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Upon Further Review: Did Michigan win prove virtue of patience?

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Winning not only meant a celebration for Kyle Larson but the end of a discussion.

For more than three months after his clean driving was not enough to beat Matt Kenseth at Dover, Larson endured questions and people second-guessing his motives, suggesting it would have been worthwhile to punt Kenseth to win and earn a Chase spot.

“We don’t have to talk about that anymore,’’ Larson said after his win Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.

He doesn’t, but his victory still raises an issue. Did Larson’s victory reaffirm that good things come to those who wait? Or did it show how tough it is to win a Sprint Cup race and that sometimes it is better to grab what one can?

This is about more than winning a race. It’s the chance to win a championship. Even with the team’s struggles at the beginning of the season, Larson could be crowned series champion in less than 12 weeks.

With a championship comes prestige and the possibility of enticing more sponsorship. That could help elevate Chip Ganassi Racing, which ended a 99-race winless drought Sunday, and make the two-car organization more competitive. That also could provide additional money for those working there and make additional jobs available, enhancing the team’s resources.

That’s why the debate on if Larson should have knocked Kenseth out of the lead — and taken the chance of wrecking him — at Dover to win. No driver or team operates in a vacuum.

NASCAR is physical sport. Chairman Brian France has said so. Of course, with all things there’s a limit. Still, the question that Larson raced Kenseth clean rubbed some critics wrong.

“Everybody said, Why didn’t you hit him, why didn’t you do this or that?’’ car owner Chip Ganassi said. “That’s Kyle.

“I think it’s important to understand that these guys are not robots. We want to cookie cutter them into saying, he’s this, this driver is this, this team is that, this team is that. Really, they’re all different. They’re all different personalities. I couldn’t be more proud of how he’s developed over the last couple of years in Cup.’’

Many expect Larson’s win at Michigan to be the first of many. Did his win carry a message to all drivers that there can be a reward for patience? Or is that being too naive?

OH WOE IS THEM 

In a 36-race season, problems are going to occur. Nobody is going to be perfect for every lap, every pit stop and every moment of a race.

But it is almost becoming a regular thing to see what else can happen to Martin Truex Jr. and his team, which fell inches short of winning the Daytona 500. In some cases, bad luck has befallen the team. In other cases, it has been mistakes that will need to be avoided when the playoffs begin next month.

In 19 of the 24 points races thus far this season, the team has had some sort of issue, ranging from incidents on pit road to those on the track. The team has shown when it is mistake-free, no one is going to beat them — as was the case in the Coca-Cola 600 when Truex led 392 of 400 laps.

Sunday’s race at Michigan was not clean. The left rear tire was not set when the jack dropped. The incident damaged the left rear quarter panel and created issues the rest of the race, resulting in a 20th-place finish.

That hasn’t been the only time this season that a pit stop has not gone well for the Furniture Row Racing team. Other instances include:

Pocono (Aug. 1) — Lug nut knocked off inner valve stem on pit stop while leading, caused a flat tire and contact with the wall. He finished 38th.

Kentucky (July 9) — Truex was penalized for passing the leader on pit road as he headed to his pit stall. Truex finished 10th. NASCAR later updated its rules to provide more clarity on the issue.

Pocono (June 6) — Contact with Matt DiBenedetto after Truex, who entered pit road 12th, exited his stall. Later in the race, a lug nut landed behind the wheel and sheared off the tire’s inner valve stem, causing the tire to blow after Truex was back on track. He finished 19th.

Kansas (May 7) — Had to pit from the lead because of a loose wheel. The culprit was a broken head bolt off the brake that got caught behind the right front wheel. He finished 14th.

Richmond (April 24) — Had to pit a second time after a lug nut got jammed and caused the right rear wheel to become loose. He was eighth before the sequence. He finished ninth.

Bristol (April 17) — Twice had to pit a second time because of loose wheels. He finished 14th.

Martinsville (April 3) — After running in the top 10, a loose wheel and a speeding penalty on pit road late in the race hurt his result. He finished 18th.

Las Vegas (March 6) — Loose wheel while running seventh forced Truex back to pit road. He finished 11th

Atlanta (Feb. 28) — On two separate pit stops, right front tire got hung up when being put on, costing him a total of 10 spots. He finished seventh

FIRST-TIME FUN

For the first time in NASCAR history, the winners in each of the sport’s top three national divisions scored their first series win on the same weekend.

Brett Moffitt, driving in place of Matt Tifft as he recovers from recent brain surgery, won Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race at Michigan for Red Horse Racing. It was Moffitt’s first NASCAR win since 2012 when he competed in the K&N Pro Series East. Moffitt was the rookie of the year last season in the Sprint Cup Series.

Michael McDowell, whose background is in road racing, won Saturday’s Xfinity race at Road America for Richard Childress Racing. It was McDowell’s first national series victory in 298 career starts across the Sprint Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series.

Kyle Larson, who has four career Xfinity and two career Truck series wins, scored his first Cup victory Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.

PIT STOPS

— In the three points races that used the proposed 2017 rules package, Brad Keselowski had an average finish of 2.7.

Joey Logano’s 10th-place finish marked his eighth consecutive top 10 at Michigan, the longest active streak.

— In the six races that Dale Earnhardt Jr. has missed, the No. 88 car has finished an average of 20.2. Jeff Gordon will drive the car this weekend in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Jamie McMurray scored his third consecutive eighth-place finish Sunday.

Carl Edwards finished seventh, marking the first time in the last six races he’s been the highest-finishing Toyota.

— Kyle Larson’s win marked the seventh consecutive Sprint Cup race with a different winner, the longest streak of the season.

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.