Saturday Richmond Notebook: NASCAR president says ‘Nice try’ to Carl Edwards’ query
By: By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service, Superior Telegram
RICHMOND, Va. — Matt Kenseth won the pole for last weekend’s Sprint Cup event at Kansas Speedway, but he didn’t get to reap any of the benefits, after NASCAR penalized his team for using an underweight connecting rod in the engine of the No. 20 Toyota.
The sanctioning body told Kenseth that his pole wouldn’t count toward eligibility for the 2014 Sprint Unlimited, the preseason exhibition race at Daytona for 2013 polesitters and previous winners of the race.
Carl Edwards, who lost the pole to Kenseth by .017 seconds, figured Kenseth’s penalty might make him eligible for the Sprint Unlimited, but NASCAR president Mike Helton had a different point of view.
“When I saw the news, I texted Mike Helton right away, and I said, ‘All right, cool, we’re in the (Unlimited) next year, right? We got the pole,’” Edwards said. “And he sent back, ‘LOL!’ I didn’t think it was that funny, but he thought it was funny.
“I think (Roush Fenway general manager) Robbie Reiser proceeded to ask him, and then (crew chief) Jimmy Fennig, and he got a good laugh out of it.”
Crew Chief Tony Gibson said he was “tickled to death” at driver Danica Patrick’s qualifying effort for Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
That might seem like high praise for a 30th-place result in time trials, but not, as Gibson explained, when you look closely at the numbers.
Patrick was the third driver to make a qualifying attempt, following Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman on the grid in the warmest part of the session. In her first visit to the .75-mile track in a Sprint Cup car, Patrick’s time held up against some of the powerhouses of the sport who followed her in the qualifying order.
Patrick’s time of 20.979 seconds (128.700 mph) was only .004 seconds off that of 28th-place qualifier Carl Edwards, who had a late draw.
“She was only a few hundredths (.013 seconds) off Jimmie Johnson’s time,” Gibson said. “She did a great job in qualifying.”
Gibson said the effort at Richmond, which follows a strong 12th-place run Apr. 7 at Martinsville, is emblematic of the driver’s progress. For the race at Richmond, Gibson wanted Patrick to concentrate on the car’s ability to put the power down and drive up off the corner.
“The entry into the corner will take care of itself,” Gibson said. “The key to this place is maintaining forward drive off the corner.”
Two Richard Childress Racing crewmen were arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault after an altercation that started during Friday night’s Nationwide Series race continued in the motor home lot outside the track.
Michael Searce, known in the garage as “Big Mike,” and Thomas Costello were charged and released early Saturday morning. Searce was charged with two counts of misdemeanor assault, Costello with one.
RCR driver Brian Scott and Turner Scott Motorsports’ Nelson Piquet Jr. traded shot on the race track before and immediately after the checkered flag in Friday night’s race. After the drivers exited their cars, Piquet shoved Scott and kicked him below the belt.
Turner Scott Motorsports confirmed that the subsequent incident in the motor home lot involved Piquet.
“Turner Scott Motorsports can confirm that an incident occurred near the Driver/Owner parking lot of Richmond International Raceway following the NASCAR Nationwide Series race on Friday, April 26th,” the statement said.
“Several members of another race team (RCR) confronted a group that included Nelson Piquet Jr., resulting in the arrest of two individuals from the other race team. TSM will have no further comment on the incident as the matter is an active case with the Henrico Police Department.”