Elliott Sadler discusses crew chief situation for Xfinity finale

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At 41-years-old, Elliott Sadler feels like he’s “back in school again.”

It’s not most ideal situation to find yourself in two days before the Xfinity Series championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The JR Motorsports driver enters the Ford EcoBoost 300 with a crew chief he’s never worked with before in Mike Bumgarner. It is a result of Kevin Meendering, Sadler’s crew chief through the first 32 races of the season, being suspended by NASCAR for a violation of its lug nut policy.

“We’ve had a really good week of preparation because it is a little bit different circumstances than what we’ve had the rest of the year,” Sadler said Thursday at Championship 4 Media Day. “We’ve had some extra meetings, make sure our language is right, make sure we know the strategies we want to apply not only during the race, but also qualifying and practice, because it’s the first time Mike and I are working together.”

Bumgarner has 22 years of NASCAR experience and joined JR Motorsport in 2013 after years at Hendrick Motorsports. He last crew chiefed in 2014 and has been the team’s race operations manager since then.

That role has Bumgarner working on Sadler’s No. 1 car and the No. 7 of Justin Allgaier during a usual race week. But this is the least usual week of the season for Sadler’s team.

“Bummy is the one guy in the shop that works on all of our cars, I mean, hands on, he physically knows what’s going on with our race cars every single week before we go to the racetrack,” Sadler said. “As far as working on the cars, knowing what they want, knowing what’s in them, he had the most experience.

“He and Kevin have known each other from the Hendrick days. He’s a big part of why our cars go fast, because of stuff he can do to them. He just seemed like the perfect fit for all of us to kind of stay on the same page, which way we’re going as far as communication, attitude, being together.”

Communication is key for Sadler, who has a very specific way of talking to Meendering on the radio during races.

“They have the same personality. Communication‑wise, they both got the same type of speech pattern and things like that,” said Sadler, who has three wins this season working with Meendering.

But as Bumgarner said Wednesday, he’ll be “leaning heavily” on Sadler, who has competed in NASCAR since 1995 and has yet to win a title.

“It’s all on me, my shoulders,” Sadler said. “I’m the quarterback, I’m the leader of the team. I know that Mike is going to feed off of me and follow my lead.”

If the unexpected game of follow the leader pays off, Sader could give JR Motorsports its second Xfinity title in three years.

Jimmie Johnson to start in the rear after gear change

Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
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INDIANAPOLIS – Jimmie Johnson‘s bid for a record-tying fifth Brickyard 400 will have to begin at the back of the 40-car field.

Johnson qualified fourth Saturday but stated on Twitter that he’ll have to go to the rear of the field because they had to change the rear gear.

Although track position is pivotal at Indianapolis Motor Speedway because passing is difficult, optimists can view Johnson’s woes as a good sign. He has scored two of his three wins this season – Texas and Dover – after starting in the rear.

Also starting at the rear today is Cole Whitt (rear gear change) and Joey Gase (engine change). Whitt qualified 34th. Gase qualified 38th.

Today’s race is on NBC. Coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET with Countdown to Green.

 

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Today’s Cup race at Indianapolis: Start time, weather, TV/radio info

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The NASCAR Cup Series takes part in the 24th annual Brickyard 400 today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It marks one year since Kyle Busch earned his last Cup win, when he claimed his second Brickyard 400 in a row. Busch starts from the pole for the second year in a row.

Here’s all the important info you need ahead of the race, which airs on NBC.

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 2:32 p.m. Green flag is set for 2:44 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 160 laps (400 miles) around the 2.5-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 50. Stage 2 ends on Lap 100.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: The Cup garage opens at 9 a.m. The driver/crew chief meeting is at 12:30 p.m. Driver introductions are at 1:55 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Carly Pearce will perform the Anthem at 2:26 p.m.

TV/RADIO: NBC will broadcast the race. Coverage begins at 2 p.m. with Countdown to Green. Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network will broadcast on radio and the Performance Racing Network at 1:30 p.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the IMSRN/PRN broadcast.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com site predicts 89 degrees at race time with a 15 percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST YEAR: Kyle Busch started from the pole and led 149 of the race’s 170 total laps. It was his second win in a row in the race. Matt Kenseth finished second, Jimmie Johnson finished third.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the full starting lineup.

Get a humorous look at life in the pits in, what else, ‘The Pits’ on NBC livestream

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Life in the pits can sometimes, well … really be the pits.

But it can also be a hilarious look at life in NASCAR, as well.

That’s the premise behind “The Pits,” a three-part “mockumentary-style series” that spoofs the life of the fictitious SONIC pit crew in NASCAR.

“The Pits” debuts Sunday on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. After each 2-3 minute episode airs, replays will be available on NBCSports.com and also the NASCAR on NBC Facebook page.

The first episode airs during this Sunday’s live stream of the Brickyard 400, which will be televised on NBC.

Episode 1 follows pit pro Rita, who falls for tire specialist Max, but Max’s only affection is for SONIC Pretzel Dogs.

The other two episodes of The Pits will livestream Saturday night, August 19, during the night race at Bristol Motor Speedway, and during the Sunday, October 15 race at Talladega Superspeedway.

“The Pits” is produced for NBC Sports Group and SONIC Drive-In by The Kicker, with shareable content running across NBC Sports Digital assets.

Starting lineup for 24th annual Brickyard 400

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Kyle Busch will lead the Brickyard 400 to the green flag Sunday for the second year in a row.

He earned his fourth pole of the year and is seeking his first Cup win since the 2016 Brickyard 400.

Following Busch in the starting lineup is Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin.

Hamlin is the only driver in the top five who hasn’t won at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Click here for the full starting lineup.