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Keep track of Silly Season with this scorecard

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GMS Racing announced this week it won’t field a full-time Cup entry in 2018, removing a possible landing place for a driver or two for next season. As NASCAR heads to Darlington Raceway for the Southern 500, Silly Season continues.

Here’s a look at where Silly Season stands with less than three months left in the Cup season.

ANNOUNCED RIDES FOR 2018

Erik Jones will drive the No. 20 at Joe Gibbs Racing, replacing Matt Kenseth (announcement made July 11)

Alex Bowman will drive the No. 88 at Hendrick Motorsports, replacing Dale Earnhardt Jr. (announcement made July 20)

Brad Keselowski agrees to contract extension to drive the No. 2 car for Team Penske (announcement made July 25

Ryan Blaney moves to Team Penske to drive No. 12 car and signs a multi-year contract extension (announcement made July 26)

Paul Menard moves to Wood Brothers Racing to drive No. 21 car (announcement made July 26)

William Byron will drive the No. 24 at Hendrick Motorsports, replacing Kasey Kahne (announcement made Aug. 9)

Matt DiBenedetto will remain with Go Fas Racing in the team’s No. 32 car (announcement made Aug. 12)

Chris Buescher signs a multi-year contract to remain at JTG Daugherty driving the No. 37 car. (announcement made Aug. 18)

OPEN/POSSIBLY OPEN RIDES

— No. 10: Sponsorship has yet to be announced for next season, and Danica Patrick could be out. Patrick told USA Today on Aug. 5 that there’s “no buyout needed. I don’t have a sponsor. It’s contingent on the sponsor.’’  

— No. 27: Richard Childress Racing states it will announce its plans for a third Cup team at a later date with Paul Menard joining the Wood Brothers for next season.

— No. 41: Stewart-Haas Racing declined to pick up the option on Kurt Busch’s contract for next year on Aug. 1. Even so, the team tweeted that it expected Busch back with sponsor Monster Energy for next year. Busch told reporters Aug. 5 at Watkins Glen that “there are a couple of offers already, so we’ll see how things work out.’’  

— No. 77: With Erik Jones returning to JGR, team owner Barney Visser is looking to fill that seat. The first concern, though, is sponsorship. Visser told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Aug. 9: “We’ve got no sponsorship right now for the 77,” for next season. “So we’ve got to find something. We don’t want to give up that car, but if we don’t get sponsorship, we’ll have to.” Sponsor 5-Hour Energy has an option to return. The company can’t go to any other Cup team with Monster Energy as series sponsor.

AVAILABLE DRIVERS

Matt Kenseth: Out of the No. 20 after this season. Doesn’t have anything for next year at this point. At Bristol, Kenseth was asked about his plans for 2018. He said: “I’ll be honest with you … I’m not worried about (2018) even really one percent anymore to be honest with you. I’m just not concerned about it.’’  

Kurt Busch: With Stewart-Haas Racing declining to pick up his option for next year, Busch is a free agent. Even with Stewart-Haas Racing’s action, there’s still a chance Busch could sign a new deal to remain with the organization.

Kasey Kahne: The 2017 Brickyard 400 winner is available after Hendrick Motorsports announced it had released him from the final year of his contract. Rick Hendrick said Aug. 9 that he’s working to help Kahne land a ride for next season and hinted it could through an alliance with Hendrick Motorsports. 

Danica Patrick: Sponsorship uncertainty leaves her status murky for next year. She’s not looking for a ride in the Xfinity Series. “Cup only,’’ she said.  

Aric Almirola: Hasn’t been announced yet as returning to Richard Petty Motorsports next season. He’s tied closely to sponsor Smithfield, which also is in its final year with the team, but Richard Petty has said he’s confident Smithfield will return.

GMS Racing/Spencer Gallagher: GMS Racing confirmed on Aug. 30 that it will not have a full-time Cup entry in 2018. The organization, which fields teams in the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series, had looked into moving to Cup.

Darrell Wallace Jr.He continues to look for an opportunity after his Xfinity ride with Roush Fenway Racing went away in June because of lack of sponsorship and Aric Almirola returned from injury to the No. 43 in July after Wallace filled in for a few races. Wallace showed well in Almirola’s ride. Key is to find sponsorship. Wallace said Aug. 4 that he’s focused on finding a ride for next year with so few options left for this year.

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NASCAR America: Matt Kenseth tests unproven parts, finishes 18th at Kentucky

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Mid-pack racing is not something generally associated with veterans Kyle Larson and Matt Kenseth, but circumstances at Kentucky Speedway last week forced them into heavy traffic.

Kenseth is becoming the consummate team player – and as it turns out, the No. 6 car is being used as a test car with him behind the wheel, according to NASCAR America’s Parker Kligerman.

“This 6 car has become – it was said to me – a test car to try things to help the other car and most importantly help the 17 car of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. They are putting parts and things on this car they do not feel are race proven and therefore, if they see good things out of them, they can immediately put them … on the 17 car to hopefully help the 17 car of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. make the playoffs.”

Kenseth finished 19th in the Quaker State 400, which was the first time in seven starts at Kentucky that he finished outside of the top 10.

Larson’s troubles were self-made.

“He missed driver introductions; has to start at the back of the pack,” ” Kyle Petty said. “He drives this thing from the back of the pack up through the field. Is passing them inside, outside – outside on a track where one groove is not very wide.”

And while he salvaged a top 10 finish in ninth, Larson’s average running position was outside that mark with an 11.45.

David Ragan’s 18th-place finish was also notable to Kligerman.

“This was an impressive run for David Ragan and Front Row Motorsports because it’s kind of what they’re trying to do from the start of the season,” Kligerman said. “Bob Jenkins, the owner, made a large investment in the off season, they got a closer aligned with Roush Fenway … and this is the kind of run they want: top 20s.”

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter.

Truck practice report at Eldora

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FINAL PRACTICE

Stewart Friesen was the fastest in Tuesday’s final practice session at Eldora Speedway with a lap of 86.153 mph. He was followed by Sheldon Creed (85.874 mph), Chase Briscoe (85.784), Myatt Snider (85.789) and Todd Gilliland (85.727).

Cup driver Ryan Newman was 18th on the speed chart at 83.597 mph. Cup driver Ty Dillon was 25th on the speed chart at 82.839 mph.

Snider ran the most laps at 86. Next was Gilliland at 69.

Matt Crafton had the best average over 10 consecutive laps at 83.233 mph. He was followed by Logan Seavey (82.530 mph) and Tanner Thorson (82.251).

Click here for final practice report

FIRST PRACTICE

Myatt Snider posted the fastest time in the first practice session for the Eldora Dirt Derby at Eldora Speedway with a speed of 91.552 mph.

He beat second-place Stewart Friesen (91.403 mph) by .032 seconds. Friesen currently competes in both the Camping World Truck Series and DIRTcar’s Big Block modified division.

Grant Enfinger (91.264), Brett Moffitt (91.204) and last year’s winner Matt Crafton (91.176) round out the top five.

NASCAR Cup regular Ty Dillon was 16th on the speed chart at 90.457 mph. Ryan Newman (88.652) was 28th on the chart.

Click here for the compete practice report.

NASCAR America Scan All: Two sides to every story

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In NASCAR, there are almost always two sides to every incident. This week’s Scan All features contact between Jamie McMurray and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer, as well as Michael McDowell and Austin Dillon.

“You got a granola bar or something down there you can give me?” Clint Bowyer asked crew chief Mike Bugarewicz during the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway. Unfortunately, all they could find was a mini peanut butter and jelly sandwich. When Bowyer’s spotter chimed in to note that there were granola bars in the goodie bags, it left Bugarewicz wondering why he didn’t get one.

The absence of a snack bar may have been just the thing that kept Bowyer from winning because he lost his composure after losing “three [expletive] spots every time we come down pit road” a little later in the race.

Other highlights included:

  • “The 1 door slammed me.” – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  • “Check the right side, the 17 turned into me on the backstretch.” – Jamie McMurray
  • “I see now. I had the wrong line. Two lines there; sorry about that.” – Brad Keselowski
  • “Yellow line to yellow line.” – Paul Wolfe, Keselowski’s crew chief
  • “I gotta know how far away he is from my door in the corner.” – Ryan Blaney
  • “Let the 43 know that I’m racing here; get the hell out of the way.” – Michael McDowell

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter.

Goodyear to reassess Charlotte Roval tire after two open tests, chunking issue

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CONCORD, N.C. — Goodyear is reassessing what tire it will bring for the Sept. 29-30 race weekend on the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course following chunking issues with its primary tire during two days of open tests.

Select Cup teams utilized an alternate Goodyear tire, which was used during the final portion of Tuesday’s open test on the road course, Goodyear said in a statement.

The tire had a “slightly tougher compound” than the original tires used for the open tests and had been the control tire during a tire test held in the spring.

The decision to make the tire available was made following the July 10 test on the road course.

NBC Sports confirmed Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer‘s teams used the tire and Aric Almirola‘s did not.

“Drove about the same to me,” Logano told NBC Sports of the alternate tire. “Mainly, the control tire, whatever you want to call it, the normal tire, has some chunking problems, chunks coming out of both front and rears. Some lasted 15 laps, some lasted three laps. Just kind of random how that was. … I don’t know what’s different. I don’t know the technical part of what’s different, I just know it drove pretty similar and we didn’t have any issues with that tire. Good change.”

Goodyear released the following statement from Mark Keto, its project manager for NASCAR.

“Because we saw some of the things we saw during one of NASCAR’s open tests at the Charlotte road course last week, we decided to bring an alternate tire for teams to try at the end of day two, which was the control tire from our spring test here and has a slightly tougher compound than what we brought to our open tests. Bringing the alternate tire gives us an additional data point from which to work. We’ve had some extreme heat and track temperatures that we’ve tested under over these past two sessions, and that could be contributing to this situation, along with the way the cars going over the curbs and rumble strips as they search for the fastest way around this course. As we do after every test or on-track session, we will study all the data we’ve collected and come up with our best race recommendation.”

During his scheduled media availability Tuesday, Logano cited tires when he expressed approval for the removal of rumble strips from Turn 8, which exits on the oval’s Turn 1.

“I think those rumble strips probably weren’t doing any favors to the tire, anyway,” Logano said. “Getting those out is probably good. It probably gives Goodyear a margin to work with, which is a good thing. We’re going to run the same line anyway.”