NASCAR America: Jamie McMurray, Roush Fenway drivers have work to do

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Six races have come and gone in the 2018 Cup season and some drivers are clearly struggling.

NASCAR America’s Nate Ryan, Parker Kligerman and guest analyst Landon Cassill looked at drivers who have a lot of work to do going forward.

Kligerman pointed to Chip Ganassi Racing’s Jamie McMurray. The driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet has yet to finish better than 16th and had one DNF. His average finish is 23.3. He hasn’t finished on the lead lap in any race.

Kligerman called his start “abysmal.”

“I think that team needs to find a way to get moving forward,” Kligerman said.

Cassill recalled an interaction with McMurray last season during driver introductions for a race where he jokingly asked what his team needed to do to perform like teammate Kyle Larson.

“I got a dirty look and a quick, short response of, ‘Yeah, he’s pretty good,'” Cassill said. “I could tell that got under his skin a little bit. And Jamie works hard. He’s fit, he cycles a lot. He’s shown that speed at times, but he’s got a heck of a rabbit to chase in that 42 car, who is always fast.”

Watch the above video for more, as the analysts discuss the woes of Roush Fenway Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne.

Who is hot and cold entering the First Data 500 at Martinsville

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The third round of the Cup playoffs begin this weekend on the oldest and shortest track on the circuit – Martinsville Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday on NBCSN).

The next three races will determine the four drivers who will compete for the championship at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Here is who is hot and cold entering the final short track race of the season.

Who is Hot

Chase Elliott

Round of 12 – Red Hot
• Won at Kansas (10th in Stage 1, 4th in Stage 2, 44 laps led)
• Finished 31st at Talladega; pit from 7th after Stage 1 ended but before pit road was open after running out of fuel; involved in multi-car accident on final lap
• Won at Dover
2018 Season – Red Hot
• Advanced to Round of 8 for 2nd straight season
• Won 2 of last 3 races and 3 of last 11 (98 starts before 1st career win)
• Finished top 10 in 4 of last 5 races and 9th or better in 10 of last 13
Martinsville – Good
• Finished top 10 in 2 of last 3 Martinsville races (9th in March)
• Six career Martinsville starts: 2 top 10s and 4 finishes of 12th or worse
• Started 3rd, 6th in Stage 1, 5th in Stage 2, 123 laps led, finished 27th in this race one year ago; spun by Denny Hamlin in Turn 3 on Lap 498 while leading

 

Aric Almirola

Round of 12 – Very Good
• Finished 10th at Kansas (6th in Stage 1, 16th in Stage 2); penalized for uncontrolled tire on Lap 120
• Won at Talladega (4th in Stage 1, 4th in Stage 2, 1 lap led); passed Kurt Busch in Turn 4 on final lap
• Finished 13th at Dover; contact with Brad Keselowski on Lap 397 while battling for 4th, collected Martin Truex Jr. and Alex Bowman
2018 Season – Good
• Advanced to Round of 8 for first time in career
• Finished in Top 10 in 4 of last 6 races
Martinsville – Bad
• Finished 12th or worse in 8 straight Martinsville races
• Three top 10s in 19 Martinsville starts
• Started 10th, 19th in Stage 1, 20th in Stage 2, finished 18th in this race one year ago

 

Joey Logano

Round of 12 – Very Good
• Finished 8th at Kansas (1st in Stage 1, 3rd in Stage 2, 100 laps)
• Finished 5th at Talladega
• Finished 3rd at Dover; hit axle from Ross Chastain on Lap 339 while running 8th
2018 Season – Very Good
• Advanced to Round of 8 for 4th time in career (1st since 2016)
• Finished in top 10 in 4 straight races and 8 of last 10
• Finished in top 5 in 5 of last 9 races
Martinsville – Very Good
• Finished top 10 in 3 of last 4 Martinsville races and 6 of last 9 (6th in March)
• Scored stage points in every stage in the last two Martinsville races
• Started 1st, 3rd in Stage 1, 3rd in Stage 2, 59 laps led, finished 24th in this race one year ago; contact with frontstretch wall on Lap 259 while running 3rd after contact with Austin Dillon; big tire rub on Lap 487 after contact
with Kyle Busch while battling for 3rd; spun from 6th on Lap 492 after tire went flat

 

Erik Jones

• Finished 4th at Kansas (8th in Stage 1, 7th in Stage 2)
2018 Season – Very Good
• Finished top 10 in 3 straight races and 6 of last 9
Martinsville – Not Good
• Never finished better than 12th in 3 career Martinsville starts (17th in March)
• Started 8th, 18th in Stage 1, 16th in Stage 2, finished 26th in this race one year ago; spun from 27th on Lap 316

 

Who is Cold

Martin Truex Jr.

Round of 12 – Not Good
• Finished 5th at Kansas (12th in Stage 1, 10th in Stage 2)
• Finished 23rd at Talladega; reported rear end issue on Lap 100 while running 23rd; involved in multi-car accident on last lap
• Finished 15th at Dover; collected in multi-car accident on Lap 397 after Aric Almirola and Brad Keselowski made contact battling for 4th
2018 Season – Slumping
• Advanced to Round of 8 for 2nd straight season (3rd time in career)
• Kansas ended a streak of 3 straight finishes of 14th or worse
• Finished outside the top 10 in 7 of last 10 races
Martinsville – Good
• Finished top 5 in the last two Martinsville races and top 10 in 5 of last 7 (4th in March)
• Started 2nd, 5th in Stage 1, 4th in Stage 2, finished 2nd in this race one year ago

 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

• Finished 20th at Kansas (21st in Stage 1, 22nd in Stage 2); penalized for speeding in pits on Lap 120
2018 Season – Bad
• Kansas ended a streak of back-to-back finishes of 9th or better
• Finished 14th or worse in 24 of 32 races in 2018
Martinsville – Streaking
• Finished 10th in 2 of last 3 Martinsville races (37th in March)
• Finished 15th or worse in 9 of 11 career Martinsville starts
• Started 22nd, 27th in Stage 1, 19th in Stage 2, finished 10th in this race one year ago; spun on Lap 36 while running 27th after being clipped by Michael McDowell.

 

Kyle Larson

Round of 12 – Ok
• Finished 3rd at Kansas (11th in Stage 1, 6th in Stage 2); started in rear after going to back-up car
• Finished 11th at Talladega; started in the rear due to unapproved adjustments; spun from 11th on backstretch on Lap 104 with flat tire
• Finished 12th at Dover; penalized for speeding in pits on Lap 244 while running 15th
2018 Season – Hot and Cold
• Eliminated in Round of 12 for 2nd straight season
• Kansas ended a streak of 3 straight finishes outside the top 10
• Last 10 races: 5 top 10s and 5 finishes of 11th or worse
Martinsville – Terrible
• Finished 14th or worse in 4 straight Martinsville races (16th in March)
• Finished 14th or worse in 8 of 9 career Martinsville starts
• Started 9th, 16th in Stage 1, 22nd in Stage 2, finished 37th in this race one year ago; DNF – spun from 23rd on Lap 303 and hit inside backstretch wall

 

Alex Bowman

Round of 12 – Too Little, Too Late
• Finished 9th at Kansas (14th in Stage 1, 9th in Stage 2); made contact with Daniel Suarez on Lap 3 after Suarez hit wall; scraped wall in Turn 1 on Lap 25
• Finished 33rd at Talladega; got loose on Lap 186 and hit wall while running 10th, then got hit by J.J. Yeley
• Finished 28th at Dover; DNF – collected in multi-car accident on Lap 397 after Aric Almirola and Brad Keselowski made contact battling for 4th
2018 Season – Bad
• Kansas ended a streak of 2 finishes of 28th or worse
• Finished 12th or worse in 6 of last 8 races
Martinsville – Bad
• One finish better than 22nd in 5 career Martinsville starts (7th in March)

Preliminary entry lists for playoff races at Martinsville Speedway

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It’s time for the last short track races of the NASCAR season as the playoffs roll on at Martinsville Speedway.

The Cup and Camping World Truck Series will be in action this weekend at the .526-mile track in Virginia.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for the weekend.

Cup – First Data 500 (2:30 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN)

There are 40 entries for the race.

Matt Kenseth is back in Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 6 Ford.

Hermie Sadler is entered in Premium Motorsports’ No. 7 Chevrolet for his first start of the year. Five of his last six Cup starts have been at Martinsville.

There is no driver listed for Rick Ware Racing’s No. 51 Ford.

Clint Bowyer won the March race at Martinsville. He beat Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney.

Busch is the defending winner of this race. He beat Martin Truex Jr. and Bowyer.

Click here for the entry list.

Trucks – Texas Roadhouse 200 (1 p.m. ET Saturday)

There are 35 entries for the race. Three trucks will not make the field.

Kyle Benjamin, Jeb Burton and Timothy Peters are entered in the race.

Harrison Burton is entered in Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 51 Toyota.

John Hunter Nemechek won the March Martinsville race over Benjamin and Brett Moffitt. Noah Gragson won this race last year over Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter.

Click here for the entry list.

Scott Graves to be Ryan Newman’s crew chief at Roush Fenway Racing

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Roush Fenway Racing confirmed Tuesday that Scott Graves will be Ryan Newman‘s crew chief next season on the No. 6 Cup team.

Graves had been the crew chief for Daniel Suarez this season until leaving Joe Gibbs Racing Oct. 9.

Graves joined Roush Fenway Racing as an engineer in 2006. He was a crew chief there from 2012-15. He did four races as an Xfinity crew chief in 2012, working with a variety of drivers. In 2013, he served as Ricky Stenhouse Jr.‘s crew chief for three Cup races late in the season. Graves was Stenhouse’s crew chief in Cup for the 2013 season. Graves returned to the Xfinity Series and was the crew chief for Chris Buescher in 2014-15. They won the championship in 2015.

Graves left Roush for Joe Gibbs Racing and was Suarez’s crew chief in Xfinity in 2016 when he won the championship. Graves started 2017 with JGR’s Xfintiy program before moving up to be Suarez’s Cup crew chief early in the season.

“We are very pleased to bring Scott back to the fold,” said team co-owner Jack Roush in a statement from the team. “Scott is an exceptional talent atop the pit box and he has done an outstanding job throughout his career – with multiple championship campaigns attesting to that.

“He brings a strong engineering background to the table and we are excited about the opportunity to pair him with Ryan Newman going into the 2019 season.”

Roush Fenway Racing announced Sept. 22 that Newman would join the team in 2019.

Matt Puccia is the crew chief on the No. 6 car this season. Roush Fenway Racing stated that details on Puccia’s role are being worked out.

 

 

Bump & Run: Martinsville hot dogs, looking ahead to Round 3

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What’s your career high of Martinsville hot dogs in a weekend?

Nate Ryan: Maybe one or two? It’s been roughly 18 years since I consumed one. My career high of turkey sandwiches from the Sheetz near the 58/220 intersection is about six, though.

Dustin Long: One. Not my thing.

Daniel McFadin: In my four visits I’ve never had more than two in a race day.

Dan Beaver: I’m ashamed to say only two.

What percentage do you put it that the Big 3 all advance to the championship race in Miami?

Nate Ryan: More than 80 percent. Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch likely are safe on playoff points, and Martin Truex Jr. could either win at Texas or be consistent enough over the next three races to advance. The only scenario in which one of the trio won’t race for the championship involves two other playoff drivers winning in this round; Busch, Harvick and Truex will post the finishes to garner the necessary points.

Dustin Long: 95 percent. Forget recent struggles, they will be there in Miami racing for a championship.

Daniel McFadin: 60 percent. I think Martin Truex Jr. is going to be in danger once Phoenix rolls around. The 78 team has lost its fire over the last four races, despite finishing fifth in Kansas. Kyle Busch can be expected to be a threat in all three races and Harvick should be the man to beat at Texas and Phoenix, if he can keep from making mistakes.

Dan Beaver: 50 percent: One of the non-Big 3 will win a race in this round and that means Martin Truex Jr. is going to need to seriously improve his performance to advance.

What’s stood out to you so far with the Cup playoffs?

Nate Ryan: The emergence of Chase Elliott; the cohesiveness and competitiveness of Stewart-Haas Racing; and the lone win among Busch, Harvick and Truex. It’s difficult to pin down an overall narrative.

Dustin Long: There there have been no upsets or surprises so far in who has been eliminated. Even when Brad Keselowski won three in a row he was saying they needed more speed. They won by execution. Running out of fuel at Talladega hurt him and then they didn’t have the speed at Kansas to make up for all those lost points at Talladega. The strongest teams are left. 

Daniel McFadin: The late-race success of teams that didn’t dominate in the regular season. Ryan Blaney and Aric Almirola each earned their first wins of the year in the playoffs and Chase Elliott earned wins No. 2 and 3. The competition has finally evened out, though some of that has been through help from late mistakes and cars running out of gas.

Dan Beaver: Chase Elliott with his pair of victories in Round 2. Along with his Watkins Glen win in August, he has won on three very distinct tracks.

What track in this round — Martinsville, Texas or Phoenix — do you think will have the most impact in the playoffs?

Nate Ryan: Phoenix because of the fresh layout and because the points scenarios always lend themselves to the Round of 8 cutoff race playing a major factor on the championship.

Dustin Long: Phoenix. Last chance to advance to Miami. Desperate times call for desperate actions.

Daniel McFadin: Martinsville. Teams will view it as the biggest equalizer in the round and with the possibility of a wild race, a non-playoff driver could win putting even more emphasis on the next two races for non-Big 3 drivers.

Dan Beaver: Every playoff driver will be trying to get off to a strong start at Martinsville and that will create some chaos.