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NASCAR Cup Series

VIDEO: Roush Yates Engines Celebrates Milestone in Michigan

Joey Logano’s first win of the 2016 season Sunday afternoon at Michigan Speedway was also a major milestone for Roush Yates Engines.

The 100-win club.

In his No. 22 Shell / Pennzoil Ford, Logano dominated the FireKeepers Casino 400 for 138 of 200 laps led after starting on the pole. It was the 15th win of his career (13 of which have come in a Team Penske Ford) while Roush Yates Engines now has 100 point-paying Sprint Cup Series victories since Jack Roush and Robert Yates went into business together at the end of the 2003 season.

“When we put this thing together the guys here in our shop said, ‘That’s crazy. That will never work.’ The press and everybody in the world was saying, ‘Why are you doing that? That’s a bad move.’ I said, ‘Guys, we’re going to make this work,’” said Doug Yates, the Chief Executive Officer of Roush Yate Engines.

The partnership began the 2004 season by sweeping the front row for the Daytona 500. Sophomore Greg Biffle won the pole with Elliott Sadler starting second. A Chevrolet, Dale Earnhardt Jr., went on to win the race, but Roush Yates didn’t have to wait long to find the winner’s circle.

A week later at Rockingham, 2003 Cup champion Matt Kenseth edged Kasey Kahne in a photo finish in the Subway 400. Kurt Busch would go on to win three races that same year as well as the championship in what was the inaugural season for the Chase format.

“Sitting on that front row and seeing that picture of my dad and Jack with Greg Biffle and Elliott Sadler in the proudest moment of my life,” Yates said. “We won at Rockingham in our second race out, but sitting on the pole for the Daytona 500 was something that was special because of all the hard work that went into it.”

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News

Fire Breaks Out at ThorSport Racing Shop

Officials are still working to contain the fire that broke out in the basement of the ThorSport Racing team shop in Sandusky, Ohio early this morning.

An official statement released by the team on Monday stated the fire started shortly after midnight at the 100,000-square-foot facility; no one was injured. The organization is the longest-tenured of the Camping World Truck Series and currently houses full-time teams for two-time champion Matt Crafton, Ben Rhodes, Rico Abreu and Cameron Hayley.

“We are currently working with the fire department and local officials to contain the blaze, and assess the damage,” the statement read. “We do not expect this to impact the team’s competition schedule. Our next race is at Iowa Speedway in Newton on Saturday, June 18. Further details will be forthcoming.”

Last Friday, ThorSport placed two trucks in the top 10 at Texas Motor Speedway in the Rattlesnake 400.

A local news station captured video of the fire, which can be seen here.

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XFINITY

Earnhardt Jr. Joining XFINITY Series Broadcast Booth

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is finally ready to try his hand at broadcasting.

Saturday, Earnhardt Jr. will become the eighth Sprint Cup Series driver to join the FOX Sports 1 booth as a guest analyst for the XFINITY Series race. Earnhardt Jr. will join Michael Waltrip and Adam Alexander at Michigan International Speedway for the Menards 250 Presented by Valvoline (1:30 p.m. ET).

FOX had extended an offer to Earnhardt Jr. last season after the Hendrick Motorsports driver expressed interest on “The Jay and Dan Podcast” in one day calling a race. However, Earnhardt Jr. also wanted to be comfortable beforehand by hopefully getting a chance to take in the behind-the-scenes effort of the television production.

Earlier this year, Jeff Gordon, who joined FOX following his retirement last season, took Earnhardt Jr. for a tour of the TV compound in Talladega. Gordon later explained he wished all drivers could experience that in order to appreciate the different perspective.

“The reason FOX (uses Cup drivers) is no different than why we like seeing Cup drivers in the XFINITY races – because the fans like to see them. The fans like to, even though sometimes somebody like Kyle Busch might stink up the show, people like seeing those Cup drivers interact with the XFINITY drivers,” Gordon said last month. “Same thing when they’re in the booth. Their knowledge and their experience, and especially if they are comfortable on TV, it makes the broadcast more entertaining. At the same time, it helps them appreciate the job and the effort that goes into it and what all it takes.”

Cup drivers who have called an XFINITY race this season include Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, and Danica Patrick.

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Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Ganassi Believes Lug Nut Situation is ‘Silly’

The day one his crew chiefs was suspended for violation at Pocono Raceway, team owner Chip Ganassi repeatedly used the word “silly” with Claire B. Lang of SiriusXM NASCAR Radio when discussing the current lug nut situation in the Sprint Cup Series.

“They (NASCAR) come out with a rule, and then they sort of change it and no one really knows where we’re at with the whole lug nut thing,” Ganassi said on Dialed In. “Our lug nuts were at least on there they just weren’t tight. I think that’s sort of one level of the penalty, and it’s another penalty if you don’t have a lug nut on there at all. Everybody in the garage is sort of, I don’t want to say up in arms, but sort of confused about the whole lug nut thing. I think it’s silly.”

Chad Johnston was suspended for one race and fined $20,000 by NASCAR on Wednesday morning. Johnston will serve his suspension this weekend as the series visits Michigan International Raceway as Ganassi appeared to acknowledge the team would not appeal. He did not say who would act as the crew chief of the No. 42 Target Chevrolet driven by Kyle Larson, but that there are qualified individuals within the organization.

Larson finished 11th in Monday’s Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400 at Pocono. He is currently 21st in the point standings.

“That’s the other thing, these suspensions you can have the guy on the phone, you can have him on the computer, but he can’t be at the track,” Ganassi said. “It’s kind of confusing to me. What’s the point of being suspended? You can probably suspend everybody on the team but the pit crew. It’s silliness. It’s complete silliness.”

NASCAR went back to mandating lug nuts after several complaints from drivers and teams, the most recent and outspoken being Tony Stewart. The sanctioning body had stopped policing how many lug nuts teams were installing after the 2014 season and in 2015 went to a Pit Road Officiating (PRO) system that uses HD cameras instead of officials monitoring each pit stop.

With no policy in place, teams began looking for ways to save time during stops by either not gluing on all five lug nuts or not tightening all five. Following a safety outcry, NASCAR informed teams they would go back to mandating not only the use of all five lug nuts but they had to be secure, and failure to comply would result in a penalty.

Johnston is the fourth crew chief to be suspended for a violation since the update in April.

“I like to stay out of that sort of stuff. I just want the playing field to be level among all teams, and as long as that happens, I’m OK. I guess I have to take it on the chin a little bit with the penalty and our crew chief being suspended, but I think the whole lug nut thing is a silly thing,” Ganassi said when asked where the sport should go regarding pit stops.

“We’re in a major sport that on any given weekend we have over 100,000 people show up and watch, and it’s the most watched sport on television sometimes on the weekend and we’re sitting here talking about lug nuts. Are you kidding me? Please. They move to the conversation to something a little more relevant than lug nuts.”

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News

Start Times, Networks Shifted for Two XFINITY Chase Races

Two races in the inaugural XFINITY Series Chase have been shifted to different start times and television networks NASCAR announced today.

The move comes in a collaboration between the sanctioning body and NBC Sports Group, the network who made a return to NASCAR coverage last season. The two tracks are Kansas Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway, both of which hold important Chase dates on the schedule.

The Kansas Lottery 300 on Oct. 15 – the first race of the second round in the Chase – will now air on NBC at 3 p.m. ET. It had been originally scheduled for 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

“This is an exciting announcement for our fans,” said Kansas Speedway President Patrick Warren. “For fans that are traveling to the Kansas Lottery 300, this will help their travel plans back home and for our local race fans, they will have some extra time to enjoy the dining and entertainment options around Kansas Speedway, including the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway.”

The Phoenix event on Nov. 12, which will determine the four drivers competing for the championship in Homestead, has been moved to primetime, 7:30 p.m. ET. It will now air on NBCSN instead of being broadcast on NBC at 3:30 p.m. ET.

“These updates were made with the goal of benefitting NASCAR fans, with Kansas now airing on NBC and Phoenix airing in primetime,” said Steve Herbst, senior vice president, broadcasting and production at NASCAR. “Our ability to adjust the start times for these two critically important races in the NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase is a testament to the collaboration between NASCAR, our broadcast partners, teams and tracks to deliver the best product possible to our fans.”

NASCAR announced a seven race, 12 driver Chase for the XFINITY Series prior to the 2016 season. It will begin on Sept. 24 at Kentucky Speedway with the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300.

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Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Keselowski Aggravated with Penalty and Jeff Gordon

LONG POND, Pa. – Brad Keselowski rallied for a third place finish on Monday, but it was a position he didn’t feel he should have been in. Having started on the pole for the Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400 at Pocono Raceway, Keselowski and Team Penske teammate Joey Logano covered the field early. But the second caution changed the course of Keselowski’s day when the jackman of the No. 2 Miller Lite team made an unapproved body modification by throwing his weight into the right side of the car. NASCAR called Keselowski back down pit road for the team to fix the dent, which they argued, and then made the 2012 Sprint Cup champion serve a Pass Thru penalty when the race restarted. “Of course it’s frustrating. I don’t know what they saw, so it’s not really fair for me to say anything about that. I can tell you that every car I saw had some body modifications on it after pit stops out there today,” Keselowski said afterward. “I don’t know if ours was more egregious or even if we had one. That’s for the team guys to really answer. Of course it’s frustrating. “You don’t want to have to come from the back. Almost got to the front, just came up a little short. A lot of great effort for our team. We needed a tiny bit more left. I could have used a 500-mile race but that might not be the most popular opinion in the garage, but it is for me today.” Keselowski also lashed out at the television broadcast, specifically Jeff Gordon, when told they had indicated the penalty was similar to a modification the team made earlier this year in Las Vegas. “That’s because Jeff Gordon is in the booth,” Keselowski said. “They need to get some people that aren’t inbred to the sport and own teams and have internal knowledge, because that is pretty crappy. It is what it is.” After retiring from competition last season, Gordon moved to a TV role but still has an interest in Hendrick Motorsports. “It’s not that I don’t like Jeff Gordon in the booth, it’s just that you need to have people in the booth that don’t own teams or have commercial interests to the sport, because they say things that are very biased,” Keselowski said.

As has become standard procedure since a rule change last month, Keselowski stopped at the entrance of pit road for a lug nut check upon completion of the event. As he did, NASCAR officials took the time to get another look at the car before Keselowski drove down to the attention of his Penske team. A NASCAR spokesman later announced that Keselowski’s No. 2 was one of four cars that passed at-track inspection. It was not chosen to be taken back to the NASCAR R&D Center. “It was a long day, but overall a decent weekend for the Miller Lite Ford. It wasn’t really two pit penalties it was two NASCAR penalties, and I’m not sure I really know what happened there,” Keselowski said. “At the end, I think we were capable of winning the race with a really fast car, even with the right side door torn up. I guess we had a little contact there when the 48 was spinning, so it shows how fast we were today. We had great pit stops but just didn’t bring home the win. “But we’re really close and been really strong and consistent lately, which is something we’re proud of.” EMAIL KELLY AT kelly.crandall@popularspeed.com FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KellyCrandall 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. 

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NASCAR Cup Series

Frustrated Kahne Finds Some Relief in Pocono

LONG POND, Pa. – Despite the intensity of having survived a fuel mileage race, Kasey Kahne was finally breathing easy after 400 miles at Pocono Raceway.

Kahne made it to the checkered flag sixth in the Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400 before running out of gas on the cool-down lap in Turn 3. His Hendrick Motorsports team needed to push him down pit road and when Kahne finally climbed out of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet he was quick to compliment the car to crew chief Keith Rodden.

“The car was really solid. It was fun to drive, good to drive all day long, so I enjoyed that side of it,” Kahne said. “I think we can take something very similar to Michigan next week, to me, it’s a similar racetrack in a lot of ways so hopefully this will work next week as well. But I was really happy with our Farmers Insurance Chevrolet and the team.”

Aside from an early speeding penalty, Kahne had a much-needed quiet day on Monday afternoon. It’s been a rocky first four months for the team as they’ve struggled with the balance of their cars and have yet to find a rhythm.

“I’m frustrated a lot. I hate running bad. I hate not having the results,” Kahne said of his mindset this season.

“Charlotte was two weeks where I went into that race thinking that I could win or run in the top five because that’s just a track that we do that at and we had no chance. So the guys really prepared well this week, and we looked at a lot of things and brought a great car to Pocono.”

Of the four Hendrick teams, Kahne has been the odd man out the last few seasons when it comes to consistency and contending for wins. Last year, Kahne went winless and wound up 18th in points, the only Hendrick car having failed to qualify for the Chase. It hasn’t been since 2012 that he’s been among the top 10 in the final standings.

He may not have been the main story on Monday, but the finish was a big step for Kahne and company. Just his fifth top-10 finish of the season, the relief was evident on his face afterward. Michigan International Speedway is next, another high-speed intermediate facility where he’s had previous success.

Although Kahne sits 18th in points and one week will not cure all, confidence goes a long way and for the first time in a while, Kahne appeared to have some on Monday.

“This is good for momentum, just to know that we hit on a couple things with the car. It’s a little different deal than what we’ve been doing, so I look forward running something very similar at Michigan,” he said. “Then we’ll go to Sonoma and some really good tracks, too. That’s probably my favorite racetrack.

“Hopefully, we can run really well and start clicking off top 10s each week and maybe get in Victory Lane. That’s where we want to be.”

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

Categories
XFINITY

Yeley Proving His Worth at TriStar Motorsports

LONG POND, Pa. – Mark Smith’s decision is paying off.

The XFINITY Series team owner at TriStar Motorsports made the call to replace the driver of the No. 44 Zachry Toyota, David Starr, with J.J. Yeley nearly two months ago. Yeley, who started the year in the No. 14, has driven the car in the last five events and the results have been immediate.

“It’s been going great since I made the adjustment and the switch to the 44 car. We should have run top 10 at Richmond in our first race. We’ve had really good runs,” Yeley told POPULAR SPEED. “Last week at Charlotte was my worst run, but we ran in the top 10 and had a spring failure where some spring rubbers broke. Also hit something and knocked the front grille opening out.

“So we had some things that caused the lack of speed at the end of the race that took away from our finish. The fact that we’ve been a top 15 team every time we’ve been in the racecar is great.”

When the announcement was made, Smith referenced the “commitment to our sponsor” regarding the need for an immediate change to improve the overall program. Not only has Zachry been thrilled with the improvement Yeley said, but everyone has been working has a cohesive unit.

“Team morale has gone way through the roof. The things that we’re doing have made our teammates better as well,” he said. “All in all, things are good at TriStar Motorsports right now. We know we need to make some more improvements but being a single-car team, not having a Cup affiliation, I think we’re holding our own pretty well.”

Sitting 17th in points, Yeley has earned three top-15 finishes in the last five races. Overall, he’s finished no worse than 23rd. Saturday, Yeley was credited with a 13th place finish in the rain-shortened Pocono Green 250 at Pocono Raceway. It was another solid and consistent weekend for the team after they made it to the final round of qualifying and clocked in 11th fastest.

The performances have been par with where Yeley expected them to be when he joined the team. With the competition spread within the series and the gap between the top organizations and like those Tri-Star so wide, Yeley understands they are teams who are going to consistently outrun them and take away a good finish.

But, he said, “honestly we should run top 15 every week. We’re capable of doing that.”

As for his status as a driver, Yeley has found a place at TriStar and he’s enjoying his time there. At 39, Yeley has competed in all three NASCAR national series and is now at the point where he just wants to drive a competitive racecar wherever he can.

Right now, that’s with Mark Smith, who Yeley must be making feel really good.

“We like to have fun. That’s important especially being a small team because it’s a family-owned team, that’s what we’re supposed to be doing. And going and knocking off big teams is fun,” Yeley said. “As the morale gets built up higher, every one of these guys wants to work harder and you don’t always get that at a big race team. That side of it is great.

“Obviously, I’d love to still be in a Cup car, and if I can get that opportunity, I’ll do both in a heartbeat. I’m not going to quit one to do the other. I love being in a racecar and if that means I’m going to spend 7 hours on a Saturday and do it again on Sunday, by God I’m going to do it. But to be in a competitive situation with a great sponsor like Zachry who is very supportive of the team is definitely good for me right now.”

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Categories
XFINITY

Ryan Sieg on Ryan Reed: ‘Money Can’t Buy Skill’

LONG POND, Pa. – Ryan Sieg had hopes of taking the car he ran at Pocono Raceway on Saturday to Michigan next weekend, but RSS Racing has a lot of work to do to make that happen.

Sieg got into it with Roush Fenway Racing driver Ryan Reed on track in the Pocono Green 250 before things then escalated in the garage. While neither driver confirmed there was a physical altercation, witness says the two did get together and crews had to intervene.

“He kept jabbing off, and I figured I’d shut it up for him,” Sieg said. “Then all the crew guys jumped in on me, and I couldn’t get a hold of him.”

Both the owner and driver of the No. 39 Chevrolet, there are only a handful of individuals who work for Sieg, and they were quickly outnumbered. But Sieg made sure his point was made with the media.

With their haulers parked next to each other in the garage, Sieg said Reed doesn’t believe he does anything wrong, and he hasn’t “figured it out yet.” Furthermore, Sieg said there is no talking to Reed.

“You can’t race around the kid. He’s got a lot of money, and he’s got a Roush car, but can’t drive it. Just an idiot,” Sieg continued. “Everywhere you go just seems like he’s in a wreck or whatever. Money can’t buy skill, obviously, with him.

“We had a really good car, but sucks get torn up here in the garage and have nothing to show for it from somebody that obviously can’t see, or he’s braindead, can’t drive. Probably all three.”

Reed emerged a short time later to address the media but didn’t have much to say. Passing the incident off as a racing deal, Reed admitted words were exchanged between the two drivers and that emotions ran high.

“It’s racing. I look forward to talking about it in a calm, cool, and collected manner and working it out,” Reed said. “We both race every week and it’s not going to do any good to go out there and get into a battle royal. But at the end of the day it’s going to take two parties here to agree, and I think we need to sit down and have a mature conversation and when that happens then that happens.”

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Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Earnhardt Jr. Confident a Turnaround Will Come

LONG POND, Pa. – No driver is happier to see the calendar flip to June than Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Of the four races held in May, the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet team finished no higher than 14th. They also crashed in two of those of the four events. It was a rough month, the Hendrick Motorsports driver admits, but as he enters Pocono Raceway, a track he swept in 2014, he’s not yet hitting the panic button when it comes to trying to win a race.

“No, I’m not feeling any anxiety. At 41 years old you kind of get over that stuff; I’m not going to worry about it,” Earnhardt Jr. said on Friday. “I spent the first 18 years worrying myself to death. I think we are good enough to make (the Chase) whether we get a win or not, we’re a good enough team.

“That is not a guarantee; I just feel confident that we’ll get in. A win would be what we expect, not just to lock ourselves in the Chase, we just expect to win. We’ve got a couple of years now of multiple win seasons, and we expect to go and win races.”

The 2016 season started off well enough. Earnhardt Jr. posted three top-eight finishes in the first five races and had three runner-up efforts through the first 10. The Monday after Dover (where he was collected in a crash while not running particularly well), Earnhardt Jr. went on his weekly The Dale Jr. Download podcast and said, “we have a problem, Houston.”

Looking back, even if he could pinpoint where the team has been getting beat by the competition, he’s not going to throw anyone under the bus.

“It’s just a combination of dozens of things doing everything right, preparing and working hard,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “Somebody’s got to win, and somebody’s got to lose. You are not always going to be the fastest guy. You just keep coming to the racetrack and showing up and trying to find that advantage that no one else has.”

Although he’s winless with 12 regular season races remaining, Earnhardt Jr. is not only confident he’ll make the Chase but be competitive. Sitting 13th in points entering the Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400 (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, FS1), the weekend is another chance to gain on things. Certainly in the age of the Chase, Earnhardt Jr. understands the importance of teams improving their program during the year to hit their stride for the final 10 weeks.

Citing examples, Earnhardt Jr. mentioned Tony Stewart struggling all of 2011 before clicking off five wins and earning his third championship. A year later, Hendrick was the class of the field, but Brad Keselowski walked away the champion. Even last season, Joe Gibbs Racing worked furiously to find speed and grabbed numerous wins in the Chase.

“I can see us sort of in that situation where we’re looking across the garage. Every team has enough smart people on it and if they figure out how somebody is making their mousetrap so well they’ll take it home and do it and make it even better,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “They’ll take those ideas that are great and improve on them and then bring it to the track and outrun that guy. That is the nature of the sport.”

Which is why he’s not yet worried and believes the turnaround could come sooner rather than later.

“I think we should run great here. I’m not so much worried about end of the race results. I’m more concerned with consistent speed in the car and running up front throughout the day and having consistency on pit road and in the racecar,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I think we can do that this weekend and going forward”

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