JTG Daugherty’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Preece proving value in contract year

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In Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ryan Preece, JTG Daugherty Racing employs drivers with more value than meets the eye.

Whether that value is recognized and appreciated in contract negotiations this summer — both confirmed to NBC Sports they’re free agents after this season — will determine their short-term futures in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Stenhouse, 62 points from the playoff cutoff heading into Sunday’s race at Sonoma Raceway, is earning results in a manner we haven’t seen from him in the last four years. His 17.3-place average finish is in line with his 17.1 average finish from 2017, the year of his only playoff appearance. And there’s a sense that he’s presently punching above his weight class.

With the 19th-fastest car per average median lap rank and the 15th-fastest pit crew according to median four-tire box time, Stenhouse holds a Production in Equal Equipment Rating exceeding most others in his usual running whereabouts, a range of 16th-20th place. Among eight drivers within the range, his 1.333 PEER ranks second, good enough to overcome poor restarting numbers dragging down his track position. A well-rounded profile elsewhere, present in a spider chart highlighting his team’s habits against those with nearby average running spots, assisted in maintaining his current place in the standings:

Stenhouse and his team managed finishes better than their single-race median speed rankings in each of their first eight starts this season and he is one of 18 drivers with a positive surplus pass differential on 550-horsepower tracks. There’s no guarantee JTG Daugherty will use advanced stats to evaluate its driver’s worth when deciding its plans for 2022, but Stenhouse believes he’s on a trajectory to surpass his team’s internal goals.

“I feel like we’ve actually met a lot of our goals, as far as being consistent, not making mistakes on pit road, things like that, that I felt like held us back last year,” said Stenhouse, who indicated conversations around a contract extension will begin “soon.”

In his second season with JTG Daugherty, the 33-year-old is content with his spot, bought into the team’s competitive progress.

“I believe in everything we’re doing right now, full confidence in everybody that we’re going to continue to build this race team up,” Stenhouse said. “And, you know, I don’t think we’re done this year. Our best races are in front of us.”

While Stenhouse is fighting for a playoff spot, his JTG Daugherty stablemate fights to maintain his job. Surely, it won’t be Preece’s fault if his charter-less team falls shy of making 36 starts. In January, team co-owner Brad Daugherty told Fox Sports that Preece’s car only had funding for 24 races. With an unclear future for the team in 2022, the driver needs a strong statistical showing on his résumé.

So far, Preece has performed relatively well given his team’s speed (22nd in average median lap rank) and pit crew performance (29th in median four-tire box time). He’s most regularly in the 22nd-25th running range:

Against the likes of Ryan Newman, Erik Jones, Daniel Suárez and two drivers from Stewart-Haas Racing among others, Preece fares better than average in PEER, non-preferred groove restart retention rate and crash avoidance. This year’s effort follows a 2020 season in which he ranked 15th in PEER on 750-horsepower tracks and 12th in the final 10 races of the season.

Are these statistical high points enough to warrant a continued stay in the Cup Series, despite a lack of outward success in more traditional metrics? Preece isn’t sure, but he knows a boost to his team-supported stat line would help establish a more conventional argument. His top-15 finish tally (five) isn’t far removed from Stenhouse’s seven, but Preece has eight finishes of 20th or worse.

“It’s tough to say,” Preece said. “We just need to get closer to where we want to be when we unload, and I think that will just help everything.”

Preece’s performance skews towards 750-horsepower tracks again this season, though oddly in part to strong road course showings at Daytona (ninth) and COTA (15th).

“It’s weird. Ricky really shines in the 550 stuff and mile-and-a-half stuff, and I struggle,” Preece said. “I’m not comfortable right now with where the balance is for me to be able to be aggressive like he can be, but then we go to some short tracks and road courses — road course-wise, we have two top 15s, one top 10.

“Road course-wise, we’ve been pretty good and that’s not even my forte. It’s not something I’ve grown up doing. We have ‘the whole thing,’ it’s just not together for us.”

A steady diet of road courses, four more within the regular season, awaits Preece through the summer. By then, he’ll have a better indication of JTG Daugherty’s initial steps into the Next Gen era and whether that future includes him. So, too, will Stenhouse.

For both Stenhouse and Preece, success in a team game would go a long way in improving the optics of their individual performances. Stenhouse understands how he’s viewed within the free-agent market — either by JTG Daugherty or other teams — may change based on the eye of the beholder.

“We do this collectively,” Stenhouse admitted. “But obviously, I’m a big part of it. My hands are on the steering wheel.”

Sponsor adds more races in 2023 with Josh Berry

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Jarrett Companies will increase the number of races it will sponsor Josh Berry‘s No. 8 JR Motorsports ride in 2023, the Xfinity Series team announced Monday.

Jarrett Companies will sponsor Berry in six races after serving as the primary sponsor in three races in 2022. Those six races will be Phoenix (March 11), Richmond (April 1), Dover (April 29), Atlanta (July 8), Indianapolis (Aug. 12) and Texas (Sept. 23).

The deal gives Berry at least 26 races with sponsorship for next season. Bass Pro Shops will serve as the primary sponsor of Berry’s car in 11 races in 2023. Tire Pros is back with JRM and will sponsor Berry in nine races in the upcoming season.

Berry, who reached the Xfinity title race and finished fourth in the points, will have a new crew chief in 2023. Taylor Moyer will take over that role with Mike Bumgarner serving as JRM’s director of competition.

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

 

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.”