Darrell Wallace Jr. In Position For Success in 2015

Considered as one of the big announcements of the off-season in December, @BubbaWallace announced that he would make the move to Roush Fenway Racing for the full 2015 NASCAR XFINITY Series schedule. While the move wasn’t expected, it is a move that should work out in Wallace’s favor.

For starters, if he had remained at Joe Gibbs Racing, he would’ve only run a partial deal while sharing the ride with Sprint Cup Series regulars @mattkenseth and @dennyhamlin due to lack of sponsorship. Instead, he will not get to run the full schedule and go after the championship.

Now, is running the full schedule for RFR worth more than a partial schedule for JGR? Wallace has proven that he has the talent and could become a champion. He finished third in Camping World Truck Series points last year while posting four top-10s in six starts in XFINITY over the past two years. Now he has the opportunity. The question remains whether he will have the equipment.

RFR hasn’t found themselves in the thick of the championship battle as of late, with @TBayne21 ranking highest of the RFR outfit with a sixth place finish in points. Meanwhile, JGR has been winning races left, right, and center with each of their drivers.

However, as most seem to forget, it was only a couple years ago that RFR won back-to-back championships with @StenhouseJr behind the wheel. Have they fallen enough behind in the past two seasons to be considered a non-championship contender?

With their lack of performance last year, though, RFR has made waves during the off-season in looking to improve.

Beyond hiring Wallace, they also hired @Elliott_Sadler to join the organization for 2015, running the full schedule. With almost 20 years of NASCAR experience and having contended for the championship last year driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, Sadler brings perspective to the organization. He could add insight as to where they need to improve to match their counterparts in JR Motorsports, JGR, and Team Penske.

RFR also brought Phil Gould into the organization to crew chief for Sadler. Gould spent the previous couple of seasons at Richard Childress Racing working with Brian Scott, finishing fourth in the season-ending points. Gould will bring over another outside perspective in possibly sharing some of the secrets that helped RCR do well.

Combining those factors with both @Chris_Buescher and @driverRyanReed entering their second seasons of competition should help boost the organization to the next level.

Regardless whether he can find success this year, Wallace has shifted waves and made a career move.

Looking beyond 2015, he has now better placed himself for a Sprint Cup Series ride down the road. Joe Gibbs Racing has filled their seats with drivers that will drive for awhile – Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, @kylebusch and Matt Kenseth. In contrast, Roush Fenway Racing currently stands as a three-car organization with Ricky Stenhouse Jr., @GregBiffle, and Bayne. If RFR was ever to expand to four Sprint Cup Series rides, Wallace has a one in third chance of landing the ride. His odds may even be stronger versus his current teammates, based on his success to date and current age. By having a one in third chance, it’s better than having no chance at all.



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NASCAR Cup Series

Five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Storylines to Watch

Going into each season, there are always a couple of storylines that both the fans and media focus on.

Sometimes those storylines can be due to a recent change that has happened, while others are due to expectations that have been put forth. Heading into the upcoming NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, here are five storylines to keep your eye on.

Carl Edwards to Joe Gibbs Racing

After spending the past 11 years of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career at Roush Fenway Racing, Carl Edwards makes the shift to Joe Gibbs Racing for the 2015 season. He comes off of a solid final season at Roush, as he won a pair of races while posting seven top-fives and 14 top-10 finishes en route to finishing ninth in the season-ending standings. It doesn’t mark his best season statistically in the Sprint Cup Series, but it’s not his worst. Edwards has proven that he can get it done, as evident by finishing second in points in 2011. The problem – the equipment hasn’t been top notch at Roush Fenway Racing as of late, if you compare it to the likes of Joe Gibbs, Stewart Haas Racing, and Hendrick Motorsports.

Now with top notch equipment on his side, Edwards has a good chance to pick up more than two wins next season and contend for the Sprint Cup Series championship. Joe Gibbs Racing has proven that they have the equipment to get it done, as evident by @dennyhamlin finishing third in points. Beyond simply having the equipment, Edwards has been partnered with Darian Grubb for the upcoming season. Grubb guided Hamlin last year and led @tonystewart to a championship in 2011 at Stewart-Haas Racing.

It’ll depend on how quickly Edwards adjusts to Gibbs and his new crew chief, but if the most recent switches in team prove evidence, Edwards should be fine. @mattkenseth finished second in his first year with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013 after making the switch from Roush, while @kevinharvick won the championship this past season at Stewart-Haas after switching over from Richard Childress Racing. If recent history proves anything, Edwards should be in for a successful 2015 season.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s New Crew Chief

The past two seasons with Steve LeTarte, @DaleJr has had two of the most successful seasons of his Sprint Cup Series career. In 2013, he finished fifth in points with ten top-fives and 22 top-10s. Last season, he finished eighth in points with four wins, 12 top-fives, and 20 top-10s.

Heading into the new year, Earnhardt will have a new crew chief atop the pit box as Letarte moves off of the box to become a sports broadcaster as part of NBC Sports’ line-up for the second half of the season. Partnered with Greg Ives, the question is whether Earnhardt will continue to experience success heading into the new year.

Ives comes into the season with a hearty resume, including leading @chaseelliott9 to the NASCAR XFINITY Series championship. Though, will his style jell with Earnhardt’s? Also, one of the keys to Letarte’s crew chief style was how he was able to booster Earnhardt’s confidence, no matter how they were running. Earnhardt has commented that he doesn’t need that anymore with confidence on his side, but will it last?

Danica Patrick: Make or Break?

Entering her third season of Sprint Cup Series competition, all eyes will be on @DanicaPatrick to see how she does. In her first two years on the circuit, she has finished 27th and 28th in the season ending points standings. With good drivers in the waiting for rides, is this season make or break time?

To her credit, even with the season ending finish not being higher, she did improve last year with scoring three top-10s, versus a single top-10 the year before. She also ran inside the top-10 on mile-and-a-half tracks, showing speed and potential to have more solid runs.

Through the years so far, everybody has sat back waiting for her breakout season and to watch her become a steady contender. With Daniel Knost now on top of the pit box, it may happen as she feels having someone with an engineering background will connect better due to her open-wheel background. If the last couple of races of 2014 were any indication, though, she may in for another season of struggle.

Brad Keselowski

During the second half of the year, @keselowski was going as hard as he could to win the championship, and made some enemies along the way. In the span of three weeks, the past Sprint Cup Series champion had @JeffGordonWeb, Hamlin, and Kenseth all mad and ready to fight him. He also had crossed paths with @kylebusch and Edwards in the past.

Going into the new season, there is a chance for payback from any, if not all of his enemies. Will his enemies do more to dictate his season than his on-track performance? Beyond that, Keselowski can’t let himself get wrapped up in the drama, or else he may get off track himself and write a poor season.

Success of Chase for the Sprint Cup

When the Chase for the Sprint Cup format was announced, a lot of drivers, media members and fans within the sport were skeptical of the format. There were questions with regards to winning a race and automatically being part of the Chase and the breakdown of the elimination format coming down to four drivers and one race. Now with year one in the books, though, it seems those worries have disappeared as the new format brought forth close battles on track and passion off of the track.

“To me, it was one of the most thrilling and exciting years, and I felt like we saw that on TV and in person every week,” @AJDinger commented last week. “Just the pure pressure that everybody was under. We saw guys that – it’s been well documented with Matt Kenseth – guys that have been so calm and you just see that level of pressure build them up so much that we see them do things that they haven’t done before.

“To me, the Chase played out and to have the final race and come down to the end between Kevin Harvick and @RyanJNewman – Denny Hamlin was in it till the end, and @joeylogano. The pressure on the pit crew guys, the drivers, the teams – it was absolutely awesome.So I really like the format and fortunately, it’s not changing this year and hope we see the same type of racing once again. It’s fun for us as racecar drivers and competitors, and I feel like the fans like it, too.”

Now the question is whether the format can produce that drama once again, or will the thrills of the Chase fade with each passing year?


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Jones Joins GMS Racing for 16 Truck Series Events

GMS Racing announced on Monday, January 12th that @BrandonJonesRac will run 16 races behind the wheel of the No. 33 Chevrolet Silverado in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Jones joins@23SpeedRacer as part of the team’s driver lineup for the 2015 season.

“I’m happy to be back with GMS Racing for the 2015 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season,” Jones commented. “We ran well in my two previous starts with the team, and GMS Racing had strong runs throughout the 2014 season.

“Having the opportunity to run with GMS Racing is an awesome opportunity. I cannot wait to continue my development with the team.”

The Atlanta, Georgia native will make his first start of the season at Martinsville Speedway in March, with Shane Huffman calling the shots. The pair worked together last year in the pair of starts that Jones made for GMS. Jones posted a 32nd in his team debut at Martinsville, followed by a 12th place finish at Phoenix International Raceway.

Jones made a total of five Truck Series starts last year, with a season-high fourth place finish at Dover International Speedway for Turner-Scott Motorsports. He also ran the full NASCAR K&N Pro East Series schedule, finishing fourth in the point standings with a victory at Iowa Speedway, 11 top-fives, and 11 top-10 finishes.

“To be able to bring Brandon Jones on is just a thrill, and we are very excited for what he brings to our driver lineup,” Nic Moncher, GMS Racing team manager, said. “We look forward to watching his development in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this season as he embarks on the next step in his career.”

It was announced in November that Jones will run select races for Richard Childress Racing in the XFINITY Series, behind the wheel of the No. 33 Chevrolet in a ride that will be shared by Jones, Austin Dillon, and Paul Menard.


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Five NASCAR XFINITY Series Storylines to Watch

Going into each season, there are always a couple of storylines that both the fans and media focus on. 

Sometimes those storylines can be due to a recent change that has happened, while others are due to expectations that have been put forth. Heading into the upcoming NASCAR XFINITY Series season, here are five storylines to keep your eye on.

JR Motorsports’ Success

After 14 years of hard work, everything finally paid off for JR Motorsports as they were able to take home their first career championship. At the age of 18, @chaseelliott became the first rookie and youngest driver to win the XFINITY Series championship. To make the season even sweeter for JRM, Elliott’s teammate @ReganSmith finished second in points.

With both Elliott and Smith returning to run the full schedule in 2015, it should be expected that the team’s success will continue with the pair battling for the championship once again. However, there is a change with both drivers receiving a new crew chief.

Elliott will be working with Ernie Cope as Greg Ives moves up to Sprint Cup to work with @DaleJr. Smith will be working with Jason Burdett as Ryan Pemberton returns his focus on being Director of Competition. Both crew chiefs do come into the year with significant backgrounds as Cope has multiple years of experience and led JRM’s No. 5 entry to multiple victories last season with @kevinharvick and @kaseykahne behind the wheel.

Meanwhile, Burdett has spent eight years as a car chief at Hendrick Motorsports, most recently working on Earnardt Jr.’s team. Hendrick Motorsports’ breeding program for crew chiefs has proven to work in the past, evident by Chad Knaus, Steve Letarte and Darian Grubb’s past success.

Roush Fenway Racing’s New Additions

With a solid season underneath them for 2014 and @TBayne6 moving up to the Sprint Cup Series full-time, Roush Fenway Racing has been hard over the off-season in an effort for additional success.

RFR hired @BubbaWallace and @Elliott_Sadler from Joe Gibbs Racing to compete for the team full-time in 2015. Wallace is coming off of a solid season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series that saw him finish third in points. Sadler, meanwhile, finished third in the NASCAR XFINITY Series standings last year, with a win on the season. Bringing over the pair of drivers, along with Phil Gould from Richard Childress Racing to crew chief for Sadler, has the team heading into the year with high hopes. The combination of personnel should add to the team’s knowledge to perhaps propel them to compete in the top-five weekly against the likes of JR Motorsports, Team Penske, and Joe Gibbs Racing.

While they have been known for their success in the past with multiple wins, RFR only scored one victory last year – @Chris_Buescher at Mid-Ohio. Bayne was the highest finishing driver of the team of three drivers, finishing sixth in the season ending points. The entire organization has to step up their game if they want to contend, and perhaps this is the perfect package.

The other factor is both @driverRyanReed and Buescher now have their rookie seasons behind them, set to head into their sophomore season with solid success behind them. Reed certainly struggled, but he seemed to find consistency as the year went forward with experience under his belt. Meanwhile, Buescher had a great rookie season by most standards, though got lost in the discussion due to Elliott’s success.

The Texas native finished seventh in points with five top-five finishes and 14 top-10s on the season. He proved that he could be near the front each week, performing within the top-10 to top-15 all year, notably posting only five finishes outside of the top-15 in the first 20 races. If RFR can get their program just a touch stronger, Buescher may see his break-out season happen.

Sprint Cup Double Dippers

It’s the discussion that is had each season as fans watch the Sprint Cup regulars drop down to NASCAR’s second-tier division to get some added seat time, dominating races in the process. Some fans are totally against the thought believing it takes away from the regulars while others encourage it due to helping build experience for those wanting to move up to the main stage one day. Either way, it’s always a focus of discussion.

Last season, 22 of the 33 races were won by Sprint Cup Series regulars, with @KyleBusch leading the way with seven victories. As the talent in the XFINITY Series continues to build with each passing season, it’ll be interesting to watch whether the number stays the same, increases or decreases in 2015. Given the return of Elliott, Smith, @tydillon, along with the addition of Wallace and @erik_jones, it only seems the talent pool of regulars is getting deeper. Presenting a better opportunity for the young drivers to lead the way.

The Emergence of the Next Star

The XFINITY Series has become known for revealing the next Sprint Cup Series star over the years. It’s the spot that fans truly got to see what @MartinTruex_Jr and @keselowski, for example, were capable of before their success in Cup. Last season propelled Elliott to the center of the discussions.

So, who will become the next big star that fans get to witness? That will be something to watch in seeing what drivers can be successful.

As previously mentioned, Wallace and Buescher are two good candidates. Though beyond those two, Erik Jones will be another driver to keep an eye on as he runs a partial schedule for Joe Gibbs Racing. Jones has been successful in everything that he has done to date, scoring four wins and 13 top-10s in his 17 truck starts, to go with a top-10 in each of his three XFINITY starts last season.

Richard Childress Racing’s Return to Glory?

After winning the championship in 2013 with @austindillon3, Richard Childress Racing would have a solid season across the board with their three drivers finishing fourth, fifth and eighth in the season ending point standings. Given their solid seasons, could RCR win the championship this coming year?

Each year @bscottracing is behind the wheel he continues to get stronger in contending for race wins by being up front and leading laps. A mark of six top-fives and 23 top-10s is his highest year-end totals to date, along with his highest points finish in a fourth. There’s no doubt that Scott could contend if he can step it up a notch. However, Scott has yet to win races, which leads to championships. Secondly, he will have a new crew chief for 2015. Depending on how he gets along with his new crew chief and whether he can get some wins will determine his fate.

Ty Dillon was also pretty solid, scoring seven top-fives and 24 top-10s in his rookie year, highlighted by a win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Based on his brother’s success, everyone had Dillon pegged to come in and be a champion. If he can carry the momentum that he found in the second half of the season in running in the top-five weekly, he could match those expectations.

Last year was a successful season in many ways for @Brendan62 as he finished a career-best eighth in points with a pair of wins and seven top-10 finishes. Though points finish and overall statistics aside, the season was huge for Gaughan for one reason – victory. Gaughan has run XFINITY races since 2009, but had yet to secure a victory. In the middle of the season at Elkhart Lake, Gaughan led eight laps and held off all challengers en route to his first career victory. With a win under his belt and experience on his side, Gaughan may be able to prove that the veterans of the series can still get it done.


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Koch and Tri-Star Set Sights on Full XFINITY Season

TriStar Motorsports announced Wednesday that @BlakeKochRacing will not only return to the organization but will run the full 2015 NASCAR XFINITY Series schedule behind the wheel of the new No. 8 Toyota Camry.

“After a good 2014 season, I am excited to be back with TriStar Motorsports for the 2015 season,” Koch said in the team release. “I am looking forward to working with Bruce Cook and the No. 8 crew and can’t wait to get to Daytona.”

The 29-year-old ran 28 of the 33 XFINITY races last year for TriStar Motorsports in the No. 10, posting nine top-25 finishes, with a season-high 18th place finish at Phoenix International Raceway.

Koch has been racing in the XFINITY Series for the past six seasons, though has yet to run the full schedule. He came closest to running the full schedule in 2011 when he ran 32 of the 34 races. Koch earned a career-best finish of 11th at Homestead in November of 2013.

Cook, meanwhile, spent the 2014 season as a crew chief for a slew of drivers in the series. From @JohnnySauter and @AlexBRacing to @RossChastain, whom he worked with at Homestead when joining the organization. The two finished 14th in the Ford EcoBoost 300. Cook has one career XFINITY Series win at a crew chief, which came with @TonyStewart at Daytona in February of 2011.

“We are happy to have Blake Koch back with our team for the 2015 season,” TriStar Motorsports team owner, Mark Smith, said. “Blake did well with our team last season and we look forward to building on that success throughout the 2015 season.”

TriStar Motorsports added that any sponsorship announcements for Koch would be made in the near future.


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Five Camping World Truck Series Storylines To Watch

Going into each season, there are always a couple of storylines that both the fans and media focus on.

Sometimes those storylines can be due to a recent change that has happened, while others are due to expectations that have been put forth. Heading into the upcoming NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season, here are five storylines to keep your eye on.

Tyler Reddick

After running a partial schedule last season, @TylerReddick will be tackling the full schedule in 2015 for Brad Keselowski Racing. The California native had some success, scoring two poles, three top-fives and nine top-10s in his 16 career starts.

As the season went on, Reddick only continued to get stronger, finishing off the year with five straight top-10s. With the trend heading in a positive direction, Reddick is expected to crack the top-five more often in 2015 and possibly contend for a couple race wins.

Brad Keselowski Racing continued to get stronger each year with Ryan @Blaney placing the team in the championship contention last year. After scoring the victory at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, Blaney would finish second in points. With the team having proven that they’re championship caliber, it will only be a question as to whether the 18-year-old can get it done.

The Canadian Connection 

For the third straight year, the trucks will head north of the border with a trip to CTMP, located in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada.

While being a new date to the NASCAR schedules, the road course has already begun to make a name for itself with great racing. The past two years have seen a pair of solid races, with the battle for the win coming down to the last lap side-by-side battle between a pair of drivers. In 2013, @chaseelliott took home the victory after contact with @tydillon on the last lap. Last year, Blaney would edge @gerspeed1 at the line to score the victory. With a pair of thrilling races, there’s only intrigue to be left as to what could happen this coming season.

Beyond having produced solid races, the Canadian connection has extended to drivers participating in the series. Alberta native @CameronNHayley ran three races last year for Turner Scott Motorsports, scoring a pair of top-10 finishes while Quebec native @AlGuRacing ran the Martinsville races, scoring a ninth place finish in the fall.

The outlook for 2015 doesn’t look positive right now as neither driver has announced plans for the upcoming season. However, given their success, an announcement may be made for either or both in the next couple of weeks as teams are still finalizing plans for the new season.

However, while Hayley and Guenette have had success, there are still questions that are begged to be asked.

Many people expected when the trucks started coming to CTMP that NASCAR Canadian Tire Series drivers would jump at the chance to get behind the wheel. While Martin Roy jumped at the opportunity, there haven’t been any other drivers accomplishing the same feat. The problem, as stated by @J_R_Fitzpatrick last September post-NCAT race, is funding. If Fitzpatrick or another driver could find the funding to run the event, it would certainly be a welcoming sight for the Canadian fan base.

New Driver Line-Up at KBM

After having success last season with Darrell @BubbaWallace behind the wheel of the No. 54 Toyota Tundra, while @KyleBusch and @erik_jones split driving duties for the No. 51 Toyota Tundra, Kyle Busch Motorsports has revamped their driver line-up for the upcoming season.

Now at the age of 18 and eligible to run every track on the schedule, Jones is set to run the full schedule for the time in his first career. With four wins, seven top-fives and 13 top-10s in 17 starts, Jones is expected to contend for the championship this season. Reunited with Randy Fugle, who led Jones to his first career win at Phoenix International Raceway in 2013, he should be up front all year long. It’ll depend on how the young man handles the pressures of winning a championship and being consistent over the course of an entire season.

KBM will run two trucks full-time as @jbossracing joins the team after having success in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards with Venturini Motorsports. Boston posted two wins, seven top-fives and 13 top-10s last season en route to finishing fifth in ARCA points, to follow up his third place points finish in 2013. With only one previous truck start under his belt (30th place finish at Bristol due to a crash), there may be an adjustment period for Boston in getting used to his new equipment. However, once he gets used to his Toyota Tundra, he should be running within the top 10 each week.

The third truck will be split between Busch, @dnlsuarez, and @Matt_Tifft. Busch proved that he could get it done behind the wheel of one of his trucks, producing seven victories last season. He will, though, be joined by a pair of drivers who don’t quite have as much experience. Suarez is running the full NASCAR XFINITY Series schedule for Joe Gibbs Racing and is using his limited truck schedule to get some extra seat time.

Last year, Suarez made two XFINITY starts and a Truck Series start, with his best finish being a 15th at Chicago in XFINITY and in the truck at Talladega. Entering the year with NASCAR Mexico Series success on his side, all eyes will be on Suarez to see how he adjusts to the trucks and XFINITY Series cars. Tifft, meanwhile, made three truck starts last year, scoring an eighth place finish at Martinsville Speedway. Tifft will be looking to keep the good momentum rolling this year as he comes into the truck series with some solid K&N Pro Series and ARCA finishes under his belt.

ThorSport Racing Looking for Repeat

After scoring their second consecutive championship with @Matt_Crafton to become the first ever back-to-back champions, ThorSport Racing will be looking to keep the good times rolling in 2015.

Crafton’s consistency has been unmatched by his series competitors over the past two seasons, and with both Crafton and crew chief Carl Joiner returning this season, it’s hard to bet against the veteran. He has shown no signs of slowing down as he only wants to get faster, so he makes his championship seasons add up to more victories under his belt.

However, if anybody could stop Crafton from scoring the championship again, it could be his teammate. @JohnnySauter has been fast over the past couple of seasons but has run into bad luck and wrecks, resulting in being taken out of championship contention. If the pieces fall in place in 2015, Sauter could break through for his first championship.

Youth Vs. Experience

A couple seasons ago, NASCAR made the decision to lower the age limit for the truck series to 16-years-old for tracks smaller than a mile, and road courses. As a result, a bunch of young drivers have been getting their start behind the wheel of a truck sooner than they would’ve otherwise. While being young may be seen to be a disadvantage, it has proven to work out for some with drivers like Jones, @JHNemechek and @colecuster00 having success in their limited amount of starts.

With more young drivers entering the fold at a younger age, with other young drivers like Reddick looking for the championship, it brings forth the old adage debate of youth vs. experience. No doubt this will be a headline once again in 2015 with more young drivers set to tackle the full schedule while Crafton returns to try and hold reign at the top of the field.

Which will play out to be stronger at season’s end, that is a question that will be answered in 11 months.


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Dakoda Armstrong Returning To Richard Petty Motorsports

Richard Petty Motorsports announced on Tuesday, January 6th that @DakodaArmstrong and sponsor WinField will return for the 2015 NASCAR XFINITY Series season.

“I’m excited to continue racing for The King,” Armstrong said. “Philippe (Lopez) and I had a good relationship and I feel like I learned a lot in my rookie season with the No. 43 team. I’m looking forward to continuing that growth into my second season. Now with Frankie (Kerr) coming on board I think we’ll be able to get our communication more in sync. We both come from an open-wheel background and he can relate the open-wheel style of driving to the stock cars.”

Armstrong had a solid season in 2014, finishing 13th in the championship standings with three top-10 finishes, highlighted by a pole at Daytona International Speedway in July.

RPM also announced that Frank Kerr will be taking over crew chief responsibilities, as the nine year veteran moves over to RPM from Front Row Motorsports. Kerr has scored eight top-fives and 17 top-10 finishes, including a pole, in his time on top of the box in the Sprint Cup Series.

Phillippe Lopez, who worked with Armstrong last season, has been promoted to Operations Manager for RPM.


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