NASCAR Cup Series

Matt Tifft To Miss Remainder of 2019 Cup Series Season

After experiencing a seizure this past weekend at Martinsville Speedway, Matt Tifft will miss the last three races on the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule.

Prior to the first round of practice for the First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway, Tifft experienced a seizure and blacked out, resulting in being transported to local hospital. He has since been working with doctors to determine the exact cause for the incident.

Matt Crafton filled in for Tifft behind the wheel of the No. 36 Ford Mustang at Martinsville Speedway, finishing 25th. 

Front Row Motorsports announced on Tuesday that John Hunter Nemechek will run theh remainder of the schedule.

“We want to thank John Hunter for filling in Matt’s seat as he continues to recover,” said Jerry Freeze, General Manager, Front Row Motorsports. “Our thoughts are still with Matt and his family. We feel that John Hunter can step up and do a great job for us as Matt heals.”

Nemechek will make his Cup Series debut at Texas Motor Speedway following 48 starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with one win, 10 top-five’s and 27 top-10’s to his credit; he currently ranks 11th in the series standings.

“This isn’t the way any driver wants to make their Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut,” said Nemechek. “I am hoping that Matt feels better and can get back in his car as soon as possible. That is what is important. Hopefully I can learn a lot and make Matt, the Front Row Motorsports team and its partners proud.”

This is not the first health scare for Tifft as he had surgery to remove a low-grade glioma in the brain in June 2016. He returned back behind the wheel three months later, making his Cup Series debut in the 2019 Daytona 500. He scored a season-best ninth-place finish at Daytona International Speedway in July.

Since the incident, Tifft has been a strong advocate for brain surgery awareness.

“I think it’s really incredible for how far I’ve come from that,” he told POPULAR SPEED in December 2018. “Even looking back on the 2017 season, there’s a lot of growth in there and it really took me until about halfway through that season to get back to feeling myself again off the track and that started to help me get better on the track again. There’s just a lot of changes and a lot of good things that has gone on since then.

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

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



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


Final Four all over John Hunter Nemechek’s Mind

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – As most young drivers are trying to make a name for themselves, John Hunter Nemechek has a familiar last name in the garage area. Being known as Joe Nemechek’s son, the 21-year-old has always dreamt of winning at Daytona International Speedway.

This season, Nemechek will be racing the full season with GMS Racing. Their first battle together is the high banks of Daytona, where he has never run in a NASCAR Xfinity Series car. The North Carolina native’s best finish at Daytona in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series is fourth.

“It’ll be huge to win today at Daytona and there’s a lot of history in my family at Daytona,” Nemechek told POPULAR SPEED. “From my dad winning here back in the day, he has been a really good restrictor plate racer. Just Daytona itself, the atmosphere is huge, the history here is big so it would mean a lot. To kick off the first race with GMS Racing being able to come home with a win would mean a lot.”

His father has won twice in the Xfinity Series at Daytona. Nemechek is hoping to follow his father footsteps in being successful at that historic track.

After running a partial schedule in both the Truck Series and Xfinity Series, Nemechek was able to capture a victory in each series. During the off-season, the North Carolina native was anxious to get the season kicked off with GMS.

“Prepared a lot, a lot of training went in and watching videos. Nemechek said. “I’m just really excited and over the offseason I just got tired of talking about it so I was just ready to get to the race track and see what we can do. We have speed, qualifying didn’t really show it but as far as overall drafting speed I feel like we have it and I’m really looking forward in getting out there and racing later today.”

Taking advice from his victorious father on how to tackle Daytona, Nemechek is confident he has the speed to capture the victory. Furthermore, he is excited to see how the season plays out and prove that his team can compete for a championship.

“I want to be in final four at Homestead and have an opportunity to win the championship, that’s our overall goal.” Nemechek said.

With the big named teams in the garage area, the Xfinity Series is filled with high competition. GMS is looking to turn heads with their new driver behind the wheel. They hired a young driver with experience, but not only that, with a past race winner. 

Nonetheless, the No. 23 car is no stranger to reaching victory. Last season, they won at Talladega Superspeedway with Spencer Gallagher behind the wheel. The victory demonstrated that they do have cars with a great deal of speed.

As the season starts off, look for Nemechek to compete in the front of the field as he tries to add more wins to his name.



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


Rookie Outlook: XFINITY Series

When looking at a rookie class one might wonder, how much success is possible for these drivers? Well, if the last couple of years in the XFINITY Series is any indication, the sky is the limit.

Three of the last five drivers to win the award have gone on to win the championship, and just by looking at whose eligible this year, it could be argued that it is likely to happen again in 2019.

With that said, let’s take a look at those who will be competing for the honor.

Chase Briscoe

Well, it could be argued that a lot of these drivers could be perceived as the favorite, Briscoe may have the best case for himself.

He has experience in the form of 17-race schedule last year, where he had four top-10’s and a win. Not to forget the 24-year-old will be driving for Stewart-Haas Racing, one of the best teams not only in the series but in the sport as a whole. SHR proved the strength in their program last year by winning the owner’s championship with Cole Custer behind the wheel.

The expectations will, and rightfully so, be high for Briscoe.

Noah Gragson

Speaking of high expectations, there is Gragson, who joins JR Motorsports, whose last three rookie drivers (Tyler Reddick, William Byron, and Chase Elliott) have won the championship. So, no pressure right?

However, the Las Vegas native has proven himself worthy of the ride after two full-time seasons in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series, where he scored two wins, 12 top-five’s, and 30 top-10’s.

While he may not have as much XFINITY experience as some of his competitors, Gragson did have success in his three starts last season for Joe Gibbs Racing. His worst finish with the team was seventh, and he even came close to winning in his debut at Richmond Raceway in a runner-up effort.

John Hunter Nemechek

A team that has seen strong development over the last year, GMS Racing, partnered with a driver in Nemechek whose shown capable, could prove to be a lethal combo.

Nemechek comes from a season where he split time between XFINITY and trucks, where he was able to win in both. The 21-year-old showed off his talent in NASCAR’s second-tier series, where in addition his lone victory at Kansas Speedway, he was able to produce six top-five’s and 11 top-10’s in an 18-race effort for Chip Ganassi Racing.
Despite his impressive stat line though, he seemed to be overshadowed by Kyle Larson and Ganassi’s late-season addition, Ross Chastain, whom he split the No. 42 with.

With the ride at GMS all to himself, it will be interesting to see how he capitalizes on the opportunity.

Justin Haley

How about a dark horse? Haley enters the 2019 season, relatively under the radar, despite being impressive in 2018.

The 19-year-old was able to capture three wins in the truck series last year, and produced a strong enough playoff run to get himself into the series’ Championship 4. He also made three starts in XFINITY for GMS, where he was one legal pass away from winning at Daytona International Speedway.

This year though, Haley will be with a different team in Kaulig Racing, whose fielded a playoff entry in each of the last three seasons and, saw a noticeable increase in performance last year, scoring 11 top-10’s with then-driver, Ryan Truex.

Gray Gaulding

A driver who actually has more experience in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Gaulding looks to develop a much more stable schedule after spending the last few seasons jumping around multiple teams.

He joins SS-Green Light Racing to drive the No. 08 Chevrolet. The team fielded an entry for Spencer Boyd in 2018, averaging a 26.9 finish.

Seeing how Gaulding has never had one season-long ride to himself, it will be interesting to see how the 20-year-old can improve being with just the one team.

Matt Mills

Mills, who ran eight races last season in XFINITY, will join B.J. McLeod Racing in 2019 to drive the No. 8 Chevrolet.

The 22-year-old did get the chance to run two races with the team in 2018, where he was able to grab his season-best qualifying effort (25th) and matched his career-best finish (27th) at Richmond Raceway.


The least experienced of all the drivers listed, Zane Smith, will join JR Motorsports for a limited schedule driving the No. 9 Chevrolet.

Despite his lack of experience, Smith is still well-accomplished, with four wins in the ARCA Racing Series and, a fifth-place finish in his truck debut last year.


TWITTER: @MitchellB66

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


ASHLEY ASKS…… John Hunter Nemechek

After winning at Kansas Speedway last year in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, John Hunter Nemechek will run the full schedule in 2019 for GMS Racing. The 21-year-old recently shared his thoughts about the upcoming season with POPULAR SPEED.

POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts on the opportunity?

JOHN HUNTER NEMECHEK: It was great last year to run in the XFINITY Series and win a race last year. So to be in a seat full-time every week, it’s only going to mean that much more. Just very blessed and thankful for the opportunity that’s been presented. Really looking forward to the future and seeing what myself and the great people at GMS with a great infrastructure can do.

PS: What are your goals and expectations?

Barry Cantrell | NKP

JOHN: I definitely want to win races and have a shot at the championship. Last year we were able to make it to the final four for Chip (Ganassi) in the owner’s championship, so hoping to be able to do that and more for Mr. Gallagher in the driver’s championship. The biggest thing is being in that final four at Homestead and having a great car. The race is going to play out how it’s going to play out, but as long as you have a shot, we’ll be satisfied.

But really just looking forward to trying to get Mr. Gallagher and the whole organization at GMS a few wins and have a good strong 2019 season.

PS: What track are you looking forward to most?

JOHN: The next one, Daytona. Looking forward to kicking the year off and keeping going each weekend with each and every race and making the most of it. That’s the biggest thing – being able to run every single week. I’ve always said my favorite race track is the one we’re at or the next one we’re going to. You have to focus on what’s upcoming and make the most of it.

PS: What are your thoughts looking back on how 2018 played out for you?

JOHN: It was definitely up and down. It was hard being in the seat for one race, and then being out a month, and then being back in for a couple. It’s hard to get into a rhythm with our guys; communication is huge. Luckily we had a great group to be around each and every weekend, whether I was driving or not, or whether it was Kyle Larson, (Jamie) McMurray, or Justin Marks. I was still at the race track listening on the radio trying to make the most out of the situation and just trying to learn.

I learned a lot from those guys and we were able to get a win. Then we were able to make a really strong run being in the car every week towards the end of the year. I think I ran six in a row, and I showed that I was a contender for sure. I think being in the car every single week is going to be a huge benefit.

PS: What track that currently isn’t on the schedule would you like to see added?

Matthew T. Thacker | NKP

JOHN: Short tracks. I love short tracks. I grew up racing late models across the country. I don’t know if there’s really one track that really stands out more than another, but short tracks are a lot of fun beating and banging. I’ve always enjoyed Martinsville in the Camping World Truck Series so it’d be cool to have a triple header there under the lights one day.

PS: If you were in charge of NASCAR for one day, what is one change that you would make?

JOHN: To tell you the honest truth, I don’t know the answer to that question. I feel we have a great structure in NASCAR with continued changes throughout the years and getting back now to where it used to be. I think going back to more short tracks, like I said, would be awesome; just being able to run different local events would be awesome. I think it’d be an outstanding show for sure.

PS: We’ve seen a lot of talk recently about drivers wanting to try different series and cars. Is there anything on your wish list?

JOHN: Anything and everything. I know that I’ve wanted to drive a midget talking to Chase Briscoe, Christopher Bell, and Kyle Larson, or a sprint car talking to Josh Wise. I feel like that’d be a blast being able to go run there one time. It was neat to see Jimmie (Johnson) do the seat swap with Fernando (Alonso). That was really cool being able to see Jimmie run an F1 car. I always thought being able to run an IndyCar or F1 car would be awesome one day. Hopefully the goal is to make it to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, but I’d love to be able to pull the double one day running the Indy 500 and Coke 600. We just have to make it there first.


FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

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


OBSERVATIONS: Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway

Although the first round of the NASCAR XFINITY Series playoffs went smoothly with the expected drivers transferring to the next round, it appears as though the trend will not continue without some rocky waters.

The first 37 laps at Kansas Speedway on Saturday were anything but ordinary, as proved by the drivers’ comments with Matt Tifft asking, “What was in everybody’s coffee this morning?” Spencer Gallagher put it perfectly after his tire failure, that “you get one wire crossed, and everything goes to hell,” which may spell the playoff bracket for many now. 

A slip by Justin Allgaier on the first lap getting loose while battling for second took out himself, along with fellow playoff contenders Christopher Bell, Austin Cindric, and Cole Custer. Custer was the only driver who was able to continue, but that was with heavy damage and no power steering. 

To put this in perspective, Bell and Allgaier each entered this round more than 25 points over the cut-off line. Their advantage is now wiped out just like that, with Bell hanging on by five as Allgaier is now below. Custer could still make up his gap to fourth, but it will take some luck – after this race, though, anything is possible. Cindric, meanwhile, is pretty much in must-win territory ranked 43 points behind. 

Ultimately, as Jeff Burton and Steve LeTarte emphasized in the booth, this opened the door for somebody to take advantage and lock themselves in. No driver was able to do that, as John Hunter Nemechek scored his first career victory instead. It wasn’t a cake-walk though, as the multiple grooves of Kansas produced a thrilling battle for the lead between Nemechek and Daniel Hemric.

Ross Chastain went out and took the No. 42 car to victory lane for Chip Ganassi Racing, and now Nemechek has done the same. A lot of people have discussed Chip Ganassi wanting to have Chastain in the seat more next year virtue of his success, but could this turn the tables in Nemechek’s favor? Certainly he put together the best job audition possible.

Hemric, meanwhile, was the highest of the playoff contenders with a runner-up ahead of Elliott Sadler; the pair now rank at the top of the standings with a small cushion. The more surprising factor with these two is neither has yet to win a race this year, but don’t be surprised if they do in the next three weeks. 

Hemric’s championship chances may take a hit as it will be interesting to see what NASCAR does after his car was found too low in post-race inspection. Deemed an L1 infraction in the XFINITY Series, it is worth from 10 points up to 40 points when penalties have been given this season.  Currently 23 points ahead of the cut-off line, any value in the window could play a factor moving forward.



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


John Hunter Nemechek scores first NASCAR Xfinity win; early wreck scrambles Playoffs

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – John Hunter Nemechek grabbed his first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory in a race that threw the championship battle into chaos.

Pulling away with three laps after the final restart on Lap 169 of 200, Nemechek took the checkered flag 5.200 seconds ahead of Daniel Hemric to win the Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway, the venue where his father, Joe Nemechek, won his final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race in 2004.

Though Nemechek fell far behind Hemric after sliding through his pit box during a green-flag stop on Lap 150, he caught a break when Vinnie Miller stalled near the exit from pit road to cause the seventh and final caution on Lap 164.

Nemechek powered his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet from sixth place on the restart and passed Hemric for good after a side-by-side battle on Lap 171.

“When that caution came, I knew we had a chance,” Nemechek said. “Luckily, Daniel and I raced each other hard and clean all day. We got the track position, and this thing was on rails today. I feel like we’ve been contending for wins all year. We just haven’t pulled through.

“To check the first one off-that’s the hardest one to get. Hopefully, we can go on. We’re racing for the owners’ championship at Homestead.”

Nearly 200 laps before Nemechek crossed the finish line, however, a shocking, monumental crash jolted the hopes of four title contenders and turned the Playoff standings upside-down.

Third-place starter Justin Allgaier, second in points, got loose in the second corner on Lap 1 and clipped the No. 20 Toyota of series leader Christopher Bell, turning Bell’s car into the outside wall. Allgaier’s No. 7 Chevrolet bounced off Bell’s Camry like a pinball and collected the No. 22 Ford of Playoff driver Austin Cindric.

Allgaier and Cindric were unable to continue. Bell’s team tried in vain to repair his Toyota, but Bell retired after completing two laps. Also damaged in the first-lap incident was the No. 00 Ford of Cole Custer, which fell 10 laps down while his team tried to fix the power steering.

Custer earned a hard-fought 26th-place finish but fell to seventh in the Playoff standings.

“I was the cause of the incident, unfortunately,” a rueful Allgaier said after exiting the infield care center. “That one’s on me. I’m super disappointed for everybody involved.

“Not only did we wreck our day but a lot of the other competitors. Hate it for those guys. Hopefully we can get to Texas next week and rebound from it.”

The wreck wiped out the Playoff point advantage Bell and Allgaier held at the start of the Round of 8. Bell, Allgaier and Cindric finished 37th, 38th and 39th, respectively.

“I didn’t really see much of anything,” Bell said of the accident. “Just kind of driving around there. Just heartbroken. This is one of my favorite race tracks we go to, and especially after the run I had last year (his first Xfinity win), this is the race that I was looking forward to whenever we started the year back in February.”

Bell nevertheless was well aware of the benefit his six series wins have given him, having entered the round with 44 Playoff points, five more than Allgaier.

“That’s the beauty of this format,” Bell said. “NASCAR’s done such a great job at giving us something to race for during the regular season. We’ve done our job winning six races this year, so we’ve accumulated some bonus points, so hopefully that can carry us through this bad stretch here and maybe we can find ourselves in Victory Lane later on in this round.

“If not, hopefully the bonus points will get us there.”

Cindric, who came to Kansas in eighth place and leaves in the same position, didn’t have the luxury of a points cushion.

“I’m thankful to still be in the Playoffs and still have a shot,” said Cindric. “I felt like we had a shot to win today. We’ll move on, have a week to think about it, go to Texas. Looks like we’re going to have to win (to advance).”

Hemric, who led 128 laps, leaves Kansas as the series leader, 23 points above the cut line. Allgaier dropped below the Playoff cut line behind Matt Tifft in fifth. Bell stayed one point to the good Tifft, who finished sixth on Saturday as one of eight drivers on the lead lap.

Elliott Sadler ran third to hold second in the standings, very much alive in his quest to win a first championship in his last season of full-time competition. Tyler Reddick, Sadler’s JR Motorsports teammate, came home fourth and is third in the series standings.

Shane Lee finished a career-best fourth in his 10th start of the season.


John Hunter Nemechek Reflects On 2018

John Hunter Nemechek has undoubtedly had an interesting year.

The 21-year-old has stayed busy despite not having a full-time ride in any of NASCAR’s top-three series, running 13 races in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and, making his first 13 starts in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.

“I feel like it’s gone well. We’ve shown speed each and every week, I feel like our team, and our cars are fast each and every week,” Nemechek told POPULAR SPEED. “There’s been some learning curves definitely on my end, as well as on the team’s end. We’ve been in contention to win races. We just haven’t pulled one out yet. We keep getting closer each and every week we’re at the race track. I look to forward to gaining more experience and hopefully climbing the ladder.”

The inconsistency in rides hasn’t affected his performance though, winning at Martinsville and finishing third or better in his last three races in the NEMCO Motorsports truck, while collecting three top-five’s and six top-10’s with Chip Ganassi Racing in XFINITY.

“I’m still able to run almost every week and turn laps and gain experience and anytime you can be on the race track, you are learning something for sure, and that’s what I really like as a driver,” Nemechek said. “If I could run double or triple duty every weekend, I would. The more races, the better in my opinion. It’s definitely been a challenge at certain race tracks like my first time running double duty, but at the same time, it definitely helps out.”

With the arrival of the playoffs, and despite is ineligible to compete for either of the driver championships, that doesn’t necessarily mean he isn’t focusing on winning a title, or two.

“We’re wanting to win owner’s championships in both the XFINITY and the Truck Series,” Nemechek said. “I think that we have a shot at doing that. I’m looking forward to running those races in the playoffs in the XFINITY car and the truck and, just trying to make the best out of every start.”

As far as 2019 is concerned, when about asked if there was anything he could comment on his plans for the next season, Nemechek had this to say;

“As of right now, no. We’re working hard trying to get things done but, looking forward to the future and what it holds for myself and our teams.”


TWITTER: @MitchellB66

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


OBSERVATIONS: UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway

In previous years, the UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway was a must-see attraction for fans. Now, though, it seems that the half-mile has lost it’s sparkle. In all honesty, Thursday night’s race was just average.

The first two stages of the event left you looking for some action, waiting to see battles for position, but instead stuck sitting on the edge of your seat hoping the second groove came in so it would happen. All in the process, you had John Hunter Nemechek cruising away from the field which does nothing to add to the event.

The second half of the race, though, gave you something to chomp on when the leaders got hung up in lap traffic, having to dodge left and right at times to figure out the best way through. Combine with Nemechek’s late motor issues, along with a late-charge from Stewart Frisen, and this event will probably stick around in your memory longer than it should’ve based on the beginning.

While you may question where Bristol’s magic was lost – and how much you want to scream about the reconfiguration that took place a couple years ago still, there’s is no denying Johnny Sauter‘s form right now. He drove a flawless race, and took advantage of Nemechek’s slip-up at the right time. Combined with four victories before this week, and he has to be entering the playoffs as the favorite. If he can survive the wild car first round – which he admits being afraid about, then it may be GMS Racing celebrating at year-end once again.

Nemechek should also snag a win before this year is over, too. This marks the second time this season a late-race mechanical failure has lost him the event. Anybody recall Chicagoland Speedway when he dominated until the last lap and lost to Brett Moffitt?

Frisen is also knocking on the door of that win, almost kicking it open as he was chasing Sauter down at the end and maybe five more laps you would’vs seen a different winner. It’s been a common sight as he has finished second three times this year now.

Shout-out to Todd Gilliland for the late charge through the field to finish fifth after a mid-race spin. Just imagine if he hadn’t made that mistake. We may have seen his first career win, and watched Matt Crafton miss the playoffs. 

After left with the feeling of being let down, there’s hope going into the first round of the playoffs. Canadian Tire Motorsports Park has become the home of dramatics since joining the schedule, Las Vegas Motor Speedway produced a memorable event in the spring, and Talladega Superspeedway is always unpredictable. 



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


Pair of XFINITY Series Crew Chiefs Suspended

A pair of the top-five finishers from this past weekend’s Lake Region 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway received a penalty from NASCAR.

The No. 18 Toyota of Ryan Preece and the No. 42 Chevrolet of John Hunter Nemechek were found in violation of section Post-Qualifying and Post-Race Front Body Inspection Heights, which pertain for post-race height measurements. Essentially, their cars did not meet NASCAR’s allowed tolerances.

As a result, crew chiefs Eric Phillips and Mike Shiplett were fined $10,000, and suspended from the next NASCAR XFINITY Series event, which is this weekend’s U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway. Additionally, they lost 10 regular season driver and owner points. 

It marks just the second crew chief suspension in the NASCAR XFINITY Series this year, after Jason Ratcliff was suspended for Christopher Bell‘s car being in violation of the same rule. 



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


OBSERVATIONS: Overtons 225 at Chicagoland Speedway

First came the late race slide job attempt by Noah Gragson at Gateway Motorsports Park. Then came a crazy late-race restart at Iowa Speedway handing a victory over to Justin Haley. So when there was a last lap pass at Chicagoland Speedway, don’t blame us for not being surprised.

John Hunter Nemechek quickly asserted himself as the dominant driver on Friday night, taking the lead early in the third stage and not looking back, despite being challenged by both Gragson and Brett Moffitt. It seemed that he was well on his way to his second victory of 2018, and then his truck sputtered. After his gas man failed to put in enough fuel on the final stop, Nemechek ran out of gas just three-quarters of a lap short of victory. Rather than celebrating a win, he was left to coast to the line in seventh.

The beneficiary of Nemechek’s problem was Moffitt, who made the pass and put his No. 16 Toyota Tundra in victory lane for the third time this year. It seems easy enough, but this win as far from that. The Hattori Racing Enterprises guys weren’t initially set to be there this weekend, looking for sponsorship to make the event that they only received on Tuesday evening. Sometimes when it’s meant to be, the pieces just come to together in a magical way, and that could describe this win.

Seeing the contrast between Moffitt and Nemechek was summed up perfectly by Michael Waltrip in saying, “the thrill of victory, along with the heartbreak of defeat.” 

Ben Rhodes was able to score a runner-up finish, which is a welcome rebound considering the bad luck with mechanical gremlins and such his team has endured through the past several weeks. Currently sitting in the coveted eighth spot – last playoff slot, any point that he can get is crucial. A 42-point cushion over Myatt Snider will have him more comfortable entering the off-week now.

Johnny Sauter‘s consistency continued with a third, followed by Gragson in fourth – but more on that later. Brandon Jones rounded out the top-five as he made his way to the front late.

The contrast of success and failure can be used to describe more than just the final lap, as other drivers saw their success quickly turned upside down.

Todd Gilliland was looking set for a solid top-five when a flat tire sent him down pit road with seven laps to go. After missing four races due to not being old enough, he has gotten a playoff waiver from NASCAR; though one thing is missing – a win.

Stewart Friesen has shown every ability to win a race through this season, running up front on a weekly basis and contending for wins. However, he has yet to breakthrough. Instead, incidents – whether of his own making or someone else’s – have seen him spin around or crash in each of the last three weeks. With the playoffs growing nearer, finding consistency will be critical.

Consistency and success haven’t been a problem for Moffitt, and now his third win makes him an obvious contender to consider for the championship. You also can’t skip over Johnny Sauter with his victories and the fact he leads the standings, 65 points ahead of Noah Gragson.

Compared to multiple wins by the others, Gragson has only visited victory lane once this season. It hasn’t been for lack of effort though, as his No. 18 Toyota Tundra has been fast on a weekly basis. Though when it comes to the intermediate tracks, it seems he leads laps in the first two stages and then fades for a decent top-five in the last section of the event.

The sophomore expressed his thoughts on the matter post-race, saying that he is the quarterback for the team, and that lies on his shoulders. It’s common for drivers to shoulder more blame than they should, and that should be considered here as the handling on the truck falls on everybody to make the adjustments necessary. However, if Rudy Fugle isn’t getting the feedback he needs from Gragson, how is that possible? 

Each year, Kyle Busch Motorsports has seen one of their young drivers be right in the midst of championship contention. Gragson should be no different based on speed alone, but small improvements like feedback will be necessary moving towards the end of the 2018 campaign. 



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