Car owner Joe Gibbs says Xfinity winner Erik Jones is on ‘fast track’ to Sprint Cup

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FORT WORTH – Erik Jones started his Friday in the Texas Motor Speedway media center playing a NASCAR video game with Miss Sprint Cup Madison Martin.

He finished the night back where it began, taking questions about his potential future in the Sprint Cup series.

Those questions came after Jones, 18, outran fellow Michigan native Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. for his first career Xfinity Series win.

Owner Joe Gibbs said they knew this was coming.

They knew at some point that Jones would make a statement and direct his path toward the top series.

“Tonight is always a big step when you win your first race,” Gibbs said.

That big step might help Jones drive Gibbs’ No. 18 Toyota in Sprint Cup while Kyle Busch recovers from a broken right leg and fractured left foot suffered in the Xfinity Series’ season opener at Daytona International Speedway.

Jones was initially a candidate for the job before David Ragan was given the nod. Sources told NASCAR Talk in late February the plan was for Jones to take over from Ragan at Kansas Speedway on May 9.

“As far as down the road, there’s no question that at some point very quick he’s going to be in a Cup car some,” Gibbs said after Friday’s Xfinity race. “I think we have a bit of a strategy there that we talked about. I think he’s ready to go at any time. We’ll just work with that as we go forward.”

Speculation about Jones taking over Busch’s ride naturally has stirred questions about when Gibbs brought Joey Logano to Sprint Cup as an 18-year-old replacing Tony Stewart. After struggling for most of his first four seasons at JGR, even Logano admitted he had been rushed into Cup.

But since leaving JGR for Team Penske in 2013, Logano has emerged as a title contender with seven victories, making the Chase the past two seasons, reaching the championship round last year and opening this season with a 2015 Daytona 500 win.

“I will say this of Joey right now, the guy’s a star,” Gibbs said. “Whatever happened in the past, it certainly paid off now.

“I think Erik’s situation is different from that. You look at it totally different, I think that you do learn from things in the past. We know that Erik’s on the fast track, so it’s just a matter of when.”

Busch’s injury already has expanded Jones’ NASCAR schedule this year, allowing the Byron, Mich., native to start all six Xfinity races while also running the truck circuit full time (the team expects Jones will drive in at least 20 Xfinity races).

It’s accelerated Jones’ learning curve against some major-league names. On Friday, he finished ahead of Earnhardt, Keselowski, Regan Smith and Austin Dillon — all former or current Sprint Cup regulars. JGR teammate Denny Hamlin finished seventh.

“The big thing is, he beat some big people,” Gibbs said.

Said Jones: “Racing against those guys is a big, big help. Seeing what they do, learning what they do … realizing how good they hard.

“Growing up and watching them on TV, you never realize how good they are until you get to race side-by-side with them. Then you really see it.”

Crew chief Michael Wheeler, who worked with Hamlin for the past 10 seasons as an engineer in Sprint Cup, said he believes Jones benefits from how those Cup drivers race him.

“Those guys probably aren’t afraid to lean against him just to see what he can handle,” Wheeler said. “I was really happy that even though Dale Jr and all the other guys were running him hard, he held his own and got past them.”

Daytona road course trophy: Handle with care

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A word of warning for the Cup Series driver who wins Sunday’s inaugural race on the Daytona road course (3 p.m. ET on NBC).

When you’re celebrating the victory, don’t get too excited with the trophy.

It could wind up all over Victory Lane.

That’s because the trophy waiting at the end of the 65-lap/234.65-mile-race is made out of glass.

More: Will chaos (and rain) reign on the Daytona road course?

Via: NASCAR

The 18” tall/4.5” wide trophy for the Daytona road course race was produced by the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York. It’s the same institution that’s been responsible for designing the Watkins Glen International trophy since 2012.

Sunday’s race is being held in the place of the Cup Series’ annual visit to Watkins Glen.

Incorporating a blown glass cup, the trophy is inspired by the history of NASCAR and racing at Daytona.

“Thinking about the history of the track and long-held traditions, I was reminded that historically, trophies used to be cups and have evolved into sculptural forms,” said Eric Meek, Sr. Manager of Hot Glass Programs at The Corning Museum of Glass, said in a media release. “We took this trophy back to a more traditional shape. Daytona is the most historical track, and in thinking about a trophy design for a race held in this storied location, I was transported back to the golden age of speed. I wanted to design something that felt like a bit of a throwback – like it belonged in the era of streamline racers and the quest to go faster.”

NASCAR Pinty’s Series 2020 TV schedule released

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The NASCAR Pinty’s Series, which competes in Canada, will get its season under way this weekend after it was postponed back in April due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The shortened season will consist of three doubleheaders with twin 125-mile races.

The races will be held at Sunset Speedway (Aug. 15), Flamboro Speedway (Aug. 29) and Jukasa Speedway (Sept. 12).

More: Xfinity Series start time for Daytona road course

No NASCAR Pinty’s Series champion or Rookie of the Year will be crowned in 2020 due to the shortened schedule. There will be special recognition for the overall winner of the shortened season.

All races will air delayed on TSN and RDS in Canada and MAVTV in the United States. Fans in the United States can stream races after they air on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.

Here is the full schedule with TV information.

 

Saturday’s Xfinity race at Daytona road course: Start time, forecast and more

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Saturday’s Xfinity race at Daytona will mark the first time the series has competed in the track’s road course circuit.

Austin Cindric, who has won four of the last five races, is on the pole. He is joined on the front row by fellow Ford driver Chase Briscoe.

Here are the details for the Xfinity race at the Daytona road course (all times ET):

START: The command to start engines will be given at 3:07 p.m by Dr. Jeff Jarvis, president of UNOH. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:19 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage access health screening begins at 8:30 a.m. Drivers report to their cars at 2:50 p.m. The invocation will be given at 3 p.m. by Chaplain Farzad Nourian. The national anthem will be performed at 3:01 p.m. by Temecula Road.

DISTANCE: The race is 52 laps (187.72 miles) around the 3.61-mile road course

PACE LAP: At the direction of race control, the entire field will go down pit road during a pace lap for pit road speed verification. If a driver stops in the pit box for any reason, pulls over or slows down, they will start at the rear of the field.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 15. Stage 2 ends on Lap 30.

TV/RADIO: NBCSN will televise the race. Its coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. with Countdown to Green followed by the race broadcast at 3 p.m. ET. Motor Racing Network’s radio broadcast will begin at 2:30 p.m. and also can be heard at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.

STREAMING: Watch the race on the NBC Sports App by clicking here.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for cloudy skies, a high of 88 degrees and a 70% chance of rain and thunderstorms at the start of the race.

LAST RACE: Austin Cindric beat AJ Allmendinger and Chase Briscoe to win at Road America.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for Xfinity starting lineup

Justin Marks planning to start new Cup team

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Former NASCAR driver Justin Marks is in the process of starting a new Cup Series team and competing as early as 2021, Marks detailed to the Sports Business Journal.

Marks, who has 80 NASCAR starts and last competed in 2018, is building a team called Trackhouse that would have a “cause-marketing focus around promoting STEM education” according to SBJ.

More: Bubba Wallace lands multi-year deal with DoorDash

Marks, who once was a co-owner of an ARCA Menards West team with the late Harry Scott, said a goal of the team is to “serve America’s minorities and underrepresented youth population”

Marks told SBJ he is in negotiations to acquire a charter for the team, that his family foundation will use investment capital to fund 50% of the team’s budget and that a “nationwide family entertainment business” will be a sponsor.

One of Marks’ partners will be Ty Norris, a former executive at Michael Waltrip Racing.

Click here for more from Sports Business Journal.