NASCAR Kansas Auto Racing

Associated Press

DEALING — Kyle Busch dons earplugs during practice for a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan. on Oct. 18.

AVONDALE, Ariz. — Kyle Busch won the pole and all eight title contenders qualified in the top 10 for the final race to decide the championship field.

Busch earned the top starting spot for Sunday’s race at ISM Raceway outside of Phoenix. He turned a lap in Saturday qualifying at 140.116 mph in his Toyota to earn his first pole of the season.

It puts him one spot ahead of reigning NASCAR champion Joey Logano on the starting grid, and Busch and Logano are the two drivers above the cutline to earn berths in next week’s championship field.

Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick have both already locked themselves into the final four, and six drivers are vying for the final two positions.

Denny Hamlin, the Daytona 500 winner and Busch and Truex’s teammate for Joe Gibbs Racing, qualified third and Truex was fourth.

Kyle Larson was the highest-qualifying Chevrolet at fifth, followed by Chase Elliott and Harvick.

Ryan Blaney was the lowest qualifying playoff driver at 10th.

Larson, Elliott and Blaney likely need to win to advance to the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Hamlin needs Busch or Logano to have some sort of issue, or, a win Sunday.

Wallace fined $50,000 by NASCAR for intentional spin

AVONDALE, Ariz. — Bubba Wallace said he wasn’t worried about repercussions for intentionally causing a caution because NASCAR doesn’t do anything about the practice.

NASCAR accepted the dare from Wallace. He was fined $50,000 and docked 50 points on Saturday, a day after admitting to an NBC Sports reporter his spin at Texas Motor Speedway was deliberate and other drivers do it all the time.

“Until they do anything, no. I’m not the only one to do it,” he said in a phone video recording.

Wallace was reacting to earlier comments made by championship contender Kyle Larson, who had the outcome of last Sunday’s race altered when Wallace intentionally spun to avoid losing multiple laps for a flat tire. That caution changed the complexion of Larson’s race and dumped him into a huge hole in the standings.

There’s only Sunday’s penultimate event at ISM Raceway outside Phoenix remaining to claim the final two spots in the title-deciding race.

Larson said his Chip Ganassi Racing team had pulled data from Wallace’s car to confirm Larson’s belief it was a deliberate attempt to bring out a caution.

“We looked at Bubba’s data and you can definitely see him swerving, he turns right and then at the same time he turns left and stabs the throttle and spins out. It’s whatever at this point,” Larson said.

NASCAR said Saturday the data was not enough to prove Wallace’s intent and his fine was for the “complete admission of guilt” he made to NBC Sports.

NASCAR met with Wallace and his Richard Petty Motorsports team Saturday morning.

“We fully understand NASCAR’s position and expectations of its competitors,” said RPM competition director Philippe Lopez. “NASCAR has a difficult job officiating race events and we do not need to make the task more challenging.”

Larson’s criticism immediately after Sunday’s race brought the issue of deliberate cautions to the forefront during an intense competition for the two remaining positions in the next week’s final four. NASCAR champion Joey Logano had a flat tire and spun two weeks ago at Martinsville and the timing of it was suspicious enough to raise eyebrows.

Logano has said the flat tire made him spin, and Larson is among drivers who believe him. But the Wallace spin made this a hot topic that had drivers opining on NASCAR’s role in making judgment calls.

The series in 2014 was rocked by the biggest cheating scandal in at least 20 years when Clint Bowyer deliberately caused a caution to help then-teammate Martin Truex Jr. make the playoffs. Bowyer’s spin set in motion a series of shenanigans by several teams as they gamed the system and manipulated NASCAR’s inability to police the action and intent of all its teams.

NASCAR strongly penalized teams involved and made clear that integrity and honesty was being closely monitored, more so in the playoffs.

But the sanctioning body had not waded into the Wallace situation until his admission the spin was deliberate.

Drivers are divided on if NASCAR can or should police the issue.

“It’s hard to make a black and white rule on that when something is on purpose or one was an accident,” Logano said. “How do you really know?  All sports deal with that. Think about soccer. Geez, you watch that and they’re flopping all day long out there.”

But Denny Hamlin noted that integrity should be higher among the drivers, even though many have admitted to spinning on purpose in attempts to save their race.

“I think it should play out naturally. I’m all for whatever is natural, not messing around with the cautions and getting them when you need them,” Denny Hamlin said. “Our sport is so different than others when it comes to that. When someone in football fakes an injury and it slows the game down, or gets a time out, that’s not a game changer, right?

“However, a caution that is untimely for someone that has pitted versus someone who hasn’t is a complete game changer. You can’t fake things no matter what the sport, but the stakes are higher in NASCAR because you can really screw people over.”

 

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