Danny Efland Content With Engineer Role at RCR

By Chris Owens – On a typical Friday afternoon at Darlington Raceway, you would find @DannyEfland getting ready to do battle with 39 other drivers and the track known as Too Tough To Tame.

This year, however, hours before the start of the VFW Sport Clips 200, Efland was lounging around behind one of Richard Childress Racing’s Nationwide Series haulers for driver @CaleConley. Efland, a former driver in the series, has found a new home in the sport he loves. He’s currently the team engineer for the part-time No. 33 team.

While it might not be behind the wheel, Efland has found a spot in the sport working for a top-level organization.

An opportunity that arose from a partnership Efland already had in place with RCR. As a driver and owner in the series, his small team would buy cars and parts from the company. That evolved into a full-time job outside of the cockpit in 2014.

“The opportunity came where I was kind of at a point in my career and in my life that I needed a little bit of a change,” Efland told POPULAR SPEED.

“I got to talking to them (RCR) over the winter and they offered me a job on this new 33 team. It’s not really new, but all the individuals that are a part of it are new. This is really just a part-time team and they were putting together some new guys and I came into the picture.”

Danny+Efland+Kentucky+Speedway+Day+1+LSeUz4kQKKnlGetting out of the seat is something Efland says was hard to do.  But transitioning from driver to team engineer wasn’t all that hard for the 25-year-old South Carolina native.

“It’s a pretty smooth transition though, because it’s racing and a lot of the same things I’m doing right now as a team engineer are the same things I had to do as a small team driver / owner,” he said. “Now I have a lot of smart people around me to learn from and lean on and a lot of cool equipment to work with at the shop and at the racetrack and a little bit bigger budget, which I’m not use to.”

While Efland has bounced around in the Nationwide Series, he’s been one of the little teams that could.  Just two years ago, he brought home a career best 14th place finish at Darlington driving for Go Green Racing.

While he’s competed in the last four Nationwide Series races, in 2014 he’s watched from the sidelines while on top of the pit box for Cale Conley. Watching the field take the green, especially at Darlington, is the toughest thing he’s had to do.

“Darlington will be the toughest track I’ve been to this year as far as emotional struggle. Darlington is far my favorite racetrack as a driver,” he said. “I think it will continue to be my favorite track as a driver, as an engineer, as a team owner, crew chief, whatever. Down the road, I think this will always be my favorite racetrack.

“This weekend is the first time I’ve been here in the last five years that I haven’t been in a car. It’s going to be a different mindset going into the race. I’m looking forward to the race; I’m excited about it. I’m definitely going to be envious; it’s going to be tough watching them take that green flag, knowing I’m not behind the wheel.”

With a new face like Cale Conley entering the series, it’s always crucial for a driver and team to gel as quickly as possible. That’s one thing Efland feels has happened between he and Conley after just two races together.

Conley was strong out of the box at Bristol, posting a solid 11th place finish in his debut. Staying out of trouble for any rookie is tough, but doing it at Bristol is an accomplishment. Which even took Efland by surprise.

“It was quite a challenge for him but I think he really took Bristol by the horns – he was smart about it. He didn’t just go out there and show everybody what he had, he listened to everybody and took their advice and went out there and did a heck of a job,” Efland said. “He’s doing a heck of a job. He’s got the potential to go a long way”

Danny+Efland+55th+Daytona+500+Day+8+_daoLPUkqkUlIt’s tough for a driver to sit on the sidelines and watch as other drivers do what you love, Efland acknowledged that, but says he’s content with where he’s at in his career.  He still gets the urge to climb aboard and see what the piece he’s working on has at the racetrack.

As a driver, you have to be able to communicate with your crew.  On the opposite side of the radio now, Efland has to listen to what his driver is telling him and parlay that into changes the crew chief can use.  The easiest thing for him would be to jump in the car, but he knows that’s not how it works. So he’ll continue to improve his communication skills with the team.

“I’ve had the thought cross my mind, maybe I should just jump in there and go out and see what it’s doing and maybe I could figure out how to adjust it from there,” he said. “That’s been difficult, but it’s all a part of it and I’ve learned a lot about that side of things.”

With his newfound role at RCR, Efland noted he’s not going to hang up his helmet just yet.  You might see him behind the wheel of a car during a test session or two.  But as far as racing, he’s solely focused on making his current job work so his own driving career will have to wait for the moment.

“If the right things fall into line you never know what can happen. I’ll never give up hope there. Right now I’m planning on just focusing 100% on my job because I think in order to be successful in racing, you’ve got to be successful at the job you’re currently doing,” Efland said.

“Currently I’m a race team engineer, so I want to make sure I’m 100% of that and then anything extra would be great.“




Buescher: We Haven’t Run Where We’re Capable

By Kelly Crandall – @JamesBuescher has been here before, yet the RAB Racing team’s hunt for consistency has been a tougher battle than expected.

Embarking on his first full Nationwide Series season but with a previous 58 starts under his belt – including a Daytona win in 2012 – Buescher isn’t lacking for confidence. Not showing up and seeing that weekend’s venue for the first time has helped build a report between the team. They too, while with different drivers, have a past notebook on the tracks that make up the circuit.

Through seven races they’ve been comparing notes and past history. Working to find their strengths and weaknesses, he and crew chief Chris Rice have also been working to build a relationship. Like learning each other’s language and how to translate that to the No. 99 Rheem Toyota.

“Maybe how I describe the car is different than guys he’s worked with in the past and being able to translate that into productive changes into the car. We’ve made a lot of gains,” Buescher told POPULAR SPEED in Darlington. “I feel like we’re lacking a little bit of speed every now and then but we’re able to make changes and the car responses and we’re able to get the balance better throughout the weekend. We’ve made gains every week – the results may not show it – but we’ve had our fair share of bad luck to come with in the season as well. There’s several races we were capable of running in the top-five or top-10 and we haven’t yet, so we need some luck on our side and to keep working hard.”

The year started with much excitement by all involved. Ascending to the Nationwide Series was Buescher after tenure in Trucks, where he won a championship. But the excitement was quickly knocked down a notch as the team was penalized in the season opening race in Daytona. NASCAR ruling he had locked bumpers with Brad Keselowski in a tandem draft, a phenomenon that has been banned beginning this year.

At the time Buescher and Keselowski had been leading the outside lane while running inside the top-10. The penalty however, relegated him to 16th place finish. Without a doubt, Buescher will admit, it set an unfortunate tone to begin the year.

“It’s kind of a momentum breaker. When we went to the Daytona test we were one of the fastest cars there. Went down for the race and we were really strong all weekend, ran up in the top-five all race long,” Buescher said about their first outing. “Then got penalized for what they called lock drafting and to this day I don’t agree. It’s a momentum breaker. Everybody was all excited because the first race out we’re running that well and it’s a kick in the guy when they penalize you for something you don’t think you did and it’s been an uphill battle since.”

The ensuing six races faired no better. After getting shuffled out of the top-10 in Phoenix the race was called for rain. Las Vegas was doomed after of a speeding penalty while they suffered a mechanical failure in California. Darlington a flat right front tire sent them into the wall, effectively ending their night.

Heading into Richmond they sit ninth in points with zeros across the board. No poles, wins, top-10s, top-fives or laps led.

“At times there’s frustration but we’re making improvements and that’s all you can ask for. It takes time to get the relationship to mesh and make everything work together,” Buescher said. “Michael Shelton and I worked together for years before we even started that truck deal back in 2010, he worked with me in late models back in 2006. So we already had a relationship when we went into that and it didn’t take long for us to gel and have some results. Not having any history with this team or anybody on the team, it just takes a little bit of time to get those relationships mixing and I feel like we’re getting there.”

After five full years in the Camping World Truck Series and driving for his father-in-law Steve Turner, Buescher made the decision over the offseason that it was time for a change. Feeling he had been in the series long enough and wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity from RAB and especially when sponsor Rheem was willing to follow him to the next level.

“I felt like last year might have been the time to move up to Nationwide but it was appealing to say in Trucks and go for a second championship, back-to-back, nobody had ever done it and for good reason. It’s really hard to do, we weren’t able to do it either,” Buescher chuckled. “I just felt like it was a time to move and if I didn’t move up sooner or later I probably wouldn’t move up full-time because the opportunities would go away. It’s a good fit for me and the support from Toyota and TRD and everything has been great, we just need to put all the pieces together and get the results that we’re capable of.”

And in order to accomplish their goals, Buescher and company will be relying on past experiences as the season starts to heat up.

“The goals were to win a race and be in the top-five in points contending for the championship, got off to a slow start for the second half of that but I look back to my truck season last year. My first 10 races were pretty awful and we came back and finished third in points,” he said. “We’re not out of making our goals for this year, we just have to work hard and overcome the struggles we’ve had so far. The positive thing is we finished all these races, we’re not fixing racecars, we’re making them better and that keeps you ahead for sure.”




Brendan Gaughan Finds Comfort and Contentment at Childress

By Kelly Crandall – Life is so good for @Brendan62 (Brendan Gaughan) that it sometimes renders him speechless.

“This is, this is …” with his voice trailing off before he even gets started.

It’s two hours before qualifying at Darlington Raceway and suddenly Gaughan is searching for words and reflecting. In the comforts of his hauler drinking coffee, amongst trays of food and a large stack of hero cards he’s autographing, the Richard Childress Racing driver recalls the journey that’s brought him to this point.

It was fun at Rusty Wallace Racing, but the meter wasn’t pegged as they worked to be more competitive. Longing to be affiliated with a team like Childress but instead left to buy whatever those companies were willing to give them. Making the most with what they had, often looking to overachieve.

He’s forever grateful for what Wallace did for him, however. The same goes for Circle Bar Racing, where Gaughan ran after what he called the most difficult time in his life. Rick Crawford and the Mitchell family’s thoughtfulness will never be forgotten.

“I can’t say I haven’t had times that there’s been great things and great people along the way, but as far as performance goes and life in general and racing goes, there is absolutely no doubt this is the most fun I’ve had since the early days of the team we owned. Winning Winston West races, winning Truck races and competing for championships,” Gaughan said.

“This is the most relaxed, easiest it’s been to laugh and give these interviews and say we’re good. When I said those things with the truck team and later in my career, you were saying them and knew you had absolutely zero shot in hell because you’re stuff was not capable.”

Things are much simpler and happier now. Gone are the days when he ran the Truck Series and had no backup truck for 13 races. Competing in a situation like that is practically non-existent as Gaughan couldn’t even go out in practice and push hard because getting in trouble meant the end of the weekend. A Darlington stripe would have been more like a kiss of death.

“Anytime you have situations like that, you’re not having much fun but I would smile and say good things and didn’t let that be known, but on the inside it was tough,” Gaughan acknowledged. “This is honestly the easiest it’s been to be relaxed, to have fun and enjoy my life again, racing wise because of what Richard gives us, what Richard does for me, what this team gives you. We’re one of the premier Chevrolet teams in the sport, I don’t have to say we don’t have the engineering, I can’t say we don’t have the pieces or the parts, we have the best of everything.”

Welcome to a career rebirth for the 39-year-old Las Vegas driver. Since his pairing with Richard Childress in 2012 when he ran 10 Nationwide and eight Truck races, stability and competitiveness that were once so far away, now enveloped him. In turn, Gaughan went from a driver fading into oblivion to knocking on the door to victory lane.


Last year in a full CWTS season with Childress he finished seventh in points. While winless – although Gaughan admitted a few chances slipped away – those days made everyone stronger. And began a resurgence.

“Last year, start of the year with Shane (Wilson, crew chief), with a new bunch of guys, we kind of made a team and we had high expectations but the problem is a lot of this sport is attitude and I still feel like I’m a great racecar driver but some days it’s tough to remember that when you’re not running well,” said Gaughan. “It took part of the year to kind of remember that hey, I am that good at this stuff and then I finally got some of that killer attitude back near the end of the year. We didn’t win, but we finished second at bunch at the end of the year, we had chances to win three or four races last year.”

The team Gaughan ran with last year is still intact for 2014, moving from Trucks to Nationwide and attempting to pick up where they left off. That factor, along with Gaughan’s past experience driving the style of car now being run, doesn’t mean there’s much he’s had to adapt to.

“Really there’s not much, especially when you take in the fact I still have Shane Wilson with me this year, who’s kind of my comfort zone and the same team basically from last year,” Gaughan said of being back in the NNS full-time since 2010. “The transition has really been nothing. The only thing that has bummed me out is how many points I’ve given up this year with stupid speeding penalties and minor parts failures that have just been killing us. We’ve given away probably 25 points from just stupid things.”

It’s easy to get caught up in Gaughan’s own excitement. Now a days a simple interview becomes a bit of a workout in trying to keep up with the already fast pace driver. His excitement is palpable, the now permanent smile, contagious. The pitch in his voice varies depending on the topic and Gaughan will even speak with his hands as he tries to pantomime events with extra emphasis.

Like speeding. The pitch in Gaughan’s voice got real high as he described his first penalty in Phoenix. He knew it was going to be close and told the team over the radio. Afterward, Childress and other officials came up and said they were going to fix the tachs and that something must have been wrong.

“I said, ‘fix what? I sped!’ I knew where I sped, I knew what I did, it was my own fault,” Gaughan said. A second speeding penalty followed in Vegas as the team did try something different. Those along with a broken clutch in California and a chain breaking in Texas has the South Point fighting from behind all too often.

But Gaughan has been here before; he knows that’s part of the sport. Coming into the year, with the experience of 84 races under his belt and driving for an organization found at the front winning races, his team expects no different.

“We came in knowing this is the year I’m going to get back and win some races again, and we’re going to be up front and we have been all year. We’ve been a sixth, seventh, eighth place all year – didn’t finish there because some of my mistakes and we’ve had two 99 cent part failures – which is kind of just part of the sport,” he said. “It still sucks. I’ve gotten two speeding penalties, and I haven’t got a speeding penalty in seven years. All of a sudden I’m pushing harder, I’m trying harder, and I’ve missed a few things. Those suck but the expectations come in as high as they are whether you’re on any of the Richard Childress teams. You come in expecting to win races and compete for a championship.”

The No. 62 team right now is a top-10 team, according to Gaughan. They’re working on finding speed, eliminating mistakes and failures in order to get to a consistent top-five team where they can start competing for wins. Last Friday night he was fighting for a top 10 spot when he crashed off turn four in Darlington on the last lap. Instead, finishing 22nd and dropped to seventh in points.

Nevertheless Gaughan has found himself a home and stability. Moving through the ranks with Childress, however, doesn’t mean he’s eying a return to the big leagues. The ride Gaughan has been on is good enough and whatever it goes, as long as it’s with Childress, couldn’t be better.

“I told Richard this is the last team I’m going to drive for,” Gaughan revealed, while looking down at the South Point casino on the hero card, looking at what could be his future. “I know this is the best team I’ve ever been on so for me I told Richard it’s either here or this place (Vegas). This is what I want to do, this is what I started in 2012, since I started running here. That’s what I came here for, I’ve told Richard when he asked me to do Trucks in 2013, I said whatever series you want. South Point has X amount of sponsorship, he knows what it is, he has X amount of sponsors he puts on the racecars and whatever series he wants me in is where I want to be.

“If he wants me to run Sprint Cup, as long as we have the sponsorship for it I’m more than happy to do it for him. I am not sitting here caring about that anymore in my life, I want to win races, I want to be up front and whatever series that entails as long as it helps Richard Childress Racing and helps what he wants, I’m here to do it. And the day I can’t compete up front and the day I can’t keep his stuff in the top-10, top five every week, is the day I look at him and say, ‘thank you sir, I appreciate the opportunity.’ And back to Vegas.”

Except with how well off Brendan Gaughan has found himself the last few years, that has become a far off possibility.




Going the Distance … with Ryan Reed

Each week, Popular Speed will ask a different NASCAR personality a handful of questions about their career, lifestyle or off-beat personality traits. Next up: One of the many talented rookies in the Nationwide Series — and a top prospect for Roush Fenway Racing — Ryan Reed.

Popular Speed: You haven’t been around for that long — but do you still feel the novelty and aura of getting to the track or has it become a job?

Ryan Reed: I don’t know if it’s become a job but as you get further into being a race car driver — and I had six Nationwide starts last year — my mindset has changed as my goals changed and got clearer. Me and (crew chief) Seth (Barbour) have fought a free race car over the past month so you come with more of a game plan or an objective week-in and week-out and that helps you as a driver.

I know we had some bad races but they get shaken off quickly because you only wait four or five days as compared to a month in Nationwide where before you had a month sometimes and that’s a long time to sleep on a bad race.

So for me, I couldn’t even find the tunnel when I got here so it’s interesting to come to all these new places and not even be able to find the tunnel — much less your way around the place. So there’s still a lot of learning for me to do and to come to a place like Darlington was pretty cool.

PS:  What first attracted you to motorsports?

RR: My dad. He raced out west (in the old Winston West tour) when I was growing and I’ve been at the race track since I could remember just watching him race.

PS: Who was your childhood hero?

RR: It’s funny — I was a huge Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan when I was like five, six or seven. And then when I first started to get into the sport as a kid, Carl Edwards, who I think was running the Super Clips truck for Jack at the time was someone I looked up to as a younger guy coming up in the sport.

I knew all about his struggles in making it to the sport and I look up to Roush-Fenway Racing a lot because of their willingness to take chances on younger guys like him.

PS: Do you have a bucket list track that rises above all the other venues that you haven’t gone too yet?

RR: Dover for sure. I have a lot of friends who race there on the K&N (East) side and tell me how awesome it is. It’s many of their favorite tracks. So I’m just so excited to go there. Watkins Glen too. I’ve loved road racing all my life so I can’t wait to go there and while I got to race Sonoma in a K&N (West) car last year,  I can’t wait to go back there someday and hopefully in a Cup car.

PS: Would you have rather started your career 20 years ago or 20 years from now?

RR: That’s something I’ve thought about for sure because I love the movie Days of Thunder and the era that it represented. The racing back then was so much different. I would have loved to race a car in the 80s and 90s.

PS: The old chrome bumper, right?

RR: Oh yeah! That and the beating and rubbing — not as much aero back then. Now it’s just completely different. So it’s hard to really compare the two but I think that we’re just going faster and faster and we’re pushing technology to a higher level and it’s been cool to see the sport get elevated like it has.

Anytime you put the best in the world out there, it’s going to get better and better and get faster and faster every week so I really like where it’s at right and I’m just excited to be a part of it every week.

PS: Who do you want to race against from another discipline in NASCAR?

RR: Honestly, it would be really cool to race with (fellow diabetic driver) Charlie Kimball (from IndyCar) no matter what kind of car– be it a NASCAR Nationwide car or Legends car. Just to be able to go out there and hang out and race against him would be cool.

PS: Have you thought about what it would take to be able to do a ride swap like Dale Jr. and Graham Rahal have talked about doing?

RR: That’s something I would love to do. I want to race anything I can get my hands on but I’m so focused on my Nationwide car right now that it’s something we’re going to have to save for a long time from now or some other universe.

PS: What is your favorite all-time paint scheme?

RR: Like I said, I was a huge fan of Days of Thunder and I used to have these blank matchbox cars and I’d paint them up like cars from the movie. So I would have like the City Chevrolet with the yellow and green faded in and out and the Mellow Yellow car.

PS:  What is one make-or-break moment that has defined your early career?

RR: Last year at Richmond when we finished ninth comes to mind. That was just our third race and we had some folks from Lilly Diabetes there and it was just really cool. No one had signed up (for sponsorship commitments yet) and we didn’t have a plan for 2014.

It was just a huge opportunity when you think of how everything came together later. That was definitely a huge moment in my career.

Previous Going the Distance Q&As


Is 2014 The Year JR Motorsports Wins the Nationwide Series Title?

By Brandon Butler – For @DaleJr and JR Motorsports, 2014 has so far been their season to shine the brightest.

Through seven Nationwide Series races JRM has snagged three victories, with @Regan Smith scoring the season opener at Daytona and @ChaseElliott winning his first two career wins in back-to-back weeks at Texas and Darlington.

Both Elliott and Smith are on top of the standings with rookie Elliott extending to a double-digit point lead after his Darlington victory this past Friday. With the amount of success JRM has had over the course of the last several months, this leads me to ask the following question:

Is 2014 the year that JR Motorsports is the team to beat for the Nationwide Series championship?

Right now, its obvious that they are. The son of former Sprint Cup champion Bill Elliott has now led the points for the past two weeks and surprised everyone after winning consecutive races in somewhat dominating fashion, as well as by beating Cup drivers. He continues to prove he is mature beyond his years.

While @KevinHarvick does not run for points in the series, he’s a consistent top-5, if not top-3 driver, every week. Meanwhile Smith has become “Mr. Consistent.” Through the first seven races he is the only Nationwide Series regular who has finished in the top-10 every week.

Yet for JR Motorsports to be considered a very serious contender for the Nationwide Series title, Smith and Elliott will need to survive the road courses on the schedule like Road America, Mid-Ohio and Watkins Glen, as well as finish inside the top-10. Smith had a commanding point lead heading into the summer months last year when he went through a slump of poor finishes, which started at Road America. He ultimately fell off the top of the standings and never recovered.

If JRM can get past the summer months and still be up towards the top of the standings, it might be a good bet to consider them in great shape to hoist their first Nationwide Series championship. Whether it’s with Regan Smith or Chase Elliott, we’re just going to have to find out.




Chris Buescher Left with Another Disappointing Result

By Kelly Crandall (DARLINGTON, S.C.) – @Chris_Buescher climbed from his mangled machine Friday night in Darlington and was quickly surrounded by crew members from his No. 60 Ford team.

They patted the rookie driver on the back while looking at what was left of their car after an accident ruined the night early. Buescher had another solid run going before contact with fellow rookie @dylankracing relegated him to the garage for repairs. Sending him to a 34th place finish with a car Buescher felt was capable of running and finishing in the top 10.

“Our 50th anniversary Mustang fired off really well, actually gained a little bit, got into the top five and rode there pretty solidly the first run. Came down and worked on it a little bit, we got hung out on one of those restarts and we were just starting to get back momentum,” Buescher said after the VFW Sports Clips Help a Hero 200. “It’s a tough racetrack, it’s very narrow and I understand mistakes are easy to make here and I think we were just a victim of one of those.”

The clearly dejected driver was left with another finish not indicative of what his Roush Fenway team is capable of. The team, which is running for Rookie of the Year honors, has been fighting the gremlins and bad luck that have repeatedly kept them from racking up a few more top 10 finishes. Yet, they’ve been quietly solid since missing the race in Daytona to open the year.

“We had some unfortunate circumstances in Daytona that really put us behind right away. Now we’re struggling to come from behind and these last two weeks have really hurt,” said 21-year-old Texas native.

The Daytona disappointment didn’t last long as the team reeled off four top 16 finishes and jumped to 11th in points entering the weekend. But crashes the last two weeks in Texas and Darlington have

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dropped him to 15th in the standings.

“We’ve had really solid runs, we’ve had solid top 10 days and just haven’t been able to finish the last two there,” he said. “We got some work to do but obviously we unloaded fast, qualified good, we’re here to play but we’ve just got to finish them out.”

Darlington was a track Buescher eagerly arrived at, having captured two top 17 finishes in his previous trips to the facility. Starting the weekend on Thursday with the only two practice sessions, Buescher was at the top of the board. Even qualifying an impressive sixth.

Confidence unbroken, Buescher and company head into the off week ahead of Richmond still building upon many areas.

“To miss a race and be right at the edge of a top 10 in points, this one is going to hurt us, but that just goes to show we’re an all new team, we’ve got guys coming from all different race team and we put it together well. We’ve got good chemistry,” Buescher said.

“We’re starting to get a lot of speed here, it’s just going to be a matter of putting all the puzzle pieces together in the end to really complete it.”




Chase Elliott Not Poised For Immediate Cup Promotion

By Matt Weaver (DARLINGTON, S.C.) — In just his rookie season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, Chase Elliott has scored back-to-back victories at Texas and Darlington, leads the championship standings and has been otherwise awesome.

Just don’t expect him to make a hasty arrival to the Sprint Cup Series anytime soon.

Despite all his early success in racing, it’s easy to forget that Elliott is just 18-years-old. There will be no champagne, no super late nights and no time for partying. Elliott has to be in class on Monday morning — high school classes.

So for the time being, Elliott isn’t focusing on his inevitable Sprint Cup Series career.

“I don’t think about it,” Elliott said after the race. “I just want to do the best job that I can and do what I’m supposed to do — everything else will take care of itself.”

DARLINGTON: Nationwide Series Results

Elliott is a Hendrick Motorsports development driver on load to JR Motorsports, the Nationwide Series team owned by Hendrick driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. Beyond the famous last names and dealing with the pressure of having a famous father, Earnhardt can relate to Elliott on another level as well.

Both drivers were highly touted in the Nationwide Series, Earnhardt in 1997 and 1998, where he won 13 races and back-to-back tour championships. Elliott could very well match that feat should he spend the next two seasons in the league, waiting for his spot to open up in the Sprint Cup Series.

But Earnhardt says there is no reason to rush his young driver along, reminding fans and media that he is, again, an 18-year-old high school student.

“We haven’t had those conversations yet,” Earnhardt said of talking to Elliott about his potential promotional time table. “I don’t think he needs to be focusing on that sort of thing right now but those decisions are often made by those who are spending a lot of money and that isn’t me.

“But I do think two years of Nationwide is the best for a driver.”

Complicating matters is that there is nowhere to move Elliott if Rick Hendrick wanted him on the team next year — and there is no indication of that. Jeff Gordon is under a lifetime contract while Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are also locked down for the foreseeable future.

It’s not impossible to think that Elliott could make a one-off start for a Chevrolet team like HScott Motorsports or Furniture Row but Earnhardt

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Chase Elliott Wins in Maiden Voyage at Darlington

By Reid Spencer (DARLINGTON, S.C.) — There’s a new sheriff in town, and he’s barely legal.

With a banzai run in a two-lap dash to the finish of Friday night’s Nationwide Series race at Darlington Raceway, 18-year-old Chase Elliott muscled his way past Elliott Sadler on the final lap to score his second straight win in his seventh start in the series.

Elliott, who restarted sixth on Lap 146, charged to the front and claimed victory in the VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 in his first event at the fabled 1.366-mile track. The victory was Elliott’s second in as many weeks and the second of his fledgling career.

Sadler, who gambled on two tires for the final restart with two laps left, held the second spot. Matt Kenseth ran third, followed by polesitter Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick.

“I knew the guys on two tires (Sadler and Larson) were going to be a little slower than the guys on four,” Elliott said of the final restart. “Our lane went and Elliott (Sadler) got a little loose off (Turn) 2 and let me get to the outside, and that was where I wanted to be anyway.”

Elliott won last Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway, but the victory at Darlington, where his father, Bill Elliott, won five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, had special significance.

“Darlington has always been my favorite place to watch a race,” said Elliott, the youngest driver ever to win at Nationwide Series race at Darlington at 18 years, four months, four days. “Just to be a part of this race is unbelievable.

“To win this thing is a day I’ll never forget.”

Elliott also is the youngest driver ever to win two NNS races, and he’s the youngest driver to lead the series points standings, a feat he achieved for the first time last week at Texas. On Friday night, Elliott extended his points lead to 13 over Regan Smith, who recovered from a spin to finish eighth.

Elliot asserted his superiority early in the race. After restarting fourth on Lap 24, he made short work of the cars in front on him. On Lap 27, he stormed past Harvick and Matt Kenseth into the second spot and seven laps later sped by Busch, the polesitter, for the lead.

Harvick followed into second place four laps later, and the top three—Elliott, Harvick and Busch—remained constant until NASCAR called a caution on Lap 59 for debris on the backstretch. During pit stops under the yellow, Harvick and Elliott swapped the top two positions, and Harvick led the field to green on Lap 65.

By the time they got back to the stripe, Elliott had retaken the top spot, but the green-flag run didn’t last long. On Lap 68, a wild wreck involving the Chevrolet of Dylan Kwasniewski and the Ford of Chris Buescher slowed the field for the third time.

Elliott controlled the action through two subsequent yellows but lost four positions during pit stops under caution on Lap 89 for Smith’s spin in Turn 1. Busch assumed the lead off pit road, with Kenseth, Harvick, Larson and Elliott trailing for a restart on Lap 94.

  1. Chase Elliott
  2. Elliott Sadler
  3. Matt Kenseth
  4. Kyle Busch
  5. Joey Logano
  6. Kyle Larson
  7. Kevin Harvick
  8. Regan Smith
  9. Trevor Bayne
  10. Ty Dillon
  11. Brian Scott
  12. Landon Cassill
  13. Ryan Reed
  14. JJ Yeley
  15. Josh Wise
  16. Mike Bliss
  17. Mike Wallace
  18. Dakoda Armstrong
  19. Kevin Lepage
  20. Jeffrey Earnhardt
  21. Eric McClure
  22. Brendan Gaughan
  23. Dylan Kwasniewski
  24. Carlos Contreras
  25. James Buescher
  26. Joey Gase
  27. Tanner Berryhill
  28. Todd Bodine
  29. Berrike Cope
  30. Tommy Joe Martins
  31. Jeremy Clements
  32. Cale Conley
  33. Mike Harmon
  34. Chris Buescher
  35. David Starr
  36. Matt Carter
  37. Ryan Sieg
  38. Matt Dibenedetto
  39. Jeff Green
  40. Blake Koch

Jack Roush Has a Unique Brand of Discipline

By Matt Weaver (DARLINGTON, S.C.) — Jack Roush is the personification of tough love to those who have driven for Roush-Fenway Racing over the years.

The stern headmaster of Roush-Fenway Racing has never been afraid to speak his mind to top prospects and equally unafraid to pull a driver out of his seat if there is a lesson to be learned from it.

Ryan Reed is the latest recipient of Roush’s brand of discipline following the first six races of the 2014 Nationwide Series season, many of which saw the driver unable to make it to the checkered flag due to a remarkable run of crashes.

And while Roush has not taken action against his latest protégé, a message was clearly delivered to Reed following Bristol — take better care of your equipment.

Both David Ragan and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are former Roush prospects who have been guided and later benched by the 71-year-old car owner. Roush sat down Ragan in 2006 and did the same with Stenhouse in 2010, each scenario following a series of accidents to open their respective seasons.

Reed is fully aware of the precedent and is not making any excuses about how his season started. He says that he just tried way too hard to force positive results and paid the price.

“I’ve just been overaggressive,” Reed told Popular Speed on Friday. “I know that it has cost us a few race cars but I’ve learned a few things, took a couple of steps back, and now plan to take the next few races to be conservative and just get good finishes.”

The two most recent races have shown the improvement that Roush hopes translates into a long career for the 20-year-old, with Reed finishing 17th and 20th. Reed says a conversation with Stenhouse gave him perspective on how to process the boss’ advice.

“I saw Ricky in the shop after Bristol and knew he was a guy that really understood what I was going through,” Reed said. “He told me that he respected what I was going through and recognized what I was trying to do. He told me to take the next few races to learn from all sides of the sport, be it the media, team owners or sponsors.

“He said to just go out there and have fun and not to be afraid to pull back if I ever felt like I was in a bad position on the track.”

Stenhouse admitted that Roush can be “tough” and that he could relate to what Reed is going through, having experienced many of the same tribulations in 2010.

“He asked me how to deal with Jack, how to take (the advice) and what I thought he should do better,” Stenhouse said.

The two-time Nationwide Series champion told his newest teammate that he needed to start finish races before trying to contend and that Reed was costing himself valuable seat time with his aggressive tendencies.

“I told Ryan that I feel like, in hindsight, that I lost a lot of valuable experience in crashing cars my rookie year. I told him that once he began finishing races, then he should work on getting faster and I really think he’s starting to take off.”

Ragan drove for Roush from 2006-2011 and said that Roush is only trying to mold his drivers and that he didn’t realize the impact of his tutelage until the waning years of his tenure with the team

“Jack is an honest guy and he does things for the right reasons,” Ragan said. “It’s a very tough love. At the time, I was young and I thought I was mature but I wasn’t and Jack helped me make that adjustment quicker.

“If you go talk to Carl Edwards or Greg Biffle and they’ll tell you that Jack was so inspirational in making them who they are today … and while I didn’t agree with many of his decisions with my career at the time, I am just now seeing many of the lessons that he taught me.”




Chase Elliott Continues to Silence Critics

By Matt Weaver (FORT WORTH, Tex.) — Well that don’t take long.

When Hendrick Motorsports promoted Chase Elliott to the Nationwide Series at just 18-years-old, there was a pushback that perhaps he was too young or too inexperienced — only racing a mixed schedule of ARCA and Camping World Trucks last season.

But to those, including myself, who have watched Elliott competed in Late Models since he was 13-years-old, what happened on Friday night, Elliott, posting his first Nationwide victory comes to no surprise at all.

The prodigal son has won at every level he has attempted to compete at, from Legends, Pro Late Models, Super Late Models, Trucks and now Nationwide — and contrary to popular belief, it is not purely a construct of his equipment or resources.

Rather, what makes Elliott a special case is his adaptability and feedback to his crew, something that he’s always possessed since moving to the heavier stock car.

I was there for his first, of three, Snowflake 100 victories at Five Flags Speedway and again a year later for his Snowball Derby triumph after a spirited duel with DJ VanderLey. And now on Friday, he’s done it again, outdueling the likes of Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick in just his sixth start — an accomplishment that rises above all others according to the driver himself.

“For sure, I’ve got to put this one at the top,” Elliott said. “To do this with JRM and NAPA Auto Parts and such a new deal that just came together during the off-season, that’s what makes this special, being so early in the season too.

“This one so far is hard to beat, getting your first win at anything is an honor and it’s a great feeling. I feel like this one for sure means a lot and it’s got to be right there at the top.”

And given his skillset and affiliation with Hendrick Motorsports, this is surely the beginning of a long series of prominent victories. Elliott will be given the best resources available and the driver will respond his best.

It’s somewhat shocking that it took this long.