Daniel Suarez Excels in First Intermediate Start

By Michael Guzman (JOLIET, Ill.) — Daniel Suarez (@dnlsuarez) quietly defied the odds in just his second career Nationwide Series start, finishing 15th in his debut for RAB Racing on Saturday afternoon at Chicagoland Speedway.

The start was his first on an intermediate track and the NASCAR Drive for Diversity graduate and Joe Gibbs Racing development driver was audibly excited, but not shocked, that his first speedway experience went so well.

“I learned a lot, we learned a lot about the aero,” Suarez told Popular Speed on Saturday. “The car was pretty good and we were getting better. We were just okay on the short runs.The most important thing, and the goal today, was to just learn and get approval from NASCAR and I think we made it.”

Suarez qualified 18th and his 15th-place-finish marked the best finish by the No. 29 entry this season. Nevertheless, a late spell of cautions created a variety of strategies and dropped Suarez from as high as eighth towards the middle of the pack.

“It didn’t work out in the short run,” Suarez said. “In the long runs we were pretty decent. Maybe with new tires like some of the cars, maybe we could have been more aggressive on the restarts. But with old tires and some of the cars with new tires, it was kind of difficult.

“But as soon as we get 10 laps on the tires, we were equal to everyone. Maybe we missed (the setup), I don’t know, three, four spots over there, but it’s okay, we learned a lot. It’s a learning experience and we have to keep working.”

Suarez will now take to another intermediate track, running the ARCA Racing Series event at Kentucky next weekend for Venturini Motorsports as he continuing to prepare for his first full-time Nationwide Series season in 2015 with Joe Gibbs Racing.

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Team Owner Hattori Sharing Love of NASCAR with Japanese Guests

EXCLUSIVE By Mary Jo Buchanan – This weekend, Shigeaki Hattori, principal of Hattori Racing Enterprises, plans to not only race in the Nationwide Series with driver @RossChastain, but also share his love of NASCAR with over 300 guests from Japan.

“They just got here today,” Hattori told Popular Speed. “Toyota has over 300 different car dealers so each car dealer sent Vice President or General Manager, so we have over 300 people here.

“They are going to Akron, Ohio to Goodyear headquarters and on Saturday some people will be here for the Nationwide race. Some will watch the race and some will sightsee in Chicago. Some others are going to Milwaukee. Sunday, all the people will be here watching the Cup race.”

Hattori admitted he has his work of converting his colleagues to fans cut out for him since NASCAR is fairly foreign to the Japanese people.

“NASCAR went to Japan a couple of times but in Japan Formula One is huge,” Hattori said. “They don’t know about NASCAR. They tried to bring NASCAR to Japan but it didn’t work. Most of my sponsors are from Japan. I’m talking to NASCAR about a TV show and newspaper but these people are from all over Japan. So, this is a huge opportunity to introduce them to NASCAR.”

Hattori himself has quite the racing resume, winning the Formula Toyota title in Japan in 1994. But the lure of the United States called and he moved in 1995 to race Indy Lights from 1996 to 1998.

“Then I went to CART and IRL and drove IRL three years,” Hattori said. “The last year, I drove Toyota Atlantic Series and I tested and drove in the Truck Series I stopped driving and then started my own team. We did K&N East and now Nationwide.

“We started our Nationwide Series program this year with intentions to run a few Nationwide Series races and to have two cars full-time in K&N East. At this point in the season, we decided that we need to focus more on our Nationwide Series program.

“We received a lot of support from our sponsors encouraging this decision. We are still a small team, and I believe we need to run more Nationwide Series races to gain more experience so that we can be even stronger next season.”

The No. 80 as driven by Ross Chastain during the Nationwide Series race at Michigan in June
Ross Chastain pilots the No. 80 of Hattori Racing Enterprises during the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Michigan on June  14.

With that Nationwide focus, Hattori is excited to have young up and coming driver Ross Chastain behind the wheel of his team’s No. 80 Toyota sponsored Toyota.

“I see a lot of drivers, young kids, who have huge talent but they don’t have any sponsors,” Hattori said. “Ross did a really good job last year for the BKR team in the Truck Race. He’s a good driver but he doesn’t have a sponsor. He contacted me right after Daytona. We were talking and I put him in Chicago and he finished 12th. So, I put him in again this weekend.”

And while Hattori wants to see a good result for his HRE team in the Nationwide Jimmy John’s Freaky Fast 300, more than anything he wants to covert his 300 Japanese guests to NASCAR fans.

“Most of the people in Japan don’t know about NASCAR,” Hattori said. “They don’t know it because most of the races are televised at midnight. NASCAR is a totally different type of car racing. I love NASCAR. I want to introduce this and help them discover it too.”

“Most of our sponsors are from Japan and I also want to introduce more NASCAR into the Japanese market.” Hattori continued “Many of the companies over in Japan are looking for the US market. So, I do want to introduce more NASCAR and find more sponsors from over there in Japan.”

In addition to his hosting 300 Japanese guests this race weekend, Hattori is also very proud of a cultural exchange program that he has initiated that is built around providing hands on experiences for Japanese students at the race shop and at the track.

In fact, Hattori will have hosted over 120 of these exchange students from Japan when this year’s race season comes to a close.

“I love NASCAR a lot,” Hattori said. “It’s totally different, but it’s great. I want to share my love with those people.

“So, I’m really excited to share that.”


FOLLOW MARY JO ON TWITTER: @maryjobuchanan


Daniel Suarez Preps for 2015 on First 1.5-Miler

By Tyler Piccotti – On August 19, a dream came true for @dnlsaurez (Daniel Suarez).

The 22-year-old sat next to 2015 Gibbs addition Carl Edwards during a much-anticipated press conference with nervous excitement as the organization presented him with a full-time ride in the NASCAR Nationwide Series next season.

Suárez later took the microphone with a huge smile on his face and told everyone watching that he couldn’t wait to start preparing for next year. That preparation starts this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.

Suárez will be in a Nationwide Series car for the first time since April as he attempts to qualify for Saturday afternoon’s Jimmy John’s Freaky Fast 300. The Monterrey, Mexico, native will pilot the No. 29 ARRIS Toyota Camry for RAB Racing at the 1.5-mile tri-oval.

But while Suárez would love to turn heads in Joliet, he understands that this weekend’s event is more a primer for 2015 than a chance to grab the headlines.

“I’m looking forward to racing in Chicago this weekend as part of my preparations for 2015,” Suárez said.

“It’s going to be exciting to have the chance to start representing my new sponsor ARRIS as we begin planning for next season. I appreciate RAB Racing for working with Joe Gibbs Racing to help provide me with this opportunity so I can start learning new tracks and get ready to run full-time next season.”

While Suárez may be a rookie, he does have a fair amount of stock car experience. He currently leads the NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series point standings after 11 events, and he also added two wins in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.

However, he has made the majority of his starts this season at short tracks and road courses. Other than Richmond, the only tracks on the Nationwide Series schedule he has competed on in any series are Bristol, Iowa, New Hampshire and Watkins Glen.

That means the long straightaways and sweeping corners of Chicagoland will likely pose a challenge for Suárez, at least during his initial practice runs. Crew chief Keith Hinkein will no doubt build the No. 29 car’s setup accordingly.

Except, Hinkein is also inexperienced. He has been atop a pit box only once at Chicagoland, which was last season with @Kenny_Wallace. The pair finished 17th in that event.

Still, there are a number of factors that suggest Suárez could compete for a top-10 finish, especially with fuel mileage being a potential factor.

His strong 19th place running at Richmond is reason to believe that he will qualify for the race and run competitive laps. At the very least, it shows he isn’t afraid to mix it up with experienced veterans.

Additionally, RAB Racing has fielded competitive cars at Chicagoland in the past, including one driven to a team-best fourth place by Wallace in 2012.

There’s also the fact that ARRIS, which will be Suarez’s sponsor next season, is making its debut on the hood. All told there’s no doubt Suárez and his team would like to welcome the communications giant with a strong run.

But it’s important to remember Suárez’s ultimate goal: Stockpile as much seat time as possible before diving into the deep end next season. Perhaps Hinkein said it best regarding what fans should expect from one of NASCAR’s up-and-coming stars.

“There will be a learning curve for Daniel, as this is only his second Nationwide Series race and first with RAB Racing,” Hinkein said, “but I’m looking forward to a great run at Chicagoland Speedway with a talented young driver behind the wheel.”




If It Weren’t For Bad Luck …

By Kelly Crandall (RICHMOND, Va.) – The numbers of @Elliott_Sadler’s consistency this year only tell half the tale.

“We’re definitely not satisfied. We honestly, as long as I’ve been racing, have had the worst luck this year than I ever can remember having,” Sadler said Thursday at Richmond International Raceway.

“I know you make your own luck and it’s racing luck, but running third at Bristol and getting taken out by a car that’s 20 laps down or running second at Michigan and a honey bun wrapper gets on the front of it and a flat tire at Road America running third with six laps to go. The last month has been crazy stuff that keeps pinning us behind the eight ball.”

And yet he sits fourth in points, still with a chance to win that elusive Nationwide Series championship with nine races remaining. He has one win, one pole and over 100 laps led. He’s only failed to finish once. Even more impressive, just twice this year has Sadler finished worst than 20th.

“We’ve been consistent, we would like to be a little bit faster on some of the mile-and-a-halves that we go to but we want to get some breaks go our way,” he said.

Since his full-time return to the Nationwide Series, Sadler has five wins and was the championship runner-up in 2011 and 2012. Last year he wound up fourth. But earlier this year following Kentucky he took the point lead by a slim four markers.

Except since then it’s been all @ChaseElliott, who isn’t stumbling. Not allowing Sadler, who’s 48 points behind, or anyone a chance to challenge or overtake the rookie. Elliott has an average finish of 8.4 this year with one more top-10 than the 39-year-old veteran. Plus those wins that Sadler is desperately seeking.

READ MORE: So Far So Good for Chase Elliott

“I think he (Elliott) has to have some of my luck the next couple weeks for us to catch up to him. At the end of the day, we have to go ahead and do our job and run our race and not really worry about what anybody else is doing,” Sadler said.

“We need to stay consistent, but we need to take advantage of any kind of situations we can, especially on the mile-and-a-halves and stuff coming up. We’ll see how that starts (Friday) night here at Richmond.”

The Virginia 529 College Savings 250 is also a homecoming for Sadler. A Virginia native, he’s still looking for his first win at the short track and enters with six top-eight finishes in the last seven races at the facility.

The man he’ll most likely be chasing on Friday night (@KevinHarvick) is the same one who dominated and won earlier this year. And who Sadler credits for teaching him how to drive the place and his recent improvement.

“I would rather win here than the Daytona 500,” Sadler said of Richmond.

“I think coming here as a kid so many years in a row to watch the Cup cars run here and the Busch cars run here and things like that – and then being able to race here later is pretty special to me. Would love to win here – been close a couple time.”




Becoming King of the Cassill at JD Motorsports

By Kelly Crandall (RICHMOND, Va.) – Neither @LandonCassill or JD Motorsports are new to the NASCAR Nationwide Series. But the pairing continues to reap more rewards together than they were apart.

Cassill was named the driver of the No. 01 during the 2013 offseason after impressing team owner Johnny Davis during the 23 races he ran for them. The team, which operates out of South Carolina, runs two full-time cars with Cassill and @JEarnhardt1. But it has been Cassill who has netted the organization three top-10s this year while consistently leading the way for the smaller teams.

The same such story unfolded last Saturday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Cassill came home 15th after starting 24th. The G&K Services Chevrolet fought loose, like most, all-night but crew chief Dave Fuge knew what his driver needed. The last two runs were the best Cassill felt he had all night.

The connection and understanding he and Fuge have built when it comes to communication, along with the success the team is beginning to have, comes as no surprise to the driver who sits 11th in points. Instead, it’s a product of a lot of work that has developed over time.

“Right now just our chemistry,” Cassill told Popular Speed when asked what impresses him about his team each week. “We really have found what I want in the car; I’ve been able to figure out what I need to tell the guys.”

“Doesn’t matter what kind of track we go to we seem to make the same adjustments, and we seem to make the same race adjustments and they all work the same and that’s kind of what matters.”

This little team that can continues to defy the odds. Cassill and company have an average finish of 18.3 after 24 of 33 events, which places him behind Joe Thurman for best average finish any driver in the 15-year history of the organization has compiled. Thurman’s best of 15.0 came during the 1983 season.

While teams such as Richard Childress Racing, Turner Scott Motorsports and others consider it a bad day when they finish outside the top-10, Cassill is happily challenging for those positions because it’s a spot the team is aiming to be each weekend. On just eight occasions, thus far, has the 25-year-old found himself worst than 20th.

But, not since 2011 at Road America with @MikeWallace01, has the organization had a top-five finish. Their career best came in 1983 at Martinsville with Thurman, a fourth place, while Cassill has come close twice this season by finishing eighth at both Talladega and Road America.

That next step, the piece they need to perfect in order to get them there is something they are already working on.

“We talk about it all the time, and we feel like we know what we need to get into the top-10,” Cassill said.

“We’ve got to-10 speed it’s just there’s more that plays into that so, when we can kind of put those things together I think we can get there more consistently.”




XFINITY: New Mobile Technology Will Enhance Fan Experience

By Kelly Crandall (CHARLOTTE, N.C.) – The NASCAR XFINITY Series is here.

NASCAR and Comcast gathered at the Hall of Fame on Wednesday afternoon to introduce a new entitlement sponsor for the second-tier division. It will officially begin on January 1, 2015.

The 10 year deal is reported to be worth close to $200 million and following suit with the Comcast-owned NBC Sports, which will become NASCAR’s television partner beginning next season. That relationship was also agreed upon for 10 years.

“We are super excited to be here today to announce this important sponsorship and relationship between our companies, between Comcast and NASCAR,” said Peter Intermaggio, Comcast’s SVP of marketing communications. “We couldn’t be more excited across all of our team and across our 100,000 employees in Comcast.”

The pairing between NASCAR and Comcast stems from both the love of sports and technology between each party. NASCAR says they are continuously trying to use technology and innovation to bring the sport to fans in different and exciting ways. Through the entitlement sponsor, the hope is that with Comcast, fans will be able to access racing on different platforms.

“The idea that we get to do this together and we have the overachieving partnership with Comcast, that’s a lot of incentive,” said NASCAR chairman Brian France. “Our fans can look forward to some interesting things that are going to be delivered on their device, on their television set in ways they never thought possible. So we’re excited about the future.”

Comcast will also become NASCAR’s official partner in multichannel video programming and ISP categories. They will also invest in promoting the sport.

As for the fans, Intermaggio admitted that things would begin to change in the future. Some of which includes Comcast adding NASCAR as an option on their sports app for those at home to have a different viewing experience. The at-track experience for fans will also change over time as the Comcast / NASCAR relationship moves forward.

NASCAR field interest from numerous potential partners but tried to focus on what would best promote the sport and better the fans. The past six months focused on Comcast becoming that partner, which NASCAR’s COO Brent Dewar believes best serves all agendas.

“I think the interest in general is the large fan base and the loyal fan base, and the fact that they love consuming sports. Whether that’s on broadcast, whether it’s on digital, whether it’s all the new versions and new formats that (Intermaggio) is talking about, and that’s the fans we have,” Dewar said.

“I think from that aspect that was the appeal to a number of different companies looking at us. The process we go through, if you’re going into enter a 10-year agreement you have to have a partner, it’s like a marriage, you have to be aligned and the objects be aligned and that’s the difference as we get into it. We had to understand their brands, their strategy, and we start to embed ourselves in what is important to them and as we start to go through that process we learned, wow, they’re very much aligned to how we are thinking.

“If you know Brian well and the France family, it’s about growth and innovation. We’re not allowed to sit on our seats and so as we got to know (Intermaggio) and Comcast that’s exactly how they are as well.”

The rebranding will replace Nationwide Insurance, the title sponsor since 2007. It was revealed back in October they would not be returning following the 2014 season after becoming just the second series title since its inception.

Nationwide will remain the official auto, home, life and business insurance partner of NASCAR until 2017. Beginning next season, they will also be the primary sponsor for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 12 Sprint Cup Series races.

Nine races remain in the 2014 NASCAR Nationwide Series season.



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Slick Atlanta Brings Cause of Concern with Tires

By Kelly Crandall (HAMPTON, Ga.) – Weather was not the only concern Saturday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The most dominant car, @KevinHarvick, ran away from the drop of the green flag and never looked back to win the Nationwide Series race. There was no late race restart shenanigans or fuel mileage strategy; Harvick was simply untouchable in his No. 5 Bad Boy Buggies Chevrolet.

The biggest variable, however, for Harvick and the rest of the Great Clips 300 field was tire management.

“I thought it played in quite a big. The last run there some guys were coming and short pitting and the question was, ‘Can we make it to the end?’” said second place finisher @JoeyLogano.

“And then it just kind of depended on what happened there and when the 5 (Harvick) car was gonna pit, when we were gonna pit and try to make up time. There was no strategy played by us to be able to make it happen. We did what he did and tried to pass him that way, but tires fall off so much that short pitting gives you that quick burst of speed that’s two-and-a-half or three seconds a lap, but then you pay for that throughout the rest of the run when everyone gets their tires, so eventually it equals back out.”

The Nationwide Series also has a limited set of tires provided to the teams. While Logano said everyone was good until the end with their tires this weekend, had the race been extended or more cautions flown during the night, tire strategy would undoubtedly have come into play.

“If there was a couple more cautions there would have been a time when we would have had to stay out and it would have been a mess,” Logano revealed.

Point leader, the pole sitter and hometown hero @ChaseElliott jumped out with an early lead but reported to crew chief Greg Ives during a long green flag run that he was doing all he could to save the right rear tires. Most of the complaints over the 195-lap event were for loose conditions, which saw numerous drivers – especially @Tbayne21 – sliding their machines around the old, worn out pavement of the 1.5-mile facility.

There was also a battle for grip. Drivers like @KyleLarsonRacin and @KyleBusch fought the lack of it. Their race was dictated by what lanes they could and couldn’t maneuver. Busch admitted it was not something he expected to happen, and it made him have to work the pedals of his Monster Energy Camry through the corners and search for something comfortable.

But even if tire wear was at the forefront of driver’s minds, Elliott didn’t see how it changed the complexion of the race because it took strategy out of it. Instead, it was an equal playing field with everyone boxed into what they had to do on each pit stop.

“To me it kind of took strategy away, honestly because everybody needed tires as often as they could put them on,” he said.

“It really didn’t give anybody options to put on two or none or whatever, you pretty much came in and put on four as soon as you could each run to not run out of tires before the end of the race.”

Sprint Cup Series driver @J_Allgaier did Sunday morning pace car rides around Atlanta and noted that the track has aged so much that it now one of the hardest on the circuit with tires.

According to Allgaier, after three laps the speeds will start to diminish as the tires wear. And that’s when the sliding around begins.




Dillon Down But Not Out and Looking for Help

By Kelly Crandall (HAMPTON, Ga.) – @TyDillon isn’t ready to concede the Nationwide Series championship just yet.

But the 22-year-old knows that something has to give as he sits third in points with ten races remaining. That something will preferably be his competition, as the No. 3 team from Richard Childress Racing has used all the mulligans they’re willing to this season. Dillon sat just 13 points from leader @ChaseElliott three weeks ago but now enters Atlanta Motor Speedway 30 behind.

“I think we just have to continue to run in the top-five and hope for some mistakes from those guys because that is what has put us behind,” Dillon said on Friday afternoon.

“We had a steering box go out at Mid-Ohio and that really knocked some points off of our gain that we kind of had going the second half. But our team and the way we have been running hasn’t changed.”

Overall speed hasn’t been a problem. Dillon all season has been a strong counterpoint for Elliott except the JR Motorsports teams are not stumbling. Dillon finally did at Mid-Ohio with a 19th place finish in a car that ran a solid top-five during the event.

The consistency with which Dillon has been able to build slowly upon is something that Elliott has had all along. The gap is glaring in laps led where Dillon has just 44 to his name, but Elliott is well over the 200 mark. In every other area though – top-10s, average start and average finish – they are nearly equal. Meaning someone is going to need to slip up if Dillon is going close back in.

“We have been fast everywhere we just had a couple of mechanical issues,” he said. “We are going to continue to run up front and have opportunities to win the race like we did last week at Bristol and let those guys fold.”

Bristol Motor Speedway was Dillon’s fifth top-10 finish (he came home fourth) in six weeks, which included his first career win at Indianapolis. The Rookie of the Year candidate will also make his Sprint Cup debut this weekend, at a track he earned his first Camping World Truck Series in.

There is no better or comfortable place right now than a mile-and-a-half for Dillon, and the extra seat time is expected to help with his primary focus on the Nationwide Series side. But no matter the track, Dillon holds no qualms about the confidence he has in his team and the upcoming schedule. Including heading to another short track next weekend as the Childress short track program is one that is getting better.

“We’re going to go with a new theory of thinking on the way to Richmond and try something different. We weren’t too good there this year. I’m excited to get there, and I’m excited to continue racing in the Nationwide Series,” Dillon said.

“I feel like my team is coming together strong now. If we hadn’t had the mechanical problems we did in the past couple of weeks, we’d be right there for the championship. But we’re not going to give up. We’re going to win some more races by the end of the year and put the pressure on the leaders.”




Pressure Mounting in Nationwide Title Fight

By Kelly Crandall (BRISTOL, Tenn.) – Two weeks ago the Nationwide Series championship had a enticing battle developing.

Two road courses into the season, and with one to go, four prominent drivers had emerged. And just 13 points, led by rookie @ChaseElliott over JR Motorsports teammate @ReganSmith, separated them. The Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of @Elliott_Sadler and the Chevrolet from Richard Childress Racing, @TyDillon, sat third and fourth.

The fearsome foursome have stood above their competition in 2014; they are proving to be the best of the Nationwide Series this year and – more importantly – they’ve all won races.

The latter hasn’t changed in two weeks. But that gap has. Mid-Ohio knocked down Dillon. Bristol beat up Sadler. The two constants all season have been Elliott and Smith, who continue to avoid any stumbles, though Elliott came close on Friday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.

On Lap 3, the No. 9 tagged the wall and wrinkled his right rear fender. The driver believed his night was about to go bad quickly on a few different occasions, yet managed to lead three different times for 59 laps and finished third. Dillon and Smith failed to lead, but managed to infuriate each other in their fourth and fifth place finishes, respectively.

READ MORE: Dillon, Smith Exchange Words After Bristol

“I can’t control what happens to everybody else, we just try to focus on ourselves each week and not in a selfish way,” Elliott told Popular Speed. “That’s racing. You can’t get caught up in what everybody else is doing. We’ll try to run our own race from here on out and hopefully it’ll be good enough.”

Sadler, on the other hand, appeared as strong as Elliott. He also led on three occasions for 27 laps. Being in the right place at the wrong time during a @TimmyHillRacer spin was the beginning of the end of his night. Later Sadler brought out two cautions on his own and finished 29th.

Meaning things are not as close anymore. The four will head into Atlanta Motor Speedway separated by 42 with Dillon and Sadler having swapped positions. Smith is the only one currently in striking distance of Elliott, sitting just 13 markers behind.

They were not, however, the only drivers thinking championship in Bristol. @TBayne21 (Trevor Bayne) sat tied for the point lead with Smith following the fifth race of the year in Fontana, but since then hasn’t found himself higher than fourth (Dover). Bayne entered and left Bristol sixth in points, now 63 behind, but very cognizant of the big picture.

“We stunk this weekend. We were just terrible,” he said on Friday night. “The car wouldn’t go and I don’t know. I’m pretty frustrated right now. This is the time of year we’ve got to turn it up and be battling for wins and top fives to get up in this championship and we didn’t perform this weekend. I don’t know the ingredients to get us there, but it’s just so frustrating.”

Or simply: it’s Bristol. Dillon felt as much and credited it to the hard racing between him and Smith. Racing for the title, Dillon wasn’t about to let one of his competitors take away valuable positions and therefore points. Something he was frustrated having done by making a mistake racing @RyanBlaney22, which let Elliott get by.

“We work hard, and I want to win this championship for my guys, we deserve it,” Dillon said. “We’re really putting together great racecars. They can talk whatever they want to; I’m going to race as hard as I can.”

Ten races remain in the Nationwide Series season.




Ty Dillon, Regan Smith Argue After Nationwide Race

By Matt Weaver (BRISTOL, Tenn.) — Tempers boiled over in the closing stages of the Food City 300 Nationwide Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday night between @TyDillon and @ReganSmith who bounced off each other twice over the final two restarts.

On the penultimate restart with 12 laps to go, Dillon bobbled under Smith, squeezing him into the wall, nearly collecting several frontrunners with him before everyone gathered it back up and escaped unharmed. On the final restart with six laps remaining, Dillon again slid up the track and into Smith, putting him lightly into the wall. Dillon and Smith overcame their contact and went on to finish fourth and fifth, not that it was any consolation to Smith who confronted his rival after the race.

Smith placed his hands on Dillon’s chest and was doing most of the talking during the brief confrontation. Following the monologue, Smith told ESPN that he wished Dillon had showed him and the field more consideration over the final two restarts.

“He ran me into the wall (several) times and everyone else out there seems to be able to give us room and I explained that to him,” Smith said. “He says he got tight and that’s always the excuse but when you get tight, you lift off the pedal.

“So next time I run over him, I’m going to get tight too.”

Dillon says he didn’t have any animosity towards Smith and chalked up their battle to two rivals fighting to remain in the championship hunt.

“I didn’t have any problems,” Dillon said. “I guess Regan was mad that I got into him off the corner a couple of times. But it’s under 10 to go at Bristol, we’re both racing for a championship, and I’m not giving away any points.

“So I hate that he’s upset but this is Bristol and stuff like this happens. We didn’t crash and we still finished fourth and fifth. It’s racing and I would expect the same thing from him trying to get every position for his team as well.”

Smith and Dillon left Bristol second and third in the championship standings, 13 and 30 points behind leader Chase Elliott respectively.