NASCAR issues several rule updates for coming season

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NASCAR issued a bulletin Monday with updated rules for the coming season for Sprint Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series.

Among the updates:

  • Only drivers who are licensed and approved for competition in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will be eligible to participate in a NASCAR-approved tire test.
  • The March 2-3 NASCAR tire test at Atlanta has been canceled. That was to have been held Monday and Tuesday after the Atlanta race and just before the Cup series begins its three-week West Coast swing. Teams that were to have taken part in that test: Richard Childress Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing, Roush Fenway Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing.
  • NASCAR clarified that should a vehicle pit out of its assigned stall and the crew begins to remove the tire(s), the crew must reinstall the tire(s) before moving the car back into its assigned stall to avoid a penalty. This is for Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series.
  • Any crew member interfering with another crew’s pit stop, causing the other team to incur a penalty or not, may incur a penalty. This is for each of the three national series.
  • Additional crew member(s), assigned to servicing the car or not, who purposely assist from an adjacent pit box on the work service side of pit road may be counted toward the limit of seven crew members over the wall. This is for each of the three national series.
  • NASCAR clarified the refueling procedure. Refueling can begin once the car is stopped in its assigned pit stall. The fueler may continue to refuel the car as it departs and crosses the front line of the pit box provided any equipment used and/or the fueler do not cross over the front or the side line of the pit box. Also, fueling cans or any other equipment must not be tossed or thrown over the pit service wall at any time. This is for each of the three national series.
  • NASCAR lists violating the private team test ban as a P6 penalty for all three series.
  • NASCAR mandates that the switch for the driver-adjustable track bar motor in Cup be located on the dash panel with the other accessory switches on the steering wheel or on the left or right side of the seat or seat leg extensions.
  • NASCAR clarified that added ballast must be in block form using minimum five-pound blocks. NASCAR clarified that the added weight must be in blocks.

 

Sebastien Ogier in driver’s seat for sixth straight World Rally Championship title

Sebastien Ogier leads the way in the WRC title chase. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) — Thierry Neuville finished the sixth stage of Rally Australia on Friday without a rear left tire, damaging his chances of catching five-time defending champion Sebastien Ogier for the World Rally Championship title.

The Belgian driver entered the rally just three points behind Ogier in the closest title fight in 15 years.

He held the upper hand on his French rival, building a near-10 second gap through the first five stages at Coffs Harbour before hitting a chicane and finishing the stage with only three tires on his Hyundai.

Neuville was fortunate the puncture occurred late enough in the day to finish all six forestry stages and avoid a retirement. But the mistake cost him 40 seconds and gave Ogier, who is 33 seconds ahead of him, a clear run at his sixth straight championship.

In his last start with Ford before a move to Citroen next year, Ogier struggled as the first to drive the dusty, slippery forest routes.

“I pushed like crazy, I was on the limit over the jump and everywhere, I can’t do (any) more,” Ogier said. “I was on the limit.”

With Ogier on sweeping duties the back markers flourished, and Mads Ostberg took the lead in his return to the series.

Ostberg was forced to miss the previous round in Spain to make way for rally winner and nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, who was making the last of his three guest appearances for Citroen.

Now back in the seat, Ostberg leads Jari-Matti Latvala by 6.8 seconds in the Australian rally, with sixth-stage winner Craig Breen in third.

Ogier was seventh, 38.2 seconds off the pace, but only needs to finish ahead of Neuville to claim the championship title. Neuville is in 10th place after six stages.

Roles will reverse on Saturday, with Ogier to start further back in the field and do his best on cleaner roads to make up the day-one deficit before Sunday’s final stages.

Andreas Mikkelsen, the 2016 Rally Australia champion, was an early dropout after rolling into a ditch in his Hyundai. Mikkelsen had only just avoided a tractor that had found its way onto the course.

Former winner Molly Taylor and co-driver Malcolm Read were also forced out of their event when their Subaru hit a hay bale at high speed on the morning’s second stage. Both reported soreness but suffered no serious injuries.

The 24-stage rally totals 319 kilometers (197 miles). Ten stages are scheduled Saturday with the final six on Sunday, most of them through forests on the New South Wales state’s north coast about 530 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.