NASCAR looking at slight alteration with qualifying rule

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Could a tweak to NASCAR qualifying be coming? Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief operating officer, hinted so during his appearance Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive” show.

Last weekend at Pocono Raceway, Denny Hamlin spun with less than a minute left in the final round. That prevented Hamlin and four other drivers from recording a time in the final round.

NASCAR’s rules state that if more than one driver is unable to complete a lap in a round, their position is determined based on who had the fastest lap in the previous round.

Hamlin had the second-fastest lap in the second round. That placed him ahead of the four other drivers who had yet to record a time in the final round even though Hamlin caused the caution. That policy could change.

“It’s something we are going to look at,’’ O’Donnell said. “In this case is it the right decision to have a driver, not on purpose, cause a caution and therefore they qualify ahead of … drivers who may have not been able to go out and qualify? Some folks could say that’s on them, they should have gone out earlier, but you also look at it if that is the right move. We’re taking a hard look at that this weekend. We’ve had some dialogue with some of the industry and we’ll make a decision here shortly.’’

In other areas:

O’Donnell, who was in the meeting with the drivers council at Dover, said he expects such meetings to take place quarterly. “The drivers council, the first one, I thought was terrific. We’re not always going to agree, but I think you can get some really good input and you can really decipher where you want to go and how that will affect certain teams.’’

O’Donnell again reiterated that talks continue on how to enhance the racing: “It’s a big front-burner (topic). A lot of conversations going on not only from the driver council but also with the teams. You’ll see us do some things here and ratchet up those conversations here in the next 30 days. I think it’s important, though, to really look at what we’re all striving for. These guys are the best in the world. It’s tough to continue to make it better – that’s what we want to do. How do you continue to make that better? How do you continue to allow for more passing? That’s the goal.

“I think everybody understands that. The good news is that entire industry is aligned for what makes the best racing and how do we get there. I think you’ll see some good things continue to develop in terms of what you see on the racetrack.’’

On penalizing teams practice time or making them pick last in pit stall selection for issues in inspection, O’Donnell said: “I think when you look at it, there are certain things we can look at depending on what the warning is. When we look at the inspection process, we want it to relate as much as possible to either the event or the upcoming event. We do use and have used practice time as an element, so that is something that is in place. We elected to put pit selection in and this is the first year of that. We’ll see how that goes and review it at the end of the year. If we need to make some changes we will, but so far I think it’s working fairly well. We’ve got some things that we’ve learned along the way and we’ll adjust where we need to.’’

On the bumps in the tunnel turn at Pocono and the track planning to fix that area before the August race, O’Donnell said: “We’ll either have someone up there when they address it or very soon after and make sure we’re OK with the changes that are made prior to heading back for the weekend. Once we get there, I’m sure we’ll take some drivers out … ahead of time to look at it to make sure everything is in place.’’

On foreign venues that NASCAR could entertain for taking the sport (O’Donnell was at the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series event last weekend at Brands Hatch Circuit in Kent, England), he said: “I think we look at not necessarily where we can put a race and leave. That’s really not our model. Where we’ve been successful is really starting from a grassroots effort like you’ve seen in Mexico, where we have a successful tour and we can see some drivers come up in the system, similarly in Canada and now that’s what is happening in Europe. I say maybe taking some of our national series drivers over from time to time to help seed those series and the growth would be important for us. As you look, South America certainly an area that we’d like to emerge and China and India, not necessarily right away, but I think when you look at a lot of the partners and especially the (car manufacturers), certainly growth areas. We’ll take a look at those as well. First and foremost for us, it’s concentrating on the U.S. and making sure we have the best thing going every Sunday here in the United States.’’

 

Silly Season scorecard: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finds new home in JTG Daugherty Racing

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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was without a 2020 Cup ride for less than 25 days.

Only a few weeks after Roush Fenway Racing announced it was parting ways with Stenhouse in favor of Chris Buescher, Stenhouse has landed in Buescher’s old ride at JTG Daugherty Racing in a multi-year deal.

Stenhouse will have Ryan Preece as a teammate in his first full-time year with a new team in a decade.

Here are where things stand with Silly Season:

OPEN RIDES ANNOUNCED FOR 2020

No. 38: Front Row Motorsports must replace David Ragan, who stated Aug. 14 that 2019 would be his final season running a full schedule.

ANNOUNCED CUP RIDES FOR 2020

No. 8: Richard Childress Racing made it official Oct. 2 that Tyler Reddick will move to Cup in 2020 and drive the No. 8 car.

No. 10: Aric Almirola confirmed Oct. 11 he signed an extension to race for Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 13: Ty Dillon posted a video Sept. 6 on Instagram refuting rumors that he would retire after this season. He has a contract with Germain Racing through 2020.

No. 17: Chris Buescher will take over the Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 ride in 2020 after the team announced Sept. 25 that it would part ways with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. after this season.

No. 20: Joe Gibbs Racing announced Sept. 6 that it had signed Erik Jones to an extension. It is a one-year extension for the 2020 season.

No. 21: Matt DiBenedetto replaces Paul Menard at Wood Brothers Racing (announcement made Sept. 10). DiBenedetto’s deal is for 2020 only.

No. 95: Christopher Bell moves to Cup in 2020 and will drive for Leavine Family Racing (announcement made Sept. 24).

JTG Daugherty Racing: It was announced Oct. 16 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will join Ryan Reece at the two-car team, essentially swapping seats with Chris Buescher.

AMONG THOSE YET TO ANNOUNCE DEALS FOR 2020

Clint Bowyer His contract expires after this season with the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team. Take it whatever way you want but Bowyer stated Sept. 20 that he did a commercial shoot in September with Kevin Harvick for next season.

Kurt Busch His contract expires after this season. Car owner Chip Ganassi has suggested in media reports that a deal will be done. Busch declined to discuss much about his contract status before the Sept. 29 race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, stating: “We haven’t really started talks. I felt like it was good to get the playoffs underway and go as far as we could comfortably. Man, there’s a lot going on and we’ll see how things play out. Again, it’s all about all the stars lining up with Chevrolet, Monster Energy, myself, Chip. For me, I feel like things haven’t progressed because of the focus on the playoffs.”

Daniel Suarez He has said that both he and the team have an option on his contract for next year. He has remained confident that he will return to Stewart-Haas Racing to drive the No. 41 car.

Xfinity Series

Ross Chastain – Kaulig Racing announced Oct. 15 he would compete full-time for the team in 2020 driving the No. 10 Chevrolet.

NASCAR America presents MotorMouths at 5 p.m. ET with Jimmie Johnson

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Seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson is the guest of honor on this week’s episode of NASCAR America presents MotorMouths, which airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Johnson joins Marty Snider and Kyle Petty. Together they’ll discuss this week’s storylines and take fan phone calls.

You can call in at 844-NASCAR-NBC or reach out on Twitter via #LetMeSayThis.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch online 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 enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Tanner Gray to make Truck Series debut at Martinsville

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Former NHRA Pro Stock champion Tanner Gray will make his Gander Outdoors Truck Series debut in the Oct. 26 race at Martinsville Speedway, DGR-Crosley announced Wednesday.

Gray, 20, will drive the No. 15 Toyota in the final three Truck Series races of the season.

This is Gray’s first season in NASCAR competition after also racing in super late models.

Gray competed full-time in the K&N Pro Series East this season for DGR-Crosley, where he earned one win, six top fives and nine top-10 finishes. He also claimed one pole on his way to finishing third in the point standings. He made three starts in the K&N West Series and earned two poles and three top fives.

MORE: Tanner Gray embracing NASCAR after drag racing career

“I’m excited to make the step up to the Truck Series,” Gray said in a press release. “I think it’s going to be challenging, but I’m ready to take the next step with my DGR-Crosley guys. We’ve been preparing for this all season, and I think the best way to learn is to go out and do it. Between testing and spending time in the Toyota simulator, I think I have a good feel for Martinsville and will be able to adapt quickly. We will have three practice sessions to get acclimated and get the truck where it needs to be. We just need to keep our nose clean in the race and have a solid day on pit road.”

Gray’s K&N team will make the transition to the Truck Series with him for the remainder of the season. Seth Smith will serve as crew chief duties while veteran Eddie D’Hondt will be his spotter.

“I’m really looking forward to Tanner’s Truck debut after the building season that he’s had,” Smith said in a press release. “He’s learned a lot from where he started at the beginning of the season to where he’s at now. We tested at Martinsville and I feel like we had a really successful test session.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. joins JTG Daugherty Racing in multi-year deal

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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has joined JTG Daugherty Racing in a multi-year deal, replacing Chris Buescher, the team announced Wednesday.

Stenhouse essentially swaps seats with Buescher, who was announced by Roush Fenway Racing on Sept. 25 as taking over its No. 17 Ford next season.

Stenhouse will have Ryan Preece as a teammate.

Sponsorship for Stenhouse and his car number will be announced at a later date.

“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to join JTG Daugherty Racing next season,” Stenhouse said in a press release. “To be able to see what (team owner) Tad (Geschickter), Jodi (Geschickter) and Brad (Daugherty) have built over the years says a lot about the team and the organization both on and off the track. JTG has grown from a small team in a barn to a two-car team with more than 100 employees, and I’m looking forward to joining the family. I’m grateful for the opportunity, and ready to go win races with the ultimate goal of making the Playoffs and competing for a championship.”

Stenhouse joins JTG Daugherty Racing after a decade of racing with Roush Fenway. He earned two Xfinity Series titles for the team before moving up to the Cup Series full-time in 2013.

In 251 Cup starts, Stenhouse has two wins. Those came at Daytona and Talladega. He failed to make the playoffs the last two seasons.

Tad Geschickter shared some insight into why he went with Stenhouse on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “SiriusXM Speedway” Wednesday afternoon.

“We looked at the whole field of people that were available and accomplished enough to run at the Cup level,” Geschickter said. “Really narrowed it down to two. At the end it’s Ricky’s resume and experience and to see it alongside Ryan, whose still learning his craft at the Cup level, we just thought it made sense to have that veteran experience that’s won races be part of the program as Ryan continues to develop into that winning presence.”

On Monday, Stenhouse led 32 laps in the race at Talladega, his most laps led this season.

“(The deal was) definitely pretty much done at that point, but it sure made me feel good about the decision if there were any worries,” Geschickter said. “Ricky’s just fast everywhere. He’s a tremendous talent. I think we’re blessed to get him. We’re going to miss Chris. I don’t think we’ll miss a step here.”

Geschickter was asked by SiriusXM if Stenhouse’s reputation for being involved in wrecks as a result of aggressive racing was discussed during the negotiation process.

“I did not know him well until I met him a couple of weeks ago and talked a lot obviously over the last couple of weeks,” Geschickter said. “He’s breath of fresh air. You can talk pretty frankly with him, he talks frankly back to you. We certainly had that discussion. But as we discussed it, I’d rather go to the bit than go to the whip. He wants it badly. We’re kind of excited to have that dynamic in here. Ryan’s the same way, by the way. he want’s it badly.”