Friday 5: Can anyone beat Joe Gibbs Racing, Team Penske?

0 Comments

Maybe it will happen this weekend.

Or maybe the streak will keep going. If it does, the question becomes when will someone beat Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske to win a Cup race? It might not be until well into July. Or later.

NASCAR has seen its share of dominance through the years from Richard Petty winning 10 consecutive races in 1967 to Hendrick Motorsports winning nine of 10 races in 2007 with four different drivers.

That level of dominance has returned. Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske have combined to 15 of the first 16 races. JGR has 10 of those wins, including seven of the last 10.

As the series heads to Chicagoland Speedway for Sunday’s Cup race (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN), Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske will look to continue their reign on 1.5-mile tracks.

The two organizations have won all five races on 1.5-mile races this season. Brad Keselowski won at Atlanta and Kansas, Joey Logano won at Las Vegas, Denny Hamlin won at Texas and Martin Truex Jr. won the Coca-Cola 600, the most recent race at a 1.5-mile track.

JGR and Team Penske have combined to win nine of the last 11 races on 1.5-mile tracks, dating back to Kyle Busch’s last-lap win a year ago at Chicagoland Speedway.

OK, that’s what has happened but look at what could happen in the coming weeks.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s current drivers have won the past four races at Chicagoland Speedway. Add Team Penske and those two organizations have won six of the last seven Chicagoland races. That other race? Since retired Matt Kenseth won for JGR.

If not at Chicagoland, maybe some other team can win at Daytona on July 6. They’ll race the same package that was run at Talladega. Chase Elliott won there, giving Hendrick Motorsports its only victory of the season. While it was with a different package, the last time Cup raced at Daytona, Hamlin was celebrating his second Daytona 500 triumph.

If not at Daytona, what about Kentucky on July 13? Don’t count on it. Current JGR drivers and Team Penske drivers have won seven of the eight races there. The exception? Kenseth won in 2013 for Joe Gibbs Racing.

If not at Kentucky, what about New Hampshire on July 21? Kevin Harvick did the bump-and-run on Kyle Busch in the closing laps to win that race last year and end JGR’s run of five wins in six races there.

OK, if not New Hampshire, then it is back to Pocono on July 28. Busch won there in June for the fourth consecutive win by a current JGR driver.

So when?

Of course, some other team may win this weekend at Chicagoland or in the coming weeks, but even if they do, good chance it won’t turn into a streak.

2. What about Kevin Harvick?

If there is a favorite to topple the reign of Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske, it is Kevin Harvick, who continues to search for his first victory of the season.

Harvick is due. Only one other time since 2013 has he failed to win by the season’s 16th race (this weekend marks the 17th race of the year).

He has had his chances this season, particularly on 1.5-mile tracks. Harvick has scored the most points (214) on such tracks this season. Chase Elliott is next at (185). Denny Hamlin is third at 175.

Harvick has two top-five finishes and four top-10 results in the five races on 1.5-mile tracks. Maybe it’s his time?

3. Stranger than fiction

Ross Chastain was the guest on this week’s NASCAR on NBC podcast with Nate Ryan. Among the topics was how star-crossed Chastain’s career has been.

He’s fought to climb the ranks in NASCAR and got his best chance in a three-race Xfinity stint with Chip Ganassi Racing last year. Chastain was battling Kevin Harvick for the lead at Darlington when they had contact. Chastain came back to win the Xfinity race at Las Vegas. He signed a deal to drive for Ganassi’s Xfinity car this season but the ride went away after DC Solar declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy after a raid by the FBI.

That left Chastain scrambling for a ride this season. He started the year by running every race in Cup, Xfinity and Trucks until the June 9 Cup event at Michigan International Speedway.

During that time, Chastain changed his declaration for points from Xfinity to the Truck Series. His win at Iowa seemed to have set him for the playoffs until his truck failed inspection and was disqualified. No problem, Chastain went out and won last weekend at Gateway.

“It’s definitely not the way I would have written it,” Chastain set on the podcast about his up-and-down path. “ I don’t think they would ever make a movie about this or write a book, it would have to be a fictional book because no one would believe it.”

4. Manufacturer scorecard

Since the start of the 2018 season, Ford has 24 Cup wins, Toyota 23 and Chevrolet five.

Four of Chevrolet’s five wins are by Chase Elliott. The other victory was by Austin Dillon in the 2018 Daytona 500.

5. Another win but …

Ty Majeski scored his third ARCA victory of the season Thursday night at Chicagoland Speedway.

After a humbling Xfinity season last year at Roush Fenway Racing where Majeski was eliminated by a crash in four of his 12 starts, to rebound and win in ARCA has been meaningful to him.

“This is personally what I needed,” Majeski said of his success.

But his summer will be spent mainly racing Late Models. He said he “highly doubts” he’ll do any Xfinity races this season. The only ARCA race he’s scheduled to run is the season finale Oct. 18 at Kansas Speedway.

Where are they now? Scott Riggs races with son, Layne

0 Comments

Scott Riggs, who raced for 15 years in NASCAR’s top three national series, now is guiding the racing career of his 20-year-old son, Layne.

And things are going well.

Layne won this year’s NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series Late Model championship, scoring 16 wins in 43 starts and edging former series champion Peyton Sellers by four points for the title.

Riggs thus became the youngest champion in Weekly Series history.

“It all started when Layne was 10 years old, mostly just something to entertain him and to have some fun,” Scott told NBC Sports. “But it’s turned into a full-fledged job. My life and plate have been full.”

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings: Memorable quotes

The Riggs family’s race shop is located in Bahama, North Carolina, Riggs’ home base during his NASCAR career. Scott describes himself as the “truck driver, spotter, crew chief and in-shop mechanic.”

“I am very tired,” he said.

The team, which depends on volunteers, didn’t plan to race in so many events this season, but when Layne started the year with a string of victories, it made sense to chase the national championship and give him a chance to be the youngest winner ever.

“To chase it that hard and be that close and then to win it, it was very exhausting,” Scott said. “It was a very big relief to finish the year.”

Success on short tracks resulted in Layne racing in three Camping World Truck Series events this year with Halmar Racing. He had a best finish of seventh at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park in his series debut.

MORE: Snowball Derby attracts top NASCAR drivers

Scott Riggs ended his NASCAR driving career in 2014 in the Truck Series. He won five Truck races and four Xfinity races and ran 208 Cup races without a win. He made his Truck debut in 1999, moved to Xfinity in 2002 (winning Rookie of the Year) and then to Cup in 2004.

Riggs, now 51, raced in the Cup Series from 2004-13 with stops at MB2 Motorsports and with teams owned by Gene Haas, Tommy Baldwin and Ray Evernham, among others. He had four top-five finishes.

“I think I was very fortunate and the timing was right for me to move up through the ranks and get so many good opportunities,” Riggs said. “I raced late models for a long time, and then all of a sudden I got the opportunity to get in a truck. Won some races and poles and won races and poles in Xfinity.”

MORE: Jody Ridley’s upset for the ages

He ran out of chances in Cup as team models shifted, including some downsizing and mergers.

“I felt like I couldn’t get an opportunity that I had worked for and earned,” Riggs said. “It was hard for me. I was bitter for a year or so. But I look back, and a realization came over me that I was fortunate to have that time with my kids when they were at the right ages. I got to watch them do their things and just be the dad I wanted to be — not being gone four out of every seven days racing.

“I don’t think I’d have the relationship I have today with my kids if I had had a longer time in the sport.”

 

 

NASCAR Power Rankings: Memorable quotes through the years

1 Comment

The best quotes from drivers and others involved in NASCAR competition often come in the heat of the moment — after a crash or a close finish or a controversial decision by officials.

NASCAR’s history is filled with memorable quotes from drivers who won races to drivers who watched wins slip away to officials caught in a moment of history.

Here’s a look at 10 that stand out:

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. “I didn’t mean to turn him around. I meant to rattle his cage, though.” — Dale Earnhardt, describing how he didn’t mean to wreck Terry Labonte after he wrecked Labonte on the last lap at Bristol Motor Speedway to win the Aug. 28, 1999 race.

2. “They have a golden horseshoe stuck up their ass. There’s no way to get around that.” — Kevin Harvick, Feb. 21, 2010, offering his opinion on why Jimmie Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports team won so many races after Johnson outran him to win at Auto Club Speedway.

MORE: An upset for the ages: Jody Ridley wins at Dover

3. “It’s a stump-puller.” — Sterling Marlin, emphasizing the strength of his engine after he won the Daytona 500 Feb. 19, 1995.

4. “It’s probably not his fault. His wife wears the firesuit in the family and tells him what to do.” — Joey Logano, talking about Kevin Harvick after they were involved in a late-race crash at Pocono Raceway June 6, 2010. Harvick’s wife, DeLana, often wore a firesuit similar to those worn by team members during races.

5. “Do you have a brother?” — Ward Burton, responding to a reporter who asked if it was tougher to finish second because the race winner was his brother, Jeff, March 7, 1999 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

MORE: Memorable images from 2022 NASCAR season

6. “I couldn’t hear him. He’s got that little yap-yap mouth. I couldn’t tell what he was saying.” — Ricky Rudd, commenting on what Kevin Harvick said to him after they wrecked at Richmond Raceway, Sept. 6, 2003.

7. “We can’t race with tears in our eyes.” — team owner Robert Yates, explaining why his team would not participate in the next week’s race after its driver, Davey Allison, was killed in a helicopter crash, July 1993.

8. “He’d have to toast everyone with milk.” — Dale Earnhardt, commenting on the celebratory drink choice Jeff Gordon might make if he ever won the Cup championship. After he won the 1995 Cup title, Gordon followed through, toasting his championship with a glass of milk at the awards banquet.

MORE: 2023 NASCAR, ARCA schedules

9. “You know they say there’s talkers and doers. I’ve done this twice.” — Tony Stewart, winning the pre-race trash-talk contest with Carl Edwards prior to the 2011 race for the championship. Stewart had won the title in 2002 and 2005 and notched another over Edwards in 2011.

10. “This is undoubtedly one of the toughest announcements that I’ve ever personally had to make, but after the accident in Turn 4 of the Daytona 500 we’ve lost Dale Earnhardt.” — NASCAR President Mike Helton, confirming Earnhardt’s death at Daytona International Speedway, Feb. 18, 2001.

Honorable mentions: David Pearson, after being told that Richard Petty had said Pearson was the best driver he ever raced against: “I agree with him.” … CBS broadcaster Ken Squier, calling the famous finish of the 1979 Daytona 500: “And there’s a fight between Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison! The tempers, overflowing. They are angry. They know they have lost. And what a bitter defeat.” … NASCAR founder Bill France, providing a unique ending to a pre-race prayer after temporarily forgetting to use Amen: “Sincerely, Bill France.”

Snowball Derby entry list includes NASCAR Cup, Xfinity, Truck drivers

0 Comments

Four Cup drivers are among those entered for Sunday’s 55th annual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida.

The Cup drivers entered are former series champion Brad Keselowski, playoff competitor William Byron, two-time Southern 500 winner Erik Jones and incoming Cup rookie Noah Gragson, who advanced to the Xfinity title race this year.

Also entered: Josh Berry, who competed in the Xfinity championship race this year, and Ty Majeski, who competed in the Truck championship race this year.

Majeski won the 2020 Snowball Derby. Gragson won the race in 2018. Jones won the event in 2012 and ’13.

Others entered include:

Chandler Smith, who won the 2021 Snowball Derby and will drive for Kaulig Racing in the Xfinity Series in 2023, is listed on the entry list but stated on social media he will not be competing.

The Snowball Derby is among the more prestigious Super Late Model races on the calendar and coming after the NASCAR season makes it easier for more Cup, Xfinity and Truck competitors to take part in the event.

Qualifying takes place Saturday. The Snowball Derby is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET Sunday. Racing America will stream Sunday’s race for $49.99. A three-day viewing pass can be purchased for $74.99.

 

 

An upset for the ages: Jody Ridley’s 1981 victory at Dover

0 Comments

NASCAR’s history is sprinkled with upsets, from unlikely winners riding the Talladega draft to short tracks that yielded unexpected wins when favored leaders crashed on the final lap.

Survey the list of surprise winners over the decades, and Jody Ridley’s name likely will stand out.

On May 17, 1981, two days shy of his 39th birthday, Ridley won a 500-mile race at Dover Motor Speedway in Delaware. It was the only victory of Ridley’s Cup career and the only win scored by Virginia team owner Junie Donlavey, who participated in the Cup Series for 45 years, with 863 starts.

Donlavey’s team was perpetually underfunded, and his drivers often raced with tired, overused engines and tires that had too many laps. He survived with a mostly volunteer crew and enough sponsorship to carry him from race to race. Rival drivers and team owners considered Donlavey one of the most popular residents of NASCAR garage areas across those many years, but he rarely had the chance to reach for victory lane.

MORE: Making NASCAR work in Chicago

On that spring day at Dover, one of NASCAR’s toughest tracks, everything fell the right way. Many of the tour’s leading drivers parked with engine or overheating problems, and the day’s best car – the Wood Brothers entry driven by Neil Bonnett — was sidelined with an engine issue late in the race after leading 404 laps.

Ridley, running a steady race, benefited from an unusual day at Dover. The race had only two cautions, and the final 471 laps of 500 were run under green-flag conditions. A general lack of cautions prevented top teams from changing tires frequently, putting Ridley, who was used to running tires longer than normal, on better footing.

When Cale Yarborough left the race with engine trouble 20 laps from the finish, Ridley inherited the lead — he had been two laps down to Yarborough — and led the rest of the way. He won by 22 seconds over Bobby Allison, who was the only other driver on the lead lap. Dale Earnhardt finished third, a lap down. Illustrating the problems experienced by many in the field — not an unusual result in those days — was the fact that the fourth-place driver, D.K. Ulrich, was nine laps off the lead pace.

Ridley drove into Victory Lane for the first time, much to the delight of Donlavey’s crew.

“Junie took it all in stride,” Ridley, now 80, told NBC Sports. “He wasn’t as excited as the team guys were. Junie was the type of guy who didn’t want to cash in on other people’s bad luck. He kind of felt sorry for the guys who blew up. That’s just the way he was.

“For me, it was the highlight of my career. Once I got into Cup racing, I knew we probably wouldn’t do much winning because we didn’t have the equipment. It was icing on the cake to win that one.”

MORE: Sky dinners, pig races and fighting knights

Jody’s son Anthony, then 22 years old, was listening to the race via radio in Chatsworth, Georgia, where the family lived.

“I was upstairs at my girlfriend’s house, and I think I bounced all over the upstairs and then floated down to the first floor,” Anthony said. “It was all pretty cool. Dad called home. He’s the kind of guy who doesn’t get real excited about anything, but he was happy.”

The win paid $22,560. Ridley’s cut from the check (40 percent, generally standard in those days) was $9,024, a nice payday but not Ridley’s biggest in Cup. He would win more for finishing in the top 10 in the Daytona 500.

“We were having a good day,” Ridley said, “but I never thought about winning it. We just didn’t have the cars. But we stayed in the hunt, and the other teams couldn’t get too many new tires, and Junie had put a different gear in the car. Normally he would put in a taller gear and drop the RPMs down (to protect the engine), and you couldn’t keep up. For some reason that day, he didn’t. And it paid off.”

Before joining the Cup tour full time in 1980 at age 37, Ridley had established himself as one of the top short-track drivers in the country. Across the South, at top Eastern Seaboard tracks and into the Midwest, a visit by Ridley usually meant a tough night for the locals.

MORE: Five laps that impacted Cup season

Ridley’s older brother, Biddle, and Anthony kept the Ridley short-track cars running.

“We did all that together for 36 years,” said Anthony, who started changing tires during pit stops at the age of 14. “It was how we made a living, but trying to feed three families out of a race car is tough.”

Ridley still lives in Chatsworth, where his 1981 victory was a sports highlight for years.

“He can’t hear well, but he’s still tough as a pine knot,” Anthony said.