A.J. Allmendinger

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Stewart-Haas Racing announces 2020 Cup driver-crew chief lineup

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Stewart-Haas Racing announced Wednesday it is shaking up its driver-crew chief lineup for the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season, with Rodney Childers the only crew chief staying in place.

Mike Shiplett will move up to the Cup Series to crew chief Cole Custer in his rookie season in the No. 41 Ford. Together, Custer and Shiplett won seven Xfinity Series races in 2019 and finished second to Tyler Reddick in the standings.

Shiplett returns to the Cup Series for the first time since 2011 when he was crew chief for A.J. Allmendinger in 19 races at Richard Petty Motorsports. He takes the place of Billy Scott, who was crew chief for Daniel Suarez‘ only season in the No. 41.

A team spokesperson confirmed to NBC Sports that Scott is no longer with SHR as he pursues other opportunities.

SHR is swapping crew chiefs on the No. 14 and No. 10 cars, with Mike Bugarewicz now paired with Aric Almirola on the No. 10 and John Klausmeier paired with Clint Bowyer on the No. 14.

Klausmeier worked with Almirola for the last two seasons as they earned one win (Talladega II, 2018) and made the playoffs both years.

Bugarewicz has led the No. 14 team since 2016, where he was Tony Stewart’s crew chief for his last NASCAR season before being paired with Bowyer in 2017. They won two races together in 2018 (Martinsville I, Michigan I) but went winless in 2019.

SHR also confirmed the No. 10 and No. 14 teams will be switching their crews, with the exception of their pit crews.

Childers will be paired with Kevin Harvick for a seventh year. Since 2014 they have produced 26 victories, one championship and have made the Championship 4 in five of six years.

“Our biggest asset at Stewart-Haas Racing is our people, and we strive to put each person in the best position to succeed,” said Greg Zipadelli, the team’s vice president of competition, in a press release. “Our driver/crew chief pairings for next season reflect this ideology, and we believe this lineup provides the best opportunity to win every time we unload our Ford Mustangs at the racetrack.”

Chase Briscoe explains why he’s ‘racing for my life’

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CONCORD, N.C. — Hours after he failed to defend his 2018 Xfinity Series win on the Charlotte Roval, Chase Briscoe posted a tweet saying he’s “racing for my life and trying to prove I deserve to be here.”

That sentiment comes even though the 24-year-old racer has two to three years left on his contract with Ford, which began in 2017.

“It’s still performance based,” Briscoe told NBC Sports Sunday afternoon at Charlotte Motor Speedway, a day after his ninth-place finish on the Roval. “I have to go win races and run up front. (Saturday) was a perfect opportunity to win a race. That was one of the best cars we’ve had all year-long. So (we) were in contention all day long, so trying to take advantage of that, that’s what I was trying to do is win a race.

“Last year winning this race is what catapulted me to being full-time at Stewart-Haas. So if I could do that this year, I feel like it would just up my odds for next year going racing.”

Added Briscoe: “I want to show Ford they made the right decision on taking a risk with me.”

On Friday, Briscoe told NBC Sports that Ford has “assured me I’m going to be in something” after this year.

“That’s kind of the unique thing with being a Ford driver. Even if you look at last year, I drove for two different teams (Stewart-Haas and Roush Fenway) under the Ford umbrella. I can go to Stewart-Haas again, I can go to Roush, I can go to Penske, I can go to any of those race teams just because I am a Ford driver. It’s good for a thing like that, but at the same time if I had my choice I want to be at Stewart-Haas. My hero growing up was Tony (Stewart). This is a place I feel comfortable.

“A lot of guys over there are dirt guys and just people I get along with. … I feel confident that’s where we’re working towards.”

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver was in a good position to earn his second win of the year Saturday until a run-in with Christopher Bell with less than 11 laps to go in the race.

The two were racing for second when Briscoe pulled out to pass Bell on his right in the final two turns. Right as he was about to complete the pass, Bell ran out of room, made contact with Briscoe’s left rear and overshot the chicane, which is illegal.

As they went through Turn 2 on the ensuing lap, Bell made contact with Briscoe’s left side, sending him into a spin and causing a caution. Bell had to restart from the rear of the field for missing the chicane and not stopping along the frontstretch before the start/finish line, as required by NASCAR. He went on to finish 12th while Briscoe placed ninth and A.J. Allmendinger won.

“I know Christopher well enough and raced with him long enough I feel like to know that he doesn’t just get loose like that,” Briscoe told NBC Sports on Sunday. “I can see why he was mad after over (in the final turn), but I don’t know that it necessarily … it wasn’t worth ruining our day over here.”

Briscoe, whose one win this year came at Iowa over Bell, speculated the site of this year’s championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway may have influenced the incident with Bell.

“I know in the trucks I remember him talking to me how they knew we were going to be good at Homestead,” Briscoe said. “He was at our test at Homestead this year. I feel like for sure if a non-playoff guy can win a race that just helps their situation as well. I don’t know what’s going on his mind. I’m not too worried about it. I just hate we didn’t win the race yesterday.”

Results, playoff standings after Xfinity Roval race

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CONCORD, N.C. — A.J. Allmendinger led the final 20 laps on the way to winning Saturday’s Xfinity Series race on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

It’s his third career Xfinity win.

The top five was completed by Tyler Reddick, Austin Cindric, Justin Allgaier and Noah Gragson.

Click here for race results.

Check back for the playoff standings

Playoff standings

With his eighth-place finish, Cole Custer clinched a spot in the second round of the playoffs based on points, joining Christopher Bell.

There are six spots remaining to be filled in the round, which consists of eight drivers. Those will be decided next weekend at Dover International Speedway.

Here are the bottom six positions in the playoff standings.

Noah Gragson  +26 points above cutline

Michael Annett  +11 points

John Hunter Nemechek -11

Brandon Jones  -11

Ryan Sieg -37

Justin Haley -39

Click here for the point standings.

A.J. Allmendinger wins Xfinity Roval race

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CONCORD, N.C. — A.J. Allmendinger won Saturday’s Xfinity Series race on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, outrunning Tyler Reddick and Austin Cindric in a three-lap shootout.

It is Allmendinger’s third career Xfinity win and his first since 2013. It is the second win for Kaulig Racing after Ross Chastain‘s victory at Daytona in July.

Allmendinger, an NBC Sports motorsports analyst who will appear Sunday on NBCSN’s Victory Lap after the Cup race, took the lead with 20 laps to go. He took the lead by putting a fender to Christopher Bell‘s rear bumper in Turn 8 to move the No. 20 aside.

“I just knew if I was stuck behind him for a couple more laps he could start running his own pace and be comfortable and it was probably going to be game over for me,” Allmendinger said. “If it was the Cup Series I would have done the same thing. I just had to go then.”

At the start-finish line afterward, Allmendinger told NBCSN: “God, the last (few) times we’ve road course (raced) I’ve been gutted not getting my win. I can’t thank my race team enough.”

Allmendinger said he knew his car was good in clean air, “but in traffic it was a struggle.”

Justin Allgaier and Noah Gragson rounded out the top five

Canadian Alex Labbe finished a career-best sixth in his 44th Xfinity start.

The top 10 was completed by John Hunter Nemechek (playoffs), Cole Custer (playoffs), Chase Briscoe and Ryan Truex.

With his finish Custer clinched a spot in the second round of the playoffs based on points.

Christopher Bell finished 12th after he was assessed a penalty for missing the frontstretch chicane and not stopping on the frontstretch. He missed the chicane after he ran out of room fending off Briscoe as they raced for second. On the ensuing lap, the two made contact between Turn 2 and 3, causing Briscoe to spin.

“I knew it was a penalty to miss the chicane, but there was a clause in there in the driver’s meeting where if you missed the chicane due to an incident, NASCAR would review it,” Bell said. “I figured that me getting run off the race track and having no other option was a justifiable reason, but I guess not.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: Chase Briscoe

STAGE 2 WINNER: Cole Custer

More: Race results, point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Tyler Reddick bounced back from missing the backstretch chicane on the first lap to finish second. He and Austin Cindric finished in the top five in all four road course races … Noah Gragson and Justin Allgaier finished in the top 10 in all four road course races.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE:  Michael Annett, who started from the rear in a backup car, finished 15th after he ran into the back of another car on a Lap 5 restart … Playoff driver Ryan Sieg finished 30th after spending three laps in the garage for a fuel pump issue … Playoff driver Justin Haley finished six laps down in 31st after he went to the garage to fix a mechanical issue

WHAT’S NEXT: Bar Harbor 200 at Dover International Speedway, 3 p.m. ET, Oct. 5 on NBCSN

Zack Novak conquers The Rock to win second NASCAR America’s iRacing All-Star race

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Zack Novak held off a strong last lap challenge by Michael Conti to win the eNASCAR PEAK Antifreeze iRacing Series All-Star race held live Thursday on NASCAR America and televised on NBCSN.

Novak, who drives the No. 6 Ford Mustang for the Roush Fenway Racing esports team, claimed the win on a virtual Rockingham Speedway, forcing Conti, who drives for JR Motorsports, down low coming out of Turn 4 on the final lap of the 90-lap event and was able to hang on to take the checkered flag.

 

The 16-year-old Novak, from Clinton, Connecticut, leads the Peak Series points standings — he won last year’s Ignite Series championship — and goes for the $100,000 prize pool on October 10, which will also be televised on NBCSN.

I don’t even have a driver’s license yet. — Zack Novak

“I don’t even have a driver’s license yet,” Novak told NASCAR America analysts Krista Voda, Parker Kligerman (who also competed in the race in the NBC Sports simulator in Stamford, Connecticut) and former NASCAR Cup driver A.J. Allmendinger. “It was extremely hard to pass but Conti is a very good driver and kept putting pressure on me.

“I just tried to hold the top as much as I could and make it hard for him. The top line came in real good there, a lot better than I expected, and we luckily had a real good finish for everybody watching and it was really fun to race him and battle side-by-side.”

Finishing third through fifth in the 32-driver field were 2017 series champion Ryan Michael Luza (Flipsid3 Tactics), Logan Clampitt (Burton Kligerman Esports) and Nathan Lyon (Letarte Esports).

Sixth through 10th were Ashton Crowder (Burton Kligerman Esports), Matt Bussa (Williams Esports), Chris Overland (Wood Brothers), Bobby Zalenski (Joe Gibbs Racing) and Brian Schoenburg (Williams Esports).

The race was the second iRacing event broadcast on national television, and included NASCAR On NBC analyst Parker Kligerman and teams owned by real NASCAR organizations, tracks and drivers, including fellow NBC analysts Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte.

“The return of iRacing eNASCAR action to live television on NBCSN for a second All-Star race provides viewers with a unique outlet to enjoy simulator racing at its best,” said Jeff Behnke, Vice President of NASCAR Production, NBC Sports. “The growth and popularity is impressive on many fronts, and with a variety of NBC announcers moonlighting as owners, fans will get first-hand, expert analysis during the broadcast.”

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