Categories
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.

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Categories
News

Atlanta Motor Speedway Repave Put on Hold

In a move popular with drivers and fans alike, Atlanta Motor Speedway announced on Tuesday that they had put repaving plans for the 1.54-mile oval on hold until at least after the 2018 season.

The decision comes after competitors protested in March against the repave throughout the weekend. After a top-five finish, Matt Crafton said, “If anybody’s listening at Atlanta Motor Speedway, I think we need to start a driver’s council. Please do not repave this race track. This is by far the coolest race track that we race on – you can move everywhere. Did you see where we ran? I mean on the yellow line, the middle of the race track, against the fence – it was great racing, and that’s what it’s all about – when you have good old asphalt like that and put on a great show for everybody.”

Since its last repave and reconfiguration in 1997, AMS has provided exciting races for NASCAR fans due to the aged pavement creating multiple racing grooves.

“We appreciate all of the input we have received from key individuals in the NASCAR industry, as well as our customers,” said Ed Clark, Atlanta Motor Speedway president. “The overwhelming majority have urged us to hold off on paving so that we can enjoy at least one more weekend of high-speed slipping and sliding in 2018 before the new surface is installed.”

With the repaving project on hold, AMS will continue to maintain the current surface to prevent any further deterioration, while further evaluating the track’s surface after its 2018 race weekend before determining whether to go forward with the repaving project.

Next season will mark AMS’s 58th year on the NASCAR schedule.

 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.

Categories
Commentary

THREE TAKEAWAYS: Larson Keeps Momentum Rolling

Wild, unpredictable, and exciting are three of the superlatives you could use to describe Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series Service King 300 at Auto Club Speedway.

Kyle Larson was able to get away from Joey Logano and Kyle Busch on a late-race restart with about five laps to go and score the victory.

 

Larson Remains Hot:

Larson, currently the hottest driver in the sport, kept the momentum rolling scoring his sixth career NXS win and second career win at Auto Club Speedway.

He led 21 laps on the afternoon, including much of the final 20 lap sprint to the finish. It didn’t come easy, however, as he and Logano jousted back and forth for the lead.

Larson will start from the pole in Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race as he looks for his first career weekend sweep.

 

Close but Not Quite for Logano:

Logano started Saturday’s race from the pole and led much of the first segment of the race until a pit road speeding penalty on Lap 31 sent him back to the tail end of the field.

Undeterred, Logano charged through the field going from 35th to second by the end of Segment two. Trouble found the No. 22 again on Lap 96 as the car would fell off the jack during a pit stop. He was able to work his way quickly back to the lead until Larson passed him for good.

Logano picked up 60 positions from start to finish on Saturday; however, the No. 22 Ford remains winless since Texas in November of 2015.

 

Byron Shows His Mettle:

William Byron is proving he is a bonafide star as he scored his second top-five finish of 2017 with a fifth on Saturday. Not bad for a rookie, who hadn’t stepped foot behind the wheel an XFINITY car till this season.

Byron remains second in the championship standings behind his JR Motorsports teammate Elliott Sadler heading into the off week before Texas Motor Speedway.

 

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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

New Race Package in Place at Indianapolis

There will be a new race package for July’s XFINITY Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as announced by NASCAR on Thursday.

The new package consists of three modifications that NASCAR hopes will improve competition at the 2.5-mile oval.

The Indy package was created after Richard Childress Racing, Roush Fenway Racing, and Kaulig Racing participated in a test in October at IMS.

Specifically designed for Indianapolis, the modifications consist of a taller rear spoiler and splitter package, aeroducts on the lower front bumper area, and a 7/8th-inch restrictor plate currently used for superspeedway events at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.

“We (develop) the analytical package and come to some conclusions,” Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR Senior Vice President, Innovation and Racing Development,  “But then we also need to go on the track and verify this. So this approach has been a two-step approach, analytical creation of the package and then on-track verification.

“We race at 29 tracks (across all three national series), and they’re all very special,” Stefanyshyn added. “Indianapolis has a long history; it’s a wonderful track. Our objective is to give our fans the best possible show we can. We are very proud of being able to participate at Indy; we want to put our best foot forward. We believe we have come up with a package that gives us the best opportunity to do that.”

Aeroducts will also make their debut during the July event at IMS. NASCAR hopes these will create more horsepower for trailing cars, allowing more passing.

“We saw the cars were closer together, but we weren’t able to create some passing until we introduced the aeroducts,” he said. “That’s the main purpose of the ducts, to give the trailing car more of an advantage … we always hear about clean air and how the leader has clean air. Our objective here is to try to give the trail car more benefit.”

Stefanyshyn added without the aeroducts, cars running down long straightaways such as those at IMS hit a wall of air, which creates “a significant horsepower deficit” when they get within approximately one car-length of the lead car.

The NXS has competed at IMS since 2012, and the lack of competitive races has been a major concern to not only NASCAR but IMS Speedway officials as well.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., co-owner of JR Motorsports says he is intrigued to see how the changes will work.

“I’m curious to see (the changes),” he said. “I think NASCAR sees this as an idea on how to fix racing in general at Indianapolis.”

At this time NASCAR says there are no plans to put this package in place at any other track or in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

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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

Houff Set for XFINITY Debut with Precision Performance Motorsports

Precision Performance Motorsports announced Tuesday that Quin Houff will make his NASCAR XFINITY Series debut driving the No. 46 Chevrolet in the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 22nd.

Houff, who currently competes in the ARCA Racing Series will also drive for PPM at Richmond International Raceway on April 29th. Houff got his start in Limited Late Models and worked his way to the CARS Tour and ARCA. He believes his experience in various motorsport disciplines will help him in his NXS debut.

“I am very excited to be making my XFINITY Series debut with Precision Performance Motorsports at Bristol this upcoming April, as well as Richmond the following week,” said Houff. “Growing up, I watched these two particular races from the stands and dreamed about being one of those drivers one day, so to make that a reality really is a true blessing.

“The PPM team seems to be the perfect fit for me and the team, as we both are going out there to get noticed and turn heads. I look forward to working with Mark Setzer (crew chief) and the rest of the guys as I gain experience in one of NASCAR’s top levels. I plan on taking this opportunity and turning it into as much as I can. Hopefully, we perform up to expectations and can find more partners and opportunities along the way.”

Setzer says he looks forward to working with him in his debut.

“We are excited to welcome Quin into our PPM family,” said Setzer. “We are proud to be a part of his XFINITY Series debut at Bristol Motor Speedway. His passion for the sport and past racing success will be brought to the forefront as he races against some of the best drivers in NASCAR and we know he’ll do great.

“We are really looking forward to going back to Bristol where we have had many great runs with our Collins Engine Works-powered Chevrolet Camaros. Our past success working with rookie drivers has shown, and our expectations for Quin as a driver are as high as any we’ve had. He’s a true racer, and we expect a fun and exciting weekend of racing with him.”

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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
Commentary

Three Takeaways: DC Solar 200

Justin Allgaier snapped an 80-race winless streak by winning the DC Solar 200 on Saturday afternoon at Phoenix International Raceway.

The win was Allgaier’s first since 2012 and secured his spot in this season’s XFINITY Series playoffs.

Allgaier cashes in:

In addition to the victory, Allgaier also took home the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus.

Allgaier’s weekend was about as flawless as it gets. After qualifying fifth, he ran in the top five all day while leading a race-high 85 laps.

Momentum now appears to clearly be on Allgaier’s side with a win and back-to-back top-five finishes heading into next week’s race at Auto Club Speedway.

JR Motorsports flexes muscle:

JR Motorsports as a team enjoyed success across the board in Saturday’s race at Phoenix.

In addition to Allgaier’s win, William Byron finished fourth after starting from the pole, and Elliott Sadler finished fifth. Michael Annett ended up ninth.

Sadler maintains an 11-point lead over Byron in the championship standings heading into Fontana next week.

If the early season success is any indication it appears that JRM could be well-represented come November at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the Championship 4.

Suarez’s day ends early:

Saturday was none too kind to reigning XFINITY champion Daniel Suarez.

After failing to get through pre-qualifying inspection, he was forced to start from the rear before the green flag.

Suarez quickly made his way up into the top 20 by Lap 10 but his day ended on the very next lap after hard contact with the outside wall leaving him to settle for a 39th place finish.

“I don’t really know what happened. I just know that I wasn’t racing yet,” said Suarez. “The 51 (Jeremy Clements) hit me in the right rear, and then I had a flat tire, and I hit the wall. Just a little disappointed at the way that those guys race back there. It’s way, way too early in the race to be racing like that. We have more than 150 laps to go, so it’s way, way too early.”

 EMAIL JUSTIN at tuckerjustin65@yahoo.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

Golden Opportunity: NXS Regulars Have Chance to Shine

With a limited presence of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regulars in the NASCAR XFINITY Series field, this weekend is a golden opportunity for series. Perhaps even one of them could use it to their advantage and to try to earn a win to punch their ticket to the XFINITY Series Playoffs which start at Kentucky in September.

Notably, Heavy Hitters such as all-time NXS wins leader Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, and Kyle Larson will not be a part of the field for Saturday’s DC Solar 200.

The Cup Series regulars have dominated the last two NXS races. At Atlanta, the Cup Series regulars led all 163 laps with Busch leading 26 to score the victory. At Las Vegas, it was more of the same as Logano dominated throughout leading 106 of the 200 laps. Coming into this weekend’s race at Phoenix, the Cup Series regulars have won the last nine NXS races at the one-mile oval.

With the door of opportunity open, let’s take a look at who could contend for the win this weekend.

Justin Allgaier has proven that he is one of the best when it comes to short track racing. Allgaier scored his first career series win at Bristol in 2010 and has been up front in his last four NXS races at Phoenix, scoring four top-fives with a best finish of second coming in 2013. He has only one finish outside the top-15 in his career at PIR. So far in 2017, Allgaier has one top-five finish coming at Las Vegas this past weekend.

Allgaier’s JR Motorsports teammate Elliott Sadler figures to be in the hunt as well once the green flag falls on Saturday. The 2012 Spring race winner has been a picture of consistency in the last eight races at Phoenix, finishing inside the top-10 in six of those races. This year has started out slow for Sadler, finishing 24th at Daytona, but he has rebounded to finish fifth and eighth respectively the last two races.

Darrell Wallace Jr. has found Phoenix International Raceway tough sledding in his first four NXS starts at the one-mile oval. However, Wallace Jr. comes into this weekend off the heels of back-to-back top-10 finishes at Atlanta and Las Vegas.

Series rookie Cole Custer might hold the winning formula at Phoenix. Custer has enjoyed success in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, winning there in 2014, and also has posted a top-five and two top-10 finishes in Truck Series competition there. Saturday’s race at Phoenix will mark Custer’s NXS debut at the track.

Even though the heavy hitters aren’t in the field this week, there is still plenty of competition being offered by the Cup Series regulars led by 2013 NXS champion Austin Dillon and the reigning series champion Daniel Suarez. Erik Jones will also be in the field as will Ryan Blaney and Ty Dillon.

While the opportunity is there for the NXS regulars, the competition and intensity will still be ramped up as the Cup regulars look to spoil the party for the third consecutive weekend.

EMAIL JUSTIN at tuckerjustin65@yahoo.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

Las Vegas Motor Speedway to Add Second Cup Series Race in 2018

Rumors have been swirling in the days leading up to this weekend’s Kobalt 400 that Las Vegas Motor Speedway could host a second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series weekend for the 2018 season.

On Wednesday, rumors became a reality as LVMS announced with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority that the track will indeed host a second MENCS race as part of a triple-header weekend in the fall next season that will include the Camping World Truck Series and XFINITY Series.

LVMS will become the first track in NASCAR history to host two triple-header weekends with all three national touring series in action on those weekends.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Speedway Motorsports and Las Vegas Motor Speedway to create a NASCAR spectacle worthy of the greatest racing in the world and the Entertainment Capital of the World,” said Speedway Motorsports, Inc. President and Chief Executive Officer Marcus Smith.

“It’s taken a tremendous amount of work to make this happen, and we are very thankful to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and NASCAR for their support in our endeavor to create a triple-header NASCAR weekend in such a world-class destination.”

LVMS President Chris Powell said a second MENCS race weekend at the track has been a long time in the making and is thankful for the opportunity.

“We’re honored that NASCAR has entrusted us with a second NASCAR weekend,” Powell said. “We’ve pursued a second NASCAR premier series race weekend for quite some time, so this news is monumental for everyone at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as well as everyone in our wonderful city.”

The second Cup Series weekend comes by way of the September Truck Series/Cup Series doubleheader at New Hampshire in September and the standalone XFINITY Series race held at Kentucky Speedway in September.

“Las Vegas and Las Vegas Motor Speedway have become great destinations for NASCAR fans,” NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell said. “The experience is unique to any other in our sport. We look forward to having NASCAR racing there for two race weekends in 2018.”

LVMS has hosted 59 races across NASCAR’s top three series with the first Cup Series race being held at the track in 1998 which was won by Mark Martin. Since then 11 different drivers have etched their name on an MENCS winner’s trophy at Las Vegas with the most recent being Brad Keselowski last season.

“Over the years, Las Vegas has become a major sports city as a popular destination for a variety of championship and professional sports events, and today we are proud to add a second NASCAR Cup race to that roster. Las Vegas, NASCAR and Las Vegas Motor Speedway have developed a strong and successful partnership, and we are certain this second race will prove to be another great success,” said Rossi Ralenkotter, President, and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Last year’s race weekend at LVMS generated an incredible $140 million dollars in economic revenue for the city with almost 100,00 fans coming from out of town.

“Las Vegas is the ideal destination for a second NASCAR Cup race, and this addition will delight the thousands of fans who love visiting Southern Nevada to watch their favorite drivers in action,” said Lawrence Weekly, chairman of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board and Clark County commissioner. “As a city, we are uniquely positioned to provide sports fans with a top-notch experience, and our energy and passion are the perfect complements to NASCAR.”

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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
News

Suspensions, Points Penalties Levied Following Atlanta

Following last weekend’s NASCAR event Atlanta Motor Speedway, three teams have been handed down penalties.

The No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing team of AJ Allmendinger was assessed an L1-level penalty for lug nuts not properly installed following Sunday’s Cup Series races.

Allmendinger’s crew chief Randall Burnett was fined $65,000 and has been suspended for the next three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races. The team was also docked 35 owner’s and driver’s points. The penalty drops Allmendinger from 11th to 35th in the driver’s standings heading into this weekend’s race at Las Vegas.

The No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing XFINITY Series team was assessed an L1 penalty for failing to meet ride height requirements following Saturday’s XFINITY Series race at Atlanta.

Crew chief Scott Graves was fined $10,000 and was suspended for this weekend’s XFINITY Series race at Las Vegas. The No. 18 team was also docked 10 owner’s series points. Additionally, it makes the race victory an “encumbered finish,” meaning playoff-point perks from the win are meaningless in the XFINITY Series Owner’s Points  Standings as part of NASCAR’s new rules for 2017.

The No. 23 GMS Racing Truck Series team, which finished fifth with Chase Elliott, also was penalized following Saturday’s Truck Series race at Atlanta.

Crew chief Jeff Stankiewicz was fined $5,000 and suspended from the next Camping World Truck Series points race after the truck failed to meet post-race ride height requirements. Additionally, the team was assessed a safety violation for having lug nuts improperly installed. Stankiewicz was fined an additional $2,500 for that violation.

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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
Trucks

Coming of Age, Bell Shining Bright in 2017

If Saturday’s Active Pest Control 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway is any indication, 2017 might be a coming out party for Christopher Bell.

Bell, a 22-year-old native of Norman, OK dominated from the drop of the green flag leading a race-high 99 laps en route to his first win of the 2017 campaign.

Saturday’s win was redemption following last year at Atlanta. It appeared as though Bell was headed to victory lane then when disaster struck with just seven laps to go.

After leading 42 laps, Bell crashed off of turn four, eliminating any chance to win and leaving him with a 26th place finish. Bell said the race from one year ago was fresh on his mind coming to Atlanta this week.

“Well, this was definitely a race I had circled ever since we left here last February, but to be able to be see good here last year and then to come back and be as dominant as what we were was really cool for me and it was just kind of a dream weekend ever since we unloaded.” he said.

Bell said the truck was fast from the get-go and was able to improve throughout the race. He also said being able to restart at the bottom after being stuck back in traffic was critical in winning the race.

“We were really, really fast right off the truck and everything we did to it just made it better and better and better throughout practice,” Bell said. “As soon as they dropped the green in the race, it was just really, really good and then kind of got shuffled there on the restart and got stalled out back there in fifth or sixth, but whenever we were able to restart back on the bottom, we were able to get right back up there.”

While it may be redemption for Bell, it also shows the growth in him as a driver in just over a year. Last year, he started off the season struggling with a series of bad finishes, as noted by four finishes outside of the top-10 in the first seven races despite being fast each week. Though after a couple of low points through the summer last year, it seemed growth as a driver began to happen as consistent finishes were being put together each week, and he qualified as one of the Championship 4 for the Camping World Truck Series Chase.

Now with those lessons put in place to start this year, Bell finished eighth at Daytona despite two incidents, and a win at Atlanta to start off this season, putting him at the top of the points standings.

The early success has been a product of Bell’s growth, but also the team bringing fast trucks to the track, as per team owner Kyle Busch.

“I think it’s just a true testament to everybody at KBM that does such a great job building fast trucks, you know? I think that that’s the first opportunity you’ve got to give these younger drivers and then from there, they have to have the know with all to be able to go out there and succeed in that equipment and we saw it last year,” said Busch.

“Christopher’s now won three years in a row in the Truck Series, which is really cool. We saw it last year with William (Byron) being successful and being able to move on and Christopher is now kind of taking the reins of KBM and being the elder statesman here and the experienced guy in being able to kind of be our lead dog for the championship, so certainly it’s been really fun to watch him and to see him progress from last year into this year and to see the calmness and everything even how crazy Daytona was to see how he came out of that and then to come here and have the focus to just go out there and be fast right off the truck and do all the right things in the race.”

 EMAIL JUSTIN at tuckerjustin65@yahoo.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.