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2020 Silly Season Updates and Expectations

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

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

Nigel Kinrade | NKP

Matt DiBenedetto

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russell LaBounty | NKP

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

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

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

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

Gavin Baker | NKP

Chris Buescher

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

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

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

Rusty Jarrett | NKP

Tyler Reddick

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

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

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

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

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

Russell LaBounty | NKP

Cole Custer

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

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

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

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

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

Russell LaBounty | NKP

Christopher Bell

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

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

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

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

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

EMAIL COLE AT: colecusumano88@gmail.com

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

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NASCAR Cup Series

SOCIAL TRACKING: Another Ride Swap?

The talk of the first off-weekend of the NASCAR season was Jimmie Johnson and Fernando Alonso‘s ride swap at the Bahrain International Circuit. It may not be the last one that we see, thanks to an idea from Kasey Kahne.

Check out the conversation that transpired on Twitter on Monday.

The conversation sparked up memories of a previous trade of tweets from last year, involving fellow NAPA sponsored competitor Alexander Rossi.

https://twitter.com/NAPARacing/status/908159701183066112

With the recent announcement that World of Outlaws and NASCAR are running the same weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, it couldn’t be anymore timely than to see something like this happen. 

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.

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NASCAR Cup Series

Kasey Kahne Forced to End Season Early

Citing health concerns, Kasey Kahne announced on Tuesday that he will not return to the No. 95 Leavine Racing Family entry before season’s end. The 38-year-old had previously revealed the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series campaign would be his last full-time.

Earlier this year, he opened up about having issues remaining hydrated through the full distance of races to the point he was feeling sick and having issues in the weeks following. Kahne hasn’t been behind the wheel since Darlington Raceway.

The Washington native released a statement via his social media accounts.

Over the past 15 years, Kahne has made a total of 529 starts with 18 wins, 93 top-five’s, and 176 top-10’s to his credit. His best season ending points finish was fourth in 2012.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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

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NASCAR Cup Series

NASCAR Looking Good For 70, But Continued Improvement Important

Growing up, Kasey Kahne can still recall waking up early on Sunday mornings, making breakfast, and then sitting down to watch the NASCAR race that day, dreaming of one day being a racecar driver. 

“I feel like today there have to be kids out there still doing that same type of tying and just wanting to be part of the sport because it’s a great form of auto racing,” he said. “There is so much it offers to so many different people. I love every break that I’ve had in this sport and the opportunities that I’ve had to be part of it for so long. And again this year, it’s the same thing. I have a great opportunity. Yeah, I think NASCAR is awesome, and I’m glad that I’m part of it.”

With history on the mind, but yet having a focus on the future, the 2018 season will mark the 70th year of the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing – as it has become known, NASCAR. 

Over the course of time, there have some great historical moments that fans can still recount every detail of until this day, from wins and celebration to fights and controversy. On the flip side, it has not gone all smooth, with backlash and negativity amidst conversation at times. But while some things have come and gone, NASCAR has stuck around through it all.

With the 2018 season on the horizon, there are a lot of positives. The influx of young drivers brings hope for the future, along with tracks showing stability and attendance. The playoffs have also created a lot of discussion and drama, as evident by a crisp afternoon at Martinsville Speedway last October. The sanctioning body’s decisions have shown great strides, including stage racing in 2017.

Although a lot of people were skeptical about the mandated caution and breaking the event into three parts, it grew on fans and drivers alike over the year with the excitement generated, and strategy in hoping to score the additional points. 

Rusty Jarrett NKP

“I kind of like knowing that the caution is coming out in 10 more laps and that there’s going to be a pit stop and that there’s going to be another restart,” Jamie McMurray said. “I enjoy that as a fan. So, I hope people like that on Sunday. I think they’ve done a really good job with the double-file restarts. I think they’ve done a lot to keep somebody in-tuned longer.”

Overall, things are not looking too bad if you take a step back, and realize how fortunate everybody is.

“I think we have made a lot of good changes to the sport,” Kevin Harvick said. “As we create and keep creating a better model for the teams to hopefully achieve some financial stability with the things that they need to get the coast of everything into something that is sustainable, I think that is a good thing. It isn’t as big as it was in 2006, but it is also still really big. You are going to go to the Daytona 500 and still have 100,000 fans in the grandstands, and when they talk about attendance being down, there are still 80,000 people sitting up there.”

Of course, room for improvement is always there.

The television numbers could use some work in being lower than warranted, along with attendance at the tracks as some have cut down seats due to being empty multiple times. Sponsorship and cost have become a big question throughout the sport, as you don’t see a corporate company stepping up as often anymore to sponsor a full schedule, and other teams have been forced to shut their doors.

The schedule could always use some tweaking, as some races could be placed at a different time of year to help all the variables, and some tracks don’t necessarily need to have two dates either. There’s also the theory of possibly shortening some races, as four and a half hours can be too long to ask for someone’s attention with everything people can do nowadays. 

Brett Moist NKP

“I wish there were more people at the race that were involved and intrigued by it and wanted to be part of it,” Kahne said. “I wish we could get back to that for the excitement level, but I still think the racing is very good. It’s super competitive. As a driver, every week I’m thinking how can I get better, how can I help my team, and how can we be more competitive? That’s because of the sport. That brings you back. You want to win. You want to win at this level, and it’s because of the previous 70 years is why you want it so badly. I think there’s a lot of good things about it, but I’d love to see more people in the stands.”

If you want to see the improvement, moving forward though, one change needs to happen at the head of the room. 

“If I could make one change it would be that the leader of the sport (Brian France) is at the race track every weekend. That would be my change,” Brad Keselowski said. “It is important for any company that relies so heavily on outside partners to have a direct interface. This is such a big ship with so much going on week to week.”

To be able to make the best decisions necessary, knowing every single nick and cranny should be a requirement, so you understand how it will affect every level, from the fans and drivers to the teams and marketing partners. Also being there each week, it would allow those financially looking from the outside to understand that you have a hands-on approach, and they can trust you with their dollars. 

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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

 

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Commentary

Stage Points Will Heighten Intensity of Elimination Races

The first round of eliminations in the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs will showcase another element of stage racing in Sunday’s Apache Warrior 400 at Dover International Speedway.

Many must win-scenarios have played out in the post-season over the last three years. Kevin Harvick notably won at Phoenix in 2014 to make the Championship 4 before capturing the title.

Winning will still be the simplest way for a team to climb out of an elimination spot and advance to the Round of 12. However, stage racing is again changing the game.

A maximum of 20 points will be up for grabs in the first two stages at Dover, which will be valuable with a 21 point gap separating 12th from 16th on the Playoff Grid.

Kasey Kahne currently sits 16th and has consistently finished poorly over the last month. While this level of performance doesn’t seem to indicate an impending turnaround, strategizing to collect stage points could open the door late in the race.

Kurt Busch entered the post-season with momentum after three consecutive top-five finishes, but he has struggled ever since.

The No. 41 team is 17 points below the cutoff line and will need to rely on stage points to put themselves in position to advance by the end of the race.

A year ago, those higher than the Stewart-Haas Racing driver in the standings would have needed to face issues to give Busch a chance to advance. Now stage points are making it more realistic to mount a comeback.

Knowing where the competition is running will be critical for 12th through 14th place Ricky Stenhoue Jr., Austin Dillon, and Ryan Newman. Any point gained could make the difference between staying in contention and being eliminated, meaning they will need to race much more aggressively this weekend.

Even Jamie McMurray in 11th with a nine-point gap won’t be safe without a strong day as that advantage could be erased by the end of Stage 1.

NASCAR emphasized that every point would matter more in 2017 and it’s getting ready to play out in the first elimination race.

While previous cutoff races have featured tight points battles and must-win scenarios, stage points are now shaping up to create even more drama.

After two tame events to open the Playoffs, the “Monster Mile” could be an entirely different animal and make for an intense 400 laps for all teams on the bubble.

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

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NASCAR Cup Series

Will Kasey Kahne Elevate Leavine Family Racing?

Leavine Family Racing made it official Tuesday, announcing that Kasey Kahne will replace Michael McDowell in the team’s No. 95 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Chevrolet next season.

That’s the news.

The bigger question is, though, what will it mean for the small, one-car LFR team?

Maybe just a little, but potentially an awful lot.

LFR as a team is on the rise, although at the moment far from the level of an elite squad.

McDowell is currently sitting 25th in points, a career-best, and he’s had 12 top-20 finishes, with a best of fourth in the July Daytona race. Those are good numbers for a small, independent team. LFR also has a championship-wining crew chief in Todd Parrott, who has already helped the team in a big way.

Still, it’s a ways away from contending for wins and a playoff spot. But the potential could be there.

Maybe the best comparison of LFR’s upside is to look at Furniture Row Racing.

Founded in 2005, Furniture Row didn’t win a race until 2011, when Regan Smith scored an upset victory at Darlington. And it didn’t win again until 2015, when Martin Truex Jr. was in his second year with the team.

We all know what happened next: Truex and Furniture Row had a breakout year in 2016 after moving to Toyota.  This year, Truex has been the dominant driver in NASCAR and is the overwhelming favorite to win the championship.

Or to put it in another context: In its first 343 races, Furniture Row won just six times. In the last 27 races, the team has five victories.

Clearly, none of that happened quickly and if something similar does happen at all at LFR, it will take time and resources.

But the addition of Kahne is an important step in making the team better and if, as expected in 2019, the team moves its alliance from Richard Childress Racing to Hendrick Motorsports, Kahne’s current team, that could be a huge shot in the arm, too.

Obviously, there’s a long way from where LFR is today and where it hopes to be. But maybe, just maybe, they could be closer than people think.

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NASCAR Cup Series

Darian Grubb in as New Crew Chief for Kasey Kahne

Just one day after the first race in the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, there’s already been a crew chief change for one of the title contenders.

Monday afternoon, Hendrick Motorsports announced that Darian Grubb will replace Keith Rodden as the crew chief for Kasey Kahne and the team’s No. 5 Chevrolet for the final nine races of this season.

Hendrick has not announced what the team’s driver-crew chief alignments will be for next season, but did say Rodden is under contract with the team for the rest of 2017 and would be reassigned to other duties during that time.

With annual crew chief turnover typically running in the 30-40 percent range, there should be plenty of vacancies in the Cup garage next year should Rodden and the team part ways entirely.

Kahne, who will not return to Hendrick next season, finished a disappointing 21st in the playoff-opening Tales of the Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, and is now ranked 15th in points among the 16 playoff drivers.

With only two races left in Round 1 of the NASCAR playoffs, there was a sense of urgency to the situation.

This move brings Grubb back full circle. As a crew chief, he won a championship in 2011 under about the oddest circumstances imaginable.

Tony Stewart suffered through a hugely disappointing 2011 Cup regular season and before it ended, Stewart told Grubb he would not be retained as the team’s crew chief for 2012.

Then Stewart had the most amazing run in playoff history, winning five of the final 10 races en route to his third championship, meaning Grubb lost his job despite being the Cup champion crew chief that year.

Grubb then moved on to Joe Gibbs Racing from 2012-15 before rejoining Hendrick Motorsports, where he had worked before joining Stewart-Haas Racing and Stewart.

Grubb has 23 victories as a Cup crew chief, third best among active crew chiefs behind only Chad Knaus (81 victories) and Todd Parrott (31).

This is the second major personnel move in NASCAR already during the playoffs. Joe Gibbs Racing swapped the over-the-wall crews between the JGR cars of Kyle Busch and Daniel Suarez before Chicagoland, but the move backfired as Busch’s new crew was plagued by mistakes on pit road.

The Grubb-Rodden move almost certainly is not the last change to take place this season. Expect more personnel movements soon.

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NASCAR Cup Series

ELLIOTT: Chicagoland “A Major Step in the Right Direction”

After a strong start to the year, Chase Elliott didn’t emerge as a consistent front-runner in the summer. He performed well at times in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with three top-fives in June and July but wasn’t up to par with the strongest cars in the field.

Hendrick Motorsports seemed behind on speed in recent months as an organization, outside of Kasey Kahne’s victory at Indianapolis.

This level of performance was concerning heading into the Playoffs. While a summer slump followed by a post-season rebound has been characteristic for Jimmie Johnson, Elliott lacked experience under similar circumstances.

Not knowing how Elliott would respond excluded him from the conversation surrounding title favorites, but now he is looking to prove that he belongs in the discussion.

Elliott had one of his best runs of the year in Sunday’s Tales of the Turtles 400, leading 42 laps, winning Stage 2, and finishing second.

“Just a much-improved day from where we’ve been, which is nice,” Elliott said.

It’s the second consecutive year he has placed in the top-five in the Playoffs opener after finishing third last September. He went onto to make the Round of 12 before being eliminated after Talladega.

Now with a year in the Playoffs under his belt, the bar is raised, and Elliott met it at Chicagoland.

New Hampshire will be a better indicator of where the No. 24 team stands as it has been one of its toughest tracks on the circuit. In three starts, Elliott has never placed better than 11th.

If he runs well and has another strong day at one of his best venues at Dover, he could follow in the footsteps of Johnson with his ability to recover once the championship fight begins.

However, topping the Toyota’s and specifically, Martin Truex Jr., remains a major obstacle for Elliott. 

“Obviously would have been great to battle with Martin a little bit more,” Elliott said. “We didn’t have anything for him.”

Compared to much of his season to date, Chicagoland was an excellent start to the playoffs.

While Elliott has been close to breaking through for victory numerous times in his young career, he believes the team is at its best right now, and it comes at the perfect time. 

“From where we’ve been to where we ran today was a major, major step in the right direction, frankly where we need to be, where we deserve to be, to the potential we can run,” Elliott said.

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EMAIL JASON AT jason.schultz@popularspeed.com

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

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Commentary

Tough Choices: Picking 5 Favorite Throwback Paint Schemes

If you’re not at Darlington Raceway this weekend — or at least watching on television  — you’re missing one of the very best weekends of the entire 36-race Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

Sunday’s Bojangles’ 500 is NASCAR’s one and only throwback weekend, with most of the teams decorating their race cars with paint schemes from the 1980s and 90s.

As has been the case in each of the past two years that Darlington hosted the throwback weekend, the paint schemes are sensational, especially for old-school NASCAR fans.

Here are five of my favorites.

 

Brad Keselowski

The 2012 Cup champion pays stylistic homage to the black-and-gold Miller Genuine Draft colors Rusty Wallace carried with Team Penske. This is one of the most popular NASCAR paint schemes of all time and looks as good today as it did back in the day.

Kasey Kahne

The first Daytona 500 victory for Hendrick Motorsports came in 1986, when Geoff Bodine wheeled the Levi Garrett-sponsored No. 5 Chevrolet Monte Carlo to victory. The yellow and white colors made it stand out. And given the fact that the No. 5 will go away after this year, there’s urgency here.

Danica Patrick

Stewart-Haas Racing is paying tribute to the ailing Robert Yates, who continues to battle liver cancer as he awaits his induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2018. Patrick’s scheme is the one Dale Jarrett drove in 1999, when he gave Robert Yates Racing its one and only Cup championship.

Ty Dillon

In NASCAR Premier Series history, the No. 13 has only won one points race in 529 attempts: It happened at Daytona in 1963, when Johnny Rutherford drove a Smokey Yunick owned and prepared Chevrolet to victory in one of the 100-mile Daytona 500 qualifying races. They counted for points back then.

Ryan Blaney

This is a no-brainer: Blaney is driving the Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford with the paint scheme Kyle Petty drove for the same team in 1987. You can tell the team and Petty are having fun with this one.

All article photos courtesy of Nigel Kinrade Photography © 2017 

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @tomjensen100

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

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News

8 Things Kasey Kahne Had to Say After Losing His Ride

On Monday, veteran Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Kasey Kahne driver was released from the final year of his contract at Hendrick Motorsports, where he has driven since 2012.

Friday at Michigan International Speedway, which hosts Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400, Kahne got to tell the media his side of the story and what the future may hold for him.

Here are 8 things Kahne said at MIS:

Looking for a ride

Kahne isn’t the only driver without a 2018 deal. Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and others are looking for new rides, too. “There are some really good drivers that don’t have a deal done at this time that will probably end up in cars, I would think,” said Kahne.  “I just feel like the opportunities are pretty slim, but I’ve always tried to be really respectful and when I’ve had the opportunity to go fast and win we have been able to win some races.”

A Hendrick alliance

Team owner Rick Hendrick said Wednesday that he’s hoping to find another Chevrolet team to form an alliance with and get Kahne in a car with that team. “I hope we can build something out of that, but I also have been working in my own direction as well on certain things to make sure I just check out everything that is out there for sure,” said Kahne. “I don’t want to miss anything, but yeah, Mr. H. has been really good about where we are at.  I think we are going to come up with something that should work out pretty well.”

Staying in Cup

As far as the future, Kahne ruled out a move to the NASCAR XFINITY Series and said his intention is to stay in the Monster Energy Cup Series. “Just the Cup Series,” Kahne said.  “Yeah, really just the Monster Energy Cup Series as far as NASCAR goes.”

A fresh start

Kahne said he hoped a move to a new team would jump start his career. “I think that it’s all about people again if you can get the people behind you and believe in you and then I believe in them and we work together for the same goal and that is to win races,” said Kahne. “It’s a competitive series it is a super tough series to win in and so many things have to go right for the entire race weekend and then throughout the race.”

Team morale

Now that the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team knows Kahne will be gone after this season, they are rallying behind him. “(Friday) it was cool,” said Kahne. “Everybody seemed good.  We just kind of went to work like always and hope to put together a really strong weekend.”

Mr. H

Team owner Rick Hendrick said Wednesday part of the blame for the disappointing performance of the No. 5 fell on his shoulders. “A lot of what he said this week means a lot to me because to have somebody like Rick Hendrick, Mr. Hendrick, to be on your side, even though I’m not going to be part of his team anymore, to be on your side and the power that he has in this sport and what he has done for NASCAR for this sport for so many drivers and employees over the years,” said Kahne. “To have him behind you is a really good thing.  I respect that. I respect him a ton.”

Playoffs

By winning the Brickyard 400, Kahne punched his ticket to make NASCAR’s playoffs for the first time in three years. But Kahne knows that Hendrick Motorsports will need more speed if he’s to make a deep playoff run. “I think we all know the No. 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) and No. 18 (Kyle Busch) have been really the cars to beat the last month,” said Kahne. “The No. 42 (Kyle Larson) right before that was really strong and we have all just been a little bit off of that.  So, we are working hard to get to where we want to be.  The only way I’m going to get there is the people and being part of that.”

Next year

Kahne is optimistic that he can contribute to his next team. “I really think that I can come up with something good and come up with something that will be fun to be a part of and also try to work hard to make that team better than it’s ever been and myself better than I’ve been,” Kahne said. “I still have that mindset and I really hope that something works out to where I can be in a strong car next year and enjoy racing in this series.”

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