JGR juggernaut’s toughest challenges could come from within

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Car owner Joe Gibbs says it gets easier for his team now.


All four Joe Gibbs Racing cars advanced to the Round of 8 Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Never has an organization held half the remaining eight spots in the Chase since the elimination-style format debuted in 2014.

“I think from here on out, it’s pretty easy,’’ Gibbs said of managing four teams as they race for a title. “Everybody is geared up and is going for a win. That’s the game plan.’’

In others words, it should be just like what it has been all season.

Of course, with more at stake, more than fenders can be bruised among teammates — just look at Kevin Harvick confronting teammate Kurt Busch after Sunday’s race on pit road.

Remember, Carl Edwards bumped Kyle Busch out of the way on the last lap to win at Richmond in the spring. If it can happen then, what’s not to say it couldn’t happen now?

“We compete hard,’’ Edwards said of racing teammates in the upcoming round. “We work hard beforehand to help each other prepare. We battle hard on the racetrack. If we can keep it at the level we’ve had all year, it’s going to be great. There’s no reason all four of these cars can’t be in the race at Homestead.’’

But can four teams truly survive each other to make it to Miami in less than a month?

“You hope that the racing doesn’t change,’’ Matt Kenseth said. “I think it’s just business as usual.’’

Just as challenging could be what this means for the other four teams vying for the championship. Joe Gibbs Racing’s four teams have combined to win 11 of 32 races this season. JGR cars already have won this season at the next two tracks — Busch won at Martinsville and Texas in the spring.

Left to compete against the JGR cars for the title are Harvick and Kurt Busch for Stewart-Haas Racing, Hendrick Motorsports’ Jimmie Johnson and Team Penske’s Joey Logano. They have combined for 10 wins this season.

Logano’s car owner, Roger Penske, isn’t worried about facing all four Gibbs cars with just one car left in the Chase.

“They’re going to be fighting each other, which is important,’’ Penske told NBC Sports. “Quite honestly, how do you keep all four of those guys under the roof, where we have all of our efforts on Joey and certainly Brad (Keselowski) will do everything he can to help him.

“We’ve raced these guys all year long. They’ve been tough. Jimmie Johnson, don’t count him out. Kurt Busch … we know is a heck of a driver, and Harvick is probably one of the best.’’

Johnson, Harvick and Logano each won in the last round. A Joe Gibbs Racing driver hasn’t won in the first six races of the Chase. The team’s last victory was by Hamlin at Richmond, the final race before the playoffs began.

Even so, Busch and Kenseth both were the only drivers to finish in the top 10 in each of the first five Chase races. That streak ended Sunday when they joined Edwards in riding at the back all day at Talladega. Kenseth was 28th, Edwards 29th and Busch 30th.

That’s all they needed to do to advance. Now, it will take much more, and they could be racing teammates for the final transfer spot.

NASCAR America: Should penalty for failing inspection be more severe?


After 13 cars failed qualifying inspection last Friday at Auto Club Speedway, NASCAR America’s analysts addressed the current state of rules that resulted in all thirteen teams not getting to make a qualifying attempt.

While Kyle Busch said the issues are “not that big deal,” especially with the new scanning system still in its infancy, Jeff Burton disagrees. Burton points to how much engineering has become involved in the sport and trying make cars better with NASCAR’s rules.

“It’s snowballed into this great big bag of rules,” Burton said. “We have all these rules that the teams have forced NASCAR to create. I don’t know the way out of it. There’s two ways to do it. You make the penalties harsher, with the theory being they won’t do it if the penalty is so harsh, or you have less rules. The problem is if you have less rules you’re going to have more cars that aren’t within those rules as they are.”

After the issues in Cup qualifying, NASCAR told Xfinity Series teams on Saturday that any team that did not attempt a lap in qualifying would start from the rear of the field and be required to serve a pass-through penalty once the green flag waved.

“It is a mess, but I disagree with Kyle (Busch), it is a big deal,” Burton said, citing fans who don’t get to see their favorite driver qualifying. “That’s not good. That’s not good for sponsors, that’s mainly not good for mainly race fans. If race fans tune in and their guy isn’t on track, why are they going to tune in next week? They deserve to see their guy on track. It’s got to get fixed.”

NASCAR announced Monday that inspection this weekend at Martinsville Speedway would take place after qualifying and would also serve as pre-race inspection.

Jarrett, who said there are too many rules, agreed with Burton.

“The only way of fixing this is making the penalty so severe that these teams aren’t going to take any chances,” Jarrett said.

Watch the above video for more.

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Auto Club Speedway recap, West Coast Awards

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and looks back at the weekend’s racing at Auto Club Speedway.

Rutledge Wood hosts with Jeff Burton, Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett from the “Big Oak Table” at NBC Charlotte.

What to expect from the show.

  • Martin Truex Jr. flashed his championship form from last year and earned his first win of the 2018 season Sunday in Fontana. We’ll recap the last race of NASCAR Goes West from around the “Big Oak Table” at our NBC Sports studios in Charlotte. Plus, Rut and the gang will hand out the West Coast awards, honoring the best moments from the Vegas-Phoenix-Fontana run.
  • NASCAR is a sport built on families, and it’s seen lots of kids grow up at the track through the years. We’ll spend time discussing the next generation to catch the racing bug – including Harrison Burton, son of our Jeff Burton.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, you also can watch it via the online stream at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com.

If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Landon Cassill gets Cup ride for Martinsville, Texas

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Landon Cassill will drive the No. 00 for StarCom Racing in the next two races, Martinsville and Texas, the team announced Monday.

Cassill replaces Jeffrey Earnhardt. StarCom Racing and Earnhardt parted ways after Sunday’s race at Auto Club Speedway.

Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway will mark Cassill’s first Cup race of the year. The 28-year-old has 259 career Cup starts and a career-best finish of fourth at Talladega in October 2014. He drove for Front Row Motorsports the past two seasons but was not retained after last year.

Cassill’s sponsor the next two races will be the United States First Responders Association, a non-profit, professional and social network of fire, EMS, rescue, law enforcement and military personnel, as well as civilian support teams.

StarCom Racing was privileged to acquire a new partnership with USFRA and Landon Cassill behind the wheel,” said Derrike Cope, team manager, in a statement. “I’m optimistic that his knowledge and experience will only help our efforts as well as the growth of our team.”

Said Cassill in a statement: “I love working with new teams. I feel like that is one of my strengths. StarCom Racing looks like they are in it for the long haul, and I am thrilled to be a part of it.” 

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Hendrick Motorsports withdraws appeal of Phoenix penalties against No. 9 team

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Hendrick Motorsports has withdrawn its appeal of penalties against Chase Elliott‘s N0. 9 team from last weekend’s race in Phoenix, NBC Sports confirmed.

NASCAR found a L1 infraction on Elliott’s car in the rear-suspension after the race at ISM Raceway.

NASCAR stated that the team’s truck trailing arm spacer/pinion angle shim mounting surfaces must be planar and in complete contact with corresponding mating surfaces at all points and at all times.

NASCAR fined crew chief Alan Gustafson $50,000, suspended car chief Josh Kirk two races and docked Elliott 25 points and the team 25 owner points. Elliott’s third-place finish in the race will not count toward any tiebreakers.

Following Sunday’s race at Auto Club Speedway, where Elliott finished 16th, he is 21st in the point standings.

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