Erik Jones was second fastest in practice at Chicagoland Speedway on Friday.
Getty Images

Erik Jones: Departure of Carl Edwards ‘not something we saw coming’

Leave a comment

Erik Jones said the surprise news of Carl Edwards leaving Joe Gibbs Racing and not competing in 2017 was “not something that we saw coming” during an interview Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Jones will be a rookie in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series this season with Furniture Row Racing, which is aligned with Joe Gibbs Racing. Jones said the news won’t impact his rookie campaign driving the No. 77 Toyota.

Daniel Suarez, the defending Xfinity Series champion, will replace Edwards in the No. 19 Toyota after initially being slated to run his third Xfinity season. Joe Gibbs Racing will announce the move at a 10 a.m. (ET) press conference Wednesday at the team’s race shop.

Jones, the 2015 Camping World Truck Series champion and the 2016 Xfinity Rookie of the Year, was announced as the driver of the No. 77 Toyota last August.

MORE: Ryan: Carl Edwards departure fits guarded personality

The 20-year-old driver said his rapid ascension to the Cup series, which began in the Truck series at 17, didn’t begin to sink in until a trip to Furniture Row Racing’s shop in Denver, Colorado, a few weeks ago.

“I was walking through the shop and looking at all the cars they were putting together,” Jones said on “SiriusXM Speedway” with Dave Moody. “At the time I was looking at the new body for 2017 that I hadn’t seen yet. And walking through the shop, there were some chassis lined up on the floor and every chassis has a serial code on it. It had the chassis number and at the end it had ‘- EJ’ and that was pretty cool. That’s the feeling, you’re walking through and (think) ‘that’s me. That’s my car. They’re putting that car together for me.'”

The last few months have been busy for Furniture Row Racing as it prepares the No. 77 team for its first on-track action in the coming weeks. The first time the completed team will assemble will be on Jan. 31 for a test at Phoenix International Raceway.

Leading the charge for the No. 77 team will be crew chief Chris Gayle, who is coming off a season as crew chief for the No. 18 team in the Xfinity Series thatwon 12 races. When Jones drove the No. 54 car part-time in 2015, he and Gayle won a race at Chicagoland Speedway.

“I didn’t really know him on a personal level so much in 2015,” Jones said. “I spent some time with him (in Denver) last time I was there. I stayed at his house and it’s been fun getting to know him more.”

When Speedweeks rolls around, it will be the first time Jones has driven a Cup car in race conditions since 2015 when he substituted for a suspended Matt Kenseth in two races at the end of the season. That was after he drove for the injured Kyle Busch at Kansas Speedway in May of that year.

But the Cup cars have changed dramatically in those two years, with two major reductions in downforce, that Jones said those starts and even his mid-race substitution of Denny Hamlin at Bristol in April 2015 don’t count toward real Cup experience anymore.

“I realized that at a test I did at Kansas last year with the Furniture Row group,” Jones said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The driving style (in 2015) was fairly different than the test I did at Kansas a few months ago. I think it’s a small learning curve. The driver takes whatever they’re given to the maximum performance level that’s allowed.”

The Kansas test with the 2017 rules package also showed a “big change” from what Jones was used to in the Xfinity Series.

“Immediately, the first lap on the track you’re all the way out of the gas using brake,” Jones said. “I don’t think there’s a single mile-and-a-half on the schedule for the Xfinity Series where we used much brake at all and we were using quite a bit at Kansas. It’s definitely a lot different, but I think it’s good. I think putting it in the driver’s hands is what everybody in the Monster Energy Cup Series has been asking for and we’re getting to see that now.”

Jones will make his full-time Cup series debut on Feb. 26 in the Daytona 500.

Check out the logo for the 60th Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 22:  Fans crowd the infield prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 57th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 22, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sure, it’s been roughly 24 hours since Kurt Busch won the 59th Daytona 500.

But it’s not too early to start ramping up to the next entry of the “Great American Race.”

Daytona International Speedway has already unveiled the logo for the 60th Daytona 500, which is scheduled to be run on Feb. 18, 2018.

Check out it out below.

Denny Hamlin, girlfriend Jordan Fish expecting second child

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Can-Am Duel 2
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Denny Hamlin didn’t make it back-to-back wins in the Daytona 500 on Sunday, but he still had a good day.

Hamlin’s longtime girlfriend, Jordan Fish, tweeted just before the “Great American Race” that their first child, 4-year-old daughter Taylor, will soon have a brother or sister.

Fish tweeted a photo of Taylor wearing a “Big Sister In Training” shirt that told the whole story.

Congratulations to the couple and the soon-t0-be addition to their family.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Matt DiBenedetto delivers Go Fas Racing best Cup Series result in team history

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 24:  Matt DiBenedetto, driver of the #32 EJ Wade Construction Ford, practices for the 59th Annual DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 24, 2017 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

It took 99 starts, a revolving door of drivers and the crash fest that was the 59th Daytona 500.

That’s all it took before Matt DiBenedetto was able to give his new NASCAR Cup Series team, Go Fas Racing, its best result in team history, finishing ninth in Sunday’s “Great American Race.”

DiBenedetto, driving the No. 32 Ford owned by Archie St. Hilaire, simply survived.

Despite being in the 17-car wreck on Lap 128, DiBenedetto’s car stayed in one piece and, after a last pit stop, had enough gas to take advantage of the misfortune of others. The result is his second top 10 in two seasons.

“That’s a heck of a way to start the year,” DiBenedetto said after the race. “Holy cow. We survived. We got in that one crash and we hit pretty hard. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s gonna be a long day,’ but the guys did a great job patching it up. It still ran fine. I had good speed. The motor ran great all day, so it was cool.”

Starting his third full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series, DiBenedetto rolled off 25th in his second Daytona 500 start. The native of Grass Valley, California, had an average running spot of 21.35.

As the laps wound down, teams ahead of DiBenedetto began dropping off as their fuel tanks dried up. The 25-year-old driver had no idea what position he was in as he took the checkered flag.

“No, I didn’t honestly,” DiBenedetto said. “The whole race we were pitting multiple times just trying to make sure it was fixed properly and taking our time and we just kept picking them off one at a time and it turned out to be a great day.”

It was DiBenedetto’s best day since he earned an emotional sixth-place finish in last year’s spring race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Then, DiBenedetto was with BK Racing, which he decided to leave following the season.

“It was definitely different,” DiBenedetto said. “This one was a little bit more survival. … I would say they’re different feelings, but being in the Daytona 500 in the first place is unbelievable. So I’m gonna say this one does feel really good just because it’s the Daytona 500 and it’s been my dream since I was five to even be in it. So to get a top 10 in it, I’m just checking off all these dreams come true.”

Go Fas Racing made its Cup Series debut in 2012 at Texas Motor Speedway with Scott Speed driving its No. 95 Ford.

DiBenedetto is the 23rd driver to take the reigns of a Go Fas Racing car, but the first to drive full-time.

“We’ve taken the team and brought in some really good people,” DiBenedetto said. “I’m so lucky to have my crew chief, Gene Nead, who came in and assembled some of the best guys we could possibly get, so we have some real quality people, some of the folks that were at BK with me. It’s amazing to have that tight of a group, where they are so dedicated to follow me and Gene wherever we go.

“That’s special. You don’t find that often, so we have such a great relationship and I think that’s where we’re gonna turn a lot of heads this year and surprise everybody. You’re only as good as the people around you and we have really good people. I’m fortunate to have them. We’re gonna turn some heads. We have 15 employees total versus some people who have 400-500, but we have 15 good, quality people and our goal is to over-achieve all year.”

It’s doesn’t hurt to start in the Daytona 500.

 and on Facebook

NASCAR America live at 6 p.m. ET: Daytona 500 recap, Kurt Busch interview

nascar-america-2017
Leave a comment

Today’s episode of NASCAR America recaps all the major stories that came out of the 59th Daytona 500, which was won for the first time by Kurt Busch.

The episode airs from 6 – 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Krista Voda hosts with Dale Jarrett from Stamford, Connecticut. Jeff Burton and Kyle Petty join them from Burton’s Garage.

Voda will interview Busch just under 24 hours after the biggest win of his NASCAR career.

If you can’t catch the 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 plug-in that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 6 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.