Ryan Sieg is getting out of his comfort zone after years in the Xfinity Series

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During the final 10 laps of last weekend’s Xfinity Series race, Ryan Sieg was slightly confused.

“We’re not at Daytona and we’re running second!” Sieg thought to himself.

While Sieg was “in shock,” he was in fact second as the laps wound down on the race at Iowa Speedway.

“It was a surprise to be running second at Iowa where you have to have everything resource-wise and car-wise … you have to have the best of everything,” Sieg told NBC Sports.

Ryan Sieg drives his No. 39 Chevrolet at Texas Motor Speedway (Getty Images).

His No. 39 Chevrolet trailed JR Motorsports’ No. 9 Chevy driven by 19-year-old Wiliam Byron and was ahead of 21-year-old Tyler Reddick in the No. 42 Chevy owned by Chip Ganassi Racing.

Pit strategy and a late caution had put Sieg and a handful of other smaller teams used to mid-pack racing in contention at the front.

The 30-year-old Sieg – a veteran of 116 Xfinity races – had a chance for one of his best finishes in the series.

“I was kind of out of it,” Sieg said. “There was just too many laps left to tussle with (Byron) and I didn’t want (Reddick) to get by. Tried to get the best restart I could without getting into (Byron). If there was less laps, it might have been a different story. But with 10 to go, there was probably not much I could do, just try to get a good restart and try to hang with him as long as I could and hopefully something could happen to him.”

Byron eventually slipped away, leaving Sieg to duel with Reddick right up to the last turn.

Sieg crossed the line second for his career-best NASCAR finish. He’d never placed better than eighth in a non-restrictor plate Xfinity race. It was only his third top five in his national NASCAR career, which includes 106 Camping World Truck Series races from 2008-2015.

Weeks before his career moment, BK Racing owner Ron Devine was insistent that Sieg drive one of his Cup cars. But the prospect of making his debut in NASCAR’s premier series wasn’t one Sieg was too hot on.

“He kept asking and we kept saying, ‘yeah, nah,’ I wasn’t sure I really wanted to do it,” Sieg said. “I didn’t know how tough it was and wasn’t too sure about how I would perform. I didn’t want to go over there and be multiple laps down. You know what I mean? It just didn’t seem very fun. … You’ve got have everything.”

Sieg has been comfortable getting by without everything so far in his NASCAR career. RSS Racing’s No. 39 car, owned by Rod Sieg, is worked on by less than six full-time crew members. The team’s shop is based in Tucker, Georgia, Sieg’s hometown and a community in the metro Atlanta area of roughly 35,000 people that only became an official town two years ago.

It’s just over 230 miles away from NASCAR’s epicenter in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Sieg is comfortable with the distance.

“The guys I worked with told me there’s no point in moving up there,” Sieg said. “It’s more expensive up there, it’s harder to keep people up there because I think people back in the day were switching teams and they’d just leave and go here or there.”

The distance has worked out so far. Last season, Sieg and his team qualified for the inaugural Xfinity playoffs and finished ninth in the standings.

Devine’s persistence finally worked out. Sieg agreed to drive BK Racing’s No. 83 Toyota at Dover International Speedway. Sieg’s decision was based on the track, which aligns with what he’s had to work with in his career so far.

“You don’t have to have all the best things to go to Dover,” Sieg said. “You don’t need a whole bunch of motor. You can kind of get way with having less motor there and get a decent run. … I finally decided to go over there and do it.”

Though he finished six laps down, Sieg started 34th and placed 26th at the “Monster Mile.”

“I just didn’t want to make a mistake or have anything happen,” Sieg said. “Little things … you don’t want to mess up your first time out there. That was about it. Once I got used to it, it was pretty fun. I figured out about halfway through the race kind of how it needs to drive.”

Sieg got another chance two weeks later at Michigan, where he took BK Racing’s No. 23 Toyota to a 33rd-place finish.

Now a week after the biggest night of his career and a few days of celebration on the beach, Sieg will get his third weekend of double duty at Daytona International Speedway (Friday night on NBCSN). It’s a track that has been a destination for his family for many years.

“Probably been coming down here each July since I was a baby because my grandpa and his brothers would go down to the July Daytona race,” Sieg said. “They would always come down here … since they probably raced on the beach, that’s how long they’ve been coming.”

If things work out, his family will get two chances to see Sieg to accomplish what he did in Iowa.

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Drivers to watch in Clash at the Coliseum

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The 2023 NASCAR season will begin with Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum, the second race on a purpose-built track inside Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Although a non-points race, last year’s Clash generated intense interest as NASCAR moved the event from its long-time home at Daytona International Speedway to Los Angeles. The race was rated a success and opened doors for the possibility of future races in stadium environments.

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings: 10 historic moments in the Clash

MORE: Toyota looking to expand NASCAR presence

Year Two will find drivers competing on a familiar landscape but still with a track freshly paved. Last year’s racing surface was removed after the Clash.

Drivers to watch Sunday at Los Angeles:

FRONTRUNNERS

Joey Logano

  • Points position: Finished 2022 as Cup champion
  • Last three races: Won at Phoenix, 6th at Martinsville, 18th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: Won in 2022

Logano put bookends on 2022 by winning the first Clash at the Coliseum and the season’s final race at Phoenix to win the Cup championship. He’ll be among the favorites Sunday.

Ross Chastain

  • Points position: 2nd in 2022
  • Last three races: 3rd at Phoenix, 4th at Martinsville, 2nd at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: Did not qualify last year

Chastain was the breakout star of 2022, winning a pair of races and generally putting himself front and center across much of the year. Can he start 2023 on a big note? If so, he will have to do so without replicating his Hail Melon move at Martinsville after NASCAR outlawed the move Tuesday.

Kevin Harvick

  • Points position: 15th in 2022
  • Last three races: 5th at Phoenix, 16th at Martinsville, 8th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: 10th in 2022

Sunday will begin the final roundup for Harvick, who has said this season will be his last as a full-time Cup driver. He is likely to come out of the gate with fire in his eyes.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Kyle Busch

  • Points position: 13th in 2022
  • Last three races: 7th at Phoenix, 29th at Martinsville, 9th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: 2nd in 2022

Welcome to Kyle Busch’s Brave New World. After 15 seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing, he begins a new segment of his career with Richard Childress Racing. He led 64 laps at last year’s Clash but couldn’t catch Joey Logano at the end.

Tyler Reddick

  • Points position: 14th in 2022
  • Last three races: 23rd at Phoenix, 35th at Martinsville, 35th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: 21st in 2022

Reddick ran surprisingly strong in last year’s Clash, leading 51 laps before parking with drivetrain issues. He starts the new year with a new ride — at 23XI Racing.

Ty Gibbs

  • Points position: Won Xfinity Series championship in 2022
  • Last three (Cup) races: 19th at Martinsville, 22nd at Homestead, 22nd at Las Vegas
  • Past at Clash: Did not compete in 2022

After a successful — and controversial — Xfinity season, Gibbs moves up to Cup full-time with his grandfather’s team. Will he be the brash young kid of 2022 or a steadier driver in Season One in Cup?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interstate Batteries extends sponsorship with Joe Gibbs Racing

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Interstate Batteries, which has been a Joe Gibbs Racing sponsor since the team’s first race, has expanded its involvement with the team for 2023.

Interstate, based in Dallas, will be a primary JGR sponsor for 13 races, up from six races, the number it typically sponsored each year since 2008.

Christopher Bell and Ty Gibbs will run the majority of Interstate’s sponsorship races, but Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. also will carry the sponsor colors.

MORE: NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

“We’re extremely proud of our partnership with our founding sponsor, Interstate Batteries,” said team owner Joe Gibbs in a statement released by the team. “They have been such an important part of our team for over three decades now, and it’s exciting to have them on board all four of our cars this season. The best part of our partnership is the relationships we’ve built with everyone there over the years.”

Bell will carry Interstate sponsorship in Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum, the All-Star Race May 21, the Coca-Cola 600 May 28, at Texas Motor Speedway Sept. 24 and at Martinsville Oct. 29.

Gibbs, in his first full season in Cup racing, will be sponsored by Interstate at Daytona Feb. 19, Bristol April 9, Nashville June 25, Chicago July 2, Texas Sept. 24 and Charlotte Oct. 8.

Hamlin will ride with Interstate sponsorship March 26 at Circuit of the Americas, and Truex will be sponsored by Interstate July 23 at Pocono.

Interstate was a key JGR sponsor in the team’s first season in 1992.

NASCAR announces rule changes for 2023 season

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CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR announced a series of rule changes for the 2023 season that includes outlawing the move Ross Chastain made at Martinsville and eliminating stage breaks at all six Cup road course events.

NASCAR announced the changes in a session with reporters Tuesday at the NASCAR R&D Center.

Among new things for this season:

  • Updated penalty for a wheel coming off a car.
  • Change to the amount of time teams have to repair cars on pit road via the Damaged Vehicle Policy.
  • Change to playoff eligibility for drivers.
  • Cars could run in wet weather conditions on short ovals.
  • Expansion of the restart zone on a trial basis.
  • Choose rule will be in place for more races.

MORE: Ranking top 10 moments at the Clash

NASCAR updated its policy on a loose wheel. Previously, if a wheel came off a car during an event, it would be a four-race suspension for the crew chief and two pit crew members. That has changed this year.

If a wheel comes off a car while the vehicle is still on pit road, the vehicle restarts at the tail end of the field. If a wheel comes off a vehicle while it is on pit road under green-flag conditions, it is a pass-thru penalty.

The rule changes once a vehicle has left pit road and loses a wheel.

Any vehicle that loses a wheel on the track will be penalized two laps and have two pit crew members suspended for two races. The suspensions will go to those most responsible for the wheel coming off. This change takes away a suspension to the crew chief. The policy is the same for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks.

With some pit crew members working multiple series, the suspension is only for that series. So, if a pit crew member is suspended two races in the Xfinity Series for a wheel coming off, they can still work the Cup race the following day.

The Damaged Vehicle Policy clock will be 7 minutes this season. It had been six minutes last year and was increased to 10 minutes during the playoffs. After talking with teams, NASCAR has settled on seven minutes for teams to make repairs on pit road or be eliminated. Teams can replace toe links on pit road but not control arms. Teams also are not permitted to have specialized repair tools in the pits.

NASCAR will have a wet weather package for select oval tracks: the Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Lucas Oil Raceway Park, Martinsville, Milwaukee, New Hampshire, North Wilkesboro, Phoenix and Richmond.

Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition for NASCAR, said that teams have been told to show up at these events prepared for wet weather conditions as they would at a road course. That includes having a windshield wiper. Wet weather tires will be available. 

“Our goal here is to get back to racing as soon as possible,” Swayer said. “… If there’s an opportunity for us to get some cars or trucks on the racetrack and speed up that (track-drying) process and we can get back to racing, that’s what our goal is. We don’t want to be racing in full-blown rain (at those tracks) and we’ve got spray like we would on a road course.”

NASCAR stated that it is removing the requirement that a winning driver be in the top 30 in points in Cup or top 20 in Xfinity or Trucks to become eligible for the playoffs. As long as a driver is competing full-time — or has a waiver for the races they missed, a win will make them playoff eligible.

With the consultation of drivers, NASCAR is expanding the restart zone to give the leader more room to take off. NASCAR said it will evaluate if to keep this in place after the Atlanta race in March.

NASCAR stated the choose rule will be in effect for superspeedways and dirt races.

NASCAR eliminates stage breaks for Cup road course events

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CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR will do away with stage breaks in all six Cup road course races and select Xfinity and Truck races this season, but teams will continue to score stage points. 

NASCAR announced the change Tuesday in a session with reporters at the NASCAR R&D Center. 

MORE: NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

NASCAR stated there will be no stage breaks in the Cup road course events at Circuit of the Americas (March 26), Sonoma (June 11), Chicago street course (July 2), Indianapolis road course (Aug. 13), Watkins Glen (Aug. 20) and Charlotte Roval (Oct. 8).

There will be no stage breaks for Xfinity races at Circuit of the Americas (March 25), Sonoma (June 10), Chicago street course (July 1), Indianapolis road course (Aug. 12), Watkins Glen (Aug. 19) and Charlotte Roval (Oct. 7).

There will be no stage breaks for the Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas (March 25).

In those races, stage points will be awarded on a designated lap, but there will be no green-and-checkered flag and the racing will continue.

The only road course events that will have stage breaks will be Xfinity standalone races at Portland (June 3) and Road America (July 29) and the Truck standalone race at Mid-Ohio (July 8). Those events will keep stage breaks because they have non-live pit stops — where the field comes down pit road together and positions cannot be gained or lost provided the stop is completed in the prescribed time by NASCAR.

NASCAR has faced questions from fans and competitors about stage breaks during road course races because those breaks alter strategy in a more defined manner than on most ovals.

Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition for NASCAR, said the move away from stage breaks at road courses was made in collaboration with teams and response from fans.

“When we introduced stage racing … we took an element of strategy away from the event,” Sawyer. “Felt this (change) would bring some new storylines (in an event).”

NASCAR instituted stage breaks and stage points for the 2017 season and has kept the system in place since. NASCAR awards a playoff point to the stage winner along with 10 points. The top 10 at the end of a stage score points.

It wasn’t uncommon for many teams to elect to pit before the first stage in a road course race and eschew points to put themselves in better track position for the final two stages. By pitting early, they would be behind those who stayed out to collect the stage points. At the stage break, those who had yet to pit would do so, allowing those who stopped before the break to leapfrog back to the front.