Crew chiefs Mike Bugarewicz and Mike Wheeler join Chase field for the first time

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Welcome to the Chase, Mike Bugarewicz and Mike Wheeler.

While four drivers are making their first appearances in the Chase, Bugarewicz and Wheeler are doing the same as crew chiefs. Both took the reins for their respective teams (Bugarewicz for Tony Stewart, Mike Wheeler for Denny Hamlin) this season. However, they do have past Chase experience in other roles.

In his first full season as a crew chief, Bugarewicz guided three-time champion Stewart to victory lane at Sonoma Raceway. He also worked with Ty Dillon and Brian Vickers to start the year as Stewart missed the first eight races due to a back injury.

Wheeler, who has been a part of Hamlin’s team in the past, led him to three wins in the first 26 races, including last weekend at Richmond International Raceway. Hamlin is also the defending winner of the Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway.

Here are the crew chiefs for each Chase driver (based on seeding), their past playoff appearances and performances:

Adam Stevens (Kyle Busch) – making second Chase appearance. Both came with Kyle Busch, who he won the championship with in 2015

Paul Wolfe (Brad Keselowski) – making fifth Chase appearance. Wolfe and Keselowski won the 2012 championship and finished seventh last season.

Mike Wheeler (Denny Hamlin) – making first Chase appearance as a crew chief. Wheeler served as a race engineer on Hamlin’s team from 2012 to 2014.

Rodney Childers (Kevin Harvick) – making third Chase appearance. Childers and Harvick won the championship in 2014 and finished second last season.

Dave Rogers (Carl Edwards) – making sixth Chase appearance and first with Edwards. Rogers made a Chase appearance with Denny Hamlin last season (finished ninth) and four others (finished eighth in 2010; 12th in 2011; fourth in 2013; 10th in 2014) with Kyle Busch.

Cole Pearn (Martin Truex Jr.) – making his second Chase appearance. Both have come with Truex, who finished fourth in the Chase last year.

Jason Ratcliff (Matt Kenseth) – making his fourth Chase appearance. All have come with Kenseth, with their best Chase finish being the runner-up in 2013. Last year, Kenseth and Ratcliff finished 15th.

Chad Knaus (Jimmie Johnson) – making his 13th Chase appearance, having qualified for the Chase every year since its inception. All have come with Johnson. The two won five championships between 2006-2010 as well as 2013. Last year, Johnson and Knaus finished 10th.

Todd Gordon (Joey Logano) – making fourth Chase appearance, all with Logano. Their best Chase finish was fourth in 2014. Last year, Gordon and Logano finished sixth.

Chad Johnston (Kyle Larson) – making second Chase appearance and first with Larson. Johnston served as Martin Truex Jr.’s crew chief in 2012 at Michael Waltrip Racing when the two finished 11th. This year is Larson’s first appearance in the Chase.

Mike Bugarewicz (Tony Stewart) – making first Chase appearance as a crew chief. Bugarewicz won the 2014 championship as a race engineer on Kevin Harvick’s team.

Tony Gibson (Kurt Busch) – making fourth Chase appearance and second with Busch. Gibson served as the crew chief for Ryan Newman in 2009 when they finished ninth and 10th in 2011. Last year, Gibson and Busch finished eighth.

Bob Osborne (Chris Buescher) – making seventh Chase appearance and first with Buescher. Osborne’s previous Chase appearances came with Carl Edwards with their best finish, a runner-up in 2008. This is Buescher’s first appearance in the Chase.

Alan Gustafson (Chase Elliott) – making ninth Chase appearance and first with Elliott. Gustafson made five appearances with Jeff Gordon (best finish of third in 2015), two with Kyle Busch (best finish of fifth in 2007), and one with Mark Martin (best finish of second in 2009). This is Elliott’s first appearance in the Chase.

Slugger Labbe (Austin Dillon) – making second Chase appearance and first with Dillon. In 2005, Labbe served as the crew chief for Jeremy Mayfield with the two finishing ninth. This is Dillon’s first appearance in the Chase.

Matt McCall (Jamie McMurray) – making second Chase appearance and second with McMurray. Last year, McCall and McMurray finished 13th.

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AJ Allmendinger to return to NASCAR Cup Series in 2023


AJ Allmendinger is getting another shot at success in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Kaulig Racing announced Wednesday that Allmendinger, currently chasing the Xfinity Series championship, will drive full-time in Kaulig entries in the Cup Series next season.

Allmendinger raced in Cup from 2007 to 2018 but won only one time — at Watkins Glen International — across those years. He moved to the Xfinity Series part-time with Kaulig in 2019, winning on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. He won twice in 2020 and five times in 2021 and is a favorite to win the Xfinity championship this year. He has won four Xfinity races this season, including last Sunday at Talladega.

MORE: Hailie Deegan to make Xfinity debut at Las Vegas

Allmendinger, 40, will drive Kaulig’s No. 16 car in Cup next year. Justin Haley will drive the team’s No. 31.

Chandler Smith will replace Allmendinger in the Xfinity Series next year.

“It’s crazy how the last five years of my life have gone,” Allmendinger said. “More than anything, I love this organization. I know the fans get tired of me talking about all the men and women of Kaulig Racing. This is not a race team. This is a huge family.

“There will be tough times and growing pains, for sure. But I love what they’re about, and they believe in me. I’ll be OK whether it’s good or bad.”

MORE: Chase Elliott atop NASCAR Power Rankings

Team owner Matt Kaulig said Allmendinger is “one of the best in the world at every type of track. He’s done so much for Kaulig Racing and our program. He’s a gigantic part of what we’re building.”

Team officials said Allmendinger has a multi-year contract.






NASCAR viewer’s guide for Charlotte Roval


Sunday provides a final chance for drivers to advance to the Round of 8 and keep their Cup championship hopes alive.

Talladega winner Chase Elliott is the only driver who has advanced to the next round. That leaves seven spots available going into Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Roval (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Chase Briscoe holds the final transfer spot by a tiebreaker over Austin Cindric. At least for now.

William Byron is 11 points behind both drivers, but Hendrick Motorsports will appeal Byron’s 25-point penalty from Texas on Thursday. Should Hendrick win and Byron get those points back, he would move into a transfer spot.

There’s just part of what to watch for in Sunday’s race.

Favorites to be No. 20

This season remains tied for the most different winners in series history at 19, but there are a few candidates who could become the 20th different winner this year on Sunday.

Among the favorites to do so:

Ryan Blaney, who came close to winning last week at Talladega, won the inaugural Cup race at the Roval in 2018.

Martin Truex Jr., who has four career Cup wins on road courses, still seeks his first victory of the season.

Michael McDowell, who is coming off a third-place finish at Talladega, has had a career-high 12 top-10 finishes this season, including top 10s in each of the last four road course events this year.

Will history repeat?

Last year, the four drivers eliminated after the Roval were Kevin Harvick, Alex Bowman, Christopher Bell and William Byron.

Harvick was eliminated in the first round this year, but Byron (-11 to the cutline) and Bell (-33) are in jeopardy of being eliminated in this round again. Bowman stated Tuesday that he will miss his second consecutive race because of continued concussion symptoms. He will be among the four eliminated from title contention.

Bowman missed last weekend’s race because of concussion-like symptoms suffered at Texas. A decision on if he’ll be able to race at the Roval will come later this week.

Will chaos continue?

Consider what some of the former Roval winners have endured on their way to the checkered flag:

In 2019, Chase Elliott drove into the Turn 1 wall on a restart while the leader. He recovered to win.

In 2020, Elliott overcame a loose wheel to win for the second year in a row.

In 2021, Kyle Larson won after his team changed batteries and put the alternator belt back on.

Could a similar fate be in store for this year’s winner? Or will they have a cleaner day?

Entry lists

Thirty-nine drivers are entered including IndyCar driver Conor Daly, former Formula 1 driver Daniil Kvyat, former 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller and former 24 Hours of Daytona winner Joey Hand. JJ Yeley will drive the No. 51 for Cody Ware, who stated that he would skip this event because of his ankle injury at Texas the footwork needed on a road course.

Charlotte Roval Cup entry list

The Xfinity entry list includes 41 drivers for 38 spots. Among those joining the series regulars are IndyCar driver Marco Andretti and former F1 driver Daniil Kvyat.

Charlotte Roval Xfinity entry list

This week’s schedule and forecast

(All times Eastern)

Saturday, Oct. 8

Forecast: Partly cloudy with a high of 66 degrees. No chance of rain during the Xfinity race.

  • 10 – 10:30 a.m. — Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)
  • 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. — Xfinity qualifying (NBC Sports App)
  • 12 – 1 p.m. — Cup practice (NBC Sports App, USA Network coverage begins at 12:30 p.m.)
  • 1 – 2 p.m. — Cup qualifying (USA Network, NBC Sports App)
  • 3 p.m. — Xfinity race (67 laps, 155.44 miles; NBC, Peacock, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Oct. 9

Forecast: Sunny with a high of 64 degrees. No chance of rain during the race.

  • 2 p.m. — Cup race (109 laps, 252.88 miles; NBC, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)


Hailie Deegan to make Xfinity debut at Las Vegas


Hailie Deegan announced Tuesday that she will make her Xfinity Series debut Oct. 15 Las Vegas Motor Speedway on NBC and Peacock.

The 21-year-old Deegan is in her second full-time season in the Camping World Truck Series. She finished a career-high sixth in that series last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

She will drive the No. 07 car for SS Green Light Racing with Jeff Lefcourt.



Alex Bowman to miss Charlotte Roval race


Alex Bowman announced Tuesday night on social media that he will sit out this weekend’s Cup playoff race at the Charlotte Roval.

Bowman said on social media: “I am continuing to make strides in my recovery to make sure I can return to competition at 100%.”

This will be the second consecutive race he will have missed because of concussion-like symptoms after his crash at Texas Motor Speedway.

Noah Gragson will drive the No. 48 car this weekend for Bowman.

“Alex’s health is our first priority,” said Jeff Andrews, president and general manager of Hendrick Motorsports, in a statement. “We’re focused on supporting his recovery and seeing him back in his race car when the time is right. Alex has a long career ahead of him, so we will invest the necessary time and take our guidance from medical experts. We’re putting no pressure on him to return before he’s 100% ready.”

Bowman will be one of the four drivers eliminated from title contention Sunday.

Also Tuesday, Cody Ware announced that he will sit out this weekend’s Cup race at the Charlotte Roval, as he continues to recover from the ankle injury he suffered at Texas.