Justin Allgaier

Silly Season Scorecard: Post-Miami edition

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NASCAR’s championship weekend in Miami has come and gone and with it came a flurry of driver announcements from teams about the 2020 racing season.

Among them was the news that Cole Custer is being promoted by Stewart-Haas Racing to the Cup Series, where he will take over the No. 41 Ford driven by Daniel Suarez this year.

Here’s a look at all the official driver announcements made so far for next season.

OPEN RIDES ANNOUNCED FOR 2020

No. 38: Front Row Motorsports must replace David Ragan, who stated Aug. 14 that 2019 would be his final season running a full schedule.

No. 36: Front Row Motorsports announced Nov. 13 it was parting ways with Matt Tifft so he could focus on his health following his seizure at Martinsville in March. Tifft said he could not commit to racing in 2020.

ANNOUNCED CUP RIDES FOR 2020

No. 1: Chip Ganassi Racing announced on Nov. 1 a multi-year extension with Kurt Busch.

No. 6: Roush Fenway Racing announced Oct. 30 that Ryan Newman would return to the car as part of the news that Oscar Mayer would sponsor the No. 6 through 2021.

No. 8: Richard Childress Racing made it official Oct. 2 that Tyler Reddick will move to Cup in 2020 and drive the No. 8 car.

No. 10: Aric Almirola confirmed Oct. 11 he signed an extension to race for Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 13: Ty Dillon posted a video Sept. 6 on Instagram refuting rumors that he would retire after this season. He has a contract with Germain Racing through 2020.

No. 14: Clint Bowyer was announced Oct. 17 as returning to Stewart-Haas Racing for a fourth season.

No. 17: Chris Buescher will take over the Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 ride in 2020 after the team announced Sept. 25 that it would part ways with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. after this season.

No. 20: Joe Gibbs Racing announced Sept. 6 that it had signed Erik Jones to an extension. It is a one-year extension for the 2020 season.

No. 21: Matt DiBenedetto replaces Paul Menard at Wood Brothers Racing (announcement made Sept. 10). DiBenedetto’s deal is for 2020 only.

No. 41: Stewart-Haas Racing announced Nov. 15 Cole Custer will replace Daniel Suarez.

No. 95: Christopher Bell moves to Cup in 2020 and will drive for Leavine Family Racing (announcement made Sept. 24).

JTG Daugherty Racing: It was announced Oct. 16 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will join Ryan Preece at the two-car team, essentially swapping seats with Chris Buescher. The team said that an announcement on car number and sponsor would come later.

Rick Ware Racing: JJ Yeley will drive one of the team’s three full-time rides.

AMONG THOSE YET TO ANNOUNCE DEALS FOR 2020

Daniel Suarez — The driver revealed Nov. 14  he would not return to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2020 after one season driving the No. 41.

Corey LaJoie – The driver hasn’t announced his plans for 2020, but he said in October he and Go Fas Racing were “working toward” him returning to the No. 32 Ford. The team announced on Nov. 1 it would enter a technical alliance with Stewart-Haas Racing next year and that “2020 driver negotiations are still ongoing.”

Xfinity Series 

Ross Chastain – Kaulig Racing announced Oct. 15 he would compete full-time for the team in 2020 driving the No. 10 Chevrolet, joining Justin Haley.

Joe Gibbs Racing — Announced Oct. 17 Harrison Burton will drive its No. 20 Toyota full-time in 2020. Announced Oct. 31 Brandon Jones would return for a third year in the No. 19. Revealed Nov. 5 it would field a third full-time entry with Riley Herbst in the No. 18.

JR MotorsportsJustin Allgaier will return to the team for a fifth year in the No. 7 Chevrolet. The No. 8 car will be driven by Daniel Hemric for 21 races, Jeb Burton 11 races and Dale Earnhardt Jr. for one race. Noah Gragson will also return for a second season in the No. 9 car, while Michael Annett returns for a fourth year with the team in the No. 1 car.

Richard Childress Racing — Has not announced its driver plans for 2020, but Richard Childress said after Tyler Reddick claimed the Xfinity title that it would field a full-time entry.

Stewart-Haas Racing – The team has not announced plans for the No. 00 Ford with Cole Custer moving to Cup or whether Chase Briscoe will return to the No. 98.

JD MotorsportsJesse Little will compete full-time for the team.

Truck Series

GMS RacingDriver lineup will include Brett Moffitt, Sam Mayer, Sheldon Creed and Tyler Ankrum

Kyle Busch MotorsportsRaphael Lessard will drive the No. 4 full-time while Christian Eckes will drive the No. 18 full-time.

Hattori Racing EnterprisesAustin Hill will return to the No. 16 Toyota for a second year.

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Tyler Reddick wins Xfinity Series championship for back-to-back titles

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Tyler Reddick claimed the 2019 Xfinity Series championship with a victory in Saturday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, successfully defending his 2018 championship.

Reddick led the final 19 laps around the 1.5-mile track after he passed fellow championship driver Cole Custer twice in the same lap.

The win is Reddick’s second consecutive in the season finale and his sixth win of the year.

Reddick is the seventh different Xfinity driver to win back-to-back titles and the ninth to win multiple championships. He’s the first in the series to do it with two different organizations (JR Motorsports, 2018; Richard Childress Racing, 2019).

Reddick will compete full-time for Richard Childress Racing in the Cup Series next year. He moves up with nine Xfinity wins in the last three seasons.

“It’s all about this race team, man,” Reddick told NBCSN. “I’m losing my breath, I’m that excited. This one means so much more. It was just a lot better year. It was really cool to go back-to back.”

Custer was the runner-up – for the second year in a row – after he bounced back from having to pit with 30 laps left in Stage 2 for a loose right-rear tire. He then unlapped himself by passing leader Austin Cindric on the last lap of the stage.

Christopher Bell finished fifth and Justin Allgaier placed 14th after he pit late for a cut tire.

The final 41 laps were eventful and began when Bell missed pit road in the middle of green flag stops while running in third, forcing him to pit the next time by.

“It was just a miscommunication,” Bell said. “I don’t know if my spotter didn’t get told what our cue word was, but I told got the cue word to pit and then all of a sudden, I started pitting and he said, not now, not now.  But that didn’t matter whenever you get beat by 17 seconds. I’m glad that didn’t have an effect on the outcome of the race.”

Reddick and Custer pitted from first and second with 37 laps to go and Custer narrowly was first off pit road.

“It was crazy, when me and Cole were racing there off pit road I was trying everything I can to get into the corner and clear him but it wouldn’t work,” Reddick said. “I was just holding on for dear life. I appreciate him racing as hard as he could. We just went for it and it was aggressive as normal and it paid off for us.”

Very quickly Custer, Reddick and Allgaier were three wide for third place as Bell passed Austin Cindric for the lead.

Custer was the first to catch Bell and then quickly passed him on the inside with 34 laps to go as Reddick overtook Bell on the outside.

By 26 laps to go, Bell was in third, five seconds back from Custer.

Over the next three laps, Reddick and Custer would each scrape the wall as Reddick chased him down.

With 19 laps to go, Reddick dove deep into Turn 1 to get by Custer, who then performed a similar move in Turn 3.

But Reddick easily got by Custer out of Turn 4.

“I just hear(d) this motor just flying by me, and I was just like, ‘Oh, my God, so I’ve got to get off the wall and try and cross him over,'” Custer said of Reddick’s move in Turn 1. “It’s easier to do a slide job easier in (Turns) 1 and 2 than it is 3 and 4, so he probably timed that out and got it figured out, and then I tried to do one in 3 and 4 just out of desperation, but it’s hard to make it work down there.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: Chase Briscoe

STAGE 2 WINNER: Austin Cindric

More: Race results, final point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Noah Gragson placed fourth for his ninth top five of the year … John Hunter Nemechek placed sixth. He ends his season with six straight top 10s.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Ray Black Jr finished last after his car’s engine expired in dramatic fashion on Lap 5 …. Tyler Matthews finished 37th after his car hit the outside wall hard on Lap 15 … Justin Allgaier’s 14th-place finish snapped his career-best stretch of 16 top 10s.

NOTABLE: Chase Briscoe won Rookie of the Year honors after finishing third … Chevrolet won the manufacturer’s championship … This is the first season that three Xfinity Series regulars  – Christopher Bell (eight wins), Cole Custer (seven) and Tyler Reddick (six) – have won at least six races.

 

Tyler Reddick wins pole for Xfinity Series championship race

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Championship 4 driver Tyler Reddick won the pole for today’s Xfinity Series championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Reddick, the defending series champion, claimed the pole with a speed of 167.069 mph. It is Reddick’s fifth pole of the season.

Reddick will be joined on the front row by fellow championship driver Cole Custer (166.692 mph).

Championship 4 drivers Christopher Bell and Justin Allgaier will start seventh and 16th respectively. This is Allgaier’s worst qualifying effort of the season.

The top five is completed by Austin Cindric, Brandon Jones and Chase Briscoe.

“We made (the car) better (from practice), but I definitely thought I didn’t put together the best lap,” Reddick told NBCSN. “But it just shows these guys work really hard on these race cars this year … We’ve got a pretty good car and I’m really curious to see where it goes after five laps. I don’t really know.”

Click here for the starting order.

Xfinity practice report from Miami

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Championship contender Tyler Reddick led a rain-shortened opening practice for the Xfinity Series Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Reddick paced the field with a lap of 165.674 mph. Four of the top five were title contenders: Christopher Bell was second with a lap of 165.178 mph, Justin Allgaier was fourth at 164.704 mph and Cole Custer was fifth at 163.820 mph. Austin Cindric was the only driver in the top five not racing for a championship. He was third on the speed chart with a lap of 164.815 mph.

Click here for practice results

Allgaier had some drama early in the session.

David Starr and Allgaier made contact after Starr drifted up the track and hit the left side of Allgaier’s car. Allgaier completed only five laps before the incident.

“Just disappointing,” Allgaier told NBCSN. “I’m pretty laid back this weekend. I’ve focused a lot on just going out there and doing our thing and be patient and felt like we were doing that. (Starr) had kind of committed to the bottom. I was going to go to the bottom and then he kind of started moving up. I thought he will still give me plenty of room on corner exit. He ran right into the side of us. Disappointed to tear my car up.”

Final Xfinity practice was canceled by rain Friday. The series races Saturday.

Friday 5: Title race a reminder of how Jimmie Johnson looms over Cup

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MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — Although Jimmie Johnson is not a part of the championship discussion this weekend, his shadow towers over the Cup Series and could play a role in how this generation’s drivers are judged.

The seven-time champion remains the only active driver with more than one Cup title heading into Sunday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBC).

Should Denny Hamlin win the championship, Johnson will remain the only active multi-time champ. Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch, who also are in the Championship 4 race, each has one title.

All four drivers are members of the Johnson generation, a fraternity of talented racers who had the misfortune of competing during Johnson’s reign. Hamlin and Busch have each raced their entire Cup career against Johnson. Harvick started running Cup full-time in 2001, a year before Johnson.

In that time, they’ve seen Johnson win a record five consecutive titles from 2006-10 to go with crowns in 2013 and ’16. He’s also collected 83 series victories, which ranks sixth on the all-time wins list.

While Denny Hamlin (left) seeks his first Cup title, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch go for their second series crown Sunday. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

“Definitely behind in wins and championships,” said Kyle Busch, who has 55 career Cup victories. “Why? The list goes on. It’s a pretty long one. So how many can you get now is about where it’s at. If I end with one (championship), that’s going to suck. If I can only get two, well, whatever. 

“But three, four, five, I think five’s still achievable. But when you get to this final race in this moment, this championship format the way that it is, and five years in a row and you only come away with one, that gets pretty defeating.”

Johnson’s success won’t keep Harvick, Busch and Truex out of the NASCAR Hall of Fame after their career ends. One Cup championship has been a gateway to immortality. Mark Martin, who never won a Cup title, showed that there’s still room in the Hall of Fame. Should Hamlin never win a series crown, he likely is headed to the Hall with his 37 career victories, including a pair of Daytona 500 triumphs.

While Johnson’s career is measured against Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty, how should those who raced against Johnson be viewed since they have fewer titles?

One consideration is to look at the Championship 4 appearances by each driver.

This is Harvick’s fifth title race appearance in six years. Busch is making his fifth consecutive championship race appearance. Truex is racing for a title for a third consecutive year.

“I think there’s some merit to championship appearances,” Hamlin said as a measuring stick for greatness. “I think one race, winner-take-all, anything can happen. I mean, if you have a mechanical failure on Lap 25, does that mean you’re not good enough? You made the final four.

Making the final four is the culmination of your whole year. That is what deems your year a success. You made it to Homestead.  Every single driver here will tell you that. No one is going to discount their year based off of the outcome on this weekend.”

Said Truex: “I would say the odds are a lot worse in this system to win (a championship). I don’t know how to view that, to be honest. I don’t know if it’s final four appearances, straight‑up race wins. Championships are huge. I think it’s harder to win now than ever. Maybe one means more than one used to.”

2. Picking the right strategy

The strategy for Sunday’s race would seem easy for the Cup title contenders. Set the car up for a short run. Since the winner-take-all format in 2014, four of the five title races have had cautions in the last 15 laps, setting up a short run to the finish.

Last year, Joey Logano, whose car was set for the short run, passed Martin Truex Jr., whose car was set for a long run, with 12 laps left to win the race and the championship.

Kevin Harvick warns it’s not quite that simple with strategy, especially for a race that starts in the afternoon and ends at night under cooler track conditions.

“The only problem with short runs is you got to stay on the lead lap during the day,” Harvick said of when track conditions are warmer and more challenging to a car’s handling. “So you have to have some good balance and good adjustability built into your car. 

“The short run has definitely been what’s won this race over the past few years, but having … the proper track position to take advantage of that short‑run speed is still necessary in the first half of the day. I don’t think these cars are going to race like what we have raced here before.

“I just don’t see the characteristics being exactly how they have been in the past for the amount of laps and things that have happened when your car is good and when your car goes to falling off and things like that. I think that those numbers are going to change. I don’t know exactly what that number will be as far as the crossover and falloff, but we’ll just have to see.”

3. End of the road

This weekend marks not only the end of the season but the end of a journey for Ross Chastain.

He’ll race for a Ganders Outdoor Truck Series championship tonight and run in Sunday’s Cup season finale. When the weekend ends, he will have competed in 77 races across Cup, Xfinity and Trucks. That equals the number of races Kyle Busch ran in those series in 2006. Busch topped that total three times, including 2009 when he ran 86 races across those series.

“Yes, I’m tired,” said Chastain, who will compete in 23 Truck, 19 Xfinity and 35 Cup races this year. “The best part about it is that if I had a bad race, I had another one in a couple days, I would forget about it. … Now the bad part was when we had a good race, I didn’t have any time to celebrate.

I don’t know what the future will hold on that. I don’t know if we’ll hit this many races for years to come. There’s a reason nobody does it.”

Chastain will run the full Xfinity schedule next year for Kaulig Racing and is expected to also be back in Cup.

“I’m a big yes man,” said Chastain, who ran 74 races across all three series last season. “If any NASCAR team owner calls me, stops me at the track and says, ‘I want you to drive for me.’ I’m like, Of course. I’ve begged all these guys for years. Now that they say yes, I’m like, Of course, yes.”

Here’s a look at the most races run in a season in recent years (Note: Chastain’s stats are entering this weekend in Miami)

Season

Driver

Trucks

Xfinity

Cup  

Total

2009

Kyle Busch

15

35

36

86

2008

Kyle Busch

18

30

36

84

2010

Kyle Busch

16

29

36

81

2006

Kyle Busch

7

34

36

77

2019

Ross Chastain

22

19

34

75

2010

Brad Keselowski

4

35

36

75

2006

Clint Bowyer

3

35

36

74

2018

Ross Chastain

7

33

34

74

2013

Kyle Busch

11

26

36

73

2007

Carl Edwards

2

35

36

73

To end the season, Chastain will have a different type of motorhome for the weekend. He borrowed one from a friend and made the 3 1/2-hour drive from Ft. Myers, Florida to Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“Plugged in, got air‑conditioning, water, everything,” Chastain said. “Yeah, you go in and you turn and there’s a door and there’s a bathroom. Most campers and buses, there’s a bedroom. There’s no bedroom. The bedroom is the living room. It’s small. Yeah, it’s cool.”

4. Meaningful title

While the Cup driver and owner titles will be determined Sunday, the manufacturer’s crown was claimed last weekend at ISM Raceway by Toyota, which won the crown for the third time in the last four years. 

The manufacturer championship is overlooked by many but not those at Toyota.

“That championship I wish garnered more than it does,” David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, told NBC Sports. “You can make no mistake, for Toyota that’s an important championship. That’s one that resonates all the way back to Japan.

“The culture of racing internationally is a little different than with NASCAR, which is a driver-centric sport and always has been and will be, and that’s great. But everywhere else we race, it’s manufacturer-centric. It’s Toyota against Porsche, Audi or somebody.”

5. A new view

Derek Kneeland, who has been Kyle Larson’s spotter, will be Tyler Reddick’s spotter next year in Reddick’s rookie Cup season.

“What brought it all into perspective for me is when I was running part‑time at Ganassi (in 2017), I would go up and sit or stand next to Derek during practice, the races, really get an understanding of his vantage point, what he sees, how he communicates, how well of a job he did,” said Reddick, who races Christoper Bell, Cole Custer and Justin Allgaier for the Xfinity title Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

“That brought it all together for me when I was doing those races when I did have him, when I was in the racecar, it gave me a better understanding of how hard that job is and how good he was at it.

“It just came about that he wasn’t going to return (to work with Larson) next year. He was having a lot of fun working with me. Everyone at RCR really enjoyed how well of a job he did at Talladega to get our first win of the year, week in, week out.