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Xfinity Series Spotlight: Owner Rod Sieg

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If you’re ever trying to spot Rod Sieg in the Xfinity Series garage, just look for the man full of energy and radiating positivity.

Sieg is the owner of Ryan Sieg Racing and the No. 39 car, driven by his son, Ryan. The family-owned business has been successful in NASCAR, moving from the Camping World Truck to Xfinity Series. They are one race away from qualifying for the inaugural Xfinity Series Chase.

Ryan sits 12th on the Chase grid entering Chicago this weekend. As for Rod, whether the team makes the playoffs, one would be hard-pressed to find him not having fun.

“Nobody comes to the racetrack to finish last, do they?” Sieg asks NBC Sports. “Life has been good. I’ve had fun, and everywhere I go I have fun. I don’t want to be in a bad mood. Even after Bristol (where Ryan finished 37th) I didn’t get upset – we just left early, and it was a quiet ride home.”

Sieg’s life in business started in 1982 when he and his father-in-law, Colie Wilson, co-founded S&W Towing. Based out of Tucker, Georgia, where the family originates, Wilson was the one who had an affinity for racing, which rubbed off on Sieg.

“We’d race go-karts and all that stuff, and then we bought some Late Models and got into those then decided to go Truck racing,” Sieg said. “We were going to run Trucks and Xfinity, and heck we ran so good we were like, ‘Why are we going to go Truck racing when we can go over here?’ That’s how it just goes, and it’s been an easy progression.”

Sieg has fielded entries in NASCAR since 2009. And just like the sport, he admits he lives his life at full-throttle.

“That’s the only way to live, isn’t it?”

The following Q&A has been edited and condensed.

NBC Sports: Is the team shop still based in Georgia at the S&W Towing location?

Sieg: It was until this last year. I could walk out back from my office and go to the garage and work right in the garage. But it got too small. We’ve moved to a different location and run a business out of there that is a towing service, but we built a big warehouse up there. It’s pretty nice now.

NBC Sports: How much did your father-in-law influence your decision to get into racing?

Sieg: My wife’s dad raced dirt, and I worked for a guy named Randy Couch when I was like 16, 17, 18 and he was an All-Pro champion. Ever since then we’ve been racing, and he even came over to the shop and helped us work on our Late Model cars when we ran around the Southeast. I actually tried to deter Ryan from racing; I sent him down to a guy named Wayne Anderson in Florida and said go with him. I called Wayne and said ‘I want you to be as brutal as you can on him,’ and Wayne treated him awful. Ryan would say, ‘We worked on Wayne’s cars all day, and we’d push mine out for 30 minutes, and I’d have to race Wayne.’ He’d follow him to the track, and that’s how he really got into it. He actually did good as Wayne told him, just follow me around.

Wayne Anderson raced for a long time and he was in Late Models out of Florida and Ryan would drive back and forth from Florida to our house every week, and did it by himself. I was wanting him to quit because people don’t understand how hard racing is from week to week, and he was determined to do it. I was trying to be mean as I could, I really was.

NBC Sports: Is it difficult to be both the owner of the race team and the father of the driver?

Sieg: I treat him like I would any other driver. I don’t cut him any slack, but I don’t really say much. We’ve been racing so long you don’t get real high or real low. Daytona (when Ryan finished third) I got real high! That was a high point. When you get through Daytona, and you can finish it, it’s always a good day because we’ve had two bad years of bad luck down there. Running good, but just got caught up in a wreck. Boy, when you can finish one, it just tickles you to death.

NBC Sports: Do you just oversee the operation when you come to the track or do you get involved?

Sieg: I’ll do anything they ask me. I’ll jump in and pick up tires and put them on if that’s what I need to do. I want everybody to be in a good mood because you know what, one gets in a bad mood, everybody gets in a bad mood.

NBC Sports: What is your approach or philosophy for business, seeing that you run two different ones?

Sieg: I just treat everybody the way I want to be treated. I mean, we got a guy that does nothing but polish the car, and I treat him the same way I treat the crew chief.

NBC Sports: Is the current business model in the Xfinity Series sustainable to a small team like yours?

Sieg: We’ll have to see. We haven’t got that far yet. I take it a year at a time, a race at a time. We prepare our car a week in advance, and some of these guys have their cars prepared months in advance. We haven’t mapped out anything for the future.

NBC Sports: With as outgoing and energetic as you are, do you have any other hobbies besides racing?

Sieg: We go up to the lake house all the time, I have a lake house in Georgia. We have jet skis and boats and all that and I’m constantly doing things that nearly kill me. (Crew chief Kevin Starland) rented a campsite once and we have two jet skis that are real fast, and I came in about 70 miles-per-hour and wide open. There were rocks there on the coast, and I turned the wheel real hard, and I flipped about five times. I was hiding under the water cause the jet ski flipped and they’re all running out screaming, ‘Rod, Rod, Rod!’ and I jumped out saying, I’m all right!

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NASCAR America: Kyle Busch seeks first Cup points win at Charlotte

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There’s a few notable holes on Kyle Busch‘s Cup Series resume.

He’s never won the Daytona 500 or the Coca-Cola 600.

To be even more specific, he’s never won a Cup points race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

He’s won at every other track on the Cup circuit.

In 28 starts at the 1.5-mile track, Busch has 11 top fives and three runner-up finishes. The most recent was in last year’s Coke 600. That was a week after he won the All-Star race for the first time.

He’s combined for 15 wins at the track in the Camping World Truck and Xfinity Series, making him the track’s winningest driver.

Busch, who has three victories this season, made his effort to finally get a points win at Charlotte easier on Thursday when he qualified first for Sunday’s race.

“It’s important to me, but I’m not sure it’s important in the grand scheme of things,” Busch said of getting a win at Charlotte. “It’s certainly important to me and I would love to get that knocked out-of-the-way and to be finished with it until another new track comes up on the circuit and certainly it’s been a trying time here over the course of my career and to have it come to fruition in a points race, the last I checked I have a trophy at home that says, ‘winner at Charlotte Motor Speedway,’ so I’ll take that to my grave with me if I do never get a points win here. That will be my saving grace I guess.”

Busch came in second in last year’s Coke 600 after a fuel mileage gamble by Austin Dillon‘s team paid off, giving Dillon his first Cup win.

On NASCAR America, Steve Letarte, Landon Cassill and Kyle Petty discussed Busch’s struggle to get a Cup win at the track.

“At some point it’s kind of like Chase Elliott, ‘When’s he going to win? When’s he going to win?'” Letarte said. “Now, I think Kyle Busch feels like, when is he going to win? When is he going to win Charlotte? Starting on the front row matters, but we all know 600 miles … is very, very difficult.”

Watch the above video for more.

Reviewing Danica Patrick’s highs and lows at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the legacy left by her success

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So much of Danica Patrick’s fame can be traced to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It’s where she became a household name 13 years ago when she became the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500 and emerged as a transcendent athlete.

It’s where everything started. This Sunday, it’s where everything will end, too.

In her last warmup before starting the final race of her career, Patrick had a bumpy final practice Friday on Carb Day. She was eighth fastest, but her Dallara-Chevrolet was in the garage most of the session because of an electrical problem in the engine. After returning during the final 10 minutes of the session, Patrick’s No. 13 seemed to be OK.

“At the end of the day, these are things you’re actually glad for, because if this had happened Sunday, we would have been done,” she said. “I’m glad to get the issues out of the way early on. Overall, today felt good. We made some changes when I went out the second time, and I’m feeling good about starting seventh on Sunday.”
Though she has had her share of success – along with a fourth in her debut, there was a third in 2009 and six top 10s in seven starts — Patrick has learned well how to handle frustration at the 2.5-mile track, too.

Fuel mileage might have kept her from winning her debut, a pit collision ruined 2008, and an unstable setup made 2010 a wild ride.

For a review of her up-and-down history at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and her legacy in racing, watch the video essay above that ran during Friday’s NASCAR America Motorsports Special on NBCSN.

 

Kaz Grala, father reveal how Fury Race Cars came to Xfinity Series

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CONCORD, N.C. — The text was sent at 4:04 p.m. on May 9, four days after the last Xfinity Series race at Dover International Speedway.

The sender was Darius Grala, father of Kaz Grala, the JGL Racing driver who announced May 15 that was no longer his job title.

The receiver was Shane Wilson, the long-time Xfinity crew chief who had worked in that role for Grala through the first 10 races of the season.

(Photo by Daniel McFadin)

The elder Grala asked: “Can u talk?”

That was the moment when Fury Race Cars, the race car building company Grala founded in 2016 with Tony Eury Jr. and Jeff Fultz, started becoming an Xfinity Series team.

PUTTING THE TEAM TOGETHER

It wasn’t official until Kaz Grala, 19, drove onto the track Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, in his No. 61 Ford.

It capped a 15-day scramble for the Gralas, Wilson and other members of Fury Race Cars to become the newest Xfinity team. The effort was announced May 18.

It started with Darius Grala’s text. He had just gotten off the phone with JGL Racing owner James Whitener, who had offered to give them three of their Roush Fenway Racing built cars as a form of severance for Kaz Grala.

“We got the three cars from him because we left on great terms,” Kaz Grala. said. “He was a huge supporter of me, right up until the end, emotionally and financially, you name it. He was a big fan of mine and he helped me kick off my Xfinity career. He wasn’t able to continue funding my ride. He definitely wanted to help however he could.”

That allowed the group to get a “good jump” on the team building process in the midst of a two-week break for the series.

The process was made even easier with five of the six crew members who worked on Grala’s No. 24 car joining the team along with Wilson. They joined an operation in Fury Race Cars that for the last two years was devoted to building modifieds, sports cars and late models.

Darius Grala, a native of Poland who moved to the United States when he was 8, had his own background as a sports car driver. That went along with the extensive time served as NASCAR crew chiefs by Eury and Ricky Viers.

But at Fury Race Cars, they’d never worked with a Xfinity car until this month.

“I don’t want you to think we took it lightly,” Darius Grala said. “Because we didn’t we didn’t want to come and embarrass ourselves. But there wasn’t any question right from the first conversation, obviously being Kaz’s dad I want to do everything I can but after speaking with Tony and Jeff, they were all in 100 percent, whatever we need to do, let’s figure it out.”

The group worked many late nights to get ready for Saturday’s race.

“Yes, you have to get the car built, but you’ve got to have the tool box to organize …. you need to have a pit box,” Kaz Grala said. “You need to have the hauler organized, I needed race suits in eight days, I needed polos. Just every single little thing and one of our biggest challenges, just logistically, was that this came together so late, just trying to get our entry forms in in time for this race and for Pocono. Everything came so quickly, all the little I’s had to be dotted and T’s had to be crossed. All that stuff takes time and we just didn’t have time.”

Kaz Grala walks through the Xfinity Series garage on Thursday. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

Even acquiring a fuel can was a hassle.

“They’re not easy to come by, it’s not like you can go to (a store) and buy one of those,” Darius Grala said.

They also had to pick a number.

“We let the team at Fury pick the number,” Kaz Grala said. “Actually you would be surprised when looking into numbers, I know I was, how few are actually on the market. Most of them are not. It really worked out perfectly, because Fury being modifieds is one of their main things that they build and all the guys at Fury are old-time, old-school guys and of course the 61 being Richie Evans’ was immediately what jumped out at them. That was kind of the inspiration for it. Not to mention my mom is actually from Rome, New York, as well, as Richie Evans was. Seemed like a good fit.”

The team loaded up its lone car for the Charlotte race weekend by 9 p.m. Wednesday, placing it in the team’s logo-free white hauler.

“That was the first relief since the day we started,” Darius Grala said.

He had a “really, really good” night of sleep.

A DEAL WITH GOD

With the sun setting on Fury’s first day as an Xfinity team, Kaz Grala pulled his No. 61 Ford into his garage stall – the very last stall meant for the lowest team in points or a new team without any – at the end of final practice.

On his last run, Grala posted the eighth best speed in the session at 179.784 mph. That placed him ahead of Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Ty Dillon and other drivers from big teams.

Where did they get that speed?

Darius Grala observes Xfinity practice atop the Fury Race Cars hauler. (Photo by Daniel McFadin)

“I don’t know, I guess a lot of hours and a lot of hard work right there, the car’s pretty darn good,” Grala said. “Couldn’t really ask for more than that.”

Has the driver who has competed in a full season of the Camping World Truck Series (and won one race) and 10 Xfinity races ever felt this good after a practice?

“Not in Xfinity, no,” he said. “I think we’re closer than we’ve been. We were within a couple of tenths of the 22 (Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski). If you’re within a couple of tenths of the 22 then you’re pretty darn good.”

In the Xfinity garage, JGL Racing’s No. 28 Ford driven by Dylan Lupton is parked right across from Fury’s stall. Lupton finished the session 24th.

“We’re still on good terms, we’re friends with all of them,” Grala said. “A little friendly competition, we’re a little bit quicker than them. We’re going to try and stay quicker than them. But we’re trying to be quicker than everyone here.”

The team’s next chance to be quicker than everyone else comes Saturday in qualifying. And the No. 61 team needs to qualify. They also need it to not rain. If it rains, they won’t be in the race.

“There’s 43 cars here and we have zero points,” said Darius Grala, noting the field would be set by owner points. “That’s about the only goal we have right now is we need to make a deal with God on the weather.

Qualifying is set to begin at 10:10 a.m. ET. The chance of rain then is 60 percent.

Regardless of the weather, the team will be back next week at Pocono and the two races after that. That fulfills the original sponsor deal Kaz Grala has with NETTTS, which has backed him since 2013 when he raced in modifieds.

The team is prepared to go beyond those four races, but won’t just stop looking for partners.

“As of right now, yes, it’s been a lot of work, but no one at Fury is scared of work,” Darius Grala said. “We’re looking at this being a step forward if at all possible.”

PJ1 traction agent, tire dragging in use at Charlotte

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Charlotte Motor Speedway is doing as much as it can to improve the racing product and create opportunities for passing this weekend at the 1.5-mile track.

A blue tractor spent Friday dragging two sets of tires in the upper groove in each turn, an effort to freshen the area where the PJ1 traction agent was applied.

A track spokesperson confirmed to NBC Sports that the substance was added to the upper grooves in both corners on Monday and Tuesday.

The spokesperson was not aware of plans to add more PJ1 or to drag the tires on Saturday.

“The Xfinity cars ran on that PJ1 a lot and definitely activated it and got the grip definitely up there,” Joey Logano said after qualifying second for the Coke 600. “It’s hard for me to say what was what, but, overall, the car got faster and that’s all I really care about.”

Charlotte first used the traction agent in the Coca-Cola 600 last year and again in October. Its presence in that race wasn’t popular due to an uneven application of the substance.

Bristol Motor Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway have also used the substance in the last two years.