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XFINITY

XFINITY Drivers Comment on Hectic Daytona Race

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — A lap before Stage 1 of the PowerShares QQQ 300 ended, the second “big one” of the day occurred in Turn 4 of Daytona International Speedway.

The accident collected a dozen cars and ended any opportunity of a win for many of the race’s favorites.

Pole winner Brandon Jones was on the outside of Richard Childress Racing teammate Daniel Hemric in Turn 4 and made just enough contact to get loose and shoot up the track into the wall.

He collected a few XFINITY Series stars including Justin Allgaier, Darrell Wallace Jr., and all three Joe Gibbs Racing drivers — Daniel Suarez, Matt Tifft, and Erik Jones.

“Unfortunately, we were a victim of circumstances — we were all just racing really hard there,” Allgaier said of the wreck. “I got clipped and got into the side the 33 [Brandon Jones], and that got us back into the outside wall.

“That was one of the hardest hits I’ve ever taken in my NASCAR career. It was a pretty head-on crash.”

Three laps before the melee, Speedy Dry was applied to the track during a red flag because of the first “big one” on the backstretch, which involved 20 cars — literally half the field.

Hemric’s No. 21 wiggled when he ran over it and cited that as part of the reason for the crash.

“It just felt like I was on ice and I slid up into the 7,” Hemric said.

Suarez, last year’s XFINITY champion, wasn’t pleased about the incident. He said, “I just feel like we have to be a little more smart — it’s a long race. I don’t know why we were racing like that really early.”

Some rumblings from the fans about yesterday’s event were that NASCAR’s new three-stage format played a significant role in the race’s narrative. Drivers want to be in the top 10 at the conclusion of a stage to earn extra points.

“I think the stages create a lot of urgency,” Brennan Poole, who was involved in a later accident on Lap 59, told POPULAR SPEED. “At a track like Daytona, it puts us in a position to try to get those extra points. I think yes, everyone is trying to get those extra points, but that’s just racing too, and that’s how it goes.”

Another reason could be the new aero package for XFINITY cars, which feature smaller rear spoilers and less downforce than in previous seasons.

“[The cars] are way different — entirely different than the way it’s been the last couple of years,” Poole said. “To me, it reminds me of the Cup cars. You saw guys moving around … I think it’s good, but you have to be patient, or there’s going to be a lot of accidents.”

Erik Jones, who makes his Daytona 500 debut on Sunday, said he was trying gain knowledge from the 300-mile race to help him on the Cup side.

He said, “It’s unfortunate because I was learning quite a bit for [Sunday]. Unfortunately, we just got caught up in a wreck. I don’t know if [the car] was good enough to win — we would have had to wait and see. It definitely was driving well in the hot conditions. I felt like we were aggressive and we put ourselves in as good a position as we could to try to avoid a wreck, it just didn’t work out.”

Perhaps it was a combination of a new rules package and the new race format that caused Saturday’s race to be such a crash fest. The cars become harder to handle with less downforce, and it puts more emphasis on the driver to control his car. But being in the top 10 at the end of a stage is crucial to the points standings too.

Your thoughts?

Did less downforce in the cars or the new stages cause a wild race on Saturday?

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@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 staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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XFINITY

RCR to Enter Five Full-Time Entries in XFINITY

The NASCAR XFINITY Series will look to be full of stiff competition in 2017, based on the announcements thus far from Joe Gibbs Racing, JR Motorsports and now Richard Childress Racing. RCR announced this week they will field five full-time entries in NASCAR second-tier division.

As previously announced, Daniel Hemric will move over to RCR after racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this past season for Brad Keselowski Racing. Hemric finished his second season of Camping World Truck Series sixth in points, posting 11 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes.

“This is such a great opportunity for me,” Hemric said in September. “There aren’t words that can describe what racing for RCR means to me, especially considering everything they have done as an organization for our sport. I’m excited to now officially be a small part of the company and am looking forward to working with everyone in Welcome, North Carolina. We will hit the ground running in February at Daytona. With all the talent and experience RCR has in the XFINITY Series, I’m confident we can compete for wins and contend for the championship.”

RCR announced Hemric will pilot the No. 21 entry, with two-time NASCAR Champion Crew Chief Danny Stockman calling the shots. Stockman won the 2011 Camping World Truck Series Championship with Austin Dillon, followed an XFINITY title two years later with Dillon as well.

Hemric will be joined by Brandon Jones and Brendan Gaughan on a full-time basis, as both drivers return to RCR in 2017 in their same respective rides. Gaughan will be partnered with Shane Wilson for their 12th season together, while Nick Harrison will be partnered with Jones. Harrison spent last season with Ty Dillon, en route to finishing fifth in the series standings.

This past season, Gaughan finished 12th in the final series standings, with four top-fives and 16 top-10s. Meanwhile, Jones had a solid rookie campaign with 11 top-10s in the first 26 races, including a sixth-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, to qualify for the inaugural XFINITY Chase. Prior to this year, he ran five XFINITY races with a pair of top-10 finishes, to go along with 30 Camping World Truck Series starts.

The No. 2 team will remain as the multi-driver all-star team, with Austin Dillon and Paul Menard holding down the role of primary drivers. The team will see no changes in leadership, either, with Justin Alexander returning as crew chief. Last year, the team scored a pair of victories with Dillon winning at Bristol Motor Speedway and Sam Hornish Jr. at Road America.

While Ty Dillon will move up to the Sprint Cup Series full-time with Germain Racing, he will also run some races behind the wheel of his familiar No. 3 entry in the XFINITY Series. Dillon has finished in the top-five in points the last three years, with a single victory to his name. The No. 3 team will have a new face on the pit box, with rookie Matt Swiderski calling the shots after spending 10 years in the RCR engineering department.

RCR added that additional drivers for RCR’s No. 2 and No. 3 teams will be named at a later date.

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

NASCAR XFINITY Series 2016 Recap/2017 Outlook – Brandon Jones

After a successful partial campaign, Brandon Jones ran the full XFINITY Series schedule in 2016. While there were some trying moment, there were also some highs en route to finishing 10th in the series points standings.

 

Car No.: 33

Crew Chief: Mike Hillman Jr.

Team: Richard Childress Racing

Wins: 0

Top-Fives: 0

Top-10s: 12

Points Finish: 10th

2016 Quick Summary: After scoring a pair of top-10s in five XFINITY Series starts in 2015, hopes were held at a decent level for Brandon Jones heading into 2016 to have a strong season. He’d start out the year well, scoring four top-10s and no finishes outside of the top-15 in the first eight races of the season, highlighted by a sixth place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Through his success, the youngster had managed to catch everyone’s attention, currently sitting fourth in the points standings. The growth in his ability was commented on by many commentators, noting how he’d get quicker throughout the weekend to put himself in contention for a solid top-15 finish by the end of the event.

However, like most young drivers, he found himself with a couple poor showings, following up those first eight races with an 18th at Talladega Superspeedway and 25th at Dover International Speedway. The 19-year-old didn’t let it get him down, though, as he was able to get his year back on track. In the 10 races which followed, he’d post four top-10s and only two finishes outside of the top-15.

As the series tracked closer towards the inaugural Chase, the consistency got rocky as he matched a pair of ninth place finishes with three finishes outside the top-15 in the six races leading up to the Chase. Despite this, he was able to become one of the 12 contenders.

Ultimately, he wouldn’t make it far in the Chase as a best finish of 16th in the first round didn’t play out well for Jones and his team. He then finished the year off with only one top-10 in the final four races.

2016 Highlight(s): Despite an up-and-down campaign, there were some highlights with a couple strong runs through the first half of the season. Remember, he started the season well with four top-10s in the first eight races, including a season-best sixth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

2016 Lowlight(s): As noted above, the inconsistency certainly hurt Jones in the Chase, and ultimately throughout the whole season. Also, while his teammates contended for race wins, Jones was never truly a contender for a race victory. It’s a matter now of figuring out what Jones was missing compared to Ty Dillon and Brendan Gaughan.

2017 Outlook: To make the step from solid top-10 contender to top-five contender, it takes contending for race wins and running up front consistently. Certainly something Jones will be focused on working on for 2017. The first step will be finding a handle on the car earlier in the week than he has been.

As noted in the summery, he’d improve throughout the weekend – but never hit it off strong right at start of the weekend. Knowing what you need in the car and unloading with that will be key. It should be easier given the fact he’ll be going to tracks for the second or third time now, but certainly something to watch.

Another factor are the changes coming to Richard Childress Racing. As Dillon shifts off to new plans (in which we await to be divulged), Daniel Hemric comes into RCR to join Gaughan and Jones. How will it effect the dynamics of the team? That’s something we won’t find out till the new year.

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

Chase Intensity Favors XFINITY Series Regulars at Dover

The Chase for the Championship has significantly ramped up the intensity in the XFINITY Series for the final six races of the season.

The added pressure was on display during the Chase opener at Kentucky Speedway as many competitors found trouble while battling up front. A similar mentality will likely prevail this Saturday at Dover International Speedway for the second race in the Round of 12.

There will be stronger competition in the mix this weekend as three Sprint Cup Series regulars are in the field, compared to just one at Kentucky.

However, full-time XFINITY Series drivers have proven difficult to beat in the last three races at Dover. All three events have featured series regulars ending the afternoon in Victory Lane. Chris Buescher started the streak in May 2015, followed by Regan Smith capturing the victory last October, and Erik Jones winning this past May.

Before Buescher’s win last year, only one series regular reached the winner’s circle at Dover in 19 consecutive races. Now with a victory carrying additional meaning for title contenders, there’s a high likelihood this win streak will extend to four this weekend.

A win for one of the 11 drivers looking to secure a spot in the Round of 8 would alleviate the pressure associated with an elimination race next weekend at Charlotte. As a result, teams will likely take greater chances with more on the line.   

Strategy paid off for Elliott Sadler at Kentucky as he needed less fuel than the competition on the final pit stop as a result of an unscheduled stop earlier in the event. This allowed the No. 1 OneMain Chevrolet to exit pit road first and capture the victory, advancing them to the next round.

Playing the strategy card could be the best bet for some drivers following Kentucky. Richard Childress Racing teammates Ty Dillon and Brandon Jones sit at the bottom of the Chase Grid, 15 points behind eighth-place after the opening playoff race as a result of being involved in separate crashes.

It’s often hard to make up points in the Chase unless another title contender faces adversity. This means the best course of action for Dillon and Jones is to reach Victory Lane unless other competitors stumble.

A crash also left Erik Jones outside of the top-eight in points following Kentucky. While he only trails eighth-place Blake Koch by three points, he can’t afford another bad run.

After dominating en route to victory in May at Dover by leading 76 laps, this may be Jones’ best opportunity to earn a win in the first round.

However, the Sprint Cup Series drivers in the field this weekend account for nine XFINITY Series victories at the “Monster Mile.” They bring the experience that could be tough to beat; but with more on the line than ever before at Dover for this series, it will be quite the battle for victory.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @NASCARJason

EMAIL JASON AT jason.schultz@popularspeed.com

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

Brandon Jones Remains with RCR

After qualifying for the XFINITY Chase, Brandon Jones will enjoy the 2017 season at Richard Childress Racing as he signed an agreement on Tuesday to remain with the organization behind the wheel of the No. 33 Chevrolet Camaro.

“Brandon has shown he has the talent behind the wheel to run up front and compete for championships in the XFINITY Series, and we are pleased he will continue to do so in an RCR Chevrolet,” said Richard Childress, Chairman and CEO of RCR. “We are proud of everything he has accomplished this season, including leading laps, making the inaugural XFINITY Series Chase and contending for the Rookie of the Year title. Brandon has also been an excellent spokesman for our sponsors and does an exceptional job representing our brand. We can’t wait to see what Brandon can do in his second full XFINITY Series season.”

In his first full year of XFINITY competition, Jones scored 11 top-10s in the first 26 races, including a sixth-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, to qualify for the inaugural XFINITY Chase. Prior to this year, he ran five XFINITY races with a pair of top-10 finishes, to go along with 30 Camping World Truck Series starts.

“I am honored to return to Richard Childress Racing for the 2017 season,” the 19-year-old said. “RCR is such a storied NASCAR organization and it’s a great opportunity to be a part of the team. Racing full-time in the XFINITY Series this season has been a valuable learning experience. I believe we have what it takes to compete for the championship throughout the Chase this season and make another run at the title in 2017. The teamwork and support from RCR, ECR Engines and Chevrolet have been second to none and instrumental in my development as a driver. I’ve also enjoyed representing several partners including Menards, Nexteer, Chevrolet, Okuma, Cometic, Roland and Rain-X.”
With the announcement from Jones, it seems Richard Childress Racing’s 2017 driver line-up is pretty much set. Daniel Hemric recently announced he was joining the organization, and Brendan Gaughan confirmed during Chase Media Day on Tuesday he will be back for another year. The only question remains whether Ty Dillon will remain in XFINITY Series, or move up to the Sprint Cup Series as projected.

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

Questions Abound for RCR’s XFINITY Program in 2017

When it comes to this year’s Silly Season and Richard Childress Racing, it seems most of the questions focus on the Sprint Cup Series.

One of the biggest questions is whether Cup-bound Ty Dillon will race for his grandfather’s RCR team or Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing. So far this year, Dillon has made Cup starts for Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing, which has a technical alliance with RCR. The next biggest question for RCR is, if Ty does join brother Austin Dillon driving for RCR in Cup, what does that mean for Ryan Newman? Could RCR expand to four cars in 2017 or could Newman be the odd man out?

However, the question no one seems to be asking is what does RCR intend to do with its XFINITY program in 2017? With Ty Dillon heading to Cup next year, that takes away perhaps the strongest point of RCR’s XFINITY program. In each of the last three years, Dillon has been a strong contender for a championship.

A move for Ty Dillon to Cup, no matter which team he drives for, would create a gaping hole in RCR’s XFINITY program, one compounded by a possible retirement by Brendan Gaughan. A fixture with RCR since 2012, Gaughan is now 41, and many say his father, Michael, wants him to retire and could withdraw his South Point Casino sponsorship at the end of 2016.

There is a bit of a youth movement at RCR with the arrival of Brandon Jones. After sharing rides with Austin Dillon and Paul Menard in 2015, Jones was given a full-time ride in the #33 for RCR this year. This season, he has eight Top 10s. Jones is pretty much a lock to continue to drive for RCR next year.

RCR’s fourth entry, the No. 2 Chevrolet Camaro, has featured a multitude of drivers in 2016 including the elder Dillon, Menard, Sam Hornish, Jr., AJ Allmendinger, Michael McDowell and Ben Kennedy. While such an “All-Star lineup” could continue in 2017 (not unlike JR Motorsports’ No. 88 entry), that could also open the door for RCR to bring someone like Kennedy up to the XFINITY Series full-time next year. Kennedy currently races full-time in the Camping World Truck Series, where he sits 9th in points while competing for GMS Racing, which has a technical alliance with RCR.

What may hurt RCR in its hunt to fill XFINITY seats in 2017 is their lack of a Truck program. Both of the Dillons spent time in the series before moving up, with Austin winning the series championship in 2011. Unfortunately, Richard Childress Racing eliminated their Camping World Truck Series program in 2013, which means they must go elsewhere to find XFINITY series talent.

With only one seat spoken for (Jones), another dependent on a postponed retirement (Gaughan) and a third being used for Cup regulars, there are as many questions for RCR regarding their XFINITY program as there are for their Cup program for 2017.

EMAIL: john.milner@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

NASCAR Suspends Ty Dillon’s Crew Chief

Nick Harrison, crew chief for Ty Dillon in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, has been suspended for this weekend’s race at Richmond International Raceway.

Harrison’s suspension comes after the Richard Childress Racing team received a P3 penalty for an infraction found during opening day inspection at Bristol Motor Speedway. The team was cited for violating sections 20.4.13, 20.4.12.1 a, b, c, d. NASCAR penalized the team for using a proper spoiler assembly and extension that did not conform to NASCAR specifications.

To go with his suspension, Harrison was levied a $10,000 fine and placed on NASCAR probation through December 31.

NASCAR also announced Wednesday that the No. 33 Richard Childress Racing team of Brandon Jones received its second warning of the season for failing laser inspection at Bristol. The team will lose 15 minutes of practice time at Richmond.

EMAIL HANK AT editors@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, it’s owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Development Journalists

Brandon Jones Brings Confidence and Momentum to Bristol

NASCAR XFINITY Series rookie Brandon Jones is off to a fast start.

Through six races, Jones has finished no worse than 11th in the No. 33 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, and is carrying a lot of momentum heading into Bristol this weekend.

A top 10 run at Texas has Jones fourth in the XFINITY Series standings, highest among all rookies.

“We’ve been running solid all year, and Texas was good for us. We still have some work to do on the mile-and-a-half program, but overall, it was a good night,” Jones told POPULAR SPEED.

Though Jones is making only his second career XFINITY start at Bristol on Saturday, BMS is the first track he will visit for the second time in the series. Jones finished 13th in his series debut at Thunder Valley.

But it’s incorrect to say he doesn’t have much experience on the high banks of Bristol.

Jones made three starts in the K&N Pro Series East from 2013-15, with a best finish of fifth in 2015. He also has three Camping World Truck Series starts at Bristol, finishing fifth last August.

Jones says Bristol is a place where he feels comfortable.

“I like the short tracks. I’m used to running those,” he said. “But it’s Bristol, so we’ll have to see. I’m sure we’ll be pretty good. We always seem to have top-five speed there. It’s a tough place because sometimes you can’t control everything that is going on. We’ll just have to see how it plays out.”

The 19-year-old driver will need to lean on his prior experience, but added having veteran teammates has also helped his progression.

“Having the Dillon boys and Brendan [Gaughan], they’re always there to help me out and give me pointers where I need them,” said Jones.

Even though Jones is fourth in the standings, he is also eager to get a win and secure a spot in the debut of the XFINITY Series Chase for the Championship.

“We’d love to go and get a win here soon and lock ourselves in,” Jones said. “I think we can definitely make the first round, and hopefully the second round. Who knows how things are going to play out. Ultimately, we would love to make it to the final round.”

With six Sprint Cup drivers scheduled to race in this week’s Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 at Bristol, winning will be a tall order, but Jones is ready for the challenge and hopes to continue his strong 2016 campaign at ‘The World’s Fastest Half-Mile.’

Shane Carlson is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL SHANE AT shane.carlson@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Trucks

Brandon Jones Scores Career-Best Finish at Iowa

GMS Racing came into Iowa Speedway with high confidence after tying their career-best finish of second place at Gateway Motorsports Park last week courtesy of @23SpeedRacer (Spencer Gallagher). The trend was kept alive this weekend by @BrandonJonesRac who scored his career-best finish with a second place effort.

After rolling off fourth, he proved to have a strong truck and stayed in the top-five throughout the evening. His big break came during a caution with 48 laps to go where his team opted to take two tires and grabbed the lead after pitting. Although he wouldn’t maintain the lead, he managed to hold off fast trucks on his two tires including @TylerReddick, @Matt_Crafton, and @CBellRacing21.

“I think that’s actually all we had left at the very end there,” he said of the two tire call. “We took tires early in the year – I forget what track it was – and it didn’t really work out for us there but this time it did for sure. We were able to hold off a couple of them right there that took four; Erik was the only one that took four that was in front of us there so I definitely couldn’t be any happier the way that performed for sure.”

His team’s efforts allowed him to score his first top-five of the year and moved him up to 14th in the points standings. While he would have enjoyed grabbing his first victory Friday night, he noted that there was no way anyone was going to catch the No. 4 of @erik_jones.

“They’ve been on a rail all year and definitely hats off to those guys,” he said. “They’ve ran really well all year long and can’t blame them, they’ve been really good so we just got to keep making changes to our program to try and get a little better and see if we can capitalize a couple of these things.”

It’s not a major surprise to see the team running upfront, at least from Jones’ perspective. The team is putting in a lot of work in order for their trucks to be able to compete with the likes of KBM and the results are starting to show it. With the UNOH 225 at Kentucky Speedway three weeks away, the team has a perfect opportunity to take a look at where they need to get better and possibly pull off their first career victory.

“I think we’ve had speed all year long, honestly, it’s just starting to kind of come around for us and it’s kind of starting to come on our side a little bit,” Jones said. “Spencer (Gallagher) finished second last week and now us so I think we’re getting a lot of gains on the KBM trucks and everything and making a lot of speed, so looking forward to these next couple of races.”