What if Kenseth retaliates? Should Talladega be an elimination race? Answers here

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NASCAR Talk’s Dustin Long and Nate Ryan discuss some of the key issues heading into Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway and the beginning of the third round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Kyle Busch says he doesn’t see Jeff Gordon beating Joey Logano or Kevin Harvick for the title at Homestead-Miami Speedway if all three are in it. What’s your take on what Busch said?

DUSTIN – Busch is saying what he believes and what has been evident throughout the season. Gordon has not finished ahead of both Logano and Harvick in any of the nine races on 1.5-mile tracks this season. Homestead is a 1.5-mile track. Logano’s average finish on such tracks this season is 5.1, Harvick’s average finish s 9.3, and Gordon’s average finish is 13.8. While anything can happen in one race for the title, the odds wouldn’t be in Gordon’s favor. Simple as that.

NATE – Busch’s take makes sense in context. He’s questioning whether Gordon has shown the speed associated with a title, and the Hendrick Motorsports driver hasn’t — his third at Talladega was his first top five of the Chase. Gordon readily admits to advancing through the Chase with stealthy consistency and maximizing his results without having race-winning cars. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t a threat for the championship. As Busch himself noted, if Homestead turns into a “circus” — i.e. the unexpected adversely affects the favorites — any of the four eligible drivers could win the title, regardless of their speed.

Would Martinsville be a better elimination race and then have Talladega as the opening race of the third round?

DUSTIN – Let’s be honest, NASCAR likes Talladega in this spot because it builds drama in the middle of the Chase. With Talladega’s unpredictability, no one is seemingly safe to advance to the next round other than a race winner from the same round. While there could be some such drama having the elimination at a short track, I’m not sure it would be as great. Keep it as it is.

NATE – I think any track would be an improvement as an elimination race over Talladega. Beyond just its results being arbitrary, the track’s tendency for producing bizarre outcomes such as Sunday’s make it an imperfect showcase for NASCAR’s most pivotal races. There’s been a groundswell of support for swapping Talladega’s position with Richmond and making it the regular-season finale, and that might make as much sense as any move. With the Chase field largely set after 25 races, allowing Talladega to finalize the playoff contenders probably would be the most sensible way of minimizing its impact on the playoffs while also keeping it on the schedule twice without creating logistical problems for the track.

Who are your four drivers to reach Homestead?

DUSTIN – Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch (my pick before the Chase started to win the title).

NATE – Considering only one of my original four (Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth) reached the third round (and barely), it feels illegitimate to whittle down the remaining eight. But my four would be: Busch, Gordon, Harvick, Logano.

Would you have a problem if Matt Kenseth paid back Joey Logano at Martinsville for their Kansas incident?

DUSTIN – I guess you could call it “quintessential” NASCAR. If I’m Logano and that happens to me and costs me a chance at the title, then I make sure Kenseth never wins a title in his remaining years in the sport. Kenseth blocked, Logano held his ground and Kenseth spun at Kansas. Wrecking purely in retribution at Martinsville would, in my mind, give Logano the right to return the favor to Kenseth some day.

NATE – Yes, if it were a blatant takeout maneuver during an inconsequential battle for position. But if it happens in a manner similar to Kansas — jockeying for a win or a strong finish in the latter stages of the race — Kenseth absolutely is on solid ground to play rough with Logano without losing any sleep.

 

Helio Castroneves rules out Daytona 500

Helio Castroneves Daytona 500
Robert Scheer/Indy Star/USA TODAY NETWORK
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Helio Castroneves might be at the 2023 Daytona 500, but the four-time Indy 500 winner won’t be in a race car.

During a news conference Thursday at Daytona International Speedway, Castroneves confirmed in response to a question from NBC Sports that he essentially has ruled out attempting to make his NASCAR Cup Series debut in the Feb. 19 season opener.

As recently as last Thursday at Rolex 24 Media Day, Castroneves, 47, said he still was working on trying to piece together a deal.

The Brazilian had been negotiating with the Cup team co-owned by boxer Floyd Mayweather and would have been in an “open” entry that lacked guaranteed entry to the Great American Race. That potentially would leave him in the precarious position of needing to make the race on qualifying speed or a qualifying race finish (as action sports star Travis Pastrana likely might need in his Cup debut).

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“Unfortunately for me, lack of experience, no testing,” Castroneves said. “A lot of things. I believe it would be a little bit tough throwing myself in such a short notice, and to go in a place that you’ve got to race yourself into it. So as of right now, yes, it’s not going to happen.

“But we did have an opportunity. We just got to elaborate a little bit more to give me a little more experience on that. So there is more things to come ahead of us, but as of right now, I want to focus on the IndyCar program as well and (the Rolex 24 at Daytona).”

Castroneves, who has a residence in Key Biscayne, said he still might attend the Daytona 500

“I might just come and see and watch it and continue to take a look and see what’s going to be in the future,” he said.

Castroneves enters Saturday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona having won the event the past two years. He made his signature fence-climb after winning last year with Meyer Shank Racing, which he will be driving for full time in the NTT IndyCar Series this year. He became the fourth four-time Indy 500 winner in history in his 2021 debut with Meyer Shank Racing.

The 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar champion also has indicated an interest in Trackhouse Racing’s Project 91 car that aims to place international drivers in a Cup ride (such as Kimi Raikkonen at Watkins Glen International last year). Team co-owner Justin Marks recently tweeted Trackhouse wouldn’t field the Project 91 car at the Daytona 500.

After winning the 2022 Superstar Racing Experience opener, SRX CEO Don Hawk had promised he would help secure a Daytona 500 ride for Castroneves.

Castroneves has been angling for a NASCAR ride for years, dating to when he drove for Team Penske from 2000-20. After winning the Rolex 24 last year, he said he had been lobbying Ray Evernham and Tony Stewart for help with getting in a Cup car.

Though Castroneves is out, Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern reported that Mayweather’s The Money Team Racing still is considering IndyCar driver Conor Daly for its seat.

Fire at Reaume Brothers Racing shop injures three

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A Thursday fire at the Reaume Brothers Racing shop in Mooresville, North Carolina, injured three individuals, according to Mooresville (North Carolina) Fire-Rescue.

Firefighters were dispatched to the shop, which is scheduled to field entries for driver Mason Massey in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series this season, at about 11:30 a.m. Thursday.

The fire department extinguished the blaze quickly. The department stated on its Facebook page that one individual was transported to Lake Norman Regional hospital for smoke inhalation, and another was transported to Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, N.C. with burn injuries. A third was treated and released.

The team stated Thursday night on social media that Taylor Collier and Devin Fokin had been treated and released. The team stated that Taylor was treated for smoke inhalation and Fokin was treated “for serious burns.”

The Mooresville Fire Marshall’s office is investigating the cause of the fire. The fire department said the shop sustained “significant fire damage.”

In a tweet, the team said it is determining the extent of damage to the building. “More importantly,” it said, “a few of our team members did sustain injuries during the fire and are being transported for medical treatment.”

 

Trackhouse, RFK Racing, Front Row Motorsports sign sponsorship deals

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Trackhouse Racing, RFK Racing and Front Row Motorsports announced sponsorship deals Thursday morning.

Trackhouse said WWEX, a Dallas-based global logistics group, will increase its sponsorship presence with the team this year, serving as the primary sponsor in 21 races for drivers Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez.

WWEX will appear on Chastain’s Chevrolets in 19 races and will sponsor Suarez twice. The organization was a Trackhouse sponsor in 11 events in 2022, which was a breakout season for both Chastain and Suarez.

RFK announced that Solomon Plumbing, which joined the team last season, will expand its presence this season and in future years. The Michigan-based company will serve as the primary sponsor for several races on driver Brad Keselowski‘s No. 6 Ford.

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Solomon specializes in plumbing and fire services for new development and construction. It initially sponsored Keselowski last season in the dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Front Row Motorsports has signed Quincy Compressor, a Bay Minette, Ala.-based compressor manufacturer, as a sponsor for four races.

Quincy will sponsor Todd Gilliland‘s No. 38 team in three events and Michael McDowell‘s No. 34 team in one race.

 

 

Stewart-Haas Racing signs Chase Briscoe to contract extension

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Chase Briscoe has signed a multiyear contract extension to remain at Stewart-Haas Racing, the team announced Thursday.

The length of the deal was not announced.

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Briscoe is entering his third Cup season with the team. He won his first series race last year, taking the checkered flag at Phoenix last March. That victory put him in the playoffs. He finished the season ninth in the standings. 

“It’s huge to have stability, with my team and my partner,” Briscoe said in a statement from the team. “It just gives you more confidence. Stewart-Haas Racing is where I want to be for a long time. It’s the place I’ve known longer than anywhere else in my NASCAR career.

“I remember getting signed by Ford in 2017 and I told people, ‘You know, if I could pick one place to be, it would be Stewart- Haas Racing. And if I could drive one car, it would be the 14 car. That would be the ultimate dream.’ And now, here I am.

“SHR has such a great group of people, from the Xfinity Series to the Cup Series, and they’ve all just guided me in the right direction. From drivers to crew chiefs to crew members, they’ve always had my back, and that’s been a huge help – just having people believe in you.”

The 28-year-old Briscoe has been with SHR since 2018. He split a limited Xfinity schedule that season between what is now RFK Racing and SHR. He ran full time with SHR in the Xfinity Series in 2019 and ’20 before moving to Cup in 2021.

“Chase has made the most of every opportunity and the proof is in the results. Keeping him at SHR was a priority and we’re proud to have him in our racecars for many more years to come,” said Tony Stewart, who co-owns SHR with Haas Automation founder Gene Haas, in a statement from the team. 

Briscoe’s signing comes two weeks after teammate Kevin Harvick announced that this will be his final season in Cup. 

The Cup season begins Feb. 5 with the Busch Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before going to Daytona for the Feb. 19 Daytona 500.