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Leavine Family Racing owner: ‘We just had to make a change’ at crew chief

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When addressing the crew chief change last week on Kasey Kahne‘s No. 95 Chevrolet, Leavine Family Racing owner Bob Leavine invoked a popular saying used to define insanity.

“You just can’t keep doing the same thing if you expect a different result,” he said.

LFR announced last week Travis Mack had been relieved of his duties as crew chief on the No. 95 after just 15 races.

Lead engineer Jon Leonard was named interim crew chief.

Leavine made his comments Tuesday night on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Late Shift.”

“It wasn’t just off-the-cuff, it was well thought out,” Leavine said. “Kasey, I kept him in the loop continually because it was about, when I hired him last year, it was about giving him the best car we could. I just didn’t feel to a point we were doing that. And you just can’t keep doing the same thing if you expect a different result.

“As you well know when you sign up for these jobs what’s expected. You don’t get any participation trophies. Results rule. It’s long hours and a lot of time away from home and those type of things. So we just had to make a change. Obviously it wasn’t changing the driver. Our driver’s been doing a great job.”

The change came with Kahne sitting at 28th in the points ahead of this weekend’s race at Sonoma Raceway and the team not showing any improvement at this point compared to last season with Michael McDowell, who was 27th in points.

Through 15 races, Kahne’s average finish is 24th. His best result is 17th three times (Texas, Talladega and Dover).

Last year, McDowell had an average finish of 23.7 entering Sonoma. McDowell had finishes of 15th (Daytona 500) and 13th (Kansas). He went on to place 14th at Sonoma and then fourth the following week at Daytona.

Leonard assumed the crew chief role after serving as interim crew chief for McDowell in the final five races of last season. In those races, McDowell’s best finish was 18th at Kansas.

“I’m excited and thankful for the opportunity,” Leonard said in a team release this week. “I’ve had a little experience at it before, so I can appreciate and understand what is expected and needed. A lot of my role will stay the same – set-up preparation, history analysis, and practice decisions from an engineering standpoint.”

Leonard said the biggest change in process for him will be in pre- and post-race for car/spec changes and decisions and part/component selection.

“At the end of the day, all the decisions are going to be connected to my name,” Leonard said. “It’s not always going to be easy, and I’m sure it won’t always be right, but being able to own your mistakes, and grow from them is what is important. Being able to be a leader and bring this group together (including Kasey) will bring us success. I’m also lucky to have a great second engineer who I trust and can step into a lot of my former engineering role to help with some of my responsibilities both at the shop and at the track.

“Ben (Lynch) and I work well together and have a very similar background. I’m really looking forward to what this No. 95 team can achieve for the rest of the season. We have a good bunch of guys who want to compete with the big boys – and that’s what we’re here to do starting this weekend.”

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Chase Elliott wins Cup Most Popular Driver award

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Chase Elliott was selected as the NMPA Most Popular Driver in a fan vote announced during Thursday’s NASCAR Awards show.

It is the second consecutive victory for Elliott in the category.

“Honored to have two,” Elliott said. “It’s really more than a trophy or award. It is about the people you see at the race track.”

It is the 29th consecutive year that either an Elliott or Earnhardt has won the award.

The last driver not named Elliott or Earnhardt to win this award was Darrell Waltrip in 1990.

Other award winners included:

The Bill France Award of Excellence, an award that is not given every year, was presented to car owner Joe Gibbs for his signifiant contribution to the sport.

The NMPA Myers Brothers Award for outstanding contribution to the sport was presented to Darrell Waltrip.

The Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award is Joe Vaughn, who has volunteered for nearly two decades, raising both awareness and funds on behalf of the Project HOPE Foundation, based in Greenville, South Carolina. The foundation’s mission is to provide a lifespan of services to the autism community to help families, open minds, promote inclusion and expand potential.

Watch NASCAR Cup Awards Show at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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Get settled into your favorite easy chair, make sure you have plenty of snacks and beverages on hand and get ready for the last big event of 2019 on the NASCAR schedule: tonight’s NASCAR Awards Show.

The show will be broadcast on NBCSN from 8-10:30 p.m. ET from Nashville, Tennessee, for the first time. And if you miss some of the show, don’t worry, there’ll be a replay immediately afterward, also on NBCSN.

Kyle Busch will be the main attraction for tonight’s show, being celebrated for winning his second NASCAR Cup championship this past season.

Also, the 2019 NASCAR Cup Most Popular Driver award winner will be revealed. Will it be defending winner Chase Elliott, reigning champion Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Matt DiBenedetto … or someone else? You definitely need to tune in to find out.

And to get you in the mood, we’ll replay Wednesday’s Burnouts on Broadway at 7 p.m. ET, also on NBCSN.

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Will Daniel Suarez race for Richard Childress Racing in 2020?

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The president of Richard Childress Racing said it is a “longshot” that Daniel Suarez will drive a third Cup entry for the organization in 2020 but said RCR would like to have Suarez drive its No. 2 Xfinity car next year.

Suarez has not decided where he’ll race in 2020 after losing his ride with Stewart-Haas Racing this year.

Suarez has been linked with RCR. A third Cup entry would require RCR to acquire another charter for that car. It also could mean that the organization would need to hire additional people if they expanded to three full-time cars.

“I think that would be a long shot in a Cup program,” Torrey Galida told NBC Sports about Suarez in a third RCR Cup entry. “We’ve talked to him about an Xfinity program. We’d love to have him in an Xfinity car, and we think we could win another championship next year with Daniel. He’s a very talented young man.”

Richard Childress Racing’s No. 21 Xfinity car will run the full season with multiple drivers in 2020. Myatt Snider and Anthony Alfredo have been announced to drive that car. Galida said the team is looking at Kaz Grala, Austin Dillon and possibly two-time series champ Tyler Reddick driving that car in select races.

RCR ran the No. 21 car in nine of 33 Xfinity races this past season. It ran the No. 2 car in every race.

If Suarez, the 2016 Xfinity champion, drove for RCR in the Xfinity Series next year, it would be with the organization’s No. 2 car.

“We could still do that and we would do that,” Galida said of a full-time Xfinity effort for Suarez. “That’s the kind of opportunity we would be interested in.”

Galida said it just is a matter of hearing what Suarez decides.

“I think he knows what we’ve got to offer, and I think he’s just weighing his alternatives and trying to determine what is best for him,” Galida told NBC Sports. “I’m sure that going back to the Xfinity Series is not his first choice. I think in the right equipment it could be a really good move for him.”

Galida said they could go into January before hearing from Suarez but noted that “the sooner the better. People are your biggest issue. You want to put the right people around him.”

Next April’s Xfinity race at Bristol to have new sponsor

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Bristol Motor Speedway announced Thursday that partner Alsco, along with Darden Restaurants and its Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen brand, will sponsor next April’s Xfinity Series race there.

The Cheddar’s 300 presented by Alsco will take place on Saturday, April 4, 2020.

Alsco is a global leader in uniform and linen rental services. In addition to its entitlement at Bristol Motor Speedway, Alsco will take part in Xfinity Series entitlements at three other Speedway Motorsports Inc. racetracks: Kentucky Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Alsco’s initial entitlement at BMS came this past April with the Alsco 300 Xfinity Series race, won by Christopher Bell, who earned a $100,000 bonus through Xfinity’s Dash 4 Cash program.

Alsco is also a sponsor for Richard Childress Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports and JR Motorsports.

“Bristol is the place for historic finishes and close, hard-knock racing action,” said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager at Bristol Motor Speedway. “Alsco and our new friends at Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen understand the reputation of racing at The Last Great Colosseum and we’re ready to show them an incredible experience. The Cheddar’s 300 presented by Alsco is a must-see event on the NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule.”

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