Ryan Blaney signs multiyear extension to stay at Team Penske

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Scratch Ryan Blaney‘s name off the long list of potential free agents in the NASCAR Cup Series after this season.

Team Penske announced a multiyear extension with the No. 12 Ford driver Friday morning that “will keep him an integral part of the organization for years to come.”

Blaney is leading the points after three races of his fourth full season in Cup. He was in position to win at Daytona, Las Vegas and Fontana.

Earlier this season, Blaney, 26, said he was “tired of being at the bottom of the totem pole at Penske” while talking about the team’s personnel shake-up this season. Penske swapped crew chiefs for its trio of Blaney, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano and paired Blaney with Todd Gordon, formerly with Logano.

The list of drivers in contract years still includes Keselowski, Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman, who won Sunday at Fontana.

Blaney said in a press conference Friday at Phoenix Raceway that he and Team Penske began working on the extension in the offseason and that he didn’t talk to any other teams.

“Even though we pretty much had a full year left on our deal before my current one was up, I was really happy with where I was at,” Blaney said. “I love the people I’m around, I love working with all the teams. … I feel like I owe so much to Roger for what he’s done for me. I just didn’t really see myself right now anywhere else. Yeah, there’s a couple doors open, a couple seats open with other teams, but I didn’t talk to any other teams. If I was approached by another team I don’t know if I’d even want to talk to them because I was so happy where I was at. I’m so loyal to Roger. My mindset was if they’ll have me back, I’d love to be back. It was great that both of our minds set on that.”

Here’s the release from Team Penske:

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (March 6, 2020) – Team Penske announced today that it has signed Ryan Blaney to a multiyear extension, which will keep him an integral part of the organization for years to come.  The current NASCAR Cup Series points leader and driver of the No. 12 Ford Mustang has been a member of Team Penske since 2012. During that time, he has earned three Cup Series victories and qualified for the NASCAR Playoffs in each of his three full-time seasons in the Cup Series.

“Ryan is a true talent with a long runway ahead of him and we are excited to have him as a part of the future of Team Penske,” said Roger Penske. “Since joining our team, Ryan has developed into a championship caliber driver and his personality and engagement with fans has made him a terrific ambassador for NASCAR.  In addition, Ryan has done a great job of working with our partners to support their activation and investment throughout each year. I am looking forward to even more success together.”

One of NASCAR’s rising stars, Blaney first joined Team Penske as a talented 18-year-old, competing in select NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS) races for the team. He earned his first victory for Team Penske with an NXS win at Kentucky in 2013.  He then captured his first Cup Series victory driving for the Wood Brothers in 2017 at Pocono Raceway before joining Team Penske as a full-time Cup Series competitor in 2018.  The now 26-year-old Blaney has generated a combined nine wins and seven poles since joining the organization in 2012.

“I’ve always said, it’s been a lifelong dream to be able to drive a racecar for Roger Penske,” said Blaney. “I am proud of what we have accomplished with the No. 12 Team Penske Ford and our ability to represent great brands like Menards, Advance Auto Parts, DEX Imaging and BODYARMOR. It’s really exciting to know I will continue to drive for this organization in 2021 and beyond. I am fortunate to be surrounded by extremely talented people throughout the organization and have no doubt we will continue to compete for wins and championships well into the future.”

Through the first three races of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season, Blaney leads the Cup Series point standings and has found himself in contention to be in a position to win in each event – which included a second-place finish in the season-opening Daytona 500.  He also leads the series with a 6.3-average running position.

 

NASCAR fines seven crew chiefs for lug nut violations at Las Vegas

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NASCAR announced Tuesday it has fined seven crew chiefs for lug nut violations from the Cup and Xfinity races this past weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway,

In the Cup Series, NASCAR issued fines to crew chiefs Matt McCall (Kurt Busch), Greg Erwin (Matt DiBenedetto) and Seth Barbour (John Hunter Nemechek) for having one lug nut not safe and secure on their cars. Each crew chief was fined $10,000.

In the Xfinity Series, NASCAR fined crew chiefs Bruce Schlicker (Ross Chastain), Dave Rogers (Riley Herbst), Ben Beshore (Harrison Burton) and Brian Wilson (Austin Cindric) for having one lug nut not safe and secure on their cars. Each crew chief was fined $5,000.

 

Chad Knaus to move off pit box for executive role at Hendrick

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Chad Knaus, whose success as a crew chief is nearly unparalleled in NASCAR, will step down from that role after this season and move into a leadership position at Hendrick Motorsports, the team announced Tuesday.

Knaus will become vice president of competition. He will oversee technical development for Hendrick Motorsports, including implantation of the Next Gen car in 2022. He also will be responsible for personnel for each of the four teams, including crew chiefs, pit crews, engineering, fabrication, assembly and other team-related staff.

Knaus won seven championships as Jimmie Johnson’s crew chief. Only Hall of Fame crew chief Dale Inman won more titles. Inman won eight, scoring seven with Richard Petty and one with Terry Labonte. Knaus has 82 career Cup wins. All but one came with Johnson. William Byron scored his first career Cup win in August at Daytona with Knaus as his crew chief. Byron was eliminated from the playoffs last weekend. The 49-year-old Knaus is the only crew chief to have competed in NASCAR’s postseason all 17 years.

Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus before the 2005 Coca-Cola 600. They combined to win that event four times.  (Photo by Harold Hinson/Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images)

“When I started at Hendrick Motorsports (in 1993) working for Ray Evernham, my goal was to be a crew chief,” Knaus said in a statement from the team. “Starting at a young age, I wanted to win every race we entered and battle for every championship.

“Mr. (Rick) Hendrick has given me the chance to do exactly that, and I could not be more thankful to him. After all these years, my competitive desire has not changed at all, but now I have a family that deserves my attention. This new executive role will allow me to compete in a different way with all four of our teams while spending more time with my wife and two young children.

“I appreciate the company supporting my decision, and I’m truly excited about the challenge ahead of me to help us grow and win. I’m also looking forward to working closely with Jeff (Andrews), who I admire and have great respect for. I owe so much to Mr. Hendrick and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports, and I’m ready for the next chapter.”

Knaus and his wife Brooke welcomed a baby girl July 30. Vivienne Mae Knaus is the couple’s second child. Son Kipling was born in 2018.

A new crew chief for Byron will be announced at a later date.

Chad Knaus, car owner Rick Hendrick and Jimmie Johnson displaying their rings after Johnson claimed the 2013 Daytona 500. (Photo by John Harrelson/NASCAR via Getty Images)

“In life, it’s rare to witness true excellence first-hand, but that’s precisely what we’ve been treated to with Chad,” Hendrick said in a statement. “Today’s announcement is bittersweet because, in my opinion, he is the finest crew chief our sport has ever seen.

“Although we’re going to miss him atop the pit box, I’m heartened that Chad has made this decision for himself and his growing family and that he is energized about the opportunity to move us forward in a new capacity. There is no one with higher standards or a stronger passion for winning. He will continue to elevate Hendrick Motorsports and instill his championship mentality throughout the company.”

Knaus served two races as crew chief for Casey Atwood in 2000 and then did one race for Stacy Compton that season. In 2001, Knaus was paired with Compton. Knaus rejoined Hendrick Motorsports to be Johnson’s crew chief in 2002. They remained together until 2019 when Knaus moved to Byron’s team.   

Knaus will report to Andrews, 55, who has been promoted to executive vice president and general manager, effective immediately.

Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus celebrate their seventh NASCAR Cup championship after winning the 2016 season finale in Miami. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

Andrews joined Hendrick Motorsports in 1992 and most recently served as vice president of competition. He had held that role since 2017.

Previously, Andrews held a leadership position in the team’s engine department, including director of engine operations. In his expanded role, Andrews will oversee all competition-related departments, including powertrain, manufacturing and racing operations. He will continue to support the organization’s technical relationship with Chevrolet and remain its primary liaison with NASCAR’s competition group. Andrews reports to Hendrick Motorsports president Marshall Carlson.

“In my almost 29-year NASCAR career, I’ve been fortunate to work for just one organization,” Andrews said in a statement from the team. “Mr. Hendrick is a racer and a fierce competitor. His drive to win is contagious, and I’m grateful to have a team of like-minded people who share that passion. Racing is all I have ever done professionally. When I left my home and my family 33 years ago to pursue this dream, I never could have imagined the opportunities that have been provided by so many people, most importantly Mr. Hendrick.”

Said Hendrick in a statement: “As we look to the years ahead, Jeff and Chad are going to play significant roles in our success. They’re tremendous leaders who are respected within our organization and across the entire auto racing world. In addition, they each bring unique strengths and skillsets that will complement each other extremely well and benefit all of Hendrick Motorsports. We’re in the business of winning, and this combination is going to help us do just that.”

NASCAR Power Rankings: Kevin Harvick still No. 1 after quiet Vegas

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Kevin Harvick didn’t have a flashy night Sunday in Las Vegas, but it didn’t keep him from retaining the No. 1 spot in this week’s NASCAR Power Rankings.

After winning the Bristol night race, Harvick finished in the top 10 in the first two stages in Vegas before placing 10th at race’s end.

Kurt Busch’s win at his home track vaulted him into the top 10 as 12 drivers received votes.

More: Playoff standings after Las Vegas

Here is this week’s NASCAR Power Rankings:

1. Kevin Harvick (Last week No. 1): In the last eight races he’s won three times and finished outside the top 10 only twice.

2. Martin Truex Jr. (Last week No. 5): Placed fourth for his 11th top-five finish in the last 14 races.

3. Alex Bowman (Last week unranked): Finished fifth for his second top five and fifth top-10 finish in the last six races.

4. Denny Hamlin (Last week unranked): Left Vegas with a third-place finish to snap a three-race streak of finishing outside the top 10.

5. Kurt Busch (Last week unranked): Snapped a 46-race winless streak with his victory and advanced to the Round of 8.

6. Kyle Busch (Last week No. 3): Finished sixth after a “dismal” night. He has four consecutive top 10s.

7. Brad Keselowski (Last week No. 5): Finished 13th to give him two finishes outside the top 10 since he won at Richmond.

8. Chase Briscoe (Last week unranked): Opened the Xfinity playoffs with his second consecutive win.

8. Chase Elliott (Last week No. 2): Led 73 laps, but had to settle for a 22nd-place finish in Vegas.

8. Joey Logano (Last week No. 3): Finished 14th for his second straight finish outside the top 10.

Also receiving votes: Erik Jones and Chris Buescher.

NASCAR announces changes to Kansas playoff weekend

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Citing “programming changes,” NASCAR announced shifts in the race dates and start times for its visit next month to Kansas Speedway.

The Xfinity, ARCA and Truck Series races have been shifted, while the Cup race remains at 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Oct. 18.

The biggest move is the Truck Series race shifting from Friday night to Saturday afternoon.

Here are the changes.

Friday, Oct. 16, 8:30 p.m. ETARCA Menards Series on FS1 or FS2; network TBD at a later date (previously at 10 p.m. ET)

Saturday, Oct. 17, 4 p.m. ETTruck Series on FOX (previously Friday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. ET on FS1)

Saturday, Oct. 17, 7 p.m. ET Xfinity on NBCSN (previously 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN)