Friday 5: Challenges are not just on the track for NASCAR drivers

0 Comments

Ross Chastain has taken fans for quite a ride during his career. The 28-year-old has gone from underdog to smashing watermelons after wins and earning a full-time Cup ride. The latest adventure saw Trackhouse Racing select Chastain for its No. 1 car next season, joining Daniel Suarez as a teammate.

But Chastain admits fans have not witnessed his full journey through NASCAR’s ranks.

“You definitely have not seen all the low points,” he said. “And that’s not something I think, as people, we could ever knowingly go and share.”

Similar moments are often described with a euphemism to not reveal the severity and impact on an individual. The issue of mental health for athletes has gained attention in recent years, but it came to the forefront after U.S. gymnast Simone Biles pulled out of several events during the Tokyo Olympics.

Athletes often are viewed as action figures whose sole purpose is to amaze and entertain. Don’t like the show, then some will berate the athlete from the stands — or more likely on social media. They’ll declare it is their right to criticize someone even though most fans couldn’t do what that athlete does. Or know what the athlete is experiencing.

“At the end of the day, we’re not just athletes or entertainment, we’re human, too, and we have emotions and feelings and things that we’re working through behind the scenes that we don’t tell you guys about,” Biles told NBC Sports’ Mike Tirico. “And so, I just think it’s something that people should be more aware of.”

Asked by Tirico about her biggest takeaway from the Tokyo Olympics, Biles said: “Put your mental health first. … That’s more important than any other medal that you could win.”

While Chastain says fans haven’t seen the lowest of lows, fans have witnessed some of the downtimes. Among the bigger disappointments for Chastain came when Chip Ganassi Racing shut down the Xfinity team Chastain was to drive for in January 2019. That came after the FBI conducted raids at the headquarters of sponsor DC Solar and the home of the company’s CEO.

What was to have been one of Chastain’s biggest breaks in the sport turned to heartache. He scrambled for rides. Chastain went on to compete in 75 races across Cup, Xfinity and Trucks that season. That was the most by a driver in nearly a decade.

Such highs and lows can weigh on any athlete. Then there is the pressure to perform to keep sponsors and a job in NASCAR. That doesn’t even include the challenges everyday life can present.

NBC Sports’ Dale Earnhardt Jr. recently discussed mental health from an athlete’s point of view with Dan Patrick, who asked Earnhardt how many times he went into a race where he wasn’t in a good mental place.

“When you’re doing it every week, you certainly had your good days and bad days when you could tell where you were last week mentally and where you were this week and it was happening in such a repetitive process,” Earnhardt said.

“There were days when you got up and you felt really great and you felt like, ‘Man this is going to be a great day, I can feel it,’ or you had a great disposition and you could handle adversity better, and then there were days when you got up out of bed and you had no motivation or you had no confidence.

“You maybe had something going on in your personal life that had you down and depressed, and then when you were faced with any adversity during that day or that race you didn’t handle it well and you didn’t overcome it and you kind of fell apart. You’re definitely going to experience that in sports when you’re competing on a regular basis.

“You’re going to have those days when you mentally just have it together and those moments when you’re just overwhelmed. My personal life and my home life (were) the driving factor for me. If things were good and things were smooth for me at home, things were going to go pretty well at the racetrack. I think that might have been the other way around, too, sometimes. If things didn’t go well at the racetrack, things went bad at home. That’s for sure. If I failed, I had stretches of failure where I was just a miserable, miserable person every day of the week.”

Chastain said a key for him is to not let such moments stay bottled.

“I think talking about it would help a lot of people if they just had that outlet to talk about it,” Chastain said. “It’s just a phone call. It’s just a text. It’s going to dinner or having dinner at their house where it’s private, and talking about the true, dirty details about whatever is going on and figure it out.

“I don’t wish those bad or uneasy feelings on anybody, but you have to have that person or those people that you can call or talk to and truly trust and just lay it out there and be honest and open because you cannot handle it all on your own. And I figured that out, fortunately, before it was too late.”

Racing can be more challenging than some sports since there is one winner and up to 39 others in a Cup race who don’t win. Just the challenge of winning at any level can prove overwhelming.

“Some of the things about our sport is … that you’re going to lose a lot more than you win,” Ryan Blaney said. “You have to deal with the disappointment of that. 

“You’re gonna fail more than you succeed in this sport and that can sometimes get you down and weigh on you, and if you go through a little rough patch of a year or months or whatever, you can really start to lose confidence in yourself. But the thing that I’ve always thought of is just you try to keep improving and realize that things aren’t all that bad and just keep working on it. 

“At the same time, I say that, but I feel like when other athletes come out and they say things about mental health, or the toughness about what they do and other people don’t realize the pressure that sometimes gets put on them, these people say, ‘Oh, just do your job.’ 

“And it’s like, ‘You don’t know what it’s like.’ I don’t know what mental health issues that you go through with your job. I don’t know that. That’s what I don’t understand of people judging other people when they say they’re under pressure and things like that.

“The Olympics, I couldn’t deal with the pressure of the Olympics. The whole world is watching you and your country is rooting for you, but those things you just have to deal with personally on your own, and, like I said, people deal with those things differently.  I’ve always tried not to get too down, but sometimes you do and it’s just how you overcome that. I think the biggest thing is not bottling it in.”

Even for his success, Tyler Reddick, a two-time Xfinity Series champion, admits the pressures and stress is “not an easy thing to manage.

“The more experience you have and the more faith and confidence you have in people around you really helps manage the load that comes with all this pressure, especially with the stress coming up here (to Cup). One bad race here or there can screw-up the entire year, right? It’s important that you don’t let the negatives become overwhelming.”

2. Looking ahead

With Todd Gordon stepping away as crew chief at the end of the season, Ryan Blaney says he’s balanced focusing on this season while also considering crew chief candidates for next year.

“You’re always trying to prepare,” Blaney said. “You can’t wait until November, December and try to do something, so that’s still a work in progress. 

“There are some people in mind that I think are really good fits, but I’m looking for someone — I think Todd and I got along so well because … we’re almost kind of a yin and yang kind of thing. I can get fired up on the radio and Todd is very calm, and it evens itself out of those personalities when we’re doing our jobs. 

“Someone like that and, like I said, that’s ongoing. Someone who can — when tense situations do come up — (get) me back to where we need to be, and I think that’s how it always should be.”

Blaney heads into Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen International (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN) eighth in points. He has finished sixth or better in four of the last five races.

3. Going for a repeat

Austin Cindric holds an 82-point lead on AJ Allmendinger in the battle to win the Xfinity Series regular season title. Seven races remain, including Saturday’s race at Watkins Glen (4 p.m. ET on CNBC).

Cindric, the reigning series champion, scored his first Xfinity win at Watkins Glen in 2019. Since that win, he’s won 12 of 66 starts. He’s scored 21 finishes of first or second in that time.

His focus is on securing the 15 playoff points with finishing first in the regular season.

“Regular season points has been my number one priority all season as it was last year for obvious reasons,” Cindric said. “The playoff points benefit of the equivalent of three wins is very important for me and to be able to maintain that throughout this month is top priority. If that means having to be more conservative, I might have to be. 

“We got to that point at the end of the regular season last year and I had to go points racing for almost a month to maintain a one-race lead, and I remember how painful that was for everyone on the team to have to go through that, but it’s definitely what’s necessary and definitely the most important thing for us right now.”

4. All about winning

The goal for John Hunter Nemechek after going from the Cup Series last year to the Camping World Truck Series this season was to win races.

He has done that, winning five of the 14 series starts and clinching first in the points as the series heads into its regular season finale Saturday at Watkins Glen International (12:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

Asked how this season with Kyle Busch Motorsports has changed the narrative around him, Nemechek said: “I feel like we have definitely turned some heads this year, I would say, but as far as all the chatter, or banter, or whatever goes on behind the scenes, we haven’t paid attention to it.

“We are trying to win races, win the championship and do the best that we can every single week.”

As for the future, he says he will be particular in his next steps.

“Having a Cup opportunity, I was super grateful for,” he said of his ride with Front Row Motorsports last season. “At the end of 2019, filling in, and all of last year with Front Row. I don’t regret going Cup racing, I don’t regret going to Front Row Motorsports. I was blessed with the opportunity from (team owner) Bob Jenkins and all of our partners involved to be able to go there and run races. I learned a ton.

“There are so many characteristics that go into the Cup Series that you can maximize it in different ways and kind of optimize your potential and you don’t really realize that in the Truck Series or the Xfinity Series. When you go to the Cup level, it’s hard to win. It’s hard to run top 15. It’s hard to run top 10. It’s hard to run top five. You are running as hard as you can, battling for 20th to 25th as you are making a run for fifth place in the Cup Series.

“Everyone is the best of the best up there, and when it comes down to it, I don’t feel like I will put myself in a position to not win races again. I think for me, being able to win races and know that I can show up to the racetrack every single weekend and know that I have a shot is the biggest thing for me.”

5. Playoff points

With four races left in the Cup regular season, some teams will be focused on scoring as many playoff points as possible. A win is worth five playoff points. A stage win is worth one playoff point.

Playoff points also will be awarded to the top 10 in points when the regular season ends. The points leader gets 15 playoff points, the runner-up gets 10, third place gets nine. It decreases by one point to 10th, which receives one playoff point.

Here is how many playoff points drivers have scored this season heading into Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen:

32 — Kyle Larson

19 — Martin Truex Jr.

15 — Alex Bowman

14 — Kyle Busch

11 — Chase Elliott

9 — Ryan Blaney

8 — William Byron

8 — Joey Logano

8 — Kurt Busch

7 — Brad Keselowski

5 — Denny Hamlin

5 — Christopher Bell

5 — Michael McDowell

5 — Aric Almirola

1 — Tyler Reddick

1 — Chris Buescher

1 — Matt DiBenedetto

1 — Bubba Wallace

 and on Facebook

2022 spotlights: The Clash, the King and Martinsville Mania

0 Comments

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

0 Comments

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%

0 Comments

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

0 Comments

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.