Fan Profile: Shaun Gilmer

These 12 Questions-style fan profiles are one of the rewards offered as a tier on my Patreon page. You can catch up on the other profiles so far this season here.

Name: Shaun Gilmer

Location: Pleasant Grove, Ala. — just outside of Birmingham.

Twitter name: allofthepeople

Age: 31

1. How long have you been a NASCAR fan?

As long as I can remember. I grew up around it.

2. How many races have you attended?

More than I can count. I have been going anywhere from a couple to a half-dozen race weekends a year for most of my life — for both work and play.

3. Who is your No. 1 favorite driver?

All time: Davey Allison. Now: Kyle Larson.

4. What made you a fan of those drivers?

Actually, they are both connected. I was raised and still live around Hueytown, Ala. Knowing someone from my very own backyard could make it big in something inspired me.

My grandmother, who raised me, always loved Bobby Allison — so it all just came naturally. Ironically, I now work for him (as the new media manager for Bobby Allison Racing), so you could say things have come full circle.

After Davey’s passing, I stuck with the Texaco Havoline branding (as a fan) and ended up with the Ganassi No. 42 car and never left.

5. Who is your most disliked driver?

I have too many friends in the sport, so I’d rather not say. Ha! They are a top active driver though.

6. Why don’t you like that person?

The past and current behavior they have shown toward me and others.

7. What is your favorite track?

Past NASCAR affiliated track: Birmingham International Raceway. Current: Talladega.

8. What is one thing you would change if you were in charge of NASCAR?

I would find a way to better make the traditionalist fans understand that the sport has to evolve to survive.

9. What is one thing you would keep the same if you were in charge of NASCAR?

Make sure the fan access never changes.

10. How often do you yell at the TV during a race?

Ha! A couple of times per race, at least.

11. Do you have any advice for other fans?

Give change a chance. “The way it was” would not keep us in business. Be open-minded.

12. What else do you want the NASCAR world to know about you?

One of the things I am most proud of is being given the Key to the City of Hueytown as a child for trying to help build an Alabama Gang Museum. I still hope one day we can.

Shaun Gilmer, left (in 44 hat), stands with Brian Scott at a Talladega race. Gilmer previously worked with Scott as a new media manager. (Photo courtesy of Shaun Gilmer)

Survivor Game Changers Power Rankings: Week 9

Well, well, well…how about that flip last week? Just when it looked like the majority alliance of six was going to pick off the other five players one by one for the next few weeks (BORING!), Sarah switched it up with her big move.

Although I’m not convinced Debbie was the right person to target (she was ranked No. 9 last week), it sure was satisfying to see her go home. And now the numbers are six (Cirie, Andrea, Aubry, Michaela, Zeke and maybe Sarah) to four (Brad, Sierra, Tai, Troyzan).

Here’s how the final 10 players stack up entering tonight’s episode (ranked by best chance to win):

1. Sarah (Last week: 2). Playing in the middle at this point in the game is a dangerous gamble, but Sarah is pulling it off so far. Can she keep it up while positioning herself to make the final three? As noted on the Survivor Know It Alls podcast, returning players often play like the winner from their season — and Sarah is playing a lot like Tony, only better. Still, that might catch up to her at some point.

2. Aubry (Last week: 4). Early in the season, there was talk about Aubry being a threat because she was so strategic. Remember, these players just watched her season before they went out to play (Millennials vs. Gen X hadn’t aired yet). But she keeps hanging around, and as long as bigger threats are still in the game, maybe she’s got a shot.

3. Cirie (Last week: 10). Her weak moment in the challenge actually might have helped her cause. It emphasized how little of a threat she is to win a physical contest, so maybe people won’t target her if that’s the case. Plus, thanks to Sarah, she now appears to be firmly in the majority alliance.

4. Andrea (Last week: 6). It seems like Andrea is starting to crack a little bit, but she’s also in the majority (as long as Sarah doesn’t flip again). I doubt we’ve seen the end of her battle with Zeke, though, and I think he could execute his goal if he gets another chance.

5. Sierra (Last week: 5). So much for that. Just when it looked like Sierra was in a power position, she now finds herself in the minority — this after she proposed a final three deal with Sarah and Debbie! Sarah may choose to work with her again, though, which could help Sierra’s chances if she can get over the feeling of betrayal from the Debbie vote.

6. Troyzan (Last week: 1). The Sarah flip was a big turn of events for Troyzan. Even his own alliance (Sierra, Brad, Tai) would probably rather throw him under the bus now to save themselves for another week. However, he does have an idol — which he might need to use sooner than later.

7. Brad (last week: 3). His chances plummet thanks to Sarah’s move, which now puts him in a minority alliance. Even if Sarah reunites with her buddy Sierra, will Brad get spared? He’s a target and will be for the rest of the game.

8. Tai (Last week: 8). I’ve been down on Tai all season, and a lot of the feedback from you Power Rankings readers lately is that I have him too low. After all, he has TWO idols and hasn’t made a bad move yet. But I still feel like the other players don’t take him very seriously, and this jury of veterans is ultimately going to want to reward a real strategist. Tai just isn’t that, and I have to go with my gut here.

9. Zeke (Last week: 11) Well, he’s out of the line of fire for the moment as he temporarily reunited with the Andrea alliance and was able to help Sarah pull off her move. But even though he’s in the majority, there’s still a lot working against him: Namely, people are aware he’s too much of a “player” and also has a compelling “story.” So they probably won’t let him get to the final three.

10. Michaela (Last week: 7). I know a lot of people don’t like Michaela, but oh my gosh, she cracks me up so much with her antics. A couple weeks after sipping from the mug as J.T. got blindsided, she ate coconut like it was popcorn while Debbie got the boot. Hilarious! That said, I doubt other players appreciate her attitude — and I don’t think the jury would give her $1 million in the end.

12 Questions with Elliott Sadler

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with Xfinity Series points leader Elliott Sadler of JR Motorsports. I spoke to Sadler at Bristol Motor Speedway. This interview is available both as a podcast and written interview, which is transcribed below.

1. How much of your success is based on natural ability and how much has come from working at it?

I think it’s gotta be 70 percent from natural ability and 30 percent from working at it. From what I’ve learned in my career, I wish I worked as hard when I was 20 as I do now. I’m way in better shape than I was 20 years ago. I’m more mentally prepared each and every week for races now than I was 20 years ago. I just wish I knew then what I know now (about) working at it and staying right.

But I think natural ability and hand-eye coordination, just starting at an early age and getting adapted to it and adjusting to it as you go, I think helped me get to where I’m at today.

2. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards have all retired in the last couple years. What’s your pitch for fans of theirs to become fans of yours?

Hey man, I’m kind of one of those old-school drivers, too. Don’t jump ship and go to these young guys yet. (Laughs) Stay with someone who raced against some of these guys.

It’s neat to see young guys coming in and I know our sport’s healthy, but fans, support the people who have been around for a while. Keep us going; stay on our bandwagon for as long as you can.

3. What is the hardest part of your job away from the racetrack?

The hardest part of my job honestly is leaving my wife and kids every week, especially my kids. They don’t really understand why I’m gone for a couple days at a time. My son really wants to come with me every week, but we’ve got to do school and we have some other things going on. So by far, leaving is the toughest part.

4. A fan spots you eating dinner in a nice restaurant. Should they come over for an autograph or no?

Oh, 100 percent. You know, I’ve always had this rule: If you’re nice to me, I’m nice to you. So come on over if you want. A lot of fans have been really good about waiting until they watch you finish eating because, look, man, I’m a pretty messy eater. You might not want me to shake your hand or sign anything if I’m eating some chicken wings or something like that. But I’ve always been, “Hey, if you’re nice and courteous to me, I’m the same with you.”

5. What’s a story in NASCAR that doesn’t get enough coverage?

Wow, a story in NASCAR that doesn’t get enough coverage. That’s really good. I don’t know of any right now because it’s not getting enough coverage, Jeff. (Laughs)

Everyone’s talking about the new stage racing and the bonus points for the regular season, but I don’t hear a lot of media people or TV talking about the actual bonus points that’s accumulated (for the playoffs). They’re showing all the bonus points that people are accumulating during the races, but they’re not making one for the actual championship Chase that you get to keep through the Chase the whole time.

That’s what they should be showing. That’s way more important. The one point that you’re getting towards the championship in the playoffs is more important than the 10 points you’re getting for leading the stage.

Yeah, it’s like, “This guy just got five points for the race during the regular season,” but you already know that he’s going to be in the playoffs. That bonus point, that’s what is really going to matter.

It is 100 percent way more important that I think the media or TV and all of that kind of miss the boat on. That’s way more important than the lists that they’re showing out now TV.

6. Who is the last driver you texted?

I texted Dale Jarrett yesterday, does he count?

He’s a driver.

He’s won a few races. He and I were texting each other yesterday, laughing about some trips that we had to Bristol in the past when we were teammates. It’s good to have those memories.

I think the last one other than him that I raced with was Clint Bowyer.

That’s probably a good guy to text with. I’m sure he always keeps it fun.

Always, no matter what you text him. But you have to text him in really short sentences. He’s not going to pay attention, you know, (past) two lines on his phone. If it goes more than two lines, you’ve lost him. It’s got to be very short and concise.

7. Do you consider race car drivers to be entertainers?

No. I don’t look at it that way at all. I think fans are entertained one way or another by what we do, but I don’t look at us as entertainers. I look at us as athletes trying to do our job and win races and run up front, and hopefully you’re entertained by that.

But I don’t think it’s my job to go out there and create a storyline on or off the racetrack to try to entertain what’s going on. My job is to try to put my car in victory lane.

8. What is your middle finger policy on the racetrack?

I give it often and I get it sometimes. (Laughs) Mostly to the young guys that don’t really understand the procedures of the sport. You know, that’s the biggest thing why we miss Dale Earnhardt and Rusty Wallace and Dale Jarrett and Mark Martin, some of those guys that will pretty much grab you and tell you what you did wrong. You can’t really do that anymore, so middle fingers are definitely used.

A lot of people use them. Just be careful what color gloves you wear, because they can pick it up pretty easy from outside.

9. Some drivers keep a payback list in their minds. Do you also have a list for drivers who have done you a favor on the track?

One hundred percent. I’ve always kept a mental note of, “I know this guy is gonna help me — like when we’re restrictor plate racing. This guy does this, this guy does that. This guy’s positive to work with. I’m not gonna work with this guy because he’s gonna bail on you as soon as something happens.”

So yes, you definitely have a list of drivers that you would rather work with or you can give and take more. Some guys won’t give and take at all with you. Some guys will, and you know that.

Bubba Wallace let me go by him last week, so this week when he gets to me, if he catches me from half a straightaway behind, I’ll let him go. So you give and take and understand who does that for you. Tony Stewart said from Day 1, “You race people the way you want to be raced.” So that creates a negative list and a positive list.

10. Who is the most famous person you’ve had dinner with?

The most famous person I’ve had dinner with — Vince Vaughn.

Vince Vaughn, that’s pretty cool. How was that dinner?

That was pretty awesome and this was right when Wedding Crashers came out.

That was like peak Vince Vaughn.

It was peak Vince Vaughn. It was in Las Vegas through friends of friends and we ended up at the same table and hung out that night for a few beverages and I learned that he talks just as fast in real life as he did on the big screen. But that was a pretty entertaining dinner that I was part of.

So you were with a dude who was in Swingers in Vegas, hanging out with him? That’s hard to beat right there.

Yes, it’s pretty cool. That might be the highlight of my life in Vegas. (Laughs)

11. What’s something about yourself you’d like to improve?

My English, man. I’ve got a Southern drawl. A lot of times when I talk, my crew chief can’t understand me because he’s from Michigan. If I can work on that — is there some kind of tapes that I can listen to to help me speak? I know you’re shaking your head no right now, like you can’t understand me, Gluck.

I don’t Rosetta Stone has come out with something yet.

See? I know she helps you with foreign languages, but how about like a Southern twang? 

Or Virginia. Why isn’t there that?

Exactly! We need our own Hooked on Phonics book in Southern Virginia.

12. The last interview was with Kyle Larson. His question was: You’ve seen all sorts of different drivers come through the ranks over the years. How has the racing style changed, especially with the influx of younger drivers coming in today?

The biggest difference I’ve seen is (that) younger drivers used to come in with not as good equipment. They used to come in on lower level — I don’t want to say lower level, but different-tiered teams. So they gave a lot more and went through the learning process.

Now I think younger drivers are in top-notch equipment right off the bat, and they can be more aggressive and they can afford to tear up a race car because they know they’re going to get another brand new one next week.

Before, when I came along, it was a lot different — you had to learn how to take care of your stuff, and if that meant that you had to slow down a little bit to make sure you took care of your stuff, you had to do that. So the biggest thing I’ve seen there is young drivers that are really good and they are also in really good equipment.

I don’t know who the next interview is going to be with, so do you have a question I can ask another driver in general?

Yes. Does he or she think it would be great for the sport if they start pulling a pill and inverting the field right before the race starts? Let’s say you qualify and right before the race starts, and when we’re doing the national anthem — make a big deal out of it — the pole winner has to pull a pill out of a hat and it could be eight, 10, 12, four, whatever (amount of cars) NASCAR thinks is cool, and that’s how many cars are inverted, and you don’t know until right before the race starts.

You wouldn’t want to sandbag too much, but you’d want to maybe sandbag a little bit in qualifying.

Well it depends on what the rules are. Maybe it’s a pill in there with a zero on it. Make it unpredictable, but I think you could really build something around it, like see pre-race what (the polesitter) draws and then see teams scrambling because your car’s gonna run different depending on what you draw.

And you really have no time for strategy because it’ll happen right there.

Do it right before the race, ’cause that’s when the most eyes are on the race, it’s the pre-race, right? Everybody’s getting ready, national anthem, we want to see the start of the race, see what happens. Throw that kink into it.

I like that too because now it forces you to watch the pre-race.

That’s right, ’cause now you don’t know where your favorite driver’s gonna start, because you don’t know if they’ll be part of the invert or not.

I hope that happens.

Well, plug it along. It’s your idea. Go ahead and run with it. You could just cancel the tape, nobody knows it came from me and it could be your idea.

OK! I’m going to edit this part out, thanks!

Great.

This 12 Questions interview is sponsored by Dover International Speedway. If you’re planning to attend the Dover race next month, please consider using my ticket link. Thanks!

How to enjoy your favorite sport when it feels like no one else is

I’ve been feeling a little down about NASCAR today.

The crowds at Richmond International Raceway last weekend were, quite frankly, terrible. There probably weren’t more than 5,000 people in attendance for the Xfinity race, and the local newspaper estimated the Cup crowd at 30,000 — tops.

Then come the TV ratings, which were down once again. They’re always down, it seems.

And what’s scary for everyone is NASCAR hasn’t even hit the bottom yet. Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s impending retirement is certainly going to make the numbers look even worse in 2018.

So if you love NASCAR — and especially if you’ve loved it since before everything seemed to be trending downward — it’s all really depressing at times. And that’s not supposed to happen with something you voluntarily follow for enjoyment.

The question is: As a fan, what do you do?

The closest I can come to answering this question is to use one of the things I’m most passionate about: Electronic dance music, or EDM.

In Oct. 2015, there was an article from Forbes titled: “The $6.9 Billion Bubble? Inside The Uncertain Future Of EDM.”

The story had some of the same themes we hear about in NASCAR. “Once a fast-growing industry, EDM’s build up has slowed considerably as the market matures,” the story said.

I remember that was the first I’d heard of any potential downturn in dance music, and it honestly pissed me off. I thought, Screw you! I still like it! And I don’t care if other people don’t like it!

The truth is, I’m still going to enjoy the music no matter how many other people like it. And my sense is most of you feel the same about NASCAR.

When you hear about the TV ratings and the attendance and people leaving the sport, you sort of shrug: Oh well, their loss. Unlike your favorite TV show that loses viewers, NASCAR isn’t in danger of being canceled. The fact IndyCar still exists (it pulled in a 0.27 rating this weekend!!!) shows NASCAR can go on in some form indefinitely.

At the same time, NASCAR can’t sustain itself as a major sport if things keep heading this direction. The concern from people in the industry — drivers, NASCAR executives, sponsors, teams and media — is palpable, and I can assure you it’s the subject of many private conversations.

Those conversations end up becoming part of the public dialogue, because people who work in NASCAR generally love racing and want to improve it. Everyone wants to figure out what will stop the bleeding. They want to ask you, the fans, what you want.

The irony is a lot of you just want to stop talking about it. You want to get back to enjoying racing again, not spending time being frustrated about every little thing that happens.

Sure, you have opinions on what would make the sport better, but you watch NASCAR because it’s entertainment. It’s an escape from the many problems of the real world, and it’s no fun to have your remaining spirit drained by the very thing you love.

People in the NASCAR world are scrambling and scratching their heads, trying to figure out where to go from here. I want to make it better, too, and I’m not going to stop writing about possible solutions.

But that doesn’t mean you as a fan have to get sucked into the negative energy. You follow NASCAR because you love it, not because you have the answers to save it. If you don’t want to participate in all the hand-wringing, then don’t let it ruin a good thing for you.

My advice? Put your scanner headphones on, block out the noise and smile. It’s only five days until race day.

Kyle Petty ready for another epic charity ride

You might think driving a race car and riding a motorcycle have something in common. But that’s not really the case, according to Kyle Petty — who has done a lot of both.

“Everything is offense in a race car, where everything is defense on a motorcycle,” he said. “A dog is going to run out in front of you, someone is going to be texting and not see you.

“So many people assume the people who like motorcycles ride with reckless abandon and are all daredevils, but that’s not it. It’s all calculated. There’s an understanding for the limits.”

Petty has been riding a motorcycle in some form since he was 5 — his father felt it would give him respect for speed — and continues to do so at age 56. On May 13, Petty will embark on the 23rd annual Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America — a weeklong ride of more than 2,400 miles where 200 participants will raise money for the Victory Junction Gang Camp.

The ride has yet to repeat an entire route, and this year is no different. It will start in Portland, Ore., and make stops in Washington, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota and Minnesota before ending in Wisconsin.

But coming up with unique routes is actually pretty difficult, because the logistics for putting on an event like this are crazy. Local authorities have to be informed all along the way (think police escorts), and stops are planned every couple hours so riders can break for food and gas. Then there’s the matter of finding hotel rooms for everyone — often while the ride travels through rural areas — which has to be done months in advance.

“It’s like putting on five charity golf tournaments a day for seven days,” Petty said.

Petty’s wife Morgan is the one who makes the logistics work, and the two rent a car and drive the route backward before the ride to make sure everything is set.

This year’s ride will once again include Richard Petty — who still rides the whole way at age 79 — as well as NFL great Herschel Walker and former drivers Harry Gant, Donnie Allison and Hershel McGriff.

Obviously, raising money for Victory Junction — which offers children with chronic or life-threatening illnesses a place to attend camp for free — is the primary goal. The ride has raised $17.5 million for the camp since its inception in 1995.

But there’s also an incredible amount of satisfaction in seeing the response from people all over the country, particularly the small towns that would never otherwise dream of having famous athletes roll through the area and stop to sign autographs in a gas station parking lot.

“You’d think you had Elvis in town,” Petty said. “It’s like people come out to watch the elephants unload from the circus train.”

 

The Top Five: Breaking down the Richmond race

Five thoughts on Sunday’s NASCAR race at Richmond International Raceway…

1. Back it down, Joey

Joey Logano won on a day when he had to start in the back, and the performance was helped by some gentle reminders from crew chief Todd Gordon.

Gordon began the day by texting Logano at 9 a.m., telling him to run 80 percent. The crew chief then repeated it in their pre-race meeting: Go 80 percent, go 80 percent.

Why? Because with Logano starting in the back of the 38-car field due to a transmission change (the team discovered debris in the transmission on Saturday), Gordon knew his driver might try to go all-out in getting back to the front; and that probably wouldn’t be a good thing at a place where tires and equipment seem to get used up.

Logano turned to Penske executive Walt Czarnecki and said, “You pay me to run 100 percent.”

“Today will be a little different,” Czarnecki replied.

As it turned out, Logano listened to Gordon — albeit reluctantly.

“I did (listen),” Logano said afterward with a brief tone of disappointment. “I hate it, too. I am not wired that way. I’m a balls to the wall type of guy, all the time. That’s what’s proven to be successful at certain racetracks.”

But not Richmond. Running consistent, smooth times and saving his stuff allowed him to get in position for Todd Gordon’s strategy gamble, which put Logano off sequence from the rest of the field (along with Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski, who ultimately finished second).

Logano said his mindset changed at the end of the race (“Take that 80 percent thing and throw it out the window”), but it helped put him in position to overcome a bad starting spot on a day when he didn’t have the fastest car.

The best drivers and teams end up winning on days when they aren’t supposed to, and that was Logano on Sunday.

2. Why not Logano?

It’s interesting Joey Logano won the first race after Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced his retirement, because it comes at a time when many in the NASCAR world are talking about the next face of the sport.

Names like Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson keep popping up, but Logano would be a good candidate if fans gave him a chance. After all, he’s only 26 years old — two years older than Larson.

I know I just lost most of the people reading this story, so you probably won’t even see the rest of this item. In that case, I guess it’s OK to tell you I am secretly a CIA spy pretending to be a NASCAR journalist and my real job is to gather intelligence on everyone who tweets questions to Bob Pockrass.

But for those of you still with me, I’m serious: Logano would seem to check a lot of boxes for fans looking for a new driver. He wins a lot (18 career wins, including 15 in the last four seasons), is a very aggressive racer (one reason some fans dislike him) and is one of NASCAR’s nicest guys off the track.

The silver-spoon stigma has hurt him, though, along with the amount of times he’s clashed with popular drivers. So Logano might end up going through his career hearing loud boos instead of cheers, which seems like a huge missed opportunity for both fans and NASCAR.

I mean, even Brian France’s six-year-old son, Luke, picked Logano as his favorite driver. Although I guess that’s another reason for some people not to root for him, so forget I mentioned that part (along with the whole CIA spy thing, please).

3. Dale Jr.’s secret pet?

Dale Earnhardt Jr. often shows animals on his social media accounts, including his dogs and pet bison.

What he’s apparently not been showing is the black cat that surely walks in front of his path every day.

How else to explain the rotten luck he’s had in the first nine races?

“This luck this year is just awful,” he said after finishing 30th. “I don’t know what else we need to do. We’re just out there taking care of ourselves and running along, and something always seems to bite us.”

This time, it was his friend and teammate Jimmie Johnson — of all people! — who came out of nowhere to take him out with 42 laps to go.

Johnson obviously felt terrible and said he had no idea Earnhardt was outside him when he came off the corner and bashed the 88 car into the wall.

“I just have to try to figure out if I just didn’t hear it being told to me (from spotter Earl Barban) or if it wasn’t told to me,” Johnson said. “I’m surprised our cars even kept rolling after that because I just body-slammed him into the wall and I could have easily not heard the ‘clear’ or something else happened.”

Immediately after saying that, Johnson went down pit road to find Earnhardt and the two talked for a couple minutes before Johnson huddled with Barban to go over what happened.

Either way, though, it’s just another weird incident to add to Earnhardt’s list this year. As a result, he’s now 24th in the point standings — 60 points out of a playoff spot.

But Earnhardt said he’s not even looking at points for now.

“We’re sitting so far back, we’ve just got to get this thing to where we can finish,” he said. “I’m just going to concentrate on getting about five or six races put together in a row, top-15s, and see what the points look like after that.”

Clearly, though, the 88 team has work to do. As was the case last week at Bristol, Earnhardt wasn’t going to have an amazing finish even before the incident. Things have to turn around at some point, right?

“Racing’s more frustrating than it is joy,” he said. “But the joy is worth hanging around for.”

4. Commitment issues

The commitment box rule nailed six different drivers, including Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer. Each of them expressed disagreement with the call (“They have the wrong guy,” Busch said after being told of the penalty) and Danica Patrick accused NASCAR of not being clear enough about the rule in the drivers meeting after she was penalized.

Unfortunately for those drivers, it’s a black and white — or orange — issue. The drivers meeting video clearly said to have all four tires below the orange box (not on, but completely below) and then NASCAR’s Richard Buck echoed the rule after the video played.

It might be dumb to have a driver lose a race that way, but NASCAR has to set the line somewhere, right? If a football player is out of bounds by a toe, he’s still out of bounds.

Anyway, the rule especially stunk for Busch, who was behind Logano entering pit road and probably couldn’t see the box at all. Some people wondered if Logano purposefully tried to get close to the box in hopes Busch would follow, but nah.

“There was no strategy behind it, just a late call to pit,” Logano said. “It’s a very late call that Todd said, ‘Pit,’ and I said, ‘OK,’ and I took a hard left and was able to get down. But when you’re the trailing car, you’re looking at a rear spoiler so you’re not 100 percent sure where that box is. It’s a tough situation.”

Busch felt he was inside Logano’s line, but if he was, it wasn’t enough.

The whole situation might be unfortunate for the drivers who got caught, but there’s really no arguing it.

5. Kinder, gentler BZF?

The last time NASCAR reporters got a chance to speak with Brian France at a racetrack, the NASCAR chairman and CEO was combative, defensive and defiant in his answers. That was at Homestead last season.

He answered some sponsor-related questions at a December news conference in Las Vegas introducing Monster Energy, then opened the stage format news conference in January with a few remarks before quickly ducking out.

Other than that, France hadn’t spoken to reporters at any race this season — including Daytona.

So it was quite a surprise, then, when word suddenly trickled in following the drivers meeting that France wanted to come in and address the media at Richmond.

In the wake of Earnhardt’s retirement announcement, there wasn’t really anything newsworthy to come out of his remarks; France basically said all sports go in cycles when it comes to stars and NASCAR will be just fine with the next generation.

But it was notable France was there in the first place. Under the direction of new NASCAR communications chief Eric Nyquist, NASCAR officials seem to be taking a softer approach to the media this year. So far, putting media on blast — even for critical stories — has been much less prevalent (or at least from what I’ve seen), which is a nice change.

France looked comfortable in stating his opinions Sunday, with son Luke at his side. He even took a moment to thank reporters for being there — which is at least a gesture to potentially thaw a frosty relationship with the media.

“I want to thank you guys and gals,” he said. “This is a tough sport to cover. It’s multiple days away (from home), it’s not one game. It’s a lot of work to cover this sport. I know…our entire team thanks each and every one of you for helping tell the NASCAR story. Thank you.”