For the fifth time in the last seven weeks, NASCAR has suspended a crew chief for rule violations – in this case, for infractions found during post-race inspection following the Monster Energy Series race last weekend at Martinsville Speedway. Mike Bugarewicz (bug-a-RAV-ich) of Stewart-Haas Racing drew a one-race suspension and was fined twenty-five thousand dollars after it was discovered that the weight of the simulated T-V video component on Clint Bowyer’s Number-14 Ford did not meet NASCAR specifications. The team was docked ten owner and driver points, which does not affect Bowyer’s 18th-place position in the point standings. He finished third in Sunday’s First Data 500. Seven crew chiefs across all three of NASCAR’s national series have now been suspended since the 2017 playoffs began in September.
With Kevin Harvick’s win Sunday in Sonoma, California, the list of Monster Energy Series winners this season now stands at eleven. But remember … Joey Logano’s victory at Richmond International Raceway does not qualify him for the playoffs due to post-event penalties. If there are seven new names in Victory Lane over the final ten regular-season races (or six if Logano wins again with no penalties), then there’ll be one driver with a victory to his credit that will not get a spot in the 2017 playoffs – which will include only the top sixteen eligible drivers based primarily on race wins. The list of notable drivers still looking for their first Cup Series win of 2017 includes Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Junior, Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott and Matt Kenseth. Of those five drivers, all are former winners at Daytona International Speedway – site of Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola – except Elliott, who’s won two Cup Series poles at “The World Center of Racing” but is still looking for his first race win there. He was victorious in the X-finity Series in 2016 … If the NASCAR playoffs began today, Logano would qualify based on points despite his problems at Richmond. He’s tenth in the regular-season standings, seven points ahead of Clint Bowyer – who leads Kenseth by just four points in the fight for what would be the final playoff spot.
Denny Hamlin ended the thirty-first edition of NASCAR’s Sprint All-Star Race exactly where he started it – at the front of the field. Hamlin, who qualified on the pole earlier in the evening, pulled away from Kevin Harvick in the final ten-lap segment to claim victory in the annual non-points special event and take home the one million-dollar prize for first place. Harvick finished second with Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth completing the top five. A lightning-fast ten-point-four-second pit stop for four tires put Hamlin at the front of the field for the final restart and he remained there over the last ten laps … Kasey Kahne won the first of the night’s four twenty-five-lap segments. Brad Keselowski won the next two legs with Busch winning Segment-4. Jamie McMurray, bidding to become just the third driver with back-to-back victories in the thirty-one-year history of the event, placed sixteenth … Keselowski won two of the first three segments and led a race-high forty-nine laps. But he was caught speeding on pit road during the final round of stops that forced him to the back of the field and out of contention … Hamlin’s final margin of victory was slightly less than one second over Harvick. The race included just seven lead changes among four drivers: Hamlin, Kahne, Keselowski and Busch … Clint Bowyer, who earned his way into the race by winning the Sprint Showdown, finished twelfth in the main event. Greg Biffle, who won the first segment of Friday’s “Showdown” and qualified on the front row for the All-Star Race, had three pit-road speeding penalties and placed thirteenth.