CREW CHIEF: Jason Ratcliff
TEAM: Joe Gibbs Racing
WINS: 2 (Dover I, Loudon I)
LAPS LED: 948
TOP 5s: 8
TOP 10s: 19
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Kenseth had a good but fairly nondescript first 26 races. But when he qualified for the Chase, things suddenly shot up. He was second after Charlotte and Kansas and Martinsville but a 21st place finish at Phoenix cost him a chance at making the Championship 4 round. Still, Kenseth had another overall consistent season. With the exception of finishing 15th in 2015, he has four top-five and two other top-seven finishes in six of the last seven seasons. … Was part of all four of Joe Gibbs Racing drivers that finished consecutively from third through sixth: Kyle Busch (3rd), Carl Edwards (4th), Kenseth (5th) and Denny Hamlin (6th).
WHAT WENT WRONG: The Phoenix Chase race (finished 21st) cost Kenseth a chance at reaching the final round of the Chase. … Kenseth’s 37th place finish at Las Vegas (due to a crash) saw him drop to 20th place after the first three races. It took him 10 more races before finally cracking the top-10 in the Sprint Cup standings. … Dollar General will not return as one of the primary sponsors for Kenseth’s team.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2017: This could be one of the most pivotal seasons of Kenseth’s career. Not only is it the final year of his current contract, Kenseth enters his 18th full-time season in NASCAR’s premier series and also turns 45 in March. With drivers like Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez in the Joe Gibbs Racing stable, could this potentially be Kenseth’s last year with JGR?
Steven Tyler has performed with Aerosmith in a video for ESPN back when it broadcast NASCAR races. Tyler also has performed before the night race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Now, he’s played Kurt Busch‘s wedding.
What more is left for the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer?
Tyler performed at a celebration for the marriage of Kurt and Ashley Busch earlier this month. Kurt Busch posted a photo of the evening.
That NASCAR-themed video Tyler did with Aerosmith for the 2007 season? Here it is:
Before he performed at Bristol in Aug. 2015, Tyler met Richard Petty:
Chip Ganassi Racing has hired Mark McArdle to be its competition director, a new position for the organization.
McArlde will oversee the team’s two Cup teams — Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray — and its Xfinity operation, which features Brennan Poole, Tyler Reddick, Justin Marks and Larson.
McArdle had been with Roush Fenway Racing. He joined the team in Nov. 2014 to oversee engineering for its Cup and Xfinity programs. He previously had been director of racing operations at Richard Childress Racing, joining that organization in April 2013. He spent four years before that at Furniture Row Racing, overseeing the team’s competition department.
At Ganassi, McArdle will report to Max Jones, team manager.
Last year marked the first time in the team’s history that it had two cars make the Cup playoffs. Both Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray, though, failed to advance from the first round. Larson, who had one win, finished ninth in the points. McMurray, who was winless, placed 13th.
“I think everybody in the building feels like we took a good step forward last year,’’ said Steve Lauletta, president of Chip Ganassi Racing. “We’re not happy with the step we took. We have more to do. So, being able to bring more of the leadership into the building that can focus on how we get there, the process that we need, we continue to bring on more people.
“I think Max feels like another person can help us make sure that everybody is focused on the right thing and we’re not wasting time and resources. Mark brings a tremendous amount of expertise to continue that growth that we’ve seen.’’
JR Motorsports confirmed Tuesday that crew chief Kevin Meendering will remain with Elliott Sadler this season.
Meendering and Sadler recorded three Xfinity wins last year in their first season together. Meendering also helped Sadler score a career-best 29 top-10 results and finish runner-up for the series title to Daniel Suarez.
The announcement was included in a team release about Hunt Brothers Pizza serving as the primary sponsor for Sadler’s car in two races in each of the next two seasons.
The Wood Brothers begin this season not only with a charter but with a new home.
The team had shared a building with JTG Daugherty in Harrisburg, North Carolina, but moved after last season to a shop in Mooresville, North Carolina. The move puts the Wood Brothers closer to Team Penske. The two organizations are aligned.
The Wood Brothers will again have Ryan Blaney as driver. The team also has a charter, leasing it from Go Fas Racing. That means the Wood Brothers team is guaranteed a starting spot in every Cup race this year, unlike last year when they did not have a charter.