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News

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

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: https://twitter.com/Cole_Cusumano_

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.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Dillon Optimistically Looking For Chase Advancement After Kansas

Austin Dillon’s push to the Round of 8 of the Chase for the Sprint Cup Series championship was rejuvenated at Kansas Speedway after a 32nd-place result at Charlotte Motor Speedway — the opening Round of 12 race — jeopardized his championship hopes last week.

Dillon finished sixth in the Hollywood Casino 400 on Sunday and matched his career-best result at the track from earlier this season.

The Kansas race marked his second top 10 of the Chase, and he’s now tied with Joey Logano in points for the final transfer spot in the playoff standings heading to Talladega Superspeedway.

For the second consecutive week, the Richard Childress Racing team played the pit strategy game by changing two tires instead of four to gain position off pit road under caution. Last week, a two-tire stop resulted in Dillon crashing on the ensuing restart, which also collected fellow first-time Chase contender Chase Elliott.

This week, it set up the No. 3 for one of its best finishes of the season.

Dillon restarted on the front row again with less than 50 laps remaining but got shuffled away from the lead. He doesn’t see himself as a championship favorite, so any further advancement in the Chase is all gravy for the RCR bunch.

“We tried something with two tires but we didn’t have the speed there,” Dillon said of the restart. “We have nothing to lose, and I’m proud of this team for giving us a chance. I’m very optimistic and look forward to racing at Talladega.”

‘Dega is essentially the wild card event in the Chase. It’s the elimination race for the Round of 12, and it’s notorious for massive pile-ups and the potential of altering the look of the Chase grid.

If Dillon can survive 500 miles at NASCAR’s largest speedway, like he did in the spring with a gritty third-place finish, he may find himself in the third round of the Chase.

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The5thJohnHav

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

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

RAPID REACTION: Harvick Continues to Thrive in Squeamish Chase Situations

Kevin Harvick won the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on Sunday and will advance to the Round of 8 in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Series championship for the third year in a row.

The Kansas victory is his fourth of the season and second of the Chase; his first Chase win came at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last month.

Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards looked like the class of the field at the mile-and-a-half track, leading 116 and 61 laps respectively, but the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 was able to seal the deal in the end.

He and Jimmie Johnson are the two drivers that have won in the Round of 12 and will go to Talladega Superspeedway without sweat dripping down their backs with the fear of elimination at the 2.66-mile speedway.

NASCAR’s Most Clutch Driver?

You can certainly make that argument for Harvick. He was in must-win situations at Phoenix International Raceway in 2014 and Dover International Speedway in 2015 and took the checkered flags in both races. Now, he’s a Kansas winner in 2016.

Although Kansas isn’t an elimination race, it’s treated as one because of the unpredictability that Talladega notoriously produces. Harvick will go to the 500-mile event with an eased mind and a weight lifted off his shoulders — a weight that six other drivers will have the burden of bearing.

Sliding Out of Chase Contention?

Brad Keselowski got loose on the exit of Turn 4 on Lap 190 and with the unintentional help of Denny Hamlin, the driver he was passing, his No. 2 spun and slid through through the frontstretch grass, tearing the front fenders right off the Team Penske Ford.

Keselowski will head to Talladega 11 points behind the Chase cutoff. He’s not in a must-win situation but remember — he won this race two years ago when his back was against the wall in the 2014 Chase to keep his season alive. Can the Blue Deuce driver get it done again?

Elliott’s Lead Goes Up In Smoke

Chase Elliott took the lead from Harvick just past the halfway point, but it was short lived. After a cycle of green-flag stops, the No. 24 began to emit smoke from the left rear tire and was forced to pit.

Elliott restarted deep in the field and scraped the wall a couple of times as he was stuck in traffic. With 23 laps to go, he had a second rear tire failure and made another trip to pit road. The 20-year-old driver led four laps on the day but finished three laps down in 31st place.

The driver who won two of the first three poles at restrictor plate tracks this season will look to rebound next week at the final plate race of 2016. He’s 25 points behind the cutoff for eighth in the standings so he’ll need to stay out of trouble and hope for luck to go his way if he wants to make the third playoff round.

Talladega Hopefuls

Austin Dillon, Hamlin, Elliott, and Keselowski are the drivers looking from outside into the Chase. Keselowski has four career wins at the upcoming track, including the spring race earlier this year. Hamlin, this season’s Daytona 500 winner, has one career victory at ‘Dega and first-year Chasers Dillon and Elliott are still looking for their first career Cup win.

Talladega is the wild card race of the Chase for the championship. “The Big One” is inevitable at NASCAR’s largest superspeedway and if the crash fest that occurred in spring race is any indication of how the upcoming race will be, then everyone except Johnson and Harvick will be on edge in the week leading up to the Alabama 500.

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The5thJohnHav

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

Categories
Commentary

RAPID REACTION: Unpredictable Kansas

The Go Bowling 400 at Kansas Speedway was filled with excitement, surprises and some moments that left you in disbelief. Pit road issues have been the talk of the season, and once again dominated the conversation Saturday.

Truex Can’t Close the Deal

Martin Truex Jr. led 172 laps during Saturday’s race. The night was flawless for the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team until another mishap. With 52 laps to go, after green flag pit stops, Truex Jr. reported the two dreaded words: loose wheel. He had to make an unscheduled pit stop and it cost him two laps. Truex Jr. fell back to 23rd and fought to get into the free pass position.

On Lap 246, the No. 78 team earned their way back on to the lead lap with the free pass. The team ended the night with a 14th-place finish.

This is the second time this season when Truex has dominated a race and did not win.

Rising Star 

While some veterans struggled, it was a solid night for one rookie.

Ryan Blaney finished fifth, which is a season high. The No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing team earned that top-five finish, too. Blaney started in seventh and ran in the top five for most of the night.

The No. 21 team didn’t have any miscues on pit road, which played a factor in their finish Saturday night.

So far, Blaney has had an impressive start to his full-time Sprint Cup career. This is a race that the team will want to look back and build on going forward for the rest of the season.

The Risky Road 

Pit road has been the downfall for many drivers this season. Several fell victim again Saturday, leaving them no choice but to fight back for most of the night.

Pit road has not been kind to Kevin Harvick this season. Early in the race Harvick had an issue when a lug nut fell off, dropping him from second to seventh.

Harvick seemed to always gain spots on the race track before losing them on pit road. The 2014 champ had a fast car and was able to recover. He ended up challenging race winner Kyle Busch at the end of the race, but settled for yet another second-place finish.

Jimmie Johnson was penalized for speeding on pit road on Lap 236 and had to start at the tail end of the line. Although Kansas Speedway is one of Johnson’s best tracks on the circuit, Six-Time came home with a 17th-place finish.

Slow Down, Denny

Denny Hamlin had two pit road speeding penalties Saturday night.

The first penalty came on Lap 104, and the second penalty came on Lap 170.

The No. 11 team worked their way up to the fifth by Lap 241. On a restart, he tried to go three-wide between Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson, but turned sideways and collected JoeyLogano.

Hamlin’s night ended with a frustrating 37th-place result.

Emily Spink is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist.

EMAIL EMILY AT emily.spink@popularspeed.com

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

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

Categories
Editorial

GET A GRIP: Kansas Edition

Over the years, Kansas Speedway has been a game changer in the championship race. The track is one of the toughest on the schedule and doesn’t allow any room for error.

A late-race turn of events shuffled the finishing order in Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race, and a controversial battle for the lead in the Sprint Cup Series event led to the thrilling nature of the weekend that impacted the points moving forward. The best and worst moments from the weekend are recapped on this week’s list.

Four Tires

  • When @KyleBusch returned from his injury in May, few expected him to find as much success as he has. This continued in the Kansas Lottery 300 as he captured his fifth victory in the NASCAR XFINITY Series this season. The was his 75th win in the series and makes him the winningest competitor this season. For only competing in 12 events, this is an impressive feat and attests to his talent behind the wheel.
  • @JoeyLogano had one role on Sunday – play spoiler. After securing his position in the Eliminator Round in Charlotte, he could relax knowing that he would have a chance to compete for a spot among the Championship 4. To keep the momentum swing alive, the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil team treated the race like any other and went after the win. They were able to secure the victory with a late-race surge. In turn, this blocked other competitors from having the same sense of security heading into Talladega, providing the team with an advantage in the tight title race.

Two Tires

  • @RyanSiegRacing has impressed in the NASCAR XFINITY Series throughout 2015. Each week, he is able to get the most out of his equipment and often posts solid results. He had an exceptional run on Saturday, coming home eighth. This marked his best finish on a non-restrictor plate track in his career. As the season winds down, performances like this will provide the 28-year old with the confidence needed to continue improving going forward.
  • In the select NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races Ryan @Blaney has competed in this year, he has excelled. The Wood Brothers Racing driver is often up front and showing great speed and performance. After a solid qualifying effort of eighth, he raced in the top-10 throughout the afternoon. This led him to a seventh-place result, which is his best on a non-restrictor plate track in his Sprint Cup career.

No Tires

  • @BScottRacing (Brian Scott) has been on the verge of victory many times throughout the season. As he continues to search for his first trip to Victory Lane, bad luck has plagued many solid performances. This includes his run on Saturday as he consistently ran inside the top-five for much of the afternoon. He was in a position to secure another solid result on the green-white-checkered finish until his fuel tank ran dry, and he ended up 23rd.
  • After struggling in Charlotte, @DaleJr and @MattKenseth needed to enter Kansas on a mission to remain alive in the championship battle. They both knew the importance of a strong run or victory to avoid heading to Talladega needing to perform well. However, after finishing 21st and 14th respectively, their title hopes will rely on a win to advance next week. Kenseth was in a position to claim an automatic spot in the next round on Sunday until a late race turn of events sent him spinning and out of contention. Earnhardt Jr. struggled throughout the race and left in a deeper hole. While both have won at the 2.66-mile superspeedway before, it will be a whole new ballgame under the intensity of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Every championship battle features a wild card. For the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series’, that unpredictable event comes this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. With so much on the line and the potential for disaster around every corner, it will be a wild weekend featuring many moments to discuss on next week’s list.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @NASCARJason

EMAIL JASON AT jason.schultz@popularspeed.com

Categories
XFINITY

Buescher Holds His Ground Despite Rough Kansas Start

@Chris_Buescher wasn’t sure what to expect headed into Saturday afternoon’s Kansas Lottery 300. Kansas Speedway hasn’t been friendly to the Prosper, TX native, and entering as the championship leader, the team knew they just needed to survive.

It didn’t take long for the driver’s survival instincts to kick in. Shortly after the drop of the green flag, Buescher found himself in the middle of a three-wide battle, with no other than two of his championship rivals, Regan Smith and Ty Dillon. It came as no shock to him that they were racing so hard so early.

“Surprised? No. Frustrated? Yes,” said Buescher. “I thought that was a little bit ridiculous to be that early in the race on lap one and try to do that. The damage is what it is. It wasn’t smoking. It wasn’t hard enough contact where we thought we’d have any issues with tires. I’m not really concerned about it, it was just, early.”

The No. 60 AdvoCare Mustang struggled more on pit road than during the 200 laps on track. Before the halfway point, Buescher received a pit road speeding penalty, dropping him to the tail of the field. Later in the race he also stalled the car leaving pit road, which the driver ultimately took full responsibility for.

“I’ve got a couple things I’ve got to clean up on my end,” said Buescher. “The pit road speeding penalty was not helping anything, so trying to make up that and then stalled it once leaving pit road and those are things I’ve got to do better with, but the guys did a nice job.”

As the race began to wind down, the driver started to get things under control. He raced his way back up into the top-10 towards the end of the race, which put himself in a good position for the GWC finish. Buescher got up on the wheel and was able to drive his way to a sixth-place finish, extending his points lead to 27 over Chase Elliott.

“That last restart we got a good start and got down in the corner, but just got real tight right behind the 3, so didn’t end up exactly where we wanted, but, overall it was a good day for us,” said Buescher. “It was a good points day, as much as I hate to just talk about points days, but it’s the best run we’ve had here at Kansas and best mile-and-a-half we’ve had in awhile, so I’m glad our program is getting better there.”

Despite all the ups and downs the Roush Fenway Racing team experienced during the 300 miles, they left knowing that they had a strong car, which gives them confidence heading into the final three races that they can clinch the championship.

“It’s gonna be tough all the way to the end, but every point is gonna count,” said Buescher. “If we can keep them right where they’re at now, there’s a pretty good chance we can get it.”

The NASCAR XFINITY Series has three tracks left on the schedule, and Chris Buescher and his team very well maybe three races away from their first championship, if they can just continue to survive.

Christian Espinoza is a POPULAR SPEED Developmental Journalist

EMAIL CHRISTIAN AT christian.espinoza@popularspeed.com

Categories
Editorial

MARGOLIS: Observations, Kansas

Thoughts, observations and a few questions from the week in NASCAR leading up to Saturday’s Spongebob 400 at Kansas Speedway:

  • Before you start thinking that it’s beginning to look like another @JimmieJohnson year (check that – EVERY year looks like another Jimmie Johnson year), keep in mind that in previous championship seasons, the 48 team didn’t have serious competition during the regular season, so when it came down to the final races of the season and into the Chase, their momentum carried them to the title. In 2015, there are three other drivers/teams that are serious obstacles to the Lowe’s team winning their seventh title this year: @KevinHarvick, @JoeyLogano and yes, even Johnson’s own teammate, @DaleJr.
  • I know I’ve written that it’s more entertaining to watch Harvick chase down the race leader than to watch him win (I’m sure he doesn’t appreciate that sentiment at all), but when you’re runner-up in six of 11 races, it has to take a mental toll on a team. A win in Charlotte next week should end their frustration. (Yes, that’s an early prediction)
  • For the second weekend in a row, NASCAR has been noticeably “slow” in calling a caution for an incident involving an Joe Gibbs Racing team. Coincidence? Of course. But, it does make for some great ammunition for the NASCAR conspiracy theorists. @DennyHamlin loves to walk that fine line with his comments. His tongue in cheek line about “they’ll (NASCAR officials) continue to monitor the situation” didn’t go unnoticed by the execs in race control, believe me. In case you’ve not noticed, he’s not been one of their favorites over the years. How secure is Hamlin in the 11 car? Where does @Erik_Jones fit in at JGR?
  • Tough weekend for young Jones. The sport’s latest rookie “sensation” got to experience the bitter taste of defeat after he all but embarrassed the NCWTS truck field on Friday night. It looked like @KyleBusch was in the truck, not Jones. Then on Saturday night, just as the Fox Sports television broadcast team of Joy, Waltrip and McReynolds were lathering praise on Jones for what a remarkable job he was doing in the 18 car, the rookie slammed the wall after having the air taken off his spoiler by one of the all-time great masters of the sport, eventual race winner Jimmie Johnson. The Fox team didn’t see it happening that way. They described what happened as Jones just “losing it.” It was obvious from where I was watching that Johnson was taking the kid to task and showing him just how they play it on the big kids playground.
  • I thought it was a brilliant idea to market the upcoming SpongeBob feature film with a NASCAR race title sponsorship. Viacom did it the right way and paid for the rights to a Cup race and not an Xfinity race or a single car sponsorship. Unfortunately the rain delay made for a difficult night for any small kids attending their first NASCAR race. The graphics on the racetrack worked exceptionally well during the broadcast. Unfortunately, Nickelodeon, which is part of Viacom, is also a member of the CBS family and that meant there could be no use of SpongeBob graphics to enhance the broadcast. How cool would it have been to have SB and his underwater buddies sitting in the cars using computer generated graphics?
  • I actually had one person tell me during the weekend that SpongeBob is actually a show designed to entice small kids into being homosexual and that NASCAR shouldn’t be involved. I’m not joking. I really heard this.
  • If you’re not catching former NASCAR driver Ricky Craven’s superb post-race analysis on ESPN’s Sportscenter every weekend then you’re missing the best of the best.
  • One more SB note: It’s not much of a surprise that a huge segment of the yellow guy’s fan base is made up of Millennials.
  • Beginning this week, I’m going to spotlight a new list I shall call the “WTF List.” It will be made up of drivers/teams that just can’t seem to catch a break. The length of the list will vary and in most cases, the reason why a driver or team is on the list will be self-evident. This week, on the WTF List is: Carl Edwards, @JeffGordonWeb, @MartinTruex_Jr. and @KyleLarsonRacin. All four drivers are overdue for a win and no matter that their effort is 100 percent, it seems as though their best just isn’t good enough at the moment. I expect that of the four, Truex Jr. will be the first to win this season. I’m thinking it will happen at his home track of Dover in a few weeks. As for the other three, there is the Larson sophomore slump to consider and the slow start we’ve come to expect from the 24 team that explains their current WTF status. Edwards, however, doesn’t look to break through any time soon. In fact, I don’t see him making the Chase this season. Truex Jr., and Gordon will.
  • Honorable mention from “The List” is @ClintBowyer. Could this season get any worse?
  • I hope celebrity chef Guy Fieri’s love affair with NASCAR lasts for awhile. His personality and broad-based appeal is exactly the right fit for the sport. He’s the kind of guy you’d want to have a beer with. Fieri’s also been getting cozy with the NHRA Top Fuel team owned by future drag racing Hall of Famer Alan Johnson.
  • Could the Childress tire controversy really be over? I was expecting congressional hearings and talk of deleted emails on a special server to be the next development in this non-story, story. I don’t care what they do to their tires, it’s not going to radically change the performance of the 3 or the 27 or the 31 cars. RCR is about a half-step behind the Hendrick and Stewart-Haas Chevrolets and the Penske Fords.
  • It’s easy to see where the next generation of NASCAR drivers are going to come from. The more important question that remains unanswered is: In five years from now, where are the next generation of owners coming from?

EMAIL BOB AT bob.margolis@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @BobMargolis

Categories
Humor

NASCAR Fan Travel Guide: Kansas

Too bad there’s not two Kansases. The regular one, but then an exciting one too.

I’ve never been to Kansas. Maybe I flew over it on my way to Vegas, but I was probably reading or something, and didn’t look down.

Kansas is a Native American word, meaning, “This place is flat. Dull too. Let’s go somewhere else.”

It’s state amphibian is the Barred Tiger Salamander. Basically, a worm.

The state insect is the European Honey Bee. They had to go to a whole other continent to get a bee.

Kansas has lots of highways, but most of them just lead out of the state, to more exciting places. Like Colorado. You can go skiing there. No bees either.

The rock band Kansas is from Kansas. Come on, guys, put a little thought into it next time.

Superman is also from Kansas. He doesn’t talk about it much, though. Probably because he’s ashamed.

The Wizard of Oz is set in Kansas. It’s about how this girl gets chased by a witch from a really beautiful, exciting place all the way back to Kansas. I wouldn’t let your kids watch it until they can handle something like that.

Kansas also has the Kansas City Royals and Kansas City Chiefs. Just kidding. Those teams are from Missouri. That’s really go to stick in your craw if your from Kansas. I’d start a war to get those teams back. I wouldn’t fight in that war, though. I’d have other people do it. Because I’m a coward.

I’m not sure where the track is in Kansas. But I bet it’s a long, dull ride to get to it. I’d pull over and get some barbecue. Maybe a beer. Maybe turn around and go home.

I’m guessing it’s a 1.5 mile oval. Most of these new tracks are.

There’s a casino at the track. This makes it easy for your children to develop a lifelong gambling habit when you bring them to the SpongeBob SquarePants 400.

Enjoy the race!

Categories
Uncategorized

Hometown Win or Bust?

By Unique Hiram (Kansas City, Kan.) – Kansas Speedway is the home track to three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers – @ClintBowyer, Carl Edwards and @jamiemcmurray. Even though all of these competitors have run strong at one time or another, none of them have reached victory lane. They have a combined track record of 10 top-fives and 15 top-10s with 145 laps led.

Sixth (Edwards), 23rd (Bowyer) and 39th (McMurray) were the official race results from the 5-hour Energy 400 Benefitting Special Operations Warrior Foundation (May 2014).

What would a win mean to Bowyer, especially with him running a special pink paint scheme, this weekend?

“I always had mixed feelings about a pink race car. When I raced my first one, I think the 5-hour car our first year together three years ago was my first pink car. It always reminds me back when I first started racing in the Kansas City area Tim Kerrick, a buddy of mine that’s dominated in the Kansas City area. His family has for a long time always had a black and pink ‘Guitars and Cadillacs’ sponsored No. 2 Modified and he just flat wore them out.”

“You have to be a bad man to drive a pink race car and he was. Hopefully, I don’t know if I quite cover the bad man category, but it sure feels right being able to represent such strong foundations and women all across the country just like Holly (Cain, NASCAR.com reporter) that are going through this,” he continued.

McMurray led the trio with a speed of 195.489, which was sixth overall, at the conclusion of Friday’s practice session. Bowyer (194.426) and Edwards (194.168) finished 19th and 21st respectively. However when knockout qualifying came to a close, it was the Columbia, Missouri native who made it all the way to the final round. He will be rolling off the grid 12th while the drivers of the No. 1 and No. 15 take the green flag from the 14th and 19th positions.

How does Edwards feel about starting the Contender Round at his home track?

“We feel like this is a good race track for us. I obviously love this place. I see at least two people in the room whose cars I have drive and have helped me. This place is special. We feel like we have an opportunity to run well as this place. We don’t know exactly how we will run at Charlotte but we feel we can do very well at Talladega. This round is one we have looked forward to and I am glad we made it in. It would be great to kick it off with a win here.”

It is clear that all of these drivers are competitive at this track and would like to finally take the checkered flag in front of their hometown crowd. Can one of them pull it off? If so, who will carry the victory banner for the home team?

The Hollywood Casino 400 will be broadcast Sunday, October 5th on ESPN at 2:00 p.m. ET.

EMAIL UNIQUE AT unique.hiram@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER @UniqueHiram

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Danica Patrick, No Win But Showed Strength

By Unique Hiram (KANSAS CITY, Kan.) – @DanicaPatrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet, showed that she could compete with the best of the best on Saturday night at Kansas Speedway. Throughout the 5-hour ENERGY 400 Benefitting Special Operations Warrior Foundation, she ran in the top-10 strongly during the entire event. Patrick finished with a Sprint Cup career best finish of seventh.

Historically, this is the ninth time that a woman has finished in the top-10: Sara Christian (3) and Janet Guthrie (5). The career best finishes for both of these women were Christian fifth at Heidelberg Raceway (PA) and Guthrie, sixth at Bristol (TN).

Earlier this year, seven-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Richard Petty made the comment that Danica Patrick could only win “if everybody else stayed home.” In Daytona, her response was this: “People have said things in the past and they’re going to say things in the future. I still say the same thing: Everybody’s entitled to their own opinion.”

Although she didn’t grab the checkered flag last night, Patrick was definitely in contention for the win. Her highest running position was third when she passed both @DaleJr and team owner @TonyStewart. She kept her car clean and wasn’t involved in any on track incidents.

What was the highlight of racing tonight in Kansas for the GoDaddy driver?

“Honestly the most rewarding part of my night was probably when I drove around the outside of the No. 48 on a restart. That was probably my most rewarding thing of the night. I say that with all the respect in the world.  It’s a big deal because he is @JimmieJohnson. Aside from that I was really just overall proud that we stayed up front all day. That was the biggest thing,” Patrick said.

“When the race started it was about finishing the weekend off right and just staying up there.  You know you are going to go up, you are going to go down a little bit and we sure enough did that, but we more than held our own through the whole race. I’m extremely proud of this crew for building a new car that was just awesome.  It was so good on restarts and long runs and tires getting old. Hard work pays off and they definitely put the hard work into it.  Obviously really happy for days like today to give back to GoDaddy who has always been behind me and get on TV a little bit.”

In his post-race interview, @KevinHarvick was asked about what knowledge he shared with teammate Patrick in regards to improving her track performance. His words of wisdom were simply “the car is never going to be perfect, quit thinking about it and smash the gas.”

With 11 starts completed this season, Patrick now has one top-10 with eight laps led. Unfortunately, she had eight finishes outside of the top-20 and is currently sitting 27th in driver’s points.

Despite the rough past finishes, if she is able to capitalize on the momentum of her great finish in Kansas then we will witness more growth. With pure talent combined with the knowledge gained through her teammates, it can increase the probability of more great runs and a future victory.

EMAIL UNIQUE AT unique.hiram@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER @UniqueHiram