Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ‘pretty blindsided’ by Roush decision

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CONCORD, N.C. — The text message Tuesday night asked Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to be at Roush Fenway Racing at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

“I’ve gotten plenty of those texts before, so I didn’t think anything of it,” Stenhouse said Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

But when Stenhouse’s agent called at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday to say that they also had been called to the meeting, Stenhouse admitted he thought “it’s probably not very good.”

It wasn’t.

The team informed Stenhouse that he would not be retained after this season. His opening allowed Roush Fenway Racing to sign Chris Buescher for 2020.

“Didn’t know that it was coming,” Stenhouse said. “That’s part of it. People get fired every day from their jobs.”

Stenhouse said he was “pretty blindsided” by Roush Fenway Racing’s decision to release him after this season even though he had a contract through the 2021 season — although the team had the option to end the deal early.

Roush Fenway Racing officials cited a lack of performance as a reason for the move. Roush officials moved quickly once they found out that Buescher didn’t have an extension completed with JTG Daugherty Racing.

“I look forward to having cars that are more similar for both drivers that we can develop from race to race by not having so many wrecks,” car owner Jack Roush said Friday of a 2020 lineup with Buescher and Ryan Newman. “Ryan’s done really well about keeping his car together, and Chris has a history of doing the same thing.

“So we’re going to work on our cars to make them faster and to not be repairing them when they’re damaged.  We’re gonna work on a consistent car that they both like, and I think we’ll have much better success.””

Stenhouse admits he’s had bouts of crashing in his career.

I would say we’ve crashed, but I’ve lost brakes a lot of times, I’ve blown right-front tires a lot of times,” he said. “Obviously, those are wrecks. I’ve caused a couple myself, so, yeah, I definitely would say we’ve wrecked too much.”

Stenhouse said he’s gone through a variety of emotions since being informed of the team’s decision.

Over the past two days I’d say I went angry, sad, optimistic, looking forward,” he said. “Sometimes change is good and like I said, it just didn’t work. It hadn’t been working over the last couple years. We’ve had speed. We just haven’t had consistent finishes. I think that’s what sucks for myself is I feel like we’ve had plenty of speed to get the job done. It’s just a lot of things came down to us not getting those results. Ultimately, that’s what we’re here for is results, and they weren’t coming.”

Stenhouse joined Roush Fenway Racing in 2009, running seven Xfinity races that season. He won two Xfinity titles for Roush and two Cup races. When he talked about those years and Roush, Stenhouse’s voice quivered.

“I’ve got to look back on the 11 years that I had with Jack and winning races and championships and getting my first Cup win and being competitive – not as consistent as what we wanted, but the end of it all, I’m very thankful that Jack took a chance on a dirt racer from Mississippi to come drive his car,” Stenhouse said.

“It was fun, a little emotional with the relationship Jack and I have. It’s the only team I’ve ever been at, so I’m looking forward to see what’s next. Like I said, there’s a lot of work to do on that, but, all in all, I’m definitely looking forward to these last eight with the great partners that we have, everybody on the 17 team. I’ve worked with a lot of them since my Nationwide days, so it will be tough, but it will be a fun eight races with them.”

Stenhouse and Roush talked Thursday night for the first time since the team’s decision. Stenhouse called it a good conversation.

“I waited to have that conversation with Jack because having it Wednesday probably wouldn’t have been a good idea, but Jack and I, we’ve had some knockdown-drag outs in the 11 years we’ve had together, but it was a good conversation,” Stenhouse said. “I thanked him for all the good times and the fun times that we had and look forward to see what’s next.”

He also added to NBC Sports: “I still feel like I’ve got unfinished business in this series.”

Winners and losers from Las Vegas

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WINNERS

Paul Wolfe — Great call to have Joey Logano not pit before the final restart. Of course it helped that six other cars stayed out. Still, the top two cars came down pit road and Logano, running third, stayed out and won.

Matt DiBenedettoFinishes second in his second race with the Wood Brothers.

Jimmie JohnsonScored his first top-five finish since last summer’s Daytona race.

Bubba Wallace Decision not to pit allowed him to finish sixth, giving him his best Cup finish on a 1.5-mile track.

LOSERS

Todd Gordon and Greg Ives— For every high, there is a low. Gordon apologized on the radio to Ryan Blaney for calling him to pit road while leading before the final restart. Blaney finished 11th. Ives called Bowman to pit road while running second before the final restart. Bowman finished 13th. Ives tweeted that he was “VERY frustrated with my call at the end not to game on old tires, especially in Vegas.”

19 pit crew — Martin Truex Jr.’s pit crew got him into the lead under caution after Stage 2 but he had to return to pit under that caution to tighten loose lug nuts. Said Truex after the race: “We just need to quit having mistakes on pit road.”

William ByronLined up second on the final restart but contact with Matt DiBenedetto led to a tire rub and Byron falling back before he was involved in the crash that ended race. He finished 22nd.

Ross Chastain says his finish ‘unacceptable’ in place of Newman

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He scored a 10th-place finish in the first stage and ran as high as fifth Sunday in a car he never raced before.

Ross Chastain still had a harsh evaluation of his 27th-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the No. 6 Ford, which he drove in place of an injured Ryan Newman.

Chastain finished two laps down after causing the final caution on a Lap 262 spin, which he judged “unacceptable,” along with his restart performance (“guys kind of ate me alive”) as a substitute for Roush Fenway Racing.

“It’s hard to get out of the car after you have a top-10 car, and you go and run into people and pick the wrong lanes on restarts and then spin it out at the end,” Chastain said. “That’s pretty silly. Just a lot of mistakes on my end and then at the end just overdriving and for one position to be the first car a lap down. That’s unacceptable.”

Chastain had an average running position of 16.87 over the 400-mile race, which went south after he pitted under green from 15th on Lap 217 of 267. The yellow flag flew five laps later, and Chastain took a wavearound to restart 21st.

(Photo by Will Lester/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

On the restart, he made contact with Kurt Busch and pitted under green to fix a tire rub, which left him a lap down when he spun with five laps remaining.

“There were a lot of small mistakes on my end, but I learned a ton,” he said. “The car deserved a lot better finish.  Obviously, we showed that early and I just didn’t have great restarts. I just have to be better.

“RFR and everybody puts so much into these cars, and ultimately I’m the one holding the wheel.  We had such a good first stage and had so much confidence and from there I just started making mistakes.”

Chastain, who finished 10th in Sunday night’s rain-delayed Xfinity race, will be driving the No. 6 for Roush while Newman recovers from his Daytona 500 crash. In a statement from the team Sunday morning, Newman indicated he plans to drive again this season, but no timetable has been provided for his return.

Chase Briscoe wins rain-delayed Xfinity race in Las Vegas

Chase Briscoe
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Chase Briscoe won Sunday’s rain-delayed Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, beating fellow Ford driver Austin Cindric by almost three seconds to claim his third career Xfinity win.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver led 89 laps in the race, which began late Saturday afternoon but was red flagged on Lap 51 due to rain.

Briscoe and Cindric were the only Ford drivers in the field.

Ryan Sieg placed third to earn his sixth career top-five finish and his first on a 1.5-mile track.

The top five was completed by Daytona winner Noah Gragson and Harrison Burton.

“That was really a team win,” Briscoe told Fox Sports. “We were really good, then as soon as the sun went down when we were in dirty air, we just weren’t really good. In clean air, obviously there at the end we were really good. … This is something I feel we can do all year long.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: Chase Briscoe

STAGE 2 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

More: Click here for race results.

More: Click here for the point standings.

WHAT’S NEXT: Production Alliance Group 300 at Auto Club Speedway at 4 p.m. ET Feb. 29 on FS1.

Chevy drivers positive about new Camaro body after Las Vegas

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Positive reviews are in from a few Chevrolet Cup drivers after their first race on an intermediate track with the updated Camaro ZL1 1LE body, which was introduced this year in an effort to improve the manufacturer’s performance after two lackluster seasons.

Those reviews are backed by the final results for Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

After the chaos created by a last-lap crash, six Chevrolets finished in the top 10. They were led by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Austin Dillon and Jimmie Johnson placing in the top five.

That followed Chase Elliott leading 70 laps and winning both stages before his one-car incident in the middle of the final stage.

In last year’s spring race on the 1.5-mile track, only two Chevys – Kurt Busch (fifth) and Elliott (ninth) – finished in the top 10. Three Chevy drivers combined to lead 23 of the race’s 267 laps.

“We’re trying to just understand this new Camaro body and the setup that needs to go with it,” said Johnson. “We’re close, but there’s still a little bit more work for us to do on our car to get the balance between the clean air and the traffic closer. But for the first try on a downforce track, the guys did a really nice job.”

Johnson earned his first top five since last July’s race at Daytona. He placed 19th in this race last year.

“It’s really rewarding to see,” Johnson said. “Last year when we left here, we had quite the opposite feeling and were pretty worried about what the year was going to hold for us. So, it’s really nice to have that change of perspective now. There’s a lot of Chevys up front, one of our Hendrick cars led for a while. So, we’re going the right way.”

Johnson’s teammate, Alex Bowman, was running in second when the final caution came out inside 10 laps to go. After his team chose to pit, Bowman placed 13th.

“This new Camaro, for its first time on a downforce track, I’m just really pleased with it so far,” Bowman said. “I think it’s going to be really good for us. Obviously, I’m bummed out to finish 13th after staring at a second place or a win. But it’s part of it; it’s how racing goes. We win as a team and lose as a team. It just didn’t go our way there at the end.”

Last year, Chevrolet only earned seven wins, with two coming on 1.5-mile tracks. Bowman claimed one of those at Chicagoland Speedway.

Added Bowman: “Compared to how we started the last two seasons, I think we’ve got something for them this year.”

One Chevrolet driver said it was “still early” for assessing the new bodies.

“I think the Hendrick cars were really good,” said Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson, who placed ninth. “I felt about the same as last year. So, we just have to continue to get better.”