Richard Petty not convinced likely changes to Chase for Sprint Cup will help

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — While most of the drivers on this week’s NASCAR Media Tour seem to be in favor of the likely changes expected to be announced Thursday for the Chase for the Sprint Cup format, legendary team owner and Hall of Fame member Richard Petty isn’t as convinced.

“Another PR deal, okay,” Petty said with a laugh during Wednesday’s session with the media. “What can NASCAR do to cause a little bit more interest in the way the points standings are?”

The changes that NASCAR chairman Brian France is expected to announce during his annual state of the sport address Thursday include expanding the Chase field from 12 to 16 drivers, as well as implement eliminations of four drivers each after the third, sixth and ninth races of the Chase, leaving a four-driver winner-take-all shootout for the season finale at Homestead Miami Speedway.

Petty shares the record for most NASCAR Sprint Cup championships won by a driver – seven – with the late Dale Earnhardt.

Neither of them seemed to worry too much about points systems – nor were they adversely affected by several changes to the system in their respective careers, Petty said.

“I won championships in I think five different ways that they counted the points,” Petty said. “In the long run, no matter how you cut the points, look at them and stuff, you’re pretty well going to have the best guys winning the championship.

“So it’s not going to be somebody that’s not a championship driver to win the championship. They can count it about any way they want to and still come up with probably the best (drivers) that year.”

In other words, Petty wouldn’t be surprised if Jimmie Johnson takes to the new system like a duck to water en route to a seventh Cup crown in 2014, which would tie Johnson with Petty and Earnhardt.

“It’s just something different, it’s just another change,” Petty said. “Whether it’s the right format or not, it’s the format that football and baseball are following, so NASCAR looks at it and says, ‘Wow, it’s pretty successful there, let’s give it a try here.”

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.