Chris Gabehart appreciates rivalry with Kevin Harvick’s team

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The Cup regular season is winding down, and so are the quirky race weekends created by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

This weekend at Dover International Speedway will see the last of three scheduled Cup doubleheaders. The series holds races on the 1-mile track Saturday and Sunday afternoon (4 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

The two doubleheaders that preceded it, held at Pocono Raceway and Michigan International Speedway, have been the Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin show, as they finished first and second in three of the four races.

After Hamlin beat Harvick in the first Pocono race, the order flipped the next day. Earlier this month at Michigan, Harvick swept the weekend, but he beat Hamlin in Race No. 2 by just .093 seconds.

They enter this weekend with Harvick and Hamlin leading the series with six and five wins respectively.

More: Denny Hamlin knocks Kevin Harvick from No. 1 in power rankings.

And through 23 races, there’s been no trace of mudslinging between the two teams. That’s how Chris Gabehart, Hamlin’s second year crew chief, prefers it.

“I think that’s the neat part about what we’re fortunate enough to do at two great organizations like Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas (Racing),” Gabehart said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Tradin’ Paint.’ “We’re able to compete at sport’s very top level with the best resources and people are the biggest resource. So the best people at the very pinnacle of stock car racing. So when you’re fortunate enough to make it to that level as crew chiefs, engineers, drivers, you’re very thankful for that, I know I am.

“In doing that, you come to appreciate just how hard it was to get there and then those that you compete against, you admire their same situation and you realize just how hard they worked to get there, too. At that point, you’ve both been so fortunate and accomplished so much that it’s really more about the competition itself and appreciating each team’s ability to push the other one higher.

“And I know that’s how (Harvick crew chief) Rodney (Childers) and I look at it. To say that we don’t compete fiercely … is certainly not true in terms of the level of competition. I mean, we’re fierce competitors. But you know, when we shake each other’s hands afterwards, it just comes from a real understanding just how fortunately lucky we are to be doing what we’re doing at this level.”

Childers had nothing but praise for Gabehart and his team following Harvick’s win in the second Michigan race. Afterward, Childers met up with Gabehart to give him a message of congratulations.

“Obviously both drivers are doing a great job,” Childers said that night. “Everybody is bringing great cars to the race track. It’s been a fun little battle all year.

“To have a past relationship with Chris from the (go) karting days and stuff, we’ve always got along good, we respect each other a lot. … They’re a bunch of classy guys. We just try to keep it fun and keep each other motivated, keep pushing as hard as we can.”

Denny Hamlin crew chief Chris Gabehart before the July 12 race at Kentucky Speedway. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

In their first two years together, Gabehart and Hamlin have led the competition. After Hamlin’s winless 2018 season, they’ve claimed a series-leading 11 wins together. That’s one more victory than Harvick and Childers.

Through 23 races this season, Hamlin has placed first or second in 10 of them (43.5% of the time).

Gabehart credits Hamlin’s leadership in allowing an atmosphere that let him put together a winning team.

“So much of life is about timing and whether or not you’re ready for a moment or situation as a driver or crew chief or just in your personal life, right?” Gabehart told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I think for Denny and the transitions he had went through over the last few years in his career and then you know, some of his personal life, and me doing the same from a crew chiefing perspective in the Xfinity Series and then coming over here and I think all of us just meshed at the same time, and we both had the same goals and aspirations and we were ready for each other, I guess is the best way to say it.”

Gabehart said he was “proud” and “thankful” of Hamlin’s “willingness” to let a rookie crew chief “come in and make this race team the way I saw fit without second guessing me or questioning me, or putting the type of scrutiny on me that he could have as a veteran, as a successful veteran in this sport. He did nothing of the sort and it was that level of trust that really allowed the foundation to be built and is the reason we’re where we’re at today. Denny, I think, would tell you that I have established myself as leader of this race team, but it was his leadership in the very beginning that allowed it all to be the case.”

This weekend Hamlin will get two attempts to earn his first Cup win at the “Monster Mile.” He has five top fives in 28 starts there, including a second-place result in the 2018 playoff race.

Entering Dover, Gabehart said the doubleheaders so far have “actually been kind of fun.”

“I like the aspect of the doubleheader from a competitive point of view, because I can’t tell you how many times we’ve all left a racetrack and said, ‘Man, if I could just run that race over and we do this or we do that, that car would be where it needs to be and we could have run so much better.’ Well, now you get your chance, right, because it’s the exact same car one day later and you’ve ran a race, you have all the data, you know where you’re lacking. Can you turn around and turn it into a better day?”

NASCAR entry lists for Las Vegas

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The Round of 12 begins this weekend for the Cup Series and NASCAR’s entry lists for Las Vegas Motor Speedway are out.

All three national series will compete at the 1.5-mile track as the Xfinity Series begins its playoffs and the Truck Series holds its second playoff race.

More: Bristol winners and losers

Here are the preliminary entry lists for Las Vegas:

Cup – South Point 400 (7 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN)

Thirty-nine cars are entered for the first race of the Round of 12.

Joey Logano won at Las Vegas in the spring over Matt DiBenedetto and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. This race was won last season by Martin Truex Jr. over Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski.

Click here for the Cup entry list.

 

Xfinity – Alsco 300 (7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

Thirty-four cars are entered in the Xfinity playoff opener.

Daniel Hemric is entered in JR Motorsports’ No. 8 Chevrolet.

Austin Hill is entered in Hattori Racing Enterprises’ No. 61 Toyota.

Chase Briscoe won at Las Vegas in February over Austin Cindric and Ryan Sieg. This race was won last year by Tyler Reddick over Christopher Bell and Brandon Jones.

Click here for the Xfinity entry list.

 

Trucks – World of Westgate 200 (9 p.m. ET Friday on FS1)

Thirty-six trucks are entered.

Ryan Truex is entered in Niece Motorsports’ No. 40 Chevrolet.

IndyCar driver Conor Daly will make his Truck Series debut in Niece Motorsports’ No. 42 Chevrolet.

Travis Pastrana is entered in Niece Motorsports’ No. 45 Chevrolet for his second start of the season.

Kyle Busch won at Las Vegas in February over Johnny Sauter and Austin Hill. Austin Hill won this race last year over Ross Chastain and Christian Eckes.

Click here for the Truck entry list

Silly Season: Ross Chastain to drive No. 42 Ganassi Cup car in 2021

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Another puzzle of Silly Season has been set with Ross Chastain headed to Chip Ganassi Racing to drive the No. 42 Cup car for next season.

Chastain has been a development driver for the team since 2018. He drove three Xfinity races for Ganassi in 2018, winning once. Chastain was to drive a full Xfinity season in 2019 for the team until D.C. Solar’s sponsorship ended after its offices were raided by the FBI. The company later declared bankruptcy.

Chastain is competing for the Xfinity championship this season for Kaulig Racing. He is winless this season but has five runner-up finishes, including this past weekend at Bristol.

ANNOUNCED CUP RIDES FOR 2021

No. 00: Quin Houff enters the second year of his two-year deal with StarCom Racing.

No. 1: Kurt Busch enters the second year of a multi-year contract that Chip Ganassi Racing announced last season.

No. 2: Brad Keselowski and Team Penske announced a contract extension Aug. 3.

No. 4: Kevin Harvick signed a contract extension in February that will keep him at Stewart-Haas Racing through the 2023 season.

No. 8: Tyler Reddick said Aug. 7 that he will be back with Richard Childress Racing next season.

No. 9: Chase Elliott is under contract with Hendrick Motorsports through the 2022 season.

No. 10: Aric Almirola extends deal with Stewart-Haas Racing for 2021 season.

No. 11: Denny Hamlin is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 12: Ryan Blaney and Team Penske announced a multi-year extension earlier this season.

No. 18: Kyle Busch is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 19: Martin Truex Jr. is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 20: Christopher Bell moves from Leavine Family Racing to take over this ride in 2021.

No. 22: Joey Logano is tied to Team Penske “through the 2022 season and beyond.”

No. 24: William Byron is under contact with Hendrick Motorsports through 2022.

No. 42: Ross Chastain takes over Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 ride for the 2021 season.

No. 47: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. enters the second year of a multi-year deal with JTG Daugherty Racing.

No. 88: Alex Bowman will race for Hendrick Motorsports under a one-year contract extension announced earlier this year.

 

Available/possibly available rides

No. 13: Ty Dillon is in a contract year at Germain Racing. The team is considering putting itself up for sell.

No. 14: Clint Bowyer is in a contract year to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 21: Matt DiBenedetto said Sept. 17 that the team has an option to pick up his contract for next year and the deadline is the end of September.

No. 32: Ride is open with Corey LaJoie announcing he will not return to Go Fas Racing in 2021.

No. 43: Bubba Wallace will not return to Richard Petty Motorsports in 2021, the team confirmed on Sept. 10.

No. 48: With Jimmie Johnson retiring from full-time competition, Hendrick Motorsports has this seat to fill.

No. 95: Spire Motorsports purchased the charter and assets of Leavine Family Racing and will be a two-car operation in 2021.

No. 96: Daniel Suarez and Gaunt Brothers Racing announced Sept. 15 that they would part ways after this season.

 

Ross Chastain to drive for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2021

Ross Chastain
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Ross Chastain will return to Chip Ganassi Racing next season and drive the No. 42 Cup car, the team announced Monday morning.

The news was first reported by motorsport.com.

Chastain replaces Matt Kenseth, who was hired in April to take over the car after Kyle Larson was fired.

“I can’t thank Chip enough for this opportunity,” Chastain said in a statement from the team.  “The faith he and the organization showed me back in 2018 was a real turning point in my career, and I am extremely happy for the chance to join the team again. Racing in the Cup Series with a serious contender has always been my goal, and I’m looking forward to joining what is a very strong team.

“I know I have my work cut out for me, but I’m ready to get to work and help bring more success to the organization.”

Chastain has been a development driver for the tea since 2018. He drove three Xfinity races for Chip Ganassi Racing’s Xfinity team in 2018, winning at Las Vegas. He was to drive a full Xfinity season for the team in 2019 before sponsorship went away after DC Solar’s offices were raided by the FBI and the company later declared bankruptcy.

“In three races with our organization in 2018 and watching ever since, he showed me and everyone else that he is a tenacious driver who wants to win,” car owner Chip Ganassi said in a statement. “We believe that Ross will give our team the opportunity to be competitive each week and our sponsors someone to build a program around. Additionally, his racing background has him well-suited to make the move to the Cup Series.”

The 27-year-old Chastain has been among the sport’s busiest drivers the past three years in NASCAR.

He drove in 77 of 92 Cup, Xfinity and Truck races last year. He’s competed in 194 of 256 Cup, Xfinity and Truck races (75.8%) run since 2018.

Chastain’s Cup rides primarily have been with underfunded teams. He drove three races this season for Roush Fenway Racing. Chastain filled in for Ryan Newman as Newman recovered from the head injury he suffered in the Daytona 500.

Chastain is competing for the Xfinity championship this season for Kaulig Racing. He is winless this season but has five runner-up finishes, including this past weekend at Bristol.

Clint Bowyer: ‘Getting back to our consistency’ ahead of next round

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After entering Saturday’s Cup race at Bristol in the final transfer spot to the Round of 12, Clint Bowyer can rest easy for now.

Bowyer is one of the 12 drivers left to fight for the Cup title after his sixth-place finish Saturday. He goes into next weekend’s race at Las Vegas 11th in the standings.

Now, Bowyer says it’s time for his No. 14 team to “live up to our capabilities.”

“I just feel comfortable, we’re getting back to our consistency,” Bowyer said Saturday night. “I guess for a long time in my career I was kind of Steady Eddie, and that’s what it takes in these playoffs, to go the rounds, you can’t make mistakes. I said that going into these playoffs. For our team, we’ve got to live up to our capabilities, and if we can do that and race to our capabilities and not make the mistakes we were making through the summer months, we can contend and move forward rounds in this playoff system, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Bowyer, who was the last driver to finish on the lead lap at Bristol, goes to Las Vegas with three consecutive top 10s to start the playoffs.

Before the playoffs opened, he had gone 11 races with just two top 10s.

“Looking forward to getting out to Sin City and having some fun out there,” Bowyer said. “Hopefully we can double down, get some stage points and continue to march forward up through this playoff system and the points. We’re definitely starting behind again, there’s no question about that.”

Bowyer will start the second round with 3,004 points, tied with Kyle Busch. Kurt Busch is 12th with 3,001 points.

MORE: Points entering second round

“We’ve got to get out there and swing for the fence,” Bowyer said. “These are the playoffs; you don’t base hit it. Steady Eddie got us through this round, but from here on you’ve got to get up to the plate and swing for the fence every time, and every decision, and that’s in the car and out of the car, we’ve got to lay it on the line and go for it, and that’s why these playoffs are fun.

Bowyer has just one top-five finish in 17 Las Vegas starts (2009) and the most recent of his four top 10s there came in 2017.

Then comes the “crapshoot” know as Talladega and the “fun” Charlotte Roval.

“I like it. I’m ready,” Bowyer said. “Things can happen. At the end of the day I’ve had a different approach to the whole thing this year. This whole damned year has been chaotic and everything else, and you’ve just got to go out there and do the best you can do and not worry about or panic about anything else. That’s all you can do anyway.”