Long: Martin Truex Jr. joins long list of sparring partners for Joey Logano

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Martin Truex Jr. “had a feeling” what was to come as he entered Turn 3 on the final lap of Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway.

With a win and a place in the championship race in Miami at stake, that bumping in short-track racing on the last lap is generally accepted and Joey Logano was behind him, Truex knew what was next.

He didn’t wreck after the contact from Logano but also didn’t win, later calling Logano’s move a “cheap shot.” Logano said the winning move was a “classic bump and run.”

Pushed around early in his Cup career, Logano has maintained an aggressive posture on the track even if many of his competitors have not liked his driving style at one point or another.

Truex just becomes the latest to a long line of sparring partners for Logano:

Ryan Newman at Michigan in 2010

Kevin Harvick at Pocono in 2010

Denny Hamlin at Bristol in 2013

Tony Stewart at Auto Club in 2013

Hamlin at Auto Club in 2013

Harvick in the Sprint Unlimited in 2015 at Daytona

Matt Kenseth at Kansas in the playoffs in 2015

Kenseth’s retaliation at Martinsville in 2015

Kyle Busch throwing a punch at Las Vegas in 2017

Since the last lap Sunday, the question has been asked if Truex is too nice on the track. It’s a point NBC Sports analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. mentioned after the race and one that NBC Sports’ Nate Ryan examined this week and noted how maybe it’s not such a bad thing Truex is the way he is.

That’s not been a discussion with Logano. People know how he drives. Even though he’s in position to win his first Cup title, he drives with the urgency of one who could be competing in their last race. It’s a situation Logano felt he was in during the 2012 season when Joe Gibbs Racing decided to replace him with Matt Kenseth for the next season.

Although 22 at the time, Logano’s career seemed at a crossroads. He’d won two races in 147 starts and struggled with an elite organization. He later conceded he didn’t know where his career was headed at the time. Car owner Roger Penske signed the young driver and a new team restored Logano’s confidence.

While much is made that Truex has won 17 races since joining Furniture Row Racing in 2014, Logano has won the same number of races for Team Penske in the same time period. The lone difference between the two is Truex won the championship last year.

Even though Truex, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch have dominated this season, a one-race battle for the championship could see Logano crowned two years after he finished runner-up and a year after he failed to make the playoffs.

“I remember the first Chase at the time that I made,” Logano said. “Jimmie Johnson said that it’s 10 weeks of hell. I told him this year, I said, ‘No, missing the whole thing is 10 weeks of hell. Not being in it is way worse.’ I don’t want to feel that feeling again, not at all. That is not a fun time.”


Easily overlooked in Joey Logano’s win was how his revamped pit crew played a key role.

Logano gained eight spots over three pit stops Sunday, twice taking the lead. He also retained the lead once and retained second place another time.

Team Penske moved jackman Graham Stoddard from Ryan Blaney’s crew to Logano’s crew after Blaney was eliminated from title contention at Kansas.

“When we got to a position where we had one car left that had an opportunity to race to Homestead, everybody at the shop and the athletic department came forward and said, ‘How do we make our best pit crew?’ It’s a testament to how closely our teams work together,” crew chief Todd Gordon said. “When you make a change like that, personalities sometimes don’t … click, chemistry isn’t built right off, you don’t have all the potential you had.

“Our groups worked together, they practiced together, they focused together. Kudos to (crew chief) Jeremy (Bullins) and Ryan Blaney for making the sacrifice to put this kind of best foot forward we could.”

Consider this one of the advantages of having only one team car left in the playoffs, something Stewart-Haas Racing can’t do with all four cars still in title contention.


Martin Truex Jr.’s runner-up finish continued an odd trend. His third-place finish was his 19th top 10 of the season. All of those finishes have been top fives. He’s not had a finish between sixth and 10th this season.

No driver has ever finished a season with at least 19 top 10s that were all top fives.

The last driver who had 19 top 10s that were all top fives at one point in a season was Jeff Gordon in 1997. He scored his first top 10 that wasn’t a top five in the 26th race of that season.


Joey Logano’s win prevents Stewart-Haas Racing from placing all four of its cars in the championship race in Miami.

This is the second time since the elimination format that an organization had all four cars in the Round of 8. Joe Gibbs Racing placed all four cars in this round in 2016. Two drivers made it to Miami but none won. Jimmie Johnson won his seventh Cup crown that season.


Even with Ally Financial signing to be the primary sponsor of Jimmie Johnson’s car for every race in 2019 and ’20, Hendrick Motorsports is still looking for additional funding for that car.

“There’s still some associate (sponsorship) on the car and my endorsement opportunities,” Johnson said before Sunday’s race at Martinsville. “I happen to have a few of my relationships run to the end of their contracts this year. I’m looking to any and all and of course, I can’t make any of those moves until we know what our primary is so there is not a conflict.

“The neat thing that has emerged about this partnership (with Ally Financial) is that … the way they go about things it’s a lifestyle brand although it’s a bank and a finance place. I feel this is really a good fit and they really want to support me and things I’m into. From a primary standpoint, this is a home run and it can only get better from here if I can loop in either an endorsement or associate sponsorship from there.”

Jimmie Johnson reflects on some of the best stories of his career

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With seven championships and 83 victories in Cup, it’s pretty clear Jimmie Johnson loves to win.

But there’s something else Johnson loves to do: Tell stories and reflect on his racing career, particularly before he became one of NASCAR’s most legendary drivers.

Before leaving Thursday for Sunday’s Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Johnson spent time reminiscing and telling stories about his racing development on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s Happy Hours with Kevin Harvick and Matt Yocum. He also talked about competing in next month’s Boston Marathon.

Here are some excerpts of Johnson’s tales, related from the pool house/radio studio at Harvick’s house in Charlotte:

Home Sweet Hornaday

Early in the careers of Johnson and Harvick, both were short on cash. As a result, they crashed on the couch of NASCAR Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr. as they were working their way up the racing ladder.

“I never saw Kevin,” Johnson said of Harvick. “I saw his luggage. We seemed to be passing and racing in different places all the time.”

Added Harvick, “I think back to Hornaday’s house and that time, and (Johnson) had some unique gatherings at your house, as well. Hornaday always had a spot that everybody showed up to, but Jimmie’s house was always entertaining, as well.”

It almost was IndyCar and not NASCAR for Johnson

Long before NASCAR and stock car racing were even a possibility, Johnson began his racing career on two wheels, racing dirt bikes. His grandparents owned a motorcycle shop near San Diego.

“Really, my whole world, all my heroes, everybody I looked up to were on two wheels,” Johnson said. “We just loved racing. I’d go to many races, a lot of sprint car races, went to Riverside (now-defunct Riverside International Raceway) a couple times and hung on the fences in the esses and watched Richard Petty make a straight line out of it and throw a lot of dirt around the place.

“Then, in the early 1990s, I got a chance to race a buggy in the Mickey Thompson Stadium Series. Through that and my dad’s relationship with B.F. Goodrich Tires, it got me a chance to race other types of off-road buggies in the desert and stadiums. That’s kind of the world I was in. Then Herb Fishel (GM motorsports manager) spotted me in the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1991 or 1992 (at the age of 15 or 16) and they were looking to bring a second truck along, so I took a Polaroid (picture) with him.

“He went back to Detroit, threw it on the conference room table and said, ‘Let’s put this guy under contract, he’s going to develop our second stadium truck. That was my introduction into Chevrolet. And I thought IndyCar was going to be my route, but (Chevy) pulled out of IndyCar and said if I wanted a future in motorsports, NASCAR is where it’s at. And then, Hornaday’s couch, here I come.

“I was just trying to figure it all out. I’m still trying to figure it out, I guess. My whole view and world was just dirt-related. I didn’t think much of the asphalt side, especially stock-car racing. (IndyCar) seemed interesting, also the Toyota Long Beach Grand Prix was right there in the area, so IndyCar was a bit of an idea, but I didn’t think it was going to work out.”

How stalking Jeff Gordon paid off

Johnson was racing in the Busch Series with Stan and Randy Herzog in 2000. Johnson had previously raced two seasons in off-road competition and then ASA Racing for the Herzogs, and Fishel had hoped they could groom him as well as build a Cup team themselves.

Unfortunately, the Herzogs said they couldn’t afford to go Cup racing and told Johnson he could seek out other deals.

“The Herzogs said if they couldn’t find a sponsor, they didn’t want to hold me back, and that maybe I should put word out that I’m available,” Johnson said. “Opportunities came along, but they all meant leaving Chevrolet. I was struggling with that and couldn’t do it.

“I needed to get some advice, so I totally stalked Jeff Gordon at the August 2000 Michigan race. He gave me some advice and said, ‘Man, you’re not going to believe this, but (Hendrick Motorsports) is looking to start a fourth team and the only name that has come up is yours. So we might be able to fix your problem altogether.’

“A month later, I had a signed contract with (Hendrick) to start in 2002 (he would race one more season in Busch for the Herzogs in 2001, with significant help from the Hendrick camp).”

How Johnson won his first championship – with a broken leg

At 8 years old, Johnson was seeking his first dirt bike championship. The season was growing late, and he took a jump but landed the wrong way.

“I went down, got tangled up with the bike, I destroyed my left knee, broke my tibia and fibula and in the end, was in a cast for nine months when it was all said and done,” Johnson recalled. “I was tied for (the lead in) points, and we rigged something up and welded something to the front of the bike, brought my leg up, and I rode the next two events, got the starting points and was able to win the championship.

“For me, I go back to school, I had to try so hard to accomplish what I needed to. I learned things differently and was a little slow in picking things up. But when I’ve been focused about accomplishing something or I’m passionate about it, I just go all-in. And that all-in is what’s helped me through my whole life.”

Oh, dear – uh, make that deer

Johnson recalled how he was in a group riding bikes in some off-time during one of the Pocono race weekends when a deer decided to crash the party – and almost crashed into Johnson and some of his fellow riders, as well.

“We’ve had a couple run-ins with deer, for sure,” Johnson said. “We had this mini-tornado come through and about crashed us all out. We had to hang on to trees.

“Then I did a big charity ride a few years back and we had some deer running next to us in the field, they made a turn and tried to come across the road and just about wiped us all out. It was like Talladega all over again.”

I’m holding out for a hero

Harvick explained how four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears was his hero growing up in Bakersfield, California.

Which led to Johnson talking about his own hero growing up: legendary off-road racer Ivan “The Iron Man” Stewart – and how he became the focus of an equally legendary book report for Johnson on his favorite driver.

“(Stewart) lived in our neighborhood and the one that really stalked Ivan to help me with my book report was my mom,” Johnson said. “Her school bus route went right by his house. I had started my book report about (Stewart). My mom knew she probably could help and popped in to see Linda, his wife, because we all knew each other from the off-road (racing) community.

“She came home with a life-size cutout of Ivan and all these pictures and stats and stuff. It was probably one of the only A’s I ever got in school.”

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Watch NASCAR America live today from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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In the second edition of The Motorsports Hour, NASCAR America will welcome the defending champion of the Indianapolis 500, Will Power of Team Penske.

Host Krista Voda will be joined by analysts Parker Kligerman and A.J. Allmendinger from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

The Motorsports Hour will highlight the upcoming weekend’s NASCAR races and also shine a light on the latest news in motorsports including IndyCar, IMSA, American Flat Track, Supercross, Motocross, Mecum collector car auctions and more.

In coming weeks, other analysts will join the show including former IndyCar drivers Paul Tracy and Townsend Bell, former IMSA GT driver Calvin Fish and Motocross and Supercross legend Ricky Carmichael.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Toyota exec explains how Gibbs-Hendrick deal at Daytona took trust

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The alliance between Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing in the 2019 Daytona 500 was essentially a handshake deal, but the details were much more complex.

“The thing is with this strategy is it’s not just saying, ‘Do you want to work together? OK, great,’ ” Toyota Racing Development president David Wilson said Thursday on SiriusXM Satellite Radio. “You have to sit down with crew chiefs in one room looking each other in the eye, plotting a definitive strategy of what you’re doing with pit stops because it’s about coming in and leaving together.

“It’s more than just shaking hands and saying, ‘OK, we’ll work together.’ The credit goes to crew chiefs, spotters and the level of trust and unselfishness it takes from the drivers. These guys aren’t programmed in this manner.”

During an interview with co-hosts Danielle Trotta and Larry McReynolds, Wilson shed some more light on the unusual partnership between the Chevrolet and Toyota teams, which came to light through in-race scanner chatter and winner Denny Hamlin’s postrace comments to NBCSports.com’s Dustin Long.

The strategy was most evident during the second stage when a fleet of six cars – three Hendrick Camaros and three Gibbs Camrys – got off sequence and ran much faster that the field (putting some good cars a lap down).

“When you saw that pack about to lap the entire field, how do five to six cars go three 10ths (of a second) faster? It was because they weren’t racing each other at the time,” Wilson said.

“To be clear, we also agreed that with 10 (laps) to go, it’s every man for himself. In the end each driver was working toward winning that race, not pushing one of their competitors to the win. But awful proud of the innovation and creativity deployed that particular Sunday.”

The impetus for the Gibbs-Hendrick deal was Ford sweeping the top three spots in both qualifying races last Thursday.

“I have to admit that it wasn’t something we’ve been plotting for weeks,” Wilson said. “It really came together a couple of days before the race. Looking at how we fared in the Clash and Duels, we knew we had fast cars, drivers happy with power, but we knew when it came down to it, we needed numbers.

“We could do it with our five Toyotas. The problem is if one or two drop out, you don’t have enough. It was in that moment after the Duels where we looked at what else can we do. We approached one of our competitors.”

Drivers’ patience could be tested with new aero package at Atlanta

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If fans thought Cup drivers’ patience was tested at Daytona, just wait until this weekend’s Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Sunday’s race will be the first with the new aero package (with some minor variations) that fans and racers will see going forward for each of the 35 remaining races on the Cup schedule this season.

With brake ducts in place at certain tracks such as Atlanta, and aero ducts in place at others (such as next week at Las Vegas Motor Spedway, the racing could be significantly different. Drivers also will be adjusting to lower horsepower (in the 550 range) and speeds, which could impact the action.

“In general, they’re still loose and tight so we haven’t messed up the balance of the race car,” NASCAR Vice President of Innovation and Racing Development John Probst said Thursday morning on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s On Track with Danielle Trotta and Larry McReynolds. “They’re still learning how to complete the pass. The side draft, racers didn’t just learn about it. It took a period of time for them to perfect it, and I think you’ll see the same thing with this package.”

But drivers who struggle with the new package could cause issues for others who adapt more quickly.

“There are going to be times when drivers are going to get a little less patient with the folks in front of them and they’re going to go two- and three-wide, and that will force the drivers behind them to make decisions on who to go with,” Probst said. “I think you’re going to see that ebb and flow. You’ll see drivers that run good at particular tracks in years past will probably still run good, so you’ll probably still see that competitive element.

“I think they’re going to learn as they go, but the cream of the crop is still going to be at the top We’re not trying to change any of that. Time will tell for the rest of them in how they pick up the new package.”

Probst said NASCAR will monitor whether tracks that have cars using brake ducts to tighten the racing this year may switch to aero ducts next year and vice-versa. He also hopes teams don’t push the limits of the new package too much in inspection (which has happened in previous Atlanta races) but conceded it’s possible.

“We don’t want pack racing per se at intermediate tracks,” Probst said. “We don’t think this package will do that. We do feel we will have more side-by-side racing, closer racing, more cars on the lead lap, probably a bigger penalty for a mistake, like if a driver gets loose on entry or something. It’s very possible that will cost them positions now and they’ll have to recover that.

“I think the nature of this package will lend itself to some pretty cool racing depending upon what track we’re at. It will look a bit different at Atlanta vs. Vegas vs. Fontana. Each week will be a little different with the same package. I expect Atlanta will be a very exciting race. And when we go off to Vegas, it’ll likely lend itself even more to side-by-side just because of the fall-off and how smooth that track is there.

“It’s going to look different at each track, but we’re very confident it will provide our goal of having more entertaining races for our fans.”

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