ARCA Racing Series

Xfinity Series Spotlight: Ty Majeski, the driver Mark Martin calls ‘the one’

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CONORD, N.C. — Ty Majeski‘s first NASCAR start isn’t for another two days, but Roush Fenway Racing already is commemorating the event.

In one portion of the museum and gift shop at the team’s headquarters hangs a shirt produced specifically for the 22-year-old driver’s debut in the Xfinity Series at Iowa Speedway.

Photo by Daniel McFadin

“I think Roush Fenway decided to do it,” Majeski told NBC Sports sitting in an office at the team’s headquarters. “I think they ordered 144 shirts. They were sold within an hour and half. I don’t think they understood what kind of following I have up in the Midwest.

“But once we posted it on our Facebook page it was, ‘Boom!’ And they ordered another 144, and I think it was a day, boom, they were gone again. Now they’re coming out with a ladies line of the same design. They’re selling like crazy.”

The shirt sits around the corner from one that honors Mark Martin‘s Hall of Fame induction in January. Majeski will be driving a Ford with the No. 60, the same numeral Martin drove to victory lane 39 times in the Xfinity Series.

In a prerace news release, Martin gave the native of Seymour, Wisconsin, all the praise one could hope for.

“With Ty Majeksi, I think Roush Fenway may have the one,” Martin said. “I think he is Roush Fenway’s next Matt Kenseth or Carl Edwards. I think they are sitting good with him as a young driver developing. I’ll be watching with great interest.”

More than a month before his Xfinity debut, Majeski and Martin bonded on Twitter over their shared experience of winning a race at Rockford Speedway in Illinois.

A week before his Xfinity debut, he notched his series-record 17th win in the ARCA Midwest Tour, where Majeski also has won three straight titles. He did that in a car sponsored by iRacing, Majeski is the top-ranked driver on the racing simulator, having won more than 830 races in 1,112 starts. iRacing will be on his car for both Iowa races this year.

The following Q&A has been edited and condensed.

NBC Sports: What was the experience like getting into the Xfinity car for the first time (in a test at Iowa)?

Majeski: Obviously, it’s critical now that NASCAR puts such a limit on NASCAR testing as a whole. So any time a team can get a test is critical, for both the driver and the team. I adapted pretty quickly to the race track, to the Xfinity car. I did a lot of iRacing. So it didn’t take me too long to adapt to it, and I think the second or third run, we were already making adjustments on the car, trying to make it better and make the team better. I think it was critical to use our time to continue to improve the race car and not just me adapting to everything.

NBC Sports: What was it like for you when you saw the painted car for the first time?

Majeski: It was really cool. That’s kind of when it became real for me. Seeing it in the shop, seeing my name on it. Seeing all the guys working on it. I’m like, ‘Man, this is actually happening.’ Obviously, it’s something I’ve been working towards my whole career since I’ve been racing go-karts at 9 years old. This is what I wanted to do. Didn’t become I guess even feasible until just a few years ago. Before, it wasn’t just a hobby, but it just wasn’t realistic at that time. We started winning late model races, big late model races all over the country and it became a reality.

NBC Sports: You’re going to be working with (crew chief) Seth Harbour this weekend. When did you first get to interact with him getting ready for this?

Majeski: I do a lot of shocks for Bubba Wallace in the shop. I do a lot of work in the shop every day. I go to the racetrack with them when I can when I’m not racing my late model or don’t have other obligations to do. So I travel with him. The first time I really worked with them was at Las Vegas this year with Bubba Wallace. … I got to work with Seth and see how he acts and how he communicates with his drivers. I think that was big. Have somewhat of an idea going into the debut.

NBC Sports: Why the shock area, is that a specialty for you?

Majeski: No, it’s not a specialty for me. I actually had never saw the inside of a shock before I started working. I have some sense of what they do. I know what the adjustments do and I know what I need and I know what they feel like when you do a certain adjustment, but I never knew what the inside of one looked like. The reason we chose the shock department is because it gives me a wide range of, I guess, experiences.

NBC Sports: So when you’re getting to know Seth, what are you working on communication wise to know what you like, what he likes? How do you get your verbiage down for when you’re in the car?

Majeski: I think a big thing was having my crew chief Toby Nuttleman down at the test. I’ve been working with him; he’s the crew chief I’ve had most of my successes with. I’ve been with him the last, this will be the fourth full season now. He came down to the test, he can tell by the tone of my voice on how big of an adjustment he needs to change, just on how I react, what I’m saying. That just comes with time. He was able to translate a lot of that to Seth at the test. It definitely helps for sure.

NBC Sports: Will this be the longest race you’ve ever been in?

Majeski: Mileage-wise, yes. But I’ve done 300-lappers before in the late models, which at least at Iowa, you have some straightaways you can rest. I can argue that a 300-lap race at Pensacola for the Snowball Derby’s going to do more wear and tear on you than a mile racetrack. Mileage-wise, it’ll be my longest race, but I’ll be all right.

NBC Sports: Who all is going to be at the race this Saturday?

Majeski: A lot of people. My whole late model team is going to be there. Tons of friends and family. I know there’s buses going down from Wisconsin. There’ll be a lot of Ty Majeski fans there for sure.

NBC Sports: You’re from Seymour, Wisconsin.What’s the coolest thing about Seymour?

Majeski: The first hamburger was made in Seymour, ever. Seymour is the home of the hamburger. 

NBC Sports: What’s the best burger joint in Seymour?

Majeski: You know that’s the funny part. There isn’t a burger joint in Seymour. There’s a McDonald’s. There’s a Dairy Queen. But there’s no burger joint. Can’t believe it.

NBC Sports: Do you remember the first NASCAR race you ever attended?

Majeski: Yeah, I was probably 8 or 9 years old, and it was at Bristol. I always wore, obviously I’m about 5-4, and I was always one of the faster runners growing up, and they always had shirts that said ‘I’m short and fast like Bristol.’ I would always wear those shirts to school and stuff. I thought it fit well.

NBC Sports: What do you remember about that race?

Majeski: I remember it was a Cup race and there was this Dale Jr. fan next to us, and she had little No. 8’s painted on her finger nails. Every single lap, 500 laps, she would wave them this way (motions to himself), and as he would go past the corner, she’s wave them back that way. Five-hundred times, every single lap. I’ll never forget it.

NBC Sports: What’s your favorite phone app to use that’s not social media?

Majeski: Probably Uber. I’m flying all over the place. I don’t have any games on my phone. I don’t have any music on my phone. Pretty simple guy. Other than social media, probably Uber gets used the most or The Weather Channel to see if it’s going to rain on race weekend.

NBC Sports: What’s the weirdest experience you’ve had in an Uber?

Majeski: I haven’t had any weird experiences. I’ve had silence for the whole drive. But I haven’t hadn’t any super weird experiences, which is good. Knock on wood.

Previous Xfinity Spotlights

Justin Allgaier

Darrell Wallace Jr.

Michael Annett

Ryan Reed

Brandon Jones

Daniel Hemric

William Byron

Spencer Gallagher

Cole Custer

Ross Chastain

Elliott Sadler

Ben Kennedy

Blake Koch

Brennan Poole

Matt Tifft

Tyler Reddick

Kyle Benjamin

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NASCAR America at 6 p.m. ET: Las Vegas recap

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 6-7 p.m. ET on NBCSN and will look back at the weekend’s racing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Steve Letarte will be joined by Kyle Petty and Nate Ryan.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 6 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

After Las Vegas incidents, Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson look for Richmond rebound

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Sunday’s NASCAR Cup playoff opener at Las Vegas leaves Chip Ganassi Racing with a mixed bag of potential strategies to develop heading into the next race, this Saturday night at Richmond Raceway.

Kurt Busch, the first NASCAR playoff champion in 2004, was involved in a wreck at Vegas with eventual race winner Martin Truex Jr. on Lap 189 that knocked him out of the event, ending with a last-place finish of 39th.

We were trying to go for the same spot in the middle, it wound up four-wide, got a fender rub and our day’s done,” Busch told NBCSN after he left the medical center. “It just happened that fast. Everyone wants to try to get to the middle and that’s where you make up the most spots and Truex and I were going for the same piece of real estate.”

As a result of the poor finish, Busch finds himself in 14th place among the 16 playoff contenders, a distant 63 points behind points leader Truex Jr.

How Busch rebounds at Richmond will go a long way toward determining whether he will advance to the Round of 12 following the Roval elimination race at Charlotte in two weeks. Busch is currently 14 points behind 12th-ranked Aric Almirola, but he is also only 12 points ahead of 16th-ranked Erik Jones.

There’s no question Busch is in need of a big comeback at Richmond, a track that he has had decent success at, including two wins (last time was in spring 2015), seven top five and 15 top-10 finishes in 37 career Cup starts there.

A win would immediately wipe out the Las Vegas nightmare and push Busch into Round 2.

And then there’s teammate Kyle Larson, who had a car that looked like it could challenge for the win at Vegas. But a costly pit road penalty — a behind-the-wall crew member trying to grab tires back over the wall slipped, touching the ground on pit road — pushed Larson back and he wound up playing catch-up the rest of the race. He settled for an eighth-place finish that potentially could have been a top five showing had it not been for the penalty.

Our car was better than what I thought it was going to be,” Larson said. “We were able to battle up front there in the second stage. Then, we had the pit road penalty and had to come from the back.

The restarts were crazy and I was just being safe. It probably cost us a little bit, but we still got a top-10 out of the day and some decent stage points. So, all-in-all, it wasn’t a bad day.”

Busch has one win this season, while Larson is still looking for his first.

Our cars have definitely been good enough to win, we just have to put the whole races together at this point,” Larson said. “We want to win. We’ll keep working at it and hopefully we can knock one out before the season is over.”

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Best of the rest: How non-playoff drivers did in Las Vegas

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The Cup playoffs began Sunday night in Las Vegas, and the playoff drivers made their presence known by occupying every spot in the top 10.

But what about the rest?

The first 16 spots were not filled by the 16 playoff drivers. In fact, playoff drivers only made up 13 positions in the top 20.

Here’s a look at the top-finishing drivers who are not contending for the championship:

Jimmie Johnson – finished 11th

With him not participating in the playoffs for the first time in his career, the spotlight wasn’t focused on Johnson very often Sunday.

But the Hendrick Motorsports driver finally put together his first complete run six races into Cliff Daniels’ tenure as his crew chief.

It was their first race together to not be involved in some sort of incident and it saw Johnson earn his first top-15 finish with Daniels. It’s only his second top 15 in the last nine races.

Austin Dillon – Finished 12th

The Richard Childress Racing driver earned his second straight 12th-place finish and his third consecutive finish of 12th or better.

He’s earned a top-15 finish in four of the last five races. That’s after only having one in a 12-race stretch.

Dillon also finished sixth in Stage 1.

“When the caution came out on Lap 180, we pitted to take another swing at loosening up this Chevy,” Dillon said. “Unfortunately, we had an uncontrolled tire penalty but it did allow us to come back down pit road to top off with fuel and adjust on the car more. We got the car better and made a good strategy to stay out for track position during a late caution to pick up additional spots.”

Paul Menard – Finished 14th

Menard took part in his first race since announcing last week that he would retire from full-time competition after this season.

The Wood Brothers Racing driver kicked-off his final 10 races for the team with his sixth top-15 finish in the last nine races. He finished outside the top 15 just once in his last 11 starts at Las Vegas.

Ty Dillon – finished 16th

The Germain Racing driver earned his best finish at Las Vegas in five starts (previous was 24th).

Dillon has finished 20th or better in six of the last nine races.

Daniel Hemric – finished 17th

The rookie driver earned a top-20 finish after two straight DNFs for wrecks. He has only three top 20s in the last nine races.

“Our handling balance would swing a lot from being really tight and then halfway through the run it was like a light switch and I would get super, super loose,” Hemric said. “We got that better throughout the race and back to where I could run more throttle, which allowed us to move forward into the top 10 and be more aggressive on restarts and make some hay during those time. On that last green flag stop we just got a little too free to where I couldn’t make the most time coming off pit road and just struggled a bit on that last run.”

Chris Buescher – finished 18th

The JTG Daugherty Racing driver extended his streak of finishes inside the top 18 to 16 races. The streak began at Kansas Speedway on May 11.

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Brad Keselowski rebounds to ‘steal’ third-place finish in playoff opener

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Usually when you see a race car on pit road with its hood up in the middle of a race, it’s a sign that a team’s race is over or will be soon.

It’s not typically a prelude to a third-place finish.

But that’s what happened to Brad Keselowski in Sunday’s Cup playoff opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The adjustments made to his No. 2 Ford on pit road during the Stage 2 break, including adjustments to the front suspension, helped cure what was a “miserable” first 160 laps for Keselowski.

“Nothing I was doing was working,” Keselowski told NBCSN after his top-five finish. “We were losing spots to everybody out there.”

Keselowski, the race’s defending winner, qualified 18th. But while his Team Penske teammate Joey Logano went from 22nd to first in 34 laps, Keselowski was “just kind of bleeding positions.”

“I am disappointed we didn’t start the race any better than we did but very proud that we didn’t freak out and everyone kept their head on their shoulders,” Keselowski said.

After Stage 2, Keselowski pitted from 13th. He would pit twice under the caution before the start of the final stage.

“The team worked on it really hard there and got us back to a spot to where we could kind of almost steal a win,” Keselowski said. “I thought for a minute we might be able to.”

Keselowski thought if he had gained one or two spots on the final restart with 71 laps to go, he might have been the winner instead of Martin Truex Jr.

Instead, “we kind of stole a third place today,” Keselowski told NBCSN. “I guess I can’t complain. … Decent recovery, great fight. That’s kind of what these playoffs are about. Minimizing your bad days. That’s what we were able to do.”

Keselowski’s finish is his ninth straight top 10 at Las Vegas. He hasn’t finished worse than seventh on the 1.5-mile track since 2012.