Nashville takeaways: Kyle Larson shows another side in recent win streak

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LEBANON, Tenn. — Whether he’s saving fuel, defending a lead or managing his car, Kyle Larson has displayed a calmness during his recent win streak.

Sunday at Nashville Superspeedway proved another test for this season’s winningest Cup driver, once known for not always winning when he dominated an event.

His biggest challenge Sunday came not from the competition but from circumstances he couldn’t control: Cautions and trash.

MORE: NASCAR on NBC Podcast discusses Kyle Larson’s success in NASCAR and sprint cars

After pitting on Lap 219 under caution, Larson was told he was six laps short of fuel. A caution soon after cut that total to three laps short.

Crew chief Cliff Daniels’ instructions were to build the lead and they’d address fuel conservation. As Larson led, trash landed on his front grille. The engine temperatures began to rise. He closed on a lapped car and the trash blew off, preventing the temperatures from climbing dangerously high.

“There was paper and plastic flying all over the track all day long,” Larson said. “There was a few times throughout the race where I got trash in the grille, would have to tuck up (to another car), get it off. Thankfully it never landed in a spot where my temps rose quickly. They just slowly rose.

“That last time it got to where it was starting to get too hot, was able to get it off quick. Was a little bit stressed out then. But I was saving (fuel), could pay attention through my mirror (and) still realize I was still pulling away.”

Larson pulling away has been a familiar sight for foes the last few weeks.

“I don’t think anybody can beat the 5 right now,” Kevin Harvick said of Larson.

No one in Cup has for more than a month.

At the NASCAR All-Star Race, Larson started the final 10-lap round in the second row behind Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott and William Byron. Larson pushed Elliott into the lead. Larson passed Elliott as Brad Keselowski slipped by both on the inside. Moments later, Larson passed Keselowski on the outside

“It feels like running second to the Hendrick cars right now is an accomplishment,” Keselowski said after that race. “They are just stupid fast. I had him off Turn 4, but they just have so much speed. He just motored right back by me, like damn!”

At Sonoma, Larson and Elliott started on the front row for the overtime restart. Larson was the leader and held off Elliott through the first couple of corners and pulled away for the win.

At Charlotte for the Coca-Cola 600, Larson led 327 laps — including the final 94 — to win that event.

The recent stretch is a change from earlier this season when Larson lost chances to win races. It’s not inconceivable to think he could have won eight of the first 17 points races instead of four.

“At times, yeah, I can catch myself thinking about it,” Larson said. “There’s definitely been a few that have slipped away.

Most notably Kansas, Atlanta and the Daytona road course this season.

Larson led about half the race at Kansas in May but lost the lead on the next-to-last restart. On the final restart, he tried to push Ryan Blaney into the lead to make a move. Instead, he made contact with Blaney’s and hit the wall. Larson finished 19th. That race marked the 15th time in his career he had led at least 100 laps in a Cup race. He won only three of those races.

Larson led 269 of 325 laps at Atlanta in March, but Blaney passed him with nine laps to go and won the race.

Larson had just moved into second at the Daytona road course — and was on what proved to be the winning tire strategy — when he hit the tire barriers and finished 30th in February.

I think you learn from all of those times that you didn’t win,” Larson said. “Yeah, I mean, there was a lot that I learned from at Atlanta that I’m sure without even really knowing that I’m doing it that I put into my driving that has made me better to win races here lately.

Kansas was another one I could have won. I feel like there’s been a couple times now where I’ve been in the second row of being the guy pushing, restarting. I’ve done a better job of not screwing that up. You learn from every time that you don’t win.”

What’s happened to JGR?

After Martin Truex Jr. completed his dominating win May 9 at Darlington Raceway, a tidal wave of momentum has carried Hendrick Motorsports to five consecutive victories (six if you count the NASCAR All-Star Race).

In the points races since Darlington, Hendrick cars have led 89.8% of the 1,246 laps run. Joe Gibbs Racing cars have led 4.2% of those laps.

Hendrick cars have combined for an average finish of 7.4 in that span compared the JGR’s average finish of 16.9.

NASCAR Cup Series Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500
Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. are searching for the success they had earlier this season. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Denny Hamlin said before Sunday’s race at Nashville Superspeedway that they were “off a ways for sure” on speed compared to the Chevrolet based on practice there. Kyle Busch said a day before the race: “Flat out we suck. (Sunday) is going to be a rough day.”

The top Toyota at Nashville was Christopher Bell, who finished ninth.

Truex says it has been difficult to catch up even with Cup teams having practice at three of the last four points races (teams will have practice in only three of the remaining 19 race weekends).

Aside from Sonoma, it’s been a bit of a struggle,” Truex said at Nashville Superspeedway. “At the same time, it’s really hard to try a lot of things to find a lot of things. You look at (last weekend’s) 50-minute practice. It’s not a whole lot of time. We are running out of time just trying to change things before tech.

“The trying stuff is really difficult to do without potentially throwing away a whole weekend. We’re trying our best. Sometimes you hit it, sometimes you miss it. That’s kind of the way it goes. As a company, we obviously know we need to find more speed, and I know we’re always working on that.”

Hamlin remains confident that JGR will challenge Hendrick more this season.

“We are going to get better,” he said. “We always play the game to try to get better at the right time, so I’m not worried. Again, there is a panic button. I’m not really there yet. Frustrated, yeah, because you want to go to the racetrack and know that you’ve got a car capable of being the fastest, but again, we’ve got a few weeks to really start looking at that and say okay, we really have to catch up here.”

Chasing Charters

Kaulig Racing’s purchase of two charters for the 2022 Cup season potentially changes the market.

Taking two could leave one potential buyer out in what seems to be a crowded field. Charters are valuable because they guarantee a starting spot in each race and their payment plan far exceeds what a non-chartered team can earn.

Kaulig Racing President Chris Rice did much of the work to acquire charters from Spire Motorsports. He wonders how many more charters will be available.

NASCAR Xfinity Series Tennessee Lottery 250 - Practice
Kaulig Racing owner Matt Kaulig (left) and team president Chris Rice. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

“If people sell charters, I’m going to be awfully surprised,” Rice said. “I’ll be honest with you. It’s very hard. If they do, that’s good. There may be one or two that’s left out there or maybe three. … I don’t know who’s left, who would be willing to be able to let other owners come in.”

This much is known:

Trackhouse Racing, which is co-owned by Justin Marks and Pitbull, is leasing a charter for this season and does not have a charter for next year.

23XI Racing, co-owned by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan, seeks to expand to two cars and is looking for a charter.

GMS Racing announced this week that it will field a Cup team next year but has not stated if it will be a full-time or part-time effort.

Marks said he’s confident he’ll acquire a charter. If he can’t?

“We’re going to race no matter what because we’re all too passionate and too invested and too focused on the opportunity in front of us for Trackhouse — 100% we’re racing next year,” he said Saturday at Nashville Superspeedway.

Hamlin said last month at Charlotte that he wasn’t sure how much he wanted to invest in a charter with the agreement for the charter system only through 2024.

Hamlin said Saturday at Nashville that he didn’t think Kaulig’s deal changed the market much. He said 23XI Racing would “entertain” running a second car without a charter.

A lot depends on what we see the charter future going,” Hamlin said. “The model still requires you to put significant sponsor dollars on the car if you want to compete. If you just want to ride around, then that’s a whole different business model. If you want to compete, it still requires you to get eight-figure plus, plus, plus sponsor money in order to compete with the guys that have businesses that can put their thumb on you at any time.”

Hamlin said he has timeline on when he would like to have the charter matter settled but declined to reveal that date.

“I think if I put all of the pieces together before the charter – and they all come together nicely, then I don’t think that I absolutely, positively have to have one,” he said. “I think we are in a little bit of a bubble, so there are many people with their hand on the panic button, but theirs is much closer than mine is to it.”

Winning combination

Car owner Rick Hendrick’s business hendrickcars.com has sponsored Kyle Larson in 10 on the first 17 races, as companies took a wait-and-see approach on if to sponsor Larson after he was suspended last season by NASCAR for uttering a racial slur during an online event.

Sunday marked the first race for Valvoline on Larson’s car this season. The company is scheduled to be the primary sponsor for Larson Aug. 28 at Daytona in the regular season finale and Sept. 18 at Bristol in the playoffs. 

Valvoline CEO Sam Mitchell said he felt confident in sponsoring Larson’s car after talking with Hendrick.

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Kyle Larson’s Valvoline car at Nashville Superspeedway. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

“It was enough for me and based on my conversation with Mr. Hendrick, because I know Hendrick Motorsports and Hendrick Automotive Group and everything Rick does is really consistent with how we want to run Valvoline,” Mitchell told NBC Sports’ Nate Ryan. “It’s a people-first organization. I knew Mr. Hendrick had spent quite a bit of time with Kyle, and when he said, Kyle’s a fine young man, he’s learned. And we’re excited to have him on the team, I felt the same way.

“Now from a marketing perspective, you wonder how is the media going to respond or the general public. That part was a question mark. So from a marketing perspective, we were a little bit more cautious and waited to see how Kyle responded to the media. How he handled it early in the season. … When we listened to his interviews, we could tell he was a changed man, and he was ready to move forward.

“So the marketing team fully supported that, and we’re excited to be associated with Kyle.”

Hendrick said Larson’s success is gaining attention from other companies.

We’ve had a lot of interest,” Hendrick said after Larson’s win. “It’s growing every day. We want to wait for the right deal. We don’t want to take a piecemeal deal because I think it’s worth more to me than to do that. But it’s tremendous interest in Kyle. A lot of companies are telling me they appreciate me giving him the chance. Some of them are ready to spend some money, just not enough.”

2022 spotlights: The Clash, the King and Martinsville Mania

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The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season brought something new (a race inside Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum!) and something old (a win by the No. 43!) and a lot in-between.

In many ways, it was one of NASCAR’s best seasons. There were new winners, the Next Gen car kicked up competition a bit and there was a race finish (see the Ross Chastain file) like none other in the history of the sport.

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings: The name game

There were downsides, too: The safety of the new car came under fire (figuratively and literally, as wheel-well flames ended more than a few rides), drivers’ seasons were interrupted or ended because of hard wrecks and some races were less than stellar.

Looking back over the February-to-November marathon, some races stand out:

Rocking the City of Angels – Despite the naysayers, the Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was a roaring success. A platter of questions, including whether the purpose-built track inside the stadium would hold up under heavy stock cars and generate good racing, awaited as teams rolled into LA. The racing wasn’t sensational, but it was good, and there were no problems with the track. A huge crowd showed up, and NASCAR left town with many ideas, having proven that it could run a race on a temporary track inside a large stadium. It has escaped no one’s notice that there are many other large stadiums in the country – and, by the way, outside it.

Wiggling at Watkins Glen – The venerable New York road course produced another hot finish as teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott battled for the win. Larson forced Elliott out of the main groove and took the lead for good with five laps remaining. “I’m not proud of it, but I knew it’s what I had to do to get the win,” Larson said. Elliott didn’t publicly criticize Larson, but it was clear he wasn’t pleased with Larson’s move.

MORE: Fighting knights and pie in the sky

Six hundred miles, and then some – The long history of Charlotte Motor Speedway’s 600-mile race has produced some great competition – and some races that prompted long naps. This year’s was one of the craziest and, by the way, the longest. The race went to two overtimes, finally ending after 413 laps and 619.5 miles, making it the longest race in NASCAR’s 75 years. The winner – perhaps most accurately described as the survivor – was Denny Hamlin, who outran teammate Kyle Busch over the final two laps.

The King is back…but where is he? – The Cup playoffs opened at Darlington Raceway with the storied Southern 500, but the playoffs took a back seat to other storylines. Erik Jones scored an upset win in Richard Petty’s No. 43, marking the iconic car’s first victory since 2014. Petty, however, missed the Victory Lane festivities. He and Dale Inman, the No. 43’s former crew chief, left the race early for the drive home to North Carolina. The long night held several incidents, including one involving Kevin Harvick, who criticized NASCAR after his car caught fire, uttering his now-infamous diatribe about what he called “crappy-ass parts.”

No watermelon, but a lotta juiceThe finish of the Oct. 29 playoff race at Martinsville Speedway generated international interest. Christopher Bell won in a must-win situation to advance in the playoffs, but the post-race spotlight was on Ross Chastain, who rode the outside wall through the final two turns at speeds rarely seen on the short track and finished fourth, good enough to stay in the championship hunt. Chastain’s remarkable move drew comment from observers outside NASCAR, including Formula 1 drivers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday 5: Memorable images from 2022 NASCAR season

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The end of the season provides a chance to look back and each year I go through the photos on my phone and find those that show the highs and lows of a sport that goes from February to November. 

Here are some of the photos that stood out for me:

1. Daytona 500 

Although the time spent in Daytona Beach, Florida, has shrunk in recent years with a more compact track schedule, the intensity remains. As do the emotions. 

Cup rookie Austin Cindric accomplished “a racer’s dream” in winning the Daytona 500, accomplishing something in his second attempt that took Darrell Waltrip 17 times and Dale Earnhardt 20 times to accomplish.

Cindric blocked teammate Ryan Blaney coming to the finish line and beat Bubba Wallace by half a car length. 

It was the second time Bubba Wallace had finished runner-up in this race. Unlike 2018, when Wallace was excited with finishing second, Wallace felt no such emotion this time. 

“2018 was awesome,” Wallace said of his runner-up result in the Daytona 500. “2022 was not awesome.

“I didn’t have a fighting chance the first time in 2018. This one being that close, it’s like a gut punch.”

The photos that stand out to me are of the picture of Cindric’s car covered in red, white and blue confetti before going through post-race inspection and the disappointment Wallace wore on pit road after the race.

Austin Cindric‘s car after winning the 2022 Daytona 500. (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

A dejected Bubba Wallace after finishing second in the 2022 Daytona 500. (Photo: Dustin Long)

2. Road America 

The Cup Series is not returning to the Wisconsin road course after two years there. Instead, this race will be replaced by the Chicago street course event in 2023.

This past season’s race was memorable. Tyler Reddick scored his first career Cup win on July 3. Nine days later came the announcement that he was leaving Richard Childress Racing for 23XI Racing in 2024 (That timetable moved up to 2023 after RCR signed Kyle Busch to replace Reddick in the No. 8.).

Among the special moments from the Road America race was Austin Cindric walking the length of pit road to victory lane to congratulate Reddick.

Austin Cindric hugs Tyler Reddick in victory lane at Road America on July 3, 2022. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Walking with Cindric, I asked him why he was making the trip to see Reddick.

“I think of anyone in the field, he probably deserves that win more than anybody else,” Cindric told me. “I think he’s put himself in position. He’s a really likable guy, and I feel like you can see how hard he works. 

“I’ve seen him mature as a driver and a person and as a friend and a father. It’s cool to see somebody you’re close to go through that.”

When Cindric arrived in victory lane, he walked up to Reddick and gave his friend a bearhug, lifting Reddick well off the ground.

In all the excitement, Reddick’s son, Beau, was not impressed. He was sound asleep in victory lane.

Tyler Reddick’s son Beau sleeps in victory lane after his father’s first Cup win in July 2022 at Road America. (Photo: Dustin Long)

3. Special moments

One never knows what you’ll come across in a season that stretches so long through the calendar. 

These are a few such moments that proved special for one reason or the other.

As storm clouds gathered over Daytona International Speedway in February, the sun was settling, creating a sky both ominous and spectacular. The photo captures that scene as Cole Custer walks through the garage. After this season, Stewart-Haas Racing announced it was replacing Custer with Ryan Preece in the No. 41 Cup car and that Custer would run in the Xfinity Series for the team.

Cole Custer walks under an ominous sky at Daytona in February 2022. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Another photo that stands out to me comes from the Clash at the Coliseum. There were so many questions about the exhibition race inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, such as if the specially built track would withstand the rigors of cars, what would the debut of the Next Gen car be like and would fans really be interested in such an event.

The track held up. So did most of the cars and the fans came. While not a sellout, more than 50,000 people attended the event and NASCAR noted that many had not purchased tickets to a NASCAR event before. The event was a success.

What stood out to me was the lines of people waiting to buy souvenirs the day of the race. In some places, lines stretched well away from the merchandise trailers. 

Fans stand in line for merchandise at the Clash at the Coliseum in Feb. 2022. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Sometimes you never know what you’ll see at at event. At an event at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Hall of Famers Richard Petty, Dale Inman and Ray Evernham all stood together. That is 18 Cup championships (eight by Inman, seven by Petty and three by Evernham).

NASCAR Hall of Famers Ray Evernham, Richard Petty and Dale Inman at the NASCAR Hall in April 2022. (Photo: Dustin Long)

4. New winners 

This season saw five first-time Cup winners: Austin Cindric (Daytona 500 in February), Chase Briscoe (Phoenix in March), Ross Chastain (Circuit of the Americas in April), Daniel Suarez (Sonoma in June) and Tyler Reddick (Road America in July).

I caught this scene of Suarez alone in his thoughts in the garage at Nashville Superspeedway in his first race since that Sonoma victory.

Daniel Suarez at Nashville Superspeedway in June 2022. (Photo: Dustin Long)

5. Martinsville

Ross Chastain’s video game move on the last lap of the playoff race was stunning. Needing two positions to advance to the championship race, Chastain put his car into fifth gear, planted his car against the wall in Turn 3, took his hands off the wheel and let the wall guide his Chevrolet around the final two turns while he floored the throttle.

Amazingly, it worked. He passed five cars and earned a spot in the championship. Although he didn’t win the Cup title, Chastain provided one of the most memorable moments of the 2022 season.

As I was leaving the infield late that Sunday night. I stopped to take a picture of the wall and the marks Chastain’s car had left on its remarkable charge.

Turn 4 wall after Ross Chastain’s video game move on the last lap of the October 2022 race. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Dr. Diandra: 2022 accidents steady, spins up 200%

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Cautions were up in 2022 despite fewer stage-end and competition cautions of any year since stage racing began. The third installment of 2022 by the numbers focuses on the causes (and causers) of cautions.

Cautions

I divide cautions into those that are planned — like competition and stage-end breaks — and so-called ‘natural’ cautions. Natural cautions include accidents, spins, stalled cars, debris or liquid on track and weather.

My first graph shows that this year’s 302 cautions are the most total cautions since 2014. That’s despite only 73 planned cautions, the fewest since stage racing started.

A stacked bar chart showing the planned and natural cautions from 2013 to 2022

The 2022 season had 43 more total cautions relative to 2021, and 57 more natural cautions than last year. That’s the most natural cautions since 2016.

Causes

Caution classification is subjective. Obviously, a car spinning is a spin and cars colliding is an accident. But if a car spins and then hits another car, is it a spin or an accident? If an accident happens at a stage break, do you record the caution as an accident or a stage break?

This year presented an even thornier problem.

The 2022 season had more blown tires and wheels coming off cars than any season I can remember. NASCAR classified some incidents arising from blown tires as debris cautions, others as accidents.

To me, a blown tire seems fundamentally different from a stray car part on the track.

The myriad tire and wheel problems prompted me to review all 302 cautions. I added three additional caution categories: wheel issues, fire and tire issues.

Tire issues were so labeled only if a blown tire preceded a crash or spin. Tires that blow because of contact with the wall or flat spotting aren’t included. If I couldn’t tell for sure that the blown tire came first, I left the caution in its original category.

My re-categorization complicates comparing cautions by category to previous years. That concern is offset by the need to set a benchmark against which to measure next year’s data.

The table below compares my breakdown of cautions with NASCAR’s for the 2022 season. I admit that I’m not totally objective, either. But I believe my categorization better reflects the overall nature of the 2022 season.

A table comparing breakdowns of cautions

The most surprising statistic is the extraordinarily large number of spins. Cup Series drivers spun between 20 and 27 times per season between 2016 and 2021. Drivers in 2022 spun 60 times.

There haven’t been that many spins since 2007, when the series recorded 66 spins. That was the first year of the Gen-5 car; however, the number of spins this year is similar to the numbers for the Gen-4 car. Fans wanted a car that was harder to drive. The spin statistics are a good argument that they’ve gotten their wish.

Drivers in accidents, spins and stalls

I treat accidents, spins, and stalls as a single category because of the questions about differentiating between them. ‘Incidents’ combines all the spins, all the accidents and all the stalls.

And remember: being involved in an incident doesn’t imply that driver caused the incident.

The graph below shows all drivers with 12 or more incidents during the 2022 season.

A stacked bar graph showing the drivers involved in the most accidents, spins and/or stalls

Remember also that this count doesn’t include wheel or tire issues. A driver crashing because a tire blew is fundamentally different from an accident or spin.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ross Chastain were involved in the most incidents in 2022. Both drivers had 15 accidents. Stenhouse also had two spins and a stall, while Chastain had three spins. Stenhouse led in caution-causing incidents in 2021 with 17 accidents.

Kyle Busch comes in third in total incidents, and first in spins with seven. For comparison, no other driver had more than four spins.

No full-time driver evaded incidents entirely. Justin Haley was involved in the fewest: four. William Byron tallied six while Aric Almirola and Michael McDowell came in at eight each.

Cautions by race

The Coca-Cola 600 was the longest Cup Series race in history in terms of mileage. Its 18 cautions helped make it long in terms of time, too.

But longer races offer more opportunities to crash. A better metric is the number of crashes per 100 miles of racing. I removed stage and competition cautions because planned cautions don’t depend on race length.

The Bristol dirt race’s 14 cautions were the third highest total after the Coca-Cola 600 and Texas’s 16 cautions. But the dirt race was the shortest race of the season at 133.25 miles.

A vertical bar graph showing the races with the most cautions per 100 miles of racing

That gives the Bristol dirt race a whopping 9.0 natural cautions per 100 miles of racing. Last year, the Bristol dirt race was also at the top of the list with 7.4 total cautions per 100 miles of racing.

Bristol’s asphalt race had the second-most cautions per 100 miles at 3.4  The two Bristol races are followed by COTA (3.0) and Texas (2.8).

What about superspeedways?

The only superspeedway race in the top-10 cautions-per-100-miles graph is the second Atlanta race. The fall Talladega race had the fewest cautions per 100 miles this year of any oval at 0.80.

But superspeedways claim more cars per accident. The summer Daytona race featured 46 cars involved in five accidents for an average of 9.2 cars per accident. Some cars were involved in multiple accidents, which is why the total number of cars in accidents is larger than the number of cars racing.

The fall Talladega race comes in second in terms of wreckage per accident with an average of 8.0 cars. The spring Talladega race ties with the Bristol asphalt race. Both had an average of 7.0 cars per accident.

Road America had the fewest cautions of any race in 2022. With only two stage-break cautions, Road America had 0.0 natural cautions per 100 miles. Sonoma had 0.72 natural cautions per 100 miles and the Charlotte Roval 0.78.

We normally use cautions as a proxy to count accidents and spins. The problem is that not every incident causes a caution — especially at road courses. There were seven cautions for wheels coming off cars, some wheels came off on pit road. Some drivers limped their cars back to the pits after losing wheels.

And there were a lot more spins that didn’t bring out cautions.

Next week, I’ll tell you all about those.

Front Row Motorsports Cup teams to have new crew chiefs in 2023

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Both Front Row Motorsports Cup teams will have new crew chiefs in 2023, the team announced Wednesay.

Travis Peterson will be the crew chief for the No. 34 car that has been driven by Michael McDowell. Peterson replaces Blake Harris, who will be the crew chief for Alex Bowman in 2023 at Hendrick Motorsports.

Peterson, 31, has been a race engineer. He spent the past five seasons at Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing. He worked with drivers Chris Buescher, Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth during that time. Peterson previously served as a race engineer at Hendrick Motorsports for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and also at JR Motorsports.

“I think there are a lot of people in the NASCAR garage who are noticing what Front Row Motorsports has accomplished with the new car and their truck program,” Peterson said in a statement from the team.

“This is an opportunity to come into a winning and championship organization and help take that next step of getting more wins in the Cup Series and be in the playoffs. I’m ready to get to work. I’ve always had the goal of becoming a crew chief, and now I’m ready to take advantage of the opportunity.”

Front Row Motorsports also announced Wednesday that Seth Barbour, who had been the crew chief for the No. 38 driven by Todd Gilliland, has been named as the organization’s technical director. Barbour will oversee all track engineering and car preparation processes for the Front Row Motorsports Cup cars.

A new crew chief for the No. 38 team will be announced later.

Also, Ryan Bergenty, car chief for the No. 34 team, has been promoted to performance director and will oversee all body and chassis assembly for all Front Row Motorsports entries.

“The past two seasons Front Row Motorsports has seen success and we’re taking the next steps forward,” said Jerry Freeze, general manager of Front Row Motorsports, in a statement.

“We know that Travis is a person that can immediately come in, take the baton, and continue to move the No. 34 team to the front. We also made several changes internally to help with car preparation and engineering for all our race cars and trucks. Our final piece is finding a new leader for the No. 38 team. We’re confident that with these changes that we’ll be even better next season.”

Front Row Motorsports has not announced its driver lineup for next season. Both McDowell and Gilliland have said they plan to be back with the organization.