Drivers lobby NASCAR to let them cool cars in pits during qualifying

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After making its debut today at Phoenix International Raceway, we can say NASCAR’s new knock-out qualifying format is more interesting than its former single-car qualifying format. But it’s definitely still a work in progress.

For example, one of the more notable instances from today’s session was drivers turning slow laps and cutting their motors on the track in an attempt to cool their cars down enough for one more hot lap. Under the rules of the new format, teams are not allowed to cool the cars down on pit road.

The slow laps made for a bit of a lull in the session, but more importantly, they’re a potential safety issue.

“When you’re going out there and you’re going 100 mph slower, the closing rate is really fast, so it gets kind of scary,” said Team Penske’s Joey Logano after qualifying on the front row for Sunday’s The Profit on CNBC 500.

Jamie McMurray (pictured), who qualified third on the inside of Row 2 for Sunday’s event, believed that the sanctioning body should consider allowing the teams to be able to cool their cars in the pits.

“When we do normal qualifying runs and you shut the car off at the start/finish line and coast back to the garage – when you start the car back up, it’s had enough time to push the air through the radiator that when you start it up, it cools down 20 degrees. Everybody already knew that and I think it’d be hard to police on NASCAR’s side,” McMurray said.

“I mean, I’m answering your question with a statement – I think they need to let us cool the engines down so we can run full tape [on the grill] the whole time and eliminate that.”

McMurray believes that such a scenario would make it easier on teams to adjust their cars knowing they don’t have to gauge the temperature and decide if they need to pull tape off.

Furthermore, he believes it would be less costly for the teams as well.

“To me, what this will start is people buying expensive batteries so you can run better fans on the radiators to push more air – to me, it’ll just save everybody more money if we can just do the cool-down unit.”

Logano, perhaps noting the down time in the session, chimed in as well: “The cars would also go out more often. It takes so long to cool, so if you can do it in five minutes and go back out, there would be more cars on the race track to do a hot lap.”

As for NASCAR’s viewpoint, vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said that the reason for not having cool-down units used was to ensure that the hoods would stay closed and illegal adjustments to the car would not be made.

“Like everything we’ve been able to do the last 4-6 months, we’ll continue to talk to the drivers and teams, and solicit feedback on how, if anything, we can improve,” he said.

“We heard some of the same [feedback] and we also heard drivers within the last 30 minutes stop by and say, ‘Don’t let anybody talk you into hooking up the cool-down units.’

“Because they feel it’s part of the strategy of how much tape you run, how many laps you run, how many times you run in the entire session. There are a whole menu of things that people want to work on and not work on.”

Indy Lights: Askew wins at Gateway as Veekay’s tires wear off

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For the fourth consecutive race, Oliver Askew is an winner in Indy Lights competition, and with only four races reaming in the 2019 season, the 22-year-old Floridian is on the cusp of winning his first series championship.

After starting Saturday’s 75-lap event at World Wide Technology Raceway from the pole position, Askew was quickly passed by Rinus Veekay on the first lap. However, Askew continued to follow VeeKay closely before retaking the lead on lap 53, a lead which he would not relinquish through the checkered flag.

“I think our car was just better,” Askew told NBC Sports after winning his seventh race of the season.

“I understood that from the beginning that he [VeeKay] had more straight line speed than us, so he was more trimmed out, and I knew that he was going to lose his tires at the end, and he did.

“I just had to keep the pressure on and wait for my opportunity.”

With his victory, Askew now extends his lead over VeeKay in the point standings by 52 points.

For Veekay, who held on to finish second, the fight to remain in the title race will not be an easy one.

“I’ll try everything I can but it’s been very tough,” VeeKay said. “The team and I, we’re giving it all we have. That’s all we can do.”

Daivd Malukas finished third, while Ryan Norman and and Robert Mcgennis finished fourth and fifth, respectfully.

Dalton Kellett took the checkered flag where he started in the sixth position, and Lucas Kohl finished the race in the seventh position.

Toby Sowery finished the race in the eighth and final position after bringing out the lone caution of the race by spinning in Turn 2 on lap 12.

Indy Lights drivers and teams will now head out to the Pacific Northwest for a double header at Portland International Raceway on Saturday, August 31 and Sunday, September 1. Both races will air live on NBC Sports Gold.

Click here for full race results 

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