Drivers to watch in NASCAR Cup Series at Nashville

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After the only off weekend of the regular season, the Cup Series returns to competition Sunday (5 p.m. ET, NBC) with a 399-mile race at Nashville Superspeedway near Lebanon, Tenn.

The race will be only the second Cup event at the 1.33-mile track. Kyle Larson won in runaway fashion in the track’s Cup debut last season. Previously, the Xfinity and Truck series raced at Nashville. They also are on this weekend’s schedule.

The Cup race will begin a 10-week, 10-race run to the end of the regular season. The 10-race playoffs are scheduled to begin Sept. 4 at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina.

FRONT RUNNERS

Kyle Larson

  • Points position: 7th
  • Last three races: 15th at Sonoma; 12th at Gateway; 9th at Charlotte
  • Past at Nashville: Won in 2021

Larson virtually defines the term “front runner” at Nashville. Last year he led 264 of the race’s 300 laps and won by 4.33 seconds, practically a calendar page in front of second-place Ross Chastain.

Larson is riding a 14-race winless streak and will run at Nashville with interim crew chief Kevin Meendering, who is replacing Cliff Daniels, who was suspended after Larson’s Chevrolet lost a wheel at Sonoma.

Ross Chastain

  • Points position: 2nd
  • Last three races: 7th at Sonoma; 8th at Gateway; 15th at Charlotte
  • Past at Nashville: 2nd in 2021

Chastain, one of only four drivers with multiple wins this season, finished second to winner Kyle Larson last year at Nashville in what developed as a fuel-mileage finish.

In the season’s past eight races, Chastain has finished eighth or better five times. He has seven top fives (including two wins) in the past 14 events.

William Byron

  • Points position: 8th
  • Last three races: 9th at Sonoma; 19th at Gateway; 32nd at Charlotte
  • Past at Nashville: 3rd in 2021

Byron, who has wins this season at Atlanta and Martinsville, has been relatively quiet recently. He has led 570 laps for the year, but 482 of those were logged in the first eight races. In the past eight races, Byron has led only 88 laps.

His Nashville run last year, however, puts him on the watch list for this weekend. Despite starting the race from the rear because of improper adjustments, he rolled through the field and finished third.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Kevin Harvick

  • Points position: 12th
  • Last three races: 4th at Sonoma; 33rd at Gateway; 3rd at Charlotte
  • Past at Nashville: 5th in 2021

Harvick remains the most prominent driver still on the outside looking in for a playoff spot. He is the first driver below the point cutoff line, seven points behind Aric Almirola. Harvick has participated in 12 straight playoffs, the most among active drivers.

Harvick’s season has been a struggle, but he has two finishes of fourth or better in the past four races and has finished in the top 10 in five of the past seven. He ran well last year at Nashville, finishing fifth after running out of gas on the last lap, giving up fourth. He owns two Xfinity wins at the track.

Harvick is riding a 59-race winless streak, a stretch in which he has finished second four times.

Daniel Suarez

  • Points position: 17th
  • Last three races: Won at Sonoma; 23rd at Gateway; 25th at Charlotte
  • Past at Nashville: 7th in 2021

So, Daniel, can you do it again? Suarez broke into the winners circle at Sonoma and has four top 10s in the last 14 races. Now he needs to prove he can compete for victories on big ovals.

Suarez was seventh last year at Nashville after starting 22nd.

Martin Truex Jr.

  • Points position: 6th
  • Last three races: 26th at Sonoma; 6th at Gateway; 12th at Charlotte
  • Past at Nashville: 22nd in 2021

Truex remains winless this season after a 2021 run in which he won four times. At this point last year he had six top fives; now he has only two.

Currently 14th in playoff points, Truex was penalized twice during last year’s Nashville race at finished 22nd after pitting for fuel with 10 laps to go.

 

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.”