Podcast #112 — An interview with Hendrick Motorsports Crew Chief Kevin Meendering

Show notes:

This week was an off-week for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, so we decided to take the week off from the regular podcast. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have a podcast for you this week.  We’ll get to that in a minute. First let’s take a quick look at some of the news from the Gander Outdoors Truck Series this Sunday.

Saturday’s truck series race from Iowa Speedway was postponed until Sunday morning due to rain. During the race, there was an altercation between Austin Hill and Johnny Sauter that resulted in Hill spinning Sauter and putting Sauter into the wall. Instead of pitting, Sauter fired up his truck and attempted to wreck Hill. Sauter was parked for the day and called to the NASCAR hauler.

Today NASCAR announced that as a result of his actions, Sauter has been suspended from NASCAR until the completion of the next Gander Outdoors Truck Series race. He remains eligible to compete for the truck series championship however. The ruling comes on the precident of similar penalties against Kyle Busch when he wrecked Ron Horniday, as well as Matt Kenseth for crashing Joey Logano a few years ago at Martinsville.

That wasn’t the only controversy from the race, however. In what seemed like a storybook ending for Ross Chastain, the “mellon man” as he has been coined dominated the race and took the win, all but ensuring he would be in the playoffs for the truck series just a couple races after changing his points eligibility from the Xfinity Series.

However, Chastain’s truck failed postrace inspection, and he was disqualified from the event. He received last-place points and forfeited the win — the first time that this has happened since NASCAR announced it would take wins away for post-race violations at the beginning of the season. As a result, Brett Moffitt was declared the winner.

We will likely talk more about both of these stories next week when James returns to the podcast.

Back to the task at hand.

Last week I was in attendance at the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway. During the weekend, I was able to talk to several drivers. One of which was Jimmie Johnson. Friday morning when I was walking through the garage area, I happened across Jimmie, who bumped into former crew chief Chad Knaus. The two shared a hug and talked for several minutes. During a breakout session in the media center Friday, I was able to ask Jimmie about the meeting, and how the relationship has been with Chad since the two split at the end of the season. The audio isn’t the greatest, because I had an issue with my good recorder Friday, but it works. Here’s what he had to say.

—-

Now the main reason for this podcast. What many may not know is, Jimmie’s current crew chief, Kevin Meendering, is a native of Michigan, having been born in Grand Rapids. As a result, a few of the journalists in attendance from Michigan were invited to chat with Meendering before the race Sunday morning. I’m going to play the interview mostly in its entirety. You’ll hear questions from me as well as the other journalists. Unfortunately, I don’t have their names. But enjoy about 15 minutes of semi-exclusive conversation with Jimmie Johnson’s crew chief, Kevin Meendering.

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Close show

  • Where can we be found on social media?
  • James @jameskuch on Twitter
  • Eric @TSuperspeedway on Twitter
  • Facebook: Facebook.com/TheSuperSpeedway

For more of the podcast:

  • Website address: www.thesuperspeedway.com
  • Podcasts will be found on there as well.
  • Find us on iTunes, Google Play and Soundcloud

Become a Patron at www.patreon.com/thesuperspeedway

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Podcast #111 — Joey Logano dominates at MIS

Show notes:

Recap: FireKeepers Casino 400 from Michigan International Speedway

  • Joey Logano wins/Dominates?
    • Listening to Joey’s scanner, TJ Majors was directing him like at a superspeedway, telling him where to run and everything the cars behind him were doing
      • AUDIO (1:14) Eric asked Joey how big of a role TJ Majors played in the victory Monday
  • Winners and Losers
  • Kurt Busch had a chance at the end
    • AUDIO (:19) Kurt said it was a whole new Michigan, and had the final caution not come out at the end, he had a plan to beat Joey
  • Did Joey jump the start?
    • Audio (0:08) Kyle Busch says yes
    • Audio (0:10) Kurt uncommitted, but says he would have done the same
    • Audio (0:08) Joey was cheeky about it in the media center

  • Overall, what did we think of the package at Michigan? Did it deliver?
    • Brad kind of dodged questions on it in the media center Friday
      • Audio (1:20) Last year Brad said this package would take the raw skill away. This year, Dustin Long asked him if that’s been the case, and Brad said he’s not thinking about it.
    • Jimmie Johnson said he doesn’t like it
      • Audio (0:05) Jimmie not happy with it
    • Kurt Busch enjoyed it at Michigan
      • Audio (0:19) Kurt liked it
    • A word on the season from Matt Weaver
  • The race was postponed from Sunday to Monday at 5 p.m. What do we think of this decision?

News Items:

  • Hailie Deegan got her third career K&N Series victory with another controversial move, spinning her teammate to win. Thoughts?
  • Greg Biffle wins in Kyle Busch’s truck at Texas.
    • Wins the first Triple Truck Challenge bonus
    • Not eligible for bonus at Iowa
  • Alex Bowman will honor Tim Richmond at Darlington
    • Will lose Nationwide as a sponsor at the end of 2019
    • Hendrick says Bowman is safe for 2020 and beyond

Preview: Toyota Save-Mart 350 from Sonoma Raceway

  • The carousel returns this year

Picks

    • James: Kurt Busch
    • Eric: Clint Bowyer
    • Dark Horse
    • Eric: Daniel Suarez
    • James: Ryan Newman

Fantasy League Update

Close show

  • Where can we be found on social media?
  • James @jameskuch on Twitter
  • Eric @TSuperspeedway on Twitter
  • Facebook: Facebook.com/TheSuperSpeedway

For more of the podcast:

Podcast #110 — Stop asking about Kyle Busch’s package

Show notes:

Recap: Pocono 400 from Pocono Raceway

News Items:

Do We Care?

  • M&M’s opening a Glampground at Kentucky Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway

Preview: FireKeepers Casino 400 from Michigan International Speedway

  • Eric will be in attendance
  • Picks
    • Eric: Erik Jones
    • James: Brad Keselowski

Dark Horse

    • James: William Byron
    • Eric: Ryan Newman
  • Shoutouts if any

Fantasy League Update

Close show

  • Where can we be found on social media?
  • James @jameskuch on Twitter
  • Eric @TSuperspeedway on Twitter
  • Facebook: Facebook.com/TheSuperSpeedway

For more of the podcast:

  • Website address: www.thesuperspeedway.com
  • Podcasts will be found on there as well.
  • Find us on iTunes, Google Play and Soundcloud

Become a Patron at www.patreon.com/thesuperspeedway

Podcast #109 — Special Guest Host — Coca-Cola 600 Edition

Show notes:

Introduce Todd

Recap: Coca-Cola 600 from Charlotte Motor Speedway

  • Martin Truex Jr. gets the win
  • Tire problems for the JGR cars throughout the night
  • There were 16 cautions in the race for 80 laps — almost a quarter of the race was run under caution
  • Winners and Losers

Saturday’s Xfinity race was this year’s Drivers Only

Simon Pagenaud wins the Indianapolis 500

Lewis Hamilton wins the Monaco Grand Prix

Do We Care?

  • Denny Hamlin says the Coca-Cola 600 is too long
    • “Tradition, shmadition,” Hamlin said. “All sports adapt and change. … I’m for whatever, but I certainly know that from my friends, they choose to come to All-Star week and not 600 week because it’s just too long. “They don’t want to sit here for five hours.”
    • “I’d be just as happy with a Coke 300 trophy as I would a Coke 600 trophy.”
    • This year’s race was four hours, 50 minutes and nine seconds
    • https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nascar/2019/05/23/drivers-weigh-in-coca-cola-600-length/1200367001/

News Items:

Preview: Pocono 400 from Pocono Raceway

  • Picks
    • Todd: Ryan Blaney
    • Eric: Brad Keselowski

Dark Horse

    • Eric: Chris Buescher
    • Todd: Daniel Hemric
  • Shoutouts if any

Fantasy League Update

Close show

  • Where can we be found on social media?
  • Todd @toddjr2014 on Various Social Media Platforms
  • James @jameskuch on Twitter
  • Eric @TSuperspeedway on Twitter
  • Facebook: Facebook.com/TheSuperSpeedway

For more of the podcast:

Podcast #108: Clint Bowyer boxes with Ryan Newman

Show notes:

Recap: NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway

Recap: Monster Energy Series Open

  • William Byron wins Stage 1 by beating Bubba Wallace
  • Bubba Wallace held off Daniel Suarez to win Stage 2
  • Kyle Larson wins the final Stage to get in
  • Alex Bowman gets the fan vote.

News Items:

Preview: Coke 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway

  • Picks
    • James: Denny Hamlin
    • Eric: Austin Dillon
    • Dark Horse
    • Eric: Bubba Wallace
    • James: Daniel Suarez

 

  • Shoutouts if any
    • XXX

Fantasy League Update

  • NONE

Close show

  • Where can we be found on social media?
  • James @jameskuch on Twitter
  • Eric @TSuperspeedway on Twitter
  • Facebook: Facebook.com/TheSuperSpeedway

For more of the podcast:

 

Five Legends Named to 2020 NASCAR Hall Of Fame Class

Baker, Gibbs, Labonte, Stewart and Wilson Comprise Hall’s 11th Class

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 22, 2019) – NASCAR announced today the inductees who will comprise the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2020. The five-person group – the 11th since the inception of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010 – consists of Buddy Baker, Joe Gibbs, Bobby Labonte, Tony Stewart and Waddell Wilson. In addition, NASCAR announced that Edsel Ford II earned the 2020 Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. The distinguished group will be honored during the NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on Jan. 31, 2020.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Panel met today in a closed session at the Charlotte Convention Center to debate and vote upon the 20 nominees for the induction class of 2020 and the five nominees for the Landmark Award.

The Class of 2020 was determined by votes cast by the Voting Panel, including representatives from NASCAR, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, track owners from major facilities and historic short tracks, media members, manufacturer representatives, competitors (drivers, owners, crew chiefs), recognized industry leaders, a nationwide fan vote conducted through NASCAR.com and, for the sixth year, the reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion (Joey Logano). In all, 57 votes were cast, with two additional Voting Panel members recused from voting as potential nominees for induction (Ricky Rudd and Waddell Wilson). The accounting firm of EY presided over the tabulation of the votes.

Voting was as follows: Tony Stewart (88%), Joe Gibbs (72%), Waddell Wilson (72%), Buddy Baker (70%) and Bobby Labonte (67%).

The next top vote-getters were Mike Stefanik, Ray Fox and Hershel McGriff.

Results for the NASCAR.com Fan Vote, in alphabetical order, were Buddy Baker, Neil Bonnett, Harry Gant, Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart.

The five inductees came from a group of 20 nominees that included, in addition to the five inductees chosen: Sam Ard, Neil Bonnett, Red Farmer, Ray Fox, Harry Gant, John Holman, Harry Hyde, Hershel McGriff, Ralph Moody, Marvin Panch, Jim Paschal, Larry Phillips, Ricky Rudd, Mike Stefanik and Red Vogt.

Nominees for the Landmark Award included Edsel Ford II, Alvin Hawkins, Mike Helton, Dr. Joseph Mattioli and Ralph Seagraves.

The Class of 2020 Induction Weekend is set for Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, through Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020, at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. The official Induction Ceremony will take place on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. The Class of 2020 marks the 11th class and a total of 55 legends inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Tickets to Induction Ceremony events begin at $75 per person (plus tax and applicable service fees). Tickets go on sale on Saturday, July 6, 2019, at 10 a.m. ET. Special pre-sales will be available to NASCAR Hall of Fame members Tuesday, June 25 through Friday, July 5. For additional details about the Class of 2020 Induction Weekend events and to learn about becoming a NASCAR Hall of Fame member, visit nascarhall.com.

Class of 2020 Inductees:

Buddy Baker

At six feet, six inches tall, Buddy Baker was often called the “Gentle Giant,” a nod to her personable nature during a 33-year career. In 1980, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native won the Daytona 500 with an average race speed of 177.602 mph – a track record that still stands. That same year, Baker became the first driver to eclipse the 200-mph mark on a closed course while testing at Talladega Superspeedway. He won 19 races in the Cup series, including a victory in the 1970 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway where he lapped the rest of the field. He also won back-to-back Coca-Cola 600s at Charlotte in 1972-73. After retiring in 1992, Baker made a successful transition to the television booth as a commentator for The Nashville Network and CBS, and later as a radio co-host on Late Shift and Tradin’ Paint for SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Joe Gibbs

Joe Gibbs has won throughout his entire life. The three-time Super Bowl champion football coach started Joe Gibbs Racing in 1992 and has led the organization to four Cup Series championships and five Xfinity Series titles. Known as a master motivator, Gibbs’ 164 Cup Series owner wins (through May 22, 2019) rank third all-time. They include three Daytona 500 victories and five Brickyard 400 wins. His Cup Series titles have come with three different drivers: Bobby Labonte (2000), Tony Stewart (2002, ’05) and Kyle Busch (2015). Referred to in NASCAR circles has simply “Coach,” Gibbs was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996.

Bobby Labonte

The ultimate grinder, Bobby Labonte raced any car he could get behind the wheel of before he got his first break as a full-time Cup Series driver at 28 years old in 1993. His persistence paid off with a career highlighted by 21 trips to Victory Lane and the 2000 Cup Series title. A success in all three of NASCAR’s national series, Labonte was the first of four drivers to win both a Cup and Xfinity Series championship. He is also one of 27 drivers to win a race in all three national series. The Texan showed up on the biggest stages throughout his 2000 Cup championship season, earning two of his four wins in the Brickyard 400 and Southern 500.

Tony Stewart

Known as “The People’s Champion” for his blue-collar, hard-nosed style of competition, Stewart immediately showed that he would be a force to be reckoned with in NASCAR – earning three victories in his Rookie of the Year season. The titles soon followed. Stewart won his first Cup championship in 2002 driving for Joe Gibbs Racing and answered that quickly in 2005. His versatility was on display throughout his 17-year NASCAR career. He tallied 49 wins in the Cup Series – winning on every style of track. He won the prestigious Brickyard 400 at his beloved, home-state Indianapolis Motor Speedway twice. In 2009, Stewart became a team owner, partnering with Gene Haas. He won 16 times as a driver/owner including one of the most memorable championship pursuits in history. In 2011, he won five of the 10 Playoff races – including the season finale – to claim his third title by virtue of a tiebreaker over Carl Edwards.

Waddell Wilson

A dual threat as an engine builder and crew chief, Waddell Wilson powered and guided cars to some of the biggest victories in NASCAR history. As an engine builder, he supplied the power that helped David Pearson (1968, ’69) and Benny Parsons (1973) to Cup Series titles. Overall, Wilson’s engines helped some of the greatest drivers to ever wheel a car – including NASCAR Hall of Famers Pearson, Fireball Roberts, Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip – to 109 wins and 123 poles. He originally gained acclaim for building the engine Roberts used to win the 1963 Southern 500. Wilson guided three cars to Victory Lane in the Daytona 500 as a crew chief, winning The Great American Race with Buddy Baker (1980) and Cale Yarborough (1983-84). The famed “Grey Ghost” he assembled for Buddy Baker still holds the Daytona 500 record with an average speed of 177.602 MPH.

Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR:

Edsel Ford II

There are few names as iconic in the sport of auto racing as Edsel Ford II. A member of the Ford Motor Company Board of Directors and longtime executive of the company founded by his great-grandfather Henry Ford, Edsel’s is a familiar face in the racing garage. Ford’s support of NASCAR has been both behind the scenes with the Ford Motor Company but also out in front where he is greeted warmly by the sport’s competitors, executives, team owners and fans at any race track he visits. His leadership at Ford includes time as President and Chief Operating Officer (May, 1991-1998) and a Director of International Speedway Corporation (November, 2007-October, 2015).

About NASCAR

The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc. (NASCAR) is the sanctioning body for the No. 1 form of motorsports in the United States. NASCAR consists of three national series (Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series™, NASCAR Xfinity Series™, and NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series™), three regional series, one local grassroots series, three international series and the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA). The International Motor Sports Association™ (IMSA®) governs the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship™, the premier U.S. sports car series. Based in Daytona Beach, Fla., with offices in eight cities across North America, NASCAR sanctions more than 1,200 races in more than 30 U.S. states, Canada, Mexico and Europe. For more information visit www.NASCAR.comand www.IMSA.com, and follow NASCAR on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat (‘NASCAR’).

About the NASCAR Hall of Fame

Conveniently located in Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina, the NASCAR Hall of Fame is an interactive, entertainment attraction honoring the history and heritage of NASCAR. The high-tech venue, designed to educate and entertain race fans and non-fans alike, opened May 11, 2010, and includes artifacts, hands-on exhibits, a 278-person state-of-the-art theater, Hall of Honor, Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant, NASCAR Hall of Fame Gear Shop and NASCAR Productions-operated broadcast studio. The NASCAR Hall of Fame is open daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for summer hours and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for winter hours. On designated Group Hot Pass Tuesdays, the facility is open for scheduled group visits and events only. An attached parking garage is available on Brevard Street. The 5-acre site also includes a privately developed 19-story office tower and 102,000-square-foot expansion to the Charlotte Convention Center, highlighted by a 40,000-square-foot ballroom. The NASCAR Hall of Fame is owned by the City of Charlotte, licensed by NASCAR and operated by the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. For more information, visit nascarhall.com.

 

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Next Race: Coca-Cola 600

The Place: Charlotte Motor Speedway

The Date: Saturday, May 26

The Time: 6:00 p.m. ET

TV: FOX, 5:30 p.m. ET

Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 600 miles (400 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 100),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 200), Stage 3 (Ends on Lap 300), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 400)

2018 Race Winner: Kyle Busch

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Next Race: Alsco 300

The Place: Charlotte Motor Speedway

The Date: Saturday, May 25

The Time: 1:00 p.m. ET

TV: FS1, 12:30 p.m. ET

Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 300 miles (200 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)

2018 Race Winner: Brad Keselowski

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series

Next Race: SpeedyCash.com 400

The Place: Texas Motor Speedway

The Date: Friday, June 7

The Time: 9 p.m. ET

TV: FS1, 8:30 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 250.5 miles (167 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 40),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 80), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 167)

2018 Race Winner: Johnny Sauter

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Kyle Busch back to defend

Kyle Busch is the defending winner of Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) – collecting his first ever Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win at the track from the Busch Pole position after leading a dominating 377 of 400 laps last May.

It was a breakthrough win of sorts for the 2015 Monster Energy Series champion. The Charlotte Motor Speedway oval was, at the time, the only venue on the schedule where Busch hadn’t won a regular season race even though he leads all active drivers (including eight-time Charlotte winner Jimmie Johnson) in laps led (1,370 laps) and trails only Johnson (16-12) in top-five finishes.

The good vibe and historical significance of his maiden Charlotte win may help get Busch back on the course he’s established with 11 top-10 finishes and three victories through 12 races this season.

He suffered his first finish outside the top 10 in the last points race at Kansas Speedway on May 11. The frustrating 30th-place showing in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was a result of a late race penalty for driving through too many pit boxes. It not only kept him from setting a record for consecutive top 10s to open the season (12) but cost him in the standings. He now trails defending Monster Energy Series champion Joey Logano by nine points. He still maintains a 29-point edge over a winless third place Kevin Harvick.

He looks forward to this weekend’s challenge at Charlotte, however. Even though it took Busch most of his Cup career to earn that first win in the Memorial Day 600-miler at Charlotte, he is a staunch supporter of the sport’s longest event and feels that it holds a special and unique place in the sport.

“I like running the 600 miles,’’ Busch said. “I think it brings a different aspect to our sport – it’s longevity. People will say, ‘It’s too long. It’s boring.’ Whatever. Well, you know, it’s a part of the product and history that we’ve had on Memorial Day weekend for a long time that you run the extra hundred miles.

“And car preparation goes into that. Will your car make it? Will your engine last? Are the drivers able to be competitive throughout the whole race? You’ll have fatigue sometimes, even at a 500-mile race. So, if you don’t show signs of weakness, you should be pretty good.’’

Logano leading the way

The reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano put himself back atop the points standings following his 15th-place finish at Kansas Speedway coupled with a very uncharacteristic 30th-place showing by previous points leader Kyle Busch. It’s as much a testament to his solid consistency as anything else as he has only one victory this year while the man he supplanted, Busch, has three wins.

In fact, Logano’s Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski has hoisted a trio of trophies as well and is only ranked fifth, a substantial 57 points behind Logano in the standings.

The difference is consistency. Logano has eight top-10 finishes through the opening 12 races and has led laps in 10 of them. Four times Logano has finished in the top three – winning at Las Vegas, finishing runner-up at both California and Richmond, Va., and earning a third place at Bristol, Tenn.

Logano’s No. 22 Team Penske Ford team has only one previous win at Charlotte – the fall, 2015 race after leading a dominating 227 of the 334 laps. He’s had only one top-20 in the five races at the 1.5-mile track since – a ninth place in the 2016 600-miler – and has led only 16 laps in that timeframe.

Larson looking to keep momentum going

It’s been a good May for Kyle Larson, who picked up his first Monster Energy Series trophy in nearly two years in last weekend Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race – having to qualify for the main event out of the Monster Energy Open to do so. While the race didn’t pay in points, it did pay $1 million to the winner and for Larson, provided some important momentum.

The driver of the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet is coming off two of his best finishes of the 2019 season – a third-place at Dover, Del. and an eighth-place effort at Kansas two weeks ago.

It’s a positive sign that Larson may be on track to snap a 58-race winless streak. His top-10 and top-five effort in the last three years has been among the sport’s very best. He has 58 top-10 finishes starting with his 2016 season – 38 of those were top-five efforts. That means that 65.5 percent of the time he’s run well enough for a top-10, he’s also been good enough to challenge for a win.

This season in particular, has felt like all-or-nothing with three DNFs and two top-10s in the last six races.

“As I’ve learned in my Cup career, aside from 2017, it’s pretty tough to make the Playoffs,’’ Larson told reporters following the All-Star win last weekend. “There’s a lot of cars that make it, but those last four or five spots, depending on what guys win throughout the season, it’s tough to make the Playoffs.

“With the string of DNFs that I had and bad finishes, that’s what was more frustrating because I knew we were putting ourselves in a bad spot to make it to the Playoffs where you have to be extremely consistent and just take what you can get from now on, where you can’t almost be as aggressive as you could be if you had a fast car and were consistently running in the top five and stuff like that. That’s what was more frustrating.

“I feel like Kansas kind of showed it last week.  I feel like I’ve been like a seventh‑ or eighth‑ to kind of 12th‑place car all season, but I haven’t got to show for it.  And seventh to 12th isn’t that great. A week ago or a few days ago I would say we can’t win a race like that, but we proved today that we could.

“We’ve just got to continue to keep working hard and learning what we can, making our cars better and faster and more grip, more speed, everything.  Pit crew has got to be on it, I’ve got to be on it if we want to continue to run up front.”

Harvick still looking to close one out

By the time Kevin Harvick and the Stewart-Haas Racing team showed up at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Coca-Cola 600 Memorial Day classic last year, the 2014 Monster Energy Series champion had already earned five victories. This year he’s been close with five top fives – all fourth-place finishes – for the driver of the No. 4 Ford.

There is reason to feel optimistic at Charlotte. He joins only Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson with victories in NASCAR’s four biggest races – the Daytona 500 (2007), the Coca-Cola 600 (2011, 2013), the Brickyard 400 (2003) and the Southern 500 (2014). And Harvick’s 2011 Coca-Cola 600 win was from the 28th starting place on the grid. Only eight-time Charlotte winner Johnson has come from farther back on the grid to win at Charlotte, starting 37th in his 2003 win. Harvick’s four runner-up finishes at Charlotte are most among active drivers too.

Harvick is currently ranked third in the standings, 38 points behind leader Joey Logano. He comes to Charlotte after a solid run at the 1.5-mile Kansas track, where he won the Busch Pole position, led 104 laps, but finished 13th. He has eight top 10s in the 12 races despite having endured a tough pair of outings on the big tracks at Daytona and Talladega – crashing in both races and finishing 26th and 38th, respectively.

Of course, the 1.5-milers are considered Harvick’s playground. Fifteen of his 45 career wins – a full one-third of his victory total – are comprised of the 1.5-mile tracks, the most of any type of race venue.

Charlotte is a missing piece in Hamlin’s trophy case

Denny Hamlin does a lot of things right at Charlotte Motor Speedway, he just doesn’t have the hardware to show for it. Yet.

The driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota has the third best driver rating (97.3) at the track, the second-best average finish (12.1) in the field and his 10.5 average start in the race is third best among active drivers. He ranks among the top three in several of the major loop data categories at the track but is among eight drivers ranked in the standings top 16 still looking for his first victory there.

In 26 starts, Hamlin has nine top-five and 17 top-10 finishes – only eight-time Charlotte winner Jimmie Johnson has more top-10 finishes among active drivers.

After enduring the first winless full-time season of his decorated 14-year career in 2018, Hamlin answered with a season-opening victory in this year’s Daytona 500 and then added a win at the Texas Motor Speedway 1.5-mile high banks last month. He has eight top-10 finishes through 12 races but has gone three consecutive races finishing outside the top-10 threshold.

“I’m proud of our team and the character we’ve shown so far this season. We started off hot with two wins and our focus is to get back to that momentum and achieve our next victory and move up in the standings.”

King of the Queen City

When it comes to the Coca-Cola 600, Martin Truex Jr. has established the mark of excellence. He led a historical best 392 of the 400 laps from the Busch Pole position en route to his 2016 victory in the race. And he’s answered that big win with another in the fall of 2017. In just the last five races, Truex has led an amazing 716 laps on the Charlotte oval – most among any driver during that time. He’s only finished worse than third place once in the last five races.

There is every reason to believe Truex will take his new team, the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota crew, to competitive heights as well. He’s won two of the last four races on the schedule – leading 186 of 400 laps to claim the Richmond trophy and leading 132 laps to win at Dover He’s currently ranked seventh in the points, his two wins equal to half of his top five total on the season.

“Charlotte has been a really strong track for us the past few years,’’ Truex acknowledged. “I felt good about how our car drove in the All-Star race last weekend, so that gives me confidence going into this weekend that we can make some of those same things work for the 600. … I’m looking forward to getting into a normal race mode and see where we stack up.’’

Austin Dillon hoping for a return “home” to Victory Lane

One driver in particular looking forward to racing on his “home” track is Austin Dillon. The driver of the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet won the 2017 race inheriting the lead when Jimmie Johnson ran out of fuel with two laps remaining. They were the only two laps Dillon led.

It was an emotional triumph for Dillon and the team. It was Dillon’s first Monster Energy Series victory and it was the first time the No. 3 RCR Chevrolet had won a race since the late Dale Earnhardt at Talladega, Ala. in 2000.

Since then Dillon won the 2018 Daytona 500 – leading only the final lap. He’s currently ranked 18th, just outside the Playoff-eligible top-16. He trails 16th place Johnson by 11 points. Charlotte has been a good track for the North Carolina native – just not consistently in the Monster Energy Series yet.

He won back-to-back Xfinity Series races at Charlotte – both from the pole position – sweeping the 2015 season.

Parade Laps: Insights ahead of this week’s driver media rotations

Six drivers from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – JTG Daugherty Racing’s Chris Buescher, Roush Fenway Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson, Front Row Motorsports’ Matt Tifft, Richard Childress Racing’s Daniel Hemric and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. will be participating in this week’s media rotations at Charlotte Motor Speedway in advance of Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m., ET on FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Chris Buescher, 26, of Prosper, Texas, is looking to enhance his Charlotte Motor Speedway resume. He has three top-20 finishes in five series starts at the track – and was 29th in last year’s Coca-Cola 600. The former Monster Energy Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year has a pair of top-10s in 2019 – both coming at 1.5-mile tracks similar to Charlotte. He was a season-best ninth at Atlanta in February and 10th in the last Cup points-paying race at Kansas two weeks ago in the No. 37 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet. He’s ranked 23rd in the points standings.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 31, of Olive Branch, Miss., scored his best showing of the season at a 1.5-mile track – a sixth place at Las Vegas – and is hoping that success in the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford will translate again to the Charlotte 1.5-mile high banks. Stenhouse has seven finishes of 16th or better through the opening 12 races and is ranked 20th in the standings – within reach of the 16-driver group that will ultimately advance to the series Playoffs. His only top-10 finish in the series at Charlotte came in last May’s 600-miler (10th).

Kyle Larson, 26, of Elk Grove, Calif., comes into the Coca-Cola 600 feeling most optimistic fresh off his first ever Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race win at the track last weekend. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver seems to have put his season back on track. Prior to the win he had a pair of top-10 finishes – third at Dover and eighth at Kansas.  He’s ranked 15th in the points coming into the Coca-Cola 600. He has four top 10s in the No. 42 CGR Chevrolet at Charlotte including the last two oval races there. His best finish is fifth in the 2016 fall race; however, he has won a Xfinity Series race at the track (2014, spring).

Matt Tifft, 22, of Hinckley, Ohio, is still looking for his first top 10 in his rookie Cup season. His best showing so far in the No. 36 Front Row Motorsports Ford is 20th at Phoenix. He was 21st in the last Cup points-paying race at Kansas. Tifft’s Charlotte resume includes three top 10s in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and two in a pair of NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series races. His best career showing at the track is a fifth place in the 2016 Gander Trucks race.

Daniel Hemric, 28, of Kannapolis, N.C., brings an encouraging mindset to his home track, Charlotte Motor Speedway. He scored his best finish (18th) at a similar 1.5-miler in the season’s last points race at Kansas two weeks ago. The Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender has one top-10 finish (fifth at Talladega) but surely encouraged by three top 10 qualifying efforts in the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. His only previous top-10 finish at Charlotte was a ninth place run in the 2016 truck race there.

Martin Truex Jr., 38, of Mayetta, N.J., boasts some good mojo heading into Charlotte, where in 2016 he set an all-time best record leading 392 of the 400 laps en route to his first Coca-Cola 600 win. The driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota has been particularly good of late at Charlotte – he dominated the 2016 Memorial Day classic, won the 2017 fall race as part of his Monster Energy Series championship season and was runner-up in the 600 last year. Truex has wins in two of the last four races in 2019 – at Richmond and Dover. – leading more than 100 laps in each win. He has seven top-10 and four top-five showings and is ranked seventh in the points.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

NASCAR Xfinity Series returns at Charlotte Motor Speedway

After a two-week break, the NASCAR Xfinity Series returns to action this Saturday, May 25 at 1 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio for the Alsco 300, the 11th race on 2019 schedule. This season has been filled with lots of great racing, producing four different pole winners and five different race winners – four of which are series title contenders – Christopher Bell (three wins), Cole Custer (two wins), Michael Annett (one win), and series standings leader Tyler Reddick (one win).

Charlotte Motor Speedway has hosted the NASCAR Xfinity Series 73 times, producing a total of 47 different pole winners and 35 different race winners since 1982.

Harry Gant won the first NASCAR Xfinity Series race held at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 1982, from the pole position. Gant went on to win three more Xfinity races at Charlotte Motor Speedway bringing his wins total on the 1.5-mile speedway to four. Gant is tied for third-most Xfinity Charlotte wins with Brad Keselowski, who won his fourth Xfinity Series career race at Charlotte Motor Speedway from the pole last season.

This weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway will mark the fourth time in 2019 the series has competed on a 1.5-mile track (Atlanta, Las Vegas and Texas). Christopher Bell took the win at Atlanta and then his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch won at Las Vegas and Texas, but Busch is not entered this weekend.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell currently leads the series championship contenders in average finishing position on 1.5-mile tracks this season with a 5.667. Below are the top five NASCAR Xfinity Series championship contenders in average finishing position on 1.5-mile tracks this season.

Rank

Xfinity Contenders

Average Finish on 1.5-Mile Tracks

1

Christopher Bell

5.667

2

Tyler Reddick

7.000

3

Michael Annett

7.667

4

Justin Haley

8.333

5

Noah Gragson

8.333

Sixers: Different winners streak at Charlotte could continue

A streak that started back in 2015 when Austin Dillon swept the Charlotte Motor Speedway races in the NASCAR Xfinity Series has since seen five different drivers – Denny Hamlin (May 2016), Joey Logano (Oct. 2016), Ryan Blaney (May 2017), Alex Bowman (Oct. 2017) and Brad Keselowski (May 2018) – take the checkered flag and bring the different winners streak to six different drivers.

Will the streak continue? There’s a chance, as the only former winner included in the current streak that is entered this weekend is Austin Dillon, who will be piloting the No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet Camaro.

This weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the 2013 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion, Austin Dillon, will be making his second series start of the season for Kaulig Racing with crew chief Alex Yontz. Dillon and Yontz, came out of the gate swinging in their series debut at Las Vegas Motor Speedway earlier this year, starting 31st and racing their way to a top-five finish (fourth).

Dillon has nine career wins in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and two of them came at Charlotte Motor Speedway (2015 sweep). In total he has made 10 series starts at Charlotte posting three poles, two wins (both from the pole), six top fives and seven top 10s. His average starting position at Charlotte is 3.9 and his average finish is 5.8.

Names are made in the Xfinity Series at Charlotte

Charlotte First-Time Winners

Date

Alex Bowman

October 7, 2017

Dave Blaney

October 13, 2006

Mike Bliss

October 15, 2004

Sterling Marlin

October 6, 1990

Terry Labonte

October 5, 1985

Tim Richmond

May 25, 1985

Bobby Allison

May 26, 1984

Darrell Waltrip

October 9, 1982

Harry Gant

May 29, 1982

Nine different drivers have won their very first career race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and all nine have made names for themselves in NASCAR.

The most recent driver to win his first series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway was Alex Bowman in the 2017 October Xfinity race. Bowman was running a part-time schedule for Chip Ganassi Racing that season and capitalized on his opportunity.

Prior to Bowman it was father of current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Blaney and legend in DIRT Racing driver ‘The Buckeye Bullet’ Dave Blaney, who earned his lone NASCAR national series career win with his victory in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Charlotte in 2006. Blaney battled it out with Matt Kenseth in the closing laps to take the victory.

Most notable of the nine winners has to be the three NASCAR Hall of Famers Darrell Waltrip (1982), Bobby Allison (1984) and Terry Labonte (1985), who all scored their first career Xfinity Series wins at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

This weekend could be another driver’s big opportunity to break out and win their first career NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway; of the 39 entrants for the Alsco 300 on Saturday, May 25 (at 1 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) only 13 are former winners leaving 26 drivers hungry for their first trip to Victory Lane.

Austin Dillon (2015 sweep) and Jeff Green (May 2001, May 2002) are the only two former NASCAR Xfinity Series Charlotte Motor Speedway winners in the field this weekend.

Bell has some ground to makeup to catch Reddick in the points

Idling in second in the NASCAR Xfinity Series standings, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell, might have the advantage in wins over NASCAR Xfinity Series points leader Tyler Reddick so far this season (three to one), but Bell’s lack of consistency has mounted a hill of points (-23) he will need make up to catch Reddick in the standings lead for the regular season championship.

Both drivers are vying for the regular season championship because the winner is awarded 15 additional Playoff points to take into the postseason. With both Reddick and Bell locked into the Playoffs on wins, collecting Playoff points will be key to their success later in the postseason.

Bell’s three race wins (Atlanta, Bristol and Dover) and four stage wins (tied for series-most with Cole Custer) this season have given him 19 Playoff points and he currently holds the No. 1 seed in the Playoffs.

Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick on the other hand, is the current standings leader and has grabbed one win and two stage wins bringing his Playoff points total to seven points this season.

If the regular season were to end today, Reddick as the current standings leader would then receive the additional Playoff points (+15) for winning the regular season championship and as a result would become the No. 1 seed entering the Playoffs with 22 Playoff points. Winning the regular season title can be driver’s championship run game-changer. Playoff points are crucial to the success a driver has and their ability to advance in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs.  

Heading into this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Bell holds a slight advantage over Reddick at the 1.5-mile track. Bell has made two series start posting two top fives and an average finish of 3.5. He finished third in this race last season. Reddick has also made two series starts at Charlotte posting one top 10 and an average finish of 16.5.

Sign of the Times: Youth movement is healthy in the Xfinity Series

Rank

Driver

Points

Driver’s Age (Years)

1

Tyler Reddick

462

23

2

Christopher Bell

439

24

3

Cole Custer

391

21

4

Austin Cindric

381

20

5

Justin Allgaier

348

32

6

Chase Briscoe #

335

24

7

John H. Nemechek #

325

21

8

Ryan Sieg

315

31

9

Noah Gragson #

304

20

10

Michael Annett

297

32

11

Justin Haley #

294

20

12

Brandon Jones

286

22

Average Driver’s Age

24.2

Twelve drivers can qualify for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs this season and it should be no surprise this season’s batch of talented drivers currently in the top 12 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship standings are the latest frontrunners of the youth movement.

Looking at the current top 12 in the series driver championship standings nine of the 12 (75%) are under the age of 25. The average age of the top 12 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver point standings following Dover is 24.2 with five of the 12 drivers either 20-21 years of age. The elders of the top 12 – Michael Annett and Justin Allgaier – are just 32-years old.

The cup of youthfulness runs over in the Xfinity Series this season and Charlotte has been known to spoil the youngsters. Eight drivers have won in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway at or under the age of 25; including Kyle Busch who set the series record for the youngest winner at Charlotte at the age of 19. Busch is joined by Jeff Gordon (20 years old), Rob Moroso (20), Kyle Larson (21), Joey Logano (22), Ryan Blaney (23) Alex Bowman (24), and Austin Dillon (25).

NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.:

Double Dippers: Four drivers this weekend – Austin Dillon, B.J. McLeod, Joey Gase and Ross Chastain – will be competing in both the NASCAR Xfinity Series race, the Alsco 300 (Saturday, May 25 at 1 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, the Coca-Cola 600 (Sunday, May 26 at 6 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Earnhardt back with JGR: The nephew of NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt, Jeffrey Earnhardt, will once again be back in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry with crew chief Ben Beshore this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Earnhardt has already made four series starts with the team this season posting two top-10 finishes; both on 1.5-mile tracks (Atlanta and Texas).

Burton back with JRM: The son of former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver and Daytona 500 champion Ward Burton, Jeb Burton, will be back in the No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro with crew chief Taylor Moyer this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Burton has made one previous start with the team earlier this season at Texas Motor Speedway – he started sixth and finished fifth.

Playoff Bubble Update: Following the 10th race of the season at Dover International Speedway two weeks ago, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Brandon Jones in the 12th and final Playoff transfer spot, extended his points advantage over 13th place Ross Chastain from 33 to 42 points. With that many points between Chastain and the final Playoff transfer spot it will most likely take a win for the JD Motorsport’s driver to make his way into the postseason.  This season Chastain has posted one top 10 and an average finish of 17.1. He has made nine career starts at Charlotte, posting an average finish of 20.8.

Sunoco Rookie Update: Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi’s driver Chase Briscoe has taken the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings lead following Dover two weeks ago. Briscoe now leads second place John Hunter Nemechek by 10 points heading into Charlotte this weekend. Xfinity Rookie points following Dover: Briscoe (335), Nemechek (325), Noah Gragson (304), Justin Haley (294), Brandon Brown (204). Briscoe is only Sunoco Rookie this season that has made a start at Charlotte – he started ninth and finished 11th last season.

Parade Laps: Insights ahead of this week’s driver media breakouts

Four drivers from the NASCAR Xfinity Series – JR Motorsport’s Noah Gragson, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Brandon Jones, Team Penske’s Austin Cindric and JD Motorsport’s Garrett Smithley – will be participating in this week’s media rotations at Charlotte Motor Speedway leading into this Saturday’s Alsco 300 at 1 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Noah Gragson (No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro)

Birthdate: July 15, 1998

Driver’s Age: 20

Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada

Hobbies: Downhill mountain biking

Team: JR Motorsports

Crew Chief: David Elenz

Xfinity Career Highlights:

Made NASCAR Xfinity Series debut with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2018 at Richmond Raceway; starting 11th and finishing runner-up.

In total he made three Xfinity Series starts last season posting two top fives and three top 10s; all while competing fulltime in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series where he finished runner-up in the championship standings.

2019 Season Highlights:

Currently ninth in the Xfinity Series driver championship standings 158 points behind the standing lead.

In 10 starts this season, has posted one top five, three top 10s and an average finish of 12.0.

Currently third in the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings,  31 points behind the rookie standings lead.

Charlotte Motor Speedway Performance:

Will be making his series track debut at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend.

Has finished in the top-10 at two of the first three 1.5-mile tracks the series visited in 2019 – Atlanta (ninth) and Las Vegas (third). Finished 13th at Texas.

Brandon Jones (No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry)

Birthdate: February 18, 1997

Driver’s Age: 22

Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

Hobbies: Woodworking, antique car restoration, metal fabrication, farming

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

Crew Chief: Jeff Meendering

Xfinity Career Highlights:

In 2018, he tallied a career-best finish of second at Talladega and reached the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs for the second time, finishing a career-best ninth in the standings.

In 2017, he captured his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series pole (Daytona-1).

In 2016, he made the inaugural NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs in his rookie season; ultimately finishing a then career-best 10th in the standings.

2019 Season Highlights:

Currently 12th in the NASCAR Xfinity driver championship standings (the final transfer spot to the Playoffs), 176 points back from the series standings lead.

In 10 starts this season, he has produced two top fives, five top 10s and an average finish of 15.4.

Charlotte Motor Speedway Performance:

Has made five series starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway, posting one top 10.

His average start at Charlotte is 13.0 and his average finish is 13.4.

Finished 15th in this race at Charlotte last season.

Austin Cindric (No. 22 Team Penske Ford Mustang)

Birthdate: September 2, 1998

Driver’s Age: 23

Hometown: Columbus, Ohio

Hobbies: Mountain biking, water sports, listening to music

Team: Team Penske

Crew Chief: Brian Wilson

Xfinity Career Highlights:

Ran a full Xfinity season in 2018, splitting time with Roush Fenway Racing and Team Penske, making the Playoffs and ultimately finishing eighth in championship standings.

In 2017, he made his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut at Road America driving for Team Penske; he started on the pole but finished 16th.

2019 Season Highlights:

Currently fourth in the NASCAR Xfinity driver points standings, 81 points back from the series standings lead.

In 10 starts this season he has posted four top fives, eight top 10s and an average finish of 7.8.

Charlotte Motor Speedway Performance:

Cindric made his series track debut at Charlotte last season, where he started eighth and finished 16th.

Garrett Smithley (No. 0 JD Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro)

Birthdate: April 27, 1992

Driver’s Age: 26

Hometown: Peachtree City, Georgia

Hobbies: Singing and acting/theater

Team: JD Motorsports

Crew Chief: Bryan Berry

Xfinity Career Highlights:

Has competed fulltime in the NASCAR Xfinity Series over the last three seasons (2016-2018) posting a best finish of 18th in the series championship standings in 2016.

Put up a Xfinity Series career-best finish of fifth in the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway in 2018.

Made NASCAR Xfinity Series career debut in 2015 at Homestead-Miami Speedway driving for car owner Derrike Cope.

2019 Season Highlights:

Currently 16th in the NASCAR Xfinity driver points standings, 299-points back from the series standings lead, and 123 points back from 12th place Brandon Jones in the final Playoff spot.

In 10 starts this season he has posted one top-15 and five top-20 finishes

He has an average finish of 20.7. Completing 96.6% of his laps attempted.

Charlotte Motor Speedway Performance:

In five series starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway he has accumulated two top-15 finishes; including his best finish at the track (14th) in last season’s race

His average starting position at Charlotte is a 31.4 and his average finish is 20.2.

Has completed 99.4% of his laps attempted at Charlotte.    

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series

Kyle Busch completes five-race sweep

With his victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway last Friday night, Kyle Busch closed out his allotted five NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series races for the year with a clean sweep – winning at Atlanta, Las Vegas, Martinsville, Texas and Charlotte.

The win marked Busch’s 56th win in the Gander Trucks and his 205th win in a NASCAR national series race.

Looking ahead to Texas Motor Speedway’s summer race, the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota is slated to driven by 2000 Gander Trucks champion Greg Biffle.

The veteran driver will be making his return to NASCAR for the first time since 2016, when he competed full-time for Roush Fenway Racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Biffle has 16 wins in the series through 81 starts, also tallying 42 top-five and 54 top-10 finishes.

Biffle has a win at the Texas 1.5-mile track – taking the checkered in the June race en route to his series championship. He also started from the pole for that event.

Earlier this year, Biffle joined Kyle Busch Motorsports at Texas for the March race weekend, jumping behind the wheel for a few practice laps to knock the rust off.

Big Splash: Poole rebounds for first top five

After missing the Kansas race due to lack of sponsorship, Brennan Poole put in a fantastic effort at Charlotte Motor Speedway last weekend – finishing second to a dominant Kyle Busch for his first career top five in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series.

And it was only his second top-10 finish in the series – his other a ninth-place result at the spring edition of the Texas race this year in his first series visit to the track. Overall, Poole has competed in only 10 Gander Trucks races.

As the series takes a couple weeks off before hitting the track at Texas on Friday, June 7 for the SpeedyCash.com 400, Poole has reason to be optimistic that the trip west could be fruitful for him.

In addition to that strong finish in the Lone Star State in his lone Gander Trucks visit to the track, he has had moderate success at Texas in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. If you toss out a 37th-place result due to a crash in the spring of 2017, he posted an average finish of 11.75 in his other four starts.

He posted a best finish of seventh in the fall 2017 race and had a top 10 in that same race in 2016, finishing eighth.

Friesen still frozen out of Victory Lane

If there’s anyone who understands the saying, “So close, yet so far away,” it’s Stewart Friesen.

The driver of the No. 52 Halmar Friesen Racing Chevrolet has four top-five finishes this season, including a runner-up at Texas and a third-place finish at Charlotte last weekend. And he suffered a particularly cruel fate at Kansas after dominating the race – a miscommunication on a late pit stop prevented the team for getting enough fuel in the truck to make it to the end and he was relegated to a 15th-place result.

But one has to imagine the confetti will fly soon for Friesen. He’s led 126 laps and posted an average finish of 8.6 this season – even managing to finish 10th after a late crash took him out of the season opener at Daytona. And despite that and the fuel issue at Kansas, he has completed all but four of the laps run this season.

And he has to be excited about returning to Texas to start off the month of June. Of Friesen’s 15 top-five finishes in his Gander Trucks career, eight of them have come on 1.5-mile tracks. This includes twice in Fort Worth (June, 2018 and March, 2019).

ThorSport Racing still the class of the field

It’s been well known that ThorSport Racing is having a banner year in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series, as all four of their drivers sit in the top six in the driver points standings.

And they have one of the two drivers who are locked into the Playoffs via a victory – Johnny Sauter with his win at Dover.

Grant Enfinger in the No. 98 Ford continues to lead the series standings, holding a 15-point lead over Halmar Friesen Racing’s Stewart Friesen. Brett Moffitt, driving for GMS Racing, sits in third.

But ThorSport drivers make up the next three spots in the order – Ben Rhodes is fourth, two-time Gander Trucks champ Matt Crafton is fifth, and 2016 titlist Sauter is sixth.

The combined average finish for the quartet is 7.85 – led by Enfinger’s average mark of 5.9.

Each driver has a minimum of three top-five finishes this season (led by Crafton’s five) and they have combined for three poles (Crafton – two, Enfinger – one).

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Etc.

OEM performance at Texas: Toyota and Chevrolet have led the charge at Texas Motor Speedway overall since 2004 – combining to win every race since then. Prior to that, Ford won the first two races in 1997 and 1998, and Dodge won their first race at the track in 1999. Overall, Toyota leads with 18 wins – including the most recent race in the spring of this year by Kyle Busch. Chevrolet had taken the three wins prior to Busch’s, to reach a total of 17. Dodge has five wins and Ford has three at the 1.5-mile circuit.

Sunoco Rookie snapshot: Anthony Alfredo’s eighth-place finish at Charlotte gave him a career-best NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series performance. And it was good enough to be the highest-finishing Sunoco Rookie contender of the night. Alfredo is running a part-time effort with DGR-Crosley and Charlotte marked his fourth race of the season. He is scheduled to race in two weeks at Texas Motor Speedway.

Podcast #107 — Aero Package Shines at Kansas Speedway

Show notes:

Recap: Digital Ally 400 from Kansas Speedway

  • Keselowski Wins
    • 11 of 12 wins this season between Penske and Gibbs
    • Keselowski reiterates that 30 wins locks you into the Hall of Fame
    • Did the late caution take this one from Harvick? (Led 104 laps)
  • Bowman had a shot again! Third straight 2nd place finish.
    • Chevy back?
  • KB’s top ten streak ends at 11.
  • Winners and losers

Do We Care?

  • Inspection 400
    • 11 cars sent to the back for failed inspections.

News Items:

Preview: NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway

  • Picks
    • Open and fan vote (Pick 4)
    • Eric: Fan Vote – Matt D. 1. William Byron 2. Alex Bowman  3. Paul Menard
    • James: Fan Vote – Bubba. 1. Alex Bowman 2. Kyle Larson 3. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
    • All-Star Winner
    • Eric: Jimmie Johnson
    • James: Joey Logano

 

  • Shoutouts if any
    • Indianapolis Grand Prix

Fantasy League Update

Close show

  • Where can we be found on social media?
  • James @jameskuch on Twitter
  • Eric @TSuperspeedway on Twitter
  • Facebook: Facebook.com/TheSuperSpeedway

For more of the podcast:

 

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Next Race: Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race

The Place: Charlotte Motor Speedway

The Date: Saturday, May 18

The Time: Open Race – 6:00 p.m. ET / All-Star Race – 8:00 p.m. ET

TV: FS1

Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Open Format: Stage 1 (20 laps); Stage 2 (20 laps); Stage 3 (10 laps)

All-Star Race Format: Stage 1 (30 laps); Stage 2 (20 laps); Stage 3 (20 laps); Stage 4 (15 laps)

2018 All-Star Winner: Kevin Harvick

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Next Race: Alsco 300

The Place: Charlotte Motor Speedway

The Date: Saturday, May 25

The Time: 1:00 p.m. ET

TV: FS1, 12:30 p.m. ET

Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance:  300 miles (200 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)

2018 Winner: Brad Keselowski

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series

Next Race: North Carolina Education Lottery 200

The Place: Charlotte Motor Speedway

The Date: Friday, May 17

The Time: 8:30 p.m. ET

TV: FS1, 8:00 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 201 miles (134 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 30),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 60), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 134)

2018 Winner: Johnny Sauter

Podcast #106 — Kyle Busch says this package sucks

Show notes:

Recap: Gander RV 400 from Dover International Speedway

  • Truex wins second race of 2019
    • 21st career win (First win came at Dover in 2007)
    • How do we feel about Truex as a title contender?
  • Bowman was good all day. Career best 2nd place finish
    • Larson third and Elliott led 145 laps and finished 5th
    • A great day for Chevy despite the loss?
  • Drivers were mad about the rules package
  • Winners and losers

 

Do We Care?

  • Xxxx

News Items:

Preview: Digital Ally 400 at Kansas Speedway

  • Picks
    • James: Ryan Blaney
    • Eric: Chase Elliott
    • Dark Horse
    • Eric: Alex Bowman
    • James: Austin Dillon

 

  • Shoutouts if any
    • XXX

Fantasy League Update

Close show

  • Where can we be found on social media?
  • James @jameskuch on Twitter
  • Eric @TSuperspeedway on Twitter
  • Facebook: Facebook.com/TheSuperSpeedway

For more of the podcast:

Podcast #105 — Talladega doesn’t disappoint

Show notes:

Recap: Geico 500 from Talladega SuperSpeedway

  • Chase Elliott wins on his “home” track
    • Elliott’s fourth victory in 123 Cup starts
  • Kyle Larson’s wild ride
  • Austin Dillon Penalized
    • Violation: Deck lid must be used as supplied from the manufacturer. Body filler added to the deck lid.
    • Penalty:
      • Crew Chief Danny Stockman fined $25,000.
      • Car Chief Gregory Ebert suspended from the next Cup Series points race
      • Loss of 10 owner and 10 driver points
      • Deck lid was confiscated at the track
    • Richard Childress Racing will not appeal the penalty
  • How was the new package?
    • Most lead changes since May 4, 2014 with 39 (There were 48 in 2014)
  • Do we see changes before Daytona in July, or Talladega in the fall?

News Items:

  • Jayski is back!!!
  • Austin Wayne Self’s suspension has been lifted after successfully completing NASCAR’s Road to Recovery Program.
  • Joey Logano got to visit the White House to commemorate his 2018 title
    • Gave Trump a helmet and a trophy and got to tour the White House.
  • Nascar to stream four events from Dover this Friday
  • Single Car qualifying is back
    • NASCAR will run single-car qualifying in all three series at all oval tracks.
      • No more elimination rounds
      • Larger than 1.25 miles in length, drivers will get a single lap
      • Shorter than 1.25 miles in length, drivers will get two laps.
      • Qualifying draw will be determined by the previous week’s lineup
    • Group qualifying will continue on road courses only.

Preview:

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Next Race: Gander RV 400

The Place: Dover International Speedway

The Date: Sunday, May 5

The Time: 2 p.m. ET

TV: FS1, 1:30 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 400 miles (400 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 120),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 240), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 400)

2018 Winner: Kevin Harvick

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Next Race: Allied Steel Buildings 200

The Place: Dover International Speedway

The Date: Saturday, May 4

The Time: 1:30 p.m. ET

TV: FS1, 1:00 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 200 miles (200 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)

2018 Winner: Justin Allgaier

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series

Next Race: JEGS 200

The Place: Dover International Speedway

The Date: Friday, May 3

The Time: 5 p.m. ET

TV: FS1, 4:30 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 200 miles (200 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)

2018 Winner: Johnny Sauter

  • Picks
    • Eric: Chase Elliott
    • James: Kevin Harvick

Dark Horse

    • James: Ty Dillon
    • Eric: Ryan Newman
  • Shoutouts if any
    • Behrendspeedway on Instagram – awesome .4 mile 1/64 scale racetrack
    • NASCAR has been doing 360 videos on their YouTube page. This week they have videos of the start and of the racing in turn three at Dega. Worth checking out if you’ve never been down there by the track like that.

Fantasy League Update

Close show

  • Where can we be found on social media?
  • James @jameskuch on Twitter
  • Eric @TSuperspeedway on Twitter
  • Facebook: Facebook.com/TheSuperSpeedway

For more of the podcast:

Podcast #104 — Truex is now a short track winner

Show notes:

Recap: Toyota Owners 400 from Richmond Raceway

  • Martin Truex and Cole Pern get back to victory lane
    • First win on a short track for Truex
    • First win with Gibbs
    • Gibbs now has 6 wins in 9 races
      • Busch – 3
      • Hamlin – 2
      • Truex – 1
    • Gibbs and Penske have won all the races so far this season
  • Kyle Busch speeding penalty
  • Winners and Losers

Do We Care?

News Items:

Preview: Geico 500 at Talladega

  • Picks
    • James: Brad Keselowski
    • Eric: Kurt Busch
    • Dark Horse
    • Eric: Ty Dillon
    • James: Matt DiBenedetto

Fantasy League Update

Close show

  • Where can we be found on social media?
  • James @jameskuch on Twitter
  • Eric @TSuperspeedway on Twitter
  • Facebook: Facebook.com/TheSuperSpeedway

For more of the podcast:

 

NASCAR, Charlotte Motor Speedway Announce Format, Technical Specs for

Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race

Format Mirrors Last Year’s Thrilling Spectacle

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 17, 2019) – Race fans looking for a glimpse into the future need look no further than this year’s Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race.  As demonstrated throughout its illustrious history, NASCAR’s annual all-star spectacular will again provide the platform for the world’s greatest stock car drivers to compete for $1 million dollars, while race teams will get a real-world experience with technical components that could be implemented in the next generation car.

The next step in the all-star evolution was unveiled today.

NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway announced the format and technical specifications for the 2019 edition, a race that will feature some tried and true measures, as well as a potential glimpse into the Gen-7 future.

“Throughout its history, the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race has provided a platform to try new and innovative ideas, some of which we have incorporated on a full-time basis,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “Last year’s all-star rules package resulted in one of the most exciting all-star races in history. With a similar package, and added elements that we could see in the next generation race car, we expect another must-watch event.”

“This will be the 35th running of the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race, and while it’s known for memorable moments, this race has established a place in history for testing what’s best for the future,” said Marcus Smith, president and CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc. “THIS is the proving ground.  Fans can always look back and see that night racing, stage racing and double-file restarts started in the All-Star Race. And last year’s rules package produced the most three- and four-wide racing I’ve ever seen at Charlotte. This year may provide a peek into the crystal ball for the Gen-7 car, so once again, fans can expect the unexpected.”

The race will again have four stages, with a five lap increase in the final stage compared to last year’s race. The stages will last 30 laps, 20 laps, 20 laps and 15 laps. Both green flag and yellow flag laps will count in Stages 1-3; with only green flag laps counting in the Final Stage. NASCAR Overtime rules will be in effect for Stages 1-3. In the final stage, if the race is restarted with two or less laps remaining, there will be unlimited attempts at a green, white, checkered finish under green flag conditions.

For the 2019 edition, the race cars will feature two keys technical elements that NASCAR may incorporate into the Gen-7 car slated to debut in 2021.

The first is single-piece carbon fiber splitter/pan that should offer dramatic improvements in ride height sensitivity for the drivers. This technical component will provide a more stable aero platform and create more consistent performance in traffic. Also, the car will be configured with a radiator duct which exits through the hood as opposed to the current design which exits into the engine compartment. This feature will create improved aerodynamic parity and, at the same time, reduce engine temperatures.

The Monster Energy Open will occur Saturday evening prior to the Monster Energy All-Star Race and will include three segments (20 laps / 20 Laps / 10 laps). The winner of each segment will earn a spot in the All-Star Race.

Those eligible for the Monster Energy All-Star Race include: drivers who won a points event in either 2018 or 2019; drivers who won a Monster Energy All-Star Race and compete full-time; and drivers who won a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship and compete fulltime. Those who have not already earned a spot via the above criteria can still lock-in by winning a stage in the Monster Energy Open or by winning the Fan Vote. Polls for the fan vote are open now on NASCAR.com.

Drivers who have already clinch an All-Star Race spot: Aric Almirola, Ryan Blaney, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Erik Jones, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr.

Coverage of the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race will begin on May 18 at 5 p.m. ET on FS1. The Monster Energy Open will air at 6 p.m. and the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race begins at 8 p.m. on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Weekend passes for the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race start at just $79 per person and also include admission to the May 17 N.C. Education Lottery 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, May 17 Monster Energy All-Star Race qualifying, May 18 AJR pre-race concert, May 18 Monster Energy Open and the May 18 Hairball post-race concert presented by Monster Energy. Kids ages 13 and under get in free to all activities on May 17 and for just $10 with adult purchase on May 18.  Tickets, camping and race-day upgrades are available by calling 1-800-455-FANS or visiting CharlotteMotorSpeedway.com.

About NASCAR

The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc. (NASCAR) is the sanctioning body for the No. 1 form of motorsports in the United States. NASCAR consists of three national series (Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series™, NASCAR XFINITY Series™, and NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series™), three regional series, one local grassroots series and three international series. The International Motor Sports Association™ (IMSA®) governs the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship™, the premier U.S. sports car series. Based in Daytona Beach, Fla., with offices in eight cities across North America, NASCAR sanctions more than 1,200 races in more than 30 U.S. states, Canada, Mexico and Europe. For more information visit http://www.NASCAR.com and http://www.IMSA.com, and follow NASCAR on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat (‘NASCAR’).

About Charlotte Motor Speedway

For 60 years, Charlotte Motor Speedway has set the standard in motorsports entertainment for fans of all ages. Known as America’s Home for Racing, Charlotte Motor Speedway is the only race vacation destination where fans can immerse themselves in the heart of NASCAR country. Visitors can attend one-of-a-kind race spectacles including the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race, Coca-Cola 600 and Bank of America ROVAL™ 400; take behind-the-scenes speedway and race shop tours; explore the NASCAR Hall of Fame and drive an 800-horsepower stock car. Through every event and every decade, Charlotte Motor Speedway puts FANS FIRST with a never-ending commitment to enhance the fan experience. That tradition continues with unmatched value through affordable tickets, unparalleled pre-race entertainment and more opportunities for fans to see their favorite drivers. For all the latest news and information, visitwww.charlottemotorspeedway.com, follow on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram or download the Charlotte Motor Speedway mobile app.

Podcast #103 — Kurt Busch wanted to wreck Kyle

Show notes:

Recap: Food City 500 from Bristol Motor Speedway

    • Kyle Busch wins again
      • Kyle responds to Kurt saying he’d wreck him

 

  • Audio: 0:45

 

  • Late race restart issues/gambles
  • Gibbs and Penske continue dominance
  • Has Bristol found the magic again?
  • Winners/Losers

Do We Care?

News Items:

    • DW Announces that 2019 will be his last in the booth.
      • Jenna Fryer was on Door Bumper Clear this week to defend the article

 

  • Audio: 1:54

 

Preview: Toyota Owners 400 from Richmond Raceway

  • Picks
    • Eric: Denny Hamlin
    • James: Kyle Larson
    • Dark Horse
    • James: Chris Buescher
    • Eric: Ryan Newman
  • Shoutouts if any
    • James: Ian at the Masters – Quick talk about historic venues.
    • Eric
      • Great guests lately on the Dirty Mo Media podcasts
      • Also, Dinner With Racers is back on again. Listened to the episode with Bobby Allison today and it was great
      • Gluck’s 12 questions (Lajoie and Menard)

Fantasy League Update

Close show

  • Where can we be found on social media?
  • James @jameskuch on Twitter
  • Eric @TSuperspeedway on Twitter
  • Facebook: Facebook.com/TheSuperSpeedway

For more of the podcast: