Getty Images

Here’s everything you need to know about Xfinity Series playoff opener at Kentucky

Leave a comment

The NASCAR Xfinity Series kicks off its seven-race playoffs Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway in the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300.

Thanks to our friends at Racing Insights, here’s a primer on the race, the 12 drivers that have qualified for the playoffs, and the history of Kentucky Speedway:

Kentucky Notes

  • This weekend’s race is the 23rd NXS event at Kentucky Speedway and the first of the 2017 Playoffs
  • The stage end laps for this weekend’s race are lap 45, lap 90 and lap 200
  • 2017 is the sixth season where the NXS will race twice a year at Kentucky, Kentucky will host only one race in 2018
  • The first NXS race at Kentucky was in June 2001 and was won by Kevin Harvick
  • The last eight races at Kentucky were won from a top-seven starting position
  • 20 of the 22 NXS Kentucky races were won from a top-10 starting position including eight from pole
  • Kyle Busch, with two, is the only repeat winner at Kentucky in the last seven races
  • Joe Gibbs Racing drivers won the pole for the last four races at Kentucky with three different drivers
  • Joe Gibbs Racing (five), Team Penske (five), Richard Childress Racing (three) and JR Motorsports (two) combined won the last 15 NXS races at Kentucky
  • The pass for the win came in the final nine laps in five of the last seven races at Kentucky
  • The winner of only two of the last 10 races at Kentucky got his first win of the season
  • Two races at Kentucky ended in an overtime finish (9/15 and 7/16)
  • The driver leading the most laps won only two of the last seven races at Kentucky
  • There were 12 cautions in this race last year, the most ever in a NXS race at Kentucky, the average green flag stretch was 10 laps
  • The track record set July 2016 of 187.318 mph (28.828 seconds) by Kyle Busch was over six MPH faster than the prior track record set in June 2005 by Carl Edwards (181.287 mph, 28.787 seconds)
  • Eight of the last 11 poles at Kentucky were won by Non-Cup Competitors
  • 11 of the 22 NXS Kentucky races were won by Non-Cup Competitors including six of the last 11
  • Elliott Sadler led only 11 laps when he won at Kentucky last September, the fewest led by a winner in the last 16 races there
  • The final green flag stretch was nine laps or less in seven of the last nine races at Kentucky
  • Austin Dillon, 2012, is the only driver to sweep both races at Kentucky in a season; his first two NXS wins came at Kentucky in 2012
  • There were eight speeding penalties at Kentucky in July, more than the prior three races at Kentucky combined
  • The last driver to recover from an in race infraction at Kentucky to go on to win was Joey Logano in June 2009 who rebounded from a speeding penalty to win
  • Joe Gibbs Racing drivers led 437 of the 601 laps raced at Kentucky since the repave prior to 2016 (73%)
  • Ryan Blaney is the only driver to finish in the top-10 in all three races at Kentucky since the reconfiguration

1.5 Mile Track Highlights

  • This weekend’s race is seventh race on a 1.5 mile track in 2017
  • Five of the seven Playoff races in 2017 are on 1.5 mile tracks
  • Justin Allgaier won at Chicagoland last week from a starting position of 14th, the only race won from outside a top-10 starting position on a 1.5 mile track in the last 24 races
  • Five drivers won the six races on 1.5 mile tracks in 2017, Kyle Busch with two is the only repeat winner
  • Only two of the last 10 races on 1.5 mile tracks were won by Non-Cup competitors (Justin Allgaier at Chicagoland in 2017 and Daniel Suarez at Homestead in 2016)

Who is Hot Entering Kentucky:

No. 20 Ryan Preece

  • Won at Iowa and finished second at New Hampshire in his two starts in 2017, both with JGR
  • Finished 15th and 30th in his two NXS Kentucky starts
  • 15th place finish at Kentucky in July 2016 is his best finish on a 1.5 mile track

No. 3 Brian Scott

  • Finished third at Iowa in 2017 in his only start of 2017
  • Finished Kentucky best second in September 2014, one of two top-10 finishes at the track
  • Finished top-10 in each of his last two starts on 1.5 mile tracks but his last was at Homestead in Nov. 2015

No. 22 Sam Hornish Jr.

  • Won two of his last seven starts including a win at Mid-Ohio in his last
  • Finished top-10 in five of his six NXS Kentucky starts with a best finish of second in September 2012
  • Making his first NXS start on a 1.5 mile track since finishing fourth in this race last year

No. 7 Justin Allgaier (Second in playoffs)

  • 13 top-10s in 2017 with two wins (Phoenix and Chicagoland)
  • 495 laps led in 2017 are his most ever in a single season
  • Finished top-10 in five of the last seven races of 2017
  • Six top-10 finishes in 10 NXS Kentucky starts
  • Top-10 finishes in three of the last five races on 1.5 mile tracks including his win at Chicagoland last race

No. 9 William Byron (First in playoffs)

  • Won three of the last 13 races of 2017
  • Finished in the top-10 in 11 of the last 14 races (finished 25th at Mid-Ohio, 22nd at Bristol and 33rd at Chicagoland)
  • Finished seventh at Kentucky in July in his only NXS start at the track
  • Won the 2016 Truck race at Kentucky
  • Best finish in the NXS on a 1.5 mile track is seventh (three times)

No. 00 Cole Custer (Eighth in playoffs)

  • 13 top-10 finishes in 2017 including four top-five finishes
  • Finished top-10 in seven of the last 10 races of 2017
  • Led 41 laps last race at Chicagoland, more than he had in his career prior
  • Has never finished in the top-10 at Kentucky (finished 32nd and 11th in his two NXS starts there and 14th in his only Truck start there)
  • Five top-10 finishes in 10 starts on 1.5 mile tracks with a best of fourth at Charlotte in May 2016

No. 1 Elliott Sadler (Third in playoffs)

  • 19 top-10 finishes and 11 top-five finishes in 2017 lead all drivers
  • Regular season champion
  • One win (9/16) and eight top-10 finishes at Kentucky in 12 starts
  • Finished third at Chicagoland last race, his 11th top-10 finish on a 1.5 mile track in the last 13 races

No. 48 Brennan Poole (Fifth in playoffs)

  • Finished top-10 in seven of the last 10 races of 2017, 12 times total
  • Won his first NXS pole at Daytona-2
  • Two top-10 finishes in five NXS Kentucky starts
  • 2014 ARCA win at Kentucky
  • Only one top-10 finish on a 1.5 mile track this season (eighth at Charlotte)

No. 21 Daniel Hemric (Fourth in playoffs)

  • Finished top-10 in 12 of his 26 NXS starts with a best finish of second at Mid-Ohio
  • Finished top-10 in six of the last nine races of 2017
  • Three of his five top-five finishes in 2017 came in the last six races
  • Three top-10s in the six races on 1.5 mile tracks in 2017 (best of fourth at Chicagoland last race)
  • Finished ninth at Kentucky in July in his only NXS start at the track

Not Hot Entering Kentucky:

No. 42 Tyler Reddick

  • Three top-10 finishes in 2017 in 14 starts but none in his last five starts
  • Finished 10th at Kentucky in July in his only start at the track in the NXS, it was his last top-10 finish
  • Finished 10th in two of his three NXS stats on 1.5 mile tracks

No. 62 Brendan Gaughan (11th in Playoffs)

  • Only seven top-10 finishes in 2017, had 13 through 26 races in 2016
  • Matched his best finish of 2017 at Road America (fifth)
  • Eight top-10 finishes at Kentucky are his most of all tracks
  • Last NXS win came at Kentucky in this race in 2014
  • Finished ninth at Charlotte, only top-10 finish on a 1.5 mile track this season

No. 5 Michael Annett (12th in Playoffs)

  • Finished NXS best second at Road America but it is his only finish better than 12th in the last 12 races
  • Only three stage top-10 finishes in 2017, all three on plate tracks
  • Five top-10 finishes at Kentucky are his most on a track
  • Only two top-15 finishes on 1.5 mile tracks this season

No. 23 Spencer Gallagher

  • Finished 10th at Richmond in April, his second career top-10 finish, but has only four top-15 finishes this season
  • Finished 14th at Chicagoland, his best finish in the last 10 races
  • Finished 13th at Kentucky in July in his only NXS start there, his second best finish of 2017
  • Finished top-14 in three of the last four races on 1.5 mile tracks

No. 33 Brandon Jones

  • Only three top-10 finishes in 2017 and none in the last seven races
  • Had 11 top-10 finishes after 26 races in 2017 and was in the playoffs
  • Finished 12th at Chicagoland, his best finish in the last seven races of 2017
  • Finished fifth at Kentucky in September 2015, his only top-10 finish in four starts
  • Only one top-10 finish in the last 11 races on 1.5 mile tracks

No. 16 Ryan Reed (Sixth in playoffs)

  • Has a win and five top-10 finishes in 2017
  • Finished 12th at Richmond, his best finish in his last eight races
  • Finished seventh in this race last year, his best finish in seven Kentucky starts
  • Only two top-10 finishes on 1.5 mile tracks but both came in the last 11 races

Warm Entering Kentucky:

No. 11 Blake Koch (Ninth in Playoffs)

  • Only four top-10 finishes in 2017 but three of the four came in the last eight races
  • Finished top-14 in seven of the last eight races of 2017 including the last six
  • 11 NXS Kentucky starts with a best finish of 11th in this race last year
  • Two top-10 finishes on 1.5 mile tracks (ninth at Kansas in 10/16 and ninth at Chicagoland 9/17)

No. 19 Matt Tifft (10th in playoffs)

  • Seven top-10 finishes in 2017
  • Finished top-10 in three of the last six races of 2017 including his career best finish of third (twice)
  • Finished top-15 in all three starts at Kentucky, his most of all-tracks, including two top-10s (best of fifth in this race last year)
  • Six top-10 finishes in 12 starts on 1.5 mile tracks

No. 18 Kyle Benjamin

  • Started on the front-row in all four NXS starts but has only one top-15 finish (second at Iowa2)
  • Making his first NXS start on a 1.5 mile track

Also in playoffs:

No. 51 Jeremy Clements (7th in playoffs)

• Win at Road America put him into the Playoffs and gave him his five Playoff points
• Finished the regular season 17th in points
• One top-five finish and two top-10 finishes in 2017 (win at Road America, seventh at Iowa1)
• 13 NXS Kentucky starts with a best finish of 12th (twice) including this race last year
• Best NXS final season point ranking prior to 2017 was 14th in 2012 and 2015

Recent NXS Trends

  • 14 different drivers won the 26 races in 2017
  • Nine races in 2017 were won by Non-Cup Competitors, five of the nine were won by JR Motorsports drivers
  • Seven of the last 13 races of 2017 were won by Non-Cup Competitors
  • The driver leading the most laps failed to win in seven of the last 11 races including the last four
  • 15 of the last 17 races of 2017 were won from a top-eight starting position, Jeremy Clements won from 24th at Road America (the lowest starting position of a race winner this season) and Justin Allgaier won from 14th at Chicagoland last race
  • Six of the last 11 races of 2017 were won from pole
  • The final green flag stretch was eight laps or less in six of the last eight races of 2017
  • The final green flag stretch at New Hampshire was 104 laps, the longest green flag stretch in a race this season
  • Five races in 2017 were won by drivers rebounding from pit road infractions: Ryan Reed at Daytona (Crew over wall too soon), Kyle Larson at Auto Club Speedway (Speeding), Erik Jones at Bristol (Speeding), Kyle Busch at Watkins Glen (Drove thru too many boxes) and Kyle Busch at Bristol-2 (Speeding)
  • Two races in 2017 were won from drivers starting in the rear under penalty: Ryan Blaney at Charlotte and William Byron at Daytona2
  • Sam Hornish Jr.’s pole time at Mid-Ohio set a new track record, Brad Keselowski’s round one time set a new track record at Las Vegas, Kyle Larson’s pole winning time at Bristol set a new track record
  • 19 stages in 2017 were won by NXS eligible drivers: Elliott Sadler (five), Justin Allgiaer (three), William Byron, Daniel Hemric and Blake Koch (two), Darrell Wallace Jr. , Brendan Gaughan, Ryan Preece, Sam Hornish Jr. and James Davison (one)
  • Nine of the 26 races in 2017 were slowed due to red flags
  • There were 12 cautions at Charlotte, most in a race this season
  • There were only three cautions at Pocono, New Hampshire and Richmond2, the fewest in a race this season
  • Five races in 2017 ended with an overtime finish (Daytona-1, Richmond, Daytona-2, Iowa-2 and Darlington)
  • 11 of the 25 poles in 2017 were won by Non-Cup competitors
  • Eight drivers won their first pole in 2017, only one driver got his first pole in 2016 and only two in 2015
  • The pass for the win came in the final 10 laps in 10 of the 26 races this season and in the final four laps seven times
  • Two races in 2017 ended with a last lap pass for the win (Pocono and Michigan)
  • Four races in 2017 had issues with weather: Bristol (slowed mid-race), Daytona2 (started one day, completed another and slowed mid-race), Kentucky (postponed from Friday night to Saturday), New Hampshire (slowed mid-race)
  • Only twice has a driver swept both stages and won the race: Brad Keselowski at Pocono and Kyle Busch at Bristol-2

NXS 2017 Season Breakdown:

* Different Winners: 14
* Different Pole Winners: 15
* Non Cup Winners: 6 (William Byron-3, Justin Allgaier -2, Sam Hornish Jr., Ryan Preece, Ryan Reed and Jeremy Clements-1)
* Most Wins: 5- Kyle Busch
* Most Poles: 7- Kyle Busch
* Most Runner Ups: 5 – Ryan Blaney
* Most Top-fives: 11 – Elliott Sadler
* Most Top-10s: 19 –Elliott Sadler
* Most Laps Led: 731 – Kyle Busch

Among NXS Eligible Drivers

* Most Stage Wins: 5- Elliott Sadler (Brad Keselowski has the most of all drivers with eight)
* Most Stage Top-fives: 24 – Elliott Sadler
* Most Stage Top-10s: 36 –Elliott Sadler

Best Finishing NXS Driver in each Race:
* Daytona: Ryan Reed 1st
* Atlanta: Elliott Sadler 5th
* Las Vegas: Justin Allgaier 4th
* Phoenix: Justin Allgaier 1st
* Auto Club Speedway: William Byron 5th
* Texas: Cole Custer 5th
* Bristol: Elliott Sadler 4th
* Richmond: Justin Allgaier 2nd
* Talladega: Elliott Sadler 2nd
* Charlotte: Cole Custer 7th
* Dover: Cole Custer 4th
* Pocono: Justin Allgaier 2nd
* Michigan: William Byron 2nd
* Iowa: William Byron 1st
* Daytona: William Byron 1st
* Kentucky: William Byron 7th
* New Hampshire: Ryan Preece 2nd
* Indianapolis: William Byron 1st
* Iowa: Ryan Preece 1st
* Watkins Glen: Justin Allgaier 4th
* Mid-Ohio: Sam Hornish Jr. 1st
* Bristol2: Elliott Sadler 3rd
* Road America: Jeremy Clements 1st
* Darlington: William Byron 5th
* Richmond: Daniel Hemric 4th
* Chicagoland: Justin Allgaier 1st

Track History

  • The founder and developer of Kentucky Speedway was Jerry Carroll the former owner of Turfway Park. The speedway is located in Sparta KY the county seat of Gallatin County the smallest county by land area in Kentucky. The county has under 9,000 residents. Sparta has an area of 5.6 square miles and a population under 300.The track has hosted the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series since the 2000 season and the NASCAR Nationwide Series since 2001. Indy Car races were held from 2000 to 2011.
  • Constructed on 850 acres, 63 miles from Louisville, 35 miles from Cincinnati, and 150 miles from Indianapolis, Kentucky Speedway is a 1.5-mile tri-oval with 14-degree banking in the turns and a 1,600-foot backstretch. The tri-oval is 57-feet wide and includes a 12-foot apron. The facility also includes a paved quarter-mile track. Ground was broke July 18, 1998; Opened June 16, 2000; Cost: $153,000,000. Was the largest excavation project ever in Kentucky. Nearly 7 million people live within a 100-mile radius
  • Kentucky Speedway opened with 66,000 seats, went to 106,000 Seats in 2011 and to 86,000 seats in 2017.
  • Parking For More Than 50,000 Cars (was 30,000 in 2011)
  • After many years of campaigning for a Cup race, the track was sold to Speedway Motorsports, Inc. (SMI) on January 1, 2009 for $78.3 million. On August 10, 2010, NASCAR announced a Sprint Cup Race at Kentucky Speedway in 2011 as part of a triple header weekend. The weekend took the place of the Chicagoland Speedway date, which moved to September to be the leadoff race in the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup. It was the first Cup race awarded to a track since 2001.
  • In June 2012 the State of Kentucky completed projects that expanded Kentucky Highway 35 to seven lanes, widened the I-71 ramp to Ky. Hwy. 35 to three lanes and constructed a pedestrian tunnel that connects the massive Ford Parking lot east of Ky. Hwy. 35 to Kentucky Speedway. In addition to acquiring and engineering 170 new acres for the Ford Parking lot, Kentucky Speedway converted 50 new acres of previously unusable land to parking and added gravel aisles to 100 acres of previously all-grass parking. In total, the projects yielded parking for an additional 20,000 vehicles compared to 2011 bringing the total to 50,000. These changes eliminated the horrendous traffic/parking snafus from the inaugural race in 2011.
  • Kentucky Speedway did a complete repave of the track for the 2016 season, and also reconfigured turns 1-2.
  • — Turn 1-2 banking changed from 14 degrees to 17 degrees
  • — Turn 1-2 narrowed from 74 feet to 56 feet
  • — Banking in the tri-oval was changed from 8 degrees to 8-10 degrees
  • — 3,200 feet of SAFER-Barrier was added
  • Kentucky Speedway added an additional surface repave in October 2016

Kentucky State Factoids

  • The Kentucky Derby is the oldest continuously held horse race in the country. It is held at Churchill Downs in Louisville on the first Saturday in May.
  • Chevrolet Corvettes are manufactured in Bowling Green.
  • The first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant owned and operated by Colonel Sanders is located in Corbin, KY.

 

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Watch NASCAR America’s MotorSports Hour 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN

NBC Sports
Leave a comment

Today’s episode of NASCAR America presents the MotorSports Hour runs from 5 to 6 p.m. ET, where we break down news not just in NASCAR but also IndyCar, Supercross and other racing series.

Our analysts will be Marty Snider, Parker Kligerman and AJ Allmendinger.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it 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 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

With a new track layout, Sonoma gets new fan viewing area with ‘The Point’

Sonoma Raceway
Leave a comment

When NASCAR returns to Sonoma Raceway June 21-23, it will do so to compete on a slightly different road course than what they’ve competed on since 1998.

For the track’s 50th anniversary, it will return to its original 12-turn, 2.52-mile circuit.

That utilizes the “Carousel” portion of the track, a sweeping downhill corner from Turn 4 down through Turns 5 and 6 to the facility’s longest straightaway before reaching the Turn 7 hairpin.

With the reintroduction of the “Carousel,” Sonoma is introducing a new area for fans to enjoy that area of the track.

The track has rebranded the peninsula between Turns 1 and 6 as “The Point.” This area offers up-close views of both corners, as well as a direct perspective of the start/finish line and flag stand.

“The Point” will be upgraded with a 1,550-square-foot Humboldt Redwood shade structure, more than 700 feet of stand-up bars along the fence line and new food and beverage locations. Access to the area is free to all fans, and terrace seating is available on the hillside adjacent to Turn 1.

 

In the drivers seat: A look at one of the coolest jobs in NASCAR

Photo: Dustin Long
Leave a comment

Some moments they are Joey Logano. Other times they are Jimmie Johnson. Or Kevin Harvick. Or some other driver.

This isn’t a video game or make-believe. This is role-playing in the real world: They pilot a Cup car. Crew members leap from the wall. Air guns whine. Lug nuts fly.

Cup drivers rarely have time to take part in pit practice. So someone has to drive the car. That perk typically goes to an entry-level employee whose duties often include gluing lug nuts to wheels, stacking tires and monitoring air tanks.

Mark Morrison said he’ll never forget the first time he drove the car in pit practice at Hendrick Motorsports.

That was 17 years ago.

One of the sport’s coolest jobs is more than a joy ride. Teams rely on these drivers to place the car in the right position so pit crews can hone their skills. With track position critical and tenths of a second the difference between winning and losing, what happens in pit practice can make a difference in a race.

It all begins with who is driving the car.

THE FRATERNITY OF PIT CAR DRIVERS

Marcus Horton is 30 but looks young enough to get carded. His father, Phil, is the pit coach for the Drive for Diversity program but Marcus Horton didn’t plan to be a pit crew member.

He has a business degree from Marshall University but admits: “For me, I wouldn’t want to be in an office all day. I like getting my hands dirty. I probably should have took up something different in college than business. I like art, I like photographs, but I’m not sure how well that was going to translate into the real world. I thought maybe I should do something that would benefit me in the long run.”

A couple of years after graduating, Horton asked his dad if he would coach him to be a pit crew member. The younger Horton was in the Drive for Diversity program for three years and served as a pit crew member for Carl Long’s Xfinity team last year. Horton joined Stewart-Haas Racing in December as a developmental pit crew member.

Erick Harps drove the car during pit practice at Hendrick Motorsports until a recent promotion to the engine shop. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Erick Harps, 22, was recently promoted to the engine shop at Hendrick Motorsports, ending his tenure driving the pit car. He trained at Universal Technical Institute in California. Harps moved to North Carolina two years ago to work in the sport. About six months after he arrived, he got a job at Hendrick Motorsports.

Chris Tomberlin, 22, joined Team Penske on Jan. 2 as a developmental pit crew member. He will graduate this year from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where he was a receiver on the football team.

“I’ve always been a fan of racing,” Tomberlin said. “The (job) opportunity presented itself. I couldn’t not accept it.”

That was before he found out he would be driving a stock car.

NOT YOUR FATHER’S CAR

When Harps told his parents he drove a car in pit practice at Hendrick Motorsports, his mother screamed in excitement.

But that wasn’t the first time he had been in a car. He had to undergo training — as any Hendrick pit car driver does — before taking part in live pit stops.

“You can’t step into one of them and think you’re going to drive it,” Harps said.

Hendrick Motorsports’ car has a race engine, providing more horsepower than a standard passenger car. The Hendrick car has a manual transmission, not automatic like many passenger cars, so if you can’t drive a stick, you wouldn’t be able to drive these cars.

Hendrick Motorsports also sets the car for each track. With the series heading to Talladega Superspeedway, that means the car will have a smaller brake package. 

At Stewart-Haas Racing, they have three different pit cars, so Horton has to know each of them. Each steering wheel is different. One is tight, another turns more freely and the other one rates between the two. The brakes also are different in each car. They’re touchy on one car, less so on the others.

“Every day it’s a like a new day for me trying to figure out where the car is going to stop and how I’m going to handle it,” Horton said.

That’s why each driver makes test runs before pit crews jump in front of the car.

“SILVER DOLLAR EYES”

One of the biggest adjustments for any pit car driver is seeing people run in front of the car during practice.

“The craziest thing is just from driving normally out on the roads, your instinct is to avoid a person” said Andy Papathanassiou, director of human performance at Hendrick Motorsports and a former pit car driver.

Having people run in front of the car is jarring for new pit car drivers. (Photo: Dustin Long)

“But when you are driving a pit practice car, you have to just focus on your mark because there are guys jumping all around you and you can’t veer from your path or then they will be in danger. So you have to literally put the blinders on and just expect that they’re going to get out of your way.”

Chris Krieg, pit crew coach at Stewart-Haas Racing, says when pit car drivers first do live stops, they all have the same condition. He calls it “silver dollar eyes” for how their eyes widen.

Horton admits when the pit crews started jumping in front of him, it altered how he entered the pit stall.

“I was stopping earlier and slowing down a lot sooner,” he said. “I don’t want to hurt anybody on our team. It was definitely a hard time because they would be like ‘You can bring it in hotter,’ and I’d be like, ‘Actually I can’t because I think I’m going to hit you guys if I do that.’”

DO YOUR JOB

If the car stops beyond where the crew is positioned, they have to adjust and it slows the stop. Same for when the car stops too short.

There are times when a pit coach will tell the driver to purposely stop short or long or close to the pit wall to test the pit crew and prepare them for possible race situations. Other times, it’s more important to hit the right spots so the pit crew can get their reps.

“The more you practice during the week with the guy who knows exactly how to put the car where he needs to put it, the better you feel for the race track on Sunday,” said Landon Walker, fueler for William Byron’s team.

At Stewart-Haas Racing, they’ll have Horton or whoever else is driving the car to try to imitate each of the drivers for the pit crews. Each driver has their own nuance on how they enter the stall, something you likely can’t tell unless you saw them pit time after time. There are those who will lock their brakes to stop or roll the car in or stop short consistently. 

“The (pit car) driver is critical,” Krieg said. “If we waste a bunch of practice because they’re not hitting the marks where we need them to, they’re wasting time and reps and beating and banging on the crews’ body. Every rep is valuable and those guys have to be spot on.”

A PART OF THE ACTION

It’s a ride of a lifetime even if one is only traveling about 50 yards to the pit stall.

“It’s got a lot of power behind it,” Harps said. “The clutch is not an easy thing to overcome just because it’s stronger than a regular clutch. You have to have a lot of leg power. It’s very hard to get going without spinning the tire.”

Once the car stops in the stall, there’s still more for the driver to do. Keep the wheel straight for the tire changers. Don’t stall the car.

“It’s cool to actually be able to feel the changers hit their lugs and feel the jackman make his first punch on the car, feel the carriers slamming that tire on the car,” Tomberlin said. “It’s rare to be able to experience it.”

It’s an experience only a few get. It’s quite a ride.

 and on Facebook

Ryan Sieg’s crew chief shares secrets to early success in Xfinity Series

Getty Images
Leave a comment

What started off as a pleasant surprise this year has become the norm for Ryan Sieg Racing in the Xfinity Series.

Through eight races, Ryan Sieg and his No. 39 Chevrolet have yet to finish worse than 12th.

The team based just outside of Atlanta, Georgia, has an average finish of 8.6, sixth-best among series regulars.

Heading into the second off-weekend of the year for the Xfinity Series, Sieg is probably still cleaning up from the Larry’s Hard Lemonade shower he received after he placed fifth last Friday at Richmond.

According to veteran crew chief Shane Wilson, the second non-superspeedway top five of Sieg’s career was made possible by what Sieg didn’t do a month earlier at ISM Raceway in Phoenix.

By not tearing up their short-track car at Phoenix, it allowed the team to take that car’s setup and add Richmond-specific tweaks that “worked out pretty good,” Wilson said Tuesday night on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Late Shift.”

Sieg has kept his cars clean so far, finishing on the lead lap in every race but one (Bristol, 12th) and earning five top 10s. That’s the most in his seven-year, 133-race Xfinity career.

Shane Wilson has been heading Ryan Sieg’s surprise run in 2019. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Two weeks before Richmond, Sieg captured the first stage win of his career by not pitting late in Stage 2 at Texas Motor Speedway.

What Wilson has accomplished with the family owned team is a product of a late union and a “big departure” from what Wilson was used to just a few years ago with Richard Childress Racing.

Wilson, who last year was crew chief for Kaz Grala’s upstart Fury Race Cars, was hired a couple of weeks before Speedweeks in Daytona.

Since then, Wilson wakes up every Monday around 3:45 a.m. at his home in the Charlotte area and drives around 200 miles to the team’s shop in Sugar Hill, Georgia.

“Most times I get home by Wednesday night and then we go race,” Wilson said. “That’s kind of been my schedule so far. A little here, a little there. I chase parts in the Charlotte area, Mooresville some days. It gets me home a little quicker. There’s a few of us that make the trip down here and they have a nice little, kind of like a college dorm up above the shop and some of us stay there. It’s been fun. It’s different, it’s fun and it’s been challenging.”

Another part of Sieg’s surprise performance this year are the cars he’s been keeping unscathed. The team bought three new cars from RCR in the offseason.

“We had the ECR engine deal and it was good year to buy cars from RCR because they downsized from numerous Xfinity cars to a single car,” Wilson said. “I feel like we got good stuff.

“It’s a good relationship. The Siegs bought or leased engines from RCR for many years ever since they’ve been racing in the Truck Series. So they’re a good engine customer to ECR, bought a lot of chassis from Richard. That’s kind of where it stops. There’s a few different tiers that you can get nowadays and we don’t get simulation or any kind of parts tracking or the database or anything like that.

“Chevrolet helps us with a few tools. We have what we need and we don’t have a whole lot extra, but we have enough to compete.”

Wilson said recruiting talent to help out the small team is made easier with fewer Xfinity teams.

But he’s not just getting help from the North Carolina and Georgia areas.

“I got a good friend of mine doing our shocks now and shipped some more of those up to him in Vermont,” Wilson said.

Wilson said the experience reminds him of the days “when we volunteered and helped out our best friend.”

“Ryan has some experience, so he’s very helpful,” Wilson added. “His feedback is good now that we have current cars, good engines. More people working on it. We’re able to put up more of a fight at the race track.”