NNS Notes: Regan Smith retains early points lead

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After winning the season opener at Daytona International Speedway one week ago, Regan Smith continued his solid start to 2014 by retaining the Nationwide Series points lead with an eighth-place showing today at Phoenix International Raceway.

The JR Motorsports driver now holds a five-point lead over Trevor Bayne, who finished one spot ahead of him in seventh place.

Altogether, it was another solid day for JRM, which had Kevin Harvick racing in their No. 88 car today. Harvick, always strong at Phoenix, was able to come away with a runner-up finish, while rookie driver Chase Elliott earned his first Top-10 finish in Nationwide competition with a ninth-place result.

After the race, Harvick said he was simply trying to “maintain” the second-place position due to his car being loose on restarts.

[Winner] Kyle [Busch] had the best car today,” he told the NASCAR Wire Service. “We probably finished where we should have.”

Brad Keselowski finished third from the pole position but a run-in with Daryl Harr on Lap 20 had the former Sprint Cup champion feeling some remorse.

Harr appeared to come down to the inside of Turn 1 but Keselowski was unable to slow himself down enough and tapped Harr, sending him spinning into the wall.

“It’s a lot like going down the freeway – you’re in the left lane, someone’s in the right lane and they switch lanes while you’re going a little bit faster,” Keselowski told ESPN in the first moments of the red flag that came out for rain with 32 laps to go (the race would not be restarted).

“You can’t react but it’s your fault because you’ve hit him from behind. I couldn’t slow down enough to keep from hitting him from behind and causing him to wreck. I feel bad for those guys. I know they’re trying their best to make it in this series, and it’s unfortunate.”

Keselowski suffered some front-end damage in the incident and had a long stop in the pits to tape it up. However, his pace was strong enough to make up the track position he lost.

Later in post-race, Keselowski talked about the loss of his Sprint Cup crew chief, Paul Wolfe, for tomorrow’s The Profit on CNBC 500. Wolfe has flown back to North Carolina to be with his wife for the birth of their first child.

“We were definitely prepared [for that], but that doesn’t mean we aren’t concerned,” Keselowski said. “There is always concern. There is a reason Paul is the crew chief on the 2 car. He is a great guy, knows what he is doing and is our best guy from that perspective.

“There is always a concern there but you prepare the best you can and try to understand the personal significance of what it is to go through what he is going through. Hopefully it all goes great.”

Keselowski will look to win from the pole tomorrow.

IndyCar will eliminate double points from the 2020 season finale

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Though the NTT IndyCar Series hasn’t confirmed the date of its 2020 season finale, it has determined that double points won’t be in play.

An IndyCar official confirmed Monday to NBCSports.com that whether the season ends at Weather Tech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California, or on the streets of St. Petersburg, neither race will feature double points. Team owners were informed of the change during a conference call last week.

The news was first reported by RACER.com.

With the original 17-race schedule having been shortened by the cancellation of at least three races (Circuit of The Americas, Barber Motorsports Park, the Long Beach Grand Prix), using double points in the finale would have carried even greater weight (and perhaps more so if more races are unable to be run because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

IndyCar has been using double points at select races since the 2015 season. The 104th Indianapolis 500 will remain a double-points event.

In rescheduling the Indy 500 to Aug. 23 last week, IndyCar unveiled a revised schedule that listed Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg as TBD for its season finale. The race originally had been scheduled to open the season before being called off because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

IndyCar CEO Mark Miles told reporters last week that St. Pete probably would be slotted into the first two weeks October after the Sept. 20 race at Laguna Seca that had been slated to be the season finale for the second consecutive year.