Bump and Run: Who had most impressive Darlington run?

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Who had the more impressive performance Sunday at Darlington: Kevin Harvick, Tyler Reddick or Matt Kenseth?

Nate Ryan: Kenseth. A new team he barely knew (and hardly could get to know much because of social distancing restrictions), a downforce-horsepower package he hardly raced, a track he hadn’t practiced on … not exactly a recipe for his second consecutive top 10 in Cup races that were 547 days apart. What he did at Darlington was as impressive or more than finishing sixth in his Cup debut at Dover in September 1998 (filling in for Bill Elliott with a team he also barely knew).

Dustin Long: Matt Kenseth’s performance considering his circumstances was impressive, but I’m going to go with rookie Tyler Reddick. He’s been fast, he’s been toward the front in some races this season but hadn’t put together a complete race. To do so in his first Cup start at Darlington and without the benefit of practice of qualifying speaks volumes of his performance. Even Kenseth was impressed

Daniel McFadin: Matt Kenseth, easily. To come off the bench after more than 15 months of not competing in NASCAR and race at Darlington without any practice or qualifying and finish 10th further cements him as one of the most reliable drivers of his era. Chip Ganassi is probably very relieved.

Jerry Bonkowski: Matt Kenseth. Here’s a guy who had not been in a Cup car for more than 1 1/2 years, had no practice or qualifying, and yet was able to earn a top-10 finish in his first race back. It was like riding a bike: Kenseth didn’t forget how to race. If there was a theme song that best epitomized Kenseth’s return on Sunday, it’s “Back In The Saddle Again” (either the Gene Autry or Aerosmith version).

 

Sunday marked the first of five Cup races scheduled in 14 days. They series is scheduled to race twice at Darlington, twice at Charlotte and once at Bristol by May 31. What will you be watching for in this stretch?

Nate Ryan: Whether the gulf between well-funded and well-staffed powerhouse teams and the have-nots becomes even greater. And which drivers and teams are the most physically and mentally fit to handle the frenzy (keeping an eye on Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch).

Dustin Long: I want to see who excels and who falters. This stretch represents more than 20% of what is remaining in the regular season. That’s a significant portion. A series of strong runs could elevate a team. And a series of poor finishes could all but destroy a team. Who will rise and who will fall?

Daniel McFadin: I’ll be watching to see if performance from one race translates to the next, especially with the Darlington and Charlotte races. With Kevin Harvick’s team bringing his winning car back Wednesday night, will his car still perform the same way under the lights as it did in the daytime?

Jerry Bonkowski: Fatigue will be the biggest thing to watch for, particularly next Wednesday’s race at Charlotte and the race at Bristol. Whoever can best manage the fatigue of five Cup races in two weeks could make a big statement. Hand-in-hand with managing fatigue is consistency. The driver who has the best combination of finishes in those five races could potentially lift himself to be the driver to beat heading into the meat of the schedule.

 

What do you think of how NASCAR is setting the starting lineup for the second Darlington and second Charlotte Cup races by inverting the top 20 from the previous race at those tracks?

Nate Ryan: A good idea that makes me as intrigued to watch Wednesday night as Sunday’s return (and maybe even more so). The shorter race distances for both events also are a good idea for ratcheting up the action.

Dustin Long: Will be interested to see how this plays out in a shorter race. Adds another element to the race. 

Daniel McFadin: I’m very intrigued by it and whether it will have a significant impact on who is competitive. Having Ryan Preece and Ty Dillon start on the front row Wednesday is enticing. Will the rules package help them stay up front longer or will they quickly be afterthoughts? It’s also a valuable move for sponsors of teams that might not run in the top 10 often.

Jerry Bonkowski: Given there is no practice or qualifying, I think that’s a very fair way of setting the starting lineup. It makes everyone on the same page and, in a sense, really isn’t all that much different from how a driver qualifies in regular fashion. Some days you’re going to qualify higher and other days lower. Inverting the top 20 from the previous race finish is the best way to do so until we eventually go back to qualifying.

Where are they now? Buddy Parrott enjoying down time

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Buddy Parrott played outsized roles in two of the most dramatic races in NASCAR history.

Now 83 years old and retired from the sport since 2001, Parrott looks back on those two days as highlights of a career that began in the early 1970s.

In the 1990 Daytona 500, champion driver Dale Earnhardt seemed on course to end his frustration in NASCAR’s biggest event. He held the lead roaring down the backstretch on the last lap. Suddenly, Earnhardt slowed with a blown tire.

The lead was inherited by Derrike Cope, who charged to the checkered flag to score one of racing’s biggest upsets.

Parrott was Cope’s crew chief.

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings: Memorable quotes through the years

In 1984, Richard Petty edged Cale Yarborough to win the summer race at Daytona International Speedway. It was Petty’s 200th – and final – win.

Parrott was Petty’s crew chief.

Those victories were high marks in a long pit-road career that saw Parrott’s drivers win dozens of races. He worked with, among others, Darrell Waltrip, Rusty Wallace, Jeff Burton and Petty and for team owners Jack Roush and Roger Penske.

Parrott remains active at 83, although he admits to having moved to a slower gear.

“I haven’t been living on the edge,” Parrott told NBC Sports. “I’ve been taking it really easy. I told my sons when you get to be 80 you can do anything you want because basically you’ve already done it.”

MORE: NASCAR, ARCA 2023 schedules

His strongest current connection to NASCAR is as a voter in the annual Hall of Fame balloting.

After more than 20 years roaming pit roads as a crew chief, Parrott moved into a general manager role at Roush Racing in 1997. He retired four years later and didn’t look back.

“I finally told Jack one day, ‘I don’t have time to ride my motorcycle,’ ” Parrott said. “He looked at me and said, ‘What do you want to do about it?’ I said, ‘I’m ready to retire.’ He told me I could work whatever schedule I wanted, but I decided that was it. I didn’t have a going-away thing or whatever.”

Parrott spent much of the next 15 years traveling with his wife, Judy, who died in 2016, and playing with his grandchildren.

“I had a great time in retirement because Judy was ready and I was ready,” he said. “We had a lot of fun. We’d go to Florida for two and three months at a time. I’m so happy that I didn’t hang on and go to the shop every day and try to find something to do. I spent that time with Judy, and we had 16 years of good retirement.”

Parrott, a native of Gastonia, N.C., lives in Statesville, N.C. His sons, Todd and Brad, also were NASCAR crew chiefs.

MORE: Jody Ridley’s Dover win an upset for the ages

Parrott is perhaps best remembered as crew chief for Rusty Wallace, Team Penske and the No. 2 black cars sponsored by Miller Lite. From 1992-94, they won 19 races and were consistently competitive at the front.

“I still get a lot of cards sent to me to sign from those years,” Parrott said. “I can say that was some of the happiest times I had. Those years with Rusty – and then with Jack Roush – really stand out. And who in the hell could not have fun having a beer sponsor?”

 

 

NASCAR Awards to air at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Joey Logano didn’t need much time to answer the question.

Who would the two-time Cup champion want to introduce him at the NASCAR Awards?

Racing icon Mario Andretti, Logano immediately said. 

And there was Andretti on the stage at the Music City Center introducing Logano, the 2022 Cup champion. Watch that and the rest of the night’s festivities at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock. You can order Peacock here.

MORE: See the red carpet scene

MORE: Sport shows support for Gibbs family at NASCAR Awards

NBC Sports’ Marty Snider and Kim Coon co-hosted the show along with Fox Sports’ Kaitlyn Vincie. The Cup, Xfinity and Truck champions were honored. Xfinity champion Ty Gibbs, whose father died hours after Gibbs won the Xfinity title last month, received a standing ovation and thanked the industry for its support.

The highlight of the night for Logano was having Andretti on stage to introduce him.

“He’s just been a great role model for me, not only as a racer, but as a person for so long,” Logano said afterward. “I had his picture on my wall. I looked at Mario Andretti before I went to sleep every night as a kid. I thought it was the coolest thing that he signed it to me.”

NASCAR Awards and Champion Celebration
Cup champion Joey Logano on stage with racing icon Mario Andretti during the NASCAR Awards in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Logano and Andretti have gotten to know each other through the years. Logano ran a throwback car that honored Andretti at Darlington Raceway in 2015 and 2021.

But none of that compared to being on stage with Andretti.

“That’s still like a pinch-me moment,” Logano said. “It’s Mario Andretti. He’s the man. The fact that he knows my name I think is really, really cool.”

Catch the NASCAR Awards at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock

Sport shows support for Gibbs family at NASCAR Awards

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The NASCAR community showed its support Thursday at the NASCAR Awards for the Gibbs family, grieving the death of Coy Gibbs on Nov. 6. 

During his interview on stage, car owner Joe Gibbs thanked the NASCAR industry for its support. (The NASCAR Awards show airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock).

Coy Gibbs, son of Joe Gibbs and father of Xfinity champion Ty Gibbs, died hours after seeing Ty Gibbs win the series title last month at Phoenix Raceway. Coy Gibbs, 49, was the vice chairman and chief operating officer at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR chief operating officer, introduced Ty Gibbs at the NASCAR Awards and noted that “everyone gathered tonight is all a part of the NASCAR family, and I know I speak for everyone that the entire NASCAR family is 100% percent behind this young man.”

Ty Gibbs received a standing ovation.

“Thank you,” he told the crowd, “that means a lot.”

Ty Gibbs spoke for less than a minute, thanking his team, sponsors, fans and the NASCAR community.

He closed his speech by saying “And thanks to my family. I love you. I hope everybody has a great offseason. Enjoy it. Thank you for all the support. Thank you for all the claps. I really appreciate it.”

Ty Gibbs spoke to the media earlier Thursday. Asked how he was doing, he said: “I’ve been doing good. Thank you for asking and definitely appreciate you guys. We’ve been doing good, doing a lot of stuff this week. … It’s been fun to experience this stuff.”

Asked about Joe Gibbs addressing the organization after Coy’s death, Ty Gibbs politely said: “For right now, I’m not going to touch on any of that subject at all. I’m just going to stick with all the racing questions and go from there.”

Cup champion Joey Logano said he spent time with 20-year-old Ty Gibbs on Wednesday at the champion’s dinner.

Logano said he told Ty Gibbs that “we’re here for you. You need something reach out.”

Brennan Poole joins Bayley Currey at JD Motorsports for 2023

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Brennan Poole will join Bayley Currey at JD Motorsports for the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity season, the team announced Friday.

Poole will drive the No. 6 car for the full season. Currey returns to the team’s No. 4 car for the season. Currey scored five top-15 finishes last season for the organization.

JD Motorsports is planning to run the No. 0 car next season. No driver or sponsor has been announced for that ride.

“We’re full throttle here and getting ready to go,” Davis said in a statement from the team. “Bayley and Brennan are signed on and looking forward to chasing races and points next year. We’re actively moving along looking for sponsor commitments and for drivers and sponsors for the No. 0 car.”

“We’ve always taken the approach here that we want to go after the series with multiple cars, and that’s how we’re looking toward 2023. The new schedule is very interesting and provides new challenges to our drivers and team members.”

The 2023 Xfinity season begins Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway.