Austin Dillon, Tyler Reddick aim to keep Richard Childress Racing rising

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Following a poor 2019 season that saw both of its drivers miss the playoffs and fail to win a race, there was only one way for Richard Childress Racing to go in 2020.

Austin Dillon capitalized on pit strategy and late restarts to win at Texas Motor Speedway in July, and when the postseason arrived, he defied expectations to advance into the second round.

His teammate Tyler Reddick – runner-up that day in Texas – did not make the playoffs but he was the most consistent performer of the Cup rookie class. He equaled Dillon with nine top-10 finishes.

Both drivers hope to build on those successes, starting at the season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 14.

Both drivers also have clear areas where they must improve to make that happen.

A smoother road?

Since entering the Cup Series in 2014, Austin Dillon’s road course results have been middling.

He’s yet to record a top-10 finish in 15 Cup road course starts. His best results are a pair of 16th-place finishes, one at Watkins Glen International in 2014, the other at Sonoma Raceway in 2018.

Last season, he missed the inaugural Cup race on the road course at Daytona International Speedway after testing positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19). He finished 19th on the Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

With seven points-paying road course races on tap for this season (as well as Tuesday’s Busch Clash at Daytona road course), Dillon has sought to improve his skills over the offseason.

Last December, he, Reddick, and several NASCAR drivers took part in amateur-level endurance races at Circuit of the Americas (Austin, Tex.), which hosts its inaugural Cup race May 23.

Last weekend, he made his professional sports car debut in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, co-driving Rick Ware Racing and Eurasia Motorsport’s Ligier LMP2 prototype to a fourth-place finish in class.

“From the short time I’ve jumped in the simulator and gotten in and out of other cars, I’ve been able to pick up speed a bit quicker,” Dillon said Wednesday in a media teleconference. “I want to do more and more road racing. I’ve got millions of laps in a dirt car and millions of laps in an oval car, but not in road-course races. That comfort of being around other cars is being better. My confidence is higher.

“I can’t wait to race Tuesday night in the (Busch) Clash. That’ll be a fun one … We’re taking it as a test session and are really focused on being aggressive with the adjustments on the car and how I drive in that race.”

After missing out last August, the Rolex 24 was Dillon’s first race on the Daytona road course, which he called “pretty self-explanatory” and “not so much of a technical track” as other road courses on the Cup schedule.

But for the Busch Clash and the second race of the Cup season on Feb. 21 – a week after the Daytona 500 – he’ll have one key difference to contend with.

“I haven’t gotten to run the new (NASCAR) chicane coming off Turn 4, so I need to make sure I try to stop when I get over there this time around from the Rolex to this race,” he said.

Crisis management

Along with leading the rookies performance-wise, Tyler Reddick closely matched his veteran teammate in 2020.

Reddick and Dillon not only had the same amount of top-10 finishes, but were near identical in other categories such as average running position during a race (Dillon: 16.5, Reddick: 17.2) and laps inside the top 15 (Dillon: 50.7%, Reddick: 49%).

More often than not, Reddick finished within the top half of the field. But to contend for a playoff berth in his sophomore Cup season, he’ll need top-20 days to become top-10 and top-15 days more often.

He believes the key is better managing the worst part of his races.

“Normally, that kind of occurred about midway through the race (last season),” Reddick said Wednesday. “Sometimes, we could recover from it and get back into running for a top 10, but a lot of times when we were in pretty good shape and on pace to run somewhere right outside the top 10 or top 15, that bad run (took) us so far back that it’s really hard to recover from it and get a good finish out of it.”

“… Each race, you’re going to have something that’s your biggest struggle. Just trying to get across that better, with a better head or maybe with a better strategy – whatever it might be, we’ve been looking at it and just trying to be more aware of that as an issue, how we can prepare better for it, how we can handle it better.”

Brandon Jones wins Xfinity pole at Texas Motor Speedway

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Playoff driver Brandon Jones won the pole position Saturday morning for Saturday afternoon’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Jones was clocked at 185.637 miles per hour.

MORE: Texas Xfinity qualifying results

MORE: Texas Xfinity starting lineup

Scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on the USA Network, the race is the opening event of the Xfinity playoffs.

Following Jones in the top five were Noah Gragson, Daniel Hemric, John Hunter Nemechek and Sam Mayer.

MORE: Post-race celebration? Try the Waffle House

The race is 200 laps (300 miles) on the 1.5-mile track. Drivers will be battling heat in the mid-to-high 90s.

 

NASCAR Saturday schedule at Texas Motor Speedway

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NASCAR Cup and Xfinity teams will be busy Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway.

The Cup Series enters the second round of the playoffs with 12 drivers remaining for the title. Cup teams will practice and qualify today.

The Xfinity Series begins its playoffs Saturday with 12 drivers in championship contention. Xfinity teams will practice and qualify before racing.

All track activity will be broadcast on USA Network. The temperature will climb into the mid-90s Saturday, according to Weather Underground.

Saturday, Sept. 24

Garage open

  • 8:30 a.m. — Xfinity Series
  • 9:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 10:30 – 11:05 a.m. — Xfinity Series practice (USA Network, NBC Sports App)
  • 11:05 a.m. – noon — Xfinity Series qualifying (USA Network, NBC Sports App)
  • 12:35 – 1:20 p.m. — Cup Series practice (USA Network, NBC Sports App)
  • 1:20 – 2:30 p.m. — Cup Series qualifying (USA Network, NBC Sports App)
  • 3:30 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (200 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, NBC Sports App, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Saturday Texas Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather

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The Xfinity Series playoffs begin this weekend. Noah Gragson and Ty Gibbs enter as the favorites. They’ve combined to win 11 of the 26 races this season.

Gragson, who has six wins this season, seeks to win his fourth consecutive victory.

MORE: Noah Gragson’s special celebrations at Waffle House

Gibbs, who has five victories this year, is one of four drivers in the Xfinity playoffs for the first time. The other three are Josh Berry, Austin Hill and Sam Mayer.

Also in the playoffs are reigning series champion Daniel Hemric, Justin Allgaier, AJ Allmendinger, Brandon Jones, Jeremy Clements, Riley Herbst and Ryan Sieg.

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Texas Motor Speedway

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given by Andy’s Frozen Custard executives Andy Kuntz, Dana Kuntz and Carol Kuntz at 3:38 p.m. … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:49 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 8:30 a.m. … Practice begins at 10:30 a.m. … Qualifying begins at 11:05 a.m. … Driver introductions are at 3 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Bret Shisler of Texas Alliance Raceway Ministries at 3:30 p.m. … Janie Balderas will perform the anthem at 3:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 200 laps (300 miles) on the 1.5-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 45. Stage 2 ends at Lap 90.

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 3:30 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 3 p.m. on USA Network. The post-race show will air on USA Network. … Performance Racing Network coverage begins at 3 p.m. and also will stream at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 96 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Tyler Reddick gave Big Machine Racing its first series win in May. William Byron was second and Sam Mayer was third.

 

Ryan Blaney’s team to appeal Bristol penalty

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Team Penske will appeal the penalty to Ryan Blaney‘s team from last weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway, the organization confirmed Friday.

NASCAR suspended crew chief Jonathan Hassler, jackman Graham Stoddard and rear tire changer Zachary Price four races each after a wheel came off Blaney’s car during a pit stop. His left rear wheel rolled off when he exited his stall and the tire bounced down pit road through before it was captured.

The penalty would have caused Hassler and the pit crew members to miss all of the second round and the first race in the third round. With the appeal. Hassler, Stoddard and Price will be able to participate in Sunday’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET on USA Network.).

Blaney enters the second round holding the final transfer spot. He, Denny Hamlin and Christopher Bell are tied with 3,013 points. He won the All-Star Race in May at Texas.

Chase Briscoe is the first driver below the cutline. He’s four points behind Blaney. Alex Bowman and Daniel Suarez are each six points behind Blaney. Austin Cindric is seven points behind Blaney.