Tamper, Tamper: No. 31 team Penalized for Tire Modifications

After rumors of tire tampering, NASCAR handed down penalties to Ryan Newman and his team Tuesday evening.

Tires were evaluated after the race at Auto Club Speedway on March 22, and the No. 31 team’s tires failed the inspection. As a result, NASCAR called it a P5 penalty, the second-highest offense on their transparent scale.

The penalties include the loss of 75 points in both the driver and owner standings, a $125,000 fine for crew chief Luke Lambert, and a six-race suspension for Lambert, team tire technician James Bender, and team engineer Phillip Surgen.

Richard Childress Racing president Torrey Galida made this statement following the announcement: “We understand the seriousness of the penalty. In fact, RCR has been one of the most outspoken opponents against ‘tire bleeding’ since the rumors began to surface last season. Once NASCAR provides us with the specific details of the infraction, we will conduct a further internal investigation and evaluate our options for an appeal.”

The rumors ramped up after NASCAR champion, Jeff Gordon, mentioned the issue after the start of the season. Other tires taken after the race at Auto Club Speedway, including those of Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch, were found to be untampered. No problems arose from post-race inspection after this past weekend’s race at Martinsville Speedway as well.

With these consequences in place, Newman falls from sixth to 27th in the standings.

Hectic finish at Auto Club crowns Keselowski as victor

(Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
(Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)

During the closing laps of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway, all hell broke loose.

The final ten laps were a roller coaster of emotions as polesitter Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick tangoed. The show they put on made everyone sit on the edge of their seats; Harvick would cast a line, reel Busch in, yet faltered when the No 41 broke away. Laps whittled away until two lone cycles remained.

That’s when the caution came out for debris.

Up to this point, the race had its good and bad moments, staying particularly exciting at points. However, it was about to get insane.

Everyone came down pit road to change tires and fuel up. Matt Kenseth, who was consistent all afternoon, broke an axel leaving his pit stall. An uncontrolled tire earned Denny Hamlin a penalty. It boiled down to cars staying out and others taking tow tires.

The first attempt at a green-white-checkered began with the No. 41 shooting to the front, the No. 4 following suit.

Another caution flew before the white flag had a chance. Kyle Larson’s bumper cover flew off. Pit stops happened again, and the order didn’t change much.

Kurt Busch brought the field to the green once again, determined to redeem himself. After being suspended for the first three races of the season, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver swore he would earn his keep.

It was not his day.

Brad Keselowski crept into the frame, soundlessly gaining of his former Team Penske teammate. The white flag came out. Their cars raced side-by-side as chaos erupted in the back of the pack.

Greg Biffle spun and hit the wall on the frontstretch. No caution followed.

Keselowski went to the lead and never looked back, winning his first race of 2015. He led one lap during the event.

While trying to catch up, Busch hit the wall. The misstep allowed Harvick to advance to second, marring his teammate back in third.

Seeing the race fall apart right in front of Kurt Busch is both heartbreaking and confusing. He had the best car all weekend, yet it still didn’t go his way. Judging by the expletive-filled responses from fans, many aren’t happy with how things turned out.

NASCAR might have some explaining to do with how the cautions fell—or how they didn’t fall at all. Many view the last lap crash similar to the one during this season’s Daytona 500. What was the difference?

No matter how one feels about the ending or NASCAR’s officiating, there’s something we can all agree on.

Auto Club is unpredictable, and the ending was quite fitting.

Harvick wins at Las Vegas, while Truex and Allmendinger show strength

(Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
(Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)

Kevin Harvick is unstoppable.

After winning the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver refuses to back down at all costs. He asserted this fact with a win Sunday afternoon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Harvick started 18th but quickly worked his way into contention. Once he grabbed the lead, nobody could pry it from his grip. Even if they did, it wasn’t going to be for long. The only issue came in the final laps; the driver radioed in that he felt a bad vibration. It wasn’t enough to throw the No. 4 team off their game.

He led 142 out of 267 laps on the way to his victory, a win that secures him a spot in the 2015 edition of the Chase. He is now the third different winner this season, joining Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson. It’s easy to see that Harvick is passionately seeking his next NSCS championship.

Unfortunately for Martin Truex Jr., that vibration didn’t develop into more. The No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet finished eighth and sixth at Daytona International Speedway and Atlanta, respectively. That team keeps getting better and better. After ending 2014 on a high note, everyone can feel the win coming for Truex. It’s only a matter of when.

A.J Allmendinger is on a similar streak. Although he ended up 20th in the Daytona 500, the JTG Daugherty Racing car claimed seventh at Atlanta and then sixth at Las Vegas. With two single-car operations making their presence known, it’s time for NASCAR and its fans to definitely take notice.

The majority of the Las Vegas race was mundane, yet there are always stories –like the valiant Harvick and the inspiring runs by Truex and Allmendinger—that give the event the life that it needs.

Dillon and Blaney both impress in Xfinity race at Las Vegas

(Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)

With Kyle Busch out indefinitely, another NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver had the chance to dominate the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Austin Dillon glided to victory, facing some slight interference from Ryan Blaney in the final laps. The 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion started on the pole in the No. 33 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. ‘Domination’ is the only word to describe it.

What stuck out in the end was Blaney’s perseverance and maturity. The Team Penske driver, who now runs a partial Cup schedule with Wood Brothers Racing, scuffled with Joe Gibbs Racing driver Erik Jones with around 30 laps to go. Blaney hit Jones’ left rear tire and caused the No. 20 to get loose and hit the wall. Jones was up front all day until that incident.

In the closing laps, Dillon and Blaney raced with intensity and intelligence. It was a constant battle of roping the No. 33 in, setting up the pass, and then gathering it up all over again when it didn’t work out. The Penske car overdrove the final turn and fell back as Dillon took the checkered flag. The maturity didn’t end there; when interviewed for his runner-up finish, Blaney apologized first and foremost for the accident with Jones.

If there was anything to take away from the NXS event at Las Vegas, it was the dominating performance by Dillon and the smart racing by Blaney. With these two on the rise in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the future can’t look anything but bright.

Logano wins 2015 Daytona 500, helps Ford sweep weekend

(Credit: @ChadWillis)
(Credit: @ChadWillis)

Joey Logano survived hours of intensity to win NASCAR’s biggest race –under a yellow flag.

The Penske driver started in the top five, motivated by the fact that two fellow Ford teams won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series events. His stellar performance in The Budweiser Duel gave him that spot; there was no doubt he had a strong car.

Four-time champion –and soon-to-be retiree—Jeff Gordon led the field to the green, soon overpowered by teammate Jimmie Johnson. Their fellow Hendrick Motorsports driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., was competitive early on as well. For a while, it looked like HMS would crash the party.

A majority of the race involved the cars racing side-by-side as if they were about to load into Noah’s ark. Lines would gain momentum, fall back, and then gather up the energy once again. Multiple cautions provide the chance for breaks, but nothing extravagant happened. That just created more tension as the laps dwindled down.

When was The Big One going to occur?

Engines began to let go, and two made Logano nervous. His teammate Brad Keselowski went sent to the garage. Rookie Ryan Blaney –running the Ford-powered Wood Brothers Racing machine—suffered the same issue. Paranoia set in. The driver of the No. 22 thought he had voltage problems.

His team let him know about Keselowski and Blaney’s issues, and Logano simply replied, “Say a prayer.”

Things heated up as the laps faded away. The entire field ran three-wide in that disorganized/calm way the sport has perfected over the years. Everyone kept to themselves and raced smart. Logano pulled ahead, followed by Kevin Harvick.

Justin Allgaier lost his engine, and that created a Green-White-Checkered situation. It was clear that Logano was in the best position; passing the leader grew difficult with each lap Sunday afternoon, and that wasn’t going to change.

The machines took off, running three-wide and going full throttle. Logano secured the white flag lap, ensuring that the next flag would end the race. Harvick and Earnhardt Jr. struggled to hang with him. The field dove out of turn 2, and that’s when the wreck happened. Austin Dillon hit Gordon from behind, triggering the wreck that lurked the entire day.

NASCAR threw the caution flag, freezing the running order and crowning Logano the winner.

Fans quickly spewed venom at the decision, feeling cheated that the frontrunners couldn’t race back to the line. NASCAR’s choice to fly the yellow flag erred on the side of caution; the incident Saturday evening with Kyle Busch’s wreck most likely influenced the call. This is neither a good or bad thing. It is what it is, whether fans agree or not.

While the Connecticut native starts 2015 on a high note, Gordon’s final season is currently sour. The last-lap wreck puts him in a points hole that may be difficult to scale. However, it’s only the first race of the season.

Because of Busch’s wreck, NCWTS reigning champion Matt Crafton wheeled the No. 18 to finish 19th. In the same boat was NXS regular Regan Smith, who filled in for Kurt Busch after the Stewart-Haas Racing driver was indefinitely suspended by NASCAR on Friday.

At the end of the day, Joey Logano wrote a piece of history, becoming the second driver to win the Daytona 500 for owner Roger Penske. To him, it tasted sweet –even if it ended under caution.

Kurt Busch denied final appeal, remains indefinitely suspended

Kurt Busch’s final appeal has been denied by NASCAR’s Final Appeal Officer.

Rusty Hardin, the driver’s attorney, stated to the media, “We will continue to exhaust every procedural and legal remedy we have available to us until Kurt Busch is vindicated. We intend to continue to call attention…on Mrs. [Patricia] Driscoll’s true character, motivations and history.”

The verdict, which came down late Saturday night, keeps Busch’s indefinite suspension intact. NASCAR announced this ruling Friday afternoon after news from the Delaware court claimed that Busch committed acts of domestic violence against ex-girlfriend Driscoll in September.

The National Motorsports Final Appeal Officer, Bryan Moss, made the following decision, “[Busch] violated the Rules set forth in the penalty notice and the decision of the National Motorsports Appeals Panel was correct.”

NASCAR has stated they will let Busch know the steps to his reinstatement.

Kyle Busch out indefinitely after injuring leg in NXS race

Kyle Busch is out indefinitely due to a right leg injury sustained during Saturday evening’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race.

Busch, who was driving the No. 54 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, was in contention with nine laps to go when a wreck occurred behind him. He got loose, and his left front tire blew. This caused the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular to skid across the grass and hit the inside wall head-on. The wall had no SAFER barriers.

When trying to get out of his car, Busch struggled and required help. He rested on the ground and talked about his injury with the medical personnel. He was loaded onto a stretcher and rushed to the local hospital.

Joe Gibbs Racing released a statement Saturday night that revealed Busch suffered a compound fracture to his lower right leg. He also fractured his left foot. Busch is currently undergoing surgery.

Matt Crafton, who races the No. 88 Toyota in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, will run the No. 18 in Sunday’s Daytona 500. An intern driver for the remainer of Busch’s absence has not been named.

Follow this page for further updates.

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