Getty Images

Bump and Run: A $100K bounty to beat Kyle Busch in the Truck Series?

Leave a comment

What do you think of the bounty Kevin Harvick and Marcus Lemonis said on Twitter that they would put up for any full-time Cup driver who can beat Kyle Busch in a truck race?

Nate Ryan: It’s another sign of Harvick’s underrated savvy for NASCAR exposure and promotion (he’s the same star who advocated rotating the championship race long before it was in vogue).

Dustin Long: I like it in the sense of creating some buzz around the series, but I think it should be open to anyone, not just a Cup interloper. And why not do the same thing when Kyle Busch runs in the Xfinity Series?

Daniel McFadin: My initial gut reaction is that it’s awesome. NASCAR needs more promotions like this, especially building off the Triple Truck Challenge that started last year. My secondary reaction: why just full-time Cup drivers? That $100,000 could do a lot for a mid-tier or lower-tier team in the Truck Series. I can’t imagine the investment is worth it for a major sponsor or a top-tier team to have to put together a quality one-off ride for a Cup driver in hopes of winning the bounty. But, I still think it’s cool and I’m crossing my fingers something comes of it.

Jerry Bonkowski: It’s a novel idea but isn’t it kind of going backwards in terms of putting more full-time Cup drivers into a Truck, when the general idea of the series was to be a developmental entity for other drivers, primarily younger ones, rather than a place where full-time Cup drivers can go to race a few times a year for extra cash? If anything, the “bounty” should also be available to regular full or part-time Truck drivers, as well, to beat Busch, drivers from Matt Crafton to Jennifer Jo Cobb to Norm Benning.

 

Chase Briscoe has said that he thinks he needs to win “eight to 10 races” this season as he looks to make the championship race in the Xfinity Series. He won his first race of the season Sunday at Las Vegas. What kind of possibility do you give any driver of winning at least eight Xfinity races this season?

Nate Ryan: In the absence of the Big Three and a less experienced field, Briscoe’s Las Vegas victory was a promising start, and it’s encouraging that he has set such a high bar. It’s a big jump to go from one victory in each of the past two seasons to eight, but it could happen.

Dustin Long: I think the chances are slim. Even with a limited number of drivers with wins in the series, I don’t foresee someone dominating as Christopher Bell did last year in winning a series-high eight races.

Daniel McFadin: Eight wins is a lot. We don’t yet know who will be Briscoe’s most stout competition this year and likely won’t have a real grasp of that until the end of March. At this point I don’t anticipate anyone reaching the eight-win mark.

Jerry Bonkowski: I feel the domination of the “Big 3” – Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer — was somewhat of an anomaly the last few years in the Xfinity Series. Now that they’re in Cup, that opens up the door for more parity in the series. And as a result, an opportunity for more wins across the board for many more drivers. I don’t think Briscoe, or any other driver for that matter, needs to have eight to 10 wins to make the championship race. I can see a few drivers maybe winning four or five races, but don’t feel anyone will dominate the way Bell, Reddick and Custer did the last couple of seasons.

 

What do you make of Jimmie Johnson’s fifth-place finish at Las Vegas?

Nate Ryan: It was impressive, particularly how he fought to pick up spots with the dive onto the apron during the final restart. There’s been no shortage of talk about the team’s determination to return as contenders, but Sunday backed it up for the first time in a long while.

Dustin Long: Good run and this team needs good performances early to not be buried by its winless streak. Let’s see if this team can keep it going.

Daniel McFadin: I wasn’t surprised by the result. Johnson and his three Hendrick Motorsports teammates ran in the top 10 consistently all day, with Johnson placing ninth in Stage 1 and seventh in Stage 2. He clearly had top-10 speed and the chaos around the final restart obviously helped him improve his position a few spots. It was a much needed result for a team that only had one top 10 in the final six races last year.

Jerry Bonkowski: I picked Johnson to win at Las Vegas, so a fifth-place finish isn’t all that bad. I think he has a great opportunity to finally break his 2 ½-year winless streak at his home track of Fontana on Sunday. Even if not there, I’m convinced JJ will definitely break the winless streak soon. I expect to see him at least make the playoffs. In his final Cup season, he has nothing to lose and everything to gain.

 

What will you be keeping a close eye on this weekend at Auto Club Speedway?

Nate Ryan: Whether the Toyotas can prove that Las Vegas was just a blip.

Dustin Long: I want to see if Team Penske, after its strong showing at Las Vegas, will continue to be as strong this weekend. Last year at Auto Club, Team Penske went second (Joey Logano), third (Brad Keselowski) and fifth (Ryan Blaney).

Daniel McFadin: I’ll be watching to see if the improvement of the Chevys and the downturn of the Toyotas shown in Las Vegas was a one-off or the start of an extended narrative for the opening portion of the season. Not seeing any Toyota driver finish better than 15th was kind of a shocker.

Jerry Bonkowski: Jimmie Johnson, obviously. But I’m also keeping my eyes on guys who usually aren’t in the conversation all that much, but are off to decent starts to the season points-wise, including Chris Buescher, Bubba Wallace, Corey LaJoie and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. It will be interesting to see how they fare over the next few races, to see if they can maintain their spots in the standings and keep their performance level up.

Greg Zipadelli to serve as Clint Bowyer’s interim crew chief

Greg Zipadelli
Photo by Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Greg Zipadelli, competition director for Stewart-Haas Racing, will serve as the crew chief for Clint Bowyer in Saturday’s Cup race at Michigan International Speedway, the team confirmed Monday.

Johnny Klausmeier will miss Saturday’s race, serving a one-race suspension because Bowyer’s car was found to have two lug nuts not safe and secure after last weekend’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Bowyer enters Saturday’s race at Michigan (4 p.m. ET on NBCSN) 14th on the playoff grid. The top 16 will advance to the playoffs. Six races remain in the regular season.

Klausmeier will be able to resume his role for Sunday’s Cup race (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) at Michigan.

Zipadelli, who won Cup titles in 2002 and 2005 with Tony Stewart, will reprise the interim role he played earlier in the season in the Xfinity Series.

Zipadelli served as Chase Briscoe‘s crew chief for four races after crew chief Richard Boswell, the team’s car chief and an engineer were each suspended four races because ballast fell out of his car. Briscoe won three of the four races with Zipadelli as his crew chief.

Team Penske extends contract with Brad Keselowski

Leave a comment

Team Penske announced Monday that New Hampshire winner Brad Keselowski has agreed to a contract extension. Keselowski’s contract was to expire after this season.

A media release from the team did not state the length of the extension for Keselowski, 36. The Associated Press reported that the deal was for one year through the 2021 season.

Keselowski, who won the 2012 Cup title, has been with Team Penske since 2010, winning 31 Cup and 33 Xfinity races during that time.

“We are pleased that Brad will continue to be a part of our organization,” said Roger Penske in a statement. “Brad not only demonstrates talent and skill on the track, but his leadership away from it and his dedication to our partners have had a huge impact in making our organization one of the best in NASCAR. I am proud that we will be able to able to keep the continuity we have with Brad, Ryan (Blaney) and Joey (Logano) and look forward to competing for more wins and championships together.”

MORE: Winners and losers from New Hampshire

Said Keselowski in a statement: I have been racing for Team Penske for the vast majority of my NASCAR career and to continue to represent Roger Penske, our partners and his organization is exactly where I want to be. We’ve accomplished a lot of things together over the years, including winning both the Cup and Xfinity Championships, the Brickyard 400, the Southern 500 and the Coca-Cola 600. Now, my goal is to win the Daytona 500, another championship and continue to build Team Penske into the best NASCAR team in the garage area.”

Logano is signed to at least 2022. In March, Blaney signed a multiyear extension with Team Penske.

Keselowski’s victory Sunday was his third of the season. He’s scored at least three wins in each of the past five seasons. Keselowski is second  in the points to Kevin Harvick.

GMS Racing, Brett Moffitt to honor Jimmie Johnson with special scheme

Leave a comment

GMS Racing and sponsor Plan B Sales have created a special paint scheme to honor seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson on championship weekend in November at Phoenix Raceway.

Brett Moffitt, the 2018 Truck Series champion, will pilot the the specially adorned truck at Phoenix.

“Brett has been a part of the Plan B family and a great ambassador for our company over the years,” said Brent Powell, owner of Plan B Sales in a statement. “Last year we partnered with Brett and GMS for the Phoenix race, but this year is different with it being the season finale and Jimmie’s final (full-time Cup) weekend. It truly is an honor for us to showcase this throwback for Jimmie and hopefully see Brett clinch his second championship in our truck.”

Said Moffitt of Johnson in a statement: “I have looked up to him, leaned on him and had the utmost respect for everything he has done for our sport. This is the coolest paint scheme I’ve had in my career because of how much respect and admiration I have for Jimmie. I’m rooting for him to go out on top, and maybe we’ll both get the chance to celebrate a championship in Phoenix later this year.”

Johnson has announced this will be his final full-time Cup season. He drove a Chip Ganassi Racing IndyCar in a July 28 test on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Johnson has expressed a desire to race different vehicles after this season.

 

Cup playoff grid after New Hampshire

Leave a comment

William Byron holds a 15-point lead on rookie Tyler Reddick for the final playoff spot in the Cup playoff grid after last weekend’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Six races remain in the regular season.

Byron finished 11th at New Hampshire, one spot behind Reddick, but Byron extended his advantage on Reddick by five points. Byron scored six stage points, while Reddick scored none.

MORE: Could New Hampshire be a sign of things to come in Cup?

MORE: Winners and losers from New Hampshire 

Jimmie Johnson fell to 25 points behind Byron for the final spot in the Cup playoff grid. Johnson overcame a spin after contact with Clint Bowyer to run in the top 10 but lost four spots in the final 20 laps to finish 12th.

“Good fight today guys,” Johnson told his team on the radio after the race. “Overcome a lot of (stuff) again.”

The series heads this weekend to Michigan International Speedway for two races. The Cup Series races there at 4 p.m. ET Saturday and at 4:30 p.m. ET on Sunday. Both races will be on NBCSN.

Ten of the 16 playoff spots have been secured by drivers who have won at least one race this year: Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr., Alex Bowman, Austin Dillon and rookie Cole Custer.

Here is a look at the Cup playoff grid. Drivers shaded in green are locked in the playoffs. Drivers shaded in yellow are in a playoff spot based on their point total. Drivers shaded in red are outside a spot in the Cup playoff grid.

 

Cup playoff grid New Hampshire