Kenny Wallace on driver accountability, plans for Bowyer's 2016 season RELATED: Subscribe to NASCAR Illustrated Kenny Wallace is decidedly old school. When it comes to the debate about NASCAR being tougher in policing restarts, Wallace insists that it's the drivers who need to serve as judge and jury for those guilty of too much gamesmanship. That hot-button issue kicks off this week's installment of Herman Unplugged: NASCAR ILLUSTRATED: Drivers including Dale Earnhardt Jr . have been vocal about NASCAR too loosely policing restarts. Is there room for improvement there? HERMAN: "No, I disagree with all that. Ten to 15 years ago we had something called gentlemen's agreements. We have these restarts between two red lines and it's gamesmanship to where you’re gonna start. I tell you how you fix that: If the driver in front brake checks you, you beat his ass in between the haulers. In my day, Terry Labonte and Kyle Petty chewed my ass out when I did something wrong. I feel that the drivers need to do what we did, which is go between the trailers and say, 'If you brake check me on a restart again, I'll whip your ass.' These guys just need to go, that's all there is to it. If they start playing these games, you just fix it with a fistfight and that will stop it right there." NI: Tragic situation with IndyCar driver Justin Wilson losing his life at Pocono. Tony Stewart loaned his plane to Wilson's brother Stefan so he could be with him at hospital Sunday night. It was another example of the motorsports community rallying to help in a time of need. Do you have a personal story on that front to share? HERMAN: "We get so wrapped up in competition and when it comes down to the end and we have perspective, you realize competition for what it is and then we have life over here. When my father passed away October 30, 2011, Rick Hendrick gave us one of his big team planes that seats some 30-50 people and we flew my dad's casket in the belly of that airplane all the way back to St. Louis. We went to write a check to Rick and he would not take it. We tried hard to pay him and he would not take anything." NI: The last on-track fatality in NASCAR came on that dark day at Daytona in 2001. Not to compare the two series, but what do you think it says about NASCAR that there hasn't been a death in that long? HERMAN: "I feel that NASCAR has reacted much stronger than any other sanctioning body in the world. NASCAR reacts quickly now whenever something happens from a safety perspective. If a driver finds a concrete wall they thought they would never hit, by the very next race there's something done about it. Within a year, IndyCar had a driver get hit by a spring in the head and then a driver get hit by a wheel, and it amazes me that with technology and the new world we live in that they haven't reacted faster. To their credit, after Dan Wheldon's passing, they redesigned the whole car. But they have to do something with those cockpits. It's a must." NI: What's your best guess on where Clint Bowyer lands in 2016? HERMAN: "The reason this is the best kept secret is I truly believe Clint Bowyer doesn't know where he's going. I don't think there's any story here; all we know is Clint Bowyer will go somewhere because he's got some money from 5-hour Energy. He's a good driver and he has money. That's a recipe for a bidding war. Although we know that 5-hour is only enough money to get you halfway, so whoever wins the bidding war for Clint has to know he's only gonna have enough money to get you to the 50-yard line. So you'll have to have more money to fund the rest of the season. 5-hour is a great sponsor but not one for the whole year." NI: Notwithstanding all the wins by Joe Gibbs Racing and Joey Logano lately, it's hard not to like Kevin Harvick to repeat as Sprint Cup champion. Is that how you see it too? HERMAN: "I see that he's a favorite and I'll tell you why. He hasn't started his mind games yet. He's been real mellow. Once he starts being a hard ass, he'll get into people's heads. He hasn't even used his bumper yet. Once he starts that and using that cage fighting mentality, it's gonna be a different game. He hasn't used his psychology and his mouth yet and once he does it'll be pretty fun to watch." SUBSCRIBE NOW!
RELATED: Chase Grid " Chase bubble watch " Chase Fest details A year ago, it was Kasey Kahne . Only two races remained before the start of the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , and the Hendrick Motorsports driver was 13th in points. Unfortunately, he was outside the top 16 in the Chase standings. Kyle Busch , Denny Hamlin , AJ Allmendinger , Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola trailed Kahne in points. But they were among those that had wins. They had invitations to the dance. At the time, Kahne had managed only two top-five finishes. His average finishing position was 16.8. He hadn't been to the victory lane since midway through the previous season. So he and his team went out and won at Atlanta Motor Speedway . It earned Kahne one of the final Chase spots and the No. 5 team a second chance. It wasn't quite as easy as it sounds. Kevin Harvick , as was often the case, was dominant at AMS. Kahne fell a lap down early. The team battled back. He didn't take the lead for the first time until Lap 303 of the scheduled 325-lap race. Suddenly, he seemed to be on his way to the win. Then cautions appeared, forcing two late restarts. Green, white, checkered late. Kahne's lead was lost on pit road. Yet somehow he muscled his way past Matt Kenseth coming to the white flag, holding on for the win and a spot in the Chase. It's a similar position for the 35-year-old this year. Two races remain -- stops at Darlington Raceway and Richmond International Raceway -- before the field is finalized for this year's 10-race run to determine the Sprint Cup champion. Kahne is once again winless. He is not alone. Teammate Jeff Gordon has finished inside the top five only three times this year. The four-time champion is ahead of Clint Bowyer in the playoff picture, with a wider margin back to folks such as Aric Almirola and Greg Biffle . A year ago Gordon had three wins and a vise-like grip on first place in the points. Bowyer's got a pair of top-fives, but much of the attention around the No. 15 team of Michael Waltrip Racing centers on where Bowyer will call home next season. Paul Menard has a razor-thin lead on Gordon in points, but taking nothing for granted. Can anyone? Matt Kenseth 's blown engine at Bristol last week, leaving the Joe Gibbs driver 42nd in the final rundown, didn't go unnoticed. Things not only can happen, they often do. With 10 drivers already secure -- 11 if you go ahead and give Kyle Busch one of the spots although he's close enough to the fault line that a misstep could make things interesting -- and two races remaining, at least three of this year's Chase spots will be filled based on the points standings after Richmond. It could be five, if no new winner emerges in the next two weeks. Few on the fringes, though, have shown signs of contending for wins. Almirola? One top five and only three laps led this season. Biffle? It's shaping up to be the wrong type of career year for the Roush Fenway Racing driver, with just two top-fives and an average finish of 20th. Austin Dillon ? Kyle Larson ? Both have shown potential. Both are winless. Kahne? Well, who knows? The question isn't can it be done. Kahne's already proven that it's possible. The question is who among those can pull it off?
RELATED: Homestead-Miami hosting Goodyear tire test HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Waiting out a morning shower in the Homestead-Miami Speedway garage on Wednesday, reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick was dressed casually but clearly at work, talking with his Stewart-Haas Racing crew as they hovered over laptop computers and gestured toward his plain gray No. 4 Chevrolet SS. The last time this group was at this track, they were getting showered in champagne, not rain, celebrating Harvick's 2014 Sprint Cup Series championship title, thanks to a victory in the season finale here. But it was all business for Harvick Wednesday as he and nine other drivers came to the 1.5-mile track for a one-day open test for Sprint Cup teams, attended by three of last year's four championship contenders, also including last week's winner Joey Logano ( Team Penske ) and Denny Hamlin ( Joe Gibbs Racing ). RELATED: Anheuser-Busch to change look of SHR's No. 4 car in 2016 "You know, I actually hadn't even thought about it to tell you the truth," a smiling Harvick said of his first time back at Homestead since his title-winning performance last November. "I know that doesn't make for a great story, but no one [on the team] has even mentioned it. Everything happens so fast in this sport from a week-to-week basis and you get so caught up in what you need to do the next week. "We're always trying to look forward so I really hadn't thought about everything that happened last year. We're so focused on being in position, to hopefully have a chance to do that again and get back here." Harvick's primary championship challengers were of similar mindset. And like all of the 10 drivers here -- also including Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Kyle Larson , Martin Truex Jr ., Ty Dillon , Ryan Blaney , Clint Bowyer and Trevor Bayne -- the lone opportunity to turn some extra test laps at Homestead is something not to be missed, even if track time boiled down to a couple late morning hours before heavier rains interrupted the schedule. With the elimination-style format of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs heading into its second year, the importance of the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway has increased exponentially. When the Sprint Cup Series arrives in South Florida in three months, four drivers will be eligible for the title – the highest finisher in this race will be crowned champion. Last year, Harvick won the race and therefore, the season trophy. Logano, who collected his third win in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford last weekend at Bristol, also spoke about the emphasis teams now place specifically on being prepared for Homestead. MORE: Logano victorious in Bristol night race "Hopefully this test is very important for us," Logano said with a slight laugh. "You hope it is [because that means you're in the championship hunt.] Just getting to here (season finale) is a challenge. "If we do, then this test today will be the most important test of the year. So we definitely want to put a lot into it and make sure we get a lot out of it and really understand what we learned out of it." Logano's three wins would rank him right behind the season's four-time winners Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch for the start of the Chase on Sept. 20 at Chicagoland Speedway and like Harvick, Logano believes his team is right where it needs to be at this point in the season. "Right now, we're peaking at the right spot, and getting a couple wins in the last three weeks is what we need to do heading into the Chase," said Logano, who finished 16th in the 2014 Homestead race. "Winning the Bristol night race last year kind of propelled us into the Chase, I thought, and gave us good momentum into the Chase. Getting all the way to here [Homestead] was a heck of an accomplishment. And we just need to focus on what we need to do. I feel like as a team we learned a lot in terms of how to execute a championship weekend." RELATED: Harvick scores another runner-up finish It looks like everyone will have to raise their game to dethrone Harvick, however, who has a pair of wins and a series-best 17 top-five finishes highlighted by 10 runner-up showings already this season. "We've struck a pretty good course in terms of being able to have a plan in place for the Chase, and everyone has done a good job in terms of being prepared when it comes time for Chicago," Harvick said. "We've been ready every week. We've just got to keep doing those things. ... No different than last year when we made it happen when it counted." WATCH: Harvick chases Logano in the closing laps at Bristol
Almost two full years after the rule was amended, NASCAR drivers are still voicing concerns about the policing of restarts during races. The subject came up during the Sprint Cup Series' pre-race drivers' meeting Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway , three days after Ryan Blaney was penalized for jumping the restart during the Aug. 19 Camping World Truck Series race at BMS. Prior to the beginning of the Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2013, NASCAR eliminated the rule that stated the second-place car could not cross the start/finish line before the race leader on a restart. However, the race leader is still the "control car," meaning the second-place car can't take off before the leader in the restart zone located before the start/finish line. "We wanted to really put it in the driver's hands where the leader starts the race," Steve O'Donnell, Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer, told NASCAR.com Monday. "The second-place car in this case, if we don't believe they've jumped the restart, can beat the leader to the start/finish line. "Obviously, some questions have come up. We've reviewed each of the calls we've made and feel confident based on the technology we've used to make those calls that they were the right calls. But anytime there's dialogue with the industry, we'll continue to monitor that. If we don't have to change it, we'd like to keep it consistent throughout the year, but we always review each and every call for each race." RELATED: Restarts a hot topic at Bristol drivers' meeting In the NCWTS event, Blaney was penalized for jumping the start on Lap 38. Although he was the race leader, officials ruled Blaney re-started before he was in the restart zone. The subsequent pass-through penalty put the Brad Keselowski Racing driver one lap down. Blaney managed to bounce back from the penalty, however, and won the race. "I had to kind of compose myself there," crew chief Chad Kendrick admitted afterward. "I was trying to tell (Ryan) on the radio, 'Don't worry about it, alright, it's done, over.' I was pretty upset about the call." Blaney said Cole Custer , running second and lined up to his inside on the restart, "didn't maintain caution car speed at all. "As soon as the caution car pulled off, he stopped pretty much," said Blaney. "And I maintained (my) speed. He was going to try to get a run, just like everyone tries to do, which is what you have to do on the bottom if you want to have a shot at it. And I wasn't going to give him that run; I wasn't going to let him start creeping forward. So I went as soon as I got to the mark, maybe a half a car length early. It made it look worse than it was with him being so slow for sure. "But I'm pretty sure you have to have a warning. From every restart I've seen with people maybe going a little bit early I've seen 'em get a warning. That honestly shocked me when they black-flagged us with no warning. When it wasn't five car lengths before the line or anything, when it was something really small like that, it kind of surprised me. Luckily it worked out for us." Two Sprint Cup teams have been penalized this season for either jumping the start or passing before crossing the start/finish line on a restart. Two penalties have also been handed down in the XFINITY Series for similar infractions while the penalty has been called seven times in the NCWTS. MORE: Herman Unplugged: Talking restarts, quiet Harvick Joey Logano , winner of Saturday night's Irwin Tools Night Race at BMS, said he had spent "a lot of time" with officials recently, "trying to understand what I can and can't do ... understand where their head is at and what they're thinking when you look at a restart." "You've got to understand the rules," the Team Penske driver said. If it Ain't Broke ... NASCAR XFINITY Series teams competing this weekend at Road America will run the same tire code used at the road course since 2013. The tire was previously used this season at Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio. Wet weather tires will also be available should conditions require their use, which was the case during last year's event. Likewise, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series teams will run the same tire code used since '13 for the series' stop at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park . The tire has previously been run on the right side at Martinsville in '13 and '14. MORE: Complete schedule for Road America and Canada Testing, 1-2-3 NASCAR Sprint Cup teams wrap up their 12th open test of the season Wednesday at Homestead-Miami Speedway . According to HMS officials, 10 teams are set to take part in the test -- Joey Logano ( Team Penske ), Dale Earnhardt Jr . ( Hendrick Motorsports ), Kyle Larson ( Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates), Kevin Harvick ( Stewart-Haas Racing ), Clint Bowyer ( Michael Waltrip Racing ), Martin Truex Jr . ( Furniture Row Racing ), Trevor Bayne ( Roush Fenway Racing ), Ty Dillon ( Richard Childress Racing ), Denny Hamlin ( Joe Gibbs Racing ) and Ryan Blaney ( Wood Brothers Racing ). Dillon, Larson, Bayne and Bowyer were slated to take part in a two-day Goodyear tire test at the 1.5-mile track, site of the season-ending race, on Monday and Tuesday. Three tests are scheduled for remainder of year, at Kansas (Sept. 14-16), Phoenix (Oct. 12-14) and Auto Club Speedway (Oct. 27-29).
Ride along with Kevin Harvick as he tries to chase down race-leader Joey Logano in the final laps at Bristol Motor Speedway.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Former Daytona 500 champions Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are among the drivers that will appear at Preseason Thunder Fan Fest at Daytona International Speedway on Jan. 20-21. Preseason Thunder returns in 2011 as Sprint Cup Series drivers will take to the new asphalt at Daytona in a three-day test session Jan. 20-22. Test and Fest set at Daytona Expectations and excitement Order all your Daytona tickets Tickets for Preseason Thunder Fan Fest are $20 and available by calling 1-800-PITSHOP or online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com. Ticket-holders for the 2011 Daytona 500 and children 12 and under will receive free admission. Advanced reservations are available (limited to 250 people) for special autograph sessions to be held with participating 2010 Chase drivers and Daytona 500 champions. Additional driver autograph sessions will be held on both days with wristbands available the day of the event. To request access to the special autograph sessions, race fans can call 1-800-PITSHOP or visit the Daytona International Speedway ticket office beginning at 9 a.m. ET Saturday. In addition to viewing the on-track activity from the Sprint FanZone, fans can watch each day's testing at no cost from a section of the Oldfield Grandstands near Turn 4. Drivers currently scheduled to make appearances on Jan. 20, beginning at 6 p.m. ET, are Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski, David Ragan, Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin, Martin Truex Jr. and Regan Smith. Scheduled to appear on Jan. 21, during the 5-7 p.m. ET session are Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, David Reutimann, Casey Mears, Jeff Burton, Joey Logano, Kevin Conway , Kyle Busch, Paul Menard and Ryan Newman. In the 7-9 p.m. ET session, drivers scheduled to appear are McMurray, Gordon, A.J. Allmendinger , Brian Vickers, Greg Biffle, Juan Montoya, Marcos Ambrose and Matt Kenseth. Lastly, race fans will be able to camp in the infield at Daytona for free with their admission ticket during the three-day test inside Turns 3 and 4. Sites will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis. Gates to the infield will open at 8 a.m. ET on Jan. 20. Among the activities planned for both days include: interactive driver question-and-answer sessions on the main stage; show cars, displays, music; photo opportunity with the Harley J. Earl Daytona 500 trophy; and blood drive outside the Turn 4 tunnel. The Roar Before the Rolex 24, the tune-up session for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series teams in advance of the 49th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, is set for Jan. 7-9. Tickets are $15 daily for the Roar Before the Rolex 24, with driver fan forums, tech talks and pit stop demonstrations slated for Saturday. ticket-holders for the 2011 Rolex 24 at Daytona and children 12 and under will receive free admission. Tickets for both the Preseason Thunder Fan Fests and the Roar Before the Rolex 24 are available online at http://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.
Anheuser-Busch confirmed Tuesday that it will be shifting its brand on reigning Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick 's No. 4 Chevy from Budweiser to Busch for the 2016 season. "NASCAR continues to be a priority platform for our beer portfolio," said Lucas Herscovici, vice president of consumer connections at Anheuser-Busch. "We are committed to the sport of racing, the fans and the Stewart-Haas Racing team we support -- specifically the No. 4 car of Kevin Harvick . "To that point, and given we evaluate all of our sports properties on an annual basis, we will be shifting our brand equity in Harvick's car and team from Budweiser to our Busch beer portfolio for the 2016 NASCAR season. "The Busch brand is well positioned for this partnership given the brand's storied history with the sport. We have a lot of exciting plans in development with SHR for 2016 and will share those details once finalized." Harvick's Stewart-Haas Racing team similarly celebrated the decision to bring one of the sport's iconic brands back to the spotlight. "Anheuser-Busch and specifically the Budweiser team has been a valuable team partner for the No. 4 car driven by Kevin Harvick ," SHR Executive Vice President Brett Frood said. "We've had tremendous successes with their logo donning our car and look for that to continue as we close out the 2015 racing season. With that said, we are excited to celebrate the Busch brand not only returning to NASCAR, but returning to the sport on our team." Busch beer was the longtime sponsor (1984-2007) of what is now called the XFINITY Series.
RELATED: Buy tickets for Homestead It's a primetime test time for NASCAR teams this week as many head to Homestead-Miami Speedway, site of the Nov. 20-22 season finale Ford Championship Weekend. Four drivers will participate in a Goodyear tire test at the 1.5-mile South Florida track Monday and Tuesday with an open test scheduled for Wednesday -- NASCAR allowing each Sprint Cup Series team to be represented by one car. Trevor Bayne ( Roush Fenway Racing ), Clint Bowyer ( Michael Waltrip Racing), Ryan Newman ( Richard Childress Racing ) and Kyle Larson ( Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates) are scheduled for the Goodyear test. With the increased importance on Homestead in the new Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup elimination format, as the track's host the final race that determines the series champion, teams will be taking advantage of the open test as well. Joey Logano ( Team Penske ), a winner last Saturday night at Bristol, is among those scheduled to test on Wednesday along with other Chase-qualified drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr . ( Hendrick Motorsports ), defending Homestead winner and series champ Kevin Harvick ( Stewart-Haas Racing ), Martin Truex Jr . ( Furniture Row Racing ) and Denny Hamlin ( Joe Gibbs Racing ). Ty Dillon ( Richard Childress Racing ) and Ryan Blaney ( Wood Brothers Racing ) will also participate. "It's an opportunity for the teams to really dial in the tire and the aero package for '15," NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Monday morning. "Certainly an important event for just about everybody in the series so they'll be going down there, working with Goodyear to make sure they've got the right package to be able to obviously share that data with the race teams and get ready for the final push that we see in November."
RELATED: Full race results " Updated series standings BRISTOL, Tenn. -- It's a familiar scenario facing Ryan Newman as the Richard Childress Racing driver prepares for a two-race journey to lock in one of the 16 spots in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field. At this same point in the season last year, Newman sat ninth in points and was winless with two top-five and eight top-10 finishes. He eventually earned a Chase bid based on his points position, then parlayed the consistency that got him a berth into a ticket into the Championship Round, where he nearly became the series' first winless champion. Following his 10th-place finish in Saturday night's Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, Newman finds himself 11th in points, with four top-five and 12 top-10 finishes thus far this season. He's also still searching for that first win, which would guarantee his status as a Chase participant. At Bristol, Newman and his No. 31 team, led by crew chief Luke Lambert, once again did what they have become nearly the best in the series at doing -- taking a car that wasn't particularly fast and earning a top-10 finish with it. "We weren't the best car all day," Newman said while standing beside the No. 31 Chevrolet on pit road after the race. "We kind of finished where we ran, if not just a little bit better. "It was a good run for the team. We took a 20th-place car in practice and qualifying and turned it into a top-10 (in the race). We were not the best car and we didn't win the race, but the guys did a good job in the pits and we made the race car better." Newman and the team hadn't shown speed on Friday, working their way to 26th- and 18th-place positions during the first and second practice sessions, respectively. At the end of the day, Newman logged the 18th-fastest time in qualifying for the series' 24th race of the season. Saturday night, Newman slowly made his way through the field, eventually cracking the top 10 well into the second half of the 500-lap race. Not having that initial speed when arriving at the track has been a problem, Newman admitted, but added that it's kept the team close as they battle to secure a Chase spot. "Yeah it's better when you start off the weekend better," he said, "but that's what makes us pull together as a team, find speed and … fight strong at the end." Newman, RCR teammate Paul Menard , Jamie McMurray ( Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates), Jeff Gordon ( Hendrick Motorsports ) and Clint Bowyer ( Michael Waltrip Racing ) currently hold the five final Chase positions with two races remaining -- at Darlington Raceway and Richmond International Raceway -- before the postseason starts. Newman, 37, is a six-time qualifier for the Chase, with last season's runner-up finish to Kevin Harvick a career-best points finish.
Jonathan Merryman talks with Joey Logano in Victory Lane about the thrilling battle with Kevin Harvick in the closing laps and shows off his new trophies for winning at Bristol Motor Speedway.