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NASCAR Cup Series

DiBenedetto Encouraged By Start To The Season

LAS VEGAS, Nev — It may still be early in the 2019 season, but it is already been an up-and-down year for Leavine Family Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto, who used the word “encouraging” to describe the first two races.

“Encouraging, would be a good word because Daytona we lead the most laps in the 500 and Atlanta we had good speed, we probably had a top-15 car but got into incident on pit road, got hit and got some damage, had to pit under green, and that kind of ruined our day,” DiBenedetto told POPULAR SPEED. “But, as far as the speed and the people we have and the work ethic, and the partnership with Toyota, that’s like really really really good. I think we’ll have some fast racecars and good runs all year.”

For the 27-year-old, the arrival of the new year has brought upon a transition. After two seasons with Go Fas Racing, he moved to LFR’s No. 95, which subsequently brought him back to the Toyota camp as his new team moved to the manufacture after being previously associated with Chevrolet.

“It’s been a lot of change, but I kind of feel at home being back in the Toyota camp,” DiBenedetto said. “They have always treated me so good, and I’m really appreciative for that. So, it feels great, just being back here and they treat me as important as any of their other drivers and are really dedicated to making this team a growing and winning organization. The support you get from them is pretty awesome.”

The change also gifted the California-native a new crew chief in Mike Wheeler, someone who is no stranger to success in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, winning five races with Denny Hamlin, which included a Daytona 500 in 2016.

“What I like is that he will make me a better driver because he expects a lot of me and of everybody,” DiBenedetto said. “He’s experienced and he knows what it takes to win, so he knows what I need to do, he knows the homework I need to do, he puts me to work and makes me study and be as prepared as I possibly can be to drive the car. We get along very well because we are both very passionate and he cares a lot and those are the type of people you want to be surrounded by.”

Looking ahead at the upcoming season, many say that this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will be the first real test of the new rules package. DiBenedetto noted that restarts and pit stops will be very important, and looking outside Vegas at the west coast swing, the three races will provide three different challenges.

“I think they are all going to be so different, that’s the cool part,” DiBenedetto said. “Here (Las Vegas Motor Speedway) we tested, and I learned that track position and restarts are going to be important and, I think Phoenix will be different because we will have horsepower and we’ll be going really fast around there. Then Fontana is completely different, I think that will actually be a pretty good race because, you get clean air in the corners because you can run seven different lanes, that will be a fun one.”

Heading into this weekend, DiBenedetto will look to finish the job after two races with positive starts and negative endings.

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

Ganassi Shows Strength At Atlanta

Could 2019 be the year of improvement for Chip Ganassi Racing?

Well, if the team continues to perform as they did during Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, that may be the case, as their drivers, Kurt Busch, and Kyle Larson, both turned out solid results.

Busch, who started the race eighth, placed third, the best finish for the No. 1 team since the Charlotte ROVAL (second) last October, and only their 12th since the end of the 2015 season. This accomplishment is exactly what Ganassi could’ve hoped for when he hired the 2004 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion in December in quick fashion.

Matthew T. Thacker | NKP

Not to forget that the run is a big momentum boost for Busch, who shows his ability since leaving Stewart-Haas Racing. While CGR hasn’t been at the level of SHR, the early success could pave the way to continue to establish themselves as a bigger threat moving forward into the season.

Then there is Larson, whose 12th place finish does not represent the kind of day he had.

For the majority of the event, the 26-year-old proved to the class of the field, leading a race-high 142 laps before a costly speeding penalty put him in a hole he couldn’t get out of.

Now the lack of capitalization on such a dominant day will be understandably frustrating for the team, but this run is ultimately a positive.

Let’s make it clear; the No. 42 was not a dominant force last year. While there were some high moments, this team’s season was ultimately forgettable, with zero wins, and an early playoff exit, a disappointment magnified by their four victories in 2017.

However, if Larson and company can continue to be a force, week in and out, and avoid the mistakes that keep them from solidifying their results, they could very well be on their way to another successful year.

The point being, Atlanta proved CGR can hang with the top teams of the sport. Now even if they are unable to build on this in the future, after all the disappointment and changes to the team recently, a day like this is one they needed to start this year. The progression of this organization will be something to watch in the coming weeks as the season continues on in its early stages.

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

Ty Dillon Hopeful Heading Into 2019

For the third straight year, Ty Dillon will return to Germain Racing to pilot the No. 13 Chevrolet in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, hoping this season can be the time for him and his team to see a step improvement.

Despite Germain’s relationship with Richard Childress Racing, the team is still developing and has not been able to produce the big results weekly like the powerhouses of the sport. Through his first two years with the organization, Dillon has finished 24th and 27th in points and has had only one top-10 result, which came last year at Daytona International Speedway.

However, with the changes going on in the sport, and a new rules package being implemented in 2019, the 26-year-old expressed hope for a turnaround in the near future during Wednesday’s media day. His demeanor comes after taking part in the preseason test session at Las Vegas Motors Speedway.

“I think this package suits me extremely well,” Dillion said. “I’m an aggressive driver, and the just couple of tests we’ve done with this package, early-on in the runs, even though our car might not have had the best long-run speed, I’m able to do things that I couldn’t do last year with that package. I think there were two times where I was able to start behind guys like Brad (Keselowski) and Kyle (Busch) and my brother (Austin Dillon) and I went four-wide with Clint (Bowyer) and Kyle and Brad and passed all three of them, twice, at the test.  That’s something different that I wasn’t able to show last year. I think this package allows me to show some of my aggressiveness and I’m excited for these re-starts for our team.”

For many of the smaller teams, the hope is that this new rules package will level out the competition to a degree, with Dillon and Germain among wanting this to be the case.

“Like I was saying, the opportunity was there for me at the test to make moves that I wasn’t able to make in the past just because we didn’t have that raw speed and power to make that aggressive move,” Dillon said. “We just didn’t have the steam in the past. I think this package gives guys like myself and guys in the back the opportunity to make big differences on the restart. I don’t know how it’s going to look by the end of the year and how we all shake out, but I think the opportunity is better for us as a team at Germain Racing, even if we were racing that other package, we feel like we’ve taken a big step as a team that we’re going to have plenty of opportunities to be fast week-in and week out.”

In addition to his confidence, Dillon has a set a high bar for himself and his team this season.

“We all want to win,” Dillon said. “I think we all have the mindset to win a race this year. And we all have the mindset to make the Playoffs. I think that’s a very possible thing for us this year. I think that’s where our goal is set. We don’t want to have the pressure of having to do anything, but we know that what we can accomplish. And I think winning a race is very possible. There are opportunities all throughout the year.

“Even in my rookie season, we had opportunities. So, we know that’s very possible. I think for me, my main goal is to make the Playoffs this year. And I’m very determined to do that and to do whatever it takes to do so. I think we have the opportunity to really surprise a lot of people and look back at one of the teams that took one of the biggest steps. Hopefully, today is the first day that marks the start of huge growth and opportunity for our team.”

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

Hemric Could Produce a Special Surprise for Childress

It seems like every year, no matter how much we look into it, there is a driver who shocks during Speedweeks.In 2011, it was Trevor Bayne and David Ragan, in 2013 we saw Danica Patrick, and who could forget 2018 where Austin Dillon and Bubba Wallace, nobody’s favorites to win, finished one-two. Could this year’s stick with the Richard Childress Racing camp?

While the spotlight shined on the four drivers of Hendrick Motorsports Sunday, there was one competitor in their shadow that many may have overlooked, rookie Daniel Hemric, who posted the fifth fastest time of the afternoon.

During Wednesday’s media day, the 28-year-old admitted to the press that the run was just as unexpected him as well.

“We didn’t get to do a full qualifying run on practice day, so I didn’t know what to expect,” Hemric said. “I asked Luke (Lambert, crew chief) what we were going to run and he said he didn’t have a good idea either. I saw my teammate Austin Dillon go top of the board early, and he went a good bit faster than what we expected our cars to run. It gave me some confidence that we could lock ourselves into the second round and have a shot. And then we went on to qualify fifth. We were incredibly proud because there’s so much effort that goes into building this race cars in the offseason between ECR, Chevrolet and RCR. This is our biggest event and you want to come down here and have speed. I know it’s early in the week by the time you qualify but it does give you momentum rolling into this week.”

While he may not be considered an underdog, and shouldn’t be given he drives for one of the sport’s top teams, the term ‘dark horse’ suits him well and, the under the radar threat, may just give Richard Childress his fourth Daytona 500 in his 50th year as an owner.

“That would be a fairy tale for sure,” Hemric said. “50 years is an incredible journey that Richard and Judy Childress have committed to our sport. To be in one of their race cars and knowing the history that comes with carrying the Richard Childress Racing logo is incredible in itself. We’re here and we have as good a shot as anybody, so we’ll go out swinging.”

If Hemric were to capture a win Sunday, it would be the 109th for RCR and, the first for him, not only in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series but, in any of NASCAR’s top-three series. It sounds unlikely but, it’s Daytona, anything can happen.

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

Chase Elliott Shares Thoughts Ahead of 2019 Season

On Monday, January 27, I had the opportunity to take part in a teleconference with Hendrick Motorsports driver, Chase Elliott. The winner of the 2018 Most Popular Driver Award spoke on a variety of topics.

Here my takeaways from his comments.

Heading Into Year Four

When prepping for the conference, the one thing I was curious about was how Elliott felt about his career so far heading into his fourth full-time season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. I asked him exactly that, and in addition if he had any expectations for the next four years.

“Well, the first two were — I had some ups and downs, I guess, obviously last year being the best of the three,” Elliott said. “It’s kind of hard to believe that this will be year four.  It’s gone by really fast.”

As far as the future, the 23-year-old remained mum, as he is keeping his eyes on the present.

“I don’t know,” Elliott said. “ I don’t know what I’m doing tomorrow, much less in four years, so we’ll cross that bridge as it approaches.  Hopefully, I’m employed and can come see y’all in the media center after some Sundays.”

A Rolex 24 In The Future?

Not quite.

A Twitter conversation between Elliott, and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson raised a lot of eyebrows as the two expressed their interest in competing in the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway.

However, when asked about it, the driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet denied any current plans to compete in the event.

“I think it would be fun to do,” Elliott said. “I know there was nothing serious about my Twitter exchange with him, mostly because it was on Twitter.  But I think in general, I’d love to run the race.  I think it would be a lot of fun, and if the opportunity presented itself, luckily our partners at Chevrolet are deeply rooted in the IMSA series and certainly could potentially have connections there if it were to work out.  So who knows, but we haven’t — nothing has been discussed on it, you know, aside from just messing around on there.”

Jeff Gordon’s Influence

With Jeff Gordon being inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on February 1st, the Dawsonville-native was asked to reflect on the time he has spent with the legendary driver.

“Yeah, honestly before my involvement at HMS I didn’t know Jeff no better than I know you.  So it was really a fresh relationship then, and I have enjoyed getting to know him,” Elliott said. “ He’s become a good friend and definitely a mentor of mine, and as he’s taken on more leadership roles and been around the track more with us now, trying to help and get our program in the right direction.  I think a lot of him.  I think a lot of his career, obviously, in the past.  That kind of speaks for itself.  But I think he’s a good leader outside of the race car, too, and yeah, I’ve enjoyed having him around.  Obviously very well deserved, and no one should be surprised by that, so happy to see it for him.”

Confidence in his Crew Chief

The upcoming season also marks Elliott’s fourth year with Alan Gustafson, making them the now-longest duo at Hendrick Motorsports. When asked about their relationship, he expressed belief in his crew chief’s ability.

“As I’ve told a lot of people, I kind of let his do his thing and he lets me do mine, and we really just go about our business that way,” Elliott said.  “Our friendship has grown, I think, over the past couple of years.  We’re by no means best friends.  I think he would tell you the same thing but, we work well together, and I think that we enjoy the competition aspect at a similar pace, and he and I, I feel like, view a lot of things the same way from that aspect, and when you’re working with somebody and you’re in the roles that he and I are both in, I’m not real sure that there’s a much better fit or a better way to go about it.”

Heading into the 2019 season, Elliott will look to improve upon a season where he saw three wins, ten top-five’s, and 20 top-10’s.

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

Johnson And Byron Optimistic Heading Into New Year

A new year brings a fresh start for Hendrick Motorsports’ drivers William Byron and Jimmie Johnson, both of whom will have new crew chiefs in 2019.

Chad Knaus, who had been with the No. 48 team since 2002, will move to the No. 24 team, with Kevin Meendering, taking over his former role.

When this was announced last October, it sent shockwaves throughout the sport; however, Johnson recently revealed he felt it was something that needed to happen.

“It definitely is a new challenge and I welcome it,” Johnson said. “One thing that I did know was that the way things were going and where Chad (Knaus) and I ended up, that needed to change. It wasn’t bringing the best out of either one of us and we weren’t delivering like we needed to. So, I knew that much, for sure, last year. And then I’m just excited to get this fresh start and see where it takes us.”

The move came after the seven-time champion’s worst season to date, where for the first time he failed to win a race and only scored two top-five’s. Last year also proved to be difficult for Bryon, who was the only Hendrick driver to miss the playoffs.

“There really weren’t a lot of takeaways for us from last year other than learning the Cup Series, so I am putting that year behind us,” Byron said. “ This year working with Chad (Knaus) is going to be exciting. I feel like we’ve started that process already, just doing things together as a team. I feel like it is growing, and I feel like by the time we get to Daytona, we should be up and rolling.”

Though the new season hasn’t started yet, the 21-year-old has already taken notice of what it will be like working with Knaus.

“His work ethic is really high,” Byron said. “That is important as a crew chief to have that work ethic. That is really the biggest thing I can take away from him. I will try to apply that as best I can to what I am doing. I don’t have to worry about him doing his job, or worry about what the team is doing.”

Meanwhile, for his 43-year-old teammate, a new crew chief means an unusual obstacle, one that he has not had to deal with before.

“I’ve never been in this position, I know that much,” Johnson said. “There is a lot of ‘new’ to it, there’s no way around that. But, I do have the history of knowing everybody here at the shop and the history of the No. 48 and all that, so it doesn’t feel totally new, but largely new, for sure.”

However, with the Daytona 500 on the horizon, the motivation is high within the organization with Byron looking to prove he belongs and Johnson wanting to show there is plenty left in the tank.

“The past is great and I’ve won seven championships and 83 races, but that’s then and this is now and I’m still as hungry and focused and dedicated as ever,” Johnson said. “And, having a year like I did last year also ramps-up the intensity some, so I’m just ready to get going.”

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

Rookie Outlook: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

As has been the case for the last few seasons, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookie class for 2019 is once again full of potential.

We have one of the sport’s most successful organizations looking to produce another playoff-caliber team, a driver who has proven himself after limited schedules in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, another who has overcome cancer to be here, and one who is looking for a fresh start with a relatively new team.

Daniel Hemric

The favorite to win the Rookie of the Year honors, Hemric will drive the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing.

Being the only rookie with a championship winning organization is not the only advantage he has though. The 27-year-old is the only one of the four drivers eligible for the award who has come close to winning a title, as he was able to qualify for the Championship 4 in both of his full-time seasons in XFINITY.

In addition to his playoff success, he was also able to produce 23 top-five’s and 39 top-10’s during his time in the series. However, his inability of to win may raise concerns as he transitions to Cup.

Ryan Preece

The story of Preece is an interesting one, as he sacrificed potential full-time XFINITY rides in lesser equipment for a part-time schedule with Joe Gibbs Racing.

In his 19 races with the team between 2017 and 2018, he was able to capture two wins and 15 top-10’s. Preece impressive efforts in the limited time he had ultimately landed his new ride at JTG-Daughtery Racing, where the 28-year-old will drive the No. 47 Chevrolet.

The question now is, will his proven talent be able to take this team to the next level?

Matt Tifft

Less than three years ago, Tifft was had to have surgery to remove a brain tumor. Now, he will be a full-time competitor in NASCAR’s top level, driving the No. 36 Ford for Front Row Motorsports.

Tifft to comes from XFINITY, where he has spent the last two season with JGR and RCR, where he tailed eight top-five’s and 22 top-10’s; however like Hemric, he was unable to find victory lane during his time in the series.

Unlike the rest of the full-time rookies, the 22-year-old has zero experience in Cup, and will make his debut at the Daytona 500.

Tanner Berryhill

After being away from NASCAR since 2015, Berryhill made his return to the sport last year with Obaika Racing running two races in Cup at the end of the season. The two will once again partner up in 2019.

Not only is it a rookie season for the driver, but for Obaika as well, who previously fielded entries in XFINITY. The team’s inexperience will not be the only hurdle to overcome though; they also enter the new year without a charter, meaning they will not be guaranteed a sport if an entry list has more than 40 entries.

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

Rookie Outlook: XFINITY Series

When looking at a rookie class one might wonder, how much success is possible for these drivers? Well, if the last couple of years in the XFINITY Series is any indication, the sky is the limit.

Three of the last five drivers to win the award have gone on to win the championship, and just by looking at whose eligible this year, it could be argued that it is likely to happen again in 2019.

With that said, let’s take a look at those who will be competing for the honor.

Chase Briscoe

Well, it could be argued that a lot of these drivers could be perceived as the favorite, Briscoe may have the best case for himself.

He has experience in the form of 17-race schedule last year, where he had four top-10’s and a win. Not to forget the 24-year-old will be driving for Stewart-Haas Racing, one of the best teams not only in the series but in the sport as a whole. SHR proved the strength in their program last year by winning the owner’s championship with Cole Custer behind the wheel.

The expectations will, and rightfully so, be high for Briscoe.

Noah Gragson

Speaking of high expectations, there is Gragson, who joins JR Motorsports, whose last three rookie drivers (Tyler Reddick, William Byron, and Chase Elliott) have won the championship. So, no pressure right?

However, the Las Vegas native has proven himself worthy of the ride after two full-time seasons in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series, where he scored two wins, 12 top-five’s, and 30 top-10’s.

While he may not have as much XFINITY experience as some of his competitors, Gragson did have success in his three starts last season for Joe Gibbs Racing. His worst finish with the team was seventh, and he even came close to winning in his debut at Richmond Raceway in a runner-up effort.

John Hunter Nemechek

A team that has seen strong development over the last year, GMS Racing, partnered with a driver in Nemechek whose shown capable, could prove to be a lethal combo.

Nemechek comes from a season where he split time between XFINITY and trucks, where he was able to win in both. The 21-year-old showed off his talent in NASCAR’s second-tier series, where in addition his lone victory at Kansas Speedway, he was able to produce six top-five’s and 11 top-10’s in an 18-race effort for Chip Ganassi Racing.
Despite his impressive stat line though, he seemed to be overshadowed by Kyle Larson and Ganassi’s late-season addition, Ross Chastain, whom he split the No. 42 with.

With the ride at GMS all to himself, it will be interesting to see how he capitalizes on the opportunity.

Justin Haley

How about a dark horse? Haley enters the 2019 season, relatively under the radar, despite being impressive in 2018.

The 19-year-old was able to capture three wins in the truck series last year, and produced a strong enough playoff run to get himself into the series’ Championship 4. He also made three starts in XFINITY for GMS, where he was one legal pass away from winning at Daytona International Speedway.

This year though, Haley will be with a different team in Kaulig Racing, whose fielded a playoff entry in each of the last three seasons and, saw a noticeable increase in performance last year, scoring 11 top-10’s with then-driver, Ryan Truex.

Gray Gaulding

A driver who actually has more experience in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Gaulding looks to develop a much more stable schedule after spending the last few seasons jumping around multiple teams.

He joins SS-Green Light Racing to drive the No. 08 Chevrolet. The team fielded an entry for Spencer Boyd in 2018, averaging a 26.9 finish.

Seeing how Gaulding has never had one season-long ride to himself, it will be interesting to see how the 20-year-old can improve being with just the one team.

Matt Mills

Mills, who ran eight races last season in XFINITY, will join B.J. McLeod Racing in 2019 to drive the No. 8 Chevrolet.

The 22-year-old did get the chance to run two races with the team in 2018, where he was able to grab his season-best qualifying effort (25th) and matched his career-best finish (27th) at Richmond Raceway.

Part-Timers

The least experienced of all the drivers listed, Zane Smith, will join JR Motorsports for a limited schedule driving the No. 9 Chevrolet.

Despite his lack of experience, Smith is still well-accomplished, with four wins in the ARCA Racing Series and, a fifth-place finish in his truck debut last year.

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

Rookie Outlook: Gander Outdoors Truck Series

Since 2010, five of the nine drivers that have won the Gander Outdoors Truck Series Rookie of the Year have gone on to secure full-time rides in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

The most recent of which being William Byron, who now drives the famed No. 24 for Hendrick Motorsports.

With that being said, the award clearly introduces fans to drivers that will likely be on the rise in the next couple of years. In 2019, the series will once again have quite the class.

Harrison Burton

The most recognizable name on the list, and arguably the favorite for not only the Rookie of the Years honors, but the championship as well.

The son of Jeff Burton will be making his first full-time effort with Kyle Busch Motorsports after making 15 starts with the team over the last three years. He will be competing in the No. 18, replacing 2018 series runner-up, Noah Gragson.

The expectations will be high for the 18-year-old and, it will be interesting to see if he can carry his previous success in the ARCA Racing Series and NASCAR K&N East Series into a series where he does have experience.

In 15 starts (all coming with KBM), Burton has posted four top-five’s and seven top-10’s, with his best finish of third coming at Iowa and Phoenix last year.

Sheldon Creed

Someone who may be overlooked heading into Daytona, but it may not stay that way for long.

Creed has proven himself a capable competitor in the past, winning four races in the ARCA Series a year ago in route to a championship. The 21-year-old will align himself with GMS Racing and will drive the No. 2 Chevrolet.

Like Burton, he has had opportunities in the series before, making seven starts with a top-five and two top-10’s to show for it.

Gus Dean

Another ARCA winner makes the move up, as Dean joins Young’s Motorsports to drive the No. 12 Chevrolet.

Unlike Burton and Creed though, he has zero starts in a truck; so this year may serve as a learning curve for the 24-year-old.

Tyler Ankrum

After winning four races and a championship in the K&N East Series, Ankrum looks to continue his winning ways as he continues to climb the NASCAR ladder driving the No. 17 Toyota for DGR-Crosley.

The 17-year-old will have his work cut for him early though, as his season will not start until March 23rd at Martinsville Speedway, after which he will be 18 and face no age restrictions. In the process, Ankrum will miss three races, which was enough to keep Todd Gilliland from winning the Rookie of the Year last year.

Part-Timers

Ankrum won’t be the only rookie getting a ride from DGR this season as both Natalie Decker and Anthony Alfredo will share the No. 54 Toyota.

Decker made headlines last year in ARCA, where she was able to win the pole at Daytona International Speedway and score nine top-10’s throughout the season.

Alfredo comes from a season in the K&N East Series where he won one race and finished fifth in the points 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.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Hiring Kurt Busch Was The Right Move For Ganassi

On Tuesday, Kurt Busch finally announced his plans to move to Chip Ganassi Racing to take over the No. 1 Chevrolet. It was also confirmed that he will be bringing his longtime sponsor, Monster Energy, with him to his new team.

The move comes after a disappointing season for the No. 1 team, who missed the playoffs for the second time in five years, had only two top-five finishes, and they were held winless for the fifth consecutive campaign.

Meanwhile, Busch comes from Stewart-Haas Racing, where he finished the 2018 season seventh in points with one win, six top-five’s, and 22 top-10’s.

While it remains to be seen if this will be a good move for Busch, this was the exact decision that Ganassi needed to make.

Why?

Just look at Busch’s track record. He started at Roush-Fenway Racing, won them another Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship. Then, he replaced a retiring Rusty Wallace at Team Penske with success, winning each season with the team. A few years later, he brought a Furniture Row Racing team that was nowhere as competitive as they have the past couple of seasons, to the playoffs for the first time. After that, he was assigned to a brand new entry for Stewart-Haas Racing, whom he won a Daytona 500 with and made the postseason each season he was there. Not to forget, Busch even came close to bringing an underfunded Phoenix Racing to victory lane at the sport’s level.

Do you see the trend here? Everywhere the 2004 champion as went he has proven to be a valuable asset to a team, which is exactly what the No. 1 team needs.

It could be even argued that this change could be necessary for the entirety of the CGR organization. After all, the lack of success was not just with one. Kyle Larson, who drives the No. 42 for Ganassi, had won four times in 2017, but did not reach victory lane once last season. The problems did not stop there, as it was clear throughout the year that this organization was not on the same level as the top teams in the sport.

With the addition of Busch’s veteran experience through his long and storied career, along with his shown ability and skill, this move may prove to be exactly what this team needs to reassert themselves with NASCAR’s best.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

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