NASCAR notes: Stewart’s decision to step down

NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Darrell Waltrip said this week that Tony Stewart’s decision to retire from Sprint Cup racing after the 2016 season was made tougher by Stewart’s lagging performance the past two seasons.

Waltrip, who continued to race for eight full seasons after his 84th and final Cup victory, said in a release from Fox, where he now works as an analyst, that aging drivers tend to try to recapture the success of their youth.

“When you’re running well, you don’t want to step aside, but when you’re not running well, you want to keep going until the tide turns and you can go out on top a little more,” Waltrip said. “You keep thinking and hoping you can get that magic back.”

Waltrip said he hopes Stewart can put together a strong 2016 season and end his career on a high note.

“Hopefully, Stewart will get the ship steered in the right direction, make good use of the offseason, come back in 2016, have a great year and feel really good about leaving the driver’s seat when he does,” he said.

Bowyer's mixed week: The news wasn't all good for Clint Bowyer this week. On the positive side, he was introduced as the driver to replace Stewart in the No. 14 Chevrolet at Stewart-Haas Racing beginning in 2017.

On the other hand, the National Motorsports Appeals Panel denied his current Michael Waltrip Racing team’s appeal of a 25-point penalty for a rules violation in the Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway.

Team owner Rob Kauffman and Bowyer were docked 25 points apiece while crew chief Billy Scott was fined $75,000 and suspended for three races after officials determined that they had used suspension pieces that violated NASCAR rules.

Between the penalty and poor finishes in the first two Chase races, Bowyer is 16th in the standings, 81 points out of the lead and facing elimination from the Chase unless he can win this weekend’s AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway.

Also on the penalty front, a post-race shouting match between Brian Scott and Darrell Wallace Jr. following Saturday night’s Xfinity Series race at Kentucky Speedway has led to the suspension of Scott’s motorcoach driver Brian Allen. NASCAR also placed Wallace and Scott’s wife Whitney on probation until Dec. 31.

More franchising: NASCAR appears to be moving closer to some form of franchise system for race team owners. The latest push for franchising came with the formation last year of the Race Team Alliance, headed by Rob Kauffman, now the principal owner of Michael Waltrip Racing.

NASCAR held a meeting with team owners on Tuesday in Charlotte and Brett Jewkes, NASCAR senior vice president and chief communications officer, issued a statement afterward:

“NASCAR met with all Sprint Cup Series owners and presented framework concepts for future qualification to compete in NASCAR’s top national series with an eye toward implementing a new model for the 2016 season. The on-going dialogue with the entire industry has been very good and [Tuesday’s] session was another productive step in that process. NASCAR, the tracks and the team owners all have the same collective goal: making the sport as strong and competitive as it can be for decades to come.”

Handicapping the Chase: NASCAR's statisticians have come up with scenarios for drivers in the Chase for the Sprint Cup to advance to the Challenger Round after the AAA 400. After Sunday's race, the final one in the Challenger Round, the Chase field will be cut from 16 drivers to 12 to start the Contender Round.

Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth are guaranteed to transfer based on their victories at Chicagoland and New Hampshire, respectively.

Carl Edwards will advance by finishing 32nd or better, no matter how his fellow drivers finish.

Joey Logano is in by finishing at least 31st while Jimmie Johnson need to finish just 25th at a track where he’s won a record 10 races. Ryan Newman needs to finish 16th, Kurt Busch 15th, Brad Keselowski 14th, Martin Truex Jr. 13th and Jeff Gordon 10th.