Chevrolet studying source of Tyler Reddick’s prop shaft failure in Next Gen debut at Clash


CHARLOTTE, North Carolina – The head of Chevrolet’s NASCAR program said a damaged prop shaft caused the mechanical failure for Tyler Reddick while leading Sunday in the Clash at the Coliseum.

The No. 8 Chevrolet was leading under caution during Lap 53 on the temporary 0.25-mile oval when Reddick suddenly slowed with what the Richard Childress Racing driver initially thought was a broken transaxle.

“He was getting ready to restart, trying to get heat in the tires and dropped the clutch a little too much, too abruptly,” Dr. Eric Warren, director of NASCAR Programs for General Motors, told NBC Sports in an interview Monday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame (where Jesse Iwuji‘s new No. 34 Chevrolet in the Xfinity Series was unveiled). “So it was damage with the prop shaft. It was not the transaxle. The drive shaft basically now is called the prop shaft with the way the transaxle works.

FONTANA FUTURE: What the Coliseum race could mean for Auto Club Speedway

“I think (the Coliseum) track being really small, it’s a cause of a little concern at Martinsville just because that much gear and that violent of a restart probably would be something to think about. At the time, we hadn’t really seen that issue in the past, so we need to get into it a little bit. The cars had a lot more driveoff. I think a lot of drivers were surprised at how well they were able to drive off. There’s some technical work to see on was that (failure) unique to something we haven’t seen before? Was it a specific part failure? A new type of part? I’m sure we’ll dig into that in detail and have good answers.”

Sunday marked the debut of the Next Gen car, which is a revolutionary new concept in which Cup Series teams essentially are assembling spec-type cars with chassis, parts and pieces that are built by vendors. For the first 70-plus year of its existence, NASCAR allowed teams autonomy in building their cars from the ground up.

With the new degree of standardization in critical parts from single-source suppliers, there will be as much scrutiny of quality control as ever as a once-isolated problem easily could become widespread. After Sunday’s Clash, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell said “any part or piece we see an issue, we’ll have a big debrief, get on it, fix it.”

Warren said NASCAR increasingly is getting more input from teams now building their fleets for the 2022 season after an anxious offseason.

“NASCAR has been great, honestly, and it’s been a mountainous challenge,” Warren said. “They get a lot of input. They’ve responded as well as they can. With the supply chain issues, it’s been really hard. I think every team would wish they had more cars and parts, but the silver lining to the way the car is designed and intended was to have less cars. So now they’re going to be forced to deal with that and just like things breaking in testing, you don’t want to do it, but you learn things.

“The first part of the (Cup season) schedule, you see a little of everything. After you get through Phoenix, then probably Martinsville, you’ve hit most types of tracks and put the car through its paces. The durability of the car is much greater in general than the previous generation, so it’s just ironing out all the new parts with new vendors and making sure if there are some tweaks to the designs, it needs to happen.”

During the same caution period Sunday, Chase Briscoe had a drivetrain problem that “looked very similar” to Reddick’s, Warren said. “I don’t know if it was a similar issue, so we’ll have to digest as we go.” (Briscoe indicated on a Reddit thread that he had the same problem as Reddick.)

Denny Hamlin also had a power steering belt apparently come loose, which Warren said wasn’t necessarily uncommon on the Gen 6.

“It sounded like something threw a belt,” he said. “That could have been the pump locked up. It’s hard to say yet if that was a steering rack issue. We’ve seen a lot of work and a lot of things over testing. Denny said the belt came off first, so that could be unrelated.”

With teams facing limited inventories of cars and parts heading into the Daytona 500, there was concern about an exhibition race on a short track producing wrecks that could exhaust their limited supplies. But Warren said even the most heavily damaged cars of Aric Almirola and Justin Haley should have a quick turnaround in getting repaired as soon as Monday.

“I think everyone was really worried about damaging cars with there not being that many of them, and looking at the damage of every car there, they’re probably already fixed,” Warren said. “The beauty of this car is how fast it can be repaired. I’m certain that any of those crashes I’ve seen, if there was a practice today, they’d be running. There was nothing significant. Even look at the crashes in testing. Austin Dillon’s crash in Charlotte, it was a really heavy crash, and they were back at the track the next day. The crashes from yesterday were pretty small.”

Joey Logano Wins NASCAR Clash At The Los Angeles Coliseum
Justin Haley sustained left-front damage to his No. 31 Chevrolet during the a wreck in the Clash at the Coliseum (Will Lester/MediaNews Group/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin via Getty Images).

Many drivers also were encouraged that despite much beating and banging over the course of 150 laps, there seemed hardly any of the cut tires that often resulted from bent sheet metal after contact with the Gen 6.

Warren was “surprised” how well the Clash came off after being uncertain about the event despite GM engineers being able to predict precise lap times from Reddick’s work in the GM driving simulator.

“A quarter-mile is a really tight track, so with the brand new asphalt, we really went in not knowing if the track would be suitable for the cars,” he said. “Them being able to drive on the apron and everything was super exciting. The track held up great. The cars overall held up great considering the first race. Then the environment around it.”

Because the Cup schedule has no other quarter-mile tracks or similar weekend racing formats of heat and qualifying races, Warren said there was limited knowledge that can be gleaned from the L.A. event. But he was encouraged by the management of engine temperatures with less cooling options.

“This car has been tested more than any car, any new generation car, whether the COT or previous ones,” Warren said. “I’m confident in the car. There are going to be issues. I think the rest of the tracks, we’re going to see some durability things we haven’t seen. There have been a lot of miles put on the car definitely with all the testing NASCAR has done. But I think it’ll be different when we see it in real competition.”

Corey LaJoie learning in his week with Chase Elliott’s team


Spending this week with Hendrick Motorsports has proved eye-opening for Corey LaJoie.

He will pilot Chase Elliott’s No. 9 car today at World Wide Technology Raceway after NASCAR suspended Elliott one race for wrecking Denny Hamlin during last week’s Coca-Cola 600. This gives LaJoie the chance to drive in the best equipment of his career.

MORE: Corey LaJoie not giving up on his dream 

MORE: Details for Sunday’s Cup race

Working with Elliott’s team also has given LaJoie an inside look as to what makes Hendrick Motorsports so successful.

“I thought that I knew what we didn’t have at Spire Motorsports, but I had no idea,” said LaJoie, who starts 30th after tagging the wall during his qualifying lap. “There’s tools that those guys have, intellectual properties specific to Hendrick Motorsports, that even some of the other teams don’t have.

“But the biggest thing that I noticed was just the people and the attitude of the pursuit of perfection. All the key partner teams across all the (manufacturers) all have the same data, but (Hendrick Motorsports has) an unbelievable way of delegating, taking, compacting and making it just digestible – whether it’s for a driver, an engineer, a crew chief.

“I think the fact that they have four incredibly strong teams individually raises the tide for those guys because when you’re sitting in the simulator and William Byron ran a 33.20 (seconds for a lap) … if you’re running a 33.35 with the same setup, you know you have a tenth-and-a-half under your butt and you have to go find it. And then when I go run a 33.20, William next time is going to want to run a 33.19.

“There’s always a consistently raised watermark on the driver’s end. There’s always a consistently raised watermark on the crew chiefs in trying to build the best setups, and the engineers trying to find the best strategies.

“The inner-team competition is one of the biggest things, and I think there are several teams that have that … the healthy ones are certainly evident. But it’s just the overall structure. We have a Hawkeye (camera-based inspection stations used by NASCAR at the track) … all the things that do the same stuff that Hendrick Motorsports has, but the depth of people, collective focus of the goal and the mission is noticeable and evident. It’s a different world.”

It would be easy for LaJoie to be overwhelmed in this situation. His career has been marked with underfunded rides and trying to make the most of his equipment. He’s having his best season in Cup this year. LaJoie ranks 19th in points heading into today’s race.

LaJoie acknowledges the opportunity he has, but he also can’t let it alter his focus.

“It’s been a wild week,” he said. “I can get all sentimental … (about) my dad subbing in for Ricky Craven in 1998 (for Hendrick Motorsports) and all that sort of stuff. But at the end of the day, when I sit in that thing, I don’t know that NAPA is on it, or the No. 9 is on it.

“I’m going to drive it like I have been driving the No. 7 Chevy and putting that thing 19th in points. It’s been a super fun, successful year so far, and we have a lot of work left to do and things to accomplish over there.”

When he returns to his Spire Motorsports ride after today’s race, LaJoie admits this weekend’s experience with Elliott’s team will help him with his own team.

“How I prepare, how I’m going to engage with my team at Spire Motorsports going forward is going to change,” LaJoie said. “I think I’m going to be able to come in there and just apply and share some of the things I’ve learned over the course of the week with (crew chief Ryan) Sparks and the No. 77 team, as well, and I think we’re all going to be stronger for it.”

Dr. Diandra: Is 2023 the season for a Ricky Stenhouse Jr. redemption?


Coming into 2022, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had two career Cup Series wins in 364 starts. But both wins — and his career-high 13th-place season finish — happened back in 2017.

Stenhouse was unceremoniously dropped by Roush Fenway Racing in 2020 and landed with JTG Daugherty Racing. He made the news every now and then at a superspeedway but could be counted upon to head up season-ending lists of drivers involved in the most accidents. In the years Stenhouse hasn’t been at the top of the list, he’s been near the top.

DNFs and accidents have plagued Stenhouse throughout his NASCAR career. Jack Roush went so far as to park the Mississippi native in his early days in the Xfinity Series because he tore up so much equipment.

Stenhouse redeemed himself, going on to win two Xfinity championships.

From the way his 2023 season has started, it looks as though Stenhouse might be on a similar mission of redemption this year in the Cup Series.

Finishing races

Stenhouse started the 2023 season in the best possible way – winning the Daytona 500. But drivers from less-funded teams who win early superspeedway races usually settle to the bottom of the rankings by now.

Stenhouse hasn’t. He ranks 13th heading into Sunday’s race at World Wide Technology Raceway.

Standings aren’t as good a ruler this year as they usually are because of drivers missing races and teams incurring penalties. But Stenhouse’s statistics back up his ranking.

Stenhouse has finished every race this year on track, as opposed to in the garage or on the hook. Only Ryan Blaney and Corey LaJoie have achieved the same distinction.

In 11 of those 14 races, Stenhouse finished on the lead lap. That’s the same number of lead-lap finishes as William Byron. Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. are tied for most races finished on the lead lap with 13 each.

This time last year, Stenhouse had already racked up seven of the series-leading 18 caution-causing incidents he would be involved in for the season. Runner-up Chase Elliott had 15 incidents.

Going into Gateway this year, Stenhouse has been involved in only two accidents (Talladega and Charlotte) and had a tire go out at Darlington.

Approaching his career best

I compare three years in Stenhouse’s career in the table below: the 2017 season — his best to date — along with last year and the 14 races run so far this year.

A table comparing loop data stats for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. showing his path to redemption

Stenhouse’s current average finishing position of 13.5 ties with Christopher Bell for sixth best in the Cup Series. That’s 9.3 positions better than Stenhouse’s 2022 average. He’s even beating his 2017 average by 3.6 positions.

Qualifying results are down a bit from 2017 — but remember that those numbers are from the days when NASCAR allowed multiple practice sessions. Stenhouse is only two positions worse relative to 2017, but 7.6 positions better than last year when it comes to establishing his spot on the starting grid.

Stenhouse’s average running position is comparable to 2017 and 2.8 positions better than 2022. He ranks 20th among full-time Cup Series drivers in average running position. Although it’s an improvement, it’s still more than double William Byron’s series-leading 9.1 average running position this year.

More interesting is the difference between Stenhouse’s average running position his average finishing position. Some drivers run better than they finish. Stenhouse is doing the opposite.

In 2017, Stenhouse finished about 1.4 positions better than he ran. This year, he’s gaining an average of about five positions from where he runs.

One might argue this gain results from the plethora of late-race incidents this year that have removed drivers in the front of the field from contention. But Stenhouse deserves credit for putting himself in a position to benefit from those events.

Stenhouse’s green-flag speed rank is 11th among full-time Cup Series drivers. His 15.3 average, however, is 1.7 positions worse than 10th-place Kyle Busch. Still, it’s impressive that JTG Daugherty is right there in the mix with much better-funded teams. William Byron again has the best average green-flag speed rank at 7.9.

Consistently strong finishes

It’s not uncommon for a mid-pack driver to win a superspeedway race. But Stenhouse’s Daytona 500 win appears to be something more. The table below summarizes his wins and finishes for the same three years.

A table comparing finishes for 2017, 2022 and 2023 showing Ricky Stenhouse Jr's redemption attemptsThe difference between last year and this year is striking.

In 2022, Stenhouse finished in the top 20 in 12 of 36 races. He’s already matched that mark this year. He earns top-20 finishes 85.7% of the time in 2023 compared to 33.3% last year. Top-20 finishes aren’t the same as contending for a championship. But they’re a first step.

Stenhouse finished 2017 with nine top-10 races. With about 60% of the season remaining, he’s already earned five top-10 finishes this year.

What’s changed? The Next Gen car is one factor, but it didn’t make much difference for Stenhouse last year. I would point instead to Stenhouse’s reunion with Mike Kelley as his crew chief.

Kelley co-piloted both of Stenhouse’s Xfinity championships in 2011 and ’12. Although Kelley worked with Stenhouse and previous crew chief Brian Pattie since 2020, this is the first year Kelley is back up on the pit box.

Together, they’re basically halfway to matching Stenhouse’s best year.

And another step closer to redemption.

Portland Xfinity race results, driver points

Portland Xfinity results
Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

Cole Custer went from fourth to first on the overtime restart when the top three cars made contact and went on to win Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Portland International Raceway. Custer is the 10th different winner in 13 races this season.

MORE: Portland Xfinity race results

MORE: Driver points after Portland Xfinity race

JR Motorsports took the next three spots: Justin Allgaier placed second, Sam Mayer was third and Josh Berry was fourth. Austin Hill completed the top five.

John Hunter Nemechek remains the points leader after 13 races. He has a 14-point lead on Hill. Nemechek leads Allgaier by 44 points.

Cole Custer wins Xfinity race at Portland in overtime


Cole Custer held off Justin Allgaier at the finish to win Saturday’s Xfinity Series race in overtime at Portland International Raceway. It is Custer’s first victory of the season.

JR Motorsports placed second, third and fourth with Allgaier, Sam Mayer and Josh Berry. Austin Hill finished fifth.

MORE: Race results, driver points

Custer went from fourth to first on the overtime restart when Parker Kligerman, who restarted third, attempted to pass Allgaier, who was leading. Sheldon Creed was on the outside of Allgaier. All three cars made contact entering Turn 1, allowing Custer to slip by. Creed finished seventh. Kligerman placed 14th.

Custer won the second stage when John Hunter Nemechek made contact with Creed’s car while racing for the lead on the final lap of the stage. The contact spun Creed and Custer inched by Nemechek at the line.

Early in the final stage, Creed gained revenge with contact that spun Nemechek, who went on to finish 10th. A few laps later, Nemechek and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Sammy Smith had issues. Smith spun Nemechek. After getting back around, Nemechek quickly caught Smith and turned into Smith’s car, damaging it.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Sheldon Creed

STAGE 2 WINNER: Cole Custer

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Despite the contact on the overtime restart, runner-up Justin Allgaier managed to score his fourth consecutive top-three finish. … Sam Mayer’s third-place finish is his best on a road course. … Austin Hill’s fifth-place finish gives him four consecutive top-five results.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Daniel Hemric finished 33rd after a fire in his car. … Riley Herbst placed 32nd after an engine issue. After opening the season with six top 10s in a row, Herbst has gone seven races in a row without a top 10.

NEXT: The series competes June 10 at Sonoma Raceway (8 p.m. ET on FS1).