Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Chastain lands big opportunity with Ganassi

After a busy 2019 saw him compete in all three of NASCAR’s top divisions, Ross Chastain will start of the 2020 campaign with another double-duty effort.

It was announced Thursday that Chastain will drive the No. 77 Chevrolet for Spire Motorsports for the Daytona 500 in a car that will be prepared by Chip Ganassi Racing with AdventHealth serving as the primary sponsor.

The deal bears a resemblance to the deal between Spire and CGR last season when Jamie McMurray ran the Daytona 500; however, Chastain’s opportunity will span two races as they will come together again for the Coca-Cola 600 in May.

“To have the opportunity to run the DAYTONA 500 is awesome, and it’s great to do it this year with AdventHealth on board my car,” Chastain said in a press release. “I’ve only had one start in the DAYTONA 500, and can’t wait to run that race again in what I know will be a competitive car. I’m also looking forward to racing the Coca-Cola 600. That’s another iconic race that all of us want to win.”

The move also serves as a reunion of sorts of Chastain and CGR who came together during the 2018 season for three races in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, where Chastain captures his first win and earned himself a contract with the team.

Unfortunately, that did not include any races last season though due to lack of sponsorship with DC Solar filing for bankruptsy.

It’s no secret that Chastain made the most of a bad break though, as he captured wins in Xfinity and the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, and even brought his Niece Motorsports’ truck all the way through to the Championship 4.

Now this opportunity is Chastain’s biggest yet, though.

Some people may be thrown off by the Spire Motorsports label associated with the ride, but this is without a doubt his best opportunity yet in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Rewind back to the Xfinity races at Daytona International Speedway last season, where Chastain ran strong in both races with Kaulig Racing, winning the summer race. While it may be NASCAR’s second-tier series, Chastain proved to be a quality superspeedway driver.

Now, he’ll be in even better equipment in the sport’s biggest race of the season with CGR.

Chastain himself he knows that this will be a competitive car that will give him a chance to steal a win, which could lead to bigger and better things as after all, Chip Ganassi likes winners.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

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

DGR-Crosley, Ford Partnership A Win For All

On Wednesday, Dec. 12 it was announced that DGR-Crosley will be switching manufacturers from Toyota to Ford in 2020.

The move came after a successful 2019 season where the team recorded wins in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, ARCA Menards Series East, and the ARCA Menards Series. So, after all the success, the decision may seem like a strange one; however, when you look at the situation at hand, this was probably the best time to do it for all parties involved.

For one, when it came to trucks, DGR was always going to be the number two option for Toyota’s development system behind Kyle Busch Motorsports. Not to forget the amount of Toyota teams in the various lower-tier series as well.

Now, this was not a horrible thing for the team, but this new opportunity allows them to take a bigger role as a driver development group. With that in mind, don’t be surprised if this team gets even better next season with its newfound manufacturer support.

This brings us to Ford.

A group that really didn’t have a pipeline system into the lower series like the one Chevrolet has with GMS Racing, and Toyota has with KBM. They know have that with DGR, which really cannot be understated.

While a full driver lineup as yet to be announced, there are a bunch of qualities options at the table that the team could add or resign, that would be good additions for the Ford camp also.

For one there is Todd Gilliand, who is a free agent and has that obvious connection with DGR, that could be somebody scooped up. Yes, he did not have the best of seasons with KBM in 2019, but he did show potential and did win a race with the team.

Then there is somebody like a Tanner Gray, who is young and won in his first season in the East Series last year with a history of success attached to his name.

And finally, there’s the appeal to other drivers who may be stuck in the Toyota pipeline that may not have a clear vision upwards. Someone like a Hailie Deegan, who is currently a free agent, has a history with DGR and been rumored to be joining the team.

The announcement may already be creating waves, and the manufacture sent out a media advisory that they will be announcing a new development driver to their program on Tuesday, December 17.

Not to forget that if DGR is successfully able to devise a pipeline for Ford, it may raise the likelihood of a team like Team Penske or Stewart-Haas Racing of maybe investing in DGR to invest in the future of their own race teams.

While all of this may be looking into a crystal ball one thing is for certain, this is move is a win for all parties involved.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

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

eNASCAR Heat Pro League Ends Successful First Season

The first season of the eNASCAR Heat Pro League came to a close Wednesday night in dramatic fashion.

Stewart-Haas Gaming’s drivers, Brandyn Gritton, who competed in the PlayStation 4 races, and Josh Shoemaker, who competed in the Xbox One events came away with the inaugural championship.

It didn’t come without some dramatics though, as Leavine Family Gaming’s driver in the Xbox league, Nick Vroman would jump from third to first on the final lap after then-leader Diego Alvarado, competing for Petty eSports, would stall in front of Shoemaker who running second.

Vroman would get the win and managed to increase LFG’s points to force a tiebreaker between themselves and Stewart-Haas. However, due to Gritton and Vroman leading more laps, they would be crowned champions.

“I thought it was a great way to recap what was a very exciting season,” Colin Smith, President of 704 Games, told POPULAR SPEED. “I think we were able to open up a lot of people’s eyes to the potential and the possibility of e-sports, as it relates to NASCAR, and we could not have asked for a better finish in terms of the event, and the quality of production, and teams we had participating.”

The finale took place in NASCAR Plaza’s Studio 43 in Charlotte and streamed on eNASCAR.com, with NASCAR’s social channels plugging the event. To the league’s credit, this really gave the event a big fight feel which Smith said was by design.

“It’s really important to have a lot of what we’re trying to do is create that type of atmosphere when we do host all of these drivers, and all of the teams on location, and we want to do more of that next year where we have the opportunity to actually create potentially a series of events around the race, themselves,” Smith said.

It was not just the NASCAR team that made the event a big deal, as involvement with the teams gave the league an added bit of legitimacy. On the day of the event, Stewart-Haas Gaming even released a video featuring Stewart-Haas Racing’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers wishing their teammates good luck.

https://twitter.com/StewartHaasGmng/status/1187036203339702274

“It was great to see some of the teams really embrace this and do some fun things with it, which is what we recommended at the very beginning of the year. Don’t treat this like it’s your traditional racing. It’s a game. It’s e-sports. Like have some fun with it,” Smith said.

He also noted he has been “extremely” pleased with team participation and thinks teams are feeling the same way, as he noted that some organizations were able to gain new sponsorship thanks in part to the newly found league. One example of this was Wood Brothers Gaming, who was able to attract a new sponsor for their eteam in Spin earlier this season.

Overall, Smith considers the first season of the league a success.

“Our demos are really strong. Like I said, the participation from the teams, and from NASCAR has been really strong, and the collective power of all those groups coming together, whether it’s brainpower, markets, or muscle, you name it, is pretty convincing. So, I think year one we learned a lot,” Smith said. “I think we’re walking out of year one with our heads held collectively high, but I also think that everyone feels there’s a lot more that we can, and should, be doing as we head into year two.”

On the topic of year two, Smith said there is a lot of things that the league is looking into such as: a bigger driver pool, a more compact schedule, a possible celebrity pro-am race, and most likely a prize pool to reward the drivers for how they compete.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

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

Can Austin Cindric Solidify Himself?

The 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series season has been dominated by three drivers – Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick, and Cole Custer.

While it is not confirmed these three will be racing for the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway, it is likely.

However, there are still five other drivers in the playoffs, and at least one of them will also have a chance at the title. The lone question is who?

Now, while it’s been all about the “Big 3,” there has been one driver who has done well about proving himself this season. He is the only other competitor running for points that has more than one win.

This driver is Austin Cindric.

While he may not have the most impressive stats in the season, Cindric has been very consistent, and has even gotten better throughout the year. He started off with 13 top-10’s in the first 16 races, had a bit of a low point between Kentucky, New Hampshire, and Iowa II, before winning back-to-back road course events.

He hasn’t cooled off in the playoffs either; in the Round of 12, he never started or finished below third. If he repeats that in the Round of 8, he will be more than likely going on the Championship 4.

Again though  the question is can he? The momentum is there for Cindric; he just needs to capitalize

This is the opportunity to cement himself as a true contender, something that Reddick, who had a worse season up to this point, did last year. The next three races could prove monumental for Cindric, and could honestly set the tone for his NASCAR career going forward.

If Cindric continues to show his skill set, he not only proves that he should be taken seriously this year but next year as well.

After all, there’s a chance that Bell, Reddick, and Custer are all gone from the series next season, which would arguably make Cindric the best in the series. Now if he made the Championship 4 and maybe even won the championship this year, the momentum skyrockets for the No. 22 team, which again, would be huge for Cindric.

After all, 2020 is setting up for a prove yourself for Cindric, who has been tied with possible opportunities in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in the years that would follow.

What a bigger of a statement can be made than heading into next season, than a championship appearance this season. The opportunity to set all of this up starts this weekend at Kansas. It is make or break time.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

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

Legitimized and Ready, Reddick Moves to Cup

It was confirmed on Wednesday, Oct. 2 by Richard Childress Racing that Tyler Reddick will be moving to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series to drive the No.8 Chevrolet.

It was not an announcement that shocked anybody, or a move many argue will argue against.

After all, Reddick is the defending NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion and currently having an even better season where he has captured five wins and the regular-season championship.

It could even be argued that Reddick is the most Cup-ready of the current batch of Xfinity Series regulars. After all, he’s already impressed in NASCAR’s top-level with a ninth-place finish in only his second start earlier this season at Kansas Speedway.

There is no other arguing that Reddick is ready for the jump; however, if you rewind the tape to the beginning of October last year, a future in Cup would have looked like a stretch.

He was with JR Motorsports, driving a car that had seen so much success with William Byron and Chase Elliott, and it was a forgettable year.

Reddick only had one win that came at Daytona, and really did not scream weekly contender with 13 finishes outside the top-20. He was in the playoffs but was not a favorite to win the title, let alone make the Championship 4 in a season that was dominated by Christopher Bell and Justin Allgaier.

Later in the month, it would be announced that he was leaving the team to join RCR, which could have been seen as a step backward, and was a move that did not surprise anyone.

Reddick just seemed like someone could not be put in the same ballpark as Bell and Cole Custer as possible future Cup stars. All of this truly makes what he has accomplished in the year since that much more impressive.

He put together an impressive string through the 2018 Xfinity Series playoffs, en route to winning the title with a sensational performance in the season finale at Homestead-Maimi Speedway. He has also since proven that his championship performance was not a fluke, that he can contend for wins on a weekly basis, and that he is somebody that is going to need an eye kept on.

After all, it was not like RCR was just winning race left and right before 2019. They only had one in the two previous seasons which didn’t come from any of their full-time drivers in Xfinity.

With how much Reddick has turned around their program, it does raise the question – what can he do at the next level? Can he turn around an organization that has been on the decline?

With what he’s done in a year, it is certainly not out of the question.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

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

Kyle Larson Recovers For Top-10 At Vegas

LAS VEGAS — Entering Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Kyle Larson had only finished worse than eighth twice in the last ten races and had hoped to keep that rolling. He was able to do that, despite some adversity. 

He started the race gaining points with ninth-place finish in Stage 1 and showed improvement with a third in the second. Appearing as a possible as a contender for the win, Larson’s hopes would be quickly be diminished after a pit road penalty for a safety violation, and then getting damage during one of the late restarts.

However, the California-native would still manage a solid rebound, finishing the South Point 400 in the eighth position.

“Our car was better than what I had thought it was going to be and felt like we probably had a car that could potentially win,” Larson told POPULAR SPEED. “But we got a pit road penalty there and then the restarts were pretty wild and I was just trying to be safe and probably cost us a little bit, but still, to be able to avoid some trouble and get a top 10, not bad.”

For him, a driver that has not scored any points-paying wins, being able to be out front has been quite the confidence builder.

The driver is entering the playoffs in the right state of mind, believing he can go and win races during the season’s most critical point. A trip to victory lane is expected, not just hoped for in the coming weeks.

“Our cars are definitely been good enough to win,” Larson said. “We just got to put the whole races together at this point, on my end, on pit road, and practices, if we want to win. I will keep working at it and hopefully, we can knock one out before the season’s over.”

Following the 400-mile race, Larson sits eighth in the standings, with a 17-point cushion over the cutoff.

Next weekend, the No. 42 team, along with the rest of the series will tackle Richmond Raceway. Larson will hope for a better result than his visit their earlier in the season, where he crashed early and finished last.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

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

Cindric Confident Leaving Vegas

LAS VEGAS — Austin Cindric may have missed the top-10 on Saturday night, but showed speed across what was a chaotic night at Las Vega Motor Speedway.

Most of his time was spent moving his way through the field, as he had to fight back from two pit-road penalties, and an unscheduled stop.

“Yeah, we just need to minimize mistakes, I think as far as the playoffs go, I think we got them all out of the way tonight,” Cindric told POPULAR SPEED. “But my guys dug me out of a lot of holes this year and last, so I got plenty of patience for my crew behind me. Really proud of the speed we have in my Money Lion Ford Mustang. Hoping to keep bringing it on later in the playoffs.”

To his credit though, Cindric was able to make the best of the day, capturing points in Stage 1 and 2 with a fourth and seventh-place finish. However, the unscheduled pit stop that came in the final leg of the race proved too much ato rebound from, and the driver of the No. 22 would have to settle for 12th place finish.

Now, you would expect more disappointment out of a driver who had a day like his, but that was not the case.
Instead, Cindric took a more positive route, noting how his ability to drive through the field showed that he and his team have the strength, and they could contend with the top teams in the series.

But, most importantly, that they are much more than just a team that is good a road courses.

“I think it makes a statement. I think it makes the right statement, shows that we’re here to play,” Cindric said. “Not to sound cocky but that’s some of the best speed we’ve shown all year on these types of tracks, and a track that’s very, very track position-dependent.”

The confidence shown post-race could prove to be a very powerful tool for him heading into the playoffs.

Something else that will very much aid Cindric is his seeding, as he will start the playoffs as the fourth seed and have 17 playoff points, five more than Chase Briscoe in fifth, and give him a big 13-point advantage of ninth.

With the improvement shown throughout the season, it will certainly be interesting to see if Cindiric can capitalize and fully cemented himself as an even bigger threat to win the championship.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

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

Justin Allgaier Enters Playoffs with Momentum

LAS VEGAS — Justin Allgaier continues to make a statement heading into the playoffs, with a fifth-place finish in the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular-season finale on came to a close with Saturday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

However, that’s not quite indicative of how strong his car was throughout the day. While the Rhino Pro Truck Outfitters 300 was mostly dominated by Christopher Bell, one of the few drivers that proved able to battle with him was Allgaier.

“Going into the playoffs, you want momentum on your side and you want to good on the mile and a half tracks because the season is definitely weighted towards the mile and a half side,” Allgaier told POPULAR SPEED. “So, I feel good tonight about the fact that you know, we had speed early on, especially when the sun was out. You know, I felt like we were able to kind of keep Christopher honest early on. But I think also too, it’s going to be interesting to see…

The (No.) 2 (of Tyler Reddick) knew that they needed to make a bold move to win the regular-season championship. They went out and they did it, and obviously it worked for them. So, I think we get to hit the reset button. We got to go next week to Richmond, and go try to do our best job, and hope that, I hope that it puts us in your position. I feel good about it.”

The strong day at Vegas followed probably Allgaier’s best race of the season last week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where again toe-to-toe with a dominant Joe Gibbs Racing car in Kyle Busch and came home second.

For a driver that has had zero wins this season, he has certainly proven to be a contender.

“I feel like the last month and a half we’ve had way better speed, we’ve done a better job, we’ve moved ourselves in the right direction, we just haven’t had the luck to go along with it,” Allgaier said. “So we need the luck to kind of have, you know, the old saying is, I’d rather be lucky than good any day. We need that to happen. But on the flip side of it, you know, these last few races have been really good and I’m disappointed with tonight and there’s been a lot of part of the season where I’d have just, I’d have loved to have been 10th, let alone 5th. So you know, we definitely need to keep working on it.”

The 33-year-old will enter the playoffs as the sixth seed with 12 playoff points at his disposal.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

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

Gray Gaulding Comes Up Short in Las Vegas Gamble

LAS VEGAS — Entering Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Rhino Pro Truck Outfitters 300 race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Gray Gaulding was in a must-win scenario to make the playoffs.

Many people did not expect him to get close to accomplishing that goal, but he proved them wrong.

After finishing 17th and 18th in the first two stages, a caution would allow Gaulding the opportunity to pit off sequence; however, the gamble was fuel, and it seemed unlikely that he would be able to make it to the end of the race.

During the following green-flag stretch that would lead to the finish, the driver of the No. 08 would run as high as second in the closing laps before eventually being passed by drivers who had pitted during the run. However, Gaulding would make still make it to the checkered flag finish on fuel and capture his fourth top-10 of the season with a seventh.

“It was a great night. I mean this is probably my best car I’ve had in the mile and a half all year,” Gaulding told POPULAR SPEED. “You know, we’ve, we’ve had a really successful season, you know, we rolled the dice, you know, we’re here in Vegas, we did everything we could to win. We tried to stretch it on fuel, I actually ran out, coming to the checkered. So it’s really good to, have speed but also finish top-10 and, we’re going to celebrate this one cause it’s so hard to finish top-10 as a small race team, and to be able to do that and accomplish that, I’m just really thankful, and I’m super happy right now.”

Though he will end the regular season as the first car out of the playoff, the 21-year-old is still very excited for the rest of the season. Gaulding fully believes that he can build off the energy surrounding his night in Vegas.

“You know, we, we got a lot of momentum on our side right now,” Gaulding said. “Coming off of finishing second earlier in the year, sixth at the Bristol, and now seventh here in, inside the top 15 pretty much week in and week out. I’m driving my heart out. I’m thankful to be here.”

After a career of bouncing around from ride to ride, the 2019 season has really shown what the young driver is made of with him making the most of this full-time ride.

“Bobby Dotter and SS-Green Light Racing have given me a huge opportunity because I didn’t know where my career was going,” Gaulding said. “A year and a half ago, and I just stuck with it and got in the right place at the right people, and here I am today. So yeah, we didn’t make it, but I’ll tell you what, it wasn’t easy. And we, we fought all year long and don’t, we just came up short, so we can’t, there’s nothing to be upset about. It’s part of it.”

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

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

Creed Continues To Improve in Truck Series

LAS VEGAS — Sheldon Creed may be out of the playoffs, but that has not stopped him from contending for wins in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series.

Entering Friday night’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the driver of the No. 2 had four straight finishes of sixth or better. This trend continued during the World of Westgate 200, where Creed once again proved to be a contender all night long and put himself in a constant battle for the lead.

“I mean we’ve been getting better and better. I feel like I’ve finally got my team back this week, so that was nice,” Creed told POPULAR SPEED. “I thought we were going to be pretty good, maybe a little snug, and we were plowing. Like I could hall butt for 10, 15 laps and then I would get so tight. But I don’t know. I had a shot there at the end. I have a lot of fun battling with those guys for the top three. Then I just got too tight there at the end, even trying to keep up. It’s a bummer but it’s something to build off of.”

While he may drive for one of the best teams in the series in GMS Racing, this season has still be a learning process for the 21-year-old rookie.

The good news for Creed? He has himself surrounded by a lot of people to lean on for advice, including two drivers that are current championship favorites.

“I have a ton of speed, just learning how to race better and better every weekend. Just trying to learn from Brett (Moffitt), and from Ross (Chastain), and from all these guys up front. I just want to learn as much as I can. I feel like tonight I did a really good job of passing and just being patient. Just need to keep working on that.”

The California-native will hope to keep to continue the improvement going in the closing stages of the season, but it could prove challenging with as the next two tracks the trucks visit. Creed has yet to run an event at Talladega Superspeedway, he finished outside the top-15 in his two prior starts at Martinsville Speedway.

Despite this, Creed will also look to break into the top-10 in points, as he currently sits 11th in the standings.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

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.