Cup Series Championship 4 outlook

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This is it.

One race remains in the 2019 Cup season.

The Championship 4 has been set for Sunday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBC).

Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. each will go for their second title, while Denny Hamlin goes for his first.

The title race is a matchup of three Joe Gibbs Racing drivers taking on Stewart-Haas Racing’s Harvick.

Here’s a breakdown of each driver’s season and their record at the 1.5-mile track, which will host its final championship race for the foreseeable future.

Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing)

Wins: Four (New Hampshire, Michigan II, Indianapolis and Texas II)

Career Playoff wins: 14 (one this year)

Miami record: Ten top fives in 18 starts. Finished in the top five in last five starts, which includes winning the race and title in 2014.

Championship-caliber moment(s): Capitalized on Bubba Wallace’s spin during green-flag pit stops at Texas to return to the front of the field, where he led 119 laps and won the playoff race for the third year in a row.

Outlook: Aside from Martin Truex Jr., last year’s Championship 4 drivers were quiet in the playoffs until Harvick’s win at Texas. The SHR driver is validating his nickname “The Closer” when he needs to. Can he do it again Sunday?

(We need to) beat three Gibbs cars.  Go faster than them,” Harvick said. “We’re going to do everything just like we’ve done all year.”

 

Martin Truex Jr. (No. 19 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing)

 Wins: Seven (Richmond I, Dover I, Coke 600, Sonoma, Las Vegas II, Richmond II and Martinsville II)

Career Playoff wins: Nine (three this year)

Miami record: Five top fives in 14 starts, including his race win to claim the title in 2017 and his second-place finish last year.

Championship-caliber moment(s): After his disappointing loss at Martinsville in 2018, Truex took care of business in dominating fashion last month, leading 464 laps in a statement win.

Outlook: A win Sunday would give Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn a championship in their first season at Joe Gibbs Racing. But they don’t need a second championship to prove their place with the team.

“It’s going to be interesting for sure,” Truex said  “I feel like we’re here for a reason, and that’s because (the JGR teams) all work together so well, and hopefully we’ll do that the same this week and throughout the weekend … and then Sunday let the best team win.”

 

Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing)

Wins: Four (Phoenix I, Auto Club Speedway, Bristol I and Pocono II).

Career Playoff wins: Seven (none this year)

Miami record: Finished sixth or better in last four starts there, including his 2015 win to claim to the title.

Championship-caliber moment(s): Essentially needed to finish ahead of Joey Logano Sunday at ISM Raceway. After Logano’s problems, Busch stayed in the top five raced his way into the Championship 4.

Outlook: It’s been about five months since Busch, winless in his last 21 races, won a Cup event, but thanks to his solid regular season and his second-place finish at ISM Raceway, he has a chance to get a second title.

“(We’ll) fight as hard as we can, do the best job we can, exactly what we did today,” Busch said.  “Today we just weren’t good enough. Next week we’ll just have to make sure that we are.

“Somehow, some way, if it works out, it was meant to be. If it doesn’t, then it’s not. Hopefully the sun will come up for another day.”

 

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing)

Wins: Six (his most since winning eight in 2010)

Career Playoff wins: Nine (two this year)

Miami record: Two wins and four top fives in 14 starts. Last win was in 2013, the last season before the introduction of the elimination playoff format. Only Championship 4 driver with multiple wins in Miami.

Championship-caliber moment(s): His win Sunday after he entered the race 20 points behind the cutoff to advance. Had he finished second, he’d have missed out on the chance at his first Cup title.

Outlook: In the midst of his best season in almost a decade, Hamlin rides a wave of momentum to Miami. However, every Cup title in the elimination era has been decided by the race winner in Miami. Hamlin hasn’t finished better than seventh in his last five starts there.

“I’m just more content with what I’ve accomplished in the series,” Hamlin said. “I don’t need validation of a championship. I think that the outside world feels like I need that to validate my status, whatever it is. But doesn’t change who I am.  Doesn’t change how I treat people. If I don’t win this year, I’m going to work just as hard for 2020.

“There are many, many more opportunities ahead of me. This is not my last opportunity to win a championship.”

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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