Changes in place, Hendrick Motorsports looks ahead to 2018 season

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Coming off what was a disappointing season for Hendrick Motorsports, Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott are ready to move on to 2018, a season that presents a new Chevrolet and new opportunities.

Johnson admits that when the checkered flag flew in the season finale in Miami less than two weeks ago “I couldn’t find a beer fast enough and started popping some cold ones to try to forget a tough close to the end of the season.’’

While Hendrick placed three drivers in the playoffs — Johnson, Chase Elliott and Kasey Kahne — the organization’s four wins were its fewest in a season since 2000.

WATCH: NBCSN to air special NASCAR America at 7 p.m. ET Thursday, followed by Cup Series Awards Show at 9 p.m. ET. (Watch Cup Awards Show online here)

Johnson won three races but none after his June victory at Dover. Kahne won the Brickyard 400, which was his only top-10 finish in a 19-race stretch. Dale Earnhardt Jr. didn’t have a finish better than fifth. Elliott had five runner-up finishes but remains winless.

Elliott called those runner-up results “learning the hard way, but you definitely do learn things from those situations. I definitely have. I can probably say I’ve learned more from the second-place finishes this year than I did the ones last year.’’

Now, Hendrick heads into a season of change.

The 2018 driver lineup features Johnson, Elliott, Alex Bowman and William Byron. Johnson is the only driver among the group to win at the Cup level.

‘It’s definitely going to be different for sure,’’ Elliott said this week in Las Vegas of the 2018 look for Hendrick Motorsports. “I think the guys that are coming over in Alex and William, they’ve proven that they know how to race. They don’t need any help to be good race car drivers. They’re going to win races and be contenders, I have no doubt.’’

That’s just among a series of changes for the team. The organization announced in August eight leadership promotions.

“Obviously 2018 is right around the corner and internally we have a lot going on at Hendrick Motorsports, not only the two drivers that are coming in but the way we produce cars, where crew chiefs live, how our engineering department functions and where they’re located,’’ Johnson said this week in Las Vegas. “All of that is shifting around right now, there’s a little bit of construction taking place at Hendrick. Lump all that together with the new car that we have with the Camaro that is coming out in 2018. We need to learn lessons from last year, but we have a lot to look forward to moving into 2018.’’

The Camaro ZL1 will make its debut in Daytona. Chevrolet teams hope the new car will be as strong as Toyota’s updated Camry this past season when it won 16 races, including eight of the 10 playoffs races and helped Martin Truex Jr. to the championship.

“I think everyone has done their homework from that perspective,’’ Elliott said of the new car. “I’ve put a lot of trust in my guys and the people at HMS and Chevrolet to make those right decisions and everyone feels like they have, so we’ll find out.’’

It adds to a lot of change for an organization that seeks more victories.

“I think that the changes taking place for us is change in the right direction, is going to bring the company closer together, produce a better product, more competitive cars,’’ Johnson said. “I’m really looking forward to 2018. The decisions we’re making now will have a director improvement on 2018, but I think as we stack a couple of years on it will only strengthen further out.’’

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Results, Xfinity point standings after Iowa

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Justin Allgaier had a career day, leading 182 laps and sweeping all three stages in his win at Iowa Speedway.

The JR Motorsports driver claimed his seventh career Xfinity win.

Allgaier was followed by Christopher Bell, Daniel Hemric, Cole Custer and Brandon Jones.

Click here for results.

Points

After his second straight finish of 28th or worse, Elliott Sadler‘s point lead after 14 races is down to a four-point advantage over Custer.

The top five is completed by Hemric (-7 points), Tyler Reddick (-31) and Bell (-3).

After his win Sunday, Allgaier is sixth in the standings, 51 points back from his JR Motorsports teammate.

Click here for the full standings.

Justin Allgaier dominates in Xfinity win at Iowa Speedway

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Justin Allgaier fended off Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell to win Sunday’s Xfinity Series race at Iowa Speedway.

Allgaier held Bell and the rest of the field at bay in a 12-lap shootout to capture his second win of the year.

The top five was completed by Daniel Hemric, Cole Custer and Brandon Jones.

Allgaier led a career-high 182 laps and swept every stage.

“We had a great car today, these guys did a fantastic job,” Allgaier told Fox Sports 1.

The JR Motorsports driver took the lead for the first time with two laps to go in Stage 1 when he passed pole-sitter Austin Cindric.

The win qualifies Allgaier for the playoffs. His first win at Dover was disqualified toward playoff contention after his car failed post-race inspection.

Bell placed second after starting from the rear. His car failed to get through qualifying inspection, resulting in him not making a qualifying attempt.

“Man, I just needed to be in front of (Allgaier)” Bell told FS1. “It was really good on the bottom in both corners. I just didn’t have enough to clear him.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

STAGE 2 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

MORE: Race results, point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: Christopher Bell earned his fourth top-two finish of the season … Daniel Hemric claimed his fourth top-three finish in the last five races … Riley Herbst placed sixth in his series debut … Justin Haley placed 12th in his debut … Kaz Grala placed 10th for his second top 10 in four starts for Fury Race Cars … Ty Majeski finished seventh, giving Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 60 team its first top 10 of the season.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Elliott Sadler cut a tire and got into the wall late in Stage 1. He finished 28th for his second straight finish outside the top 25. He had finished in the top 10 in the first 12 races … Brandon Hightower wrecked with 17 laps to go to set up the final restart. He finished 30th.

WHAT’S NEXT: Overton’s 300 at Chicagoland Speedway at 3:30 p.m. ET on June 30 on NBCSN

Austin Cindric wins pole for Xfinity race at Iowa Speedway

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Austin Cindric won the pole for tonight’s Xfinity Series race at Iowa Speedway, claiming his first career pole.

The Team Penske driver earned the pole with a top speed of 131.409 mph.

The rookie is followed by Daniel Hemric (130.988 mph), Brandon Jones (130.836), Elliott Sadler (130.532) and Cole Custer (130.435).

“It’s huge for me, it’s a huge weight off my shoulders as well …Being so close to so many poles these last few races with these Penske guys,” Cindric told Fox Sports 2.

Kaz Grala will make his best-career start in eighth. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Riley Herbst will start ninth in his series debut.

Seven of the starting top 10 have never won a series race.

Justin Haley will start 13th. He will be followed by Shane Lee, John Hunter Nemechek, Ross Chastain, and Ty Majeski.

Christopher Bell and Ryan Reed will start from the rear after they failed to get through inspection in time to make a qualifying attempt.

The race is scheduled to start at 5:14 p.m. ET.

Click here for qualifying results.

Today’s Xfinity race at Iowa: Start time, lineup and more

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The NASCAR Xfinity Series enjoys the spotlight with the Cup Series off and no Cup drivers competing in today’s race at Iowa Speedway.

There’s a good chance of seeing a new winner for this season. Only three drivers who have won this year (Tyler Reddick at Daytona, Christopher Bell at Richmond and Justin Allgaier at Dover) are entered in today’s race.

Here are the details for today’s race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: Craig Abel will give the command to start engines at 5:07 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 5:14 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 250 laps (218.75 miles) around the 0.875-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 60. Stage 2 ends on Lap 120.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: Garage opens at 11 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 2 p.m. Qualifying is at 2:35 p.m. Driver introductions are at 4:30 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Specialist Michelle Monroe from the Iowa National Guard 34th Army will perform the anthem at 5:01 p.m.

TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race beginning at 5 p.m. Coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. Motor Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 4:30 p.m. and also can be heard at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will have MRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for mostly sunny skies with a high of 90 degrees and zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: William Byron won this race last June. Ryan Sieg was second. Tyler Reddick placed third. Ryan Preece won the July race. Kyle Benjamin was second. Brian Scott placed third.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the lineup.