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XFINITY

5 Drivers to Split RCR XFINITY Series Entry

You could dub it the all-star team line-up if you wanted, but it’s certainly full of talent one way or another, as Richard Childress Racing announced the five drivers that will split time behind the wheel of the No. 3 Chevrolet Camaro SS in the NASCAR XFINITY Series this season.

“Our goal with the multi-driver Chevrolet Camaro SS is to win races and put ourselves in a position to be in the NASCAR Playoffs at the end if the season to compete for the owner’s championship,” said Richard Childress, Chairman and CEO of RCR.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competitors Austin and Ty Dillon will each run their fare of share of events, hoping to build on their winning history in the series. Older brother Austin won the series championship in 2013, and has scored eight wins and 99 top-10 finishes to date, while younger brother Ty has 86 top-10’s, highlighted by a victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2014.

ARCA Racing Series regular Shane Lee will make his series debut as part of his time in the seat this year. Running the full ARCA schedule for the first time last year, he placed third in the year-end standings.

Jeb Burton and Brendan Gaughan will round out the line-up. Burton has 19 top-10 XFINITY top-10 finishes on his resume, while Gaughan enters his seventh year in association with RCR. While he won’t run the full schedule this year, he is set to run Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 11th and Elkhart Lake’s Road America on August 25th, building upon the success he has had at both venues, including a victory at Road America.

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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XFINITY

Road America Shakes-Up Playoff Picture

Heading into Sunday’s Johnsonville 180, the XFINITY Series playoff field looked set heading into the final four races of the regular season.

Ross Chastain, who was 13th, sat 43 points outside the cutoff, meaning it would probably take a win for him or anybody behind him in the standings to break in. With the big name teams that contend for wins on a weekly basis were either already in the top-12 or not eligible, it seemed doubtful.

However, after a wild race in Wisconsin, Jeremy Clements shocked the racing world, coming home with the upset win and shaking up the playoff grid.

While Clements’ win isn’t what Dakoda Armstrong and Brendan Gaughan wanted to see, it’s what this series needed. Let’s face it, who cared about the bottom half of the playoff picture before Road America? With a close point battle in the Camping World Truck Series and plenty of drivers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series that can still win and get in, there was not a lot of reason to pay attention to the cutoff in XFINITY before. That is no longer the case.

Now looking at the grid, the 10th seed sits only 26 points ahead of 13th, meaning one mistake could be all it takes to go from a chance at a championship, to no opportunity at all, which is why this format exists. None of this where the field is set weeks before the cutoff. But instead, close battles in the standings that leave us wondering who’s in and out all the way till the checkered flag at Chicagoland, which generates buzz and intrigue heading into the next three races.

Not to mention the stories to watch for with the drivers on the bubble with Blake Koch and Kaulig Racing looking to better their impressive playoff run from last year, Michael Annett trying to make the most of an opportunity with JR Motorsports, and the veteran Gaughan who wants to prove he’s still got it. There’s also Armstrong attempting to make a statement with the underdog team of JGL Racing, who has gone under the radar despite being in the playoff picture.

This series is all about advertising how “names are made here,” which is what this new shakeup captures perfectly. Four drivers that will have to put together three perfect races to prove that they belong, and that’s if another unexpected winner doesn’t come along to mix it up again.

Mitchell Breuer is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

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

Categories
XFINITY

Road Courses, Stage Racing Creating Drama Ahead of XFINITY Playoffs

When the calendar shifts to August, the NASCAR XFINITY Series begins to turn left and right.

The road to the Playoffs runs through Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio, and Road America, and creates some of the most intense and exciting competition throughout the year.

While the abundance of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regulars at Watkins Glen took away from some chances that series regulars had to score big on the road course, Mid-Ohio delivered.

Not only did the absence of veteran racers allow series regulars to excel, but stage racing provided a new avenue to collect crucial points throughout each event.

Blake Koch earned the victory in Stage 1 at Mid-Ohio, capturing his second playoff point of 2017. Brennan Poole and Brendan Gaughan closely contested Koch for the stage win but ultimately settled for second and third respectively. 

Poole is fourth in the standings and has yet to collect a playoff point while Gaughan is in 11th with one point.

Gaughan is currently in a defensive position, protecting his post-season spot which makes every championship point matter and puts playoff points on the back burner. 

Poole is essentially locked into the final seven races and can now focus on accumulating bonus points.

The final road course event of the month at Road America will provide him that opportunity.

Other drivers looking to take advantage of this chance with Poole are Cole Custer, Matt Tifft, and Dakoda Armstrong as they seem to be in a position to compete for the championship but have yet to earn playoff points.  

The Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin venue will provide the chance to implement a different strategy through stage racing with hopes of earning those crucial points.

In the first year of the XFINITY Series Playoffs, every point mattered as eliminations came down to single digits. This makes collecting bonus points critical in the regular season, and Road America will provide one of best opportunities before Kentucky, making the event much more meaningful.

Placing all three road courses in one month and ahead of the post-season has created additional drama. Now with stage racing adding a whole new element, August has already produced captivating competition, and that should continue through Road America.

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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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Commentary

XFINITY SERIES: Five on Five

The Five on Five feature will break down some of the key points in each of the previous five races for the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Here’s a peek at Texas through Charlotte.

Cup Driver Domination

While there were five winners from five different teams in the first two months of XFINITY Series competition, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers took over victory lane through April and May.

Joe Gibbs Racing went two in a row with Erik Jones winning Texas Motor Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway to bring their title win total up to three. Kyle Larson snagged a second win for Chip Ganassi Racing at Richmond, with Aric Almirola giving Biagi-DenBeste Racing a victory at Talladega. Lastly, Ryan Blaney scored the win this past weekend at Charlotte for Team Penske’s second of 2017.

Although Cup Series drivers swept the past two months, the series regulars were close to succeeding with a pair of runner-ups.

As we near the Chase, there will be more XFINITY competitors scoring victories with the upcoming stand-alone events, including Iowa Speedway and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

JRM Remains at the Top

10 events completed this season, and the top of the standings hasn’t shifted much as JR Motorsports still take up the top three positions as they have since the third race of 2017.

Elliott Sadler has led since the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway, currently six points ahead of Justin Allgaier. William Byron rounds out the squad, having fallen 57-markers behind Sadler.

Their strength shows in the numbers, with Allgaier posting the best average finish through April and May at 9.8 on the heels of two runner-ups, while Sadler posted the second highest at 11.6. Sadler has performed better, though, as removing the wreck at Charlotte bring his average down to 5.75.

JR Motorsports’ fourth entry has yet to make much headway with Michael Annett currently ninth in points. While he posted, three top-10’s in the past five events, a wreck at Charlotte Motor Speedway hurt progress in moving forward.

Terrific Tifft

If you are looking for someone to watch, keep an eye on Matt Tifft as he was the third-highest performer over the past three races, boasting an average of 14.2 with a season-best finish of sixth at Talladega Superspeedway.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver is running the complete schedule for the first time, after making 11 starts over the past two years with five top-10’s. With steady improvement each week, he believes he could be the next driver to score his first career victory.

“There’s so much that goes into competing for wins in this series, and I feel like we’re getting close to being able to do that,” he told Popular Speed last month. “You have to build from somewhere, and I felt that Texas was great for us to build from a solid run. You have to have that as a team to build everybody’s confidence up and to be able to keep on rolling through the next stretch here. As you know, we have a couple of weeks here and then a few weeks off, but after that, there are 20 something weeks in a row, and you better be hitting it by then.”

Chase Bubble Watch

As the series nears closer to the 26th race of the season at Chicagoland Speedway – the last event before the XFINITY Series Chase, eyes will be watching the 12th position in points a lot closer to see who will qualify.

Currently, victories for Allgaier and Ryan Reed have them locked in.

Sitting 10th in points, Blake Koch only has scored one top-10 this year, but having 62 points over J.J Yeley in 13th should have him and those ahead confident in their chances. With that said, the current outlook includes Sadler, Bryon, Daniel Hemric, Darrell Wallace Jr., Brennan Poole, Tifft, Annett and Koch joining the pair of aforementioned winners.

Cole Custer has scored three top-10’s this year, but wrecks at Bristol and Talladega have slipped him back to 11th in the standings, currently 54 points ahead of Yeley.

Dakoda Armstrong has yet to score a top-10 this season and only has a 36-marker gap to keep the final qualified spot.

The shock of the bubble watch is Richard Childress Racing teammates Brandon Jones and Brendan Gaughan sitting 15th and 16th. With at least 37 points to make up a piece, they will need to start performing or find victory lane during the summer to keep their hopes alive.

No Consistency for Custer

Although Custer’s name was mentioned in the bubble watch, he is a driver who should qualify for the Chase – if he performs to expectations.

With 10 races in the books for 2017, he has posted three top-10’s as noted, including a fifth-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway.
Each weekend, he places the No. 00 Ford in the top-10 with intentions of a solid finish. However, wrecks and pit penalties have resulted in five finishes outside of the top-20 this season.

Custer acknowledged their struggles, saying they needed to get better.

“We had pretty solid cars the last couple weeks, and even in Atlanta we had a good car just haven’t gotten the finishes,” he said in April. “We haven’t done that. It was me making mistakes and just having random things happen. If we can keep these solid runs going, we will work our way back up there in the points. I feel like we can do this. We have had fast cars the last couple of weeks. We will just keep plugging away at it.”

Being a new team in the series, Stewart-Haas Racing has shown they can run up front on a weekly basis. But if consistency doesn’t start happening, they could fall outside of the Chase cut-off.

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.

Categories
XFINITY

Impressive Run Leads Hemric to ‘Dash 4 Cash’ Prize

Daniel Hemric is at his best when competing at Bristol Motor Speedway. It’s one of his strongest tracks as he scored two-top five finishes while competing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

In his first NASCAR XFINITY Series start at “Thunder Valley” on Saturday, the combination of his past success and the added incentive to perform well through the ‘Dash 4 Cash’ program led to his best run of the season.

Hemric earned his position among the four D4C competitors after winning Stage 2 by staying out late. Brendan Gaughan used the same strategy to give Richard Childress Racing two opportunities to claim the $100,000.

Cole Custer and Phoenix D4C winner Justin Allgaier accounted for the other two drivers racing for the D4C in the Final Stage after earning their positions following Stage 1.

Competing for the bonus became a game of survival as the laps counted down in the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300.

Gaughan crashed into the inside frontstretch wall on Lap 245 and sustained heavy damage that ended his day following contact with Darrell Wallace Jr.

Brandon Jones broke loose, began to spin, and hit the side of Custer’s car while racing down the backstretch to initiate the next caution. Unable to beat the five-minute clock, Custer’s day would come to an end as a result of significant left-side damage. 

Allgaier kept pace with Hemric for a majority of the Final Stage but contact with teammate William Byron with seven laps to go would send both cars spinning and Allgaier would find himself too deep in the field to recover.

Hemric remained as the lone D4C competitor up front on the final restart. He crossed the finish line in fifth and scored his first career top-five in the XFINITY Series to capture the D4C prize.

By winning Stage 2, Hemrick gained his first playoff point of the season. Another D4C victory at Richmond or Dover would earn him a spot among the 12 drivers competing for the championship.

He’ll visit Richmond for the first time next Saturday where his short track racing prowess could play in his favor and be back in contention for a second D4C prize.

If he’s unable to pick up the incentive next week, Dover will present one last opportunity in June. It may be his best shot as he has two top-10 finishes in the Truck Series at the “Monster Mile,” including a fourth-place finish in 2015.

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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.

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XFINITY

EYE IN THE SKY: Observations From Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS — It looked like a driver named Kyle would win the race. Then it looked like Brad Keselowski’s Team Penske No. 22 was the car to beat. But in the end, it was Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate, Joey Logano, who took the checkered flag in Saturday’s Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Kyle vs. Kyle

Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson battled for the lead throughout all of Stage 1. In the closing laps of the segment, Larson was in a door-to-door fight for the lead with the Joe Gibbs Racing driver, but the JGR No. 18 led every lap and won the opening stage by six-hundredths of a second margin.

Larson finished second after leading 33 laps, and Busch finished seventh after winning the pole and leading 48 laps.

Allgaier rebounds

After a pair of 30th-place results at Daytona and Atlanta, Justin Allgaier earned his first top five of the season with a fourth-place finish. He finished fifth in Stage 1 and 3rd in Stage 2, marking the first time he earned stage points in NASCAR’s new format.

His one hiccup of the day was when he overshot his pit stall by about two feet during a cycle of green-flag stops with 53 to go, but a couple of late-race cautions helped the JR Motorsports driver climb back into contention for the win.

Trouble for the Vegas native

Thirteen laps into Stage 2, Brendan Gaughan’s No. 62 fell off the pace, and his team reported a plug wire issue. Gaughan was forced to take his Richard Childress Racing machine behind the wall, and the crew changed the carburetor. Since it was a mechanical problem, he was allowed to return to the race. With NASCAR’s new rule about damaged racecars, had he crashed, his day would have ended as soon as he entered the garage.

But with 11 laps remaining in Stage 2, Gaughan got into the Turn 2 wall and spun out onto the backstretch apron, bringing out the fourth caution of the day. He ended up 35th and 11 laps down.

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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Commentary

MILNER: Sorenson Favorite Among Open Teams Not Locked In

In addition to putting the Hendrick Motorsports duo of Chase Elliott and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. on the front row of the Daytona 500, Sunday’s qualifying also ensured two of the four spots for those without charters, were set.

Ironically, of the six drivers competing for those four spots, it was the two favorites, Elliott Sadler and Brendan Gaughan, who secured their spots in The Great American Race, based on their qualifying speeds.

Sadler, driving for Tommy Baldwin Racing, will make his fourteenth appearance in the Daytona 500 and his first since 2012. With six top 10 finishes in the race, Sadler has come close to winning previously.  He finished runner-up to Ward Burton in 2002 and, in 2009, was passed by Matt Kenseth on the last green flag lap.

Gaughan, like Sadler, has been a regular competitor in the XFINITY Series over the past several years. In his first Daytona 500 since a nineteenth place finish in 2004, Gaughan will be racing for Beard Motorsports in the same Leaving Family Racing car that Michael McDowell drove to a fifteenth-place finish in last year’s Daytona 500, with an ECR Engine and Gaughan’s Richard Childress Racing XFINITY Series pit crew.

For the four drivers yet to lock themselves in via speed or a charter, they will be competing for two spots in Thursday’s Can-Am Duels. With Sadler and Gaughan already locked in, no one stands out among the four remaining hopefuls.

Reed Sorenson has the most Daytona 500 experience of the four, with six starts with four different teams. He snagged a top five in 2008, driving for Chip Ganassi Racing and followed it up with a ninth-place finish a year later, driving the iconic No. 43 for Richard Petty Motorsports. Entry into the 2017 Daytona 500 would be his 263 career Cup start, with 15 top 10s to his credit.

Timmy Hill first arrived on the national scene in 2011 and was the XFINITY Series Rookie of the Year. In six years, he has made 171 starts in XFINITY, Trucks, and Cup, with three top 10s in total. Hill has raced at Daytona five times in NASCAR’s three touring series with a seventh-place finish in the XFINITY Series 2012 opener.  One plus he has is, in 2017, he reunites with Rick Ware Racing which gave him his start in all three major series (he also competed for the team in the 2012 24 Hours of Daytona) in his attempt to make his first Daytona 500.

DJ Kennington will seek to become the first Canadian since Trevor Boys in 1988. Daytona will be only his second Cup race, the first coming back in Phoenix. He has three XFINITY starts at Daytona but none since a seventeenth-finish in 2009. He will be driving for Gaunt Brothers Racing team, fielding their first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series entry after running in the Pinty’s Series in 2010 and 2011. Notably, Kennington is a two-time series champion, having scored both those titles with his family-run team. 

Cory LaJoie, son of two-time Busch (now XFINITY) Champion Randy LaJoie, returns to attempt to make his third Cup start and his first since 2014. Lajoie ran for JGL Racing in last year’s July Daytona XFINITY race, finishing 30th.  While BK Racing may not be challenging Joe Gibbs Racing for Toyota prominence, they do have extensive experience in the Cup series, dating back to David Reutimann’s entry into the 2012 Daytona 500. LaJoie has twenty NASCAR starts, spread across all three national series.

Based on experience from both driver and team, it would seem Sorenson could be the favorite to claim one of the two spots in the Can-Am Duels. Who would join him in racing their way into the Daytona 500 remains very much unclear. LaJoie’s alignment with BK Racing could give him the edge over Hill and Kennington.

Until the checkered flag drops on Thursday night, however, it is too close to call.

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.

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News

Gaughan To Attempt Daytona 500

The Daytona 500 entry list continues to grow as Brendan Gaughan confirmed he will attempt to make the Great American Race in February.

Speaking with the Las Vegas Review Journal, Gaughan stated he’d attempt to enter the event driving for Michigan native Mark Beard. The opportunity came about through a phone call from Premium Motorsports owner Jay Robinson during the Christmas break.

“(He) said a friend of his was trying to do a deal and run the 500,” Gaughan told the Las Vegas Review Journal. “They bought the old Leavine car, they’ve hired ECR to do motors — real racing motors — and they asked if I would be interested. So it’s got Richard Childress motors, and I’m going to have a Richard Childress pit crew — my guys — and so we’re going to the Daytona 500 and see if we can qualify.”

If Gaughan can qualify, it’ll mark his second time running the event, as he made his 500 debut in 2004 with Roger Penske; he finished 19th after starting 17th. Gaughan has other experience at Daytona, posting three top-10s in 10 XFINITY Series starts at the 2.5-mile oval.

Gaughan is set to also run the full XFINITY Series schedule this year for Richard Childress Racing after finishing 12th in points last season with four top-fives and 16 top-10s in 33 races. Notably, Gaughan was solid throughout the inaugural XFINITY Series, making it to the Round 8 before a 31st place finish at Kansas Speedway and a crash at Phoenix International Speedway saw him miss the Championship 4.

Beard is a former driver and former ARCA team owner. Beard’s last entry in ARCA was in 2012 with Clay Rogers, finishing seventh at Toledo Speedway and fourth at Iowa Speedway. Beard also has made a pair of XFINITY Series starts behind the wheel, with a best finish of 18th at Daytona International Speedway in 1982.

The Chevrolet in which Gaughan will drive was purchased from Leavine Family Racing, with McDowell driving the entry to a 15th place finish in last year’s Daytona 500.

With no charter, Gaughan will either have to qualify via speed in time trials, or through one of the Budweiser Duels. However, Gaughan is “very confident that with ECR motors we’re going to be able to make the show”.

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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XFINITY

“They Said What?” Memorable Quotes – XFINITY Series

Sometimes when you stick a microphone in front of a driver’s face – especially when they’re mad, 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 NASCAR XFINITY Series season, I had the opportunity to speak to a bunch of different competitors, whether for features or following events. 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.

 

“I think it’s a rule change that somebody felt needed to be done – fans, media, whoever doesn’t like that Kyle Busch wins so much. So they’ve made a rule to protect against Kyle Busch. I don’t think we have a Cup driver problem. I think we have a problem with one driver and people don’t like it. I want to race against him each week so I don’t care. I want to race against him and try to beat him every week, so I can get better. So for me, it’s a rule they’ve made, it’s in place and it’s done. We’ll fight through it; we’ll keep racing, and hopefully it results in some more wins for us. But in the end, I still wish they were racing against us.”

Brendan Gaughan‘s opinion on the new “Competition Guidelines” for Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regulars in the XFINITY & Camping World Truck Series.

 

“Matt (Kaulig) is such a loyal guy, and has stuck with me since the first time he sponsored me three seasons ago. It’s tough to succeed in this sport as it takes time, but that’s what it takes. You just need to find someone who will stick with you through the good and bad, and have your back. Matt has my back and believes in me, as well as everybody at Leaf Filter Gutter Protection, and my team at Kaulig Racing. Chris Rice and I have a good relationship, and that’s what it takes – good relationships to make it.”

Blake Koch on his relationship, partnership with Kaulig Racing owner Matt Kaulig

 

“It’s not the ideal situation, but it’s what we’re dealt with because we don’t have a $1 million plus to drive for them, so we have to do it ourselves. I’m still fortunate to be able to it, though. It’s just tough. We don’t have the money, engineering, all the people that they have. It can be hard and impossible to outrun them in certain places, so it’s frustrating, but at the end of the day, it’s still gratifying when you can get close to them and on some days, run right there with them and sometimes beat some of them. That keeps you going for sure.”

Jeremy Clements on driving for a small team against some of the big teams in the series, like Joe Gibbs Racing and JR Motorsports.

 

“It’s tough. We don’t have as much funding as the other teams but are hopeful that will change. We have maybe five guys at the shop, and those guys need to be at the track, so it’s hard to maintain the cars. We may be running the same car week after week, where other guys have new cars as they have them ready.”

Joey Gase on driving for a small team against some of the big teams in the series.

 

“I’d really like to. I’m not hiding the fact that I’m good on road courses in the car, but I could be good on an oval. I believe that I like the feel of the car and I think it suits my driving style.”

Alex Tagliani on wanting to eventually run an oval event in one of NASCAR’s top-three divisions. 

 

“I’m driving racecars for a living and it’s pretty amazing to get to do what I love to do. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a great race team and great partners like Lilly Diabetes and American Diabetes Association. I’m just trying to enjoy myself and enjoy the work process and trying to get better each week and spend time at the shop with the guys, and just try to have a lot of fun. Like I said, appreciate the whole process a little more rather than focusing just on the end goal.”

Ryan Reed 

 

“I have to say that it’s a dream come true. I’ve worked really hard to get to where I am and to accomplish the goals that I have accomplished. It’s great to have the opportunity to move up the ladder and give myself a shot to run in the XFINITY Series.”

Ryan Preece on his opportunity last year to drive for JD Motorsports full-time.

 

“I always set my expectations a little higher for myself than others would. I sometimes leave the track disappointed more than others, but in a good way because I’m trying to push myself harder. The main thing right now is completing all the laps and not getting caught up in any wrecks so we can complete all the laps.”

Brandon Gdovic on his goals and expectations for the season. 

 

“It’s kind of been the rebuilding year. Everybody is starting to realize that Corey LaJoie can drive again.”

Corey LaJoie’s thoughts after pulling together a string of solid finishes this year, compared to the lack of success in a previous XFINITY attempt with Richard Petty Motorsports.

 

“Our car chief (Brent Wentz) this week said it the best – the races and championships aren’t won at the track, they’re won during the week with the preparation that we do in the shop. I definitely believe in that as that’s the approach that we had on the 2 car, so that takes a lot of pressure off on the weekend if you’ve done your work during the week and feel good with where you’re at the shop.”

Brian Wilson on whether there’s pressure on him to win as the crew chief for the Team Penske’s No. 22 entry. 

 

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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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.

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