Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Bowman, Gordon Stepping In for Earnhardt

Dale Earnhardt Jr has not been cleared by physicians to compete for the next two weeks in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, as he continues to recover from a concussion.

Hendrick Motorsports made the announcement  Wednesday  he will miss Michigan International Speedway and Darlington Raceway. Earlier this week, Earnhardt underwent further evaluations at  the University of Pittsburg Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program.

Alex Bowman will pilot the No. 88 Chevrolet this weekend at Michigan. Bowman filled in for Earnhardt at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 17, finishing 26th. Bowman has four starts at Michigan, with a best finish of 26th.

https://twitter.com/AlexBRacing/status/768563397138976773

It is  a tremendous opportunity for Bowman to compete for this weekend for Hendrick Motorsports as the youngster continue to search for a full-time ride in a NASCAR National Series. This season, he’s running a limited XFINITY Series schedule for JR Motorsports with  two top-fives and five top-ten finishes.

Jeff Gordon will step back in the car for Darlington on Labor Day weekend; due to prior commitments, he was  not  able to race at Michigan. The four-time Sprint Cup Series champion has seven wins at Darlington Raceway,  leading active drivers. He has driven the last four races for Earnhardt with a best finish of 11th at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Emily Spink is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist.

EMAIL EMILY AT emily.spink@popularspeed.com

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

Categories
Development Journalists

Larson on Allmendinger: ‘Flat Out Stupid’

Kyle Larson had  a promising day going during the Cheez-It 335 at Watkins Glen – till the final corner on the last lap.

He started second and was poised for a solid finish until disaster struck.  Larson’s potential top five finish was ruined in a matter of seconds after A.J. Allmendinger spun him out coming into turn 7.  Rather than finishing fourth, Larson finished 29th. 

“We were about a 10th place car, and we were going to get a top five day out it,” Larson said. “We were running sixth coming to turn 7; the No. 47 was behind me. He is always aggressive. I figured he would be smart. Obviously, the No. 78 (Martin Truex Jr) was spinning in front of us. That is a free spot for both of us, and he just dumped me.”       

Allmendinger was not pleased with himself after the race, apologizing to Larson,  saying he did not mean to turn him on purpose.    

“The No. 78 started to spin, and Kyle and I were racing for fifth there,” he said. “He defended on the inside, which he should have. And I  tried to cut under him off of the last corner, and No. 78 was coming back across the race track. I was under him. He turned. And I just clipped him.”

The apology didn’t mean anything to Larson, who made it clear that payback would be coming.

“He wrecked me earlier in the year at Vegas,” Larson said. “He has ran me hard, but we always race pretty well, but today was flat out stupid. It just sucks they are going to have start building some more race cars because he has got a few coming.”

Following his first finish outside the top-20 since Kansas, Larson is 16th in the NASCAR Chase for the Championship Sprint Cup Series standings, only eight points ahead of Trevor Bayne for the last spot. It’s worth noting if Chris Buescher crack the top-30 in points, Larson will drop outside of the Chase to 17th due to Buescher having a win this year. Notably, the Chip Ganassi team lost 25 points because of the spin.  

Despite Sunday’s disappointment, the No. 42 team should not hit the panic button just yet as with only four races to go before the Chase starts it is still possible for the team to make it in on points. But if he could win, it’d be a blessing as it’d take the pressure off with him being locked in.

Larson is still searching for his first win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and could get it in the next two races  Bristol and Michigan. His best finish at Bristol is seventh, and his best finish at Michigan came back in June when he finished third.

Emily Spink is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist.

EMAIL EMILY AT emily.spink@popularspeed.com

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

Categories
News

Gordon Stepping Out of Retirement

Jeff Gordon is not done racing just yet.

Hendrick Motorsports made it official on Wednesday, announcing that the four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion will substitute for Dale Earnhardt Jr for the next two race weekends at Indianapolis and-and Pocono. Dale Jr has not been cleared by doctors to compete in the Sprint Cup Series after experiencing concussion-like symptoms, including nausea and dizziness.

Gordon is third on the all-time wins list with 93 victories. Five of those came at the Brickyard, and six came at Pocono, which are both records. His last Sprint Cup Series start came at the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami.

The announcement came last Friday that if Dale Jr. was not cleared to race, Gordon would replace him.

“Jeff is a team player,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “I know he’ll be ready, and I know Dale has incredible trust in him. It is going to be an emotional weekend at Indianapolis.”

Indianapolis will be the second consecutive week that Earnhardt has missed in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The last time Earnhardt was not able to compete due to a concussion or concussion-like symptoms was in 2012.

On Tuesday, Earnhardt went under more evaluation and explained what he’s going through on his podcast.

“The symptoms I have are dealing with balance and nausea. I put my health and quality of life as a top priority. And I’ll always do that. So I’m going to take this slow and strictly follow the advice of my doctors, and try to learn as much as I can to be smarter and wiser. It’s always been a real experience going through this kind of stuff because you learn so much through the experience. I’ve got some great doctors to learn from.”

Earnhardt does expect to get back into the car at some point, but there is no set timetable for his return to competition.

Emily Spink is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist.

EMAIL EMILY AT emily.spink@popularspeed.com

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

Categories
Development Journalists

A Step In the Right Direction

Is history repeating itself for Richard Childress?

Despite not yet winning a race in 2016, the organization has been showing improvements among its Sprint Cup counterparts. Last Saturday’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway was another step in the right direction for the team.

Thanks to a successful fuel mileage gamble by crew chief Luke Lambert, Ryan Newman scored his first top-five finish of the season at Kentucky. Two years ago, Newman came up just one position short of winning the championship. Coincidentally, Newman also scored his first top five of that season at Kentucky. While a fuel-mileage-driven third place may not seem like a big deal, it was a much-needed “small victory” for the 2008 Daytona 500 champion and the No. 31 team.

 All three RCR cars showcased a solid night for most of the race. At several points during the race, the organization’s three cars were all running in the top 10. At several points during the race, including the final green-flag run of the night, all three cars were in the top 10 before late stops cost Austin Dillon and Paul Menard chances at deserving finishes.

After his best finish of the season, the driver of the No. 31 CAT Chevrolet talked about what has changed lately in the Richard Childress Racing camp.

“We have definitely been building and making improvements. We started the season off decent but not where we wanted to be or where we thought we should’ve been.” Newman stated.  “I think the cars and the engines are getting better. We have been more competitive.” 

While the team has been making some improvements and becoming more competitive, Newman acknowledges they’ve still got plenty of room to improve.

“We’ve still got some more work to do. We’re not leading a bunch of laps, or leading the most laps in a given race and talking about how we didn’t win. We’re talking about how we can finish in the top five,” Newman said. “We’ve got some work to do, don’t get me wrong, but I’m proud of the effort that went into tonight.”

So far this season, the organization as a whole has scored only four top-five and 15 top-ten finishes. Dillon leads these categories with three top-five and eight top-ten finishes. Ryan Newman’s statistics for this season are identical to his 2014 season: one top five and six top tens.

With eight races remaining in the regular season, two of the three RCR drivers are currently in the Chase. Ryan Newman is 12th, and Austin Dillon is 14th in the standings.  Paul Menard is well outside the cutoff in the 23rd position.

Emily Spink is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist.

EMAIL EMILY AT emily.spink@popularspeed.com

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

Categories
XFINITY

Wallace Gambles on Restart to Grab Top Five

SPARTA, KY – Darrell Wallace Jr made an impressive move on the final laps of the Alsco 300 at Kentucky Speedway, going four-wide and motoring into the fifth position. It was a brave move, but he made it work.

The Roush Fenway driver started in the 11th position and battled challenges from an ill-handling car from the start of race. The team made improvements throughout the night and in the end it payed off.

“It’s a good night for us, but we’ve got to be better,” said Wallace. “We finished fifth, so that was good rebound from when we showed up here at Kentucky. We were way off in left field, so we worked hard all night long. Fifth is good, but we’re getting close to Chase time, so we need to start winning.”

“I didn’t know we were four-wide until [Spotter] Freddy said ‘clear of four-wide’ It’s cool that we made it through here at Kentucky.”

Aggressive moves on a newly-paved track showed Wallace and his Roush Fenway have promise as the Chase nears, but a win will be critical to guarantee a spot and build confidence for driver and team.

“We’re still in the building stages. Don’t get me wrong, we had a pretty good Ford EcoBoost Mustang and just need a little bit more. We’re usually about seventh to eight and we picked up two spots, so the credit goes to all my guys and my pit crew,” Wallace said.

“The organization has been really hitting on some stuff on the Cup side and it’s kind of trickling down to the Xfinity shop, so we just have to keep taking notes and keep trying these things. I say we need to win because it’s getting close to Chase time, but we still have some time to tweak and tune some stuff.”

Wallace was pleased with the repave. He’s eager to come back and gave credit to the track.

“It was an awesome job with the repave by the whole Kentucky staff. It was fun racing, but couldn’t really do much passing. It will be better when we come back.”

Emily Spink is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist.

EMAIL EMILY AT emily.spink@popularspeed.com

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

 

 

 

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Jimmie Johnson Hits Wall In Practice Session

SPARTA, KY– During the first of two Spint Cup Series  practice sessions at Kentucky Speedway on Friday, Jimmie Johnson spun out and slammed into the wall in Turn 4. Johnson was second fastest at the time.

The No. 48 team rolled out the backup car just before the practice session was delayed due to severe weather.

Johnson has scored five top-ten finishes and one top-five finish at Kentucky Speedway.

 

Categories
Trucks

Truck Race Draws Mixed Emotions from Drivers

SPARTA, Ky – The Buckle Your Truck 225, for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, did not disappoint when it came to racing Thursday night with three drivers competing for the win on the final lap.

Although, if you ask some of the drivers they may have a different opinion.

The prevalent topic of the weekend is the repaving of Kentucky Speedway and what kind of racing it is going to bring to the table.

Drivers were concerned about widening out the bottom groove, so there could be more side by side racing. One of those drivers was Kyle Busch. He stated he was able to make some passes in the second groove.

“The second groove is a little edgy. It wasn’t as bad as I expected [it] to be. We will just have to see how it goes for the rest of the weekend.” 

Busch made these comments after his night ended early on lap 58 when he spun out and crashed into the wall.

Parker Kligerman substituting for the injured John Wes Townley, came home 19th  and gave the track a 5-star rating.  

“I thought it was great. It is one of the coolest race tracks. It is going to age really cool. I love unique race tracks, and that is what this track is.”

When you’re the race winner, there’s not too much to complain about and William Byron gave some positive feedback about the repaving. He also credited that his win came down to strategy.

“It is so hooked up; you are on the track. If you make one little mistake, it is easy for the next guy to get a side draft off of you,” said Byron, “The key for us was to be able to make quick work of traffic.”

Ben Rhodes, a Louisville, Ky. native had high hopes prior to the race.

“I cannot put into words how much a win would mean to me. I kind of feel like Dale Jr. with all the support,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “It was a limited race as far as passing goes. The groove widens out as the race went on, but it was still hard to pass. We just couldn’t get past people to get that track position.”

A win would of have been priceless at his home track, but he settled for a 13th place finish.

BKR driver, Tyler Reddick brought home a tenth-place finish. His biggest demon was gaining track position.

“Unfortunately, the racing was somewhat like we thought it was going to be. Our group tried really hard to get us some track position. Unfortunately it didn’t play out tonight.” Reddick said.

Eighth-place finisher, defending Series Champion, Matt Crafton came home with an 8th place finish, and was less than impressed with the repaving.

“It’s a shame they dug up this race track. All in all, we survived and got out of here with an average finish at best,” he said, “we knew passing wasn’t going to be anything; it was all about track position.”

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race was the first taste of what fans and drivers can expect for the weekend — and while drivers had differing views, you can never argue with an exciting finish.

Emily Spink is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist.

EMAIL EMILY AT emily.spink@popularspeed.com

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

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Playing it Safe Doesn’t Pay Off

During restrictor-plate races, it’s not uncommon to see a group of drivers linger in the back of the field, avoiding the sometimes three-wide racing near the front of the pack in order to make it to the finish. It is a risk drivers and teams routinely take, but surprisingly, the “play it safe” strategy usually doesn’t pay off.

It may seem like the logical thing to do, right? Trying to stay out of trouble and being in the right spot  during the closing stages of the race. Typically though, when the “Big One” happens during these races, it’s the drivers hanging around the back of field swept up in the wreck.

As the laps wind down,  drivers become anxious trying to find a way to work up closer to the front. They are looking for help, frantically trying to get in the lane that has the most momentum , but there is nowhere  to go. They wait until it’s too late to make their move and get stuck with a  middle-of-the-pack finish or worse.

The wrecks that happen at Daytona and Talladega are chain-reaction wrecks. That is the primary downfall of  pack racing.  When calamity strikes, there’s nowhere for the drivers to go, resulting in an expensive pile of twisted sheet metal and hurt feelings.

The competition in NASCAR today is tougher than ever, and it is even harder now to come from the back to the front if drivers wait too long.  At Daytona and Talladega, there really is no safe spot, but  staying out front is the place to be.

Take Brad Keselowski for example. The Penske driver won his first race at Daytona Saturday night, leading 115 of 160 laps. He had the  right plan and executed it to perfection. He stayed up front and was aggressive for the entire race.

The “Big One” took place on lap 90. The wreck took out 22 of the 40 cars, including Kevin Harvick, who was running in the back of the front pack. After the race, Harvick’s crew chief Rodney Childers tweeted his frustration with plate racing, lamenting the fact that the No. 4 team never showed their full hand.

“… it is hard to make ground, so you have to be aggressive when you start making ground,” Harvick said after the 22-car wreck. “Unfortunately, I was in the back of that front pack and ended up getting in the wreck.”

Emily Spink is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist.

EMAIL EMILY AT emily.spink@popularspeed.com

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

Categories
Development Journalists

Repave Sets Up Kentucky for Success

This year’s Battle in the Bluegrass is going to be one wild show.

No, I am not talking about the Kentucky Wildcats vs. the Louisville Cardinals. I am talking about 43 machines taking on one of the most difficult tracks in NASCAR on July 9. Drivers and race fans will experience something completely different at Kentucky Speedway.

Last year, NASCAR debuted the new low downforce package at Kentucky. NASCAR knew they were onto something and competitors raved, saying it was the most exciting race of the season.

With an aging and bumpy surface that was criticized by several Sprint Cup Series drivers, Kentucky Speedway officials announced it was time to repave the roughest track on the circuit.

Besides a complete repave, the track has a new drainage system and has been reconfigured. The banking in Turns 1 and 2 has been increased from 14 degrees to 17 degrees, and the racing surface has been narrowed on that end of the speedway. Fourteen teams were able to test out the renovated track earlier this month as part of a NASCAR-sanctioned test.

Tim Bray, Director of Communications of Kentucky Speedway gave his thoughts about the upcoming race. He is just as excited as race fans.

“I think it is going to be fast, very fast. The drivers are all in awe because of the fact it is nothing like the old track,” Bray told POPULAR SPEED. “Turns 1 and 2 are only 54-feet wide, turns 3 and 4 are much flatter and wider”

NASCAR is bringing the lower downforce package that debuted at Michigan. The goal with the new package is to not only reduce downforce, but to lower sideforce produced by the cars, essentially allowing drivers to pass and be less dependent on aerodynamics.

“Drivers and crew chiefs are going to have to make some decisions as to how they are going to set up their cars, and it all has do with the new package,” Bray said.

Another important aspect of the race is going to be which tire Goodyear and NASCAR chooses.

“They brought a tire from Vegas, and we want Goodyear to bring that tire back for the race,” Bray explained. “Goodyear has some decisions to make, but I think the biggest tire will be the one they use during the race.”

According to Bray, the low groove is already established, so the main task now is to widen that groove so that fans will see side-by-side racing. Bray is hopeful the reconfiguration will help Kentucky maintain its reputation as a one-of-a-kind oval.

“We want the track to live up to what it is, a unique mile-and-a-half on the circuit,” Bray said.

Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch took part in the 14-team test, and the two most recent cup series champions offered their take on the revamped facility.

“You won’t leave here with a headache that is the best part.” Harvick chuckled.

The Stewart Haas Racing driver also praised the new drainage system.

“That was one of the biggest problems. Drying the track and not losing track time and making the fans sit around for no reason,” said Harvick. “The effort into spending the money on something like this shows the commitment Kentucky Speedway and SMI have.”

According to Bray, the defending race winner at Kentucky spent a lot of time working on restarts and trying different grooves around the track. With so many new factors, Busch isn’t sure what to expect come race time.

“It is going to be interesting. The biggest thing I see is the groove goes from so wide coming out of turn four onto the straightaway it narrows going into turn 1,” Busch said. “We are trying our best to get it rubbered in. The tires seem to be reacting well in turns one and two, but in three and four it has been a trying process.”

Emily Spink is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist.

EMAIL EMILY AT emily.spink@popularspeed.com

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

Categories
XFINITY

Erik Jones: Faces Fuel Cell Challenge

Erik Jones was one of the pre-race favorites  to win the Iowa American Ethanol E15 250 on Sunday.

Jones came to Iowa Speedway with two wins and eight top-five finishes already this season. After leading practice and scoring his third pole in the last four races, it appeared certain that the No. 20 would be in position for win number three.

Moments before the green flag dropped, it was reported that Jones would have to start at the rear of the field for unapproved body modifications. . That proved to be no obstacle for Jones, who climbed all the way to 11th place after just 17 laps.

Just before the race’s competition caution on Lap 40, Jones was in eighth place when he came down pit road. He radioed to his crew that the No. 20 Toyota had no fuel pressure, forcing him to the pits, hoping his crew could get his ailing car back up to speed.

Because the team added fuel to Jones’ car before the competition caution, he was ineligible to take the wave around, trapping him a lap behind the leaders. But that was only the beginning of Jones’ fuel pressure woes.

On lap 72, the fuel pressure issue returned. Twelve laps later, Jones was three laps down and things only worsened from there. On Lap 99, Jones took his machine to the garage to change the fuel cell, which left him six laps off the pace.

The defending Camping World Truck Series champion fought hard to gain track position for the remainder of the race, but had to settle for a 27th-place finish.

After the race, Jones tweeted his congratulations to teammate Sam Hornish.

Emily Spink is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist.

EMAIL EMILY AT emily.spink@popularspeed.com