NASCAR: Kurt Busch docked 10 points, crew chief fined $10k for rules infraction

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Kurt Busch and his No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing team have been tagged by NASCAR with losses of driver and owner’s points, as well as a $10,000 fine for Busch’s crew chief, Daniel Knost.

The penalties come after a rules infraction was discovered during post-race inspection on the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet after Sunday’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

The infraction involves the measurement of the “Z-height.” In a bulletin, NASCAR cited Section 20-12 of the 2014 Rule Book, which discloses that at all times during races at Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway, “the Delta (or difference) of the Z-height measurement between the center of the panhard bar mounting bolt located at the left truck trailing arm and the center of the panhard bar mounting bolt, located at the right rear sub-frame mounting bracket, must not exceed three inches.”

Additionally, NASCAR said the infraction also violated Section 12-1, which involves actions detrimental to stock car racing. As a result of all of this, Busch has lost 10 driver’s points while car owner Gene Haas has lost the same amount in owner’s points.

However, the points penalty will not impact Busch’s standing in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. “The Outlaw” secured a place on the Chase Grid by winning earlier this season at Martinsville.

All regular season winners must remain in the Top 30 of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings to keep their Chase eligibility. But while Busch has fallen to 26th in the standings after this penalty, he remains 156 points ahead of 31st-place David Gilliland.

In short, his Chase outlook remains just fine.

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.