Daniel Suarez

Bump & Run: Who really needs this weekend off in Cup?

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Who needs this upcoming weekend off the most in Cup?

Nate Ryan: Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 team has the opportunity to regroup of 15 races of frustration.

Dustin Long: Austin Dillon. He’s made the playoffs each of the past three years but is 21st in the standings, 58 points out of the last playoff spot. His last three races have gone 34th, 37th and 26th.

Daniel McFadin: Kyle Larson. The three weeks that have followed the elation of winning the All-Star Race have been miserable for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver. He’s finished 33rd (Coke 600, crash), 26th at Pocono after winning both stages and 14th (Michigan). The No. 42 team is just not on the same page as Kurt Busch‘s crew through 15 races. Larson has one top five and four top 10s to Busch’s four top fives and nine top 10s.

Jerry Bonkowski: No doubt about it, Stewart-Haas Racing. How can the same organization that won 12 races last season still be winless through the first 15 races of 2019? SHR needs to rest and retool this weekend and prepare for the 11-race stretch leading up to the playoffs. In a perfect world, maybe Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola and Daniel Suarez can combine for several victories in the upcoming 11 races.

Who is the driver in any of NASCAR’s national series who has impressed you the most this season?

Nate Ryan: Tyler Reddick has proven the 2018 championship was no fluke. In six months, he has gone from Xfinity title underdog to destined for a full-time Cup ride.

Dustin Long: What Tyler Reddick and his Richard Childress Racing team have done has been impressive.

Daniel McFadin: Tyler Reddick. It’s kind of bizarre to call the defending Xfinity Series champion the most improved driver, but that’s what he is. A year after he won twice – in the first and last races of the season – and had seven top fives, the Richard Childress Racing driver has surpassed those totals through 13 races and has finished fourth or better in the last 10 races.

Jerry Bonkowski: While a lot can be said about Kyle Busch and his Cup Series-leading four wins, the driver who has impressed me the most in 2019 is Xfinity Series points leader Tyler Reddick. Not only has he dominated the points (he’s been ranked No. 1 for the last 10 races), Reddick has 11 top five finishes – including three wins – in the first 13 races (84.6%). And add to that he’s only finished outside the top-10 just once. Another stat of note: he’s completed all but five laps 2,332 of 2,337 for 99.8 % this season.

 

What team without a win is one that you think could be on the rise and challenge for multiple victories?

Nate Ryan: It’s an obvious choice, but Harvick’s No. 4 Ford will win again soon.

Dustin Long: Kevin Harvick’s team. Once they overcome their gremlins, they have the speed to go on a run. Just need to clean up their races.

Daniel McFadin: I’m going with Chip Ganassi Racing via Kurt Busch. While the teams at Stewart-Haas Racing start out strong or peak mid-race, they can’t seem to close the deal, while Busch tends to surge at the right times or consistently run near the front. 

Jerry Bonkowski: It would be easy to say Stewart-Haas Racing, particularly Kevin Harvick. But I’m going to go with Chip Ganassi Racing and Kurt Busch. With his runner-up finish at Michigan, the elder Busch brother now has four top-five finishes (vs. six for all of 2018). I’ve been saying he’s a win waiting to happen. And once he gets that first win – it’s a matter of when, not if – I would not be surprised to see Kurt take three or even four checkered flags the rest of the season, including potentially capturing the Cup championship.

Penalty report from Michigan International Speedway

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Three crew chiefs have been fined for unsecured lug nuts during the NASCAR race weekend in Michigan.

Trent Owens, crew chief on Chris Buescher‘s No. 37 Chevrolet, and Billy Scott, crew chief on Daniel Suarez‘s No. 41 Ford, were fined $10,000 apiece for having one unsecured lug nut after the Cup race.

In the Xfinity Series, Randall Burnett, crew chief for race winner Tyler Reddick was fined $5,000 for one unsecured lug nut.

NASCAR also announced the indefinite suspension of Taylor J. Morse for behavioral level penalties, including violating its substance abuse policy.

Dale Jr. Download: Joe Gibbs and the mystery of Carl Edwards’ retirement

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It’s been roughly two-and-a-half years since Carl Edwards stunned the NASCAR world in January 2017 with the announcement he was stepping away from the sport.

No one was more stunned than his owner at the time, Joe Gibbs.

“I would have to say that conversation might have been (in) my top five as far as shocks for me in life,” Gibbs said on this week’s episode of the Dale Jr. Download (airs at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

“They said, ‘Hey, Carl’s outside,'” Gibbs recounted. “It was after the season. I figured he was going to come in and wish me a happy offseason and good Christmas.”

Instead, Edwards sat down and said, “Joe, I think I made up my mind. I’m going to step out of racing.”

“I was sitting there and I go, ‘You do realize that every young guy your age wants to drive a race car and make a ton of money? Are you sure you’re doing the right thing?'” Gibbs asked Edwards.

What’s even more shocking is that in June 2019 Gibbs still isn’t fully aware of the reasons behind Edwards’ departure after the 2016 season.

“Never really ever really got to the (reasons),” Gibbs said. “He said, ‘I’m not going to share with you, I’m not going to share with anybody the real bottom lines.’ … I will say this right now, I feel good about it from the standpoint, we still talk every now and then. Last time I called him he was on his boat in the Bahamas. I said, ‘Well, you’re doing pretty good.'”

Edwards sudden departure sent ripple effects through the sport that are still being felt today when it comes to drivers.

Martin Truex Jr. now drives the No. 19 Toyota that Edwards piloted for JGR, having replaced Edwards’ successor, Daniel Suarez, after the 2018 season.

With a drivers stable of Truex, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones, Toyota and JGR find themselves with the challenge of what to do with Xfinity Series star Christopher Bell beyond 2019.

“That’s one of the challenges you’ve got, particularly in bringing along young guys,” Gibbs said. “It’s happened to us before and man, you get caught up in that, what’s the right decision? There are options there. We’re kind of considering everything. You’re trying to work your way through them. Of course, what we just talked about, the sponsor. How does the sponsor fit in all that. It gets to be really complicated.”

Gibbs discussed Toyota’s influence on Bell’s future.

“Honestly we don’t make any decision (without them), we’re constantly talking back and forth,” Gibbs said. “It’s a real partnership from a standpoint, we’re the ones that have to get the sponsors. So the race team is hard after it. … Some of these problems, if you remember back when we took Erik and he wound up going to the 77 over at (Furniture) Row (in 2017) and everything that happened there, those are tough decisions to go through and work through, but that’s the challenge of our sport. You can say what you want, but you’re not going to go anywhere unless you have great drivers.”

Also discussed in the episode:

  • Gibbs’ Hall of Fame NFL coaching career
  • Why Gibbs returned to coaching the Washington Redskins in 2004
  • Being elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame with his former drivers, Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte

 

Michigan winners and losers

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WINNERS

Joey LoganoHe led 80.3% of the Cup race on the way to his second victory of the season. Nice way to go into a weekend off.

Kurt Busch His runner-up finish was his fourth top five of the season. He had six top fives all of last year.

Tyler Reddick He won for the third time in the last five Xfinity races. One of the races he didn’t win, he was passed on the last lap, so he could have four wins in the last five races. Also, car owner Richard Childress says he plans to run Reddick in another Cup race or two later this season.

Bubba Wallace and Corey LaJoieAfter tossing and punting a football on pit road during a rain delay Sunday, they began throwing the ball into the stands with fans. Wallace and LaJoie worked their way down the frontstretch and were later joined by Daniel Hemric. Rain delays are not fun but those drivers gave fans something to cheer about.

LOSERS

Stewart-Haas Racing Still waiting on that first win of the season after winning 12 times last year. Yes, the team had two top 10s with Daniel Suarez fourth and Kevin Harvick seventh but this team is built to win, not be satisfied with top 10s.

Erik JonesHe was 14th in points last month. Now he’s 18th after going 40th, 3rd and 31st in his last three races. Rough stretch for the only Joe Gibbs Racing driver who doesn’t have a Cup victory this season.

Austin DillonWhile he did score a stage victory, his 26th-place finish marked his third consecutive finish outside the top 25. That’s not enough to climb back into playoff contention.

Jimmie JohnsonContact on two separate occasions on pit road affected his race. He finished 15th. He has finished 14th or worse in four of the last six races. That has him holding what would be the final playoff spot if the season ended today.

What drivers said at Michigan

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Joey Logano — winner: What a great execution day from our race car. Obviously very fast, our pit crew was amazing. T.J. Majors spotted his butt off up there.  The race fans sticking around till Monday.  You guys are the best. We love coming up to Michigan. Nothing like bringing a Ford to Victory Lane in their home turf, Roger Penske cars as well.  This is a big win for us. A day like that, you don’t get those days all the time. The best car, the best team. We executed perfectly all the way through.

Kurt Busch — finished second: That’s more than what I was hoping to see for damage. But I had a blast.  Tightest I ever put my belts at the end of a race.  We got enough stage points today, we said hell with it, we don’t need to get anything but the win.  We got second today. Logano’s car was tough.  I really wanted it to go green at the end with Truex.  I was going to push him straight through the 22.  My best shot at it. What a day for our Camaro.  From Chevy and Monster, thank you, guys.  We’ll get it.  It gives us reason to smile and be happy.  We ran up front, were strong in our manufacturer’s backyard, but got second today.

Martin Truex Jr. — finished third:I felt like before that we were going to finish second no matter what. My mindset there was at least we got a shot at it here.  Rack ’em up, have a green‑white‑checkered and see. I don’t know, my second gear was off a little bit all day on restarts.  I was getting Jonesed. Then (Logano) went like a whole car length before the restart zone.  I don’t know how you get away with that. I thought we were supposed to go in the box. Aside from that, great day for Auto Owners Toyota, everybody back at JGR, TRD.  We had a solid race car. Man, you have to be so patient in this racing, it’s really hard. Early in the race I kept getting runs, going underneath guys, getting them in the corner.  If you can’t clear them, you lose two, three, four spots every time. Everybody did a good job.  We had a fill‑in rear tire changer this weekend.  That’s a lot of pressure to come in.  He’s a young kid, did a good job there.  Great job by everyone. Came up a little bit short, but a solid day for us here.

Daniel Suarez — finished fourth: “The car was pretty strong the entire weekend and then again today. We just struggled for whatever reasons on the long runs in the first half of the race. We were able to make some adjustments and come back and I am proud of my guys. We still have some work to do but we are slowly heading into the right direction.”

Kyle Busch finished fifth: “We just did the best we could with what we had. Our Camry was not great, but we just kept working on it all day. We just kept falling back or doing rounds, doing air pressure, everything we could to get improving on it and make it better. I don’t think we ever really made it faster. It was still kind of slow at the end. We saw (Logano) just drive away from us on that restart there, but overall we came with way better than we should have. Let’s go with that. Way better than we should have. … We had some issues in traffic a lot. The further back we got, the worse we got. There on that green-flag stop, the guys did a phenomenal job to jump us there and got us into the top four to be able to position ourselves for the end. That’s what saved our day. We’ll just go on to the next one.”

Brad Keselowski — finished sixth: We just didn’t put it all together today. We were in a really good spot and had the pit road penalty and lost the lap and it took us til about 70 to go to get it back. It is kind of a miracle that we got back up to sixth to be quite honest. We have to execute the entire weekend and we just didn’t today. We were hoping if we could get a yellow, we were 24th with 60-70 laps to go and we got up to sixth. With a yellow we might have had a shot at winning it. I thought the team did a good job with the strategy all day. The cars when they get behind each other they make the car in front of them faster. If you go back 20-30 years ago that was not the case. You would draft but you wouldn’t make the car in front of you faster. Now it seems like when you get up behind somebody you make them faster, too.”

Kevin Harvick finished seventh: “We had a really fast Busch Lite Ford and just made a lot of mistakes today.”

Ryan Newman — finished eighth: “To have our best lap I guess other than maybe one lap to be our fast lap makes me proud of the guys. The Coca-Cola Ford wasn’t the greatest all day. We had some good restarts toward the end but just struggled with the dirty air. I think everybody did. It is obvious if you know anything about racing. It was a good points day for us. We need to get some stage points. Nevertheless I am proud of the guys.”

Alex Bowman — finished 10th:I feel like it raced better than we expected after practice. Obviously, it being cool and overcast was really the best-case scenario for the package. Hopefully, it worked out to be a good race. It looked like a good race from where I was at. It was really hard to pass without help, but we were still able to come through the field more than you were in practice, so that was good. I wish we would have ended up a little better, but we’ll take it and move on.”

Aric Almirola finished 17th: “We had a better Ford Mustang than 17th place today. We got way behind on the restarts and just couldn’t recover in traffic. I’m proud of our No. 10 Ford team for bringing a fast Ford Mustang to Michigan.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished 19th: “Our car was a handful today. It seemed like we were battling back all race from the pit-road penalty to the nose damage that caused us to pit multiple times. With this package, it was really hard to pass. We will go back and regroup and get ready for Sonoma.”

Ty Dillon — finished 22nd: “Our Twisted Tea team fought hard all day. We didn’t start the race off with the balance that we wanted, but (crew chief) Matt (Borland) took a big swing at it in the first stage break to tighten up our Camaro ZL1. We had a significantly better race car after that. I maybe could have used a little bit more front grip, but I was really happy with it overall. From there we just needed track position. We were running in the top 20 to start the final stage. But, these restarts can get wild, and I was shuffled back on the restart with 60 laps or so to go. Our Twisted Tea Camaro ZL1 had good speed, so I was able to drive back up and regain some of those spots. We just really needed more cautions to get back to where we had been. Once the field gets strung out after these restarts, it’s hard to make passes. I’m happy with the team’s effort today, though. They worked hard, had clean stops and made great adjustments all day.”

Daniel Hemric finished 24th: “I was fairly happy with how this No. 8 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 took off to start the race. I feel like we had the ability to make some good moves. That made me feel more confident than I needed to be, and I hung myself out a couple of times and lost a little bit of track position. Early in the race, we tried to take fuel only and it just killed our balance. After that, we started chipping away at the positions ahead of us and were able to score some points at the end of Stage 2. We were setting ourselves up to have good track position to start Stage 3, but we had an issue with the air hose getting caught on the splitter and that caused us to lose all of our track position. I was able to drive back inside the top 10, which shows the speed we had. When that last caution came out, we got stuck in the dreaded bottom lane, where nobody wanted to be all day, and got shuffled back on the restart. We salvaged a 12th-place finish. We’ll learn from today and come back here later in the year ready for an even better result.”

Austin Dillon finished 26th: “The No. 3 Chevrolet team showed their tenacity this weekend at Michigan International Speedway. After a few struggles in practice, the team completely changed the setup and gave me one of the fastest Chevrolets I’ve ever had for the race. We showed speed in Stages 1 and 2 and even picked up the Stage 2 win. Shortly after the start of Stage 3, we were running strong in the top 10 when another car got a run and clipped the corner of the No. 3 Chevrolet. We ended up tagging the wall and had damage to the right-rear. We made multiple pit stops to repair damage and ended up finishing 26th. It’s definitely disappointing considering how good our car was today, but that’s part of racing. We will start preparing for the road courses and be ready for Sonoma Raceway in two weeks. I want to thank Dow for honoring veterans and active-duty military members this weekend. It’s always special when those guys can ride with us. I just hate we couldn’t get them a win today.”

Clint Bowyer — finished 35th: “Yeah, frustrating for all of us. It just wasn’t our day. (Erik Jones) got loose, and I tried to move down to not hit him, and then I got loose with (Austin Dillon) underneath of me and got into (Jones) and got wrecked. (On the racing) I mean, it is not racing. I am sorry. I am biting my tongue. I have never been penalized for trying to make a pass in my whole life since I was 4 years old. You get a run on somebody, and you can make a complete pass, and by the time you get to the next corner you have been passed by four people. It is really, really frustrating.”