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NASCAR Cup Series

Cup Teams Given Extra Time to Prepare for Qualifying Inspection

Following the qualifying debacle last weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, NASCAR mandated the following changes to the procedure that sets the field for the next three Sprint Cup Series events.

The first practice session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was shortened by 10 minutes with NASCAR also pushing back qualifying five minutes to 4:50 p.m. on Friday — providing teams an additional 15 minutes of preparation time before hitting the track.

There are no immediate plans to change the qualifying-inspection schedules beyond the Fontana race weekend.

“We have a good track record of making adjustments that are in the best interests of the teams and the garage area and the revisions in these upcoming weekend schedules are an example of that,” NASCAR Sprint Cup Series managing director Richard Buck said in a statement.

The changes were seemingly made in response to the events that unfolded before and during qualifying at Atlanta last Friday when several major teams and drivers — a list that included Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth — all failed to get through pre-qualifying inspection and were unable to turn a single lap.

As a result, all four had to start the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at the back of the field. Four others that failed to turn a lap missed the race as a result. Despite the lack of track position at the start of the race, Jimmie Johnson went on the win the race regardless.

In the immediate aftermath of the controversy, Buck faced the media and suggested that NASCAR officials would explore ways to prevent a similar outcome from playing out in the future.

“We’ll look at the process and try to understand it,” Buck said. “We put more cars through (inspection) today than normal, and in a timely fashion.

“Last year about four races into it, we were putting a lot of pressure on the crew chiefs, we had a lot of work for them to get — it was new. We had the ride-height rules, and we could see that process was strained, if you will, so we worked with the teams to adjust that, and … I think it was the third or fourth race in, we were able to work with our tracks and our partners and be able to extend that inspection time to allow them more time to get through there. But it’s tough.”

EMAIL MATT AT matt.weaver@popularspeed.com

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Categories
Trucks

Truck Series Regulars Racing for Redemption

By Vito Pugliese – While the Sprint Cup Series is in Dover this weekend, preparing to whack the bottom four drivers in the 2014 Chase for the Championship, there is a title fight of another sort going on in Las Vegas – and it isn’t the UFC. A number of drivers are looking for some redemption, both from either rough starts, tough outcomes, and circumstances beyond their control.

Despite a third-place finish by @Matt_Crafton last week at New Hampshire, a championship caliber effort considering he started dead last, the defending series champion was none to please with the outcome. Crafton took the lead on Lap 152 of the 175-lap event, but was passed with four laps to go by 16-year old @ColeCuster00 who restarted the race on four fresh tires. Losing to a driver more than half his age didn’t sit well with Crafton who was looking to gain every available point over teammate @JohnnySauter who finished fourth, but lead zero laps.

“Started in the back, drove to the front, got beat,” he simply stated.

Crafton ended up third, just one position ahead of Sauter and takes a whopping seven point advantage to Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The stand-alone Truck Series races typically produce some interesting finishes – particularly on the speedways. No @KyleBusch or Brad @Keselowski in the field, so the regulars will have the opportunity to settle things amongst themselves, in what is one of the higher profile – and highest paying – truck races of the season.

One driver who won’t be on hand this weekend as well is the series most recent winner – and record holder – Cole Custer. Last week while previewing this race and highlighting some of the entrants that normally might not race each week, there was an obvious omission of Custer. Well consider this my “Mea Culpa,” as Custer became the youngest winner in NASCAR national touring series history, winning his first race at the ripe old age of 16 years old.

It wasn’t a fuel mileage fluke or plate track carnage that paved the way to his first career win. The No. 00 Haas Automation Silverado lead 142 of 175 laps, and after pitting late for new tires late in the going, carved his way through the field to put himself in a position to pass both former series champion Crafton, and the new face of the trucks, @bubbawallace.

Custer being only 16 years of age has yet to compete on ovals over a mile in length, so he gets to stay home and polish up his new prize for another couple of weeks.

On the opposite end of the spectrum of drivers who will be competing this weekend is 54-year old four-time series champion @RonHornaday.

In a statement released through his new “old” team NTS Motorsports, Hornaday said, “I want to say thanks to Bob Newberry and Rheem for working together to give me this great opportunity to get back behind the wheel of a NCWTS Silverado. I’m looking forward to racing in Las Vegas, as we have a lot of family and friends on the west coast that will be there. I know Ryan (McKinney) and the team have prepared an awesome truck for me to race and I’d like nothing more than to get Rheem and NTS into victory lane this weekend.”

While the wins did not come the last time he raced with this team, they did manage to win this year with @AustinDillon3 at Pocono, which requires both horsepower, grip and downforce. Hornaday led 23 laps at Las Vegas last year with NTS and was in position to win but lost the lead on the final restart with just two laps to go. Lest we forget to pay homage to the defending race winner, @TimothyPeters17 enters this weekend looking for a turnaround. Peters assumed the lead on the final restart and held off Sauter to the stripe by half a second.

Also looking for some redemption this weekend is Truck Series veteran Jason White, who will be in the No. 20 for Bob Newberry and teammate to Hornaday, Jr., wearing his familiar GunBroker.com colors. Brian Ickler will be in the No. 7 for defending race winning owner Tom DeLoach. Ickler got off to a miserable start earlier this season, tearing up trucks in three of the first four races, which bore his company’s sponsor, Bullet Liner.

@Erik_Jones will be in Busch’s No. 51 rocket – clad in pink to promote awareness for Project Pink, an organization that seeks to provide financial aid to uninsured and underinsured breast cancer patients.

Coverage of the Rhino Linings 350 can be seen Saturday night at 10:00 p.m. on FOX Sports 1.

EMAIL VITO AT vito.pugliese@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @vitopugliese