Clint Bowyer uncertain on future but solid on team’s prospects

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BRISTOL, Tenn. – Clint Bowyer couldn’t offer much clarity about his future Friday, but he was adamant about his prospects over the final three months of Michael Waltrip Racing.

Despite their impending demise as co-workers, Bowyer and his team members believe they still can make the Chase for the Sprint Cup and contend for a title.

“These guys are all racers at heart,” he said Friday before Sprint Cup practice at Bristol Motor Speedway. “After our announcement Wednesday, every single one of my guys and employees at MWR, they obviously know the future, but my guys in particular, these road guys, these guys who are on the road with me every week, all of them said ‘Listen, we’ve got a job to do. You get your damn head straight, and let’s go out and win this championship and end this on a bang.’

“That’s the fire and desire and passion that racers have, and you can’t take that from any of us. Very proud of my team and the people that we’re organized around me from Day 1 at MWR.”

The final days are approaching for the organization, which announced this week that it won’t run in NASCAR’s premier series next season. Co-owner Rob Kauffman is buying a stake in Chip Ganassi Racing, and an apparent deal to bring Bowyer and sponsor 5-hour Energy to the team fell through this week.

“Rob has invested a tremendous amount into MWR and this sport,” Bowyer said. “That being said, he made a business decision to move forward. That direction is a Ganassi organization.

“The fit for my career and my future, it’s just unfortunate that Rob and I’s futures didn’t align anymore. It’s as simple as that. It was a mutually agreed upon thing. It was something that was not ugly. It was something we did professionally and made our decisions.”

Bowyer said his future is “uncertain.” When pressed on what his prospects were and whether he preferred a one-year deal or a long-term contract, Bowyer smiled and responded, “Yes. Keep talking. Absolutely. Those are all systems go.”

Is he confident of finding a ride for 2016?

“Hey, I’m confident in this sport,” he said. “I love this sport. The sport has been good to me and my family. I’ve had a lot of great partners and a lot of great organizations I’ve worked for, and I see no reason why somebody who works hard and wants it like I do can’t have a job for as long as they want.”

Regardless of the landing spot, Bowyer should have a valuable asset in landing a ride with sponsor 5-hour Energy in tow. Kauffman said Bowyer brought 5-hour Energy to MWR, and it was likely the sponsor and driver would remain aligned in the future.

Bowyer was slightly more coy about the company that has sponsored his No. 15 Toyota since 2012.

“I’ve worked really hard in my career to have great partners,” he said. “I’ve been with a lot of great companies and been a spokesperson for them. Very proud of the relationship and the partnership I have with 5-hour.

“I think we all can agree how can there be a better fit (for) my lifestyle and my character and everything I’m about? It’s a great fit. They’re no different than I am. We didn’t see this coming. We’re both in a situation that we have to see what the future holds for both of us and move forward from that.”

But with three races remaining in the regular season, the on-track objective is clear for Bowyer, who is clinging to the final provisional berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup by 24 points over Aric Almirola.

Bowyer said disseminating the news about the end of MWR’s run would help buoy the organization’s performance in the short-term because it would help them get a jump-start on the future.

“These employees are real people with real lives with real families and a lot at stake,” he said. “They’re racers just like I am. But the racer in you doesn’t change the reality side of life. The reality is you need to provide for your family.

“I felt it was extremely important to me to get in front of that. I owed it to these employees to get this done as soon as possible, even knowing where we’re at on the bubble and in the Chase. Being honest and being straightforward and doing that for these people will set them up in the long run to make the most out of a difficult situation for us all. That’s me included. I need to start pursuing my career, and that’s what I’m doing. The first piece of the puzzle is on the table, and now we’ve got to go to work on all our paths.”

Daytona road course entry lists

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NASCAR’s national series will make their debuts on the Daytona road course this weekend. The Cup, Xfinity and Truck events will be held without any practice or qualifying.

NASCAR is prohibiting drivers from competing in more than one series this weekend on the Daytona road course in an effort to get extra track time. NASCAR states that is to make the event fair for everyone.

Sunday’s Cup race will be broadcast on NBC.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for the races at the Daytona road course 

Cup – Go Bowling 235 (3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC)

Thirty-nine drivers are entered for the race at the Daytona road course.

JJ Yeley is in the No. 27 for Rick Ware Racing.

Joey Gase is in the No. 51 for Petty Ware Racing.

Gray Gaulding is in the No. 53 for Rick Ware Racing.

Brendan Gaughan is in the No. 62 for Beard Motorsports.

Timmy Hill is in the No. 66 for Motorsports Business Management.

Reed Sorenson is in the No. 77 for Spire Motorsports.

Click here for Cup entry list

 

Xfinity – UNOH 188 (3 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

Thirty-eight cars are entered.

Andy Lally is back in the No. 02 Our Motorsports car after finishing fifth last week at Road America.

AJ Allmendinger, who finished second last week at Road America, is in the No. 16 for Kaulig Racing.

IMSA driver Earl Bamber will make his Xfinity debut this weekend in the No. 21 for Richard Childress Racing.

Brandon Gdovic will make his second start of the season, driving the No. 26 for Sam Hunt Racing.

Click here for Xfinity entry list

 

Truck – Sunoco 159 (Noon ET Sunday on FS1)

Thirty-nine trucks are entered in the race that will be held before the Cup event on Sunday on the Daytona road course.

Alex Tagliani will drive the No. 51 for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Click here for Truck entry list

Silly Season Scorecard: Christopher Bell moves back to JGR

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No surprise that Christopher Bell moves over to the No. 20 at Joe Gibbs Racing next season with Leavine Family Racing being sold and Erik Jones not remaining with JGR beyond this season. Joe Gibbs Racing made the announcement Monday.

While JGR lets the 24-year-old Jones, who has 133 Cup starts go, it brings in the 25-year-old Bell who has made 22 career Cup starts. Jones said before Sunday’s race he was “blindsided a little bit” by JGR’s move.

It’s part of the building momentum of Silly Season. In the last week, Team Penske signed Brad Keselowski to a reported one-year extension and Bubba Wallace said he has an offer for next year not only from Richard Petty Motorsports but also Chip Ganassi Racing.

Here’s how the Cup Silly Season scorecard looks as of Aug. 10.

ANNOUNCED CUP RIDES FOR 2021

No. 00: Quin Houff enters the second year of his two-year deal with StarCom Racing.

No. 1: Kurt Busch enters the second year of a multi-year contract that Chip Ganassi Racing announced last season.

No. 2: Brad Keselowski and Team Penske announced a contract extension Aug. 3.

No. 4: Kevin Harvick signed a contract extension in February that will keep him at Stewart-Haas Racing through the 2023 season.

No. 8: Tyler Reddick said in a press conference Aug. 7 that he will be back with Richard Childress Racing next season.

No. 9: Chase Elliott is under contract with Hendrick Motorsports through the 2022 season.

No. 11: Denny Hamlin is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 12: Ryan Blaney and Team Penske announced a multi-year extension earlier this season.

No. 18: Kyle Busch is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 19: Martin Truex Jr. is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 20: Christopher Bell moves from Leavine Family Racing to take over this ride in 2021.

No. 22: Joey Logano is tied to Team Penske “through the 2022 season and beyond.”

No. 24: William Byron is under contact with Hendrick Motorsports through at least 2021.

No. 47: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. enters the second year of a multi-year deal with JTG Daugherty Racing.

No. 88: Alex Bowman will race for Hendrick Motorsports under a one-year contract extension announced earlier this year.

 

Available/possibly available rides

No. 10: Aric Almirola is in a contract year at Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 13: Ty Dillon is in a contract year at Germain Racing.

No. 14: Clint Bowyer is in a contract year to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 21: Matt DiBenedetto is in a contract year at Wood Brothers Racing. He said after the Aug. 9 Michigan race: “I haven’t really talked about that stuff for next year yet, but we’ve just been so focused and head down on digging and trying to make the playoffs and run well. We haven’t even really talked about it, so, hopefully, I stay here for a very long time to come and that’s what they had expressed to me when I came over here.”

No. 32: Corey LaJoie is in a contract year at Go Fas Racing.

No. 42: Matt Kenseth told NBC Sports on Aug. 8 in regards to talks with Chip Ganassi Racing for next year: “We really haven’t had any very meaningful discussions really about any of that to be honest with you.

No. 43: Bubba Wallace said Aug. 9 he has an offer from Richard Petty Motorsports and an offer from Chip Ganassi Racing to drive the No. 42 car next season.

No. 48: With Jimmie Johnson retiring from full-time competition, Hendrick Motorsports has this seat to fill.

No. 95: Leavine Family Racing announced it was selling its assets earlier this week. The buyer has not been announced. Christopher Bell will move to the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team for 2021.

Christopher Bell to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2021

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Christopher Bell will drive for the No. 20 next season for Joe Gibbs Racing, the team announced Monday, a decision that was expected with Erik Jones’ contract expiring after this season and it not being renewed. 

“I’m so appreciative of the opportunity I have this year with LFR and I want to finish this season strong for Bob (Leavine) and everyone there,” Bell said in a statement from the team. “At the same time, I’m extremely excited to return to Joe Gibbs Racing starting in 2021. It’s an organization I’m very comfortable with and have had a lot of success with.”

Said car owner Joe Gibbs: “We are excited to bring Christopher into our Cup Series program starting in 2021. He obviously had tremendous success in the Xfinity Series with us and we look forward to his return to JGR.”

Bell drove for JGR in in the Xfinity Series in 2018 and 2019, winning 15 races, before moving to the Cup Series and Leavine Family Racing this season. Leavine Family Racing announced last week that it has been sold.

Entering Sunday’s race at the Daytona International Speedway road course (3 p.m. ET on NBC), Bell is 19th in points. His best finish this season is fourth at the first Pocono race in late June.

Xfinity playoff grid after Road America

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Brandon Brown extended his hold on the final spot in the Xfinity playoff grid last weekend at Road America after struggles early in the race.

Brown needed to be pushed back to pit road before the field took the green because of a mechanical issue. He fell a lap down as his crew diagnosed the issue, got his lap back, scored four stage points in the second stage and finished 12th, one spot off his best career finish on a road course.

MORE: Brandon Brown wants to reward father with a special celebration

MORE: Austin Cindric wins at Road America 

Brown’s effort and Jeremy Clements misfortune in being collected in a crash to finish 29th led to Brown extending his lead on Clements for the final spot in the Xfinity playoff grid to 53 points. Myatt Snider is 73 points behind Brown. Eight races remain until the Xfinity playoffs begin Sept. 26 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Here is a look at the playoff grid. Drivers shaded in green are locked in the playoffs. Those shaded in yellow are in a playoff spot based on their point total. Drivers shaded in red are outside a spot in the Xfinity playoff grid.