Jimmie Johnson says NASCAR should continue to use traction compound on tracks

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DOVER, Del. — Even though the traction compound used last weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway had minimal impact, Jimmie Johnson said that NASCAR should continue to try it at tracks where it is needed.

NASCAR did not use the traction compound PJ1 Friday at Dover International Speedway. The compound has been used at Bristol and Charlotte. Last week marked the first time the compound had been used on an asphalt track. It was added to the upper groove in the corners after the All-Star Race had three lead changes in 70 laps.

I think that the traction compound is the next thing to try,’’ Johnson said Friday at Dover. “And I’ve said this a lot of times: The garage area has been forced to make a lot of changes to create competition or honestly, parity. And it’s just crazy for us to think when we have cars running the same speed, all 40 cars within such a small window of time, that we can expect any passing on the race track. So, we need other lanes on the track to pass.

“We need tires that wear out to create comers and goers. So, with that, I didn’t see anything negative from the traction compound. We’re learning. Do we wish it provided more side-by-side racing? Sure. It’s a tricky track in general. I didn’t see anything negative that came from it. If a track owner/operator isn’t willing to resurface and kind of redesign, then why not? I think there is something to try here and we will figure it out if we keep playing with it and we keep trying it and develop the process.”

Johnson said that applying the compound might work in Turn 3 at Pocono Raceway — where the series heads next weekend. He compared it to the asphalt patch that was added there in 2008. Drivers adjusted their line to run through that patch because it provided extra grip.

Johnson admits PJ1 won’t be effective at some tracks because there’s not enough room off the corners for drivers to run side-by-side. So it likely wouldn’t be effective in every turn at Pocono, particularly Turn 2, the tunnel turn, which has a narrow racing line.

Johnson said the traction compound didn’t work as well at Charlotte because the track already provides enough grip.

“At Charlotte, there’s not much wear,’’ said Johnson, who ran out of fuel while leading with two laps left in last weekend’s race. “You put traction compound down on a grippy surface to start with; you’re just adding a little bit more grip to a lot of grip. But if the bottom doesn’t have much to start with and you reward the guys on the outside with a considerable amount of grip, then you’re going to have a better chance of competitive passes and side-by-side racing. So, again, it’s something that we have to develop.’’

Matt Kenseth, who finished fourth, said he didn’t notice much of a difference with the compound at Charlotte.

“It seemed like the middle groove was the best groove most of the day,’’ he said. “I kept my track position most of the day, so I never really got passed a lot and I really didn’t pass a lot of cars.’’

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Check out Southern 500 paint schemes for Erik Jones, David Ragan and Landon Cassill

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Monday saw the reveal of three paint schemes for the Sept. 3 Southern 500 (on NBCSN). Here’s a look at the cars for Furniture Row Racing’s Erik Jones and Front Row Motorsports’ David Ragan and Landon Cassill.

Jones, who is in contention for the Rookie of the Year award in the Cup Series, will honor previous winners of the award with his paint scheme. Specifically, the No. 77 Toyota will pay tribute to the Rookie of the Year recipients from 1984-89.

The scheme will feature pictures of Rusty Wallace (1984), Ken Schrader (1985), Alan Kulwicki (1986), Davey Allision (1987), Ken Bouchard (1988) and Dick Trickle (1989).

Ragan’s No. 38 Ford will be sponsored by Good Sam. Ragan’s paint scheme is an ode to the RV company’s early days. It was founded in 1966.

Cassill’s paint scheme probably looks familiar. It’s the same one the team used for the last Southern 500 when Chris Buescher drove the N0. 34. The team had to call an audible after Michael McDowell and Leavine Family Racing beat them to the punch on a Kulwicki tribute scheme. Fortunately, Cassill was cool with it.

MORE: Retro Rundown of 2017 Southern 500 paint schemes.

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Bump & Run: Taking stock of the NASCAR season

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What has surprised you the most about this season?

Jeff Burton: My biggest surprise is that there really hasn’t been a flaw in the new stage racing format. I believed that something would happen that revealed a flaw that no one had anticipated but we have yet to see it.

Nate Ryan: Martin Truex Jr.’s emergence as the championship favorite. It was expected he would run well and be a playoff contender and winner, but Furniture Row Racing regularly outrunning Joe Gibbs Racing as the best-in-class Toyota team has been a surprise – as has Truex’s runaway lead in the playoff points standings. He and crew chief Cole Pearn have become the crew chief-driver combination that is setting the pace in every way possible, whether it’s lap speeds, setup decisions or strategy calls.

Dustin Long: That there have been 14 different Cup winners (13 eligible for the playoffs) at this point in the season, which is already the most number of winners in an entire Cup season since 2013.

What driver has impressed you the most this season?

Jeff Burton: Martin Truex Jr. Speed and consistency is hard to achieve. He has been the guy that seems to be in the battle every single week. 

Nate Ryan: William Byron. His promotion to the Cup Series is well deserved, because he has proven the past two years to be an absolute prodigy with his acclimation to Xfinity and trucks. It makes one wonder if he already would have been a Cup winner if he had started his racing career in earnest before becoming a teenager.

Dustin Long: I’m amazed what William Byron has done for his relative lack of experience compared to drivers who started before they hit first grade. His ability to handle pressure situations has been noteworthy. While the challenges will increase next year, I’m already interested to see how he will do in Cup.

What storyline most intrigues you for the coming weeks?

Jeff Burton: I’m intrigued about the playoffs. There will be a big time driver and team that doesn’t advance into the playoffs. Watching who can take control and who can’t step up will be very interesting to witness.

Nate Ryan: The impact of playoff points on the championship race and how it affects who advances in each round. The suspicion here is that there will be much second-guessing and re-examination of decisions made during the regular season that had unanticipated repercussions months later.

Dustin Long: I’m intrigued to see if Kyle Busch and his team can finally eliminate the mistakes that have plagued them throughout the season and prevented Busch from possibly an epic season. With two wins in the last four races, he’s on the verge of a breakout that will lead to a dominating title run. Will it happen?

SunnyD extends sponsorship deal with Roush Fenway Racing

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SunnyD has extended its contract with Roush Fenway Racing to sponsor Ricky Stenhouse Jr.‘s team through the 2019 season, the organization announced Tuesday.

SunnyD will add races as primary sponsor each season, although how many was not announced.

The company has been the primary sponsor of Stenhouse’s car in three races this season – Atlanta, spring Bristol and Indianapolis. SunnyD will next sponsor Stenhouse in October at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“We’ve had a great time partnering with SunnyD the last two years,” Stenhouse in a statement from the team. “It’s one of the coolest paint schemes on the track, and we’ve had a lot of fun promoting their classic brand. I’m excited that we have extended our relationship, and I can’t wait to see how much fun we can have with SunnyD in victory lane.”

“We are very excited to announce that we tore up the old contract and signed a new one that extends for another season and adds additional races with Ricky and Roush Fenway,” said Henk Hartong, Chairman of Harvest Hill Beverage Company, owners of the SunnyD brand, in a statement. “I’m very proud of our relationship with Jack Roush, Steve Newmark and the entire Roush Fenway team. It is something that we wanted to lock in for the foreseeable future. Ricky is one of the rising young stars in NASCAR and we have seen great response to the program from the passionate NASCAR fans.  We are pleased to bolster our association with him and Roush Fenway.”

Stenhouse has two wins this year and will be in next month’s playoffs.

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Martin Truex Jr. continues to dominate NASCAR Cup playoff grid

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Martin Truex Jr. continues to dominate the weekly NASCAR Cup playoff standings.

Truex did not gain any extra points during Saturday night’s Bristol Night Race, so he remains with 35 points, but that’s still a large spread over those chasing him.

Bristol winner Kyle Busch jumped from fifth to second place in the standings with 20 playoff points.

Kyle Larson fell back to third place (18 points), Jimmie Johnson fell to fourth (16) and Brad Keselowski is fifth (14).

As for the playoff bubble, Chase Elliott is 69 points ahead of the cut-off line, followed by Matt Kenseth (+61) and Jamie McMurray (+58) with two races left until the playoffs.

Outside the playoff cut line is Clint Bowyer, who dropped from 31 to 58 points down and Joey Logano from -98 to -117. Erik Jones climbed from -130 to -127, and Daniel Suarez dropped from -139 to -163.

 

Here’s this week’s playoff standings grid: