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News

NASCAR Levies Post-Season Penalty on Four Teams

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season may have ended a couple weeks ago, but the sanctioning body is not done yet. They may have some ruffled some happiness heading into Thanksgiving with a set of penalties handed out to four teams.

Following the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, NASCAR handed down suspensions, point penalties and monetary fines to Premium Motorsports, Rick Ware Racing and Spire Motorsports for manipulating the results of the season-ending.

“Following a thorough review of race data and driver/team communication from the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, as well as interviews with several competitors, NASCAR has determined that the Nos. 15, 27, 52 and 77 teams have violated Sections 12.8.g and 12.8.1 of the NASCAR rule book, which addresses manipulating the outcome of a race,” Miller said in a statement. “As a result, those teams in violation of the rule book have been penalized as listed in the penalty report.”

As a result, Premium Motorsports’ Competition Director Scott Eggleston and Rick Ware Racing’s Competition Director Kenneth Evans have been indefinitely suspended from NASCAR, and handed $25,000 fines. Additionally, team owners Rick Ware, Jay Robinson of Premium Motorsports, and T.J. Pushyr of Spire Motorsports were each fined $50,000, with all four teams involved being deducted 50 points in the final standings.

While the championship is the focus for many fans, these teams were fighting to finish in the top spot among non-chartered teams in the standings to be eligible for a charter in 2020.

Premium Motorsports was able to get the position with the No. 27 driven by Ross Chastain in the season finale, though only after Premium’s No. 15 of Joe Nemechek, Spire’s No. 77 of Reed Sorenson, and Rick Ware’s No. 52 of Josh Bilicki all retired with mechanical problems in a 15-lap span near the end of the event. 

With the deliberate manipulation being revealed and reversed, the No. 96 of Gaunt Brothers Racing will be the highest ranked among open teams for 2019. 

Spire Motorsports co-owners Puchyr and Jeff Dickerson indicated in a statement later Wednesday the organization would not appeal the penalties.

“Following the season finale at Homestead Miami Speedway, NASCAR assessed a penalty against Spire Motorsports for the actions of an individual who made a judgment call on behalf of our team,” the Spire statement read. “While the ultimate outcome of that decision can be interpreted from different perspectives, we regret any appearance of operating outside the spirit of the rule book. We accept the penalty and will not appeal. We’re proud of all we accomplished with this team in our first season and look forward to getting back to the business of racing at Daytona in February.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Commentary

“They Said What?” NASCAR Pinty’s Series Edition

Sometimes when you stick a microphone in front of a driver’s face, you have no clue what they may say and a couple of times you’ll hear something that surprises you or gives you a bit of a perspective.

Throughout the 2019 NASCAR Pinty’s Series season, I had the opportunity to speak to a bunch of different competitors. During those interviews, there were some quotes that stood out. So it seems only fitting we take a glance back through the year at what was said.

ASHLEY MCCUBBIN

“We wanted to go down a different path. Jason Hathaway (and Ed Hakonson Racing) are an awesome team. They have a great group of guys. Hathaway is a championship driver. With his experience, I was hoping that he would help mentor me and he’s willing to take me under his wing, I look forward to learning from him.”

Brett Taylor on switching from Canada’s Best Racing Team to Ed Hakonson Racing mid-season.

ASHLEY MCCUBBIN

“I think the contact was pretty much as far as he was going to bring it. I think Andrew was driving like a driver with a championship to protect and a championship lead to take this weekend. I think that’s how he was driving and when you have a lot to lose and want to score points, you drive in a way to where his driving was as aggressive as he could do it. It also brought in a good finish, scored good points. So I think overall, he was fair with me.”

Alex Tagliani on battling Andrew Ranger for the win in Toronto.

ASHLEY MCCUBBIN

“The car was really good. 22 Racing gave me an awesome car. I feel bad because it’s solely my fault. I had a good restart on Alex and took the lead. Then after that, I just missed my braking point by a little bit and I lost it. It’s totally my fault, but I’ll take the blame on it and try to go out west and win them both.”

Marc-Antoine Camirand on his mistake late in the race in Toronto, backing the car into the wall while leading.

ASHLEY MCCUBBIN

I really think the series is very, very tough. You can say the top-10 can win any week so it’s fun to go there and you never know where you’re going to finish, but it’ll be a good fight to the end. All of the races are very important. What’s great about the series is we race across Canada, so we race in Toronto, in Quebec City, Nova Scotia, Edmonton and Saskatoon, so it’s awesome.

We have a lot of good fans no matter where we are. I don’t know how many thousands we have at Mosport (Canadian Tire Motorsports Park), Toronto, Trois-Riveres – but those are very important in racing in front of big crowds like that. I really like the series, and I think every year the series improves. I know we have a little bit of problem in having drivers at oval tracks, but little by little, I think they’re helping the drivers to find sponsors which is good.

Andrew Ranger on the current state of the NASCAR Pinty’s Series

ASHLEY MCCUBBIN

Well, I think honestly seeing the team with them being competitive week-in-week-out kind of rejuvenated, re-fired up what I had inside. It wasn’t like I didn’t race; I raced the pro late a bunch of races, so not like I was totally out of the seat. Just to have the opportunity to get back in with some sponsorship from Kobota, Choko, and Fast Eddie Racewear it was the right opportunity to get back in.

We talked to some different drivers through the winter time, but I still wanted to do this and I felt it was the right time to get put the band back together and go racing.

Jason Hathaway on why he returned to the series full-time in 2019

ASHLEY MCCUBBIN

“I think that helped starting the season off there and having some seat time at Phoenix in the Gander Outdoor Truck Series. I think that’s really helped my driving and I really think it’s broaden my own horizons a little bit to show what is in the tank that we hadn’t brought out before. Definitely makes you a better driver. Just being in a racecar more and more is good as it helps everything.”

Jason White on running some NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series races before the Pinty’s Series season started.

CANADA’S BEST RACING TEAM

Definitely the speed and having a good clean race throughout, hitting your marks. Going fast as you possibly can, but also while conserving tires. Nobody knows what the new General Tires are going to do and how they’re going to react on a long run. Everybody has just tried them, but nobody has been in the race conditions so it’s kind of an unknown going into the event on new tires. The car feels good on the short run, but we don’t know what it’s going to be 20, 25 laps on the tires.

So it’s just about hitting your marks and putting down consistent laps and at the end of the day, whoever has the best tires and equipment will be the best.

Anthony Simone on the toughest challenge of Canadian Tire Motorsports Park

ASHLEY MCCUBBIN

Well one, I am not getting any younger, and then we also have the plan – T.J. and myself – to market five teams in the future and that’ll be taking some of the younger kids up through, like a Treyten Lapcevich, and moving him up into the Pinty’s Series and upwards. Canada needs someone to run a good, full-funded team to get drivers south and that’s our goal.

Mark Dilley on why he chose 2019 to return to the series full-time

ASHLEY MCCUBBIN

“Super happy with my WeatherTech and Bellemare team. I think we had a tough race. We had engine problems at the beginning of the race. The team didn’t have any control on it, but they diagnosed it pretty quick and they told me it wouldn’t get better or worse, but we’d have to deal with it.

“We fought with it the whole race, but the car was so fast in the technical parts, which was awesome for us. A third for us is like a win this weekend. It’s really positive for the future, because we know we improved a lot, and that means the rest of this season will be more interesting.”

L.P. Dumoulin on his third-place finish in Toronto

Honestly, they’re so different. I feel there’s such a difference between road courses and ovals, it’s almost like which do you prefer – football or soccer? I look at them that way. I would probably say road courses.

Brett Taylor on whether he prefers road courses or ovals

ASHLEY MCCUBBIN

Well, I’ve done a lot and in Canada, this is the only series with the TV deal every weekend, which is good for sponsorship. We are always looking towards possibly going into the United States, and trying to do a couple starts in the Xfinity Series. But at the same time, it’s about the money and sponsorship. I’d prefer to stay here to run in Canada in the Pinty’s Series with a good sponsor, and try to run for the win every race.

Marc Antoine-Camirand

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Commentary

Daniel Suarez – “We had to find a big amount of money to keep the ride.”

Through the final months of the 2019 season, several drivers firmed up their plans for what they are doing moving forward into 2020 and beyond. One of those who is still searching for a ride is Daniel Suarez.

Just a couple days before the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Suarez found out that he would be replaced by Cole Custer behind the wheel of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford in 2020.

“It was a surprise,” he commented this past weekend. “I was as shocked as you guys are probably right now, just a couple of nights ago. It is what it is. One door closes, another door opens.”

It was well documented through the past couple months that Suarez was working with SHR to renew their contract, with the Mexican “95% sure that we were in” at one point in his comments. Though ultimately, the deal fell short due to a matter of dollars. 

“We needed a few months,” he said. “We had to find a big amount of money to keep the ride for next year. My group of people, friends and a lot of people at Stewart-Haas Racing went to work and we actually did a pretty good job. We pretty much got the goal but unfortunately part of the money wasn’t on the table at this point. It was going to come a few months later and it wasn’t enough. It was a little unfortunate.”

Suarez said through the process, both Tony Stewart and Brett Frood were pushing for him to return, but “unfortunately things didn’t work out with Haas.”

It marks the second straight season that Suarez is now spending his off-season searching for a ride, after losing his place at Joe Gibbs Racing a year ago. 

“I am pretty strong,” he said. “I have had a lot of sacrifices in my life to be here. Not just when I came here to the US, but even before that. To stay in racing and to do a lot of different things. As many of you know, I don’t come from a race family or from a lot of money or have a lot of contacts or anything like that. I am here because of myself.

“This has been tough. It is not fun to be in this position. I feel like I am strong and it has been a little difficult the last 24-hours. I couldn’t believe it because we did find a big amount of money. This is the position we are in now but I think good things happen to good people and I am sure good things are going to line up for me.”

Since finding out about his release, Suarez has spent time with Stewart, with the past series Cup Champion assuring him that he was trying to help Suarez stay in the family. That could possibly result in him being behind the wheel of an Xfinity car for Stewart-Haas Racing, or one of the Cup seats in Front Row Motorsports’ Fords. 

Of note, Suarez has also spoken with Mark Rushbrook from Ford Performance to discuss possibilities on the table. 

“Tony is a great guy,” Suarez commented. “In the last six months I have learned that he is a very good friend. In the last week I have been talking to him a lot. He was talking to a lot of people and he was pushing very hard for me. Unfortunately the 41 team, and especially the 41, he doesn’t have a lot that he can do with that car because the 41 is not his car. He pushed. I am sure that he pushed as hard as he could, like a lot of people at Stewart-Haas Racing did. It just didn’t work out.”

Though right now, Suarez is unsure if that is a direction that he wants to take with Stewart. 

“There are a lot of things going through my head right now and I don’t know,” he admitted. “I don’t even know if I want to be here. That is the way it is. I have to get back on my feet and find the best option for myself.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Jimmie Johnson To Retire Following the 2020 Season

Seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson announced on Wednesday that he will be retiring from competition following the 2020 race season.

The driver of the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet revealed the news on twitter with a video.

Since his rookie season in 2002, Johnson has raced for Hendrick Motorsports and experienced success along the way with 83 victories, including two Daytona 500 victories and four trips to victory lane at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

There has been speculation all year long about his future in the sport, following a season which saw him not visit victory lane with three top-five’s and 12 top-10’s in 36 races. Notably, he has failed to score a win over his last 95 races.

Johnson and Rick Hendrick will discuss the news on Thursday in a press conference, ahead of the 2020 season which will begin with the Daytona 500 in February.

Ally has signed on-board with Hendrick Motorsports through 2021, with the team stating their future plans will be announced at a later date.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Commentary

OBSERVATIONS: Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway

While the rest of the contenders faltered under the pressure, Kyle Busch did what he does best en route to his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title.

On any given week through the season, the No. 18 M&M’s Camry and that was on display with the top speed in Saturday’s practice. Despite not winning in the 21 races prior to the Ford EcoBoost 400, he also consistently ran up front, as highlighted by 27 top-10 finishes in the 36 events in 2019. However, many had placed him beneath his rivals due to only five top-10’s in the first nine playoff races. 

They all failed to recognize that Busch continuing to put himself in the right position, plus the poise of being in the position previously certainly helped. While you could see his title contenders were using a “win or bust” mentality, Busch and crew chief Adam Stevens ran the event just like any other weekend. When he was unable to keep up with Martin Truex Jr. or Kevin Harvick, it was just about giving feedback to continuing making adjustments to find more speed. Combined with a ultra fast pit crew that just did their job as normal and you had a recipe for success. 

In the end, he avoided the drama that found others and came out on top.

Cracking Under the Pressure

Each of Busch’s rivals, meanwhile, did not follow the same mentality and it showed clearly.  

Truex dominated the opening stage, though fell back in the second stage due to the pit crew putting on the tires on the wrong side of the car under a green flag stop. While he was able to make-up the ground in quick fashion to be in position to contend during the third stage, he was never able to make up the lost track position to Busch.

Denny Hamlin appeared to be in a closer position to challenge Busch than Truex was in the final stage despite an okay start. However, Chris Gabehart would elect to put on a big piece of tape, hoping to pick up downforce and speed so they could run down their Joe Gibbs Racing teammate. It would back fire, with the No. 11 Camry overheating, resulting in an unscheduled pit stop, and a finish of 10th.

Harvick’s team simply missed the handling on the No. 4 Ford, and could never contend with the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas over the long haul. Rodney Childers tried a gamble by leaving his driver out on track longer than others in hopes of a caution, but fell short en route to placing sixth.

Somethings are not what they seem……

When a driver wins a championship, you would expect them to get out and let out a big cheer. Just ask the twitter critics.

Some people celebrate in different ways and though Busch did not appear “super excited,” the championship did hit home with him.

“I kind of probably don’t remember much of it already,” he admitted post-race. “But I do remember taking the white flag and crossing underneath that and just‑‑ I had some tears rolling down my eyes for the last lap and was just like, come on, man, we’ve still got to finish this thing, don’t be such a sis. How was my last lap time? I don’t even know. Hopefully it was decent. We had a good lead to the guys behind us. But, overall, just emotions were starting to set in. I probably didn’t know where the hell my mind was at but knew we had won and we had won big and was just kind of being a bit more subdued about it.”

Of the notables, the Busch’s signature bow was missing from the celebration, to which Busch said he simply kind of forgot to do it in the moment. 

“You even forget you win the race,” he added. “As I was doing the victory celebration, doing the lap around with Brexton‑‑ that was really awesome, by the way‑‑ I was coming into Victory Lane, and they were there with the checkered flag, and I was like, oh, yeah. Like you forget you win the race. It’s just that crazy. So yeah, I forgot to do a bow. It’s all good. I think Rowdy Nation will forgive me.”

The celebration was fun to watch for the fans, though, in seeing Busch experience it with his son Brexton and the memories made there. The clip of them riding around the track will probably be replayed a bunch through the next couple weeks.

Lackluster Race

If you put aside the championship drama, the actual race was just – meh. There was no real battles or challenges for positions as everybody seemed to move up or down simply based on the strategy that they were running. You would get exciting battles on the restart, but they’d string out after five laps and then it was just a follow the leader train.

It certainly was lackluster in comparison to the previous two nights with the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series. So perhaps that is why the venue will move next season – but we all know the racing that we witnessed at ISM Raceway last week.

Needless to say, something needs to be done about the Cup package as the consensus from the majority of the races is that the rules package is doing nothing to produce “exciting racing” with the main show falling behind the two junior series. 

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

OBSERVATIONS: Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway

Through the years, Homestead-Miami Speedway has continuously put on some of the best racing of the season, making it a fitting location to crown the champions as we close out the year. With ISM Raceway set to become the title venue in 2020, the 1.5 mile oval put on perhaps the best NASCAR Xfinity Series finale of all time.

With the track slowly aging, it has made grip a premium, resulting in a speed difference when you slap on four new tires. Though the track’s widening grooves allow you to watch competitors run from all the way around the bottom, to ripping the top lane. This, combined with a great evolution of talent in NASCAR right now, was the perfect recipe.

Through the night, “the big three” as they were dubbed – Tyler Reddick, Cole Custer, and Christopher Bell – battled back and forth for the top spot. They would each get a chance to pace the field whether through strategy, winning the race off pit road or pure speed. Though unlike other tracks where the leader would get out front, the conditions allowed for challenges to happen back in return.

Reddick and Bell had a thrilling battle back and forth to start the third stage, with Bell trying to take Reddick’s line away to stop the ensuing challenge for the top spot. Though the highlight of the night belongs to Reddick and Custer. After coming off pit road together, the pair quickly made work of Bell, before going back and forth for a number of laps. From giving each other the slide job, to trying different lanes, it was everything you’d want in a title race in watching the contenders go head-to-head.

Though in the end, it was Reddick that got the upper-hand as he took the lead, and ultimately drove away from Custer following contact with the outside wall. Seeing the now two-time series champion run the top line lap after lap is a thing of beauty. Even Custer admitted defeat in saying, “Tyler—he can rip the top here. That’s about all you can say about it.”

To run mere inches off the wall and not make contact, knowing a single slip-up could result in trouble, takes tons of concentration and a really well handling car. But yet the driver of the No. 2 Tame The Beast Chevrolet continues to make it look like second nature. It was why he was the favorite entering the weekend following the same performance last season. 

Although it is his second title in a row, this one is a little sweeter as you can see how much Reddick has evolved as a driver. After becoming a surprise champion in 2018, he put himself in position all year long with Richard Childress Racing and found the consistency that he was missing.

Bell, on the other hand, is certainly going to be looking back at these past couple of weeks in a different nature due to a pair of costly mistakes. He sped on pit road and spun at ISM Raceway to cost himself a win there after dominating early, while he missed pit road under green and cost himself valuable time at Homestead. It did not ultimately be the title factor due to the handling of the No. 20 Toyota going away over the course of the long run, but those are mistakes you would not expect out of a driver who won eight events this past season.

With all three of these drivers moving up to the Cup Series, the real winners are the fans because they are going to get to witness probably one of the best, and closest battles for Rookie of the Year that they have had in the past couple years. That said, the series is still in good hands with another young crop ready to rise to the occasion. Chase Briscoe and Noah Gragson were evident of that on Saturday night with top-five runs.

As for the series, the decision to move the finale from Miami to the desert puzzles a lot of people, considering that last week’s racing at ISM Raceway was a little lack-luster other than the crazy restarts. That is something that certainly will need to be addressed.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Trucks

Todd Gilliland Looking at “Couple Different Things” for 2020

With Kyle Busch Motorsports finalizing their pair of full-time entries for 2020, it gave confirmation that Todd Gilliland will not return to the organization for another season.

The second generation racer alluded to this fact last weekend at ISM Raceway when discussing his future plans. 

“We have a couple different things,” he said at ISM Raceway. “We’re hoping to have things locked down pretty soon to be able to announce. Right now we’re just staying focused on what’s in front of us. We’ll take it one week at a time and be the best race car driver I can be.”

Gilliland has not performed as well as he has hoped this year driving in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series, failing to make the playoffs with just six top-five’s and 13 top-10’s in 22 races. 

However, there has been recent success as he was able to score his first career series victory at Martinsville Speedway a couple weeks ago. He admits feeling relief right upon crossing the finish line. 

“Afterwards you just feel like you belong,” he adds. “It’s something I was really lucky to be able to do was win early in the ARCA Series in my first race and then my first race here at Phoenix in the K&N Series, just makes things so much easier. Puts you in the talks every single week. Just being a winner in every series makes things easier.”

Following a championship in the K&N Pro Series, it’s easy to understand that he felt this season would have gone much better right from the start.

“Still to this day, I don’t feel like it should have been this hard,” he commented. “Even from the beginning of my truck races, I ran almost better than I had been. I started out running pretty competitive and then went downhill slowly. I really don’t know. Communication, people and obviously KBM has really great people. Me and Marcus (Richmond, crew chief) really didn’t gel together. Communication is key in every business.”

The lack of success earlier this year brought forth many critics, including Kyle Busch making comments to the media about Gilliland’s lack of success. After all, Christopher Bell and Erik Jones were both able to win titles quickly in his equipment with Busch winning all five races he entered.

Everything came to a head when Gilliland shouted over the radio upon crossing the finish line that, “Kyle Busch should stay in the f***ing motorhome.” The young driver has since apologized to his team owner for the comments, saying that they talked on the phone middle of the week and got “everything smoothed out.” 

“I feel like obviously he wasn’t happy,” Gilliland said. “I wouldn’t be either, but at the same time a part of him understood just the frustration and I’m sure he didn’t want me to be back here, but luckily we talked things out and I’m happy to still be in this No. 4 JBL Toyota Tundra.”

As the options are considered for 2020, one option that stands out would be having Gilliland driving for his father David Gilliland‘s team. 

“I wouldn’t even really call it falling back on, I think it’s always a good option,” Todd Gilliland said. “He’s always been there for me and at this point, they’ve built a really good race team. That’s always something to look at, but there’s a bunch of other really great race teams out there. Just always have to keep your options open. Just try to get the best results possible.”

Gilliland could also see his father’s team expanding in the future, knowing that David “would do anything he could get his hands on.”

“He has five trucks here this weekend and a K&N car. That’s literally everyone in the shop,” he commented. “It’s pretty cool to see how fast they are growing, but you also see sometimes that people get ahead of themselves. I’m hoping that’s not the case with them. It’s really cool the people they’ve brought in and brought together to be able to expand and be competitive at this level so far.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Chase Briscoe Left With Regrets and Frustration Following Playoff Run

The playoffs demand the best out of any driver, just ask Chase Briscoe. He was able to put a top-10 in each of the events except for one, and found himself as one of the drivers not fighting for the Championship this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“I was telling people the other day after Kansas I was obviously frustrated and upset, but I felt like we were still gonna be fine,” he commented at ISM Raceway. “I felt like with our speed we were gonna be fine getting to Homestead still.  We can still go run top five the next two races, if not win one, and after Texas then everything that went down at Texas makes Kansas sting a lot worse and makes me even more mad.”

Briscoe was in the thick of the action to win at Kansas Speedway, battling Christopher Bell for the victory, when the pair made contact with a lap car resulting in damage to both vehicles. Despite the rear panel having to be replaced, he was able to fight back to finish third.

He showed speed at Texas Motor Speedway, running up front until he made contact with the wall and then cut a tire, requiring an scheduled stop down pit road. He was credited with a 22nd-place finish.

He ran inside the top-five part of the event at ISM Raceway, though ultimately finished eighth, missing the cut. 

Now as he is forced to watch four of his competitors fight for the championship instead, Briscoe finds himself thinking back to what happened at Texas.

“In hindsight we probably should have just pitted whenever we got in the wall,” he commented. “It was just a thing where at the time we felt like we made the right decision.  Me and my crew chief were talking and we’re pretty sure the splitter is what ended up flattening the tire.  If we would have come down, we didn’t even think the splitter was an issue, so we probably would have had the same issue regardless.  I don’t know. 

“There’s a lot of things we could have done different.  Obviously, the lapped car situation could have went way different and we probably wouldn’t be in the situation we are right now, but those are the cards we were dealt and we’ve got to deal with those.”

The fact that he did not make the Championship 4 only stings more when he looks back and sees how strong they were at the Homestead-Miami Speedway test.

“We were unbelievable, we felt like,” he said. “A lot of guys go and test and you’re like, ‘Oh, man.  We’re so good,’ and then you go back.  I know Jeff Burton was at the test and I heard on the TV broadcast I heard him talk about how good he thought we were.  Typically there fall off is around a certain time over a 40-lap run and we were two-tenths better than that, so I felt like if we can get to Homestead, we have a legitimate shot to win the championship.”

Briscoe went as far to mention that if he is able to pull off the victory on Saturday afternoon, “it’s gonna be sickening” in knowing what could’ve been. It’s an experience that he knows already, having won the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series race there in 2017. 

Though on the flip side, one more checkered flag on the season would be very deserving for Briscoe and company as it’d give them a chance to not celebrate their success there, but as a year overall. While not making the Championship 4 is less than ideal, scoring 12 top-five’s and 25 top-10’s in the 32 races is certainly something to remember. It also easily puts him in the conversation as favorites for the title in 2020 with several drivers moving away from the series.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

OBSERVATIONS: Bluegreen Vacations 500 at ISM Raceway

There was a lot of discussion to be had about the race at ISM Raceway on Sunday, but you could say the action on-track did not live up to that hype. Despite the speedway’s officials attempts to widen the groove with the PJ1 traction compound, the racing turned into a boring affair.

The restarts brought plenty of drama with drivers all over the track trying to gain ground, but that did not last as they embarked on the long run. The field would get widely spread out, even race leader Denny Hamlin gapping the field by over 10 seconds at one point. The challenges for position seemed to only happen when you had cars falling off the pace, except for a solid battle for 30 laps between Hamlin and Chase Elliott for second near the end of stage two.

The racing was so spread out with the unlikelihood of drama near the end that NASCAR put out a caution for John Hunter Nemechek‘s contact with the outside wall that normally would have been no cause for concern. After all, the Front Row Motorsports driver made it back to pit road without laying down any debris.

Ultimately, Hamlin did what he had to in getting the track position, and having a good handling No. 11 FedEx Camry to utilize the clean air and drive away from the field. Despite restart concerns mid-race with some issues, he also prevailed on the final run to the checkered with three laps to go, securing his position in the Championship 4.

Kyle Busch did try to mount a challenge in the final laps, with some questioning whether he fully drove hard or held back some after being reminded of his Joe Gibbs Racing’s teammate’s position coming to the green. However, if you know Rowdy, he is not a driver to settle for second and he has not won in 21 races.

On the flip side, the worst round of Elliott’s NASCAR career came to an end as he suffered a blown tire, backing the No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet into the outside wall. After having a bunch of momentum following a great comeback victory at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL, the most popular driver failed to finish better than 32nd in the last three races. 

Joey Logano will also be asking himself several questions as he started out fast and led early, but an ill-handling car caused him to fall a lap down mid-way through the event. His Team Penske team says that was simply caused by a half-pound air pressure adjustment, but the complete 180 in the car’s behavior has many other questions being asked.

Though overall, the drivers who deserved to be in the Championship 4 are there. The Big three in Hamlin, Truex, and Busch have made the cut, joined by Kevin Harvick. They currently boost the four best average finishes across all 35 races to date this season and have proven capable of winning. It’s just a matter of who will do it when it counts at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Darrell Wallace Jr. Penalized for Intentional Spin at Texas Motor Speedway

Sometimes it is best to just keep your mouth shut or it can get you into trouble.

Following Darrell Wallace Jr.‘s comments to NBC Sports reporter Dustin Long on Friday at ISM Raceway, the Richard Petty Motorsports driver was penalized 50 points and $50,000. The intentional spin from the AAA Texas 500 was in violation of Section 12.1.a General Procedures, Section 12.8 NASCAR Member Conduct, Section 12.8.1 Member Conduct Guidelines and Section 10.8 In-Race Violations. 

Per the NASCAR rule book, Section 10.8 states that the sanctioning body can impose a penalty for “intentionally causing or attempt to cause a caution period.”

Meanwhile, section 12.1.a of the Rule Book states, “NASCAR membership is a privilege. With that privilege comes certain benefits, responsibilities and obligations. Correct and proper conduct, both on and off the race track, is part of a Member’s responsibilities. A Member’s actions can reflect upon the sport as a whole and on other NASCAR Members. Ideally, NASCAR Members are role models for the many fans who follow this sport, regardless of the type of license a Member may hold, or the specific Series in which a Member may participate. Therefore, NASCAR views a Member’s conduct, both on and off the race track, which might constitute a behavioral Rules violation under this Rule Book with great importance.”

Following contact, Wallace had a tire going flat on his No. 43 entry. Rather than making his way down pit road under green flag conditions, which would have put him multiple laps down, Wallace spun to bring out the caution flag.

Following the spin, NASCAR chose to not penalize Wallace initially, with NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell stating it was a judgment call and they would take a look at it, addressing it with the drivers and teams if they felt necessary. 

However, a penalty was then handed out following Wallace’s comments to Long on Friday.

“If we feel like it’s on purpose and we have enough information to determine that 100% it’s on purpose, we will react,” NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller said. “The reaction today was after a complete admission of guilt, so that’s really what led to the penalty happening today.

“… That was a full admission of something that has been abuzz in the garage and the media. (A warning instead of a penalty) wasn’t an option.”

Long had approached Wallace about the spin due to comments from Kyle Larson to the press on Friday. After saying that “Helen Keller could see Bubba’s spin was on purpose” following the event, he said his team checked the data and could see the spin was on purpose.

“You could definitely see, because we have SMT (SportsMEDIA Technology) where you have the digital car,” he commented. “You could see him like swerving, he turns right and at the same time he turns left and stabs the throttle and spins out. It’s whatever at this point.”

Richard Petty Motorsports released a statement shortly thereafter, stating they will not appeal the penalty.

“We fully understand NASCAR’s position and expectations of its competitors,” said Philippe Lopez, Richard Petty Motorsports’ director of competition. “NASCAR has a difficult job officiating race events and we do not need to make the task more challenging. Wallace will not appeal the penalty, and will direct his immediate focus to this weekend’s event at the ISM Raceway.”

NASCAR is hoping this penalty will deter drivers from purposeful spins in the future.

“We haven’t spoken to the drivers, but this obviously is going to start some dialogue. … We have the ability to react monetarily and points-wise, what we feel is appropriate. I’d say this is pretty substantial and hopefully sends the right message,” Miller expanded. “All we can do is wait and watch and see how we need to react next.

“Hopefully we don’t. Hopefully it cleans itself up.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.