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ASHLEY ASKS….. Ty Majeski

After running a limited schedule across the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series the past three years, Ty Majeski is ready for the full truck campaign with Niece Motorsports in 2020.

The Wisconsin native recently spoke with POPULAR SPEED about his thoughts entering the season.

POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts as we look forward to the 2020 season?

Russell Labounty | NKP

TY MAJESKI: Obviously for myself, incredibly excited to be full time just in general. I’ve been doing some NASCAR stuff since 2017; it’s always been three races here, 12 races there, six races there. It’ll be good to finally get in a rhythm with the team. As a young and up-and-coming racer, you just want to have a good opportunity to race full-time with good people and good equipment, and I’m excited for that opportunity this year. I’m ready to make the best of it.

PS: What are your goals and expectations for the year?

MAJESKI: I think the biggest thing for me is to establish a rhythm, and obviously get in tune with the team. Some of the guys that I worked with before are on the team, so I’m excited for that. But just to establish consistency and eventually compete for wins. I mean, we expect to run well. This team is proven and obviously I feel in the right opportunity I am able to go and win races, and that’s our goal.

PS: What track are you most looking forward to?

MAJESKI: I think the one for me is probably Martinsville. It’s a track that I’ve always wanted to race at. Obviously, you grow up watching on TV or playing iRacing on it. For me, I ran the Xfinity Series and doesn’t go there – or hasn’t in the past, so that’s definitely one I’m looking forward to. I have a lot of laps there virtually, but none in real life, so I’m excited to get there and race that track.

Barry Cantrell | NKP

PS: You’ve been able to gain a lot of experience to date. What’s the biggest thing that you have picked up on that you feel will help you now that you’re full-time?

MAJESKI: I think the biggest thing is working with a lot of different people. You learn a lot of stuff, and I’ve gotten the chance to work with a lot of good people, just maybe not in the right situations. I think you need to take bits and pieces from each situation and opportunity and take all that knowledge and apply that to your current opportunity. I think, to date, this is going to be my best opportunity as a up-and-coming racer, and I’m just excited to get going. I can’t wait for Daytona.

PS: What would it mean to you if one day you could reach the top level and be in the Cup Series?

MAJESKI: That’s obviously my goal. As a kid, I never thought it was possible. I’m a first generation racer from a small town in Wisconsin and I never thought it’d turn into what it is has, and obviously it’s come realistic in the last few years, and we’re going to do everything that we can for ourselves to do that.

PS: Last year, you made a lot of headlines across the board. What was your favourite moment from 2019?

MAJESKI: I would say winning my first ARCA race, especially at Charlotte. Obviously Charlotte is the hub of NASCAR and motorsports in the U.S. and to go win on the home turf of motorsports was really cool. Then to be back it up, I won at home track in Chicago a few weeks later. Those are two pretty cool wins for me for different reasons.

Nigel Kinrade | NKP

PS: We’ve gotten to know you as a late model racer across the country. How many races can we expect to see you run in 2020?

MAJESKI: We’re putting the schedule together right now; it looks like it’ll end up between 10 and 15 late model races. There’s a lot of holes in the truck series schedule. Between middle of February and middle of November, we only race 23 weekends, so there’s definitely opportunities for me to run some late model races.

PS: Who would you call your racing hero?

MAJESKI: I think that changes as growing up, I think it’s different than it is now. For awhile there, I looked up to Alan Kulwicki and how he did things and how he went to school and got his engineering degree, and had a do it yourself attitude. He was the guy working in the shop himself, but also an owner, a driver, and he had the capabilities of being a crew chief; that’s something that I strive to be like.

Now a days, you see drivers that just show up to the race track and drive; I take pride in knowing what I’m racing and doing the best that I can to know what I am racing to make better adjustments and give better feedback to my crew chief.

PS: Given your career path to date, what would be one piece of advice that you’d offer to that next driver out there?

MAJESKI: I think the big thing is to surround yourself with good people. Just like anything else, just in general, if you surround yourself with good people, good things will happen. The racecars and equipment can be good, but if you don’t have the right people working on it and guiding you, you won’t get anywhere. That’s been the biggest thing for me in my career is I always try to put myself in the best situations with the best people, and so far it has worked out for me.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

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
Home Tracks

GOOD & BAD: 2019 NASCAR K&N Pro Series Season

Another year of NASCAR K&N Pro Series competition is in the books, as the transition now begins towards the new era of combining the NASCAR Home Tracks program with ARCA. Along the way, though, there were some highlights and low lights to consider from the action on-track all year.

Although I was unable to watch all of the races, let’s take a look back at the good and the bad.

GOOD: A little bump and banging, drivers making their way up and down the field, and a bump and run for the win – it sounds like the perfect short track event. The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East was able to check each of those boxes when they visited Bristol Motor Speedway. 

BAD: The field size could certainly use some improvement, as highlighted with just 16 entries at Bristol. Hopefully the new format will allow for that to happen. 

GOOD: Thoughout the season, Sam Mayer was a step above the rest en route to winning the championship – and that was certainly on display at Bristol in August. 

After having to go back to the field at the beginning of the race, he methodically made his way forward, making passes as he went to continue gaining ground. He was then able to catch Davis in the closing laps, perfecting the bump and run to get the lead and cruise to the win.

Not only as he proven to be a master at one of NASCAR’s toughest short tracks, his ability behind the wheel has shined at other speedways. He won at Iowa Speedway, and ran strong in a couple NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series starts. As he makes his move up the ladder with GMS Racing and their Driver’s Edge Development program, the potential for him to be quite successful for years to come is there. 

BAD: It was not all sunshine for the driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet as his day was not clean at Bristol. He got put to the back on the first lap due to spinning fellow competitor Chase Cabre right off the drop of the green flag. 

While these two haven’t had the smoothest season racing each other in 2019 with contact throughout, it’s not a good appearance to be causing trouble right away. It also looks worse when you show no remorse about the contact. Mayer would admit he “didn’t mean it at all,” but went on to add that Cabre “kind of deserves it.” 

GOOD: Bristol wasn’t the only track that the young series shined, as South Boston Speedway’s event was arguably even better. A late caution set-up a green-white-checkered finish to the WhosYourDriver.org Twin 100 Race 1, and it impressed every fan watching the free stream on FansChoice.tv.

After giving up the lead to Mayer over the course of the long run, Tanner Gray took full advantage of the restart, with a well-timed bump to the back of the No. 21 Chevrolet, followed by some rubbing well alongside on the tight track to take over the lead. He then held on through the final lap for the victory.

It’s always been stated that “racecars have bumpers for a reason,” as well as the classic stories of the “chrome horn.” Gray perfected the move in that moment as he got the position on Mayer, however he didn’t go over the limit by wrecking his competitor. 

BAD: Hailie Deegan may be applauded for her aggressive ability, but she showed the need to learn patience in driving over Colin Garrett in the first 18 laps of the second event at South Boston before it was postponed to Sunday due to weather. Garrett showcased his frustration to his fellow competitor, resulting in shock from the fans in not being able to see a replay of the incident despite FansChoice.tv using that feature for other previous incidents. 

GOOD: Derek Kraus rarely makes mistakes and appeared to be ready to cruise to another victory at Irwindale Speedway, but he would get outside of the groove in turn three – opening the door for one of the most exciting battles in series history.

Both Trevor Huddleston and Tanner Gray would be able to clear Kraus in the process, with Huddleston beginning to stretch out an advantage. However, as the laps begin to count down, Gray was able to close the gap. Gray would get to Huddleton’s bumper with two to go, diving underneath in both ends as he tried to clear him. The battle would go all the way to the checkered flag. 

https://twitter.com/FansChoiceTV/status/1112191647675117568

BAD: Sometimes it’s best to double check that your microphone is off before you make a candid comment.

Hannah Newhouse was pegged to speak with Riley Herbst following his crash for the at-track public address system at Bristol, and FansChoice.tv’s broadcast. She made the comment in which she wasn’t sure what took Herbst out of the race, to which he replied, “The car is killed. Look at the right side of this thing.”

Although improper etiquette to not fully know what happened entering the interview with a comment like that, the discussion point did not come from there. Rather, she left her microphone open following the interview, calling Herbst a “douchebag.”

Although honesty is appreciated from the on-air talent, that certainly is not the best look to have. 

GOOD: Hailie Deegan is currently regarded as one of the best young talents coming up in motorsports. She proved why on Thursday night at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway dirt track, and the fans were entertained in the process.

She would close the gap between herself and Jagger Jones, despite being just over five seconds behind with 26 laps to go.  Jones would find himself in lap traffic, and those cars would not move out of the way as the driver of the No. 6 would’ve hoped, as the bottom was the preferred line all night and where they tell lap cars to stay other places. Perhaps it was a bit of impatience, or maybe not having the knowledge of how to pinch himself underneath them, a he would get hung up on two occasions. The first would allow Deegan to close to within a couple car lengths, the second cost him the victory.

As Jones got hung up with Kenny Bumbera, a small space opened up between the tractor tire and them. Deegan would stick her nose in the hole, pushing Jones out a little (rubbing is racing, right?), and taking the lead. Although Jones tried to retaliate with the chrome horn going into turn three, it was not enough as Deegan kept it straight to the checkered flag.

GOOD: Anybody remember how the NASCAR K&N season started at New Smyrna? Despite starting 16th on the grid, Kraus conserved his tires while slowly making his way to the front, choosing to ride just inside the top-five. 

When the opportunity presented itself with the youthfulness of Garrett and Dollar getting together on a restart with 44 laps to go, Kraus did what he had to do, splitting the middle between the pair to drive by and cruise away en route to victory. Arguably, it was probably one of the best textbook restart passes that you will probably see all season. As he said post-race, “I might’ve gotten in the grass, but I got it done.”

GOOD: Can we also applaud NASCAR for their cost-saving measure in only allowing one single set of General Tires for the event? On top of the money not being spent, it also teaches the drivers about conserving equipment – something we know can come in handy when they move up the ranks. 

GOOD: The choice to stream the events live for free via FansChoice.tv was probably the best decision made. It allotted fans who may only know of the big three series a chance to get a glimpse at the grassroots action, perhaps resulting in them becoming more interested and wanting to attend an event closer to home.

Furthermore, it gave those short track attendees a chance to check out the middle ground of NASCAR. While they may not be too thrilled by the intermediate tracks, this may be the series level that attracts their interest in being closer to what they’re used to.

They always say the hardest part of advertising a product is getting it in front of fans, and doing that this way probably certainly improved the awareness.

BAD: It’s too bad, though, that the option won’t be there in 2020 with NBC Sports Gold taking over broadcasting the series, and now charging so much a month. Certainly those work to put the coverage together deserve something in return for their hard work respectfully, and the amount being charged is not too far out there.

However, making it only available to those in the United States, whereas FansChoice you could view anywhere around the globe, is ignoring a lot of potential race fans. An example would be the Canadian fan base, which makes up 40% of attendees to both Watkins Glen and Michigan. Now you’re taking away something for them view race fan wise, combined with the truck series just being able on one television provider, how does that make them feel included?

In a time where NASCAR recognizes that their numbers were going down with sponsors harder to find, you would think that we’d be wanting to reach as many markets around the world as possible. 

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

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

GOOD & BAD: 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Season

Another year of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition is in the books, with a familiar sight as Kyle Busch was crowned the series champion. Along the way, though, there were some highlights and low lights to consider from the action on-track all year.

Although I was unable to watch all of the races, let’s take a look back at the good and the bad.

GOOD: While the final event is the pressure cooker of the season, you should just treat it like any other weekend. Just ask Busch and crew chief Adam Stevens. As the rest of the contenders faltered under the pressure, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver did what he does best en route to his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title.

On any given week through the season, the No. 18 M&M’s Camry and that was on display with the top speed in Saturday’s practice. Despite not winning in the 21 races prior to the Ford EcoBoost 400, he also consistently ran up front, as highlighted by 27 top-10 finishes in the 36 events in 2019. However, many had placed him beneath his rivals due to only five top-10’s in the first nine playoff races. 

They all failed to recognize that Busch continuing to put himself in the right position, plus the poise of being in the position previously certainly helped. While you could see his title contenders were using a “win or bust” mentality, Busch and crew chief Adam Stevens ran the event just like any other weekend. When he was unable to keep up with Martin Truex Jr. or Kevin Harvick, it was just about giving feedback to continuing making adjustments to find more speed. Combined with a ultra fast pit crew that just did their job as normal and you had a recipe for success. 

NIGEL KINRADE | NKP

BAD: The championship seemed to just come together on a less than stellar level for Busch, though, as the last event of the season did not have that late race drama to get you up on your seat. The contenders showed speed, but made uncharacteristic mistakes. 

Truex dominated the opening stage, though fell back in the second stage due to the pit crew putting on the tires on the wrong side of the car under a green flag stop. While he was able to make-up the ground in quick fashion to be in position to contend during the third stage, he was never able to make up the lost track position to Busch.

Denny Hamlin appeared to be in a closer position to challenge Busch than Truex was in the final stage despite an okay start. However, Chris Gabehart would elect to put on a big piece of tape, hoping to pick up downforce and speed so they could run down their Joe Gibbs Racing teammate. It would back fire, with the No. 11 Camry overheating, resulting in an unscheduled pit stop, and a finish of 10th.

GOOD: No matter the format to decide the champion, the best drivers are always going to rise to the top. Over the past couple seasons, Busch, Truex Jr. and Harvick have been part of the Championship 4.

JOHN HARRELSON | NKP

BAD: Although Chase Elliott started off the playoffs on a high with a bunch of momentum following a great comeback victory at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL, he hopefully has forgotten about the weeks that followed.

He suffered a blown tire at ISM Raceway, backing the No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet into the outside wall, and ultimately failed to finish better than 32nd in the Round of 8. He broke an axle at Martinsville Speedway, and then tried to run the high line early in the event at Texas Motor Speedway, getting loose and backing the No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet into the wall. Though even before that rough round, he suffered a blown motor at Dover International Speedway, and a crash at Talladega Superspeedway in the Round of 12. 

GOOD: The legitimacy of the champion produced by the playoff system in NASCAR has been, and will be debated for years to come with fans are either side of the fence. However, the post-season is producing what the sanctioning body wanted – drama. Let’s take a look back at Kansas Speedway, shall we? 

Eyes were focused in on the final laps of the Hollywood Casino 400 with everyone wondering who the eight drivers transferring to the Round of 8 would be. Certainly the late race caution helped up the stakes, but there were plenty of things to watch at the end, Elliott‘s late-race charge to challenge for the victory, to Brad Keselowski trying to salvage a decent day and losing ground at the end.

Ultimately, Keselowski saw his championships hope end courtesy of a mere three points. Although you could blame the sub-par performance on Sunday, there was also a crash at Talladega Superspeedway and an 11th-place finish at Dover International Speedway. If only he would have finished three spots further up the board any of those times.

BAD: Jimmie Johnson ultimately watched his chances of making the playoffs end in a crash at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Battling three-wide, William Byron crowded Johnson, resulting in Johnson getting into the grass and sideways. In total, nine drivers were caught up in the incident. Johnson’s rear-end damage was significant enough that he could not continue.

Although NBC put on the focus on Johnson not making the post-season solely focused on Sunday, there were 25 races that drivers also scored wins and points to ensure their championship chances. Quite frankly, this year has been a struggle for seven-time with consistency being a struggle to find, including a crew chief change mid-season.

RUSTY LABOUNTY | NKP

GOOD: There were some good finishes this season, including Hamlin and Harvick at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Lap cars can be thanked for bringing the pair closer together, but that’s all part of the long-run racing in how you handle the traffic. Harvick, using some of his short track skills, kept the advantage by slowing down a touch sooner than expected and taking the preferred line that Hamlin would have wanted.

On the same coin, Hamlin does earn respect in how he handled the situation. He gave Harvick a bump in turn one, but just enough to get scoot him out of the groove a little and not wreck him. Notice the difference in crowd reaction compared to how he handled Martinsville Speedway a couple years ago with Elliott.

BAD: Anybody remember the fan attendance for the Food City 500? You can preach all you want that short tracks should be on the schedule, but you also need to show that you’re willing to support them and that’s by putting butts in the seats. Certainly there’s other factors contributing to the attendance – hotel costs, food costs, weather, though no matter how you approach it, it’s not a good look.

GOOD: Ryan Preece proved that he could drive this season, starting right off at the Daytona 500. He drove directly through all three wrecks that happened, crossing the line with an eighth-place finish in his Cup Series debut. Just check this out for evidence.

BAD: The racing may be a struggle to watch sometimes, but it’s made even worse when the officials can’t do their job. There was at least three of the first six races of the season that they had issues putting cars inline for the restart. How hard can it be to put a field of cars two-wide evenly when timing and scoring electronically prints you a perfect order? 

There was also that time at Atlanta Motor Speedway where Truex was assessed a penalty, but then it was taken back as NASCAR’s Steve O’Donnell said post-race the pit stop was reviewed in the tower and there was no penalty as they could not confirm foot was down early per video. It’s a little concerning when you hear straight from the sanctioning body that they don’t have enough views of a pit stop to confirm something, especially when they made us to believe their new pro trailer system with less officials on pit road and using video instead would work. 

Russell Labounty | NKP

BAD: We also need to get the coverage of these races improved. Between the endless commercials, and lacking smarts in the booth, it’s going downhill really fast. I mean, do you really the viewers at home care if the commentators are eating ice cream?

It seemed they would show a small piece of the race, before going straight to another commercial break. Essentially, giving you bits of the racing action in-between allowing you to memorize each ad since you’d seen it too many times to count. It almost felt like a third to a quarter of the race was shown in commercial – maybe more.

On top of that, the actual coverage of the event was lacking. Supposedly, observations from Texas Motor Speedway indicated it was a “slug fest” with groups of cars running together closely, battling for position. However, NASCAR on Fox didn’t bother to show that. They just showed the pack racing for the first 10 laps after a restart, and then focused on the single-file train at the front or went to commercial. 

P.S.: It’d also be nice if they showed the running order during their “Crank it Up” segment.

BAD: The Cup Series package certainly needs improvement, as the consensus from the majority of the races is that the rules package is doing nothing to produce “exciting racing” with the main show falling behind the two junior series. Hence why there’s a lot of excitement surrounding the new car in 2021. This was showcased through the whole season, with a bunch of lackluster races.

Take the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. If you put aside the championship drama, the actual race was just – meh. There was no real battles or challenges for positions as everybody seemed to move up or down simply based on the strategy that they were running. You would get exciting battles on the restart, but they’d string out after five laps and then it was just a follow the leader train.

JOHN HARRELSON | NKP

You could also look back at the Bluegreen Vacations 500 at ISM Raceway where Hamlin gapped the field by over 10 seconds at one point. The racing was so spread out with the unlikelihood of drama near the end that NASCAR put out a caution for John Hunter Nemechek‘s contact with the outside wall that normally would have been no cause for concern. After all, the Front Row Motorsports driver made it back to pit road without laying down any debris.

Other events that you could add to the list include the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, Auto Club 500 at Auto Club Speedway, Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway.

“The cars don’t have any speed,” Busch said following the Pennzoil 400. “You’re wide open just trying to suck off of any car that you can that’s in front of you to get a draft. I was running 31-flats when I was chasing those leaders down and then once I got there, I stalled out to 31.40s because the wind was just so bad behind those guys that you couldn’t corner anymore, you couldn’t maneuver. I couldn’t run low if they ran low and I couldn’t run high if they ran high so you’re always trying to figure out which way to go.”

While it’s nice to look forward to 2021, that just means that we’re getting ready another boring season – unless they can make some minor tweaks to improve the status quo. Let’s beg and hope that happens. Alas, let’s remember what Jeff Gordon said earlier this year – “Tires don’t wear out, speed don’t slow down, you can’t get away from each other, and track position is key.” 

GOOD: Let’s back it up a little, though, as the package did not fail everywhere. 

The Hollywood Casino 400 was a great race to watch from the fan’s perspective. Between the aged surface and a new tire compound, drivers were using multiple grooves across the surface to try and gain time on their competitors. This allowed for side-by-side racing throughout the entire duration of the event, including a couple battles for the lead. The aged-surface at Atlanta Motor Speedway also allowed us to get a good race there, too. 

There was also New Hampshire, as although the field was spread out at times throughout the afternoon, there was always at least one battle for position within the top-10 to keep an eye on. By laying down the PJ1 traction compound in the separate lanes, it allowed drivers to get their cars working high or low to challenge each other. There was also varying strategy played with earning stage points versus trying to set yourself up for a good finish and tire wear, which kept things interesting with a variety of drivers finding their way to the front at times.

NIGEL KINRADE | NKP

Bristol Motor Speedway also reminded us as to why we love short tracks with the Food City 500.

The reconfiguration caused the high line to become the only place for Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, but that wasn’t quite the case on Sunday. Track officials finally got the right traction compound as throughout the event, competitors were able to run high and low, with different drivers favoring each groove.

The result was constant side-by-side racing from the drop of the green flag, to the checkered flag, for positions throughout the field. It was also beneficial that NASCAR on FOX listened to the fan’s critiques from the past couple of weeks, not spending their time focused on the leader but rather showing each of these battles. 

There was also excitement with the Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, but we know restrictor plates are always entertaining when drivers want to race for it. 

If every race could be like what we saw here, then perhaps other gimmicks would not be necessary for fan excitement.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

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

“They Said What?” NASCAR Xfinity Series Edition

Sometimes when you stick a microphone in front of a driver’s face, you have no clue what they may say and a couple of times you’ll hear something that surprises you or gives you a bit of a perspective.

Throughout the 2019 season, our writers had the opportunity to speak to a bunch of different competitors. During those interviews, there were some quotes that stood out. So it seems only fitting we take a glance back through the year at what was said.

JOHN HARRELSON | NKP

“I think the biggest thing for us is just two things. One thing is refining; we had a great program last year, but I think sometimes it’s really easy to get complacent when your program is really good and you’re running well. You tend to want to stick to that, which is fine, but I think the biggest thing about this sport which is always is a challenge is progression and moving forward. So that’s why I think the word refinement would be a big part of it.

“But then the bigger part is execution. Last year, we executed really well at quite a few races, but we didn’t execute everywhere and especially in the playoffs. We had a really rough playoffs, and ultimately it took us out of a shot of winning a championship. But really, it took us out of winning some races and really putting ourselves in that championship picture.

“So disappointing is definitely an understatement for how last year ended, but I think refinement and execution are the biggest things for this year.”

Justin Allgaier on what he can do to be stronger in 2019 compared to 2018

USA TODAY

“Anytime you can put your name in the record books for anything, it’s awesome. We feel pretty lucky and blessed to already have a couple of titles and those didn’t come easy, this one won’t either. This is going to be a real, real hard battle down there. I think we’re lacking a little bit of speed compared to that guys, but it’s close. We’re going to need everything we can get and little luck too. That’s how it’s been the last couple of times. I don’t know that we showed up with the best car throughout the day at Homestead, but we were there at the end when it mattered and that’s what you got to do. I’d put Justin up against any of those guy to position us to be in that position at the end.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. on his chances at making history becoming the second team owner to win three consecutive championships.

RUSSELL LABOUNTY | NKP

“I mean, it’s just a lot of confidence. Even opening up for a team right now, obviously you know we got that win in Daytona, but I think we all know what Daytona means and you know it’s kind of a crapshoot going in. So to come out of a mile and a half, that is the majority of our schedule, and run top-ten most of the day and, to bring home a top-five. I don’t think we had any top five’s last year. So, to be third race in and have three top 15’s and two top five’s already, is just a testament to what we have going here on this 1 team.”

Michael Annett on his early season success

RUSSELL LABOUNTY | NKP

“It’s been, it’s probably been the most fun I’ve ever had racing every week in my career because you know, the last two years has just been such a grind to stay in the sport, you know, not having a sponsor.”

Gray Gaulding

NIGEL KINRADE | NKP

“It’s momentum. It’s confidence for the guys. It’s morale for them to go back to the shop, and I know they want to work for me as much as they can, but when we have good finishes, it’s kind of a bonus. It’s kind of like, we can kick in the butt to try to get to that first position. So, we’re close. This is how we started at the beginning of the year. Nothing really happened except for that pit road penalty today, and that’s what we’ve got to do, minimize mistakes.”

Brandon Jones on gaining momentum after a strong run at Chicagoland Speedway

RUSSELL LABOUNTY | NKP

“It’s what I’ve been working for the last few years. I’ve given up a lot of different opportunities and different types of racing to go do that. The person I am at this age at the level I am at, my goal is not to run trucks or Xfinity for the rest of my career. It’s to go race on Sundays against the best and work to be the best and prove that you are the best. That’s what this is all about and why I’m doing what I’m doing. It’s been cool to have small opportunities to get a taste of what that is this year. I was able to get a taste and it’s all about working towards that. At the same time, I do think that you have to be ready and we have a lot of cases to show that those who aren’t ready or made the most of an opportunity, it goes away quick. So you have to ready to get an opportunity and those don’t come easy. I think this next year will be a very important year for me to get more prepared.”

Austin Cindric about what it’d mean to be in the Cup Series one day.

RUSTY JARRETT | NKP

“The crazy thing is – even with the top-10 streak – I still feel like it’s been a terrible year. I’m the only driver who’s made the Playoffs every year since they started this format. Those three guys have had a lot of speed this year and they’ve been very good, but we’ve also noticed that when their days don’t go the way they want to go that they’ve had some challenges dealing with that.”

Justin Allgaier

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
Home Tracks

“They Said What?” NASCAR Home Tracks Edition

Sometimes when you stick a microphone in front of a driver’s face, you have no clue what they may say and a couple of times you’ll hear something that surprises you or gives you a bit of a perspective.

Throughout the 2019 season, I had the opportunity to speak to a bunch of different competitors. During those interviews, there were some quotes that stood out. So it seems only fitting we take a glance back through the year at what was said.

RUSTY JARRETT | NKP

I think the biggest thing is – I don’t want to sound negative, but just be prepared that it might not work out. I think it’s easy for all of us, whether you’re a dad, you’re a friend of a racer or a competitor of a racer and look at people and say, “Oh, they’ll make it. They have plenty of talent. They’ll be in Cup one day, or they remind me of Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon.”

But there’s no model there anymore. So I think young guys that growing up in racing, whether quarter midgets, bandalero, late model, or even the K&N division, is just take advantage of every single opportunity that you can. Don’t waste it, because it cost way too much money to be out there and there’s jobs on the line for a lot of crew guys that are working on those cars. But don’t waste your opportunity, and be prepared that you can go out there and do everything right – you can win races, and you can win championships, and there’s still a really big chance that due to the business, you’re not going to make it on Sundays and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I work with Noah Gragson and I tell him this all the time – just don’t waste your opportunity because if you go out there and win five races over the year and do everything you can, and you’re prepared, and you’re preparing your body to battle, and you’re communicating with your team – if you come up short and you can’t make it to the Cup Series, then you can still lay your head down at night and say you gave it your all. But don’t be the kid that wastes the opportunity and doesn’t take advantage of it, because then you’re going to be feeling a lot of regrets.

So I think it’s about being mentally prepared of the challenge to work your way up through the sport in today’s atmosphere to where it’s not just about talent, but the funding you have in place and what you do with that and whether you take advantage of it.

Brandon McReynolds

BILL MCANALLY RACING

It’s a really cool position I’m being putting in this year. I’ve raced for the past 15 years and I’ve always kind of been one of the very few girls in the midwest for the up-and-coming drivers to admire and to learn off of. Now that you’re getting into the higher NASCAR series, your platform gets bigger and bigger.

 

My role for that is to go out there and do what I love; go out there and win and show that it really doesn’t matter, boy or girl, you can go out there and do whatever sport you want. So if they’re looking for inspiration to gout there and race against all the guys, that’s great; but if they can use what I am doing on the race track to help them pursue their dreams, whether racing or another sport, that’s a really cool spot for me to be  in and I hope to do that for them.

Brittney Zamora

JAGGER JONES RACING

It definitely helps being involved and having a racing family. I mean, my dad is always there and my grandpa – I can always go to them and ask. But it’s also what they know, their experience, in putting me in the right position and just being involved with a lot of other people in the NASCAR world has really been a help for us. It’s good to know that I can go to my dad and ask for advice, really, for anything about the cars, or anything really around racing.

Jagger Jones

RUSTY JARRETT | NKP

The K&N and ARCA car are really similar, so going back and forth between those two isn’t too drastic; it’s really just horsepower. But when we go super late model racing and TransAm Racing, that’s completely different and that’s just more or less for experience. So I don’t really take those for competitive, but rather just for learning, like road courses and stuff like that in the bigger cars. The Super Late Model is more so for the competitiveness of the series.

Sam Mayer

JOHN HARRELSON | NKP

Really, just how to race these cars. These cars have 650 horsepower, but they’re so heavy and really tall; it’s kind of like racing a school bus with a jet engine. It’s just a really big bulky car so you have to learn how to drive it, especially on these short tracks. It’s all about who has the most speed through the center; it’s a big long drag race down the straightaway with whoever can get the power down.

We ran several short track races and we qualified third at Thompson, but we ended up having a really loose car. I think just from everything I learned from that will help for New Smyrna. For the big tracks, I’ve been to the big tracks now so I can be able to use that knowledge with how the air works, how not to use much brake, and that stuff, and going to these tracks for the second time is going to help a lot.

First time I went to New Hampshire, we qualified 13th or something like that. But the next time we went, I qualified sixth, a tenth off the pole. So it definitely helps going to these tracks for a second time.

Colin Garrett

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

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.

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News

“They Said What?” Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Edition

Sometimes when you stick a microphone in front of a driver’s face, you have no clue what they may say and a couple of times you’ll hear something that surprises you or gives you a bit of a perspective.

Throughout the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, I had the opportunity to speak to a bunch of different competitors. During those interviews, there were some quotes that stood out. So it seems only fitting we take a glance back through the year at what was said.

BLINK OF AN EYE

I think there’s two reasons from the beginning that I wrote the book, and the goal is the same here. I wanted people to have more appreciation and more respect and admiration and honor Dale. I wanted people to understand more about Dale and how special the Intimidator was when he wasn’t at the race track. I wanted to honor Dale and then I wanted to inspire people. No matter what happens, you can overcome it.

You’re not a loser until you quit, and what is amazing to me is I had lost 462 straight NASCAR races, and when I woke up on February 18, 2001, I told my friends and family around me that they aren’t beating me today. There’s no way they’re beating me today, and that’s because that’s where Dale had me. He had me believing that I would win that race, and that’s what I went and did. To have that person believe in you, it can make a whole difference in your world, and when I took the checkered flag that afternoon, I thought it was the best day ever. Then an hour later, I learned that it might be the worst day ever in NASCAR. That range of emotion is pretty tough to handle, and that’s what life put on my plate, and that’s what I had to deal with it.

I hope that anyone that watches the movie and they haven’t won, or are trying to win, or they have tragedy in their life that they’re dealing with, I can help them. They can say, ‘Well, he did it, I can do it’.

Michael Waltrip

RUSTY JARRETT | NKP

To me, in my opinion, racing is not always going to be – you’re not always going to have Kurt Busch-Ricky Craven finishes like we had at Darlington every race. The one thing that I would do was set those expectations that there’s going to be races that are ultra competitive, and that are going to have fans out of their seats, finishing within inches of each other. Then there’s going to be races where there’s going to be a team with a significant advantage and they’re going to win by five or six seconds. It’s just part of the sport, and I don’t think you’re ever going to eliminate that from the sport.

It’s that way in every sport. There’s football games that are blow-outs, there’s basketball games and hockey games – whatever sport you’re into. So I think the number one thing I would do is set a realistic expectation of what our sport is, and what it needs to be. I feel we need to stay true to who we are and what we do, and understand that’s not always going to get the highest ratings on TV or have the perfect finish. But I feel like that authenticity of being who we are will draw more fans, and more fanbase than trying to have every race be just spectacular.

Then really, if you play forward a little bit, then that becomes the new standard so then what do you do next? It’s a never-ending challenge so I think you just need to be authentic to who you are. I think our racing is great. I think we’ve got a great sport, and let the cars and drivers and teams be the draw and focus on being authentic.

Alan Gustafson

BARRY CANTRELL | NKP

Well, I think it’s really incredible for how far I’ve come from that. Even looking back on the 2017 season, there’s a lot of growth in there and it really took me until about halfway through that season to get back to feeling myself again off the track and that started to help me get better on the track again. There’s just a lot of changes and a lot of good things that has gone on since then.

I love the advocacy work that I’ve been able to do. I’ve gone to Capital Hill and talk to congressmen and congresswoman about policy changes, and more funding for brain tumor awareness and research, so that’s been really rewarding. Being given a clean bill of health has been amazing and I’ve been very fortunate to have that, and being able to continue on my career which is something that I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to do again.

Like I said before, doctors told me that I wouldn’t be able to drive a racecar again. So to be able to have the opportunity to go into the Cup Series and race in the Daytona 500, I don’t think I would’ve believed that in 2016 if you told me that was going to happen in 2019. Just very thankful for that and I know now and I’ve taken my health more seriously. I feel that’s helped me a lot not only on the racing side, but just the general health side. I feel that carries over to brain health and everything. It’s been a journey transitioning and trying to put the pieces together ever since then and the recovery process.

Matt Tifft

NIGEL KINRADE | NKP

I think I’m pretty biased when it comes to this, but I think the way I came up was the way. It’s prepared me in so many different aspects. I’ve been working and learning race cars and then winning. Learning to be a winner. I wouldn’t want to come up any other way. It’s gotten me, what I feel, prepared for where I am now and to be ready for restarts, ready for situations that I’ve been in already.

With that being said, this opportunity means everything to me and I can’t sleep I’m so excited to get to Daytona and get this season going.

Ryan Preece

KYLE PETTY CHARITY RIDE

Honestly, I think the most surprising thing to me is the amount of people that continue to go with us every year. We’ve got a group of 10 people that have gone every year, but there’s about 30 or 40 that have gone 15, 20 years or more. I think that surprises me, because a lot of us started in our 20’s and 30’s, and here we are in our 50’s and 60’s still riding. That kind of surprises me a little bit.

But you know what – I honestly think what surprises me, and continues to, is along the way, when we stop, the amount of people that come out to just say hello and say we think this is a cool thing that we do. So I think it’s still the fans that kind of surprise me.

Kyle Petty

NIGEL KINRADE | NKP

There’s a bunch. I know they’re trying to revive Nashville. That’s an awesome track with an awesome community around it that feels NASCAR belongs in Nashville. But you can also throw in tracks like Iowa being a great Cup race, or Kern County out in Bakersfield would be a great Cup race. There’s a lot of shorter tracks where I feel we can go and branch out.

There’s also international markets like going back to Canada, or South America; I feel like we can keep building this. I feel the right people in the building in Daytona are pulling us in the right direction.

Corey Lajoie on what track he wishes was on the schedule

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

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

ASHLEY ASKS…… Austin Cindric

Scoring a pair of victories and 14 top-five finishes, Austin Cindric put together a solid sophomore campaign in the NASCAR Xfinity Series en route to placing sixth in the standings.

The Team Penske driver recently reflected back on the season with POPULAR SPEED while covering a couple other topics.

POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts as you look back on the season?

AUSTIN CINDRIC: It was a good season. Actually, to win races, going back-to-back, poles, lead laps, and be in contention, it’s been a great experience to have this year and work with the same team all year and hone in on all the little things. Hopefully it’s set us up well to have a championship year in 2020 because with the right pieces in place, I think we can be that team or at least set our eyes on the final four and hit the ground running.

PS: What was your favorite moment from the season?

LOGAN WHITTON | NKP

CINDRIC: I think it’s hard to beat winning a race at Watkins Glen. I don’t think you can think of a better circumstance for your first win to race a veteran and a guy that I have a lot of respect for in A.J. Allmendinger. It was a pretty exciting finish for the fans. Obviously that’s a pretty good weekend up there with a sellout crowd. Pretty awesome to be able to do that.

Can’t really top that, but probably one of the more personal moments would be out-qualifying Kyle Busch for the pole at Bristol. I think that’s kind of a personal pat on the back. It was pretty unexpected as that’s his stadium. Definitely a cool moment.

PS: You had a lot of success this year, but what can you work on to be even better in 2020?

CINDRIC: I think a lot of it is little things. I think we’re definitely one of the most consistent teams in the garage area. I think it showed throughout the year and really helped us, but I think what’s going to make us a better team is not run top-five every week, but run top-three and get race wins and stage wins early in the year.

We lacked a significant points buffer in the playoffs. I had a bigger buffer than I’ve ever had in NASCAR, but definitely not enough to really help through the playoffs. Obviously we had the back weekend at Kansas and that kind of ended our year as we weren’t able to win the next two races. So that’s the way the format goes, and the best way to beat that is to beat everyone else. That starts at Daytona, all the way through the regular season. I think we can make our lives easier throughout the year.

Matthew T. Thacker | NKP

Obviously we had some stiff competition with (Cole) Custer, (Christopher) Bell, and (Tyler) Reddick, and obviously those guys have earned incredible opportunities for next year and it’ll be fun to watch them. I think it’s definitely up to the next group of guys to step up, and I think we have the capability to be one of those guys every weekend.

PS: With the success you were able to have, how much does that boost your confidence?

CINDRIC: I don’t think my confidence has shifted. It’s still the same job, the same cars, the same group. We still have stuff to work on and get better as if you’re not getting better, you’re definitely falling behind. So I’ve definitely been trying to put my best foot forward through the off-season, whether it’s stuff we’re working on or going to the shop, and obviously the guys are working on the next steps to make our cars faster.

We actually have a new body kit with Ford Performance, a couple updates there. I’m obviously excited to see that car on track because the updates there are closer to the current model Mustang, the one I’m currently driving, but obviously it should hopefully give us some performance gain as well, big or small I don’t know.

PS: What would it mean to you to move up into the Cup Series one day?

CINDRIC: It’s what I’ve been working for the last few years. I’ve given up a lot of different opportunities and different types of racing to go do that. The person I am at this age at the level I am at, my goal is not to run trucks or Xfinity for the rest of my career. It’s to go race on Sundays against the best and work to be the best and prove that you are the best. That’s what this is all about and why I’m doing what I’m doing.

RUSTY JARRETT | NKP

It’s been cool to have small opportunities to get a taste of what that is this year. I was able to get a taste and it’s all about working towards that. At the same time, I do think that you have to be ready and we have a lot of cases to show that those who aren’t ready or made the most of an opportunity, it goes away quick. So you have to ready to get an opportunity and those don’t come easy. I think this next year will be a very important year for me to get more prepared.

PS: Let’s say one race weekend, NASCAR says you can bring any three celebrities as guests of yours to a race. Who would you bring along?

CINDRIC: I’d bring Morgan Freeman because someone has to narrate the whole thing; I love him. I don’t know. I’m not much of a celebrity person. I think Steve-O from Jackass would be fun; he has some great stories so he’d be the entertainment. Amelia Clarke, and I like her so we’ll bring her, too.

PS: Do you have a hidden talent that people may not realize?

CINDRIC: I’m not sure I can call it a talent, but I played tuba in high school. I was good at it for a small portion of time but like most things, racing got in the way. I have been working on a project car for the last year or so – trying to get that done before Daytona so trying to make the most of the off-season doing that. I do like to wrench on my own cars. I like to have fun working on cars. I guess that shouldn’t surprise anyone as that’s what I do for a living. Other than that, I love racing. That’s kind of it.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

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

GOOD & BAD: 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series Season

Another year of NASCAR Xfinity Series competition is in the books, with a familiar sight as Tyler Reddick was crowned the series champion for the second year in a row. Along the way, though, there were some highlights and low lights to consider from the action on-track all year.

Although I was unable to watch all of the races, let’s take a look back at the good and the bad.

GOOD: The future of NASCAR is very strong as proven by this past season’s championship battle. The series tagline “names are made here” remains true, as “the big three” in  Tyler ReddickCole Custer, and Christopher Bell showcased their talent on a weekly basis, with multiple wins a piece and highlights to call their own. Now being able to witness these three battle for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year in 2020 will be special.

Jasen Vinlove | NKP

BAD: Although Bell was able to prove himself, the last couple weeks of the season showcased a different side that hopefully does not remain in 2020. Although he was fast, the Toyota Racing driver made a couple costly mistakes. 

He sped on pit road and spun at ISM Raceway to cost himself a win there after dominating early, while he missed pit road under green and cost himself valuable time at Homestead. It did not ultimately be the title factor due to the handling of the No. 20 Toyota going away over the course of the long run, but those are mistakes you would not expect out of a driver who won eight events this past season.

GOOD: While it was fun watching the big three all year, the way the championship went down in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway was perfect. Each of them were able to battle side-by-side, taking turns at challenging each other, allowing fans to keep guessing who would come out on top.

Reddick and Bell had a thrilling battle back and forth to start the third stage, with Bell trying to take Reddick’s line away to stop the ensuing challenge for the top spot. Though the highlight of the night belongs to Reddick and Custer. After coming off pit road together, the pair quickly made work of Bell, before going back and forth for a number of laps. From giving each other the slide job, to trying different lanes, it was everything you’d want in a title race in watching the contenders go head-to-head.

BAD: Sometimes it takes a little bit of calming down behind the wheel, and that seems to be something that Noah Gragson and Austin Cindric may want to address through the winter. On a couple occasions this year, being overaggressive put him in a worse situation than he should have been.

Russell Labounty | NKP

Gragson went over the edge at Kansas Speedway, ultimately getting into the wall on a couple occasions, resulting in an unscheduled trip down pit road. Then a week later at Texas Motor Speedway, running just outside the top-10, he tried to make a move of desperation to get underneath Jeb Burton – but wasn’t clear of Harrison Burton yet. As a result, he went sideways, before sliding through the grass and causing enough damage to end his night early.

Cindric lost valuable ground in the standings that ultimately cost him a chance at being in the Championship 4 at Kansas Speedway due to a couple unscheduled trips down pit road with flat tires. The contact was all self-inflicted, too. He grew frustrated battling Harrison Burton for position, saying that “he was driving all over the track,” that he drove in the back of the No. 18, sending Burton up into the wall and ending his day. The contact resulted in nose damage to Cindric’s Ford that was made worse when he made contact with John Hunter Nemechek on the restart.

While it is nice to see drivers who are willing to push the edge, getting yourself into deeper trouble than you should have been does not help. Sometimes you just need to take what the car will give you, and live to fight another week. Despite having talent to get the job done, if he continues being over aggressive, he may be sitting on the sidelines sooner than later.

GOOD: Cole Custer said it perfectly after the season finale – “Tyler—he can rip the top here. That’s about all you can say about it.” Through the year, it was a thing of beauty in watching Reddick do this on a couple different occasions when the track conditions would allow, and ultimately using that to score the championship. 

Ford EcoBoost 300

To run mere inches off the wall and not make contact, knowing a single slip-up could result in trouble, takes tons of concentration and a really well handling car. But yet the driver of the No. 2 Tame The Beast Chevrolet continues to make it look like second nature. 

BAD: Being able to witness drivers battle for the lead is everything that you want as a racing fan. That’s why it’s so frustrating when lap traffic ruins that. Garrett Smithley certainly did not make any friends this past season in that regards. 

As the laps began to wound down at Kansas Speedway , it appeared as though the battle for the win would be between Chase Briscoe and Bell. However, those hopes were dashed with 15 laps to go when they were caught up in a wreck with a lap car. Smithley told NASCAR on NBC that he wasn’t made aware that the leaders were coming up on him, and he was just riding around on 70-lap tires at that point.

The frustration radiated from Briscoe who was quick to ask on his radio, “What was he doing? Where was he going?” It was a reasonable question considering Smithley was already five laps down at this point in the event. 

At the beginning of a driver’s racing career at the short track level, lap cars are taught to remain on the bottom, allowing the leaders to battle as they should have the right to. Knowing that he was already multiple laps down and off the pace, why did he not remain on the bottom of the track? Secondly, it is a little disheartening to see Smithley throw total blame on his spotter for the incident. He is the one handling the controls of the racecar, and should be aware of the situation around him. 

NIGEL KINRADE | NKP

GOOD: Since the repave, Texas Motor Speedway has been criticized for the type of racing fans have gotten to witness. Some work by the tire dragon and laying down some traction compound, and we may be getting somewhere.

The O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 featured more side-by-side racing than we have seen in recent years, including a lengthy battle for the lead between Bell and Reddick. If you were able to roll the momentum on the top, you could get a run to make a challenge on the outside of someone, as witnessed by Reddick on several occasions.

BAD: JR Motorsports certainly has to be asking themselves a lot of questions after this season. After placing three drivers in the Championship 4 in 2018 and winning the title with Reddick, they were only able to win two races this past season. Oh, and Justin Allgaier made the final battle, but ultimately became the underdog in comparison to the others. What do they need to do to catch up to their rivals now?

GOOD: Although a lot of people would prefer the old style Bristol Motor Speedway to return – single-groove along the bottom, with bumpers and rooting needed to make ground, the new higher groove being the place to be style proved to be alright for the NASCAR Xfinity Series. 

NIGEL KINRADE | NKP

There was racing all the way around the half-mile for positions all the time. It did not seem that a driver could be found by themselves as if they cleared their competitors, lap traffic came into question. That was fine, since it gave the fans something to watch all night long.

Although the top groove was the place to be, there was a way for passes to be made through the middle and bottom lanes of the track. Just ask Reddick. He started from the tail of the field, and drove his way to the second. He would spin while underneath Justin Allgaier for position, but managed to drive his way from 24th back to the front once again.

BAD: Anybody remember a driver change that happened this past May? Austin Dillon had to get out of the car with 40 laps to go as a result of his ribs getting too hot from the heat, and carbon dioxide from crush panels being pushed in due to wall contact. The team elected to put Daniel Hemric in the car when Dillon’s complaints began. If you know there’s an issue, why would you put a driver in that is also scheduled like Dillon to run 600 miles on Sunday? That should have maybe been a clue about what the future held in store. 

GOOD: Let’s continue praising the good racing – with a nod to Charlotte Motor Speedway. The hot temperatures on the Charlotte, North Carolina afternoon produced a slick race track, in return delivering the fans a show. With drivers searching for grip through the beginning stages of the event by using the middle lane that was coated in the traction compound, to trying to run as close to the wall as possible in the later half, there was a never a dull moment during the Alsco 300.

JOHN HARRELSON | NKP

BAD: The Alsco 300 could have only been made better if series officials would have been smarter in their decisions. Tire issues for both Bell and Brandon Jones could’ve been prevented if a caution for debris on the track was thrown by NASCAR. It seems that the sanctioning body missed the boat a couple times on Saturday, as they failed to throw the yellow flag late in the first stage for the same reason, resulting in nose damage for Custer. 

As a result, Bell finished 31st after blowing a tire, though probably could’ve made his situation better by electing to head down pit road rather than ride around under caution with the flat, allowing it to blow the fender apart as it tore to shreds. His teammate Brandon Jones made the smarter decision in pitting immediately, and was able to fight back to run top-five late in the race before fading to 10th on older tires late.

GOOD: Everybody wants to see drivers fighting to do whatever it takes for the win, and that was the key to an exciting race at Talladega Superspeedway in April. Those who followed through were rewarded on Saturday afternoon.

From the drop of the green flag, three drivers showed the determination to make whatever move was necessary- Reddick, Briscoe, and Cindric. They were rewarded when the checkered flag flew in the MoneyLion 300 with top-five finishes.

NIGEL KINRADE | NKP

Of those three drivers, Reddick pushed the boundaries throughout the event. Sometimes he went a little too far, as notable with his contact with the outside wall during the second stage. Though despite whatever was thrown at him, he showed a constant stream of determined aggressiveness to make his way back to the front on each occasion. His move at the end to get the run on Bell with 10 to go, followed by blocking Briscoe, were the icing on the cake for the win.

GOOD: Although everybody wants to be critical of the rules package, the Xfinity Series got it right with the flange-fit composite bodies that were made mandatory for the 2019 season. While a bit of wall contact used to end someone’s day in the past, there is now the possibility to receive repairs and make a comeback. As a result, fans were entertained with seeing whether their favorite driver would be able to drive through the field, like Jeffrey Earnhardt overcoming a spin for a third-place finish.

GOOD: Being able to see passion and emotions – that’s what it is all about as it gets people talking. Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick’s dust-up at Kansas was a great display of that.

“As soon as he put a hand on me, I put a hand on him back; that’s just how it’s going to be if we’re going to have a conversation that way,” Reddick told NASCAR on NBC afterwards. “I’m out of breath, had a little fight there with people, but it was kinda fun.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

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

“They Said What?” NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Edition

Sometimes when you stick a microphone in front of a driver’s face, you have no clue what they may say and a couple of times you’ll hear something that surprises you or gives you a bit of a perspective.

Throughout the 2019 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series season, I had the opportunity to speak to a bunch of different competitors. During those interviews, there were some quotes that stood out. So it seems only fitting we take a glance back through the year at what was said.

MATTHEW T. THACKER | NKP

For me, it was just the air. The first five laps of the race I struggled a little bit because I was just so taken away of how aggressive the air is, and how much it affects the truck. We tried to get behind some trucks in practice at Texas, but it just seemed no one wanted to be around each other like they did at Vegas or Atlanta. It just kind of seemed like everyone was trying to figure out their own package before qualifying and the race.

That, and how aggressive everyone drove – or how assertive how everyone drove. There were a few really aggressive drivers out there who would not get off your door. They would just drive on your door every corner, and you get pissed off around them as it’s not that respectful. There’s this gentleman’s code amongst drivers if it is 10 to go, I understand why you got down on my door and got me loose, or got me sideways. But when it’s Lap 15 or 50 or even 100, when there’s still a good distance to go, it gets frustrating.

There’s a lot of respectful drivers out there, but I just couldn’t believe what you could do to manipulate someone else’s truck without even touching them. You get a foot on either corner of the truck, and you can affect them somehow. You almost have out to outthink them. On the short tracks, you can outdrive them, but looking up front, you’re just manipulating the air and you mirror drive a lot. Even at Texas, you’re mirror driving a lot; you block and you get drafts off other trucks, and it’s a whole different style of racing than I’m used to.

Tyler Ankrum on biggest surprise in his first intermediate start

RUSTY JARRETT | NKP

I think there’s so much that I could’ve done differently. I started racing full-time when I was 19-years-old, so it’s kind of interesting to think back when you’re 25. I think like anyone whose 25 and looks back at their life when they were 19, they would do a couple things different. I think there are things that I could’ve done a little better, probably listen more and talk a little less, and maybe worked a little harder and done a bit better job here and there. I think it would’ve made a difference, but ultimately, everything happens for a reason.

I feel like all the decisions led me to where I am today – good, bad, and different – and whatever is next is going to come as a result of hard work. That’s something that I knew always was that my work ethic was always there, right or wrong. I just want to continue working hard and learn from my mistakes, and build on the things that I did right. That’s all you can do as a person, and I think it’s a really exciting time for me.

Anytime you have a big change in your life, it leads you wondering what’s next. It can be a little scary, but it also can be very exciting if you accept the challenge, and I think that I have the right system around me with mom, dad, and my girlfriend that have gave me a lot of support through it all and excitement for the future.

Ryan Reed 

NIGEL KINRADE | NKP

Dover has gotten a lot rougher over the years, so every time I go there, I try to focus on the bumps in turn three and four and getting through those bumps good. I also focus on carrying a lot of speed through the corner. Dover, to me, is all about how much throttle you can carry through the corner and not get tight. We call it the 5/8th mark of the corner, but as you get right in the middle and start to get off on exit, the car or truck starts to get tight in that spot, and I think the key is going to be being able to hold throttle through that part of the corner so you can carry a lot of speed.

Obviously, in the trucks, momentum is really important – even at Dover. When I’ve been there in the past in an Xfinity car, you’re not out of the gas very long; it’s just such a fast mile track and high-banked. One, it’s a lot of fun. It’s one of my favorite tracks that we go to, but it’s about making sure you can carry a lot of throttle through the corner and get through the bumps in turn three good and you can wrap the bottom of the corner to get off of it.

But I think we have a good game plan going into Dover. We’ve got a truck that we’ve been working on. It’s going to be a new truck for us, so I’m just excited to see the stuff that we’ve been working on and see if it pays off for us and see if we have a little bit more speed and see what we got.

Brennan Poole

VENTURINI MOTORSPORTS

They don’t know the whole story, that’s for sure, just like any other person; I’m just a normal person in the public eye. But I would like to tell them they don’t know the whole story, but thank you to all of them because it definitely pushes me harder, it makes me want to work harder for myself and prove to myself and them and the fans that support me that anything is possible and you can make your dreams come true.

Natalie Decker on her critics

LOGAN WHITTON | NKP

For me, the racing doesn’t get much better than what we do. We get to drive race trucks. That’s a dream of mine to always compete in the top level of NASCAR.  I have a beautiful family and it doesn’t get much better than that – spending time with family and getting to race fast trucks.

Timothy Peters 

NIGEL KINRADE | NKP

I’ve been able to run a bunch of sprint cars, and win some of those races which has been cool. I got to run a non-wing car in California on Thanksgiving, and that was pretty cool. Maybe getting back to the Chili Bowl is kind of a bucket list thing, and maybe having a shot at Xfinity or Cup would be something I’d like to be able to participate in before I hang it up.

Stewart Friesen

MATTHEW T. THACKER | NKP

Tire management is everything at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The surface is just a cheese grater. So you want to get out there and get as much out of the truck you can the first few laps to separate yourself from the other guys, and then just manage your tires, hold off your tires. Realize that maybe you can get them go for a couple laps if they’re going to just run off their tires real quick. So just recognizing the race pace, and not steering from that plan.

Spencer Boyd

NIGEL KINRADE | NKP

There’s a lot of good race tracks that aren’t on the schedule. It’s going to be a short track for sure, so the Milwaukee Mile or Lucas Oil Raceway Park, Memphis Motorsports Park. Something like that is what I would like to see on the schedule. I’m a short track guy so I’d like to see us go to some of those types of places for sure.

Johnny Sauter 

NIGEL KINRADE | NKP

I’d like to drive everything, pretty much. Nothing stands out in particular, as I kind of want to try everything that I can get my hands on.

Tyler Dippel

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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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.

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News

NASCAR Levies Post-Season Penalty on Four Teams

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season may have ended a couple weeks ago, but the sanctioning body is not done yet. They may have some ruffled some happiness heading into Thanksgiving with a set of penalties handed out to four teams.

Following the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, NASCAR handed down suspensions, point penalties and monetary fines to Premium Motorsports, Rick Ware Racing and Spire Motorsports for manipulating the results of the season-ending.

“Following a thorough review of race data and driver/team communication from the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, as well as interviews with several competitors, NASCAR has determined that the Nos. 15, 27, 52 and 77 teams have violated Sections 12.8.g and 12.8.1 of the NASCAR rule book, which addresses manipulating the outcome of a race,” Miller said in a statement. “As a result, those teams in violation of the rule book have been penalized as listed in the penalty report.”

As a result, Premium Motorsports’ Competition Director Scott Eggleston and Rick Ware Racing’s Competition Director Kenneth Evans have been indefinitely suspended from NASCAR, and handed $25,000 fines. Additionally, team owners Rick Ware, Jay Robinson of Premium Motorsports, and T.J. Pushyr of Spire Motorsports were each fined $50,000, with all four teams involved being deducted 50 points in the final standings.

While the championship is the focus for many fans, these teams were fighting to finish in the top spot among non-chartered teams in the standings to be eligible for a charter in 2020.

Premium Motorsports was able to get the position with the No. 27 driven by Ross Chastain in the season finale, though only after Premium’s No. 15 of Joe Nemechek, Spire’s No. 77 of Reed Sorenson, and Rick Ware’s No. 52 of Josh Bilicki all retired with mechanical problems in a 15-lap span near the end of the event. 

With the deliberate manipulation being revealed and reversed, the No. 96 of Gaunt Brothers Racing will be the highest ranked among open teams for 2019. 

Spire Motorsports co-owners Puchyr and Jeff Dickerson indicated in a statement later Wednesday the organization would not appeal the penalties.

“Following the season finale at Homestead Miami Speedway, NASCAR assessed a penalty against Spire Motorsports for the actions of an individual who made a judgment call on behalf of our team,” the Spire statement read. “While the ultimate outcome of that decision can be interpreted from different perspectives, we regret any appearance of operating outside the spirit of the rule book. We accept the penalty and will not appeal. We’re proud of all we accomplished with this team in our first season and look forward to getting back to the business of racing at Daytona in February.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

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.