Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

Bump & Run: What to be watching for in Cup title race

1 Comment

What is one thing you be watching closely among the Cup championship contenders this weekend in Miami?

Nate Ryan: How much they are focused on their cars vs. how much they seemed focused on each other, whether it’s comparatively or for mind games.

Dustin Long: The crew chiefs. The decisions they make will play a significant role in putting their driver in position to win a championship or take them out of it. 

Daniel McFadin: Whether the four championship contenders can run up front all night. I feel like this year might be the first time in the elimination format that the championship winner won’t win the race.

Jerry Bonkowski: How much their teammates will help, especially when it comes to potentially impeding the other championship contenders, could be one of the biggest deciding factors of who is crowned champion. Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch both have three teammates each to help them, while Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. have one teammate each. The championship could come down to – to borrow a line from The Beatles – which driver gets by the most with a little help from his friends.

If Martin Truex Jr. doesn’t win the Cup title, how would you view his season?

Nate Ryan: Even without a championship, Truex will be remembered as having one of the 10 best seasons in the Cup series during the 21st century. The guess here is that he wins the title, though.

Dustin Long: Incomplete. The dominant driver doesn’t always win the title, just look to last year for the most recent example, but winning the championship would make this a great season for Truex and company. Without a title, it’s a very good season but one that likely will be overlooked by many.

Daniel McFadin: It would be a huge disappointment, especially given how much of the season Truex has led the standings through his dominance in race and stage wins. But it would still be a career-best year as the team has battled multiple off-the-track issues, culminating with team owner Barney Visser missing the title race as he recovers from heart surgery.

Jerry Bonkowski: Even if he falls short of the championship, Truex will have nothing to be ashamed of. He’s had a career season, one that will go down in NASCAR annals as nothing short of excellent. He has established himself as one of the best and most successful drivers in the sport and has a future that looks brighter than ever. This was not a fluke year for MTJ; it’s a sign of potentially even greater things to come in 2018.

How do you explain the last four races for Kyle Larson?

Nate Ryan: The engine failures were just misfortune. Texas appeared to be the case of a driver going beyond the limits after getting frustrated with the handling of a potentially winning car going away, and Martinsville never has been his strong suit. It’s fair to presume if he isn’t eliminated at Kansas, his results probably would be better, but with less to play for, it can have an adverse impact.

Dustin Long: There’s a bumper sticker for this. Stuff happens, or something like that. Larson’s fall has been swift and complete. Some of the issues can be related to being eliminated from title contention.

Daniel McFadin: Extremely out of character, but not surprising for a team eliminated from playoff contention early. Larson’s mind is already on the offseason and the team is likely working on setups for next season. Larson not being in the title race is more disappointing than the likelihood of Truex not winning the title.

Jerry Bonkowski: Has any reporter asked Larson whether he broke any mirrors about a month ago? There’s no logical explanation for the bad luck and misfortune he and the No. 42 team have had. There’s one way to look at it — maybe all of this year’s bad luck will turn into nothing but good luck in 2018.

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

Leave a comment

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

Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment

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.”