Bump & Run: Judging the crop of young Cup drivers

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NASCAR’s youth movement continues to make an impact in the Cup series. As the sport’s younger drivers race toward a victory, seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson has gotten off to a slow start. 

Dale Jarrett and Kyle Petty, who both will be on NASCAR America from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. ET today on NBCSN, join Nate Ryan and Dustin Long in discussing those subjects in this week’s Bump & Run.

Which young driver has been more impressive to you so far this season: Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott or Ryan Blaney?

Kyle Petty: That’s a tough question. I’m going to have to answer it’s a tie: Chase and Ryan. Here’s why: I think Chase gets better every week. Every week. I don’t think Chase is far away from not only his first win but his second or third win. I think Ryan has come out stronger and smarter than he was last year. There’s something different about him. The things he does on a racetrack. In these first three races, he’s not put himself in a bad position. Go back to last year. There were a few times he had fast cars but he would end up against the wall, something would happen. He put himself in a bad position. He’s seems to have outgrown that in the first part of this year.

Dale Jarrett: I’m going to say that Kyle Larson has been the most impressive to this point. I think I’ve had reservations, like other people. We know he is very talented, but could the team keep up with his progress? They’ve shown me that they’ve done that and that he’s figured out to run these 400- and 500-mile races. He’s been outstanding.

Nate Ryan: Tough question, so I’ll go solely off the results. With an average finish of 5.3 (including two runner-up finishes), Larson has been the best statistically, and though Atlanta highlighted the fact he still is learning how to close races, he is maximizing the potential of his Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. It took the team the first three months of the 2016 season to provide Larson with rides worthy of his ability. The No. 42 is well ahead of that pace this season, which should bode well for Larson. Chase Elliott barely trails Larson in performance and also has been in position to win every race. It’s only a matter of time until his breakthrough occurs.

Dustin Long: I like what I’m seeing from Kyle Larson and his team so far this season. He still needs to pull out the win at the end, but he’s showing the signs that he’s getting closer to doing that more often. No other driver in the series has run as much in the top 15 in races this year (95.3 percent of all laps). He’s putting together more complete races.

For the first time in his career, Jimmie Johnson has failed to score a top-10 finish in any of the first three races of the season. Should there be concern about this?

Kyle Petty: Yes. I think he needs to call Carl Edwards and retire. No, there’s no concern. No. No, no there is no concern. Jimmie has been so good for so long and so consistent. It just happens sometimes. I do believe that maybe as you look at this and the rise of the Toyotas and now throw (Martin) Truex and Erik (Jones) in, the way the Fords are running the first part of this year. Theoretically, now there’s another four of five cars Jimmie has to outrun on a regular basis, which is a little bit tougher. Until Jimmie absolutely falls off the face of the earth, that’s when you should be concerned. They’re not where they want to be, but they get that way sometimes and they find their way back.

Dale Jarrett: I think there should be some concern there. I think the Hendrick organization, in my mind, is still behind, except for Chase Elliott. They seem to have things figured out. I think Jimmie and Chad Knaus have some work to do. As we’ve seen, they’re pretty good at figuring things out.

Nate Ryan: Some, though slow cars aren’t what have prevented Johnson from recording a top 10. If his pit speeding lights were calibrated better at Atlanta (and if a scoring break had gone his way), he had the speed to contend. Las Vegas went awry when a late-race strategy failed to pan out perfectly, but if his pit crew correctly fastens lug nuts on the final stop, Johnson easily gets a top 10. It’s mostly just a case of improving on execution – which is an unusual weakness for the buttoned-up No. 48 Chevrolet team.

Dustin Long: Considering this team struggled during the middle of last season and still won the championship, I’m not overly concerned at this point. It just shows how one little thing that can make a big impact in a team’s finish (i.e. speeding at Atlanta and loose lug nuts at Las Vegas). Now, if this team continues to show similar flaws in a few months, then it will be more of a concern.

Watch Dale Jarrett and Kyle Petty on NASCAR America today from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Danny Stockman Jr. returning as Daniel Hemric’s crew chief in 2018

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After ending his rookie Xfinity season with Randall Burnett as crew chief, Daniel Hemric will be back with Danny Stockman Jr. on top of his pit box in 2018.

Hemric made the announcement Saturday during the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series Award ceremony in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Burnett led Hemric’s No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet for the final five races of the season. Stockman was suspended for four races after a weight fell off Hemric’s car during practice for the Dover playoff race in September

After Hemric narrowly raced his way into the Championship 4 in the Phoenix elimination race, RCR stuck with Burnett for the title race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Hemric wound up placing fourth in the standings after a battery issue resulted in him finishing 34th.

“I’m very excited about that,” Hemric said of Stockman’s return. “We had some situations that were thrown our way with five races left in the season. … I have all the faith in the world in Danny and in our race team and the direction we’re going as a company and knowing I’ve got him to lead our group is very exciting.”

Hemric finished his rookie year with no wins, seven top fives and 16 top 10s.

He’s still winless in three full-time seasons in NASCAR, including two in the Camping World Truck Series.

The 26-year-old driver addressed some of the struggles he faced in his transition into Xfinity.

“You’ve got more Cup guys on a regular basis,” Hemric said. “Those guys you’re trying to race but you’re trying to learn from them and you’re trying to as a rookie in this series and with a rookie team. We were all working together, so just trying to process all of that. But more than anything else, you’re racing so much more that you see the learning curve kind of take its own path a lot quicker throughout the year. It’s taking advantage of the moments knowing that you get to turn around every four or five days and get back on the race track and you get to work on your craft. It was good to be able to that and kind of have some success early on like we did.”

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. dominates in 2017 RCCA ELITE Diecast sales

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With Dale Earnhardt Jr. retiring from Cup Series competition this season, that means one thing for diecast collectors.

Get them while you still can.

The Racing Collectables Club of America, through Lionel Racing, has released its top-10 list of 1:24-Scale RCCA ELITE diecasts for 2017. The list was included in the RCCA’s year-end catalogue.

According to the Lionel Racing website, ELITE diecasts are the most detailed produced, with more than 260 individual parts.

Earnhardt, who just earned his 15th straight most popular driver award, dominates the list with six of 10 cars.

The only other drivers represented on the list are Ryan Blaney, Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon and Chase Elliott.

Below you can see a picture of the full top-10 list.

Here’s the entire top 10.

  1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Axalta “Last Ride” No. 88 Chevrolet – Earnhardt drove this car, based on the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet from his 2000 rookie season, in his final start at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
  2. Ryan Blaney: Motorcraft No. 21 Ford, Pocono race win diecast – Blaney drove this car to his first Cup win on June 11 at Pocono Raceway.
  3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Nationwide No. 88 Chevrolet, Darlington throwback paint scheme – Earnhardt raced this car, based on his ACDelco paint scheme from his two Xfinity Series championship seasons (1998-99), in the Southern 500.
  4. Kurt Busch: Haas Automation No. 41 Ford, Daytona 500 race win diecast – The confetti and grass-covered car Busch won the 59th Daytona 500 in to start the year.
  5. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Nationwide No. 88 Chevrolet, primary paint scheme
  6. Austin Dillon: Dow Salutes No. 3 Chevrolet, Coca-Cola 600 race win diecast – The car Dillon drove to his first Cup win in May, sending the No. 3 to Victory Lane for the first time since Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s last win in October 2000 at Talladega Superspeedway.
  7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Nationwide No. 88 Chevrolet, patriotic paint scheme – Earnhardt drove this scheme in the Coke 600.
  8. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Mountain Dew/Ride With Dale No. 88 Chevrolet, race version – Earnhardt drove this car in his final start at Talladega Superspeedway in October. Fans were able to register to have their names inscribed in the scheme. Earnhardt started from his 15th and final Cup pole in this race.
  9. Chase Elliott: Hooters No. 24 Chevrolet – Elliott drove this car in the spring Talladega race and the playoff races at Phoenix Raceway and Texas Motor Speedway.
  10. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Nationwide “Gray Ghost” No. 88 Chevrolet – Earnhardt drove this car in his final Cup start at Martinsville Speedway. Earnhardt originally intended to run the scheme in the 2016 Southern 500, but Jeff Gordon did when Earnhardt missed the last 18 races of the season for a concussion.

See the list below.

Photo by Daniel McFadin

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Social Roundup: Sights from the Xfinity, Truck Series Awards Banquet

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The NASCAR season officially came to a close Saturday night in Charlotte, North Carolina, with the annual Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series Awards at the Charlotte Convention Center. The ceremony will air at 9 p.m. ET on Dec. 17 on NBCSN.

Xfinity driver William Byron and Truck Series driver Christopher Bell were recognized as this season’s champions before they move on with their careers. Byron will race in the Cup Series for Hendrick Motorsports and Bell moves up to Xfinity with Joe Gibbs Racing.

NASCAR handed out plenty of annual awards for each series.

Rookie of the Year: Byron (Xfinity) and Chase Briscoe (Trucks)
Manufacturer title: Chevrolet (Xfinity) and Toyota (Trucks)
Comcast Community Champion: Chip Ganassi Racing pit crew department

Mobil 1 Driver of the Year: Kyle Busch (Xfinity) and Bell (Trucks)
Mahle Engine Builder of the Year: Roush Yates Racing’s Doug Yates (Xfinity) and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Mark Cronquist (Trucks).
Duralast Brake in the Race: Busch (Xfinity) and Bell (Trucks)

JR Motorsports’ Elliott Sadler was voted most popular driver for the third time after he finished runner-up in the season standings to Byron.

Brad Keselowski Racing’s Chase Briscoe was voted most popular driver in the Truck Series, though there was a slight mixup with his name on the trophy. We’ve all been there.

Here are more sights from the award ceremony brought to you by social media.

Your guide to the 2018 Cup Series paint schemes

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The 2018 NASCAR Cup season is still two months away from its start with the 60th Daytona 500.

But it’s not too early to start brushing yourself up on the various Cup Series paint schemes.

Some teams haven’t made many changes to their cars (Team Penske, Joe Gibbs Racing), while others have completely revamped their looks (Hendrick Motorsports, Chip Ganassi Racing).

Here’s your look at all the released paint schemes so far for next season.

This post will be updated.

Jamie McMurray

Brad Keselowski

Source: Lionel Racing

Austin Dillon

 

Lionel Racing
Lionel Racing

 

Kevin Harvick

Lionel Racing
Lionel Racing

Trevor Bayne

Roush Fenway Racing
Lionel Racing

Chase Elliott

Lionel Racing

Aric Almirola

Stewart-Haas Racing

Denny Hamlin

Lionel Racing

Ryan Blaney

Team Penske

Ty Dillon

Lionel Racing

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Lionel Racing

Kyle Busch

Lionel Racing

Daniel Suarez

Lionel Racing

Erik Jones

Lionel Racing

Paul Menard

Lionel Racing

Joey Logano

Team Penske
Lionel Racing
Lionel Racing

William Byron

Hendrick Motorsports
Lionel Racing

Ryan Newman

Lionel Racing
Lionel Racing
Richard Childress Racing

Kyle Larson

 

Chip Ganassi Racing

Darrell Wallace Jr.

(Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)

Jimmie Johnson

Martin Truex Jr.

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Lionel Racing

Alex Bowman

Nationwide