Dover takeaways: Reddick taking control in playoff bubble fight

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As the Cup Series reaches the halfway point of the regular season, things are changing rapidly on the playoff bubble.

Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick recovered from an early speeding penalty to finish eighth Sunday at Dover International Speedway. His fifth top-10 finish in the last seven races broke a points tie with Matt DiBenedetto for the 16th and final playoff position.

Reddick now holds the spot outright by 17 points over DiBenedetto. Two weeks ago, DiBenedetto held the spot after the race at Kansas Speedway with Reddick in 18th place at 18 points back.

But DiBenedetto and his Wood Brothers Racing team have struggled in back-to-back races.

At Darlington Raceway, they missed the set-up on the No. 21 Ford and DiBenedetto finished three laps down in 19th. On Sunday at Dover, another ill-handling car saddled DiBenedetto with a 24th-place finish, this time five laps off the pace.

That’s given Reddick a path into the top 16 of the playoff standings. Reddick also helped himself by scoring 23 stage points the past three races. DiBenedetto hasn’t scored a stage point since Talladega when he won Stage 1 on his way to finishing fifth.

Following Sunday’s race, Reddick said he and his No. 8 team initially battled with corner entry but “really hit on something” toward the end of Stage 2.

“Track position was key today, even more so than fresh tires for us,” he said. “So once we got up in the top 10, we did everything we could to stay there, even though that meant staying out and making it a much longer final run for us on tires when those mid-stage cautions came out in Stage 3.”

Meanwhile, DiBenedetto ran outside the top 20 for much of the afternoon. He noted that the No. 21 team attempted some new set-up ideas after finishing 20th and 17th in last year’s Dover doubleheader.

“We tried to throw some things at our Motorcraft/Quick Lane Mustang going into this weekend, and unfortunately it didn’t work out,” he said. “We just had to be smart.”

With Reddick’s rise, Richard Childress Racing now has both of its cars inside the top 16 of the playoff standings. Following a 14th-place finish Sunday, Austin Dillon remains 14th in the playoff picture. He is 60 points above the cutline.

Roush Fenway Racing’s Chris Buescher holds the 15th playoff spot (+28 above cutline). He finished 17th Sunday.

Talk it out

As colleague David Smith pointed out last Thursday, Hendrick Motorsports crew chief Greg Ives has utilized shrewd strategy and a remarkably consistent pit crew to help Alex Bowman this season.

That crew shined Sunday at Dover, when they executed the fastest four-tire stop of the season (12.1 seconds) to get Bowman the lead ahead of teammate Kyle Larson under caution at Lap 304. Bowman led the rest of the way.

Bowman summed it up: “If we don’t beat (Larson) off pit road, we probably don’t beat him in the race.”

In creating a high-caliber pit crew, Ives has focused on open communication with them.

After Sunday’s win, he discussed having them focus over the last few weeks on executing fast stops while making a lot of adjustments to the car. While doing so, he said he “created some uncomfortable situations” that didn’t always yield great times on pit road.

With that, he made it a point to talk with his crew this week.

“I broke down how well or how bad I was doing,” Ives said. “Rolling that left front tire (to the tire carrier), I wasn’t doing it right last weekend, opened it up. We all worked through it. They’re not scared to tell the crew chief that I need to get better in the situation.

“I think ultimately (it’s) being on the same platform as them, allowing them to make some mistakes – when mistakes come, learning from them rather than scolding them.”

Ives is also trying to keep the same open line with his driver, even though he admits that he sometimes has difficulty talking about what he needs out of him.

“That’s why he calls me ‘The Riddler,'” Ives said of Bowman.

“Ultimately, I get to the point where I just tell him what I want and he does it. Today, we were working through some brake pressure stuff, talked him through it. He didn’t get upset about it. I wasn’t trying to make him upset, I was trying to make him aware.

“Ultimately, you have to that have relationship of trust. If he understands and knows what I’m looking at, he has the ability to respond the proper way in the car. When we get out, there’s no hard feelings. We just go on our way and have fun again the next week trying to overcome either a bad race or a race win.”

Logano rally

With Hendrick Motorsports in a class of its own, Joey Logano had an eventful drive to fifth on Sunday.

The Team Penske driver was minus regular crew chief Paul Wolfe, who served a one-race suspension because Logano’s No. 22 Ford had two lug nuts not secure after last week’s race at Darlington.

With Jonathan Hassler serving as interim crew chief, Logano finished seventh in Stage 1. He fell out of the top 10 in Stage 2 as he dealt with handling problems stemming from a hole in the grille.

Finishing 18th in Stage 2, Logano had an extended stop during the stage break for grille repairs. Logano took advantage of his improved car and fresher tires to move forward. He moved into fifth place with less than 10 laps to go.

The result was his fifth career top-five at the Monster Mile and his fifth top-10 finish in the last six races there.

“We had some debris go through the grille early in the race, so we were pretty good beforehand and then knocked a big hole in the nose and that’s why the turn went away,” Logano said. “So it took a while to repair that and get everything to where it needed to be and we didn’t really get that until the last run and it’s a rocket ship. The Shell/Pennzoil Mustang was really fast.

“I was able to drive from, I think it was 16th to fifth in that last run there and had (William Byron) in the old sights but didn’t get there in time. Overall, very proud of the team and their recovery today. We definitely got dealt some adversity and we made the most of it. I wish it was a win. I wish we maybe could have raced those guys, but, overall, we’ll take that considering the way it was going.”

Austin awaits

After a dominant win last week at Darlington, Martin Truex Jr. came back to Earth.

Truex led the first 15 laps on Sunday before slipping to fourth by the competition caution at Lap 35. On his first pit stop, a lug nut got caught in the jack and Truex fell out of the top 10.

Things didn’t get much better from there. Adjustments throughout the day on his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota failed to get Truex righted, and he finished 19th.

No. 19 crew chief James Small later tweeted about plans to burn his so-called “lucky socks” featuring golf legend Jack Nicklaus.

The good news? Truex and the No. 19 team are among those who’ve gotten some early laps at Circuit of the Americas. The state-of-the-art road course in Austin, Texas hosts all three NASCAR national series for the first time this weekend.

Back in March, Truex and fellow Cup champions Chase Elliott and Brad Keselowski went to COTA for a Goodyear tire test. At the time, Truex characterized the 3.41-mile circuit as a hybrid of the technical Sonoma Raceway and the flowing Watkins Glen International. He noted a “handful of really good passing zones,” citing hard braking zones after the straightaways.

“I think there’s going to be plenty of opportunities there with it,” he said. “Especially the fact that (the track has) got older pavement and it’s going to have pretty decent tire wear. That’s going to open up a lot of opportunities as well and should be fun.”

Another group of drivers, including Austin Dillon, Tyler Reddick, and Corey LaJoie, took part in amateur-level races at COTA last December to familiarize themselves with the circuit.

COTA is the first of five road courses in the next 11 weeks of points-paying races for the Cup Series. Time will tell if drivers with bonus laps around there begin this critical stretch on the right foot.

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.