Rick Hendrick: Jimmie Johnson ‘super on fire’ despite missing playoffs

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When the Cup Series playoffs begin Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7 p.m. ET on NBCSN), Hendrick Motorsports will have three of its four drivers contending for the title.

But for the first time in NASCAR’s postseason, which debuted in 2004, those drivers will not include Jimmie Johnson. His 15-year streak of competing in the playoffs ended last weekend in the Brickyard 400 with a wreck that kept him from securing a playoff spot.

Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive,” owner Rick Hendrick was adamant it shouldn’t have happened.

“For whatever reason, we shouldn’t have been in that situation,” Hendrick said. “I mean the way the car’s been running, we should not have been there. But I tell you what, it’s fired him up and the team up.”

Hendrick, who has been Johnson’s owner for his entire Cup career, described what he’s seen out of Johnson over the last few races as he and new crew chief Cliff Daniels tried to get Johnson into the 16-driver playoff field.

“There’s two ways you can accept that,” Hendrick said. “One: It’s unbelievable and now you just bump into neutral and run along. Or you’re kind of pissed off and mad at yourself, mad at the environment and you got something you want to prove and that’s the way Jimmie and Cliff are now. I see more fire in Jimmie Johnson here of late than I’ve seen in a long time. Not that he’s ever not been on fire, but the commitment, the energy, what he’s doing with the team … you can see it in his eyes, he does not want to be looked at as he can’t get it done anymore.”

From his perspective, Hendrick said making the playoffs wasn’t Johnson’s main goal. It was putting an end to the longest winless streak of his career, which stands at 85 races, two more than the number of wins he’s earned in his career.

“It’s hard to explain this,” Hendrick said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “He’s more interested in winning a race than he was in making the playoffs. Don’t get me wrong, he’ll probably listen to this and say ‘Where did he get that from?’

“Just knowing him for all these years and seeing what he does behind the wheel and his voice and the communication between he and his crew chief, I’ve seen it more in the last four or five races, three races anyway, that he is just super on fire.”

This was further exemplified Sunday after Johnson was eliminated from the race.

“He told me after Indy, ‘I wish we were going to Vegas tonight on the plane,'” Hendrick said. “That’s the burning desire that he has and the team has and the whole organization has. We’re not use to being in that position and we don’t accept that very well.”

While Johnson hasn’t been able to put together a completely clean race in the five races he’s been paired with Daniels, Hendrick has reason to feel good about their pairing moving forward.

“It’s only been five weeks I think, but boy they are clicking, they’re on the same page,” Hendrick said. “I listen to him on the radio and it sounds like the team back when they were winning championships.”

Sioux Chief to sponsor ARCA Showdown, East Series to race at Nashville Fairgrounds

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ARCA announced Saturday that Sioux Chief Manufacturing will be the entitlement sponsor of its 10-race ARCA Menards Series Showdown in 2020.

Sioux Chief Manufacturing is a Missouri company that designs and manufactures rough plumbing products, parts, and accessories for residential, commercial, industrial and government applications

Sioux Chief has been involved in ARCA since 2015 as a race event sponsor and special awards program sponsor and sponsored ARCA’s former Short Track Challenge.

As part of the deal, a newly increased point fund, combined with race purses, owner plan, and contingency awards, will offer teams a chance to compete for a share of over $920,000 in posted awards throughout the series.

The Sioux Chief Showdown will bring together the best drivers from the ARCA Menards Series, the ARCA Menards Series East and ARCA Menards Series West, formerly known as the NASCAR K&N Pro Series. Those events, held on oval tracks 1.25-miles in length and under and road courses, offer drivers who may not be able or eligible to run the full 20-race ARCA Menards Series schedule the opportunity to run for a championship. Combined with the overall ARCA Menards Series championship, and the East and West championships, drivers will have four separate championships to compete for in 2020.

The announcement was made at the Performance Racing Industry Trade Show in Indianapolis. Also present was promoter Bob Sargent of Track Enterprises, who announced that the ARCA Menards Series East would compete at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway on May 2.

The Tennessean reported this week that the Nashville Fairgrounds was negotiating with Sargent to promote at least three races at the short track in 2020. Sargent’s involvement in the track comes after Nashville’s Fair Board voted to terminate its agreement with Formosa Productions to run the track over outstanding debt.

The ARCA Menards Series has competed at the Fairgrounds the last five seasons. The ARCA Menards Series East, formerly known as the K&N Pro Series East, competed there from 2007-08.

GMS Racing reveals full-time driver-crew chief lineup, number assignments

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GMS Racing has announced its full-time driver-crew chief lineup for the 2020 Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series season and number assignments for its trucks:

– Chad Norris has been named crew chief for Brett Moffitt and the No. 23 Chevrolet team. Moffitt drove the No. 24 in his first season with the team. Norris has been with GMS Racing for two years and directed the effort that delivered the team its 2018 Xfinity Series win at Talladega.

– Chad Walter will lead Tyler Ankrum and the No. 26 team. 2020 will be Ankrum’s first season with GMS Racing. Walter served as an engineer for Ankrum this season at DGR-Crosley. Walter has five wins and 42 top fives in 208 Xfinity Series starts as crew chief.

– Kevin “Bono” Manion is paired with Zane Smith on the No. 21 Chevrolet. 2020 will be Smith’s first full-time Trucks season after competing part-time for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series. Manion has 24 wins as crew chief across all three national series since 2003. He led Martin Truex Jr. to his two Xfinity Series titles.

– Jeff Stankiewicz will remain as the crew chief for the No. 2 team piloted by Sheldon Creed.

Social Roundup: How NASCAR drivers are spending their offseason

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NASCAR’s Champion’s week is now behind us and we are firmly in the offseason.

Well, sort of.

The NASCAR world never really stops, which is evident simply due to the continued announcements for the 2020 season.

But with Joey Logano testing the Next Gen car at Phoenix earlier this week and Dale Earnhardt Jr. helping clean up North Wilkesboro Speedway for iRacing, it’s been anything but quiet.

Here’s a look at what else happened in the NASCAR community this week.

Someone needs to check in on Jimmie Johnson, he could be in his own version of Mr. Mom.

Chris Buescher is home again.

The 2015 Xfinity Series champion is back at Roush Fenway Racing for the 2020 Cup season and he’s got the firesuits and cars to prove it.

Brad Keselowski recently became father to a second daughter.

He’s now learning some important life lessons.

Former Front Row Motorsports driver Matt Tifft is now off the market after getting married to his fiance, Jordan. Now they’re on their honeymoon.


Matt DiBenedetto showed off one of the perks of being a Wood Brothers Racing employee.

Ryan Blaney and Bubba Wallace went somewhere warm to start their holiday.

Joey and Caitlin Gase welcome twin sons

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Joey Gase Twitter
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Xfinity Series driver Joey Gase and his wife Caitlin are now parents to twin boys

The babies were born on Wednesday. Their names are Jace and Carson.

More: Brad and Paige Keselowski welcome second daughter