Mysterious adjustment ruins Joey Logano’s shot at defending title

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AVONDALE, Ariz. – Ending an “ugly” playoff run in which his team battled through numerous problems, Joey Logano finally ran into a mysterious malady he couldn’t overcome Sunday at ISM Raceway.

After winning the second stage and putting himself in a strong position to advance to the championship round and defend his 2018 title, Logano faded to a ninth-place finish and was eliminated from the playoffs (finishing seven points behind runner-up Kyle Busch for the final transfer slot).

Logano led 93 of the first 176 laps – sometimes by several seconds – until it inexplicably all fell apart. After Chase Elliott crashed on Lap 166, Logano pitted for four tires and restarted in first on Lap 174. He knew something was wrong almost immediately.

“I couldn’t pass the lapped cars out there because I was one,” he said.

Denny Hamlin took the lead four laps later from Logano, who dropped like a rock over the course of the longest green-flag run in the race. At a 1-mile track where laps take a little less than 30 seconds, Logano fell to 11th and a lap down to Hamlin 60 laps later.

What happened?

“I have no idea,” Logano said. “It went from a really good car to a car that couldn’t stay on the lead lap with changing tires and a half-pound of air. A lot of things don’t line up there. That doesn’t make any sense.”

Crew chief Todd Gordon told NBCSports.com that he merely removed a half-pound of air pressure from the right rear of the No. 22 Ford.

“I really struggle to say that a half-pound of air pressure that we changed in one tire makes that much of a difference,” he said.

A bad set of tires?

“I hesitate to speculate,” Gordon said. “There was nothing in the tires coming off the car pressure-wise or wear-wise or anything visual that stood out. I won’t rule anything out, but I won’t point my finger at anything, either, because I would say us as a program, I would really hesitate to say that anytime I’ve felt like I had a bad set of tires.

“Maybe this was, but I don’t know how you do that. It didn’t vibrate. It didn’t wear funny. Something happened, we got tight. I took air out of the right rear. That should make you a little tighter, but I wouldn’t have thought to the extent that we got.”

Gordon reversed the changes during a pit stop under green on Lap 246, and Logano immediately began running laps again on pace with Hamlin, who won to advance to the title round.

“I don’t know what to diagnose,” Gordon said when asked if the car would be scrutinized upon returning Tuesday to Team Penske headquarters in Mooresville, North Carolina. “We fired back off on another set with air back in it, and I thought ran better laps than the leader did, so maybe you speculate that just that was the wrong direction on air pressure.

“But really surprising to make that small of an adjustment and have a car go from being a stage-winning car to being a lap down. … I’m really proud of the effort everybody put in, because I think outside of that one run, we were the second-best car today.”

It was a perplexing turn in a race that had gone off flawlessly for Logano until that point. After starting second, he passed Hamlin off Turn 2 with an impressive move on the outside of a Lap 83 restart. He had gained 17 stage points, ensuring that he needed only to finish ahead of Kyle Busch to advance.

“It stinks,” Logano said. “We did the first half of the race really well, we had a fast car, and it went bad from there.  I don’t get it, but it just wasn’t our year, I guess.”

These playoffs have been treacherous for Logano, who had one top five in nine races (a fourth at Texas Motor Speedway) and battled through the adversity of axle failures (Dover International Speedway), crashes (Talladega, Kansas, Martinsville) and ill-handling cars (Richmond).

“Yeah, we did not execute well,” Gordon said. “We had damage in multiple races that we had to work back from. Those are things that I’m proud of the effort everybody put in, and the fact that we didn’t have a pretty playoffs, and we still got ourselves to the point where we were one car out.”

Because he netted 30 playoff points during a solid regular season, Logano still nearly reached the championship round for the fourth time.

“We scratched and clawed and made a race out of it with a lot of adversity throughout these playoffs,” he said. “We’ve had a pretty ugly run.  We’ve had some good cars, but something has happened every single race, so it is what it is.

“I don’t have the answer of what happened.  I wish I did.  I really want to know, but no one has it right now.”

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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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

Silly Season Scorecard: Front Row Motorsports adds John Hunter Nemechek

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Front Row Motorsports filled one of the last major vacancies in the NASCAR Cup Series when it announced Thursday John Hunter Nemechek will compete for the team full-time in the No. 38 Ford.

With the announcement also came the news the team is retracting to two cars after fielding three in 2019.

As a rookie, Nemechek will have Michael McDowell as a teammate.

Here’s how the rest of NASCAR’s Silly Season has played out so far.

ANNOUNCED CUP RIDES FOR 2020

No. 00: Quin Houff will race for Star Com Racing full-time. Announced Nov. 27.

No. 1: Chip Ganassi Racing announced on Nov. 1 a multi-year extension with Kurt Busch.

No. 6: Roush Fenway Racing announced Oct. 30 that Ryan Newman would return to the car as part of the news that Oscar Mayer would sponsor the No. 6 through 2021.

No. 8: Richard Childress Racing made it official Oct. 2 that Tyler Reddick will move to Cup in 2020 and drive the No. 8 car.

No. 10: Aric Almirola confirmed Oct. 11 he signed an extension to race for Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 13: Ty Dillon posted a video Sept. 6 on Instagram refuting rumors that he would retire after this season. He has a contract with Germain Racing through 2020.

No. 14: Clint Bowyer was announced Oct. 17 as returning to Stewart-Haas Racing for a fourth season.

No. 15: Brennan Poole will make his Cup debut and will drive for Premium Motorsports full-time. Announced Dec 11.

No. 17: Chris Buescher will take over the Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 ride in 2020 after the team announced Sept. 25 that it would part ways with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. after this season.

No. 20: Joe Gibbs Racing announced Sept. 6 that it had signed Erik Jones to an extension. It is a one-year extension for the 2020 season.

No. 21: Matt DiBenedetto replaces Paul Menard at Wood Brothers Racing (announcement made Sept. 10). DiBenedetto’s deal is for 2020 only.

No. 32: Corey LaJoie will return for a second straight full season with Go Fas Racing and the No. 32 Ford. The team announced on Nov. 1 it would enter a technical alliance with Stewart-Haas Racing next year.

No. 37: Ryan Preece moves over from the No. 47 to the No. 37. He will have a new crew chief, Trent Owens, who has been crew chief on the No. 37 for the past three seasons.

No. 38: John Hunter Nemechek replaces the now retired David Ragan for Front Row Motorsports. Announced Dec. 12.

No. 41: Stewart-Haas Racing announced Nov. 15 Cole Custer will replace Daniel Suarez.

No. 47: JTG Daugherty Racing announced Oct. 16 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will join Ryan Preece at the two-car team, essentially swapping seats with Chris Buescher. On Dec. 2, the team announced Stenhouse will drive the No. 47, with Brian Pattie serving as his crew chief.

No. 95: Christopher Bell moves to Cup in 2020 and will drive for Leavine Family Racing (announcement made Sept. 24).

Rick Ware Racing: JJ Yeley will drive one of the team’s three full-time rides.

 

YET TO ANNOUNCE DEALS FOR 2020

Daniel Suarez — The driver revealed Nov. 14  he would not return to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2020 after one season driving the No. 41.

 

ANNOUNCED PLANS IN OTHER NASCAR SERIES

Xfinity Series 

Ross Chastain – Kaulig Racing announced Oct. 15 he would compete full-time for the team in 2020 driving the No. 10 Chevrolet, joining Justin Haley.

Joe Gibbs Racing — Announced Oct. 17 Harrison Burton will drive its No. 20 Toyota full-time in 2020. Announced Oct. 31 Brandon Jones would return for a third year in the No. 19. Revealed Nov. 5 it would field a third full-time entry with Riley Herbst in the No. 18.

JR MotorsportsJustin Allgaier will return to the team for a fifth year in the No. 7 Chevrolet. The No. 8 car will be driven by Daniel Hemric for 21 races, Jeb Burton 11 races and Dale Earnhardt Jr. for one race. Noah Gragson will also return for a second season in the No. 9 car, while Michael Annett returns for a fourth year with the team in the No. 1 car.

Richard Childress Racing — Will field a part-time car in the No. 21, which will be shared by Myatt Snider and Anthony Alfredo.

Stewart-Haas Racing – The team has not announced plans for the No. 00 Ford with Cole Custer moving to Cup or whether Chase Briscoe will return to the No. 98.

JD MotorsportsJesse Little will compete full-time for the team.

 

Truck Series

GMS RacingDriver lineup will include Brett Moffitt, Sam Mayer, Sheldon Creed and Tyler Ankrum

Kyle Busch MotorsportsRaphael Lessard will drive the No. 4 full-time while Christian Eckes will drive the No. 18 full-time.

Halmar Friesen Racing — Stewart Friesen will return for a third full-time season in the No. 52 Truck. The team will also switch from Chevrolet to Toyota Trucks in 2020.

Hattori Racing EnterprisesAustin Hill will return to the No. 16 Toyota for a second year.

Niece Motorsports: Ty Majeski will drive the No. 45 truck full-time, taking the place of Ross Chastain. Announced Dec. 10.

DGR-Crosley: Has not made any driver announcements, but will switch from Toyota to Ford. Announced Dec. 11.

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