Here’s your primer for Week 2 of the NASCAR Cup playoffs: New Hampshire

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Last week, we brought you a primer on what NASCAR fans should expect for both the overall 10-race Cup playoffs, as well as specifically for the playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway.

Thanks to our friends at Racing Insights, here’s some of the top points fans should know heading into this weekend’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon:

Breaking down the Playoffs:

The 16-driver field is made up of drivers from Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing (three drivers each); Chip Ganassi Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing and Richard Childress Racing (two drivers each), and single drivers each from Team Penske, Furniture Row Racing, Wood Brothers Racing and Roush Fenway Racing.

Chevrolet leads the way with seven drivers, followed by five from Ford and four from Toyota.

  • Two drivers making first playoff appearance (Ryan Blaney and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.)
  • One team making first playoff appearance (Wood Brothers).
  • Six past Cup champions who combined to win 10 of the last 11 championships.

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The return of Darian Grubb:

  • 23 Monster Energy Cup Series Wins (will now rank third among active crew chiefs).
  • 2006 Daytona 500 champion with Jimmie Johnson.
  • Won the 2006 Cup championship as lead engineer for Jimmie Johnson.
  • 2011 Cup championship with Tony Stewart.
  • Was last a Cup crew chief in 2015 with Carl Edwards.
  • Returned to Hendrick Motorsports in 2016 as vehicle production director.
  • Served as Director of Competition Systems in most recent role at Hendrick.
  • Graduate of VA Tech with a Mechanical Engineering degree.
  • Becomes the fifth crew chief to work with Kasey Kahne in his Cup career.

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Most Career NASCAR Cup Wins by Active Crew Chiefs:

Chad Knaus (81,) 
Todd Parrott (31), 
Darian Grubb (23), 
Paul Wolfe (22
), and Alan Gustafson (20) (Note: Gustafson is the only active crew chief with at least 20 wins who doesn’t have a Cup championship)

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Jimmie Johnson Can Turn it On During the Playoff Races:

Comparing his wins in the 26 races of the regular season to playoff races since 2004 …

Johnson’s starts and wins: Regular season: 339 and 45 (13 percent winning percentage); playoff races: 131 starts and 29 wins (22 percent).

Jimmie Johnson’s 2016 Regular Season Compared to 2017:

Season 2016 vs. 2017 
: Poles 1, 0
 Wins 2, 3

Season 2016 vs. 2017:  Top fives: 7, 3 Top 10s: 10, 8 Laps Led: 266, 188 DNFs: 4,  5 Avg. Finish 15.27, 16.69

  • Johnson won the 2016 Championship after winning three times in the Playoffs
  • Johnson led 471 laps in the 2016 playoffs after entering with only 266 led

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Hendrick Motorsports’ Dry Spell at New Hampshire:

  • Hendrick Motorsports has nine wins at New Hampshire, but the last was in July 2012 with Kasey Kahne.
  • Hendrick has won on 15 different tracks for a total of 45 wins since they got their last win at New Hampshire.
  • Hendrick doesn’t have a top-five finish at New Hampshire since Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished fifth there in July 2015.
  • As a team, Hendrick has led 14 total laps at New Hampshire in the last seven races there.

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Oldest track surfaces:

All three tracks in Round 1 are among the top five oldest race surfaces in the Cup Series:

  • Dover, concrete (last paved 1995)
  • Atlanta, asphalt (1997)
  • Fontana, asphalt (1997)
  • Chicagoland, asphalt (2001)
  • New Hampshire, asphalt (2002)

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Martin Truex Jr.‘s nickname should be “The Dominator”:

Martin Truex Jr. comes into New Hampshire either leading or ranked second in a number of categories thus far this season.

Here’s the categories where he’s ranked first: wins (five), top 10s (18), laps led (1,723), average start (6.78), stage wins (18), stage points (359), playoff points (58).

Truex is also ranked second in top fives (tied) and average finish (11.0).

New Hampshire has been good to the Truex family: Father Martin, Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Truex have all gone to victory lane at New Hampshire in the NASCAR K&N East Series (Formerly NASCAR Busch North Series).

Year and Winner: 1994, Martin Truex; 2000, Martin Truex Jr.; 2003, Martin Truex Jr.; 2010, Ryan Truex (twice).

  • Truex Jr. has never won in 23 career Cup starts at the 1.058-mile flat track.

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Most Laps Led at New Hampshire All-time without a Win:

Martin Truex Jr., 549 laps; Dale Earnhardt Jr., 378; Ricky Craven, 169; Sterling Marlin, 154; Juan Pablo Montoya, 149; Bobby Hamilton, 146; Carl Edwards, 139.

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Playoff Insights:
• Martin Truex Jr won two of the three races in the round of 16 in 2016 including Chicagoland
• The winner of the first race of the playoffs went on to win the Championship three times: 2004 Kurt Busch, 2011 Tony Stewart and 2012 Brad Keselowski. Both Stewart’s and Keselowski’s wins came at Chicagoland.
• All drivers were running at the finish in Chicagoland, it was the fourth time all drivers were running at the finish of a playoff race the last three came in the last three Chicagoland races
• Only 22 of 131 playoff races were won by non playoff drivers, the last time a non playoff driver won a race was Dale Earnhardt Jr at Phoenix in November 2015
• Championship eligible drivers won the last 12 playoff races
• The last 11 playoff races were won by five drivers: Jimmie Johnson 3 wins, Martin Truex Jr 3 wins, Joey Logano 2 wins, Kevin Harvick 2 wins, Carl Edwards 1 win
• Jimmie Johnson won at least one playoff race in every year of the playoffs (2004-2016)
• Jimmie Johnson has won the Championship in 54% of the years the playoffs has existed
• Joey Logano won all three races of the second round in 2015 it is the only time in the elimination format that a driver swept an entire round.
• A driver has won the first two races of the playoffs three times: Greg Biffle 2008, Tony Stewart 2011 and Matt Kenseth 2013. Stewart was the only driver to go on to win the Championship.
• Three drivers have won races during the playoffs in all three years of the elimination format: Kevin
Harvick, Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson
• Kurt Busch (2004) is the only driver to win the Championship in his first Playoff appearance, 2004 was the first year of the playoffs
• Only two of the 131 Playoff races were won by drivers getting their first MENCS win: Clint Bowyer 2007 at New Hampshire and Brian Vickers 2006 at Talladega
• Each manufacture won two of the last six playoff races in this order: Ford, Chevy, Toyota, Ford, Chevy, Toyota
• The driver who led the most laps failed to win the last seven playoff races
• In six of the last seven playoff races the winner did not lead for the first time until after half way
• There were no cautions for incidents in the first two stages at Chicagoland
• Four cautions at Chicagoland is tied for the fewest cautions in the last 12 playoff races, two of those
cautions were for stage breaks
• 10 different playoff drivers scored stage points at Chicagoland: Eight scored in stage 1, nine scored in stage 2

NASCAR Power Rankings: Racing through the numbers

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Some drivers carry one car number throughout their racing careers. The most famous racers in NASCAR’s 75-year history typically are associated with one number, although some have raced under several.

Victories, championships and driver personalities give life to something as generally mundane as a number. And the most popular produce even bigger numbers, as in sales of T-shirts, caps and other souvenirs.

Here’s a look at 10 of the most iconic NASCAR numbers:

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. 43 — Since Richard Petty’s emergence as a superstar in the 1960s, the number 43 has been NASCAR’s most iconic. Although Lee Petty, Richard’s father, usually drove No. 42, he actually scored the first win by the 43, in 1959. The Petty blue No. 43 carried Richard to a string of championships. He scored 192 of his 200 race wins with the number. It rolls on today with Erik Jones, who took the 43 to the Southern 500 victory lane this season.

2. 3 — The fiercely facing forward No. 3 became ultra-famous while driven by seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt (although Earnhardt won his first title driving the No. 2). Earnhardt’s black Chevrolet carried the number to new heights, but Fireball Roberts, David Pearson, Junior Johnson, Buck Baker, Buddy Baker and Ricky Rudd, among others, also won in the car.

MORE: Where are they now? Buddy Parrott

3. 21 — The list of drivers who have raced Wood Brothers Racing’s famous No. 21, with the familiar gold foil numbers, reads like a history of NASCAR. David Pearson brought the most fame to the number, but Tim Flock, Curtis Turner, team owner Glen Wood, Cale Yarborough, A.J. Foyt, Donnie Allison, Neil Bonnett and Dale Jarrett also have driven the 21.

4. 11 — This number is responsible for more race wins — 228 — than any other. It also has scored eight championships — three each by Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough and two by Ned Jarrett. Other stars in the 11 over the years: Junior Johnson, Bobby Allison, A.J. Foyt, Terry Labonte, Geoffrey Bodine, Bill Elliott and Denny Hamlin. And some guy named Mario Andretti.

5. 48 — This number was largely ignored until the arrival of Jimmie Johnson, who carried it to seven championships, including five in a row.

6. 24 — The number 24 was a lonely number until 1994 when a kid named Jeff Gordon drove it to its first win, in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The brightly colored 24 became a regular visitor to victory lane from that point forward, carrying Gordon to four championships and becoming one of NASCAR’s most decorated numbers.

MORE: Will Kyle Busch follow footsteps of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning?

7. 18 — Although Dale Jarrett and Bobby Labonte won in the 18, Kyle Busch, draped in the bright colors of sponsor M&Ms, took it into new territory.

8. 22 — NASCAR’s first Cup champion (Red Byron) and its most recent (Joey Logano) rode with the 22. The number has produced 87 wins over the years, including victories by Fireball Roberts, Bobby Allison, Ward Burton, Kurt Busch, Byron and Logano.

9. 2 — Although the 2 carried Dale Earnhardt (1980) and Brad Keselowski (2012) to Cup championships, it is perhaps most identified with Rusty Wallace, whose menacing black No. 2 was powerful at Team Penske. Also successful in the 2: Bill Blair, Kurt Busch and Austin Cindric, this year’s Daytona 500 winner.

10. 9 — The 9 was basically nondescript until Bill Elliott roared out of the north Georgia mountains to turn it into a big winner in the mid-1980s. His son, Chase, continues the trend.

 

 

Truck Series: Rajah Caruth joins GMS Racing

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Rajah Caruth will drive the No. 24 truck full-time for GMS Racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2023, the team announced Tuesday.

The 20-year-old Caruth ran a full season in the ARCA Menards Series last year, placing third in points. He also made seven Xfinity starts and four Truck starts last year. 

“I am extremely honored, and really excited to join GMS Racing and be in the fold of a professional race team with so much history,” Caruth said in a statement from the team. “I’ve been waiting for an opportunity like this throughout my whole career, and I’m going to do the best in my power to make the most of it.

“First and foremost, I can’t thank everybody at GMS enough for believing in me and believing that I have what it takes to drive one of their trucks. Same goes for everybody at Chevrolet for their support, we truly wouldn’t be able to make this happen without them. 

Caruth joins Grant Enfinger and Daniel Dye as GMS Racing’s full-time Craftsman Truck Series drivers. Chad Walter will be Caruth’s crew chief. Jeff Hensley will be Enfinger’s crew chief. Travis Sharpe will be Dye’s crew chief. 

The primary partner on Caruth’s truck will be the Wendell Scott Foundation. The foundation, named for the first Black driver to win a NASCAR Cup race, seeks to provide resources and services to underprivileged Black youth communities near Scott’s hometown of Danville, Virginia. Since the foundation’s formation in 2011, more than 25 students have been awarded more than $50,000 from the Wendell Scott Legacy Scholarship programs.

“We are excited for Rajah to compete full-time with GMS Racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2023,” said Dayne Pierantoni, GM Racing Program Manager for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. “Through Chevrolet’s partnership with Rev Racing, we have been impressed with Rajah’s talent both on and off the track. He has proven his ability to compete at the NASCAR national level, and we look forward to seeing his continued success with a series championship winning team.”

The Truck season begins Feb. 17 at Daytona International Speedway. 

In other Truck Series news:

Dean Thompson will drive the No. 5 for TRICON Garage this coming season. The 21-year-old was a rookie in the series this past season. He had a season-best finish of 11th at Las Vegas.

“I am thrilled to start the next chapter of my career with TRICON Garage and Toyota Racing Development,” Thompson said in a statement from the team. “The team and manufacturer have quickly made a statement in the Truck Series as striving to be the best of the best. I’m ready to take on the challenge and live up to the expectations of being a driver for TRICON.”

McAnally Hilgemann Racing announced Tuesday that Christian Eckes and Jake Garcia will drive full-time in the Truck series for the team next season.

Eckes, who will drive the No. 19 truck, moves over from ThorSport Racing. Garcia will drive the No. 35 truck in pursuit of the series Rookie of the Year award.

NAPA AutoCare will continue as a team sponsor.

Garcia is 17 and is scheduled to make his first start March 3 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Because of NASCAR’s age restrictions, he will miss the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. The team’s Daytona driver has not been announced.

Sponsor adds more races in 2023 with Josh Berry

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Jarrett Companies will increase the number of races it will sponsor Josh Berry‘s No. 8 JR Motorsports ride in 2023, the Xfinity Series team announced Monday.

Jarrett Companies will sponsor Berry in six races after serving as the primary sponsor in three races in 2022. Those six races will be Phoenix (March 11), Richmond (April 1), Dover (April 29), Atlanta (July 8), Indianapolis (Aug. 12) and Texas (Sept. 23).

The deal gives Berry at least 26 races with sponsorship for next season. Bass Pro Shops will serve as the primary sponsor of Berry’s car in 11 races in 2023. Tire Pros is back with JRM and will sponsor Berry in nine races in the upcoming season.

Berry, who reached the Xfinity title race and finished fourth in the points, will have a new crew chief in 2023. Taylor Moyer will take over that role with Mike Bumgarner serving as JRM’s director of competition.

The 2023 Xfinity season begins Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway.

 

Where are they now? Buddy Parrott enjoying down time

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Buddy Parrott played outsized roles in two of the most dramatic races in NASCAR history.

Now 83 years old and retired from the sport since 2001, Parrott looks back on those two days as highlights of a career that began in the early 1970s.

In the 1990 Daytona 500, champion driver Dale Earnhardt seemed on course to end his frustration in NASCAR’s biggest event. He held the lead roaring down the backstretch on the last lap. Suddenly, Earnhardt slowed with a blown tire.

The lead was inherited by Derrike Cope, who charged to the checkered flag to score one of racing’s biggest upsets.

Parrott was Cope’s crew chief.

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings: Memorable quotes through the years

In 1984, Richard Petty edged Cale Yarborough to win the summer race at Daytona International Speedway. It was Petty’s 200th – and final – win.

Parrott was Petty’s crew chief.

Those victories were high marks in a long pit-road career that saw Parrott’s drivers win dozens of races. He worked with, among others, Darrell Waltrip, Rusty Wallace, Jeff Burton and Petty and for team owners Jack Roush and Roger Penske.

Parrott remains active at 83, although he admits to having moved to a slower gear.

“I haven’t been living on the edge,” Parrott told NBC Sports. “I’ve been taking it really easy. I told my sons when you get to be 80 you can do anything you want because basically you’ve already done it.”

MORE: NASCAR, ARCA 2023 schedules

His strongest current connection to NASCAR is as a voter in the annual Hall of Fame balloting.

After more than 20 years roaming pit roads as a crew chief, Parrott moved into a general manager role at Roush Racing in 1997. He retired four years later and didn’t look back.

“I finally told Jack one day, ‘I don’t have time to ride my motorcycle,’ ” Parrott said. “He looked at me and said, ‘What do you want to do about it?’ I said, ‘I’m ready to retire.’ He told me I could work whatever schedule I wanted, but I decided that was it. I didn’t have a going-away thing or whatever.”

Parrott spent much of the next 15 years traveling with his wife, Judy, who died in 2016, and playing with his grandchildren.

“I had a great time in retirement because Judy was ready and I was ready,” he said. “We had a lot of fun. We’d go to Florida for two and three months at a time. I’m so happy that I didn’t hang on and go to the shop every day and try to find something to do. I spent that time with Judy, and we had 16 years of good retirement.”

Parrott, a native of Gastonia, N.C., lives in Statesville, N.C. His sons, Todd and Brad, also were NASCAR crew chiefs.

MORE: Jody Ridley’s Dover win an upset for the ages

Parrott is perhaps best remembered as crew chief for Rusty Wallace, Team Penske and the No. 2 black cars sponsored by Miller Lite. From 1992-94, they won 19 races and were consistently competitive at the front.

“I still get a lot of cards sent to me to sign from those years,” Parrott said. “I can say that was some of the happiest times I had. Those years with Rusty – and then with Jack Roush – really stand out. And who in the hell could not have fun having a beer sponsor?”