck Series races in which veterans of the premier series can compete. It also will have an effect on two NASCAR records -- the all-time wins in both the XFINITY and Camping World series. Kyle Busch is closing in on Ron Hornaday Jr .'s Truck Series mark, but will have fewer opportunities to catch him due to being eligible for fewer races. As NASCAR announced Wednesday, all drivers with at least five years of experience in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series can compete in a maximum of seven races in the Camping World Truck Series and 10 races in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. WATCH: Driver analyzes new guidelines Here's how the records books might turn out: XFINITY SERIES Leader of the pack: With 85 career wins, Kyle Busch leads second-place Mark Martin by … uh, a lot. Martin has 49 career series wins, followed by Kevin Harvick (46), Carl Edwards (38) and Brad Keselowski (34). What it means: Busch has piled up stats over the past eight years. From 2008-15, he started 203 events in the XFINITY Series, an average of about 25 per year. That will go down drastically -- to a maximum of 10 -- but it may not create as much of a hardship as one would think. The 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion has cut back on his XFINITY schedule in recent years, starting 15 races in 2015 and 16 this year through 30 races. March to 100: Busch has 100 series wins in his sights. He averages one win in about 4 starts in his career, but the past two years the start-to-win ratio is nearly 2:1. With those recent numbers in mind, if he makes the maximum of 10 starts per year in the future, we expect Busch to reach 100 series wins in 2019. And that record … : The XFINITY Series all-time wins record likely will never be broken. CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES Leader of the pack: Four-time series champion Ron Hornaday has 51 career wins, but Busch is on his heels with 46. Mike Skinner and Jack Sprague both have 28. Todd Bodine is fifth on the all-time list with 22. What it means: There's even less of an impact here for Busch as he has lightened his Truck Series load considerably, spending most of his energy in the series as an owner ( Kyle Busch Motorsports). March to 52: Two wins in eight races over the past two seasons is an excellent ratio for "Rowdy." While there's a chance he cuts out Truck Series races completely, being so close to Hornaday is going to be like a gravitational pull to someone as competitive and talented as Busch. And that record … : Call it an average of two wins per season moving forward, mimicking his numbers this year, and you're looking at a new all-time series wins leader in … 2019, the same year we project him to get to 100 XFINITY Series wins.
Meet Chris Lambert, Denny Hamlin's spotter
Related: Meet Elliott's spotter Editor's note: This is the second in a series of interviews with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series spotters. Chris Lambert, Spotter for Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota HOW DID YOU GET STARTED SPOTTING? "In 1996, I worked for Mike Herman Jr., who actually spots for (Ricky) Stenhouse Jr. now at the Sprint Cup level. We went to school together and he was racing Late Models around North and South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee area. I worked for him fulltime in the shop, keeping up his cars. One night his cousin, who had done all the spotting, we ran on a Friday night, he coached high school football so he couldn't be there. Me being a full-time employee, I basically got thrown into the fire. We won that night. I started spotting Late Models after that." WHAT OTHER DUTIES DO YOU HAVE WITH THE TEAM? "Here at Gibbs I don't do anything else but spot for Denny." DO YOU SPOT IN OTHER SERIES? "I do Erik Jones in the XFINITY Series car, and Timothy Peters (Red Horse Racing) in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. I have a pretty full schedule, doing about 106-110 races a year. I do a lot of Modified stuff and ARCA stuff for Venturini Motorsports; I do the No. 25 car for them. I do the 24 Hour race at Daytona every year with Action Express Racing. I do the Snowball Derby. I stay busy. If somebody calls and wants me to come do something and it fits, this is how I make my living. There are a few of us fortunate enough to just spot. When I was at Red Bull Racing, I worked in the shop building cars and spotting. When I came to JGR, I just focused on spotting." HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WITH DENNY? "I started with Denny in 2012 so this is year five. It was Darian's (Grubb, crew chief) first year. I've spotted for Erik this year; I did some with him last year because the 20 ( XFINITY ) car was split last year with him, Denny, Matt (Kenseth). I was doing Jason Leffler when the drove the 18 Truck for Kyle Busch Motorsports (in 2012). When they let him go mid-year, (Tony) Hirschman, who spots for Kyle now, went to do that. He was spotting for Timothy so basically we just swapped. I’ve been with him ever since." WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST RACE AS A SPOTTER? "The first actual points race would have been at Chicago in '07. I got out of the sport for a while full-time but got back in at the end of '06, the start of '07. I went to MB2 when (former owner) Bobby Ginn bought in to that deal. Doug Randolph hired me; I was doing all the races with Regan Smith , the XFINITY stuff. I was doing Kraig Kinser in the Trucks at Morgan-Dollar (Motorsports). Sometime around the end of June, first of July they let T.J. Majors, who was spotting for Sterling Marlin, go. I did Sterling's stuff for two weeks -- that's when they shut down and had the merger with DEI and all of that. I did the 150s in '07 at Daytona; we were trying to get Regan in the Daytona 500 in a fourth car for Ginn. It was a little different, just working with Slugger (Labbe), who was the crew chief at the time, and Sterling. Here it was my first race. What do you tell Sterling? A lot of good stories there. … "That year I went to Daytona for testing and I was like a deer in the headlights. I had never done a plate race. I'd done a few mile-and-a-halves, some ARCA stuff, but I was just in awe of what you had to do in a plate race." WHAT'S THE MOST BIZARRE THING YOU’VE SEEN WHILE SPOTTING? "On track or off? Honestly, probably the truck that caught fire in the parking lot at Kentucky earlier this year. We see the smoke but we're under green, so we can't do anything. When the caution comes out we all make a beeline over there to see what it is and you see a truck with a grille in the back and the truck is just engulfed. There was a fire either at Kansas or Chicago one year down in Turn 1, the grass had caught fire. And you obviously see a few things with people in the crowd that are feeling pretty good about themselves. The tops come off and stuff like that. But the truck fire at Kentucky? Even the guys in the cars were commenting on it, they could see the smoke." WATCH: Truck fire behind track at Kentucky WHAT’S BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE AS A SPOTTER? "Definitely the (Daytona) 500 this year. Being born in Kannapolis, right in the heart of Earnhardt country, stock car country. I was at the race track when I was three months old. My mom passed away, she had cancer, when I was three so I lived with my aunt for a while. I was in and out with my grandfather and my aunt. Her son raced dirt cars so I was at the shop all the time. To grow up in the heart of the sport, to know Dale Jr. and Dale Sr., winning the 500, on a professional level, was the top. "First getting with Denny, getting with a top-tier driver and having success right out of the box with him. When you get in this sport, you obviously want to win a championship but there are certain races you want to win. The All-Star race, which we won last year, Daytona, Indy. Having that 500 ring and trophy at the house (is special). Especially if you're a spotter because you feel like you have more involvement in the plate races. We’re never driving the race cars obviously, but you feel like you have your hand on the cars. … Winning a plate race is fulfilling itself, but winning the 500 and the way we did it … outside of getting married and having my two boys, it was probably my most memorable day in my entire life. You have little things you go through, you strive for … to know you've just won the biggest race in your industry and to know you had a hand in it, it was pure elation. … Once everything settled down and he got into Victory Lane, I just took my radios off and just sat there for a minute taking it all in. It was like 'wow.' As a Cannon Mills lint head from Kannapolis, that's just won the biggest race in our sport … I look at the ring now and all that and tears still well up. It's just 'wow, it really happened.' " WHAT'S THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF YOUR JOB? "The long days. Not really for the race itself. Just the practice days on Friday and Saturday, doing all the series. There are certain times, at Richmond for instance on Friday when they'd run XFINITY and (Sprint) Cup. You get up there at 8 in the morning and you won't get a break until 4 in the afternoon. Even though we're just standing around or sitting around, you're in the sun, you're in the elements; it's hot. And a lot of us don’t just spot anymore. I’m up there with a stop watch and I’ll do split times. I’ll pick a spot on entry to Turn 1 to the center and get a split time, then center out. So I'm always working, trying to figure out who is fast, where we might be getting beat. … So I'm constantly working, doing something whether it's watching cars and their lines or whatever. Then you do qualifying and then the race at night. So it's long days, no shade, a lot of times we have to go down two or three flights of stairs just to go to the bathroom. "And during the race there is so much going on in our headsets, listening to NASCAR, having a second radio, scanning myself to make sure that I'm transmitting correctly and I don't have a problem. Having that much going on and having to concentrate on what I'm doing. There will be times when Wheels (crew chief Mike Wheeler) will be talking to me on Channel 2, I'm spotting and we're in the middle of three wide and he's telling me something. As soon as I get Denny cleared, I'm '10-4, I heard you.' It might be a lap later but just trying to keep up with everything that's going on. "When I first started, I never listened to myself. They said 'hey, you really need to do that. That way you'll know if you have a radio issue.' I hated it. I would just turn it down very faint. Now, I don't know that I could go do a race without scanning myself." WHAT CURRENT DRIVER WOULD MAKE A GOOD SPOTTER? "Honestly, I don't know. Every time I think of somebody, I remember a comment that they made where they've been on the spotters' stand and either tried it, whether it was Jimmie (Johnson) spotting for his brother in an off-road race or something, Denny spotting for Jordan in the Better Half Dash … when I worked for Brian Vickers at Red Bull and he was out the first time for (health problems), I had Casey Mears and Reed Sorenson in the car. BV came up to the roof with me a lot of times. I always think it's great for them to come see my vantage point. See what I see, especially under racing conditions with binoculars and everything else. Then you'll get a better idea of why when you know you're clear by a foot and I'm still saying 'inside;' you're going away from me and the angle is bad. And I'm going to be sure you're clear before I clear you. "Probably somebody like Matt (Kenseth) would be good. I did a handful of XFINITY Series races with Matt and then he talked me into going to Chicago last year for the stand-alone race when Ross (Kenseth) ran the 20 car. … I know he's spotted for Ross some in the Late Model car. Somebody like him; David Ragan probably has experience doing short track stuff." WHICH TRACK IS YOUR FAVORITE? "Darlington, just because of the history. That's another race that's on my bucket list that I want to win. And any track that I can sleep in my own bed is great. The plate races -- I used to hate them when I started because I didn't feel like was giving the driver everything that he needed. Now that I come here with Denny and we've had so much success in the plate races. Whether it's me, the car or the way you have to race those races now, I really enjoy feeling like I'm that involved and that on top of things. Daytona obviously is the pinnacle of our sport so that's one, but Darlington is by far my favorite." WHAT IS ONE THING ABOUT WHAT YOUR JOB ENTAILS THAT THE AVERAGE FAN MIGHT NOT KNOW? "Just how involved we are now. I think the TV, the media exposure over the years has brought it to light some. When I tell people that don't know anything about the sport what I do, that I'm in the driver's ear, getting him through wrecks and all that, they think it's pretty cool. It used to be that you just threw a body up there, and it would be the last person on the team that wasn't doing anything. They'd just throw them up there to make sure somebody was there. But with the full-containment seats and headrests, their peripheral vision is next to nothing. When we ran the cars jacked up in the rear, they couldn’t see out of the back. So we're really their second set of eyes, know what's going on and see everything that’s around them. "It used to be that we just showed up and if we could get them through the wrecks then we were fine. But then it got to the point where if you weren't giving them a competitive advantage, you weren't going to have a job. … If I'm not feeding him information about what I see when guys pick up time or whatever, then he's not going to keep me around. "Ultimately our job is still, at the end of the day, to make sure the car rolls on the hauler in one piece and our driver is safe. That's our main goal. But if you're not giving them what they feel like is a competitive advantage, you're not going to have a job here."
New participation guidelines put limits in place for 2017
RELATED: Who is most affected? " Driver reaction, analysis of rule change CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- NASCAR announced new participation guidelines for its three national series Wednesday, limiting the amount of NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races that full-time drivers in its premier series will be allowed to compete in, starting in 2017. Beginning next year, the rules parameters will limit Cup Series drivers with more than five years' full-time experience to a maximum of 10 races in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and seven events in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The new guidelines will also prohibit premier series drivers at that experience level from participating in those two series' final eight events of the year -- a span that includes the regular-season finale and the seven-race Chase playoffs for both circuits. In the case of the XFINITY Series, full-time Cup Series competitors will also be restricted from the four races in the Dash 4 Cash program. The guidelines don't apply to drivers with fewer than five years of full-time premier series experience, which includes, among others, Kyle Larson , Austin Dillon and Chase Elliott . There are 33 XFINITY Series races next year. Not participating in the regular-season finale, the seven-race playoff or any of the four yet-to-be-announced Dash 4 Cash races means those impacted can race in 10 of the remaining 21 events, four of which are stand-alone races. In the Camping World Truck Series, 23 races are scheduled for next year. Not competing in the seven Chase races gives impacted drivers 16 races in which they can compete, five of them being stand-alones. Rumblings about the concept were stoked last week by NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell, who acknowledged that the sanctioning body was considering the rules updates in an Oct. 17 appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. RELATED: Hear O'Donnell's initial comments Jim Cassidy -- NASCAR's Senior Vice President of Racing Operations -- told NASCAR.com that the potential for a rules update affecting driver participation was "certainly not a new discussion." Cassidy points out that the three national series already have a certain level of differentiation in the type of vehicles used; now, he says, the opportunity exists to make the identity of each series and its competitors more distinct. "You see the number of drivers coming up through and the desire and the calling of the fan base to say, 'we're interested in who's coming up through the system, we want to hear the stories, we want to understand who these drivers are,' so that they can begin to formulate and build their future roster of drivers that they root for," Cassidy said. "All three of the national series provide really an unprecedented level of competition; it's on us to make sure that we find the right balance, as the league, to say that there is some level of participation by Cup drivers in Truck and XFINITY and what that balance is." Both series will end with a four-driver shootout for the title next month at Homestead-Miami Speedway , where full-time Cup-level drivers who qualified for the 2015 Chase -- regardless of experience level -- will be barred from the championship finales this year. CHASE GRIDS: Sprint Cup " XFINITY " Camping World It's not the first such limitation on premier series drivers moonlighting in the other national tours' competition. Before the 2011 season, NASCAR mandated that drivers select one of the three series in which to collect championship points. That rules change concluded a five-year reign of Cup Series drivers clinching the title as full-time double-dippers in what is now the XFINITY Series. But the 2017 guidelines also make allowances for drivers with more than five years' experience at the Cup level who elect to compete for championship points in the XFINITY or Camping World Truck Series. Based on this year's competition roster, drivers who meet those exceptions are Elliott Sadler , J.J. Yeley, Jeff Green , Morgan Shepherd and Derrike Cope in XFINITY , and Travis Kvapil in trucks. Wednesday's move -- the culmination of what Cassidy termed "a whole mountain of conversation with the industry" -- still allows for extracurricular participation from top-division drivers, but is designed to provide a wider spotlight for the other two national series' budding stars. The restrictions for five-year veterans will apply to every XFINITY and Truck Series Chase event -- and the cut-off regular-season finale -- next year, potentially widening the door for those series' regulars to visit Victory Lane under the rigors of postseason pressure. "Those events are events that we felt would be obvious to say we want to make sure that we have a better chance of focusing on those drivers running for the championship," Cassidy said. "The ability to win and advance is a significant story line and an opportunity."