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Roger Penske Committed to NASCAR’s Involvement at IMS in “A Big Way”

The motorsports world woke up to big news when it was revealed that Roger Penske is now the new owner of the NTT IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The news coming following the current board of directors of the Hulman Company entering into an agreement to be acquired by Penske Corporation. Under the agreement, Penske Entertainment, a subsidiary of Penske Corporation, will acquire all the principal assets of Hulman & Company, including the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the NTT IndyCar Series, and the IMS Productions.

RELATED: Read the full press release at Popular Open Wheel

Although much of the current focus appears to be on what the future of open-wheel racing looks like, the news affects the NASCAR side of the equation with IMS hosting both the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series each season.

While stating that he was looking at other uses for the facility referencing a possible 24-hour or Formula 1 event, Penske expressed his commitment to keeping NASCAR in the equation. 

“The tradition had been broken in adding the NASCAR race, which obviously we’re going to get behind that in a big way because for 27 years they’ve run here,” he said on Monday morning.

Prior the press conference, Penske spoke with NASCAR’s CEO and Chairman Jim France, who expressed excitement about the deal.

“The Hulman-George family has been instrumental in the growth of motorsports through their passion for racing, elevating Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IndyCar Series to a global scale, and we thank them for their leadership and significant contributions to NASCAR,” France released in a statement. “Roger Penske is incredibly accomplished across both motorsports and business and we look forward to the successful operation of these properties under his experienced leadership.”

Penske was quick to reference the pair have worked together previously, including being partners through International Speedway Corporation with Homestead-Miami Speedway. 

“We actually sold our business to them back several years ago,” Penske commented. “So we have a very close relationship and certainly with Jim and with Steve Phelps and Steve O’Donnell and the entire France family. We would expect to take this for many, many years. They need to run at Indiana. We want them to, and there’s no question that we’re going to look at opportunities to expand the relationship with them in the future.”

Both NASCAR and IndyCar have crossed in several discussions in the past, including potential of a doubleheader weekend with the Cup Series and IndyCar Series. 

“I think it was interesting to see (Josef) Newgarden run around what they call the Roval here down in Charlotte several weeks ago, and I think it was pretty exciting,” Penske commented. “I think some of the fans had never seen an Indy car on an oval or a racetrack. Look, those are things, sitting down Tony will give us some of his input and certainly Mark and the team, are those things we can do, can we execute those so we bring value here to the speedway.

“Look, we’ve got to break some glass on some of these things, don’t we. We’ve got to try some of this. I’m prepared to take a risk. No risk, no reward in many cases. Those are the things that Mark, with you and your team, that we’ll take a look at. But I wouldn’t say it’s out of the possibility.”

Despite the new business venture, Penske was also quick to reaffirm his commitment to his race team, which currently fields three cars in the Cup Series and a pair in the Xfinity Series.

“We’ve got over 500 people down in Mooresville where we have all our teams, and with Tim Cindric as our leader, I’ll be working with him just as I have in the past,” he said.

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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Christopher Bell tames Texas, clinches Xfinity Series title shot

FORT WORTH, Texas – Christopher Bell shrugged off a short-lived brake problem in his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and cruised to a 5.635-second victory in Saturday night’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway.

With his eighth win of the year — a career-best for a single season — Bell locked himself into the Championship 4 Round of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs, with the title to be decided two weeks hence at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Bell led 101 of 200 laps in winning for the first time at the 1.5-mile track and the 16th time in his career. Bell swept the first and second stages of the event, bringing his total of 2019 stage victories to 20.

“That’s pretty special to win here at Texas,” said Bell, a native of Norman, Oklahoma. “I have a lot of family here. This (checkered) flag right here is for my nephew (Trip). I promised him years ago that if I ever won, I’d give him the flag at Texas.

“I knew we were very competitive, and then I began having brake problems. And then whenever I got those brake problems, I just wasn’t as good. I couldn’t keep the car underneath me and I was really loose. So I had to work a little harder, and that red flag helped me and my brakes came back. We were able to drive away.”

Ross Chastain came home second after taking the lead by staying on the track under caution on Lap 142 while the other top contenders came to pit road for fuel. Chastain, driving the No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet he will race full-time next year, held the top spot through two subsequent cautions and led the field to the final restart on Lap 171.

But Bell surged past Chastain on the restart lap and widened his advantage over the final 29 laps.

One of the Xfinity Series’ Big Three took a big hit on Lap 161. Racing behind Chase Briscoe for the seventh position, Tyler Reddick lost control of his No. 2 Chevrolet when Briscoe ran too high in Turn 2 and hit the outside wall.

Reddick’s Chevy bounced off the outside wall, slid across the track and slammed nose-first into the inside SAFER barrier on the backstretch, destroying the radiator and knocking him out of the race. Reddick ended the night third in the Playoff standings, and despite the DNF, he holds a 36-point edge over fifth-place Briscoe heading to next Saturday’s elimination event at ISM Raceway in Phoenix.

“You’re never safe,” Reddick said after leaving the infield care center. “We had a lot better (points) cushion than that… I got us mired back in that mess there (after a restart on Lap 157) and that’s what I deserve, if I can’t be up front with a car like that, that fast.”

Briscoe stayed on the track after the contact with the wall and eventually paid the price. He lost three laps after his tire shredded and finished 22nd, falling 18 points behind sixth-place finisher Justin Allgaier for the final berth in the Championship 4.

“That was just unfortunate,” Briscoe said. “I don’t think we were the car to win by any means, but I think we would have run fifth to eighth area. We just had to stay in that same ballpark where the 7 (Allgaier) was. We were in really good contention to do that, and then I made a mistake running the top and tried to get too much.

“We thought all our tires looked good, but we had a rub and the tire went flat and put us three laps down. Obviously, we have our backs against the wall going into next week but we have really good fast race cars. We’ll go there and try to win the race.”

Playoff driver Austin Cindric finished third but goes to Phoenix seventh in the standings, 31 points behind Allgaier. Brandon Jones, John Hunter Nemechek, Allgaier, Harrison Burton and Cole Custer finished fourth through eighth, respectively.

Custer is second in the Playoff standings, 52 points ahead of Briscoe. Noah Gragson took the biggest hit in the Playoff race, crashing out of the race in 30th place after turning down across the nose of Burton’s Toyota on Lap 149 and oiling the track.

Gragson leaves Texas 57 points below the current cutline needing a victory at Phoenix to advance to the Championship 4.

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XFINITY

OBSERVATIONS: O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway

Since the repave, Texas Motor Speedway has been criticized for the type of racing fans have gotten to witness. Some work by the tire dragon and laying down some traction compound, and we may be getting somewhere.

The O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 featured more side-by-side racing than we have seen in recent years, including a lengthy battle for the lead between Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick. If you were able to roll the momentum on the top, you could get a run to make a challenge on the outside of someone, as witnessed by Reddick on several occasions.

As a result, there was the opportunity for drivers to make moves through the field all night long. Justin Allgaier drove from last after blowing a motor in practice to finish fifth, while Bell made a charge through in the final 100 laps following pit strategy to win. 

Peaking at the Right Time

Through the spring and summer months, the focus on the intermediate tracks had been either Cole Custer or Reddick. However, it seems there’s a new sheriff in town with Bell rising to occasion.

Virtue of showing dominance at Kansas Speedway before an incident with a lapped car, combined with a dominating victory on Saturday night at Texas, it’s safe to say Joe Gibbs Racing has their program coming together at the right time. After all, when Bell was taken out a couple weeks ago, it was his teammate Brandon Jones scoring his first career victory at Kansas. 

When Bell has his equipment and game on point, he can be tough to beat, as shown with four wins, four runner-ups, and a fourth across the last 14 races. If you just look at cookie-cutter intermediate tracks alone, he has scored just one finish worse than fourth in the last five events, and that was due to the incident at Kansas Speedway with lapped traffic.

He’s also proven to have the poise needed to be a champion, as well. He reported mid-way through the event on Saturday that he felt the brakes were going on his No. 20 Rheem Toyota Supra. Rather than panic, he took care of his equipment at the time, listened to the advice of his crew chief Jason Ratcliff to improve the situation, and was able to make his way to the front at the end when it mattered.

Bell was fast last year, and entered the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway as a favorite for the championship. However, he would up finishing 11th while his three playoff mates were inside the top-four, with Reddick scoring the race victory. If Bell wants to win the championship, he will need what he’s been missing.

Just Back It Up….

Reddick got himself caught in traffic through pit strategy, and ultimately crashed out of the event on Saturday night. Now rather than being very comfortable heading into ISM Raceway, the gap is smaller to the cut-off line – but still enough that he can breathe easier than most.

However, his interview at the post-race medical center showcased a young driver being overcritical of himself. He took full blame for the incident, saying that he did not do a good job throughout the night and that’s what happens when you get stuck in those situations.

If running inside the top-three until strategy mixed up the field is not doing the job, then something has to be wrong with this picture. Furthermore, it was a clear racing incident as Chase Briscoe checked up quick ahead of him after getting in the wall, and Reddick simply over-corrected in trying to avoid. 

Certainly you want to see young drivers look back on their mistakes through races, analyze them, and correct them moving forward. However, a line needs to be drawn in the sand. Reddick needs to take a deep breath, and realize he can only do so much behind the wheel. Furthermore, he has proven himself beyond a shadow of a doubt this year with multiple victories and being a solid championship contender. Did we mention that he won the title last season, too?

Overaggressive Driving Bites, Again

It’s the same story, another week for Noah Gragson appears as trying to be overaggressive put him in a worse situation than he should have been.

Running just outside the top-10, he tried to make a move of desperation to get underneath Jeb Burton – but wasn’t clear of Harrison Burton yet. As a result, he went sideways, before sliding through the grass and causing enough damage to end his night early.

If you recall Kansas Speedway, it was being over aggressive that got him into the wall on a couple occasions, resulting in an unscheduled trip down pit road.

Certainly we know that drivers are desperate at this point in the season to keep their championship hopes alive. It is clear that Gragson needed to win either at Texas or ISM Raceway to keep himself in the hunt. However, getting yourself into deeper trouble than you should have been does not help the issue. On top of not setting yourself up to move forward, you have given your team more work to do. Sometimes you just need to take what the car will give you, and live to fight another week.

Despite having talent to get the job done, if he continues being over aggressive, he may be sitting on the sidelines sooner than later.

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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Nigel Kinrade Photography

GALLERY: NASCAR Xfinity Playoff Picture Entering Texas

Although nobody was able to lock themselves into the next round at Kansas Speedway, the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs certainly experienced a shake-up with each of the contenders experiencing up-and-down days. 

With just two races remaining until the Championship 4 is set, there is a lot on the line over the next two weeks.

Jasen Vinlove | NKP

1. Christopher Bell +49

Christopher Bell appeared to have a chance to win at Kansas Speedway after as he led 69 laps, but contact with a lap car while battling for the lead took him out of contention. He was able to rebound to finish 12th.

With only 60 points to be gained per event, it appears that a pair of solid finishes over the next two weeks would see Bell as one of the drivers to fight for the championship. However, nothing is set in stone, because if two of the drivers on the outside looking in were to win the next two races, that moves the cut-up line, with Bell currently just 12 points ahead of Tyler Reddick. Hence why winning is still his best bet to transfer.

In four races at Texas Motor Speedway, Bell has scored three finishes of sixth or better, including a runner-up last season to go with two pole positions. He also has ran strong at ISM Raceway, winning last year to go with three top-five’s and led 68 laps in the spring before crashing out.

John Harrelson | NKP

2. Cole Custer +38

Cole Custer battled up front all day at Kansas, pacing 85 laps, before contact with Tyler Reddick resulted in him fading back to 11th at the checkered flag. He confronted his championship foe post-race, with words and shoves being traded.

Custer is in a similar position as Bell with solid finishes being the key to him transferring forward – but only if nobody below the cut-line scores a victory in the next two races. If a pair of drivers score a win, that moves up the cut-off line, and a single point separating himself and Reddick certainly makes things interesting. Likewise, winning is still his best bet to transfer.

Despite crashing out of the event at Texas in the spring, Custer finished in the top-five in his previous four starts, including out-dueling Reddick to win last season. And since placing 27th in his first trip to ISM Raceway, he has scored a top-10 in the four races since, including fourth in March.

Jasen Vinlove | NKP

3. Tyler Reddick +37

Tyler Reddick battled up front all day at Kansas, before coming up just short of scoring the victory with a runner-up to Brandon Jones.

It’s the same story for Reddick as those in front of him with solid finishes being the key as long as nobody below the cut-line scores a victory in the next two races. If a pair of drivers below were to win, then Reddick would currently be outside of the Championship 4 by a single point.

Considering his most recent confrontation with Custer, it’s apparent they will race each other hard moving forward. But as the defending series champion stated at Kansas, the focus needs to be on doing well the next two weeks and winning as he deserves a chance to defend based on his season to date.

After failing to score a top-20 in his first two trips to Texas, he scored a runner-up in his last two appearances. He also finished in the top-10 in his last three races at ISM Raceway, including a third in March.

Jasen Vinlove | NKP

4. Justin Allgaier +2

Justin Allgaier avoided all the drama at Kansas Speedway, steadily making up ground throughout the event to finish fifth. It seems to be the story of the season for JR Motorsports driver, with consistency keeping his championship hopes alive.

The only concerning factor is he has yet to win a race this season, and a victory may be what he needs if he wants to have another chance to win the title. Now that isn’t to say he has not come close, as there have been some big disappointments in 2019. 

He has had a mix of results at Texas, with just three top-10’s in his last seven races, including a fifth last season. Despite placing outside of the top-10 in his last two appearances at ISM Raceway, he scored seven straight top-10 finishes before then, including a victory in 2017; he has also led 145 laps in the last three events.

Rusty Jarrett | NKP

5. Chase Briscoe -2

Chase Briscoe is putting himself in the discussion for the championship by showing that he can run up front with the contenders. He was battling for the lead with Bell at Kansas when they made contact with a lap car. Despite needing to put a new rear tail on the No. 98 Ford, Briscoe battled back to finish fifth. 

Continuing to fight for wins is what Briscoe needs to do if he wants to be part of the conversation. He could possibly beat Allgaier on points, however needs to also consider locking himself in via a victory, in case one of the drivers behind him in the standings scores a win first. 

He has finished 11th and fourth in his pair of appearances at Texas, while placing sixth at ISM Raceway in March.

Russell Labounty | NKP

6. Michael Annett -12

Running in the teens most of the afternoon, crew chief Travis Mack made the strategy call to leave Michael Annett out on old tires while the rest of the leaders pitted, followed by taking fresh rubber on a later caution. Annett almost made the decision work out in his favor, driving his way to the front and battling for the lead, but ultimately finished fourth after a couple late cautions slowed his charge.

Considering Annett has been just an average consistent driver through his career, it may take a strategy call of that nature by Mack to get his driver into the Championship 4. Certainly solid finishes could beat Allgaier and Briscoe to transfer, but banking on that does not seem plausible based on the recent performance by both.

After going six consecutive races at Texas without a top-10 finish, Annett placed sixth in the spring event. Likewise, he went three events at ISM Raceway without a top-10 before finishing eighth in March.

Russell Labounty | NKP

7. Noah Gragson -17

Noah Gragson would get into the wall on two separate occasions, resulting in flat tires and unscheduled pit stops for the No. 9 Chevrolet. As a result, he would cross the finish line scored 13th despite running inside the top-five at one point.

As noted following the event, Gragson stated he wanted to be more aggressive than before, but ultimately that backfired as he lost valuable ground he could not afford to lose already. He will need to find the balance being fighting hard and staying out of trouble if he wants to keep his championship hopes alive, as certainly it seems a win will need to be his way to transfer – unless those ahead of him cross the line of no return.

He was 13th at Texas in the spring, along with an 11th-place finish at ISM Raceway in March.

Rusty Jarrett | NKP

8. Austin Cindric -30

Cindric appeared to be over aggressive in his approach at Kansas Speedway, making contact with a pair of drivers that resulted in a flat tire, damage to his No. 22 Ford and unscheduled trips down pit road. As a result, he finished 25th and has put himself in an early hole in the Round of 8.

Cindric’s focus the next two weeks needs to be solely on winning, but not being over aggressive that he shoots himself in the foot as he did at Kansas. There is still a mathematical chance to transfer without a victory, but that would only happen if the four drivers ahead of him ran into significant issues the next two weeks.

He has two top-10’s in three appearances at Texas including a third last season, along with a fourth and a fifth in his last two starts at ISM Raceway.

All Images Courtesy of Nigel Kinrade Photography

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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Brandon Jones wins at Kansas Speedway, as Xfinity Playoff drivers battle on and off-track

KANSAS CITY, Kan: After Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300 took a sharp turn with 16 laps left, Brandon Jones sped away on two straight restarts to collect his first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory in a race that ended with Playoff drivers Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick brawling on pit road.

Jones stretched his advantage after a restart on Lap 196 of 200, with first Chase Briscoe and then Reddick giving chase. Jones held off both pursuers and crossed the finish line .272 seconds ahead of Reddick, with Briscoe .623 seconds behind the leader

“My foot was literally shaking on the accelerator on that last lap,” Jones said in Victory Lane. “I’m not even sure if I was wide open at the time that I was doing it. There was a lot of nerves and a lot of emotion going through my mind, but I saw it coming, and I was pretty pumped.”

Contact from Reddick’s Chevrolet forced Custer into the outside wall after the final restart, and Custer dropped to 11th at the finish. After both drivers exited their cars on pit road, Custer approached Reddick to voice his displeasure, placing a hand on Reddick’s shoulder.

Reddick responded with both hands to the collar of Custer’s firesuit, and the drivers fell to the pavement while grappling, only to be separated by crew members.

“I put my hand on him, and he just went berserk,” said Custer, who led a race-high 85 laps and won the second stage. “I thought we had a good car. I thought we had a chance to win.”

“If he puts a hand on me, I’m going to put a hand on him back,” Reddick said. “That’s just how it’s going to be if we’re having a conversation that way… It was just the heat of the moment—we’re pissed off. I’m sure we’ll talk about it here soon, maybe today, tomorrow.

“I obviously didn’t want to get into his quarter panel, but if I lift, I get passed. I hate that it happened to him, but we’ll try to move forward.”

Briscoe was leading, with pole winner and series leader Christopher Bell right behind when the two drivers closed fast on the No. 0 of Garrett Smithley on Lap 184. Smithley steered toward the top of the track and pinched Briscoe’s Ford into the outside wall.

With no room to maneuver, Bell plowed into Briscoe’s car, sending Bell’s No. 20 Supra sliding across the infield grass with major damage to the right front. Briscoe recovered to run third, after his crew replaced the rear bumper cover on his No. 98 Mustang, but Bell had to settle for a 12th-place finish.

Bell, however, retained the series lead by 11 points over Custer and 12 over third-place Reddick, as the “Big Three” remained comfortably above the cut line for the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Justin Allgaier ran fifth and is fourth in the standings, two points ahead of Briscoe.

Austin Cindric’s championship hopes took a severe blow when the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford tangled with the No. 18 Toyota of Harrison Burton on Lap 70. After an intense exchange of positions moments before, Cindric tagged the right rear of Burton’s car, turning it sideways.

But Burton remained in Cindric’s path, and both cars sustained damage when they collided in the middle of the track. Burton retired with a broken right front suspension. Ultimately, with a succession of unscheduled pit stops, Cindric finished 25th, six laps down, and dropped to eighth in the Playoff standings, 30 points below the cutoff for the Championship 4.

Jeremy Clements, Justin Haley, John Hunter Nemechek, Ryan Sieg and Ross Chastain finished sixth through 10th, respectively.

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XFINITY

OBSERVATIONS: Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway

Although a first career triumph for Brandon Jones and the fight between championship contenders Tyler Reddick and Cole Custer will top the headlines leaving Kansas Speedway, several other things happened during the Kansas Lottery 300 on Saturday.

Lap Traffic Problems

https://twitter.com/XfinityRacing/status/1185669422075088896

As the laps began to wound down, it appeared as though the battle for the win would be between Chase Briscoe and Christopher Bell. However, those hopes were dashed with 15 laps to go when they were caught up in a wreck with a lap car.

Garrett Smithley told NASCAR on NBC that he wasn’t made aware that the leaders were coming up on him, and he was just riding around on 70-lap tires at that point.

The frustration radiated from Briscoe who was quick to ask on his radio, “What was he doing? Where was he going?” It was a reasonable question considering Smithley was already five laps down at this point in the event. 

At the beginning of a driver’s racing career at the short track level, lap cars are taught to remain on the bottom, allowing the leaders to battle as they should have the right to. Knowing that he was already multiple laps down and off the pace, why did he not remain on the bottom of the track?

Secondly, it is a little disheartening to see Smithley throw total blame on his spotter for the incident. He is the one handling the controls of the racecar, and should be aware of the situation around him. 

This is not Smithley’s first incident as a lapped car this season, either, as he crossed paths with Kyle Busch at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Hopefully he learned something this time around as it is one of the most frustrating things in racing to see a battle for the win ruined this way.

Briscoe was able to rebound, getting a new rear bumper car installed to drive back up to finish third. Bell finished 12th, but thankfully has a comfortable advantage over the cut-off line in the playoffs thanks to a solid regular season campaign.

Overaggressive Driving

Knowing a spot in the Championship 4 is on the line, it was safe to say that several drivers were being overly aggressive on Saturday – namely Austin Cindric and Noah Gragson.

Cindric has been solid thus far through the playoffs to be considered a legitimate threat by some, as noted by POPULAR SPEED’s Mitchell Breuer entering the weekend. However, he wound up finishing 25th on Saturday after having to make a couple unscheduled trips down pit road with flat tires.

The contact was all self-inflicted, too. He grew frustrated battling Harrison Burton for position, saying that “he was driving all over the track,” that he drove in the back of the No. 18, sending Burton up into the wall and ending his day. The contact resulted in nose damage to Cindric’s Ford that was made worse when he made contact with John Hunter Nemechek on the restart.

Considering the issues experienced by fellow championship contenders and the speed Cindric has shown this year – finishing no worse than third in any playoff event entering this weekend, this could have been his opportunity to capitalize.

Although his title chances are not totally eliminated, he will essentially need to win one of the next two events to be part of the championship conversation. If he continues to let the little battles frustrate him, that certainly won’t happen.

Gragson, meanwhile, stated before the event that he was going to push harder than he has before, wanting to be aggressive and take advantage of the opportunity laid before him. It back fired, as he got into the wall on two separate occasions, ultimately finishing 13th with a car that should have placed in the top-10, possibly top-five.

Through Gragson’s truck series seasons with Kyle Busch Motorsports, he was fast on a weekly basis – but mistakes and being overaggressive certainly took away some chances at winning. It seems that cycle is still repeated. If he had not found the contact resulting in the flat left rear in the final laps, he could have been celebrating in victory lane. 

There is something to be said for a driver who wants to push as hard as they can to succeed, but a line needs to be drawn in the sand. That is something the rookie needs to find if he wants to be able to score his first career series victory. 

Great Strategy!

Through his career, Michael Annett has been seen as an average driver – able to find solid consistency, but not become a serious contender for a championship. 

His crew chief Travis Mack deserves all the credit for leaving his driver out there on old tires, while the rest of the leaders pitted. That allowed Annett to take four fresh tires on a later caution, setting him up for a strong charge to the front.

The call was almost a success, as Annett drove his way from outside the top-10 to third before another caution came out. If the additional yellow flag had not waved, he had enough momentum to power past the top-two and snag the victory. However, the additional heat cycle on the tires took any chance that he had away, resulting in a fourth-place finish.

For anybody looking for an underdog for the championship, Annett and more so crew chief Travis Mack made a case for the No. 1 team. If there is a race that comes down to a strategy call, it may just work in their favor next time.

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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XFINITY

Title Favorites Custer and Reddick Clash at Kansas

Contact on a late-race restart, combined with the pressure to lock themselves into the Championship 4, caused two of the top three competitors in the NASCAR Xfinity Series to clash at Kansas Speedway on Saturday.

Battling for the lead on a restart with less than 10 laps to go, Tyler Reddick slid up the track while four-wide with Noah Gragson and Brandon Jones, making slight contact with Cole Custer, causing Custer to bounce off the outside wall. Custer would fall back in the running order as a result, finishing 11th, while Reddick lost out in the battle for the win, placing second to Jones.

Following the completion of the Kansas Lottery 300, Custer approached Reddick to discuss the contact, where crew members from both teams got involved to result in a fight in the middle of pit road.

Custer stated that he approached his fellow title rival due to being frustrated with the contact. 

“I just wasn’t very happy with it and was just going to tell him that and he went berserk on me,” he said. “I guess that is part of it. I just wasn’t very happy with it. He just said, ‘Don’t touch me,’ then he started grabbing on me.”

While understanding his rival’s situation, Reddick felt confident in how he handled the situation. 

“As soon as he put a hand on me, I put a hand on him back; that’s just how it’s going to be if we’re going to have a conversation that way,” he told NASCAR on NBC. “I’m out of breath, had a little fight there with people, but it was kinda fun.”

The drivers have not had any issues with each other in the past, with the confrontation simply chalked up to being due to “heat of the moment.”

“We’re pissed off,” he added. “I’m sure we’ll talk about it here soon, maybe today, tomorrow, who knows maybe have a beer over it. Obviously didn’t want to get into his quarter panel, but if I lift, I get passed and I hate that it happened to him. We’ll try and move forward, obviously.”

Currently, both drivers are in a comfortable position to transfer to the next round, the Championship 4, in the Xfinity Series playoffs. Although Christopher Bell leads both Custer and Reddick, they both still sit 38 and 37 points above the cut line. To put that into perspective, you earn 10 points for winning a stage and 40 points for a race victory; it would take serious issues both either to have someone knock them out.

Through the Xfinity Series season, these three drivers have been the class of the field and easily were predicted to be part of the Championship 4. Based on the current standings, they would have to see two of the other eight playoff drivers win the next two events to eliminate all three.

It is possible, but highly unlikely given the dominance by The Big Three.  However, if they continue to clash with each other, it may result in an upset.

“A couple of us have a lot to lose in this deal and if we take each other out, neither one of us gets to Homestead and I feel we both deserve to be there,” Reddick said. 

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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Categories
XFINITY

Can Austin Cindric Solidify Himself?

The 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series season has been dominated by three drivers – Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick, and Cole Custer.

While it is not confirmed these three will be racing for the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway, it is likely.

However, there are still five other drivers in the playoffs, and at least one of them will also have a chance at the title. The lone question is who?

Now, while it’s been all about the “Big 3,” there has been one driver who has done well about proving himself this season. He is the only other competitor running for points that has more than one win.

This driver is Austin Cindric.

While he may not have the most impressive stats in the season, Cindric has been very consistent, and has even gotten better throughout the year. He started off with 13 top-10’s in the first 16 races, had a bit of a low point between Kentucky, New Hampshire, and Iowa II, before winning back-to-back road course events.

He hasn’t cooled off in the playoffs either; in the Round of 12, he never started or finished below third. If he repeats that in the Round of 8, he will be more than likely going on the Championship 4.

Again though  the question is can he? The momentum is there for Cindric; he just needs to capitalize

This is the opportunity to cement himself as a true contender, something that Reddick, who had a worse season up to this point, did last year. The next three races could prove monumental for Cindric, and could honestly set the tone for his NASCAR career going forward.

If Cindric continues to show his skill set, he not only proves that he should be taken seriously this year but next year as well.

After all, there’s a chance that Bell, Reddick, and Custer are all gone from the series next season, which would arguably make Cindric the best in the series. Now if he made the Championship 4 and maybe even won the championship this year, the momentum skyrockets for the No. 22 team, which again, would be huge for Cindric.

After all, 2020 is setting up for a prove yourself for Cindric, who has been tied with possible opportunities in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in the years that would follow.

What a bigger of a statement can be made than heading into next season, than a championship appearance this season. The opportunity to set all of this up starts this weekend at Kansas. It is make or break time.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

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

Categories
News

Cole Custer claims Xfinity Series victory at Dover International Speedway

DOVER, Del. – In his 100th NASCAR Xfinity Series start, Cole Custer conquered the Monster Mile.

Custer held off a hungry field of Playoff contenders on a restart with seven laps to go and pulled away from Justin Allgaier to win the Use Your Melon Drive Sober 200 at Dover International Speedway on Saturday afternoon.

Custer, who claimed the victory as Dover celebrates its 50th anniversary, is the fifth Xfinity Series driver to win in their 100th start.

“I’ve wanted to win here so bad for so long,” Custer said. “I’ve been close a number of times but just to win the gold Monster (trophy) is unbelievable.”

Michael Annett claimed the last available spot in the Round of 8 as the first round of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs came to a close Saturday. Advancing along with Custer and Annett are Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick, Austin Cindric, Noah Gragson, Chase Briscoe and Justin Allgaier.

Eliminated from championship contention were John Hunter Nemechek, Justin Haley, Ryan Sieg and Brandon Jones.

Custer, Annett and Haley were the biggest benefactors of a caution with 23 laps to go that fell in the middle of green-flag pit stops that changed the complexion of the race.

Dillon Bassett spun at pit entrance on lap 177 which brought out the yellow flag, leaving only Custer, Annett, Haley, Justin Allgaier, Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric and Zane Smith on the lead lap.

Custer maintained the lead on the lap 185 restart only to see another caution displayed when Ray Black Jr. crashed in Turn 2, where Matt Mills and Stephen Leicht were also collected.

Luckily for Custer, the final caution didn’t limit him. He cleared Allgaier and Haley on the restart and pulled away swiftly for his seventh win of 2019, tying Christopher Bell for the most in the series this season.

“(The car) felt really good in practice,” Custer said. “I thought we had a good car. I don’t think it was everything we expected in the race. We kind of tried something a little bit different in this race but just (an) amazing pit call.”

The Playoff drama began on the opening lap when both Reddick and Harrison Burton broke loose on the back straightaway. Reddick slapped the wall with the right side of his car and continued, but Burton wasn’t as lucky.

Burton spun toward the inside of the track and was clobbered by teammate Brandon Jones, lifting Burton’s No. 18 car off the ground. Both drivers were checked and released from the infield care center, but Jones’ Playoff hopes ended there.

“There’s nothing that you can do about it,” Jones said after exiting the care center.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s luck worsened when Bell lost fuel pressure on lap 15, shortly after brushing the wall off Turn 4. Bell finished 25th behind the wall 34 laps down.

The early cautions continued on lap 21 when Nemechek spun Mike Harmon exiting Turn 4 and onto the fronstretch.

That was the end of yellows for on-track incidents until Bassett spun on lap 177.

Annett, who finished sixth after starting from the rear of the field due to an engine change, advanced out of the first round of the Playoffs for the first time in his Xfinity career.

“I can’t say enough about these guys all the way through these playoffs,” Annett said. “To come from the back today is just a testament to the car they gave me.”

Nemechek finished in 10th place after an eventful race. A strong pit stop at the conclusion of Stage 2 allowed his No. 23 to exit pit road fourth. That effort went for naught after a loose lug nut forced Nemechek back to the pits.

“That’s why we’re standing here, I feel like,” Nemechek said. “It just put us behind the eight-ball. We were in good position all day and right here, we came out of the pits fourth, but we didn’t have enough lug nuts on the left rear.

“Had to come back down. You can’t have a loose wheel here at Dover. It’s just something that you don’t want to have under green. I think we got the margin down to minus-six or something like that after the first two stages and were executing like we needed to all day. We just haven’t been able to close this year.”

Rounding out the top five behind Custer were Allgaier, Cindric, Haley and Briscoe. Annett was sixth and his JR Motorsports teammate Noah Gragson was the last car on the lead lap in seventh. Nemechek, Smith and Sieg completed the top 10.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Legitimized and Ready, Reddick Moves to Cup

It was confirmed on Wednesday, Oct. 2 by Richard Childress Racing that Tyler Reddick will be moving to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series to drive the No.8 Chevrolet.

It was not an announcement that shocked anybody, or a move many argue will argue against.

After all, Reddick is the defending NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion and currently having an even better season where he has captured five wins and the regular-season championship.

It could even be argued that Reddick is the most Cup-ready of the current batch of Xfinity Series regulars. After all, he’s already impressed in NASCAR’s top-level with a ninth-place finish in only his second start earlier this season at Kansas Speedway.

There is no other arguing that Reddick is ready for the jump; however, if you rewind the tape to the beginning of October last year, a future in Cup would have looked like a stretch.

He was with JR Motorsports, driving a car that had seen so much success with William Byron and Chase Elliott, and it was a forgettable year.

Reddick only had one win that came at Daytona, and really did not scream weekly contender with 13 finishes outside the top-20. He was in the playoffs but was not a favorite to win the title, let alone make the Championship 4 in a season that was dominated by Christopher Bell and Justin Allgaier.

Later in the month, it would be announced that he was leaving the team to join RCR, which could have been seen as a step backward, and was a move that did not surprise anyone.

Reddick just seemed like someone could not be put in the same ballpark as Bell and Cole Custer as possible future Cup stars. All of this truly makes what he has accomplished in the year since that much more impressive.

He put together an impressive string through the 2018 Xfinity Series playoffs, en route to winning the title with a sensational performance in the season finale at Homestead-Maimi Speedway. He has also since proven that his championship performance was not a fluke, that he can contend for wins on a weekly basis, and that he is somebody that is going to need an eye kept on.

After all, it was not like RCR was just winning race left and right before 2019. They only had one in the two previous seasons which didn’t come from any of their full-time drivers in Xfinity.

With how much Reddick has turned around their program, it does raise the question – what can he do at the next level? Can he turn around an organization that has been on the decline?

With what he’s done in a year, it is certainly not out of the question.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

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.