NASCAR Saturday Atlanta Notes: Button Gets Advice; Byron, Harvick Differ on Hamlin Penalty

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NASCAR Saturday Atlanta Notes: Button Gets AdviceJonathan Bachman - Getty Images

Keselowski: NASCAR Penalty Good For RFK Racing

A year ago, after the NASCAR Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway Brad Keselowski was frustrated and angry for the huge penalty NASCAR assessed him and his No. 6 team for modifying a single-source part. Today, the team co-owner is glad it happened.

“It was one of the best things to ever happen to us because it forced us to look within and improve ourselves,” Keselowski said. “It changed our culture inside of the company to where we had better behaviors. It was good for the industry. I thought it set a tone for the industry.”

The single source supplied part that was modified was a tail panel. Keselowski was docked 100 drivers and 100 owner points, 10 playoff points, had crew chief Matt McCall suspended for four Cup races, and fined $100,000.


“I think it’s really easy, and I’ve fallen victim to this as well, to look at NASCAR as the boogieman,” Keselowski said. “In a lot of ways, they’re trying to help us and trying to help the sport and make sure that it can be healthy.

“Whether or not NASCAR is right or Hendrick is right with their penalty, I don’t know to that specific situation, but as a whole, I do understand the inclination and the emotion behind the teams and maybe the fans getting fired up over a penalty, but in the end, penalties are there for a reason. They’re there to make this circus somewhat manageable and sustainable.”

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Button makes his NASCAR debut next weekend at Circuit of Americas.James Gilbert - Getty Images

Preece Gives Button Advice at Pit Crew Practice

When former Formula One champion Jenson Button makes his NASCAR debut next weekend at Circuit of Americas, it will be the first time he has ever experienced a pit stop the way it is executed in stock car racing.

During a recent pit stop practice at Stewart-Haas Racing, Ryan Preece’s advice to Button was to pretend his crew members didn’t exist.

“You’re not going to hit them. They’re not going to let you hit them,” Preece said he told Button.

“He’s going to be just fine. He was nailing the marks.”

Button, who won the F1 championship with Brawn GP in 2009, is driving the No. 15 Ford Mustang for Rick Ware Racing in three NASCAR Cup races this year. In addition to COTA, he will enter the July 2 Chicago Street Race and the Aug. 13 event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.

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NASCAR fined Denny Hamlin $50,000 and 25-driver point deduction last week. Icon Sportswire - Getty Images

Byron Calls Hamlin’s Penalty Unfortunate; Harvick Has A Different Take

William Byron believes the $50,000 fine and 25-driver point deduction NASCAR assessed Denny Hamlin for admitting on his podcast that he wrecked Ross Chastain on the last lap at Phoenix Raceway is “unfortunate.”

“You’re going to have a game of poker, because now guys aren’t going to be able to say what happened,” Byron said Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “There are a lot of guys that fake it in interviews and us drivers know that. So, it’s unfortunate that those are the guys that get away with it.”

However, Kevin Harvick sees it differently since NASCAR considered the accident between Hamlin and Chastain on the final lap a racing incident before Hamlin broadcast his admission.

“It’s like going to court and saying your guilty,” Harvick said. “It’s tough to not respond. It’s tough to respond differently when the plea is already guilty.

“I think from a driver’s standpoint you still have a lot of leeway. There’s always going to be differing opinions, but I can tell you that wrecking people under caution and wrecking people on purpose in the state that we’re in with being prone to injuries and the way the car crashes still, that stuff needs to end.

“Racing hard, things happening and being able to pay a guy back is still achievable.”

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Kevin Meendering formally was crew chief for Jimmie Johnson. Jared C. Tilton - Getty Images

Familiarity With Interim Crew Chiefs Vary

With all four Hendrick Motorsports crew chiefs suspended earlier this week by NASCAR, Kyle Larson is probably the least familiar with his substitute.

Greg Ives, who was Alex Bowman’s crew chief for six seasons, returns to the pit box after stepping away from it at the end of last season.

William Byron expects interim crew chief Brian Campe to be “great” because he works with him a great deal in the shop through the team’s competition meetings and spends a “lot” of time with him. He has worked with his engineer Brandon McSwain since his JR Motorsports days in 2017.

“He was my engineer at JRM when we won the championship and he’ll be a bigger factor, bigger role, throughout the weekend,” Byron said. “I’m excited for that because we know each other really well. We probably exchange texts about 10 times a week on the car.”

However, Kyle Larson didn’t see interim crew chief Kevin Meendering until he arrived at Atlanta Motor Speedway Saturday morning.