Friday 5: Will someone try Ross Chastain video game move at Phoenix?

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Driver code and integrity have been among the phrases drivers have spoken when they discussed Ross Chastain’s rim-riding charge on the final lap of last weekend’s race at Martinsville Speedway.

While the move has created a buzz on social media for NASCAR and added energy to a season that has seen 19 different winners and two first-timers in Sunday’s Cup championship race (3 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock), questions still persist about what Chastain did.

MORE: Ross Chastain gains worldwide attention with Martinsville move

With NASCAR electing not to outlaw the move, some drivers worry it could be attempted this weekend at Phoenix Raceway when Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series titles are at stake. 

Chase Elliott acknowledges the attention that Chastain’s move bought the sport but has concerns about it.

“I think from a global perspective of our sport, it is kind of embarrassing in some ways just from an integrity standpoint of what we do week-to-week,” Elliott said Thursday at NASCAR’s championship media day at the Phoenix Convention Center.

“From a standpoint of a guy doing what he needed to do to get the job done, yeah, I think can have respect for that for sure. But you’re not allowed to cut courses, road courses and things like that. 

“I just think from a global perspective, for the integrity of what we do, it’s not a great look, in my opinion.”

Kyle Larson spoke up against the move after last weekend’s race, calling what Chastain did “embarrassing.”

Larson acknowledged he tried a similar move in last year’s Southern 500 but Denny Hamlin was high enough on the track to keep Larson behind to win that race. 

“I’m embarrassed that I did it at Darlington,” Larson said. “Maybe if I didn’t do it last year, people wouldn’t even think to do that, so I’m embarrassed myself and glad that I didn’t win that way (at Darlington). It’s not just a good look. Not a good look. … It’s embarrassing.”

Larson suggested that driver code should be enough to prevent it but when asked if there is driver code any more, he said: “There should be.”

Joey Logano said last week that NASCAR needed a rule in place before this weekend’s races. Series officials said the rules have been the same for 35 points races in the matter, so they saw no need to change the rules for the championship event.

“It’s not the X Games,” Logano said. “This is NASCAR. It’s a different thing than that.

I mean, there’s a place for it. Like I said, it was cool, it was a neat move. We all talked about doing it before he actually did it. He had a good reason for doing it. He’s rewarded for being in the championship. That’s fine, all well and good.

The next time it happens it’s not as cool. … All of a sudden now a leader has to put himself in the fence to finish first. At that point it doesn’t look really right.”

Noah Gragson, competing for the Xfinity title Saturday, questions how NASCAR could even officiate the maneuver had they made a rule preventing it.

“How are you going to write a rule?” Gragson said. “You can’t hit the wall on the last lap to advance your position. … It’s too much of a judgment call in my opinion. I don’t think you’re going to see a ton of guys doing it in the future. Maybe once or twice in the future, but it’s not going to be every car on the last lap. It would be stupid in my opinion.

“It really worked because of the situation and scenario he was in. Obviously, that was not an everyday situation or scenario. I don’t think you’re going to see it a ton. … There’s not enough scenarios where people are going to tear up their (cars).”

2. All in

Trackhouse Racing co-owner Justin Marks admitted he was nervous before last weekend’s race at Martinsville Speedway.

He “so badly” wanted to be a part of the story this weekend at Phoenix. 

With Ross Chastain’s desperate charge, Marks and Trackhouse are in the title event. It marks the first time in the last three years that a team owned by someone other than Rick Hendrick, Joe Gibbs or Roger Penske is competing for the Cup crown. 

“I want this more than I’ve wanted anything professionally in my life ever, and I’ve taken massive personal risk to start this company,” Marks said of reaching the title race. “I believe in it more than I’ve believed in anything, more than I ever believed in my own ability behind the wheel. I believe in it more than any other business enterprise I’ve ever started.”

So how much of a risk did Marks take to start Trackhouse Racing two years ago?

“I have an opportunity, very successful family, and I have an opportunity to have a dream that I can chase,” he said.

“Just about everything that is available to me in my life because of those circumstances, I pushed into Trackhouse. This was it. This was all the chips in. If this didn’t work, to be honest with you, there wasn’t a ton to fall back on.

“So when I talk about risk, it’s the fact that when I look at my life and where I came from and how much I love this sport, how much I love racing and love these people that work here and love being at the racetrack, there’s just nothing else I wanted to do.”

Once he made the decision to start a Cup team, Marks admitted it was “scary … uncomfortable.

“Even last year when we were up at RCR, just not knowing if it was going to work. We didn’t own our charter. Camping World, Marcus Lemonis came on board two weeks into the season. We didn’t have much sponsorship. He provided us this opportunity. I didn’t know where I was going to get my charter from or how I was going to make this work.

Once we acquired Chip Ganassi Racing, I had no idea if General Motors was going to look at us and go those guys have earned an opportunity to be a key partner alongside Hendrick and alongside RCR, or if they were going to see it as an opportunity to save some money and just commit to those two teams.

“So going through that whole process was stress and fear. But I think it was all belief. I just believed that this was a moment for an enterprise like this to be successful. And then as things started happening, as we closed the Ganassi sale and then as we signed our agreement with Chevrolet and then Worldwide Express and Jockey came on and then we started winning, in that moment it was like, okay, I think it was the right decision.”

3. One final ride in the No. 18

Sunday marks the final Cup race for Kyle Busch at Joe Gibbs Racing, ending a 15-year tenure that saw Busch win two Cup titles with the organization. 

Busch joins Richard Childress Racing after this season to drive the No. 8 car.

Busch’s 56 Cup victories at JGR rank fifth all-time for most wins by a driver with a single team. Richard Petty holds the record, scoring 196 of his 200 wins at Petty Enterprises. He’s followed by Jeff Gordon (93 wins for Hendrick Motorsports), Jimmie Johnson (83 wins for Hendrick Motorsports) and Dale Earnhardt (67 wins for Richard Childress Racing).

Busch has expressed his disappointment with not continuing with JGR. The team was working on a contract extension this season when a potential sponsor pulled out, leaving JGR scrambling to secure a sponsor for the No. 18 car.

Without a sponsor in place, Busch and JGR could not come to an agreement.

“It’s going to be the end of something that was really special and great, really,” car owner Joe Gibbs said this week. “When you think about 15 years and everything that the race team and Kyle has been able to do, it’s just been — it’s been a fantastic time for us. … To end all that, obviously there’s a lot of emotion, and you wish that it could have kept going.

“We tried in every way for over a year to try and get things to work out. They just didn’t.”

Busch’s final season with JGR saw his title hopes end in the first round after two blown engines. David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, said: “We cost Kyle Busch a shot at his third championship.”

Joe Gibbs Racing is set to announce Ty Gibbs as the new driver of the No. 18 Cup car for next year. That announcement will come at the end of this season.

4. Fire from within 

Saturday marks the fifth time in seven seasons that Justin Allgaier has reached the Xfinity Series championship race. He seeks his first series title.

Last year, Allgaier failed to reach the the title race. That’s motivated him this year.

“I’ll never forget the feeling of rolling into here at Phoenix, just that empty feeling,” said Allgaier, who fell six points short of making last year’s championship event. “It was a feeling that I never wanted to have again.”

Allgaier would have missed the title race for a second year in a row had Ty Gibbs not wrecked teammate Brandon Jones out of the lead on the final lap last week at Martinsville Speedway. Jones needed to win to advance. With him in the wall and out of title contention, Allgaier took the final transfer spot, giving JR Motorsports three drivers in contention for a championship: Allgaier, Noah Gragson and Josh Berry. They’ll race Gibbs for the crown Saturday (6 p.m. ET on USA Network).

“When I left here (last year), it put something in me, a fire, that I didn’t want to come back and not be in (the title race),” Allgaier said. “I think that was a big deal for me.

“This year has more meaningful experience. I’m definitely more excited to be here this year. I think you are able to understand the gravity of what we’re up against. I’ve got three competitors, I know how much they want it, and I think equally they know how much I want it. It’s going to be a barnburner of a race.” 

5. One last chance 

Sunday’s Cup season finale provides one last chance for drivers to continue streaks, end droughts or just close the season with a good result.

Six drivers who won a Cup race last year have yet to win this season. They are: Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Blaney, AJ Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski and Michael McDowell.

Drivers with consecutive winning streaks in jeopardy of ending this weekend: Keselowski (11 seasons in a row with a win), Truex (seven) and Blaney (five).

Kevin Harvick has had 18 consecutive top-10 finishes at Phoenix. That’s tied for the most top 10s in a row at any track. Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty each had 18 consecutive top 10s at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

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.”

Brennan Poole joins Bayley Currey at JD Motorsports for 2023

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Brennan Poole will join Bayley Currey at JD Motorsports for the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity season, the team announced Friday.

Poole will drive the No. 6 car for the full season. Currey returns to the team’s No. 4 car for the season. Currey scored five top-15 finishes last season for the organization.

JD Motorsports is planning to run the No. 0 car next season. No driver or sponsor has been announced for that ride.

“We’re full throttle here and getting ready to go,” Davis said in a statement from the team. “Bayley and Brennan are signed on and looking forward to chasing races and points next year. We’re actively moving along looking for sponsor commitments and for drivers and sponsors for the No. 0 car.”

“We’ve always taken the approach here that we want to go after the series with multiple cars, and that’s how we’re looking toward 2023. The new schedule is very interesting and provides new challenges to our drivers and team members.”

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

Friday 5: Will Kyle Busch become NASCAR’s Tom Brady, Peyton Manning?

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The weight of an unfulfilled season, deciding where he’d race in 2023 and the impact on his Truck Series team are off Kyle Busch.

It’s back to racing for the two-time Cup champion, who seeks to reignite his career at Richard Childress Racing this season.

Busch performed his final duty representing Joe Gibbs Racing at Thursday’s NASCAR Awards (show airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock) and it’s now all about helping RCR win its first Cup championship since 1994.

MORE: NASCAR Awards red carpet scene

Busch will be with Richard Childress Racing this weekend at Circuit of the Americas for World Racing League endurance events. Busch said the team has turned an old Cup car into an endurance car for the event. Last year, RCR won an eight-hour endurance race there with Austin Dillon, Tyler Reddick and Kaz Grala.

Busch seeks better fortunes at RCR than what he’s had recently at Joe Gibbs Racing.

He has one Cup win in his last 53 starts — 14 drivers have won more races than Busch in that span, dating back to the July 2021 race at Road America.

His 17 top-10 finishes this past season were his fewest since scoring 16 top 10s in 2015. 

He was running at the finish in 29 of 36 points races — the first time he’s been running at the finish in fewer than 30 races since 2015. Two blown engines in the opening round of the playoffs led to failing to advance to the second round for the first time in his career. 

“It’s obviously been a challenging, not just this year, but the last little while,” Busch said Thursday at the Music City Center. “So, it’s kind of maybe a blessing in disguise, honestly, where it might just be time for a fresh start, time for something new, time for something different.”

He looks to future NFL Hall of Fame quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning for inspiration.

Brady won six Super Bowls with the New England Patriots before  joining Tampa Bay and winning a Super Bowl in his first season with the Buccaneers.

Manning won a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts before joining the Denver Broncos and winning a Super Bowl there in his final season in the NFL.

“I’m kind of looking at it as a Tom Brady, Peyton Manning aspect where they left great teams, great originations where they won championships and they were able to win a championship somewhere else,” Busch said. “I’d like to think I still have that opportunity to be able to do that at RCR.

“I look at the opportunity with the new Next Gen race car as an easier move to make now with that vs. years past with previous generation cars.”

He says that because with the previous generation of cars, there was a greater separation between teams because NASCAR did not regulate as much of the car. With the the Next Gen car, teams have the same parts. Two-time Cup champion Joey Logano that his team still has much to learn about the car and maximizing setups. 

Even with his struggles at the end of his tenure at Joe Gibbs Racing, Busch says he doesn’t go to RCR with a chip on his shoulder. 

“I don’t think I have anything to prove or I need to have a chip on my shoulder,” Busch said. “I just want to go out there and run well again. … I felt like we had a lot of strong runs this year. There were like six races I can count that we could’ve, would’ve, should’ve won and we didn’t whip is very frustrating. 

“We were so good at giving them away that I need to get back to I’m so good at stealing them and earning them.”

2. Special delivery 

Among the perks with winning a Cup title is getting the Champion’s Journal. Jimmie Johnson started the tradition after his 2010 championship. The existence of the journal remained a secret until 2017 when Johnson posted a picture on social media of him handing the journal to Martin Truex Jr.

The journal passes from champion to champion with the current champion holding on to it for a year and adding an entry for the next champion before handing it to them. Logano will receive the journal from Kyle Larson. 

“I can’t wait to read it again,” Logano said before Thursday’s NASCAR Awards. “I’m telling you, it’s probably one of the coolest things. Jimmie deserves all of the credit for coming up with the idea. 

“I wish it started sooner. It’s so interesting. Some drivers are very detailed what they write to the next champion and some are kind of quick and simple. It’s very interesting to read it. It’s cool. It’s a real secret. It’s kind of like an unwritten rule, you can’t take pictures of it and post it. It’s a thing that only the championship drivers know and have read and seen.

“Every time I get it, I’m so nervous. I’m like don’t spill anything on this thing, don’t lose it. It would suck to be the guy that loses that. That would be bad. I’m putting it right in the safe.”

Logano won his first Cup title in 2018. He then gave the journal to Kyle Busch, the 2019 series champion.

“It’s something you put a lot of thought into, at least I did,” Logano said of what he penned. “I wrote a letter to Kyle. You put a lot of thought into it. It’s something that will be there as long as our sport is around. I hope so at least. It’s a really great tradition.”

3. Fun factor 

The day of last year’s NASCAR Awards, William Byron said he wanted compete in more races outside NASCAR in 2022. 

Byron, who seeks to make Sunday’s prestigious Snowball Derby Super Late Model race, has fulfilled his goal, winning, gaining confidence but also having fun.

“What I got out of it was immediate fun, sort of relief,” Byron said of racing various Super Late Model races this year. “It was not racing the Cup car. It was different. It was not as stressful working with the team and things like that because there’s not as much on the line. There’s still prize money and things, and honestly you’re there to have fun. I enjoyed that.

“As I got going in it, I realized how productive it really was for me to do it, how much I was learning. As I did it more often throughout the season, I learned little nuances that were helping me get back in the Cup car with a better skill set.”

That element of fun stood out to Byron. Cup racing is full of pressure with the multi-million dollar sponsors, expectations to win and all the people at the shop relying on the car’s performance. That’s significant pressure, on top of what any driver puts on themself.

“There’s a lot of guys that you are trying to provide for and do a good job for,” Byron said of Cup racing. “There is a weight to that. You want to perform for those guys that work non-stop at the shop. There’s just a much broader net that you are casting as a driver. Whenever you go to the short track level, it’s you and six to 10 guys working on the car. … There’s natural pressure with what we’re trying to do at the Cup level because it is the No. 1 motorsports in the U.S.”

4. Looking for a ride

Ross Chastain says he’s been “trying for years” to get a ride in the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway without success but that hasn’t deterred him.

“I’ve met with the president of IMSA,” said Chastain, who finished second to Joey Logano for the Cup title this season. “I’ve met with team owners. I’ve talked to drivers. I just can’t find my way in yet. I haven’t found the right person yet to either tell me how to do it or give me the opportunity. I could show up with sponsorship and get a ride, but how do I get in as a race car driver? I haven’t found that spot yet.”

Chastain said he’s reached out to some this offseason with no luck. 

He said the prestige of the season-opening IMSA event (Jan. 28-29, 2023) draws him but he also wants to gain more experience racing on a road course — even with his win at Circuit of the Americas this past season. And Chastain is not picky on the type of ride he’d like to have for that race.

“I’m not even looking to be in the top class. I want to find a mid-pack Xfinity team of the Rolex and go run there and experience it and then just to be around those road racers that do it year around. I know I could learn something. … I just want to race.”

5. Indy 500-Coke 600 double

It has been eight years since Kurt Busch competed in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, the last time the feat has been accomplished. 

Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson are among those who have expressed interest in running both races in the same day but don’t appear to be in a position to do so in 2023 because of the limited IndyCar rides available. 

Roger Penske, owner of the IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said he could see Jimmie Johnson attempting it this year, and others as soon as next year. 

“It’s about having the car and the manufactures, whether it’s Chevy and or Honda,” Penske said, referring to the IndyCar manufacturers. “All would be interested to see somebody run the double. Maybe Jimmie is going to do it, which would be great. 

“He has the experience. He did very well on the ovals. … It’s my understanding that he’s going to run potentially the 600 as one of his races (with Petty GMS). We’ll see.”