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2020 Silly Season Updates and Expectations

With the NASCAR Cup Series off-season in full effect and the 2019 Awards Banquet in Nashville wrapping up a week ago, we’re already under 60 days away from the Daytona 500. As the 2020 season draws closer, the sport has now seen many of it’s stars swap rides as well as inherit well-established teams to begin their new careers.

Here’s everything you need to know about the most up to date team changes to this point and the newest faces entering NASCAR’s premier series:

Nigel Kinrade | NKP

Matt DiBenedetto

Quite possibly the best storyline to come out of 2019 was the breakout of Matt DiBenedetto. The former driver of the No. 95 for Levine Family Racing made headlines in the first race of the season  when he had a legitimate shot to win the Daytona 500. As the year progressed, fans soon came to realize that the 27-year old was no fluke.

The California-native would go on to complete the season with 152 laps led, seven top-10s and three top-fives – which included a second-place finish  to Denny Hamlin at Bristol Motor Speedway.

While DiBenedetto did not notch the first win of his career in 2019, he certainly turned heads and cemented himself as a fan favorite. In fact, he finished third overall in the Most Popular Driver ballot.

Fast forward to 2020, Paul Menard revealed he would be stepping away from full-time racing, leaving his seat in the famed Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 wide open. When Menard announced he would be giving up his ride, he fully endorsed DiBenedetto as his replacement and sure enough – the California-native will now be driving the No. 21 Ford Mustang for the Penske-affiliated team.

Not only was DiBenedetto the feel good story of 2019, but the signing and how it came about for the 27-year old was also a feel good story.

Team Penske amassed six wins last season and it would not be a surprise to see DiBenedetto capture his first career win in better equipment. One thing is certain, we should see the fan favorite contending for top-10 finishes and maybe even top-fives. However, he is making the jump from Toyota to Ford. Even while fielding a significantly less cars than Ford and Chevrolet in 2019, Toyotas were the class of the field. It will be interesting to see if DiBenedetto can make the transition with ease.

Russell LaBounty | NKP

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

After seven years of full-time racing for Roush-Fenway Racing, Jack Roush decided to part ways with two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. The now former driver of the No. 17 Ford Mustang posted yet another lackluster season driving for ‘The Cat in the Hat.’ When teammate Ryan Newman is 10 years older, racing in the same equipment and making the Playoffs, it’s not a good look.

The Mississippi-native now finds himself racing for JTG Daugherty Racing in the No. 37 car, which was driven by Chris Buescher in 2019. The two drivers posted similar stats last season and in all honestly, this is a true-blue car swap. The only major difference is that the two-time Xfinity Series Champion is making the jump from Ford to Chevrolet, which could put him at a disadvantage.

In 2019, Stenhouse totaled one top-five, three top-10s and led 109 laps, which placed him 23rd in the overall standings. Expect more or less the same from the Mississippi-native in 2020.

Gavin Baker | NKP

Chris Buescher

As documented above, Stenhouse would be taking over driving duties for the No. 37 Chevy Camaro which Buescher piloted in 2019. The 2015 Xfinity Series Champion will now join Newman at Roush-Fenway Racing as he will now take over for the No. 17 Ford Mustang.

The 26-year old driver didn’t have an awful season given his equipment and manufacturer disadvantage last year. While he only led 13 laps en route to four top-10s, this was good enough to place him 20th in the overall Cup Series standings – three spots ahead of his counterpart, Stenhouse.

The Texas-native is inheriting a quality ride and he’ll have a well-established veteran in Newman to lean on for advice. He even showed glimmers of hope in the 2019 season, contending for top-10 finishes regularly towards the end of the year. It would not be out of the question to see Buescher add some more top-fives to his resume and even have a shot at making the Playoffs in 2020.

Rusty Jarrett | NKP

Tyler Reddick

Historically, Xfinity Series drivers making the jump to the Cup Series doesn’t pan out until a few years down the road. However, Tyler Reddick is indeed Cup ready.

The 23-year old driver just recorded his second-consecutive title in the Xfinity Series and he already has experience at the sport’s premier level. While the California-native has only run two race at the Cup level, in one of those starts he finished ninth and at Kansas Speedway nonetheless. Not to mention, in the same equipment that he will be racing with in 2020.

In one of the more shocking headlines from 2019, it was announced that Richard Childress Racing would be parting ways with the driver of the No. 8 Chevrolet, rookie Daniel Hemric. By no means at all did Hemric have a disappointing debut season, but with such highly touted talent on the rise in NASCAR’s lower divisions there is a strong emphasis on performing now.

Reddick will now take over driving for the No. 8 Camaro at Richard Childress Racing, but rest assured for him, he should have much more lee-way than the driver who came before.

Given the 23-year old’s experience and showcased talent in two of NASCAR’s series, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to see Reddick compete for top-10s and maybe even top-fives with a shot at making the Playoffs in 2020. I personally could see him delivering Richard Childress Racing their first win in two years.

Russell LaBounty | NKP

Cole Custer

Fans have been treated to many unlikely and divisive moves in the offseason, but this could be the most shocking. It was well documented that Daniel Suarez was seeking a contract extension during the 2019 season. Team-owner Tony Stewart even reiterated that they were “close” to a deal in mid-October.

Just days before the events at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Stewart-Haas Racing released a statement citing that Cole Custer would be promoted to the Cup Series and they would be parting ways with Suarez. This now leaves the Mexico-native with no ride currently for 2020 and places Custer in the No. 41 Ford Mustang.

While he was one of the Xfinity Series ‘Big Three’ last year, don’t expect the 21-year old to make immediate waves like Reddick possibly can. The California-native does have limited experience running three race at NASCAR’s premier level, but in 2018 and for Rick Ware Racing.

Custer does have many advantages over Reddick and Christopher Bell as he prepares for his debut season in the Cup Series. Not only will he have teammates Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola to turn to for help, but he’ll also have Stewart to assist as well. Not to mention, Stewart-Haas Racing has been one of the most dominant forces in the sport since it was established in 2011.

It typically takes rookie drivers around two years to settle into NASCAR’s highest division, but it would not be shocking to see Custer start his career off strong. He should be in contention for top-10 finishes and may even snag a top-five here and there. Playoffs could be a possibility, but right now consider it a stretch.

Russell LaBounty | NKP

Christopher Bell

The final piece to the Xfinity Series ‘Big Three’ will be inheriting the former ride of DiBenedetto. As revealed, the 27-year old will be taking over driving duties for the No. 21 at Wood Brothers Racing, which now places Bell in the No. 95 at Levine Family Racing.

Bell will without a doubt be faced with the biggest disadvantage of his two counterparts from last season, but this doesn’t mean he can’t have a successful season. Levine Family Racing went from Kasey Kahne (who had a less than stellar season due to health issues) to DiBenedetto who seriously turned heads and made waves in 2019.

The talent is definitely there for the 24-year old, who had a series leading eight wins, 20 top-fives and 21 top-10s in the Xfinity Series last year, but this is the Cup Series. Unlike Custer and Reddick, Bell has no experience at NASCAR’s highest level and it would be incorrect to say that he’ll tear it up like he did in NASCAR’s lower division, especially in the No. 95 car.

It’s again not out of the question to see him have a successful year – look at what DiBenedetto did last season. And should the Oklahoma-native remain at Levine Family Racing through 2021, maybe we could see this small team follow the trend that Furniture Row Racing did with Martin Truex Jr. at the helm.

But for 2020, we should expect to see Bell mostly in contention for top-15 finishes with an occasional top-10 mixed in as the season progresses.

EMAIL COLE AT: colecusumano88@gmail.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 to other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered and endorsement.

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Feature NASCAR Cup Series

Bristol Favors Surprise Contenders

Restrictor plate tracks have often been known as the great equalizers in NASCAR. The unpredictability that often defines races at Daytona and Talladega provides an opportunity for smaller teams to succeed.

Bristol Motor Speedway may not immediately come to mind as a track in this category, but it has produced similar characteristics in its races through recent years.

Dating back to August 2013, many competitors have posted breakout performances at “The Last Great Colosseum.”

Striking a balance between patience and aggressiveness is critical at short tracks and road courses. This allowed road racing aces Juan Pablo Montoya and Marcos Ambrose to perform well at Bristol. In the 2013 night race, they finished third and eighth respectively.

In March 2014, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. captured his best career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series finish of second while Aric Almirola placed third, and Ambrose had another strong run and ended up fifth.

Stenhouse Jr. again impressed many in the next two events, finishing sixth in August 2014 and fourth in April 2015. Justin Allgaier and Danica Patrick also performed well in April, placing eighth and ninth respectively.

One year ago, smaller organizations thrived at Bristol. Front Row Motorsports’ Landon Cassill led 20 laps, and BK Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto scored the team’s highest result in its five years of existence by finishing sixth.

Roush Fenway Racing found more success last season as Trevor Bayne placed fifth in April and Stenhouse finished runner-up in August. Chris Buescher also ran well in August, coming home fifth in the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford that shares a technical alliance with RFR.

Many of these performances marked career highs for the competitors, attesting to Bristol’s ability to favor surprise contenders.

RFR has struggled in recent seasons, but Bristol has often shown promise for the organization. Bayne’s top-five performance last April stood as his best non-plate track finish of the season, and his finest performance since winning the 2011 DAYTONA 500.

Bristol is Stenhouse Jr.’s best track on the schedule as he holds an average finish of 10.6. Of his eight career top-five performances, three have come at the track, and in his last six Bristol starts, he has posted four top-10 finishes.

A victory would be monumental for RFR. Bristol may present their best opportunity to achieve this feat and break their winless streak that dates back to Carl Edwards’ win at Sonoma in 2014.

Along with the classic short-track racing atmosphere, the unknown factor playing a larger role adds intrigue heading into the Food City 500. Whether its RFR or another small team, surprise contenders may make some noise on Sunday.

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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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NASCAR Cup Series

Dave Rogers Taking Personal Leave

In a surprising turn of events, Joe Gibbs Racing announced on Wednesday evening that veteran crew chief Dave Rogers would be taking a personal leave of absence for an indefinite period.

Rogers, who was currently serving as crew chief for Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookie and 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series Champion Daniel Suarez came to JGR in 2005. He worked with Jason Leffler that season before moving to the XFINITY Series and crew chiefing for Denny Hamlin in 2006. He also spent time with Aric Almirola, Tony Stewart, and JJ Yeley while in the NXS.

Rogers’ big break came in 2009 when he was named the crew chief for Kyle Busch and the No. 18 MENCS team. During his tenure with Busch, they combined to win 13 races and finished fourth in the championship standings in 2013.

Last season, Rogers worked with Carl Edwards and the No. 19 team, winning three times and finishing fourth in points.

Suarez will have a familiar face on top of the pit box this weekend at Martinsville with Scott Graves taking over as crew chief of the No. 19 team.

Graves and Suarez combined to win three times during last season’s championship run. He also oversaw Chris Buescher‘s title in the NXS in 2015 while at Roush Fenway Racing. Graves was currently serving as crew chief for JGR’s No.18 entry in NASCAR’s second-tier series.

JGR has not provided any other details concerning Rogers’ leave and will name a replacement crew chief for their No.18 team in the NXS next week.

EMAIL JUSTIN at justin.tucker@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

Truex, JTG Teammates Fail Post Duel Inspection

The first official race of the season is not in the books yet, and there’s already technical inspection issues as three drivers failed technical inspection following the Can-Am Duels.

Martin Truex Jr., along with JTG Daughtry teammates A.J. Allmendinger and Chris Buescher each were found too low in the inspection. As a result, all three will start from the back of the field for the Daytona 500, and any points earned in the Can-Am Duels are taken away.

Truex finished the first Duel in seventh (13th starting spot for Daytona 500), which would’ve given him four points, while Buescher finished 16th (32nd starting spot for Daytona 500) which equates to no points. Allmendinger was in the second Duel, posting a fourth place finish (eighth starting spot for Daytona 500) which would’ve equaled seven points.

For Truex, it marks a continuation of inspection issues his Furniture Row Racing team has faced throughout Daytona Speedweeks so far. He only made three laps in The Clash practice as a result of being stuck in pre-inspection, while both he and teammate Erik Jones only made a couple runs in pre-Daytona 500 qualifying practice due to not passing inspection.

The issues this past weekend resulted in Truex’s crew chief Cole Pearn, as well as other crew members, returning to the team’s home base to adjust the grid they have in the shop, so future cars do not face the same problem.

“It’s been a big issue,” Truex said on Wednesday. “It’s just definitely a setback that you don’t want this early in the season, especially for us. We were building all new cars because we changed the body style this year.”

Furniture Row Racing GM Joe Garrone stated on Sunday that the team was not trying to panic as they “have plenty of time. We know now what we have to do back at the shop, we’ll move forward.”

Truex is no stranger to starting at the back of the Great American Race, though. He began last year’s Daytona 500 at the back following a wreck in his Duel. The starting position didn’t hold him back, though, as he challenged for the race lead throughout the race, losing by a nose at the line to Denny Hamlin.

Meanwhile, this marks the first inspection issue for JTG of the season since making a move from a single-car team to two cars for 2017. The Daytona 500 hasn’t treated Allmendinger and Buescher well in the past, though, with Buescher crashing out last year in his first attempt while Allmendinger only has two top-10s in 15 starts.

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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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NASCAR Cup Series

Chris Buescher Ready To Go “Full-Tilt” with JTG

Last season, Chris Buescher made a move to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with Front Row Motorsports, surprising everybody as he made the Chase for the Championship following a victory at Pocono Raceway. He’ll look to once again qualify for the Chase this year, except with a different team.

Over the off-season, Buescher moved to JTG Daughtry to drive the No. 37 Chevrolet, which caught everybody off-guard with Buescher being under a development contract with Roush Fenway who runs Fords. While Buescher says he remains under contract with Roush, it’s not something he’s thinking about as we close in on the season. Instead, all of his focus is on going “full tilt” with JTG.

“We’re working on this season getting integrated with everybody over there,” he said. “It has been a transition coming over to a new team for the second year in a row trying to get to know everybody. We have a new crew chief, a new manufacturer with Chevrolet, and I’m just really focused on getting through this year. We haven’t looked anywhere past that. 2017 is looking to be a great year, though.”

For JTG, it has made things interesting as the team is making the switch from a single-car organization to a two-car organization. They’ve had to bring in some new employees, which some came from Roush Fenway while others came from other teams.

“I’ve really liked everybody that has come onboard,” Buescher said. “They are all working together really well. I feel like we have a really good group behind us and I think it will turn out to be a great season.”

A.J. Allmendinger has driven for the team over the past couple of years, and will once again in 2017, with limited success. He’s had some strong runs, including a top-five at Martinsville and being a threat to win at the road courses though has struggled and run in the mid-20s. Despite that, there were some positive signs near the end of the year with Allmendinger able to break into the top-15, including a couple of top-10s, to close out the season.

“Looking at the momentum that AJ (Allmendinger) and the 47 team had in the second half of last year is very promising,” Buescher said. “It makes us optimistic to get rolling to Daytona and especially past that once we get to Atlanta and that West Coast swing.”

As the team makes the adjustment, the drivers are also learning about being teammates as Buescher admits not knowing Allmendinger that well before this arrangement. However, since being able to do some events together, Buescher has found his new teammate to be very outgoing, wide open, and full of energy.

“We all know that AJ is probably the best road racer in the garage,” he said. “That second half of last season that whole JTG group did well at all the racetracks they went to. He’s very good at Martinsville, very good at Richmond and a lot of these other racetracks that I haven’t been very good at. He’s also been very good at Bristol, which I feel was probably our best track last year.”

Based on what he’s seen thus far, Buescher is full of positivity, believing the pair can work together, as well as with their Richard Childress Racing teammates through the technical alliance, to have a solid 2017.

All that’s left now is to see if the statistics at the end of the year will match his hopes.

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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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NASCAR Cup Series

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 2016 Recap/2017 Outlook — Chris Buescher

Hot off of a XFINITY Series Championship in 2015, Chris Buescher shocked the NASCAR world by making the Chase and winning a race in 2016. He will look to do the same in 2017 with his new team, JTG Daugherty Racing.

 

Car No.:  34

Crew Chief: Bob Osborne

Team: Front Row Motorsports

Wins: 1

Top-Fives: 2

Top-10s: 2

Points Finish: 16th

2016 Quick Summary: For the first 20 races of the 2016 season, Buescher had a forgettable rookie season. He had only captured three top-20’s, and he had just as many finishes 30th or worse as he did 29th or better. His most memorable moment at that point was his wild ride at Talladega, where he had one of the most violent crashes of the season.

Then came race No. 21, a Monday race at Pocono Raceway.

It was in the middle of a cycle of green-flag pit stops and Buescher found himself leading for the first time in NASCAR’s top series. Then a caution would come out, which changed the 24-year-old’s season entirely. A dense fog had forced NASCAR to stop the race. The fog wouldn’t lighten up, and since the race was passed halfway, the race would be called, handing the rookie his first win.

In the races that would follow, he and his team would capture a top-five in Bristol and a top-20 in his first start at Darlington, which would be enough to get him into the top-30 in points and into the Chase.

However, after subpar performances in the first round, Buescher would receive an early elimination from NASCAR’s version of the playoffs. The rest of the year would feature more finishes outside the top-15, and he’d finish the season 16th in the final point standings.

2016 Highlight(s): Buescher’s first win at Pocono will serve as a day that he won’t soon forget. Another highlight would be he and Front Row Motorsports’ impressive drive to get in the top-30, allowing both to make their first Chase.

2016 Lowlight(s): What goes up, must come down. After their impressive drive to make the Chase, Buescher, and FRM’s momentum stalled out in the Chase, resulting in an early elimination.

2017 Outlook: In an interesting twist of fate, Buescher moves to JTG Daugherty Racing in 2017, to drive the No. 37 Chevrolet.

For the most part, JTG had a forgettable 2016 but did see improvement towards the end of the year, as they scored four top-10’s in the final ten races with driver A.J. Allmendinger. If they can continue to make those improvements while expanding to a two-car team, and if Buescher can adapt well to his new team, the two may be able to put together a Chase run.

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.           

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NASCAR Cup Series

Chris Buescher to Drive for JTG Daugherty in 2017

After months of speculation, JTG Daugherty Racing announced on Tuesday that they would be fielding a second full-time team in the Cup Series next season with 2015 XFINITY Series Champion Chris Buescher behind the wheel.

Team owner Tad Geschickter confirmed the move today, saying, “We can confirm at this time that JTG Daugherty Racing is currently in the process of starting a second team in the NASCAR premier series. We would also like to confirm and welcome Chris Buescher to the team as our driver for the second car.”

Buescher shocked the NASCAR world this past season by winning the Pennsylvania 400 in August for Front Row Motorsports, securing his and the team’s first ever Chase for the Sprint Cup berth. In his rookie season of competition last year, he scored a win and seven top-20 finishes en route to finishing 16th in points.

Buescher released the following statement regarding the move to JTG Daugherty Racing.

“I can confirm that I have signed to race for JTG Daugherty Racing as they expand to a two-car team in the NASCAR premier series in 2017. I’m thankful for the opportunity and look forward to competing for a spot in the Chase.”

Buescher will be guaranteed to make the field in every Cup Series race in 2017 as JTG secured the charter from Roush Fenway Racing and the No. 16 team.

This will mark JTG Daugherty Racing’s first time entering two cars on a weekly basis since joining the Sprint Cup Series in 2009 with Marcos Ambrose. Through the years, the organization has won one race and scored 11 top-10s in 288 starts. This past season, they led A.J. Allmendinger to two top-fives and five top-10s en route to finishing 26th in points. Allmendinger has already confirmed he will be back with the team in 2017.

No details have been released regarding crew chief, sponsorship, and car number for the second JTG entry at this time.

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NASCAR Cup Series

Ganassi Duo, Stewart Among Those Eliminated

An IndyCar Series Champion Owner saw his dreams dashed as his drivers were eliminated, along with the pair of Chase Cinderella stories.

Following the first three races of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, the first round is complete and four drivers saw their championship hopes end – Tony Stewart, Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray and Chris Buescher.

Before the season began, Chip Ganassi promised both his drivers – Larson and McMurray – would be part of the Chase for 2016. His drivers were able to live up to the promise as Larson scored his first career victory to qualify, while McMurray pointed his way into contention. However, mechanical gremlins resulted in both drivers not being able to make it past round one.

Larson came up 12 points shy of qualifying following a 25th place finish at Dover International Speedway. Larson looked to have speed during the first run, though his No. 42 Chevrolet shut off on pit road at Lap 33 under his first pit stop of the race. It took time for the team to get the car to re-fire, resulting in Larson falling off the lead lap. He then went two more laps down when he had to serve a pass-thru penalty under green for having “too many men over the wall” during the pit stop. The final nail in the coffin came on Lap 183 when he hit the wall due to a cut right front tire.

“There wasn’t much we could do,” Larson said. “I cut the right front tire down and got in the wall and still had good speed in the race car after that but it just didn’t work out. Our team has come a long way this season from where we started the year. We were pretty awful at the start of the season but then got a win at Michigan to lock ourselves in the Chase. That was good. I know we have the speed to have made it past a couple of rounds, but it’s my typical luck I guess, where it just doesn’t work out.”

Larson said he doesn’t now know what he could have done differently during the Chase, except have better luck.

“I don’t know what I’ve got to do,” he said. “But we’ll stay positive. We’ll come back next year and go for a championship. Our team came a long way this year from where we started the season, so hats off to everybody in the shop and the road crew and Target and all the sponsors for all their hard work and effort. We just didn’t have good luck again this year.”

His teammate McMurray also ran in the top-10 through the early stages of the event, set to challenge Austin Dillon for the 12th and final spot. However, at Lap 65, he reported a drive train related vibration and began losing power at Lap 167. His day came to an end at Lap 193 when the motor blew, resulting in a 40th place finish. As a result, he missed the Chase by 32 points.

“It vibrated earlier in the race, and it went away. And it’s weird because engine issues usually don’t go away,” McMurray said. “It felt like it had power and then I don’t know about 40 laps before it finally blew up, it just started vibrating real bad. They (the team) said what broke, but I couldn’t hear them over all the cars on the track. I’m not sure. Very unfortunate. It is just the way it goes.”

Meanwhile, Chris Buescher and Tony Stewart entered the Chase as the “Cinderella Stories” as many didn’t think either driver would make it based on how the first half of the season went. But a well-played strategy by Buescher handed him a win at Pocono, and Stewart managed to fight off Denny Hamlin for the win at Sonoma Raceway. It seemed at times both drivers would have a shot to contend for the championship with some top-10 performances, but neither found traction through the past three races and now find themselves on the outside.

This past weekend, Stewart finished 13th while Buescher finished 23rd.

“It wasn’t a bad day for our CSX Ford,” Buescher said. “We made some good adjustments but had one run that just wasn’t quite there and almost felt like it was a bad set of tires. The way the race played out with long green runs, we didn’t really have a chance to recover from that one.”

Buescher says now he look towards using the rest of the season to try and get better while taking chances in strategy to possibly snag another win or top-five finish.

“To even be in the Chase was a really big deal for Front Row Motorsports and this 34 team,” he said. “My hat’s off to everybody who has worked so hard this season. It’s unfortunate this is the end of our Chase, but it was a pretty good deal to make it in our first season.”

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
NASCAR Cup Series

Chris Buescher To “Take Whatever Chance We Feel Is Necessary”

While it may say ‘Play It Safe’ on the side of his racecar, it doesn’t mean Chris Buescher is set to do the same behind the wheel this weekend at Dover International Speedway. Knowing the situation he currently is in entering the last race of the first round of the Chase, he says his team is prepared to take a gamble this weekend, whether via fuel strategy or taking two tires on a pit stop.

“We have an endless amount of options that are open for us right now because where we’re at, the last two weeks have not been what we wanted,” he said. “They’ve been tough on us, but it’s put us in a situation now where the only way to go is up, and that means we can take whatever chance we feel is necessary. We want to make sure it’s something that could be very beneficial. We don’t want to do something that’s just crazy and obviously isn’t going to work, so there will be a little bit of planning and strategy to it, but we don’t have to play it safe at all.”

Following finishes of 28th at Chicagoland Speedway and 30th at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Buescher enters this weekend sitting 16th in points, 30 points behind Kyle Larson for 12th and the final spot to make the next round.

His Front Row Motorsports team knows all about taking gambles as it was a fuel strategy gamble at Pocono Raceway in August and some foggy/wet weather which allowed him to pick up his first career series victory. Buescher has been successful at Dover in the past, scoring a win and three top-10s in four career XFINITY Series starts to go with an 18th place finish in his first Sprint Cup Series start at the Monster Mile in May. Buescher notes he enjoys the track which feels like a roller coaster ride due to the concrete surface, and how it reminds him of Bristol – where he finished fifth in August.

“It’s obviously its own animal, but there’s just something about it that we’ve been able to run really well at the last couple of years,” he said. “I don’t have a whole lot of races under my belt here, but we always seem to make it out. It’s definitely that place that can get you in trouble in a hurry, and I’ve been really close to a lot of those situations, but it’s just a cool race track. It’s extremely fast. The landing getting down in the corner is something we usually don’t talk about. It’s an added curve in what we’re trying to get accomplished for the weekend.”

While it’s ideally where a driver wouldn’t want to be, the rookie admits it’s a stress relief to have the pressure taken off of him after going through the pressure to make the top-30 in points for five weeks following his Pocono victory.

“We don’t really have anything to lose here today,” he said. “All we have to do is gain, so, to me, it’s gonna make it to where we’re able to go out here and not worry about it, take some chances, try and utilize some risk and see if we can pull something 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
NASCAR Cup Series

Roush Fenway Looking Like Its 2015 Self Again

It wasn’t an outstanding first half of the 2016 Sprint Cup Series season for Roush Fenway Racing, but it was certainly better than the entire 2015 campaign.

Among the three Roush Fenway drivers — Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Trevor Bayne, and Greg Biffle — the team had nine top 10s, four top fives, and a pole in the first 18 points races this year.

Minus the pole award, that’s what Roush Fenway had accumulated in all of 2015. There were also no Chase drivers from the Ford Racing stable, which had never happened since the playoff format’s inception in 2004.

Things were looking a little more promising this year for the organization — especially with Bayne. He seemed to be the most improved Cup driver from 2015 with three qualifying efforts in the top 10 through the first eight races. He also made a statement about his superspeedway abilities, validating that his 2011 Daytona 500 win wasn’t a fluke.

He led 22 laps at Talladega Superspeedway in May but ended up with a 10th-place result. Still, he proved that he knows how to get it done on NASCAR’s biggest tracks.

Biffle won the pole at Daytona International Speedway in July — the first for Roush Fenway since Carl Edwards won it at Texas Motor Speedway in Nov. 2013. Stenhouse has three top fives this year, which is a career best for the fourth-year Cup driver.

However, the last 10 races haven’t been as encouraging as the first 18 events.

Bayne, who was in the Chase discussion earlier this year, tailed off as the regular season ended and missed the playoffs along with his two Roush teammates.

He and Biffle each have one top 10 in the last 10 races, while Stenhouse has two top 10s in that span, including a runner-up finish at Bristol. But among the trio, there have only been 15 laps led (all by Biffle) and not a qualifying effort better than 14th.

They look like their 2015 selves again. Not good.

The team that was once a championship-winning powerhouse in the Cup garage still has a lot of work to do. The lone bright spot in the past two years has been Chris Buescher, who won the 2015 XFINITY Series title.

He also made the Sprint Cup Chase this year by winning the rain-shortened event at Pocono Raceway this summer, but with Front Row Motorsports — he’s technically not a Roush driver even though he is under a long-term contract with the team.

So what’s next for Roush Fenway? Well, that’s anyone’s guess. It looks like all three drivers are signed through 2017. There has been some talk of Buescher moving into one of Roush’s Cup cars in the near future, but that remains to be seen.

Roush Fenway either must get better with the drivers they have or some drivers’ seats are going to be changed.

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.