Who is hot and cold entering Talladega Cup race

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Outside the Charlotte Roval, arguably the biggest wild card of the Cup playoffs has arrived in the form of Talladega Superspeedway.

The Cup Series returns to the 2.66-mile speedway for its second race there of the season. It’s also the final restrictor-plate Cup race the track will host.

But it is Talladega, where a hot streak can end in a 20-car pileup and a streak can be born in an unexpected last-lap charge to the lead.

Here’s who is hot and cold entering Sunday’s 1000bulbs.com 500 (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Who is Hot

Kevin Harvick
Dover
• Finished 6th at Dover (1st in Stage 1, 1st in Stage 2, 286 laps led); pit for a 2nd time on Lap 322 due to flat tire after valve stem got knocked off on Lap 321 stop
2018 Season- Very Good
• Finished in Top 10 in 11 of last 12 races, including 3 straight
• Finished in Top 5 in 3 of last 6 races
• Won 7 of last 29 races
• Thirty races in 2018: 25 top 10s (including 7 wins) & 5 finishes of 19th or worse
Talladega – Not Great
• Last 9 Talladega races: 5 top 10s and 4 finishes of 15th or worse (4th in April)
• Finished 20th in this race one year ago; DNF – started in the rear due to unapproved adjustments; collected in multi-car accident on Lap 172; collected in multi-car accident on Lap 178
Restrictor Plate Races – Bad
• Finished 19th or worse in 6 of last 7 restrictor-plate races

Chase Elliott
Dover
• Won at Dover (5th in Stage 1, 9th in Stage 2, 11 laps led); penalized for uncontrolled tire on Lap 122 while running 5th
• Advances to Round of 8 for 2nd straight season
2018 Season- Good
• Finished 6th or better in 3 straight races
• Finished in Top 10 in 9 of last 11 races
Talladega – Mixed
• 5 career Talladega starts: 2 Top 5s and 3 finishes of 12th or worse (3rd in April)
• DNF in two of the last three Talladega races
• Finished 16th in this race one year ago; DNF – penalized for pitting while pit road was closed on lap 26; contact with Daniel Suarez while battling for lead on Lap 183, collected Kyle Larson.
Restrictor Plate Races – Bad
• Finished 12th or worse in 9 of 11 career restrictor-plate races

Joey Logano
Dover
• Finished 3rd at Dover (2nd in Stage 1, 4th in Stage 2, 2 laps led); hit axle from Ross Chastain on Lap 339 while running 8th
2018 Season – Very Good
• Finished in Top 10 last two races and 6 of last 8
Talladega – So Good
• Won 3 of last 6 Talladega races (won in April)
• Finished top 5 in 4 of last 6 Talladega races
• Finished 4th in this race one year ago
• Team Penske has won the last 4 Fall Talladega races (Keselowski – 2 & Logano – 2)
Restrictor Plate Races – Good
• Finished top 10 in 9 of last 15 restrictor-plate races (4 wins)

Kurt Busch
Dover
• Finished 5th at Dover (8th in Stage 1, 6th in Stage 2)
2018 Season – Hot
• Finished 5th in back-to-back races
• Finished top 10 in 10 of last 12 races
Talladega – Hot
• Finished in top 10 in 6 of last 8 Talladega races (2nd in April)
• Finished 25th in this race one year ago; DNF – started in the rear due to unapproved adjustments; collected in multi-car accident on Lap 172
Restrictor Plate Races – Not Great
• Finished 25th or worse in 4 of last 5 restrictor-plate races (4 DNFs)

 

Who is Cold

Jimmie Johnson
Dover
• Finished 36th at Dover (38th in Stage 1, 38th in Stage 2); right front ball joint failed on pace laps and he to spend the first 10 laps in garage
2018 Season – below average
• Top 10 two of the last three races
• Only three top 10s in the last 10 races
• Currently on a 53-race winless streak (longest of career)
Talladega- Bad
• Finished 12th or worse in 5 of last 6 Talladega races (12th in April)
• Finished 24th in this race one year ago; DNF – collected in multi-car accident on lap 172 and parked by NASCAR after crew worked on car under red flag
Restrictor Plate Races – Bad
• One top 10 in the last 12 restrictor plate races, DNF three of the last four

Daniel Suárez
Dover

• Finished 10th at Dover (18th in Stage 1, 17th in Stage 2)
2018 Season – Slumping
• Last 4 races: 2 Top 10s and 2 finishes of 17th or worse
• Finished 11th or worse in 6 of last 8 races
Talladega – OK
• 3 career Talladega starts: 1 Top 10 and 2 finishes of 15th or worse (10th in April)
• Finished 15th in this race one year ago; DNF – contact with Chase Elliott while battling for lead on Lap 183, collected Kyle Larson
Restrictor Plate Races – Not good
• Finished 15th or worse in 6 of 7 career restrictor-plate starts

Paul Menard
Dover
• Finished 16th at Dover (16th in Stage 1, 22nd in Stage 2)
2018 Season – Bad
• Finished 16th or worse in 3 straight races
Talladega – Bad
• Finished 12th or worse in 4 of last 5 Talladega races (30th in April)
• Finished 12th in this race one year ago; penalized for pitting while pit road was closed on Lap 26; hit wall on Lap 51 while running 27th; slowed on Lap 171 after losing high gear while running 7th
Restrictor Plate Races- Good
• Finished top 10 in 4 of last 7 restrictor-plate races

William Byron
Dover
• Finished 19th at Dover (19th in Stage 1, 21st in Stage 2)
2018 Season – Bad
• Finished 19th or worse in 8 straight races
• Finished 12th or worse in 27 of 30 races this season
Talladega- Bad
• Finished 29th at Talladega in April, his only career start at the track
Restrictor Plate Races – Bad
• Finished 23rd or worse in 3 career restrictor-plate starts with 2 DNFs

2019 Cup Series paint schemes

Chip Ganassi Racing
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We’re less than a month away from the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17.

That means teams are slowly starting to reveal the cars Cup Series drivers will be race throughout the season.

Here’s a look at paint schemes that have been confirmed so far. This post will continue to be updated.

No. 00 – Landon Cassill

No. 1 – Kurt Busch

 

No. 3 – Austin Dillon

Dillon’s Daytona 500 car celebrating Richard Childress Racing’s 50th anniversary.

Lionel Racing

 

No. 4 – Kevin Harvick

 

Stewart-Haas Racing
Hunt Brothers Pizza Twitter

No. 6 – Ryan Newman

Roush Fenway Racing

No. 8 – Daniel Hemric

The car Hemric will race in the Daytona 500 honoring Richard Childress Racing’s 50th anniversary.

RCR
RCR
RCR

No. 9 – Chase Elliott

Hendrick Motorsports

No. 10 – Aric Almirola

 

No. 14 – Clint Bowyer

Stewart Haas Racing
Stewart-Haas Racing

 

No. 17 – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

 

Roush Fenway Racing

 

Sunny D Racing

No. 18 – Kyle Busch

Lionel Racing

No. 19 – Martin Truex Jr. 

Martin Truex Jr. Twitter

No. 24 – William Byron

Hendrick Motorsports
Hendrick Motorsports
Hendrick Motorsports

No. 32 – Corey LaJoie

Go Fas Racing

No. 40 – Jamie McMurray

McMurray is scheduled to make one start so far in 2019 as part of a partnership with Chip Ganassi Racing and Spire Motorsports.

No. 42 – Kyle Larson

Chip Ganassi Racing

No. 43 – Bubba Wallace

No. 48 – Jimmie Johnson

Hendrick Motorsports

No. 88 – Alex Bowman

Hendrick Motorsports

 

Hendrick Motorsports
Hendrick Motorsports

No. 95 – Matt DiBenedetto

Leavine Family Racing

‘How can we be upset?’: Ross Chastain discusses losing Ganassi ride, hopeful future

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When Ross Chastain received word of the events “out west,” he knew the loss of his full-time Xfinity Series ride with Chip Ganassi Racing was “inevitable.”

The events were the Dec. 18 dual raids by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in California on the headquarters of DC Solar, Ganassi’s primary Xfinity sponsor, and the home of the company’s CEO, Jeff Carpoff.

Seventeen days later, Ganassi made it official. The biggest opportunity of Chastain’s NASCAR career was gone roughly two months after it had been announced because of a lack of sponsorship.

Chastain, who turned 26 in December, made his first public appearance in a month on Friday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. There, he announced plans to compete part time for Niece Motorsports in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series, beginning with the season opener at Daytona.

“Early on there was a couple of dark days following everything that went down. I’m not going to shy away from it,” Chastain told reporters before later clarifying himself. “It wasn’t dark, that’s probably going to come across wrong when you write it down now that I think about that. I don’t want people to get the wrong impression, but it was a big deal.

“(The Carpoffs) did a lot for me. They changed my life. I’ll forever be thankful for them and Chip (Ganassi) and Felix (Sabates) … and everybody involved with CGR and all the people in the office, they still stand behind me. I’m still tied to them. I’m still working for them.”

Chastain said he hasn’t been in contact with the Carpoffs since the FBI raids.

“Chip and (Chief Operating Officer) Doug Duchardt, they tried everything they could to keep that deal going,” Chastain said. “Talked to Chip back and forth throughout the process … it was going to affect so many people and so many mechanics and crew guys on that, including me.

“He knew that, and it affected him. He was the ultimate loser here in Charlotte for it. Nobody wanted it to happen, man. We think we know what we could accomplish or what we were going to shoot for and the cards that were laying out on the table of what we could do in 2019, but it’s just not how it was intended to happen.”

While he won’t be driving the No. 42 for CGR in 2019, he’s still under contract with the team and said Ganassi himself calls “every now and then to make sure I’m doing OK.”

So what did Chastain do during a holiday season where his career was upended through no fault of his own?

He went home.

Chastain spent Christmas and New Years clearing his head on his family’s watermelon farm in Alva, Florida.

“Spent a lot of time at the farm on a tractor,” Chastain said. “Leaving my phone in the truck. Get on the tractor and a couple of days of that will make you appreciate the life I do get to live, and I knew I wasn’t done racing. I was just going to change my schedule for this year. Family was really good.  It kind of made us all even closer.”

The time was also spent reflecting on everything that has transpired in the last half-year.

“If you would have told me six months ago, right, that I was going to drive for Chip Ganassi, I was going to win a race (at Las Vegas), I was going to finish second in a race (at Richmond) and I was going to crash – for the win – in a race (at Darlington) with a very high-profile driver (Kevin Harvick) and he was going to say a bunch of bad things about me and I was going to come back the next race in that car and win? I would have told you you were crazy. …

“We talked through all that and realized ‘Man, what we would have given six months ago to have all this happen,'” Chastain said. “‘How can we be upset?'”

While Chastain had been silent, including on social media, since the day before the raids, other NASCAR drivers have been in touch with him. That includes Elliott Sadler, who tweeted about Chastain on Jan. 7 after talking with him.

“Elliott has probably been the biggest one through all this,” Chastain said. “I don’t get along with many drivers. Me and him connect on a lot of things. … He was just like, ‘Yeah, it’s terrible, but you’re going to get through it. You have a future,’ and that’s what he kept saying.

“He said he’s been here long enough to see it. It’s going to work out. You’ve just got to believe. I was already back on track, digging on this year when I talked to Elliott, and he sent that tweet out. His biggest thing was ‘Just believe. Know it’s going to work out. I’ve seen this before. Nobody could see this coming. You didn’t do anything wrong.’ It’s head down and dig.

“He’s been really instrumental in staying on me to make sure I’m doing that.”

When it comes to who Chastain will dig deep for in races this year, Chastain said there are restrictions Ganassi has on whom he can compete for that are still being worked out.

His deal with Niece Motorsports, who he made three starts for last year, was not a result of the Ganassi closure and had been in the works for months. He’ll share the No. 45 Chevrolet with Reid Wilson.

In addition to his truck ride, Chastain plans to compete full time in Cup with Premium Motorsports in the No. 15 Chevrolet while declaring for points in the Xfinity Series.

That way he can compete in any Xfinity and Truck races in the playoffs, when all Cup drivers are banned from competition in those series.

Chastain did not reveal who he has “handshakes galore” with in the Xfinity Series, but he plans to compete in all three points races at Daytona in February. He does anticipate racing at some point this season with JD Motorsports, the Xfinity team he raced full time for from 2015-2017 and all but three races in 2018.

“However many races we end up at, we’ll be great,” Chastain said. “I’m getting to run, getting paid to drive in NASCAR and that was my dream growing up.”

Despite having multiple opportunities to race this season, the question was raised whether last year’s feel-good story has been set back in a way that could harm his hopes of marketing himself for a top-tier ride after 2019.

“People are going to think what they want to think if it set me back or not,” Chastain said. “We’re writing our own story for how this is going to work out.”

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Chad Knaus admits he’ll likely think he’s still with Jimmie Johnson’s team when season begins

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For perhaps the first few races of the 2019 Cup season, Chad Knaus may need a road map of both the garage area and pit road as a reminder he’s no longer with Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team, but rather in his new role as crew chief of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team with driver William Byron.

“Look, I had 18 years of working on that 48 car, so I guarantee I’m going to walk into the wrong transporter,” Knaus said Friday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Tradin’ Paint.” “At some point, I’m probably going to key up the radio and start to say ‘Jimmie,’ by accident.”

He then added with a laugh: “I may look at the 48 as it rolls down the front straightaway periodically and get confused, but hell, I’m getting old, so I get confused anyhow. So, that’s just going to be part of life.”

After 17 seasons with Jimmie Johnson, Knaus will be on the pit box of the No. 24 and with driver William Byron in 2019.

Knaus admits regularly referring to Johnson, with whom he won a NASCAR record-tying seven championships and 83 races in 612 starts together, is a hard habit to break..

“As we’re going through and setting rosters and doing our car lineups and what not, I’ve caught myself no less than at least 1,500 times, saying ‘On the 48, we want this,’” Knaus said. “It’s definitely a reality.

“But quite frankly, it’s a good thing. I’ve always been a 24 guy at heart, always. All the really productive years of my career began when I came to Hendrick Motorsports and began working with Rick Hendrick, Jeff Gordon and Ray Evernham back in 1993.

“To be able to wear that badge again is really exciting to me. It’s really kind of a homecoming for me. I’ve always had that passion for the 24 and always been a fan of that. So I’m excited to be back and be a part of it.”

As for working with Byron, Knaus admits it will be an interesting change, with Knaus being more of an old-school crew chief, while Byron is more of a new-age race car driver.

“The ability is there (but) it’s definitely different,” he said. “When you get yourselves into positions of a guy like myself or Ray (Evernham) … in the contemporary term of mechanical engineer, being very good at algebra, algorithms, material properties and things of that nature, you have to dig in deeper.

“The days that have come in by old school racer knowledge to really make things happen have kind of passed us to a degree. But, and the big but is, that isn’t necessarily what makes a good crew chief nowadays. What does make a good crew chief nowadays is to be able to come up with is good practical racer knowledge and convey that to the people that can make things happen.

“That’s kind of how I’ve started to approach things over the last couple years and it’s starting to show fruit from my perspective. So yeah, there are things you can do. The one thing that has remained consistent is we’re trying to get from the start/finish line back to the start/finish line as fast as you possibly can. That is a fundamental problem in our sport. And if you can do that, faster than anybody else, you’re going to be successful.”

While Knaus admits he’ll miss working with Johnson, the challenge of working with Byron has reinvigorated him.

“It’s definitely lit a fire back in me that I wouldn’t say died, but maybe helps transforms me into a more aggressive approach, which is definitely what we need,” Knaus said.

As for Daytona, Knaus can see Johnson win his third 500 — and a lot more with new crew chief Kevin Meendering.

Knaus says it would be “awesome” if Johnson can win a third Daytona 500, but also has high goals for Byron, as well.

“Jimmie Johnson’s going to go out there and win races with Kevin Meendering, period, 100 percent,” Knaus said. “Is he going to win the Daytona 500? I sure as heck hope so. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

“I love Jimmie like a brother. I hadn’t seen him since the end of last season. We saw each other at the shop two days ago and we gave each other a big old hug. My goal and our goal at Hendrick Motorsports is to have four teams that are capable of going out there and battling for wins and are in a position to battle for championships every single race and every single year. I feel that William has the ability to do that.”

While he’s not putting any pressure on Byron, Knaus definitely has Johnson-like goals for his young driver.

“The goal is to win the Daytona 500 and sit on the pole and win the 150 and we’re the fastest in practice and led every lap,” Knaus said. “That’s the goal. But the reality is it’s going to take a little time.”

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Jamie McMurray to race in Daytona 500 with Spire Motorsports

Spire Motorsports
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Spire Motorsports announced Friday that 2010 Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray will drive the No. 40 car in this year’s Daytona 500.

The Chevrolet Camaro will have branding from Bass Pro Shops, McDonald’s and Cessna, which have all had an affiliation with McMurray. The effort will be done in partnership with Chip Ganassi Racing.

“The Daytona 500 is the one race that every NASCAR driver would want to win,” McMurray said in a statement from the team. “For the rest of your life you get to be introduced or recognized as a Daytona 500 champion. I’m excited to have the opportunity to potentially be a two-time winner of the race and it would mean so much to celebrate one more win with all of the great partners that have been with me for so many years.”

Spire Motorsports is a new entry to the Cup Series this year. Spire Sports + Entertainment executives Jeff Dickerson and TJ Puchyr purchased the charter from Furniture Row Racing after last season. The team will field the No. 77 the rest of the season but is using the No. 40 for this race. That’s the car number McMurray drove at the beginning of his Cup career in 2002. The charter ensures McMurray a starting spot in the 500.

The team also announced that Joe Garone, who was President of Furniture Row Racing, will have that same role for this team, which will be based in Mooresville, North Carolina.

McMurray completed his 16th season last year. Kurt Busch is taking over the No. 1 ride McMurray had the past nine seasons at Chip Ganassi Racing. McMurray has seven career Cup victories. McMurray is one of three drivers to have won the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 in the same season, joining Dale Jarrett (1996) and Jimmie Johnson (2006). McMurray accomplished the feat in 2010.

McMurray will be a Fox Sports analyst this year and have a role at Chip Ganassi Racing.