Martin Truex Jr.’s team is disbanding at the end of the 2018 season, which has led to speculation that the No. 78 could become distracted before the end of the year.
Truex made a statement that would not be the case in the opening playoff race at Las Vegas. He won Stage 1 of the South Point 400 and was contending for the win with the checkers in sight. He finished third and took the points lead.
But does that change how the No. 78 should be viewed when assessing their playoff potential?
“They’ve proven to have the speed, but can they continue to have the speed throughout the playoffs? There’s nothing to point in any direction to say that they cannot,” Steve Letarte said on Monday’s edition of NASCAR America. “All I will say is the distraction of the team closure will become louder and more noisy as they get to the end of the year.”
More: Don’t look for an immediate falloff from Martin Truex Jr.
“What about the other 60 plus employees back in Denver? Those people are going to be looking for jobs,” Kyle Petty said. “Those people are going to want to get out of Denver sometime in November and be moving east if they are going to go to work for a Joe Gibbs or a Richard Childress or a Roger Penske or a Rick Hendrick.
“If they are going to find other jobs, if they’re closing down, that’s where the team will begin to disintegrate a little bit – begin to have cracks in it. Not what goes on at the racetrack, but the product they get to the racetrack with.”
And yet, as if winning a second straight championship was not difficult enough, Cole Pearn and Truex are now engaged in a delicate balancing act akin to jogging on a tightrope.
“Cole Pearn and Martin are doing a wonderful job managing the respect for the team and what they have next year and allowing their people to do whatever they need and somehow bringing that eye of the tiger approach” Letarte said.
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Tyler Ankrum will move to the Gander Outdoors Truck Series in 2019 to compete for Rookie of the Year honors with DGR-Crosley, the driver and team announced on Twitter.
In 2018, Ankrum won the K&N East Championship with DGR-Crosley through four wins, nine top fives and 12 top 10s in 14 starts. Ankrum won three consecutive races at Thompson (CT) Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Iowa Speedway during the summer. His other victory came in May at South Boston (VA) Speedway.
Ankrum made two starts in the Truck series last year – scoring a top 10 in one of those races. He finished sixth at ISM Raceway.
“Taking the next step of my racing career is mind blowing,” Ankrum said in a tweet. “And I’m lucky enough to do it again with DGR-Crosley and Toyota Racing in 2019.”
Last year’s K&N Championship came in his rookie campaign in that series.
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.
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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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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