NASCAR America: Pit stops have been one key to Brad Keselowski’s three-race win streak

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For all the focus put on individual drivers, NASCAR is a team sport.

In football, a quarterback needs to be able to read the defense and anticipate several plays ahead – but it is the team that helps execute his plan. NASCAR racing has some of those same elements, and according to NASCAR America’s Steve Letarte that is precisely where Brad Keselowski and the No. 2 team excel.

“Brad Keselowski has always been a very cerebral driver,” Letarte said on Monday’s edition of NASCAR America. “He’s always thought how he could do it differently. How he can do it better. More than just one corner or one lap. Whether it’s pit strategy with Paul Wolfe, whether it’s getting in and out of the pit box – he seems to always be looking for an advantage.”

That is the key to Keselowski’s recent success. He has won three of the most important races of the season: the Southern 500, Brickyard 400, and the first playoff race. And he’s won them in consecutive weeks.

The driver has done his job behind the wheel, but he’s been provided the opportunity by his team.

“He did a nice job at Darlington, managing one of the toughest racetracks on the circuit, leaving himself in a position for someone else to make a play,” Letarte said. “And that other person was his pit crew. They made the play at Darlington.

“Go to Indianapolis and once again – doesn’t have the best car, needs another team member to make a play. At Indianapolis, it was Paul Wolfe that made the play … at Indianapolis, he has the freshest tires. He did get a lucky yellow at the end, but they put themselves in a position to use those tires.”

Races are won and lost in the pits. Beating Kyle Larson out of the pits at Darlington was the key to Keselowski’s Southern 500 win. But perhaps the best example of the contribution by his crew came at Las Vegas.

“The difference at Las Vegas was that it wasn’t just a moment – it wasn’t one pit call – it wasn’t one pit stop,” Letarte said. “It was domination on pit road by that pit crew all day long that gave Brad Keselowski the chance to win.”

Keselowski regularly made up positions on pit row, leaving as the leader on Laps 112, 150, 184, 218 and 234.

“The second-place car comes off Turn 2 (in) third, sometimes fourth,” Letarte said. “We saw a lot of wheel spin and trouble on the restarts, but being the leader allowed Brad Keselowski to continue to set the tone.”

It can look like luck – or perhaps, another driver hopes it is luck so that it can be discounted.

“Brad clearly found the horseshoe. Three races in a row, he’s won – he has not had the best car,” Martin Truex Jr. said from the Las Vegas media center after finishing third to Keselowski. “Obviously he hasn’t led the most laps in any of those races, and he showed up at the end with good pit stops and good short run speed.”

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Vote for best 2018 Cup paint schemes

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It’s time to take stock of the 2018 Cup season.

That means voting in the best paint schemes of the year tournament.

The NBC Sports tournament has now reached its final four.

Here’s the bracket so far.

Bubba Wallace, RPM reinlist US Air Force as two-race sponsor

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Richard Petty Motorsports will continue to receive support from the United States military. On Friday, they announced the US Air Force will continue as a primary sponsor in 2019 as well as a major associate sponsor throughout the season on Bubba Wallace’s No. 43.

The two races for which the Air Force will be the primary sponsor are Saturday, July 6 at Daytona International Speedway (4th of July weekend) and Sunday, Nov. 10 (Veteran’s Day weekend) at ISM Raceway. Last year during his rookie campaign, Wallace finished in the top 15 in both of those races. He was 14th in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona and 10th at ISM.

“The Air Force continues to see benefits from our partnership with Richard Petty Motorsports and driver, Bubba Wallace,” said Major Ross McKnight, Chief, Air Force National Events Branch at Air Force Recruiting Service in a press release. “Wallace Jr. and his personality align well with our target audience’s interests and the Air Force’s commitment to teamwork and technology. The combination of Bubba Wallace and the iconic No. 43 provides a continuing sponsorship opportunity that reflects our Air Force core values of Integrity, Service and Excellence, as well as has a positive impact on generating public awareness about the U.S. Air Force, our people and our mission.

“Like NASCAR, much of our work is based on science, technology, engineering and math principles combined with teamwork and training. This sponsorship is a great way to highlight that connection.”

Last year, Wallace visited four Air Force bases. He participated in drills at each and flew in an F-16 with the 77th Fighter Squadron “Gamblers” at Shaw AFB in South Carolina.

“I was really impressed with all the different aspects of the Air Force, and the different opportunities they offer,” said Wallace Jr. “I was able to visit different bases and see the Airmen in action and actually participate myself. That gets me excited and then I’m able to talk to inspiring students who are looking at a career in the Air Force. I’m pretty humbled to represent the Air Force.”

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John Hunter Nemechek, Chase Briscoe approved to run for Xfinity Rookie of the Year

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NASCAR has approved John Hunter Nemechek and Chase Briscoe to compete for the Xfinity Series Rookie of the Year title in 2019, NBC Sports has confirmed.

Nemechek made 18 Xfinity starts in 2018 with Chip Ganassi Racing while Briscoe made 17 with Stewart-Haas Racing and Roush Fenway Racing.

Nemechek will compete for GMS Racing in the No. 23 Chevrolet. Briscoe will drive the No. 98 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing.

When Nemechek was announced on Dec. 6 as joining GMS Racing, a team press release said he would compete for Rookie of the Year. But a NASCAR spokesperson said his eligibility had not been decided on at the time.

The Rookie of the Year title was not mentioned in SHR’s Nov. 27 press release about Briscoe going full-time.

The Xfinity rookie field next year will include Nemechek, Briscoe, Noah Gragson in JR Motorsports’ No. 1 Chevrolet and Justin Haley in Kaulig Racing’s No. 11 Chevrolet.

Briscoe said in an Q&A on Reddit he was “honestly surprised” he was approved.

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Richard Childress Racing reveals Daytona 500 cars, sponsors and Xfinity details

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WELCOME, N.C. – Richard Childress Racing kicked off its 50th anniversary Friday at its headquarters in Welcome, North Carolina, with announcements about the 2019 season.

RCR announced Daniel Hemric will drive the No. 8 Chevrolet in his rookie Cup season. Hemric had originally been announced as driving the No. 31.

Hemric, who moves up after two years in Xfinity, drove the No. 8 in his two Cup starts in 2018.

Richard Childress Racing

Hemric will be sponsored by Caterpillar, Bass Pro Shops, Liberty National Life Insurance, Cessna and VF Workwear.

Cessna is also a sponsor at Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Growing up in Kannapolis, it was all about racing,” Hemric said in a press release. “I always dreamed of having the opportunity to drive for RCR and for Richard himself. Now, two iconic numbers, the 3 and the 8, are going to be under one roof. I know it makes Richard happier than anybody, just understanding what that means for the sport of NASCAR and how our fans are going to be able to connect with that.”

RCR also confirmed NBC Sports’ report that Luke Lambert would be the crew chief for Hemric.

Photo by Daniel McFadin

The team revealed gold-themed cars Hemric and teammate Austin Dillon will drive during Speedweeks in Daytona to celebrate the team’s 50th anniversary.

Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet will be sponsored by Bass Pro Shops in the Advance Auto Parts Clash.

The scheme for the exhibition race is based on the car Dale Earnhardt Sr. drove in the 1998 All-Star Race.

Xfinity Series

Team owner Richard Childress confirmed Tyler Reddick would be the organization’s only full-time Xfinity Series driver in 2019.

The defending series champion will drive the No. 2 Chevrolet and be paired with crew chief Randall Burnett, who worked with Matt Tifft on the No. 2 in 2018.

Childress said its second Xfinity car will be the No. 21 “more than likely.”

Technical Alliance

Childress confirmed the teams that will be full members of a technical alliance with RCR in 2019.

In Cup, RCR will be joined by StarCom Racing (No. 00), Germain Racing (No. 13) and Richard Petty Motorsports (No. 43).

Kaulig Racing in the Xfinity Series (No. 11 Chevrolet) will also be a part of the alliance.

Childress said ECR engines would be provided for all those teams.

Charter

Childress said the team would sell a team charter to StarCom Racing that had been leased to the team in 2018.

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