Categories
XFINITY

Reddick No Longer an Afterthought in Xfinity Series

Has there been any driver that has proven themselves more in the last nine months than Tyler Reddick? It’s certainly a question to ask as he currently leads the NASCAR Xfinity Series points.

Recall, before the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs, Reddick was an afterthought. Though he had shown signs of strength, the focus was on drivers like Christopher Bell and Cole Custer, as they were pegged as the next big things of the sport.

The biggest consensus was Reddick’s lack of consistency, as he was involved in multiple wrecks, ultimately causing him to not finish five events. The amount of continued damage repair and lack of sponsorship resulted in Reddick being told he would not continue with the team in 2019 as of October 2018.

However, no one could have possibly expected what would happen next, with Reddick going on a remarkable run.

In the next seven races he would score six top-10’s, including three finishes of sixth or better to earn him a chance at a championship. In his final start with JR Motorsports, Reddick would go on to win the Ford 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, as well as his first series title in NASCAR.

The question had to be asked though, was this a fluke? Would he be able to carry this momentum from JR Motorsports to Richard Childress Racing? After all, RCR is a team that had seen far less success in recent years.

Well, if 2019 has proven anything it is that Reddick is legit. There have been no signs of slowing down from the 23-year-old, whose only finished worse than fifth twice this season.

Currently, Reddick is on a stretch where he hasn’t finished outside the top-four since Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March. Most recently, he captured his second win of the season in the Alsco 300, where the driver of the No. 2 controlled most of the day at Charlotte Motor Speedway, leading 110 of 200 laps.

After 11 races, Reddick has himself currently positioned atop the points standings with a commanding 65-point lead and 13 playoff points in the bank. In addition, Reddick’s impressive performance in Xfinity, along with a ninth-place finish in his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start, has his owner Richard Childress referring to him as a “superstar”.

So, was his 2018 success a fluke? Absolutely not.

What Reddick has demonstrated during the opening stages of the 2019 season only proves that his time in the spotlight is only beginning. He has not only made his name but established it as a credible threat on a weekly basis. Reddick deserves to be in the conversation with Bell and Custer, getting the same respect and praise those two get.

Point being, Tyler Reddick is the real deal.

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
NASCAR Cup Series

Austin Dillon Not Satisfied With 2019 Start

We may not be far into the 2019 season; however, it has been an interesting one for Austin Dillon.

His No. 3 Richard Childress Racing team has shown signs of strength, with four top-10 starting spots, which included a pole at Auto Club Speedway. He has also been able to maintain that track position, by running towards the front during the races.

However, despite what seems like an improvement in performance, Dillon has lacked the ability to finish the race just as strong, with one top-10 finish through the first eight event.

With all of this in mind, it is hard to justify whether or not his current 18th-place standings in points is indicative or not of how this team is going to be this year.

It is not just Dillon having these problems though, as it seems like the entire Chevrolet camp has been on an odd stretch. Through eight races, none of their drivers winning a race so far.

Despite their lack of success, Dillon believes his team, as well as the manufacture, are heading in the right direction.

“We feel like the Chevrolets are in a better spot than we were last year. We’ve had speed in our camp, at RCR and ECR in a lot of the qualifying sessions, but we haven’t been able to turn it into finishing results that we’d like,” Dillon said. “Some of the Hendrick cars had some good speed last week. That’s good to see. And, Kurt Busch has also been pretty good all year. So, it’s moving in the right direction. I hope that we can continue the same path that we’re on and keep building on it. But, every week seems to be a different challenge, so we’re still progressing.”

While he believes there has been progress made, Dillon acknowledges that there are still improvements to be made moving forward.

“For me, we’re not where we need to be. We’re headed in the right direction. I do feel like we made steps this off-season. It’s cool to see some of the processes that were going forward, but we definitely can improve I feel like,” Dillon said. “There’s still improvement there and we need to see what other people are doing and do it better. That’s what this garage is all about is to see and look at it and try and recreate it and make it better. And, I’m proud of the effort that we’re putting in and bringing to the track. I think we’re halfway there. We’ve got still another half to get to where Chevy is winning and winning consistently like some of the other manufacturers are doing right now.”

The good news for Dillon is the upcoming schedule may prove to be towards his liking. Richmond Raceway and Dover International Speedway are both tracks where he had top-10’s last year, and Talladega Superspeedway is a place where the No. 3 is used to running towards the front.

These races may also serve as statement events for him and his team. Dillon has proven he can run towards the front; now it is a matter of showing they can finish there too.

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
NASCAR Cup Series

Rough Atlanta Preps Austin Dillon for Vegas

Austin Dillon’s weekend at the Atlanta Motor Speedway was going well through Friday and Saturday as he showed speed, ranking in the top five in both practice sessions and qualified 10th for Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.

When the green flag dropped on Sunday, his weekend hit a bump and went downhill. Dillon started to fall back as his car wasn’t living up to what we saw in practice. During the gloomy cold cloudy days which were on Friday and Saturday his car seemed the best; however, when the sun was out on Sunday, his machine couldn’t handle the warmest day of the weekend.

What could have gone wrong to the No. 3 Dow Chevy Camaro? The team missed the set-up due to feeling confidence with the handling after practice, and not realizing the race wouldn’t be under cloudy skies.

Dillon and the other drivers still need to get used to the new rules package, so it’s easy to understand how they could’ve been a little off in the direction they went. Midway through the first stage, Dillon referenced the team going the wrong way with their choices.

“It was definitely a learning experience for our Dow Racing team today at Atlanta Motor Speedway,” Dillon said. “We missed on the setup a little at the beginning of the race and that made our bed for the rest of the race. This team has a lot of determination, though, and we never gave up.”

With Dillon never giving up during the run, he still battled to make gains and get better. Even if he wasn’t contending for the win, Dillon was getting used to the handling of the rules package which he’s going to need for future races.

“My crew chief, Danny Stockman, and the team made major adjustments throughout the race to try and get the handling better,” Dillon said. “By the end of the race, we were running the No. 42 car down, who had led a lot of the race, and that’s a testament to how hard this team works and all of the changes we made during the race.”

The new rules package will be in full affect during the upcoming weekend at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“We’re building a notebook for this new package, and I have confidence that our team will be in the fight next week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway,” Dillon said.

Dillon and his team are looking for better in race improvement. If they can add to that while practicing and qualifying well, look for Dillon to start making noise during the season. The season is still young, and there is still a lot to learn and look forward for the No. 3 team.

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

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Hemric Could Produce a Special Surprise for Childress

It seems like every year, no matter how much we look into it, there is a driver who shocks during Speedweeks.In 2011, it was Trevor Bayne and David Ragan, in 2013 we saw Danica Patrick, and who could forget 2018 where Austin Dillon and Bubba Wallace, nobody’s favorites to win, finished one-two. Could this year’s stick with the Richard Childress Racing camp?

While the spotlight shined on the four drivers of Hendrick Motorsports Sunday, there was one competitor in their shadow that many may have overlooked, rookie Daniel Hemric, who posted the fifth fastest time of the afternoon.

During Wednesday’s media day, the 28-year-old admitted to the press that the run was just as unexpected him as well.

“We didn’t get to do a full qualifying run on practice day, so I didn’t know what to expect,” Hemric said. “I asked Luke (Lambert, crew chief) what we were going to run and he said he didn’t have a good idea either. I saw my teammate Austin Dillon go top of the board early, and he went a good bit faster than what we expected our cars to run. It gave me some confidence that we could lock ourselves into the second round and have a shot. And then we went on to qualify fifth. We were incredibly proud because there’s so much effort that goes into building this race cars in the offseason between ECR, Chevrolet and RCR. This is our biggest event and you want to come down here and have speed. I know it’s early in the week by the time you qualify but it does give you momentum rolling into this week.”

While he may not be considered an underdog, and shouldn’t be given he drives for one of the sport’s top teams, the term ‘dark horse’ suits him well and, the under the radar threat, may just give Richard Childress his fourth Daytona 500 in his 50th year as an owner.

“That would be a fairy tale for sure,” Hemric said. “50 years is an incredible journey that Richard and Judy Childress have committed to our sport. To be in one of their race cars and knowing the history that comes with carrying the Richard Childress Racing logo is incredible in itself. We’re here and we have as good a shot as anybody, so we’ll go out swinging.”

If Hemric were to capture a win Sunday, it would be the 109th for RCR and, the first for him, not only in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series but, in any of NASCAR’s top-three series. It sounds unlikely but, it’s Daytona, anything can happen.

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
NASCAR Cup Series

Newman Hopeful Improvements Leads to Playoff Berth

With six races remaining until the start of the playoffs the thrill and adrenaline is starting to pick up for the last few spots of the postseason.

For some fans, it is quite a surprise that the former Daytona 500 champion Ryan Newman is having a mediocre year.

Going into this season, Newman had higher expectations after debuting the new Camaro ZL1 at Daytona in February.

In fact, his teammate Austin Dillon won the Daytona 500 bringing a boost of momentum to Richard Childress Racing after claiming victory in the new car.

But their expectations haven’t been proven as Newman has only scored four top-10’s this year entering the Foxwoods Casino Resort 301. 

After finishing outside the top-10 in the first two stages, Newman was able to overcome some struggles and place in the sixth position at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

“Just proud of everybody. Not the end result that we want, but a huge improvement and that is something we want” Newman said.

The 40-year-old from South Bend, Indiana had not had a top-10 finish at New Hampshire since the summer race of 2016.

Last season, it seemed like the No. 31 team was bound to have a promising year after winning the fourth race on the schedule at the ISM Raceway. Despite the victory, Newman went on to finish the season last in the playoff standings which has appeared to transfer over to this year.

His sixth-place finish at New Hampshire was his best result of the season.

Newman and the No. 31 team definitely still have a lot of work to do to make the playoff push, but his performance on Sunday was a stepping stone.

“Yeah, it was a good rebound from yesterday,” Newman said. “The entire weekend they definitely stepped it up. It was a good run for our Chevy Accessories Chevy Camaro. The guys did a good job in the pits today, that was nice to see, we have been struggling a little bit there. Just proud of everybody.”

As Newman looks to join his teammate in the playoffs, with six races left until the start of the postseason, Newman sits 19th in the standings, 74 points behind the cutoff.

Like every other team in the Monster Energy Cup Series garage, their ultimate goal is to win races and compete for a championship.

“We will keep digging.”

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Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Richard Petty Motorsports Switches Manufactures

Richard Petty Motorsports is hoping a new driver, combined with a new manufacture, will be the secret to success in 2018.

The organization stated on Friday that they will be switching from Ford to Chevrolet next season, with Darrell Wallace Jr. set to drive the 2018 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.  RPM has previously fielded Chevrolets in the past, scoring 31 Cup wins with General Motors.

This isn’t Wallace’s first time in the Chevrolet family, as he won a Camping World Truck Series event last year for the manufacture.

“I’ve had some great memories with Chevrolet and I’m ready to make a lot more,” Wallace, Jr. said. “The entire RPM team is ready for 2018, and now we have a big piece of the puzzle put in place. We’re all eager to start preparing our No. 43 Camaro for 2018, working and creating new ideas with RCR. This is a new journey and we’re all ready to begin it.”

Along with a new manufacture, the team announced they have formed a technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing, with RCR supplying chassis and engineering support; RPM will also receive their motors from ECR Engines. To help make the move go smoothly, RPM will move its team headquarters next to the RCR campus in Welcome, N.C. The move will begin immediately and be completed by January.

“We’ve had a tremendous amount of success through our team partnerships over the past several seasons”, said Richard Childress, Chairman and CEO of RCR. “To bring a storied organization like Richard Petty Motorsports on-board as an alliance partner is a win for each of our organizations.”

The move marks a historical shift in NASCAR landscape as two of the most iconic teams unite together for the first time. 

“This is our next chapter of Petty racing,” said Richard Petty, co-owner, Richard Petty Motorsports. “We need to provide Bubba, Drew (Blickensderfer) and the rest of the team with the tools necessary to be successful on the track, and I feel strongly this is the best move for RPM, our partners and everyone involved with our team. Chevrolet has been a consistent winner in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for a long time and we’re proud to be a part of the GM family again. We feel we can immediately win with Chevrolet and our new alliance with RCR.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

RCR Plagued by Power Outage

It was a solid weekend with a sour ending for RCR drivers, Ryan Newman and Austin Dillon. The two ran strong throughout the 400-mile event, but ultimately battery issues for both resulted in a 32nd place for Dillon and a 35th for Newman.

Newman started the day second and showed strength through the early half of the race with a sixth in Stage 1 and a third in Stage 2. With under 100 laps to go, the 39-year-old fell out of the top-five but still ran firmly inside the top-10 when a penalty with 48 laps to go for a crew member over the wall too soon began the unfortunate chain of events to follow.

Nine laps after serving his punishment, Newman came down pit road and to the garage to get a replacement battery, which brought an end to what was shaping up to be a good day for the No. 31 team.

“Just lost the charging system and therefore the battery went dead. It took us out of it. It was unfortunate.” Newman said. “Just really proud of the guys on the Caterpillar Chevrolet. Had a car that was capable of winning there, especially seeing who won. We were there. We took ourselves out, but it was nice to be there.”

As for Dillon, he had an impressive performance going after starting the 19th. By the end of Stage 1 he had worked his up to 11th, and by the end of Stage 2, he found himself sixth. In the closing stages of the race, the North Carolina-native ran as high as second, before losing power just like Newman with 18 laps to go.

“Everything just shut off all power,” Dillon stated.

Well, the two might have had decent runs at Atlanta, the poor results will be all Dillon will remember from the day.

“It just doesn’t mean anything though when you can’t get the finish. Got to go back to work. I’m proud of my guys for the speed they put in this race car. We worked hard, really hard, this one just hurts there is nothing better to say about it, it just hurts.”

Mitchell Breuer is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

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
XFINITY

Lagasse Joins RCR XFINITY Lineup

Richard Childress Racing announced on Tuesday that veteran driver Scott Lagasse Jr. would drive the No. 3 Chevrolet Camaro in four NASCAR XFINITY Series races this season.

Lagasse will join Ty Dillon who will drive the No. 3 in 27 NXS races this season as RCR looks for a sixth owner’s championship.

Gil Martin, director of competition for RCR’s XFINITY Series program, said they are looking forward to what Lagasse can bring to the table.

“We welcome Scott to our impressive lineup of this season’s XFINITY Series drivers,” said Martin. “Our goal is to win races and win this year’s owner’s championship, and I’m confident that Scott will help the No. 3 team accomplish those goals.”

Lagasse, who has competed in 61 career NXS races recorded his best career finish of sixth at last weekend’s Powershares QQQ 300 at Daytona International Speedway.

Lagasse says he knows the legacy of the No. 3 and is looking forward to the opportunity to compete for RCR.

“Knowing the history of the No. 3 car and what it means to Mr. Childress, it is a real honor for me to be a part of this team,” said Lagasse. “I look forward to helping RCR win an owner’s championship this season.”

EMAIL JUSTIN at tuckerjustin65@yahoo.com

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

Categories
News

Kennedy Joins RCR for 2017 XFINITY Series Season

The talent pool continues to grow for the 2017 NASCAR XFINITY Series season.

Richard Childress Racing announced on Monday that Ben Kennedy would drive the No. 2 Rheem/Menard’s Chevrolet Camaro for the team in nine NXS races this season starting at Talladega SuperSpeedway in May.

Kennedy will join 2013 XFINITY Series champion Austin Dillon and Paul Menard on the No. 2 team with Justin Alexander as crew chief.

Last season, Kennedy scored his first NASCAR National Series win by winning the Truck Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway in August; he also made his NXS debut at Iowa Speedway in June where he scored a 10th place finish.

“I am looking forward to working with Rheem, Menard’s and the No. 2 XFINITY Series team,” said Kennedy. “I’m thrilled that well-respected brands like Rheem and Menards are willing to lend their support and provide the opportunity to prove what I can do. I may not have the experience that Cup Series drivers do, but I’m confident that I have what it takes to get to Victory Lane.”

Dillon and Menard are excited Kennedy’s addition to their NXS lineup and credits RCR’s partners for allowing young drivers to get seat time in winning equipment.

“I cut my teeth in the XFINITY Series,” said Dillon. “If it hadn’t been for the success I experienced in both the Truck Series and the XFINITY Series, I wouldn’t be driving in the Cup Series now. I understand how important it is to give younger drivers a chance to make a name for themselves and gain valuable experience. They can’t prove themselves unless someone gives them a shot, and I’m glad that Rheem and Menards want to provide Ben that opportunity.”

“It is great that our partners recognize the value in developing young drivers,” said Menard. “They are the future of NASCAR and need to be given chances to race in good equipment at the front of the field. This is a big opportunity for Ben, and I know he’s going to make the most of it with Rheem and Menards on board. He has a lot of talent and this is his chance to show everyone what he’s got.”

EMAIL JUSTIN at tuckerjustin65@yahoo.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @JustinTuckerWeb

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

Categories
XFINITY

2017 XFINITY Season Could Be a Year-Long RCR vs. JRM Clash

Richard Childress Racing and JR Motorsports could be at the top of the heap in the 2017 NASCAR XFINITY Series season and dethrone Joe Gibbs Racing, which stood as the series’ most dominant organization throughout 2016.

With Carl Edwards’ unexpected leave from JGR’s No. 19 Toyota in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, defending XFINITY champion and JGR driver Daniel Suarez was summoned to be his successor and run for Rookie of the Year honors in the sport’s premier level.

11-12 November, 2016, Avondale, Arizona USA Daniel Suarez, Arris Toyota Camry and Erik Jones, Hisense Toyota Camry © 2016, Nigel Kinrade NKP
(Photo credit: Nigel Kinrade | NKP)

Erik Jones, Suarez’s XFINITY teammate and the driver of the JGR No. 20 in 2016, is also moving to Cup to pilot the No. 77 for Toyota team Furniture Row Racing and run for Rookie of the Year in the upcoming season.

The two drivers, who both were part of the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway last November, will turn their focus to the Cup Series. Matt Tifft will drive the No. 19 in NASCAR’s second-tier series, replacing Suarez, and the rest of the organization’s plans are yet to be announced.

According to Jayski.com, all three of JGR’s XFINITY cars will run in 2017 with Tifft going full-time and Suarez running a 10-race schedule. There is still no determination if JGR will have a second series regular.

It can be expected Kyle Busch will run a partial XFINITY schedule too, although he’ll be unable to compete in more than 10 races because of a new rule limiting the participation of Cup drivers with more than five years of full-time experience. Some of the discussions have also surrounded Kyle Busch Motorsports Camping World Truck Series driver Christopher Bell possibly getting to run some races. Dave Wilson, President of Toyota Racing Development, told the NASCAR Wire Service he has “a solid plan for Christopher” and “would like to get him into an XFINITY car for a couple races.”

15-16 July, 2016, Loudon, New Hampshire USA Ty Dillon, Alex Bowman and Austin Dillon ©2016, Russell LaBounty NKP
(Photo credit: Russell LaBounty | NKP)

RCR will run five full-time cars, three of which will be driven by series regulars. Daniel Hemric graduates from the Truck Series to drive the No. 21, Brandon Jones returns for his sophomore season in the No. 33, and Brendan Gaughan will continue to race the No. 62. RCR’s No. 2 and No. 3 cars will be driven by a variety of drivers, including Cup regulars Austin Dillon and Paul Menard, and Ty Dillon will compete in about 20 races.

Ty will also be running for Rookie of the Year in the Cup Series after being named the full-time driver of the No. 13 for Germain Racing for 2017.

18-19 November, 2016, Homestead, Florida USA Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier © 2016, Nigel Kinrade NKP
(Photo credit: Nigel Kinrade | NKP)

JRM will have four full-time drivers this year. Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier both return to race the No. 1 and No. 7, respectively, and newcomers Michael Annett and William Byron also will compete for the XFINITY championship (Annett will be in the No. 5 and Byron in the No. 9.). The No. 88 will be a fifth JRM car in four events, with team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne splitting the seat time two races apiece.

RCR and JRM, both being Chevrolet teams with Cup-level resources, will occupy nine of the 40 spots available in the XFINITY field on a weekly basis. So they can potentially win a lot of races this year … A LOT.

The 2016 season was essentially JGR versus JRM, with the Toyota team usually having the slight upper hand. The Championship 4 race attested to this — it was both JRM regulars competing against both JGR regulars, with a JGR driver, Suarez, winning the title.

The series might have a different dynamic this year with the rival-Chevy teams winning and all the other teams, including 2016-winning organizations like JGR, Team Penske, and Chip Ganassi Racing, chasing in their tracks.

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@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 staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.