Cole Whitt

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Cole Whitt steps aways from racing after Phoenix Cup race

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Sunday’s Cup race at ISM Raceway was the last NASCAR race for Cole Whitt, TriStar Motorsports announced on social media after the race.

The team said Whitt, 27, “has elected to hang up his helmet and step away from his life behind the wheel.”

A native of Alpine, California, Whitt has made 242 starts across NASCAR’s three national series since 2010. Sunday’s race was his 161st Cup start. He finished 25th.

Whitt said before the season he was “looking forward to taking the next step” in his life “and trying to spend most of my time with my family.”

Last month, Whitt told frontstretch.com “It’s been a slow, steady drive of me to get away from racing and move back to be around family and friends and to live a normal life. That’s been a drive for the past couple of years.”

Whitt competed full-time in Cup from 2014-15 and 2017.

Whitt split time this year in the No. 72 Chevrolet with Corey LaJoie, making 13 starts.

The best season of Whitt’s career came in 2012 in the Xfinity Series. Driving the No. 88 for JR Motorsports, Whitt earned four top fives, 14 top 10s and finished seventh in the standings.

 

Underdogs benefit from Roval chaos

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The smoke is starting to clear on the chaotic finish to Sunday’s Cup race on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

The inaugural Cup race on the road course saw many underdog teams come out with impressive finishes, as they capitalized on the 15-car crash with six laps to go and the mayhem of the final three laps.

Here’s who emerged with something good to take back to their race shop.

AJ Allmendinger – Finished 7th: After qualifying second, Allmendinger never led a lap. He finished eighth in Stage 1 and was one of the drivers to take advantage of Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr.‘s last-turn incident. It was his first top 10 since the July Daytona race.

Matt DiBenedetto – Finished 13th: Earned his best finish of the year on a non-restrictor plate track.

Regan Smith – Finished 15th: Second top 15 in his fourth substitute race for Kasey Kahne. Finished 20th or better in three of the four races. Kahne has finished 20th or better in three of four races just once this year. He only has two top 15s in 25 starts (Daytona II, fourth), (Bristol II, 15th).

David Ragan – Finished 16th: Best finish since placing 15th in the July Daytona race.

Chris Buescher – Finished 17th: Third finish of 17th or better in the last five races.

Cole Whitt – Finished 20th: Second-best finish in 11 starts this year.

Ross Chastain – Finished 24th: Seventh finish inside the top 25 in 27 starts with Premium Motorsports.

 

Friday 5: A new way of thinking about NASCAR’s future?

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When examining NASCAR’s future are most people looking in the wrong direction?

There are those who say the schedule — 36 points races, two non-points races and the Daytona qualifying races in a 41-week stretch — is too long.

Maybe it’s not enough.

So said Brad Keselowski earlier this week on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

While some says less is more for the sport, Keselowski suggests that the Cup schedule should have 50-60 races a year and no weekend off in the summer.

His plan is this:

Cup should race on Sundays and the middle of the week from February to early October (instead of ending the season in November). Keselowski also says that no track should host more than one weekend race. So, a track with two dates would get a weekend date and a midweek date.

One thing he notes is that any midweek race should take no more than three hours, meaning a number of races likely would need to be shortened

Keselowski’s idea is a novel concept and presents a new way of thinking when looking ahead in NASCAR. It’s always good to be forced to look at issues in different ways. But there are many challenges to his plan.

One question is what about the costs to teams. It would be easy to see teams saying such a schedule would cost them too much with the additional travel, expenses of preparing cars and repairing cars for example.

“The race teams will adjust, they’ll figure it out,’’ Keselowski said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Here’s what most people don’t understand. When a car owner complains about money, almost every race team out there has 20 or 30 engineers that don’t build the cars that make good wages and are smart people. What that tells me is they’ve got money and they’re just deciding to allocate it.’’

That might be a harder sell to teams. Rob Kauffman, co-owner of Chip Ganassi Racing and chairman of the Race Team Alliance spoke during All-Star weekend about cost to teams.

“It’s a joint concern, so it will be a joint solution to come up with how it works,’’ Kauffman said of working with NASCAR. “To get something like that in place will require quite a bit of collaboration.’’

Another concern would be tracks. A reason why there hasn’t been a midweek race yet is because a track executive has not volunteered to be the first.

The challenge with a midweek race is that the track likely won’t draw as many fans. Track officials note that they still have a significant percentage attend their races traveling from a few hours or more away. Not as many of those fans would probably make such a trip in the middle of the week. That could be lost income for the tracks.

Those are just among some of the key issues. It is a tangled web of trying to appease, teams, tracks, media partners, sponsors and fans as NASCAR forges ahead.

While there are many challenges to Keselowski’s plan — making it seem unlikely — that doesn’t mean such thinking should be immediately dismissed. Keselowski could be right in that bold thinking is what the sport needs as it looks ahead.

2. Kyle Busch could have company

While Kyle Busch became the first driver to win at every Cup track he’s competed with his Coca-Cola 600 victory, a couple of other drivers are not far behind.

Kevin Harvick has won at all but two tracks on the circuit (not including the Roval). He has yet to win at Kentucky (0 for 7) and Pocono (0 for 34).

Jimmie Johnson has won at all but three tracks on the circuit (not including the Roval). He has yet to win at Chicagoland (0 for 16), Kentucky (0 for 7) and Watkins Glen (0 for 16).

3. Back in the Day

LeBron James made his eighth consecutive NBA Finals appearance Thursday night. The last time he wasn’t in the NBA Finals was 2010.

That season in NASCAR:

Jimmie Johnson was on his way to a fifth consecutive Cup title.

Jamie McMurray won the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400 and Charlotte fall race.

Denny Hamlin won a series-high eight races.

Kevin Conway was Cup Rookie of the Year.

Joey Logano had just turned 20 years old.

Brad Keselowski won the Xfinity Series title.

Kyle Busch won 13 of the 29 Xfinity races he started.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was Xfinity Rookie of the Year.

Kyle Larson finished 10th in the Chili Bowl Nationals (Cole Whitt was second to winner Kevin Swindell).

William Byron wouldn’t turn 13 until November of that year.

4. France Family Group adds to portfolio

In a recent SEC filing, International Speedway Corp. stated that the France Family Group owns 74.11 percent of the combined voting power of common stock.

The France Family Group owned 73 percent, according to ISC’s 2016 annual report.

The France Family Group owned 72 percent, according to the ISC’s 2015 annual report.

As a comparison, Bruton Smith and son Marcus own 71 percent of Speedway Motorsports Inc.’s common stock. They owned 70 percent, according to SMI’s 2016 annual report.

5. A year later …

There will be much talk this weekend about how Jimmie Johnson has gone a year — it will be a year on June 4 actually — since his last Cup victory, the longest drought of his career.

But something else to ponder: In the last 36 races (a full season’s worth), Toyota has 19 wins, Ford has 12 and Chevrolet has five.

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Ty Dillon fastest in first Cup practice at Talladega

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With a speed of 202.959 mph, Ty Dillon posted the fastest single lap in the first practice session for the Geico 500 at Talladega SuperSpeedway.

Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Daniel Suarez and Kyle Busch tied for P2 on the chart to the 1/1,000th of a second with a speed of 202.680 mph.

Teammate Denny Hamlin (202.671 mph) posted the fourth fastest time with Erik Jones (202.564) seventh. Affiliated driver Martin Truex Jr. (202.628) was also part of the Gibbs drafting pack and he landed sixth on the chart.

Ryan Newman rounded out the top five with a speed of 202.637 mph.

Rookie of the Year Darrell Wallace, Jr. (199.754) and William Byron (199.729) landed 11th and 12th on the chart respectively.

Ross Chastain, Gray Gaulding, Timmy Hill and Cole Whitt did not participate in this practice.

Denny Hamlin posted the quickest 10-lap average with a speed of 198.109 mph.

Kyle Busch was second-quick at 197.977 mph.

Final practice for the Cup series will be at 1:35 p.m. ET; qualification will be Saturday at 12:05 p.m. and will air on Fox.

Click here for complete results from practice one.

Preliminary entry lists for NASCAR at Bristol Motor Speedway

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NASCAR heads to a short track for the second time in the Cup series and the first in the Xfinity series with a doubleheader from Bristol Motor Speedway.

Cup – Food City 500

There are 39 cars entered.

This is the most entries in a Cup race since the Daytona 500.

Along with the fulltime series regulars, Chad Finchum will make his series debut in the No. 66 Motorsports Business Management Toyota.

Harrison Rhodes will be back behind the wheel of the Rick Ware‘s No. 51.

Corey LaJoie takes over the No. 72 this week from Cole Whitt, who has been behind the wheel for the past three weeks.

Gaunt Brothers Racing will field their No. 96 for DJ Kennington.

Last year, Jimmie Johnson won the spring event over Clint Bowyer. Kyle Busch won in August over Erik Jones.

Click here for the complete Cup entry list

Xfinity – Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300

There are 41 cars entered for 40 spots.

No full Cup drivers are entered as this is one of the Dash 4 Cash races.

Austin Cindric will race the No. 22 that Ryan Blaney took to Victory Lane last week at Texas Motor Speedway. If he can win, he will be the fourth different driver to win in this car in the past four weeks.

John Hunter Nemechek will be behind the wheel of the No. 42 of Chip Ganassi Racing.

Chase Briscoe will race the No. 98 Biagi-DenBeste Racing.

Ross Chastain (in the No. 4 JD Motorsports Chevrolet) and Finchum (in the Motorsports Business Management Toyota) will be doing double duty.

Tony Mrakovich will make his first series attempt in the No. 28 JGL Racing Ford.

Last year, Jones won over Ryan Blaney in the spring. Kyle Busch won in August over Daniel Suarez.

Click here for the complete Xfinity entry list