NASCAR simplifies manufacturer points system
Scoring will mirror system used for drivers for all three national series
Updated deterrence system aims to 'police within the event'
RELATED: Stage lengths revealed for 2017 races NASCAR competition officials issued an updated deterrence system Thursday for its three national series, shifting toward an officiating process that penalizes pre-race infractions within a given race weekend. The updated system is months in the making, with the sanctioning body and teams working concurrently on the new procedures. The move was one of several fundamental changes made to the penalty structure ahead of on-track activity this week at Daytona International Speedway. The new system replaces the P1-through-P6 penalty classification which had been in effect since the start of the 2014 season. The new structure grades significant penalties into Levels 1 and 2, both of which involve points deductions and crew chief or team member suspensions that increase with a given violation's severity. Elton Sawyer, NASCAR Vice President of Officiating and Technical Inspection, said that in the event that less severe infractions are found before a race, teams or crew members would be disciplined from a menu of penalty options available to NASCAR's three series directors. Those range from the loss of practice time to loss of lap(s) at the start of a race. "Our goal was to be able to, more like football or basketball or any sporting event to where we could officiate and police within the event," Sawyer told NASCAR.com. "I think the real message is that we want to get these infractions, the smaller infractions, we want to get them corrected at the race track. "It's very similar to a 15-yard penalty. If you can get three 15-yard penalties and you can still win the game or drive down and score a touchdown, then good for you. If we can issue these penalties and you lose pit selection or you start at the back or a drive-through (penalty), and you can still come back and win the race, well then we feel like what that infraction was, the penalty fits the crime." A chief reasoning behind the updated policy is to mete out potential penalties more closely to the time – and at the event – in which they occur. "The Tuesday penalties, they wouldn't necessarily go away," Sawyer told NASCAR.com. "We're hoping that we don't have to write those penalties. That's not what we look forward to. We want all the positive storylines to be around the excitement of the race, and as the stewards of the sport -- or the umpires, if you will -- we want to kind of be in the background. But we have a role and responsibility in this as well to make sure it's a level playing field for all." RELATED: Tire limits among '17 rules updates " Learn about the rules package The updates also detail the schematics of a new pre-race inspection protocol, which requires that vehicles must proceed through all four inspection stations, regardless of whether issues are found in any stage in the process. Fixes must now be made in each team's garage stall, rather than off to the side of any given station, and then vehicles must proceed through all four inspection sites again. Sawyer said that the additional time it takes to make a full inspection pass serves as a deterrent for teams, which could miss portions of practice or qualifying in the event of an issue. Eliminating repairs made off to the side of inspection stations also tightens up any gray areas on the fringes of the garage. "I think it's fair to say that if we make them go back to the garage, then that's a central location for all cars to be fixed," Sawyer told NASCAR.com. "They know they have to come back through every station again, so it does put the deterrent back on the teams and puts the responsibility back on the teams to present their vehicles in compliance with the rule book." RELATED: New participation guidelines put limits in place for 2017 Among the other highlights from Thursday's updates to the rule book: • The penalty structure for violations that rise to the L1 or L2 level were unveiled, subject to enforcement at the following event(s): L1 penalties concern areas of minimum heights and weights, the Laser Inspection Station (LIS), gear ratios, and flagrant lug nut violations where 17 or fewer are properly secured. L2 penalties involve more egregious infractions concerning tampering with the three "no man's land" technical areas of tires, engine and fuel. Major safety violations, the use of telemetry or traction control, plus breaches of the testing policy also fall under the L2 designation. Penalty options for all three NASCAR national series call for the deduction of 10 to 40 points for L1 violations and 75 points for L2 infractions. In the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, L1 penalties call for crew chief or team member suspensions for 1 to 3 races, plus a $25,000 to $75,000 fine. L2 penalties in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series come with a six-race suspension and fines ranging from $100,000 to $200,000. The disciplinary action is scaled back in the other two national series. In the NASCAR XFINITY Series, L1 penalties will result in the same one- to three-race suspension range, but with fines from $10,000-$40,000. L2 violations in XFINITY events also come with a six-race suspension guideline, but a $50,000-$100,000 range for fines. In the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, L1 penalties carry a one- or two-race suspension with fines from $5,000 to $20,000. L2 infractions will result in a four-race suspension with monetary penalties of $25,000 to $50,000. • Specific penalties were outlined for lug-nut and LIS violations in the Monster Energy Series. LIS infractions discovered after Coors Light Pole Qualifying will result in a team's time being disallowed. Post-race, the violation falls under an L1 heading with a three-race crew chief suspension, a $65,000 fine and the loss of 35 championship points. Teams with one improperly attached or missing lug nut post-race are subject to a $10,000 fine. That fine doubles and includes a one-race suspension for the crew chief if two lug nuts are improperly attached or missing. If three or more lug nuts are in violation of the rules, the penalty rises to the L1 level with three-race suspension for the crew chief, a $65,000 fine and the deduction of 35 championship points. • "Encumbered" finishes -- a rules concept introduced before the Monster Energy Series' playoffs last year -- will remain in effect this season for post-race L1 and L2 violations. The rules allow a victory to stand in the event of an infraction, but a winning team will be stripped of the benefits associated with the win. • The list of pre-race penalties within a race weekend at the series directors' disposal, in order of increasing severity: Loss of annual "hard card" credential, loss of practice time, loss of pit selection position, tail of the field penalty, a green-flag pass-through on pit road after the initial start, a green-flag stop-and-go in the pits after the start, and lap(s) penalty. • Sawyer said that NASCAR competition officials will continue the practice of taking select cars back to the R&D center for further inspection after a race weekend. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Get to the points: Drivers eye duel advantage
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! RELATED: Lineups for the Duels " How the Duels work DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The opportunity to earn points and possibly a berth in the season-ending playoffs for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series begins in earnest here this weekend as drivers prepare for Sunday's season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway . The first chance for points will present itself Thursday as Daytona hosts the annual Can-Am Duels (7 p.m. ET, FS1), two 60-lap qualifying races that will set the bulk of the field for Sunday's main event. For the first time since 1971, drivers finishing in the top 10 in the Duels will receive points (10th for first through one for 10th ). The ability to earn points in this year's event impacts strategy. "It will make a difference for David Ragan ," the Front Row Motorsports driver said Wednesday during NASCAR's annual Media Day at Daytona. "For me, points are what matter to a smaller team," Ragan, driver of the team's No. 38 Ford, said. "And every opportunity we have to gain some points we need to capitalize. "A team like Kevin Harvick 's who can lead a lot of laps, they're going to be fast, win some races, they can overcome not scoring points in a segment. They're going to be able to score a lot of points quicker but for a team that will be running in the mid-teens or low 20s, if we can score points at some segments or in the Duels … that could mean the difference in making the (playoffs) or not making (them). "So I think we will be a little more aggressive when it comes to these opportunities to gain points." RELATED: Fast facts on the race enhancements Harvick, the 2014 series champion, wins with frequency. He'll be going after career win No. 36 and a second Daytona 500 trophy this weekend at the wheel of the No. 4 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing . Looming large for teams heading into the Duels is the potential for damage -- scarring up the primary entry for the Daytona 500 just to earn a handful of points is a risky proposition. "I still want to race my primary car in the 500," Ragan said, adding that some of his best finishes in the race have come in back-up entries. "So it's not the end of the world … but I don't want to take any unnecessary risks and do something stupid. But I will be looking to gain some points on Thursday." Pete Hamilton, driving the No. 6 Plymouth fielded by Spartanburg, South Carolina for car owner Cotton Owens and David Pearson, in the No. 17 Holman-Moody Mercury, won the two qualifying races in '71, the last time points were awarded in the for the events. Richard Childress Racing driver Austin Dillon isn't worried about protecting his car for Sunday's 500 -- a lackluster qualifying effort has the youngster and his team searching for speed and answers. RELATED: Dillon discusses how slick the track is "I'm definitely going to do what I can to grab points in the Duel," Dillon said. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Dale Jr. emerges from concussion rehab stronger, centered and ready to win
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! RELATED: Dale Jr.'s complete Daytona 500 history NEW YORK CITY -- A production assistant pins a lavalier microphone to the lapel of Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s suit jacket in a newsroom studio inside FOX News on Sixth Avenue. "One, two, three, four, five. Hello, hello," the 14-time NMPA Most Popular Driver says instinctively, without instruction from the PA. You can tell this -- the sound test, the back-to-back-to-back-to-back (and then some) interviews, the traipsing around the "Big Apple" to promote the 2017 Daytona 500 , everything -- feels normal to him, like second-nature. Not long ago, there was no such thing as normal for Earnhardt. The Hendrick Motorsports driver will make his return to points-paying competition in Sunday's "Great American Race" (2 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) after missing the second half of last season following concussion-like symptoms from wrecks at Michigan International Speedway in June and at Daytona International Speedway in July. The road back was a lengthy, arduous, winding trail filled with uncertainty and confusion. "You'd be doing something during the day and something would happen and you'd go 'Whoa, what was that? That was weird,' " Earnhardt told NASCAR.com, who tagged along with him for the day. "Just these little moments when you might get dizzy or you might forget about something that you think you shouldn't forget about. That used to happen all the time." Dale Earnhardt Jr . gets mic'd up. Earnhardt was cleared to race in December after months of rehabilitation and doctor appointments. He says he's fully healthy and recovered from his concussion, but don't hold your breath on him throwing out that cliché preseason line about being in the best shape of his life. RELATED: Watch Dale Jr.'s full interview from Daytona Media Day "I think I was probably at my peak physical condition at … 1? But since then it's all been downhill," Earnhardt joked. "I feel healthy. Mentally, I'm always sort of self-analyzing so I'm not having these things that would bring (the concussion) to my attention anymore. "The further you get removed from that stuff, the less you even remember it happening, or the less you think about it. When you go a day or a week never even thinking about the injury or the past, you're free from it. I feel great. Like I said, the doctors have given me a lot of confidence, just talking to them. They're like, 'Man, you're good. We feel good about this. We feel good about you racing. We feel good about you crashing.' You've got to have those." To get a sign-off from his doctors on crashing -- a near-certainty to happen over the course of a 36-race season -- is massive. The risk of another concussion will always be in the back of Earnhardt's mind after this most recent one kept him sidelined for so long. But he can't let that apprehension occupy him behind the wheel. "The wrecks and stuff are inevitable and I do worry. There's been crashes that I haven't had issues with, but there's been a few wrecks that I have had issues," Earnhardt said. "I don’t know … my doctors told me basically that I was healthy and if they thought I shouldn't race, they would let me know. They said, 'Look, we feel good about you racing. We feel like anything that happens … it's a dangerous sport and you're going to be at risk no more than you were before. Anything that happens to you, we can fix.' " Dale Earnhardt Jr . signs autographs for fans on the streets of New York. Talking to Earnhardt, it's clear 2016 was a year that challenged on many levels. It was also a year of tremendous growth and reflection that culminated -- quite literally -- with a marriage to longtime girlfriend Amy Earnhardt (née Reimann) on New Year's Eve, a topic that took center stage throughout his media tour at the "TODAY Show," FOX News, "The Dan Patrick Show," Inc. Magazine and "Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen." RELATED: Dale Jr., Amy Reimann get married on New Year's Eve Even if she did miss a question or two on the unofficially official " Dale Earnhardt Jr ." quiz on The Dan Patrick Show ( watch it here ), Earnhardt touts Amy's support and gives her nearly all the credit for his transformation. "I think I feel like a stronger, more complete person thanks to her. I hope that this isn't just a mood, that it's more permanent. I think we'll find out as we just get into the grit of the season, week-to-week and going from track to track and being tugged in all kinds of different directions by my responsibilities. Hopefully this sticks." With health in hand and a family life starting to come together at 42 years old, nobody would have blamed the 26-time winner in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for walking away before the start of his 18th full-time season. RELATED: Dale Jr. regals listeners with family storytime Dale Earnhardt Jr . with Andy Cohen of 'Watch What Happens Live' But the big news of the past week was Earnhardt's looming contract extension, with his current deal set to expire at year's end and a talented replacement champing at the bit for a full-time opportunity in Alex Bowman . RELATED: Dale Jr. discusses contract status Earnhardt won't walk away "until the gas tank is on empty," but he can't quite pinpoint when that'll be. He says any extension would be "no less than two, no more than three" years, but has put off negotiations with team owner Rick Hendrick until he knows he can commit, health-wise, long term. "I don't know (how much gas is left in the tank.) If I told you, 'Man, I've got three years,' I don’t know if I'd be telling you the full truth," said Earnhardt, a two-time Daytona 500 winner. "I can't see, I can't feel it. I know I want to finish this year and if I finish … everybody keeps asking me about my goals for a successful season, and that's to finish every race. If I'm in every race, and not injured and not missing races, then that's a successful season. "I think that will propel me into a new extension. The only thing holding me up, really, is knowing that I can do it, health-wise. Knowing that I can be there every week. If I'm going to sign a deal to be there and work for my owner … I love this man like a father. And I don't want to tell him I can be there for three more years if I can't. I'm going to get a few months under my belt and get the confidence that we can start working on the extension and I think if we get there, I'm signing that extension with the intent of doing that contract. "Now, that might be the last one but I don't know. You just don't know these things. I mean, I know drivers -- and I won't say names -- but I know very, very successful drivers in this sport that five years ago were ready to hang it up, just fed up. And they're happier today than they've ever been." Earnhardt mentioned that he nearly walked away from the sport earlier this decade, but credited his support system for pulling him back. And he's thankful it did. "I've been down, down in the dumps," he said. "Hell, if I didn't have the right support system around me, I probably would've quit in 2010, 2011. I'm glad I didn't. We got this ship righted and got to winning some races and I've had the best time behind the wheel that I've ever had in my career for three or four years now. "So who says that if I stick around that it can't get even better? I want to see, I want to wait." RELATED: Dale Jr. on front row for Sunday's Daytona 500 &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;span _rtetemp=&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;spchk&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot; style=&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;background-color: #ffffaa;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot; _rtespchksugg=&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;Lt"alt"ult"flt"let"lit"lat"lot"ltd"t&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;am&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/span&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;p;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze iRacing season begins Feb. 28
The world's top online racers will take the green flag when the seventh NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series Powered by iRacing.com gets underway Feb. 28 at 9 p.m. ET. Driving race simulators from the comfort of their homes, a full field of elite iRacers will wheel their virtual Chevrolet SS, Ford Fusions and Toyota Camrys around a laser-scanned model of the Daytona International Speedway in the first of 16 events in NASCAR's official eSport series. At stake is $25,000 in cash and prizes together with a NASCAR champions ring and trophy to be awarded during the NASCAR Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November. Following the Daytona race, competitors will race at digitized versions of many of the tracks on the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series on alternate Tuesdays, with flag-to-flag coverage broadcast on iRacing Live. The series champion will be determined by a playoff system based on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, with the top four finalists battling in the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series finale on the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway this fall. By any measure, defending champion Ray Alfalla figures to be the man to beat. A USPS mail carrier from Cape Coral, Florida, Alfalla edged New Hampshire-based PJ Stergios for the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series championship last season, and captured his third title in six years. While he has never finished lower than second in the season standings, Alfalla faces new challenges this season ranging from the new Chase format to new aerodynamic rules similar to those Jimmie Johnson , Joey Logano , Kyle Busch and friends will be dealing with in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series . "One of the keys this year is adapting to the reduction in downforce for 2017, just like in the real world," Alfalla said. "We'll also have a playoff for the first time, so the dynamic of each race will change, and the final race at Homestead will be nuts. Last year it was me and PJ neck-and-neck for the championship; this year there will be twice as many of us going for the title. I'm pretty excited about it!" In addition to veterans like Stergios and former champions Kenny Humpe and Michael Conti, Alfalla will have to deal with a promising crop of newcomers that includes Darik Bourdeau, of Montreal, Canada. While anything short of another title for the series veterans will rank as something of a disappointment, Bourdeau has a different outlook. "My goal is to get some solid runs and finish races in the top 10 and five," he said. "If you can stay out of trouble and pull out some solid finishes you will more than likely make The Chase. Then, it's 'win and you're in' the finale, when anything can happen." Last year's schedule produced nine winners in 16 races, while more two dozen sim racers scored at least one top-five finish. It's the kind of "anything can happen" competition that prompted PEAK Antifreeze to renew its title sponsorship of the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series through the 2019 season. "The NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series consistently produces some of the most exciting racing action you'll find, whether you're talking real or virtual racing," said PEAK CMO Bryan Emrich. "The great racing and the overall professionalism of the series are a perfect fit for PEAK. That's why we're excited to be associated with this series." The 2017 NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series gets underway Tuesday, Feb. 28. Catch all the excitement on iRacingLive starting at 9 p.m. ET.
Chase Elliott wins Duel 1 from pole position
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! RELATED: Duel 1 results " Duel 2 results A strong restart with eight laps to go -- and a push from fellow Chevrolet driver Jamie McMurray -- gave Daytona 500 polesitter Chase Elliott the power he needed to maintain the lead and take the checkered flag in Thursday's Can-Am Duel 1 at Daytona International Speedway . Elliott, the youngest Daytona 500 polesitter, also became the youngest Duel winner in the race's history -- the previous record holder was Jeff Gordon . Elliott will start on the pole in Sunday's season-opening Daytona 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) for the second straight year. RELATED: Detailed results from Duel 1 " Projected Daytona lineup "We just kind of set out and wanted to race, not ride around," Elliott said after climbing out of his car in Victory Lane. "I think sometimes you ride around and you don't know what your car is like and if it's going to be the way you want it for Sunday. And you can also get yourself in trouble. We took chances and it worked out, so I'm excited for Sunday." McMurray gave Chevrolet a 1-2 finish with a runner-up result in his No. 1 Chip Ganassi ride, while Kevin Harvick finished third in the Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. Brad Keselowski 's No. 2 Team Penske Ford and Matt Kenseth 's No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota rounded out the top five. Keselowski displayed his familiar restrictor-plate power, leading a race-high 28 laps. "We had a good night," Keselowski said. "We knew the 24 car (of Elliott) was going to be strong. It just didn't shake out like I hoped it would in some of those pivotal moments, but that’s part of it. ... We're going to work on some things that make that possible." Duel 1 race determined the inside row for Sunday's Daytona 500 0 with Elliott locked into the top starting position, followed by McMurray (third), Harvick (fifth), etc. behind him. The top 10 finishers received championship points, so race winner Elliott earned 10 points for the season, second-place McMurray nabbed nine, all the way to 10th-place Cole Whitt earning one point. The same system also applied to Duel 2. Corey LaJoie claimed a spot in the "Great American Race," as he was the highest finisher (18th) among the three Open teams in the race. Brendan Gaughan had previously earned a spot by being the fastest Open car during Sunday's qualifying session. Reed Sorenson seemed poised to earn a spot in the Daytona 500 as the highest Open team, but contact from LaJoie with 12 laps to go caused his No. 55 Toyota to spin and it was quickly towed off track. Paul Menard (20th) and Kyle Busch (13th) were also affected in the wreck. Joey Logano (ninth) experienced problems early in the 60-lap race: He fell back in the pack and was forced to pit for a loose wheel that was causing a vibration in the first 20 laps. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
NASCAR partners with AMR for its emergency response system
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- NASCAR announced today it is partnering with American Medical Response (AMR) to expand the capabilities of NASCAR's medical support model and enhance on-track incident response. AMR, a recognized leader in the emergency medical services, will add a doctor and paramedic to the on-track safety team for each Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series weekend. NASCAR's industry-leading medical standards remain in place; Infield Care Centers will continue to be staffed with experienced local emergency room physicians, maintaining the valuable connection with local medical facilities at every track. Combining the experience of local emergency practitioners with the familiarity that the AMR team will develop with drivers will positively impact the process for years to come. "This partnership further strengthens NASCAR's medical response capability, making our well-established, medical response system even better," said Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. "AMR is a leader in the emergency services sector, and its doctors and paramedics add another layer of expertise to the immediate response team." AMR will position state licensed doctors and paramedics in a chase vehicle along with two NASCAR Track Services team members and immediately respond to an on-track incident. The paramedic and doctor will provide an assessment at the scene. "We're excited about this partnership with NASCAR," said Edward Van Horne, president and chief executive officer, AMR. "We're going to work collaboratively with NASCAR and local teams to share best EMS practices and ensure the highest quality of care." AMR, which currently delivers EMS support at a number of NASCAR events, will provide a physician to serve as the national medical director of the AMR Safety Team to oversee all services provided by AMR and work with the NASCAR Medical Liaisons and NASCAR Consulting Physicians. AMR, a subsidiary of Envision Healthcare, is the largest provider of emergency medical transportation services in the U.S. and a leader in pre-hospital care and treatment. Furthermore, AMR becomes the Official Emergency Medical Services Partner of NASCAR, and AMR will be the presenting partner of the annual NASCAR (Track Services) Summit.
Cain: Bigger and more memorable at Texas
RELATED: Gallery of memorable moments at Texas " Full weekend schedule FORT WORTH -- From track "weepers" and multicar inaugural-lap pileups to a winner's circle confrontation between two Indianapolis 500 champs, Texas Motor Speedway has been the site of some of the most remarkable, memorable and bizarre story lines of any circuit on the NASCAR circuit. The 1.5-mile oval outside Fort Worth celebrates its 20th year hosting a NASCAR race this week with Saturday night's Duck Commander 500 (7:30 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.) And for those of us around at the very beginning, it seems a fitting time to reminisce a bit about the facility's famously storied early history. As they like to remind you in Texas, everything is "bigger" there. And it has been. The track's early trials and tribulations have only contributed to its great character and esteem. In my 25 years of sports journalism, the opening races at Texas Motor Speedway still remain among the most unforgettable times of my career. Never before and never since have I covered a specific beat that provided as much sensation, controversy and must-see-TV as TMS in the early years. Two decades later, the track located at the intersection of an interstate and two major Texas highways has evolved into one of the sport's most prestigious venues. It boasts the largest HD screen, named "Big Hoss," fantastic spectator seating and the most condominiums of any track on the circuit. Plus really great racing. Nearly 195,000 people showed up for the inaugural Texas race in 1997 and most of those who were ticket holders then still are, two decades later proving they are as faithful and optimistic as they were devoted. It turns out those have been good traits for this endeavor. MORE: Paint scheme preview for Texas I had just started work at The Dallas Morning News newspaper in the spring of 1997 a few weeks after Jeff Burton took the checkered flag for NASCAR's first Cup series race at Texas in April. The new facility was considered the "home track" to cover. After reporting on the Indianapolis 500 in May, I was immediately back home in Dallas, ready for the Indy Racing League's night-time debut at TMS the next week. There, a 26-year old future three-time NASCAR Cup champion Tony Stewart put on an open-wheel show for the ages, racing wheel-to-wheel lap-after-lap with Buddy Lazier. Stewart -- who went on to win two Cup races at Texas (2006 and 2011) -- led a race-high 100 of the 208 laps only to suffer an engine failure that night. But toward the end of the race there were questions regarding the scoring shown on the monitor in the press box. And soon after making my way down to the infield to prepare for a super-tight Saturday night newspaper deadline, the real craziness began. While trying to get post-race quotes from the apparent first-time winner Billy Boat ( XFINITY Series driver Chad's dad) and Boat's team owner, Texan A.J. Foyt, I was standing a few feet away when driver Arie Luyendyk confronted Foyt in Victory Lane. After questioning the results, challenging Foyt and suggesting he was actually the legitimate race winner, Luyendyk tumbled into the victory flowers. Boat and Foyt hoisted the trophy. It was surreal. I was on a crazy tight deadline. But the next day in a hastily called press conference, Luyendyk was declared the winner after USAC conceded a scoring error. After USAC officials suggested problems with the track's scoring system , TMS President Eddie Gossage took the press conference podium and strongly reminded that the speedway wasn't responsible for the scoring . "I got home at 3 in the morning knowing we gave the trophy to the wrong winner and had a press conference for 8 in the morning," said Gossage. "I go in to the press conference with two hours of sleep and I'm sitting in the back row and the head scorer for USAC says that the speedway's timing and scoring equipment didn't work. "He says it again and then a third time so I just walked up on stage and stepped up to the podium and eased him to the side and said, " Texas Motor Speedway doesn't own a stop watch. ... People have a right to know when they leave the race track who the winner is and we all didn't get what we paid for." Then after a dramatic exit and door slam, Gossage recalls, "My dad called from Tennessee and said, 'You were raised better, acting like an idiot on television for all the world to see, embarrassing me and your mom.' I said, 'What?' He said, 'You didn't know it was live on ESPN?' "I didn't. And then I was like, 'You're right, sir. I'm sorry. I know better.' " Gossage has a good laugh recalling the whole ordeal now. Foyt, who still disputes the result, kept the trophy and Luyendyk was given another one. A year later, Boat recalled of the evening, "We went into Victory Circle knowing nothing about a scoring error, only that someone was talking derogatory about our race team. You don't do that in a big Texan's Victory Circle." Luyendyk, of Holland, said the incident -- replayed repeatedly all over the world at the time -- actually made him and the Texas Motor Speedway more famous overseas. MORE: Gossage and drivers try to draw state of Texas And then in 1998 came NASCAR's second Cup try. After two multi-car accidents in the inaugural race, conventional wisdom promised this one just had to go down more smoothly. NASCAR's biggest stars such as Rusty Wallace, Ernie Irvan, Dale Earnhardt and Mark Martin were among those who crashed in the opening race. Darrell Waltrip finished last after being involved in a 13-car wreck on the very first turn of the very first lap of Cup competition there. And Burton ended up winning by 4 seconds. Surely, everyone figured, the second race would be smoother. It wasn't. "Weepers" became a familiar word. The water seeping through the track caused qualifying to be completed a day late. And of all things, there was a huge 10-car accident on the second lap of the race. Jeff Gordon and yes, Waltrip, were collected in that melee. Mark Martin won the race by a half-second over Chad Little and Robert Pressley. Shortly after, TMS went through a re-paving and re-fitting, track owner Bruton Smith and Gossage committed to correction. "The first year it was just terrible and everything seemed to go wrong," Gossage conceded this week. "And the second year, obviously you try to improve so all of a sudden here's these weepers that came through. "I remember driving into the infield and in the rearview mirror saw Lake Speed knock the wall down in Turn 1 in qualifying. I thought, 'Oh no.' "I'm always the worst critic," Gossage said, logging the long hours readying for the weekend's big events. "There are things other people might not have noticed but I did. For some reason things worked really well in 1999 when Terry Labonte won and it's been better since then. That's the way a race weekend was supposed to go." Not only has it been better, it's typically a discussion point in every season review. In 2005, Texas finally got the second date it had longed for since I worked at the Dallas paper nearly a decade earlier. And the facility -- big enough to fit every Texas sporting stadium in its infield -- is also a big-time player in the Chase for the Sprint Cup . It's still providing those jaw-dropping, television highlight moments seemingly born with the track. Dale Earnhardt Jr . scored his first Cup win at TMS in April 2000. And Chase Elliott got his first XFINITY Series win here in 2014 driving for Junior at JR Motorsports. Gordon, who won this race in 2009, has starred in a couple TMS highlight reels, too. He was involved in a pair of high profile skirmishes from taking on Burton on-track after a wreck in 2010 to a crazy pit road scuffle with Brad Keselowski in 2014. "You have to be honest," Gossage said. "And looking back, it's just how things occurred. I wouldn't trade any of it, if it is what got us where we are. I'll take where we stand in our success as the most successful major market speedway in the history of this sport. I'll take that. "I won't trade my job with the guy running any other race track because I'm just so proud of what's been accomplished here."
Sense of rejuvenation for Ronnie Bassett Jr., team with his first K&N win
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. -- Ronnie Bassett Jr. sat in contemplation last May, having rushed to witness first-hand the devastating fire that tore through his family-owned team's race shop in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. While thankfully no one was injured, the material loss was heavy, with little to salvage in the way of cars, tools, equipment and the team's hauler. Sifting through cinders in the days after the blaze, Bassett said he wondered what would come next for him and his brother, Dillon, a pair of next-generation racers. "We were sitting there scratching our heads," Bassett says. "We didn't know whether we were going to be able to race again the rest of that season or what." Sunday night, nearly nine months after their loss, came victory. The 21-year-old Bassett emerged from a frantic second half of the season-opening Jet Tools 150 to score his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series East victory at New Smyrna Speedway. The win also soothed the heartbreak of last year's K&N opener, where an official scoring check after the checkered flag kept Bassett from Victory Lane. Bassett's convincing victory, which included a late-race stretch of running 1-2 with his brother, belies the adversity that his family has faced. Working with insurance to rebuild their own shop has been a gradual process, and the family racing operation is now spread over three buildings in their hometown -- a small warehouse for primary cars, a shed for parts and another space serving as a makeshift fabrication shop. "We're just trying to make it happen," said Ronnie Bassett Sr., who enjoyed a successful career in the Sportsman division at Bowman Gray Stadium. "They don't have much to work out of. It's a tight spot, I can tell you that." What has helped has been a devoted crew, and fellow racers David Calabrese and Brandon Gdovic lending a hand with equipment to help the team finish out 2016 with a part-time slate. "We just prayed to the good Lord about it to see what needed to be done," Bassett Jr. said. "It kind of worked out. We have more than what we had when we were working out of our other shop. We've been blessed with a lot of great people." Bassett Jr. led the final 42 laps, sweating through a pair of red flags for accidents, including a final stack-up near the front of the field that knocked his brother and NASCAR Next driver Tyler Dippel from contention. It marked the first laps led in a K&N East career that's spanned 40 races since 2013. Though Bassett Jr. amassed a three-second lead on the half-mile track over the closing laps, he and his father remained antsy. Intense racing behind him threatened a late caution, and then there were the reminders of the mix-up from last season. Bassett actually crossed under the checkered flag first at New Smyrna in 2016, emerging from a three-car fracas with Todd Gilliland and Spencer Davis. But race officials determined that an extra lap had been inadvertently run beyond the scheduled distance, handing the victory to Gilliland. There was no doubt Sunday night. "I had a counter in my hand tonight," Bassett Sr. said with a laugh. "We were definitely watching the flagstand, that's for sure. It's all good, though." For his son, the victory was a needed boost after a long dry spell. Bassett had two runner-up efforts sprinkled among his nine previous top-five finishes, including a third place at New Smyrna last year. After leaving the Florida half-mile with trophy in hand, Bassett said the sense of rejuvenation was real. "It's been very, very tough on myself -- I went from running good in Late Model Stocks and then coming to these things, it's like punching myself in the heart," Bassett Jr. said, adding that the family plans a full K&N East schedule in its rebuilding year. "To come back and have a good race car and lead laps tonight, it builds my confidence back to know that I can still do it."
The Rundown: Las Vegas
Analysis of all 43 cars in Sunday's Kobalt 400 Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live RELATED: Full race results " Updated series standings 1. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . An 18th-place start was only a temporary stall for the defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, who surged to take the lead on Lap 91. He paced the field for a race-high 142 laps and persevered through "an uncomfortable last run" to earn his first Cup win at the 1.5-mile desert oval and his third straight top-two result of the 2015 season. Harvick, now the points leader, has won his past three contests at Phoenix International Raceway , the next stop on the Cup circuit. " WATCH: Harvick discusses the win in Victory Lane 2. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Chevrolet, Furniture Row Racing . Truex overcame a loose-handling condition midway through the race to record his best LVMS result and earn his third straight top-10 of the year. " READ: Truex's inspirational drive 3. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . As the temperatures increased on the 1.5-mile desert track, the handling of Newman's Chevrolet initially disappeared. He rallied to finish third and capture his best career LVMS result. " WATCH: Newman discusses Vegas finish 4. Dale Earnhardt Jr ., No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Junior showed strength driving the high line, but his late-race lead was cut short by a hard-charging Harvick. "Second, fifth, fourth -- it don't matter (where you finish) if you don't win," said Earnhardt, who now ranks second in the points standings. " WATCH: Junior weighs in on late-race gamble 5. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . The left-front of Hamlin's Toyota sustained damage early while he tried to navigate a congested pit road. The impact was enough to affect his initial speed but not his overall performance. He is the biggest mover from the race weekend, improving 11 spots to eighth in the standings. 6. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG-Daugherty Racing. The single-car outfit continues its ascent after Allmendinger wheeled his way to his second straight top-10 result. Allmendinger picked up three spots and now ranks fifth in the standings. 7. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske . A tire vibration and subsequent pit road violation could have spelled doom for Keselowski, but he caught a break in both cases. First, the competition caution gave his team a chance to address the vibration. Much later, Jimmie Johnson blew a tire, which prompted the caution and enabled then-beneficiary of the free pass Keselowski to return to the lead lap. The 2012 Champion picks up six spots in the standings, improving to 16th. 8. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . Larson's pit crew performed well, helping the Cup sophomore nab his first top 10 of the season. 9. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Kenseth scored his second top-10 of the year after working with his team to solve a loose-handling condition. Another big mover, Kenseth improves eight spots to now rank 10th in the points standings. " See the full Sprint Cup Series standings 10. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske . Two pit road speeding penalties couldn't keep Logano down, as the driver led the opening 27 laps prior through the competition caution. The Daytona 500 champion rallied to post his third straight top-10 of the year and ranks third in the points standings. 11. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . McMurray just missed recording his first top-10 of the season and improves seven positions to 25th in the driver standings. 12. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Menard, who narrowly avoided being collected by Carl Edwards ’ incident on Lap 195, improves four spots in the points standings to 13th. 13. Brian Scott , No. 33 Chevrolet, Circle Sport Racing. Scott benefited from the beneficiary of the free pass after a caution on Lap 187 and went on to claim his best career Cup finish. 14. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford, Roush-Fenway Racing. Biffle started strong, but encountered a loose-handing condition that hindered his forward progress. Still, he improved two spots in the points standings to 11th. 15. Brian Vickers , No. 55 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing . Vickers, in his first race back since open heart surgery, began Sunday's race by thanking his team for not giving up on him. He surged quickly through the field after starting 28th. 16. Regan Smith , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Smith weathered an early pit road penalty and returned to the lead lap as the beneficiary of the free pass after Carl Edwards ’ accident on Lap 195. Smith was running fourth with 17 laps to go and was among the leaders trying to hold out for a late-race caution during the long green-flag stretch. 17. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Kahne could seemingly run any line he wanted at Vegas on Sunday and spent the first half of the event racing inside the top five. His luck faded, though, on Lap 195 when he was traveling the high line and Carl Edwards forced him into the wall. " MORE: Kahne, Edwards clash in Kobalt 400 18. Jeff Gordon , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Gordon, the Coors Light Pole Award winner, had to start from the rear of the field after being involved in an accident with Danica Patrick during final practice. The highs and lows continued for the veteran in his final Vegas race. He improved to crack the top 10 by Lap 143, but sustained critical damage to the nose of his car after bumping Jeb Burton 29 laps later. Burton was trying to avoid being collected when Jimmie Johnson blew a tire. " MORE: Tough day for Gordon in Las Vegas 19. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing . Blaney recovered from early issues to find speed late in the race and post his best result so far of the 2015 Sprint Cup Series season. 20. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Dillon improved 15 spots to crack the top 10 on Lap 75, but later was dealt a pit road penalty that impacted his team's forward march. 21. Clint Bowyer , No. 15 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing . Rear grip was a problem for Bowyer in practice and on Sunday, he constantly reported a tight-handling race car. His team gambled on pit strategy by staying out during late-race, green-flag stops, but Bowyer ultimately had to stop to make it to the end. 22. David Ragan , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Despite qualifying 13th, Ragan started from the rear of the field after slapping the wall during final practice. The team made consistent gains and ran steadily inside the top 25. 23. David Gilliland , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Crew chief Donnie Wingo reminded Gilliland that Las Vegas had a history of getting looser as the race continued and encouraged Gilliland to use the driver-adjustable track bar feature. 24. Sam Hornish Jr ., No. 9 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Late-race gains improved the handling of the No. 9 Ford, and he held on to score his best result at LVMS since 2009. 25. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Although handling was an ongoing issue, Mears' top-25 result keeps him inside the top 10 of the points standings. He is ranked ninth going into next week at Phoenix International Raceway . 26. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Almirola ran as high as ninth on Sunday and raced inside the top 20 until he was clocked going too fast entering pit road at Lap 197. 27. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Patrick's team salvaged her starting spot after she was involved in a last-minute accident in final practice. She reported aero issues on Sunday, which she said made her car easy to turn sideways in traffic. 28. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Bayne struggled to find balance all race long in his Ford, which shifted from a tight- to loose-handling condition as the race unfolded. 29. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17, Roush Fenway Racing . Stenhouse's Vegas run was complicated after he made contact with the wall and then hit a loose tire on pit road. He worked with his team to persevere through the damage. 30. Michael McDowell , No. 95 Ford, Leavine Family Racing . McDowell narrowly avoided colliding with Michael Annett , when Annett lost the handle on his car around Lap 150. Still, McDowell held on to earn his best LVMS finish. 31. Justin Allgaier , No. 51 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Allgaier struggled to make forward progress after being penalized three times throughout the race by the new pit road scoring system . " MORE: Allgaier's car too light in post-race inspection 32. Cole Whitt , No. 35 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Although Whitt's team struggled to find the right combination, he held on to achieve his best Las Vegas result. 33. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . A steering box issue compounded initial handling woes for Stewart, who also was dealt an uncontrolled tire violation during a Lap 84 pit stop. 34. Josh Wise , No. 98 Ford, Phil Parsons Racing. Wise kept his nose clean during Sunday's race and quietly steered the No. 98 machine to his best result at the 1.5-mile desert track. 35. Landon Cassill , No. 40 Chevrolet, Hillman Smith Motorsports. An early pit road violation wasn't insurmountable for Cassill, who went on to post his best Vegas finish. 36. J.J. Yeley, No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Yeley finished 16th in Saturday's NASCAR XFINITY Series race, but struggled to carry that momentum over into the Cup scene. 37. Brett Moffitt , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Moffitt opened the race with promise after posting an eighth-place finish last weekend at the intermediate track of Atlanta Motor Speedway . He qualified 36th and struggled to make up much ground, ultimately brushing the wall as he concluded his first outing at Las Vegas. 38. Brendan Gaughan , No. 62 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. The only Las Vegas native in the race -- given the absence of the Busch brothers -- was clocked too fast entering pit road on Lap 76 during green flag stops. 39. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Early in Sunday's contest, Annett wiggled exiting Turn 4 and made hard contact with the wall. Tire smoke prompted him to make an unscheduled pit stop. 40. Jeb Burton , No. 26 Toyota, BK Racing . The lone Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate in the field, Burton slowed to avoid Jimmie Johnson 's first incident when he received an inadvertent nudge from behind by veteran Jeff Gordon . 41. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Johnson led 45 laps during the first half of Sunday's race and appeared poised to contend for his fifth Las Vegas victory when tire issues arose. Two blown tires within 14 laps of one another sent Johnson to the garage at Lap 186. " MORE: Tire trouble ruins Johnson's day at Vegas 42. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Edwards' promising run was cut short Sunday when his car slid up the track and made contact with Kahne. Edwards almost saved his car from a subsequent spin, but ultimately retreated to the garage with a busted oil cooler. " MORE: Edwards, Kahne clash at Las Vegas 43. Alex Bowman , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . An engine issue on Lap 28 dashed Bowman's hopes of continuing the momentum he started last week at Atlanta Motor Speedway . MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
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