As we continue to look at how some of the sport’s power teams shape up for 2018, it was our turn to analyze both Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports on Tuesday’s NASCAR America.
While both organizations may seem opposite ends apart, there’s really a lot of similarity heading into next season.
Both Erik Jones – who moves to JGR to replace Matt Kenseth in the No. 20 – and teammate Daniel Suarez will be entering their second full season in Cup racing in 2018.
How much better will both be next season? Or, will one or both fall victim to the notorious NASCAR sophomore jinx and both have tough second seasons?
Then there’s Hendrick Motorsports, which uncharacteristically struggled in 2017. The head of the Chevrolet family in NASCAR, HMS and Chevy failed to place even one driver in the Championship 4 round at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
And this is where HMS has a lot of similarity with JGR: youth.
Gone for 2018 are Dale Earnhardt Jr. (retired) and Kasey Kahne (moved to Leavine Family Racing).
In their stead will be youngsters William Byron, fresh off winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series as a rookie this past season, and Alex Bowman, who will replace Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88.
And don’t forget about Chase Elliott, who will enter his third full season in Cup and is still looking for his first breakthrough win. It’s not a matter of if, but rather a matter of time.
Our analysts Kyle Petty and Jeff Burton gave their take on what HMS and JGR will be like in 2018 on Tuesday’s NASCAR America.
Click the videos above (JGR) and below (HMS) to see what our analysts had to say.
Chase Briscoe led the final six laps and won Friday night’s Xfinity Series race at Bristol for his seventh win of the season.
Briscoe beat Ross Chastain for the win. The top five was completed by Austin Cindric, Harrison Burton and Justin Allgaier.
Click here for the race results.
The 12-driver field for the playoffs has been set with Briscoe’s win in the regular-season finale.
Brandon Brown placed 12th and clinched the 12th and final spot.
Here are the re-seeded point standings entering the playoffs.
Chase Briscoe – 2,050 points
Austin Cindric – 2,050
Justin Allgaier – 2,033
Noah Gragson – 2,025
Brandon Jones – 2,020
Justin Haley – 2,018
Harrison Burton – 2,014
Ross Chastain – 2,010
Ryan Sieg – 2,002
Michael Annett – 2,002
Riley Herbst – 2,001
Brandon Brown – 2,000
Click here for the re-seeded standings.
Click here for the normal point standings.
Chase Briscoe took the lead with six laps to go and won Friday night’s Xfinity Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway, which marked the end of the regular season.
Briscoe passed Austin Cindric to assume the lead and went unchallenged to the checkered flag. The victory is his series-leading seventh of the season.
“I was so mad after last week (at Richmond),” Briscoe told NBCSN. “I told all the guys there ain’t no way we’re getting beat today. I was so mad after how we ran last week and I get on the internet all the time and see guys count us out after one bad race and I know what this team is capable. … I finished second here the last two races and I wanted to win here so bad and it’s awesome that I can actually celebrate it with all these race fans.”
The top five was completed by Ross Chastain, Cindric, Harrison Burton and Justin Allgaier.
More: Race results, playoff standings
Allgaier dominated the early portion of the race, leading 126 laps and winning the first two stages. But he lost the lead for good in the pits during the Stage 2 break.
Brandon Brown finished 12th and clinched the 12th and final playoff spot.
STAGE 1 WINNER: Justin Allgaier
STAGE 2 WINNER: Justin Allgaier
WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Ross Chastain led three times for 117 laps, but had to settle for his fifth runner-up finish of the season without a win … Austin Cindric earned his 13th top-10 finish in the last 14 races … Harrison Burton earned his 13th top five of the season.
WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Brett Moffitt finished 27th after he had to pit three times in the opening laps and was penalized for taking fuel before the competition caution … BJ McLeod finished 34th after he was eliminated in a multi-car wreck that began when he made contact with teammate Jeffrey Earnhardt … Michael Annett finished 31st and Joe Graf Jr. placed 27th after they were involved in an incident on Lap 120.
QUOTE OF THE RACE: “I hit pit road and I wanted to cry.” – Ross Chastain after he finished second for the fifth time this year. He is winless entering the playoffs.
WHAT’S NEXT: The Xfinity playoffs open at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at 7:30 p.m. ET on Sept. 26 on NBCSN.
Spectators will be not be allowed for any of the NASCAR playoff races next weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the track announced Friday night.
A press release said only essential personnel will be allowed to attend the Cup, Xfinity and Truck playoff races there.
“To say we’re disappointed that we will conduct the South Point 400 playoff weekend without fans would be a gross understatement,” said Las Vegas Motor Speedway President Chris Powell. “Our staff has been working – many of them remotely – since the February Pennzoil 400 to prepare the speedway for our playoff tripleheader.
“But we must adhere to Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak’s directive that limits gatherings due to COVID-19. While we disagree with this policy, we have no choice but to oblige. We certainly regret this situation for the thousands of race fans who won’t be able to attend our NASCAR-weekend events.”
Nevada’s re-opening plan does not permit fans at sporting events, concerts. Groups are limited to 50 or fewer people.
The Las Vegas Raiders announced last month that they would not have fans at any of the team’s home games in its inaugural season there.
The Truck playoff race will be at 9 p.m. ET Sept. 25 on FS1. The Xfinity playoff opener will be at 7:30 p.m. ET Sept. 26 on NBCSN. The Cup playoff race will be 7 p.m. ET Sept. 27 on NBCSN.
Fans holding tickets for those events will be contacted by the speedway ticket services department to discuss credits for future races or refunds.
Hendrick Motorsports teammates Alex Bowman and Jimmie Johnson each will have a pit crew change for Saturday night’s playoff race at Bristol.
The change is the result of an injury to one pit crew member.
Dustin Lineback, jackman for Bowman’s team is out with an injury, the team stated. Kyle Tudor, who has been Johnson’s jackman, moves over to that role for Bowman’s team. Eric Ludwig, a backup for Hendrick Motorsports, moves up to be the jackman for Johnson.
Bowman enters the elimination race 27 points ahead of teammate William Byron, the first driver outside a transfer spot to the second round. Bowman opened the playoffs by finishing sixth in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. He followed that by placing ninth at Richmond. Bowman was collected in a crash and finished 37th in the May Bristol race.
Johnson, who is in his final full-time Cup season, seeks his first victory of the season. He finished third at Bristol in May.