What Cup Championship 4 drivers said at Media Day

3 Comments

The drivers who will compete for the Cup title this weekend convened in Miami Beach today for the Championship 4 Media Day.

Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick addressed many topics ahead of Sunday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBC).

Here are highlights from each driver’s availability.

 

Martin Truex Jr.

On being less successful on 1.5-mile tracks than last year: “If I compare this year to last year, I would say this year ‑‑ you know, like last year, we were lights out.  The 4 car (Kevin Harvick), if they could hit it, they could beat us.  This year the 4 car has been lights out, and if we hit it, we can beat them.  I know, if we hit it, we can beat any of them, and we showed that.

“It’s been harder to consistently hit that target this year.  It’s been more difficult.  With that said, though, I felt like both Kansas and Texas, we weren’t bad.  Man, we had everything go against us.  Like everything that could possibly happen wrong went wrong, so we really had to battle and fight.  You know, pit stop issues and cautions falling at the wrong time and all that stuff, and we didn’t have any of that last year.

“All that being said, I feel good about this weekend.  But it’s going to be tough.  It’s not going to be easy.  There’s no question.”

 

On what he’ll miss about working with Furniture Row Racing: “I’ve never been on a team that I feel like makes me a better driver every single weekend.  Always finds a way to make me better.  I don’t know if we’ll be able to continue that.  I don’t know if we’ll be able to put together a group that can keep that going.  I know (crew chief) Cole (Pearn) is a really, really big part of that, so obviously, staying together with him is important.

“But there’s so many things that go into building a championship caliber team and so many decisions throughout the week.  You know, I don’t know how the dynamic will change, but just feeling the way I feel every weekend that I go to the racetrack, and I feel like we can win.”

MORE: Martin Truex Jr.: ‘I won’t just wreck a guy … unless it’s the 22’

Joey Logano

On being with his Championship 4 rivals during a long week of promotion: “You don’t know what you’re getting into until you get there sometimes, how everyone is going to handle the situation.  There’s been times I’ve been part of this, the head games start when we go to New York.  Everyone starts throwing little jabs here and there.  You’re like, ‘Wow, okay.’

“Then the last couple times really for me … we’ve all tried to find ways to enjoy it.  The situation is we’re all going to be stuck on an airplane together, we’re going to be stuck in a car together, we’re going to do all these things in New York together.  There’s no one else with us.  We didn’t bring our assistants with us or anything like that.  We were on our own.

“Actually we talked a lot, talked a lot about racing, talked a lot about not racing.  We have so much in common, race car drivers do, right?  No one else knows our lifestyle but other race car drivers.  I think you have a lot in common to talk about things like that.

“I think everyone understands that when we get to the racetrack, you put the helmet on, you’re there to win.  You’re still a competitor, there to beat them.  You got to be able to find the light switch in there at some point.  I feel like I found that quite a few years ago to where you can flip a light switch, be competitive, be a hard racer, but flip it off and be human.”

 

On making Championship 4 after missing playoffs in 2017: “I think you finish second in the points (in 2016), you think making the playoffs is a given.  That’s going to be easy.  We quickly found out that is not a given.  It’s a little harder than you think.  We learned a lot last year as a race team.  We dug hard.  We’ve slowly scratched and clawed our way back to where we are.  Didn’t come till about 10 weeks ago.

“We scratched and clawed throughout a lot of this season to find a little bit more speed, a little bit more, a little bit more.  We kept ourselves up there in points all season, but we weren’t in contention to win, like I said, last 15 weeks or so.”

Kevin Harvick

On how having children keeps him from losing his temper: “Look, if I was jumping over the hood of a car right now, went into my house, had a 6‑year‑old (who) saw me trampling, do you know how embarrassed I would be to walk in the front door and answer that question?  ‘Hey, dad, why did you jump over that guy’s car, grab him by the throat?’ Well, probably wasn’t the right thing to do. Then it would get more embarrassing as you take him to school, drive through the carpool lines to see his teachers that are all watching as well. Don’t say all the right things, do the right things.  As you go through life, I would hope we all mature from a life standpoint to be able to be a better person. I still screw up a lot.”

On his strengths and weaknesses at Miami: “A lot of that depends on what your car is doing on a particular weekend.  I don’t think any year is going to be the same as to what you fight. They changed the tire this year.  That’s obviously a little bit different than what we’ve had in the past. It’s definitely a situation to where tomorrow is really not going to tell us anything as far as that goes, as well, because you’re going to run three laps in practice, hopefully run three laps in qualifying, then you’re going to put it into what matters, and that’s race trim. You want to qualify on the pole if you can because the pit box is an advantage, so close to the timing line.  It’s a unique racetrack. You know running right against the fence is probably the fastest way around after lap 25. What happens if there’s only 20 laps left? Where do you run then? Do you run the bottom, the middle? You just have to have options here from what your car will do, what you do as a driver because it’s such a unique track.”

 

Kyle Busch

On the finale being disappointing if Joey Logano wins the title:  “I would agree with that statement.  He’s been there.  He’s been consistent.  He’s been good.  He hasn’t necessarily performed to the level of the Big 3 and that’s no shake on them at all.  It’s just the fact of the matter.  So if he wins the title over the rest of us, then that would certainly be a little bit more disappointing.”

 

On if he gets nervous in championship scenarios: “I think so. I think last year in the situation between myself and Truex, like, yeah, I wouldn’t say you’re nervous, but you’re just feeling everything and pushing everything.  So you’re tensed up a lot more than what you would probably normally be just trying to not mess up and hit every single mark exactly perfect.

“Sometimes that’s ‑‑ I go faster in those situations, and sometimes I go slower in those situations.  So you’ve always just got to try to keep a level head and a frame of mind of being able to go out there and just focus on the job and the task at hand.”

 and on Facebook

Tentative 2020 Daytona Speedweeks schedule released

Leave a comment

The 2019 NASCAR season has been over for just a few days, but already things are starting to shape up for the 2020 season.

NASCAR revealed the tentative 2020 Daytona Speedweeks schedule for NASCAR Cup, Xfinity, Gander RV and Outdoors Trucks and ARCA series. The 2020 Daytona 500 will be Feb. 16.

Here it is (subject to change):

(All times Eastern)

Thursday, February 6

7 a.m. – 6 p.m. – ARCA garage open

Friday, February 7

8 a.m. – 5 p.m. – ARCA garage open

1 – 5 p.m. – Cup garage open

1:30 – 2:30 p.m. – ARCA practice

3 – 4 p.m. – ARCA final practice

Saturday, February 8

7:30 a.m. – ARCA garage opens

8:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. – Cup garage open

11:35 a.m. – 12:25 p.m. – Final Cup practice for cars entered in the Clash

12:30 p.m. – ARCA qualifying (group qualifying)

1:35 – 2:25 p.m. – Cup practice for all cars

2:45 p.m. – ARCA driver/spotter meeting

3 – 3:50 p.m. – Cup practice for all cars

4:20 p.m. – ARCA driver introductions

4:45 p.m. – ARCA race (80 laps, 200 miles)

Sunday, February 9

8 a.m. – 7 p.m. – Cup garage open

10:30 a.m. – Cup driver/crew chief meeting

12:30 p.m. – Cup qualifying impound (single vehicle / one lap all positions)

2:30 p.m. – Cup driver introductions

3 p.m. – Cup Clash race (75 laps, 187.5 miles)

Monday, February 10

No on-track activities scheduled

Tuesday, February 11

No on-track activities scheduled

Wednesday, February 12

No on-track activities scheduled

Thursday, February 13

10 am – 8 p.m. – Truck garage open

3 – 11 p.m. – Cup garage open

4:05 – 4:55 p.m. – Truck practice

5:15 p.m. – Cup driver/crew chief meeting

5:30 – 5:55 p.m. – Truck practice

6:20 p.m. – Cup driver introductions

7 p.m. – Cup first qualifying race (60 laps, 150 miles)

8:45 p.m. – Cup second qualifying race (60 laps, 150 miles)

Friday, February 14

9:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. – Xfinity garage open

9:30 a.m. – Truck garage opens

11 a.m. – 7 p.m. – Cup garage open

2:05 – 2:55 p.m. – Xfinity practice

3:10 p.m. – Truck qualifying impound (single vehicle / one lap all positions)

4:32 – 4:57 p.m. – Xfinity final practice

5:05 – 5:55 p.m. – Cup practice

6:05 p.m. – Truck driver/crew chief meeting

7 p.m. – Truck driver introductions

7:30 p.m. – Truck race (Stages 20/40/100 laps = 250 miles)

Saturday, February 15

9:30 a.m. – Xfinity garage opens

11 a.m. – Xfinity qualifying impound (single vehicle / one lap all positions)

11 a.m. – 4 p.m. – Cup garage open

12:15 p.m. – Xfinity driver/crew chief meeting

12:30 – 1:20 p.m. – Final Cup practice

2 p.m. – Xfinity driver introductions

2:30 p.m. – Xfinity race (Stages 30/30/120 laps = 300 miles)

Sunday, February 16

9 a.m. – Cup garage open

12:30 p.m. – Cup driver/crew chief meeting

1:45 p.m. – Cup driver introductions

2:30 p.m. – Daytona 500 (Stages 60/120/200 lap = 500 miles)

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Tyler Reddick, Star Trek and the baby name that could have been

Leave a comment

Tyler Reddick lets out a heavy sigh.

In that sigh, the two-time Xfinity Series champion weighs the pros and cons of one of the most important questions that’s plagued society.

As the great philosopher Weird Al Yankovic once put it, “Only question I ever thought was hard was ‘Do I like Kirk, or do I like Picard?'”

Reddick comes to his decision.

“It’s gotta be Picard,” Reddick declares to NBC Sports.

“He’s always smart, he’s one step ahead of the game most of the time. A lot of the captains, well, (William) Shatner set the brute force tone if you know what I mean. But Picard is different. He’s smart, he went about things differently and thought a different way. He’s a very, very good character. He’s my favorite for kind of those reasons.”

Why is Reddick – who is in the middle of a visit to Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, as part of his championship tour –  putting forth his take on Star Trek’s James T. Kirk vs Jean-Luc Picard debate, which has been waged since Star Trek: The Next Generation first aired on TV in 1987?

It’s because of a baby name. Or the one that could have been.

When Reddick won Saturday’s Xfinity championship race in Miami, he also won a friendly bet with his girlfriend, Alexa De Leon.

With his championship, they would name their son, scheduled to be born Jan. 17, Beau.

But there was a different name, which Alexa found on the Internet and was sold on.

“Alexa really wanted our son’s name to be Ryker,” says Reddick, who at first “was all for it.”

William T. Riker, played by Jonathan Frakes. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

Why?

You can thank Commander William T. Riker,  first officer on the U.S.S. Enterprise – D.

“Every time I hear the name, I think of that character,” says Reddick.

Reddick’s fondness for Star Trek is tied to his racing career. Before he made it to NASCAR, he raced on dirt tracks. His downtime was spent on Netflix.

“I’ve been able to pretty much watch everything,” Reddick says. “That’s how I got caught up and watched it. I would travel on the road dirt racing or whatever. I would sit on Netflix and watch all of the series, kind of in the order they’re supposed to come out. There was about a year straight … that’s all I watched when I was at the house.”

Even with his love of Trek – he has a Star Fleet insignia Pop Socket on the back of his phone – he couldn’t bring himself to pull the phaser trigger on naming his son after the jazz-loving Commander Riker.

“I don’t know, I’m worried people are going to pick on me for naming my son after a Star Trek character,” Reddick admits. “As crazy as it sounds, it was one of the reasons I didn’t like the name Ryker, because I watched Star Trek so much.”

Ryker Reddick is a strong name. It’s not too late to make the change.

“I can’t now, because I’m just so headstrong,” Reddick says. “I just like the name Beau better.”

That said, Reddick isn’t just a fan of old Star Trek. He watches the series Star Trek: Discovery that debuted in 2017.

Oh, and he’ll get his Picard fix early next year. Patrick Stewart returns in the CBS All Access series Picard to play the character he last portrayed in the 2002 movie Star Trek: Nemesis.

“(Alexa) made fun of me for being so excited about it,” Reddick says. “She said I was like, ‘fangirling.'”

NBC Sports Power Rankings: Kyle Busch ends the season No. 1

1 Comment

The 2019 season is over and Kyle Busch is the NASCAR Cup champion. And not surprisingly, the younger Busch brother also ends the season as No. 1 in this week’s Power Rankings.

Busch received 39 of 40 possible points to take the No. 1 spot, followed by the other three Championship 4 contenders: Martin Truex Jr. (35 points), and Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick (tied for third place with 28 points each).

The biggest surprises in this week’s standings were Xfinity Series champ Tyler Reddick in fifth and Gander Outdoors Truck Series champ Matt Crafton in sixth.

Here’s this week’s Power Rankings:

1. Kyle Busch (39 points): Finally gets that second title. Last week: Second.

2. Martin Truex Jr. (35 points): Inexcusable pit mistake left him as the championship runner-up for the second year in a row. Last week: Fourth.

(tie) 3. Denny Hamlin (28 points): Came so close to his first championship, only to be fall short yet again. Could this be the closest he’ll get? Last week: First.

(tie) 3. Kevin Harvick (28 points): Needed a bit more help than he got going against the Joe Gibbs Racing juggernaut. Still, a very strong season regardless. Last week: Third.

5. Tyler Reddick (18 points): It’s hard enough to win one championship, but back-to-back championships with two different teams? Last week: Unranked.

6. Matt Crafton (14 points): Wins the championship without even winning a race (in fact, his last win was more than two years ago). Thrived on his underdog status. Last week: Unranked.

7. Ryan Blaney (12 points): Finished 11th or better, including a win at Talladega, in five of the last six playoff races. Last week: Fifth.

(tie) 8. Joey Logano (11 points): Ends year with four consecutive top 10s, but he fell short in making it to the championship round and defending last year’s title. Last week: Eighth.

(tie) 8. Erik Jones (11 points): Ends season with four top 10s in last five races. That bodes well for next season. Last week: Seventh.

10. Christopher Bell (6 points): Missed his chance to add an Xfinity title to his Truck championship. Still, with eight wins, had an outstanding season. Up next: a promotion to the Cup Series. Last week: 10th.

Others receiving votes: Kyle Larson (5 points), Clint Bowyer (5 points), Cole Custer (4 points), Austin Hill (2 points), Brad Keselowski (1 point), Brett Moffitt (1 point).

Zane Smith joins GMS Racing for full-time Truck Series ride

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Zane Smith will compete full-time for GMS Racing in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series next year, the team announced Tuesday.

Smith, 20, joins the team after competing part-time with JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series this year, where his best result in 10 races was fifth twice.

He will be GMS Racing’s fourth full-time entry next year, joining Brett Moffitt, Sheldon Creed and Tyler Ankrum. Sam Mayer will compete part-time.

Smith will have veteran Kevin “Bono” Manion as his crew chief.

“When I got the offer from Mike Beam asking me to run a truck full-time for GMS Racing, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity,” Smith said in a press release. “GMS is a championship-caliber team and to be a part of an organization like theirs is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’m looking forward to working with Manion again. He has a lot of experience and I know we will be a great team.”

Manion, who has 24 wins across all three national NASCAR series since 2003, joins GMS Racing after serving as a crew chief for DGR-Crosley in 2019, including working with Rookie of the Year Tyler Ankrum. Manion was crew chief for Smith in 2018 when he made his Truck Series debut at Gateway and finished fifth.

“I am really excited to join GMS Racing and Zane (Smith) for the 2020 season,” Manion said in a press release. “With GMS Racing’s championship caliber equipment and Chevrolet support, we have all the resources to win some races and be in the hunt for the 2020 Championship. I got the opportunity to crew chief Zane (Smith) in his first Gander Trucks start in 2018 at Gateway and we worked really well together. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish next season.”

Sponsorship and an assigned truck number for Smith will be announced at a later date.