Ross Chastain

Kaulig Racing
Kaulig Racing

Kaulig Racing announces crew chiefs for full-time Xfinity teams

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Kaulig Racing announced Friday the crew chief lineup for its two full-time Xfinity Series teams this year.

Bruce Schlicker, a former race engineer for Stewart-Haas Racing, will lead Ross Chastain and the No. 10 team.

Alex Yontz returns as crew chief on Justin Haley‘s No. 11 Chevrolet. Yontz led Haley’s team in 14 races last year following the death of Nick Harrison in July.

More: Kaulig Racing to attempt to make Daytona 500 with Justin Haley

Schlicker was a race engineer at Richard Childress Racing from 2012-2016 before joining Stewart-Haas Racing.

“I’m excited for the opportunity at Kaulig Racing,” Schlicker said in a press release. “It’s a great team with great resources and even better drivers. We’ve got some great support from Nutrien Ag Solutions, who will be on the No. 10 car for the majority of the races in 2020. I’m looking forward to running a full season in the Xfinity Series with Ross Chastain, winning races and chasing after the championship.”

Yontz served as a crew chief for Kaulig Racing in 24 races in 2019, also working with Austin Dillon, Elliott Sadler, A.J. Allmendinger and Chastain in addition to Haley. He was on the pit box when Chastain earned Kaulig Racing’s first NASCAR victory in the July race at Daytona.

“I’m excited to be back with Justin Haley this season full time,” Yontz said in the press release. “We have a few races under our belts together from the end of last season, and we built a really good relationship. I’m looking forward to winning races with him in 2020.”

Kaulig Racing, Justin Haley will attempt to make Daytona 500

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Kaulig Racing announced Friday it and driver Justin Haley will attempt to make next month’s Daytona 500, which would be the team’s first Cup Series race.

Kaulig Racing, which competes full-time in the Xfinity Series, will field Haley in the No. 16 Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevrolet.

Without a charter, Haley is not guaranteed a spot in the 500.

Haley drives the No. 11 Chevy full-time for Kaulig in the Xfinity Series. Haley will try to make the “Great American Race” after his surprise upset win in last July’s rain-shortened Cup Series race at Daytona. 

“I am eager to try and qualify for the Daytona 500,” Haley said in a press release. “It is an honor for me to compete for a starting spot in Kaulig Racing’s first NASCAR Cup Series race. The F.O.E. has been with me since 2016. The Eagles were on my car when I won in July at Daytona, so it’s a great fit for them to be back on my car as we try to lock ourselves into the Daytona 500.”

Kaulig Racing has been competing in the Xfinity Series since 2016. It will field three entries in the Xfinity Series season opener with Haley, Ross Chastain and A.J. Allmendinger. Chastain won last July’s Xfinity race at Daytona for the team’s first NASCAR victory.

”I am super excited to attempt not only our first NASCAR Cup Series race, but our first Daytona 500!” said team owner Matt Kaulig in a press release. “To be competing at the World Center of Racing on the main stage is incredible, especially for our team that began just four years ago. I have all the confidence in the world that Justin Haley will make everyone at Kaulig Racing proud and truly let everyone know that Kaulig Racing is here to compete.”

Ganassi, AdventHealth deal includes Daytona 500, Coke 600 starts for Ross Chastain

Ross Chastain
Chip Ganassi Racing
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Chip Ganassi Racing announced an expanded relationship with sponsor AdventHealth Thursday, that will include sponsorship in four Cup Series races in 2020.

The deal will see the health system on Kyle Larson‘s No. 42 Chevrolet in the Feb. 9 Busch Clash and in the Oct. 18 playoff race at Kansas Speedway.

It will also sponsor Ross Chastain in starts in the Feb. 16 Daytona 500 and the May 24 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, with Chastain driving the No. 77 Chevrolet as part of a relationship with Spire Motorsports. CGR will prepare Chastain’s car in those races.

Chastain, who will compete full-time in the Xfinity Series for Kaulig Racing, continues to be a CGR development driver after he signed with the team in 2018.

“To have the opportunity to run the Daytona 500 is awesome, and it’s great to do it this year with AdventHealth on board my car,” Chastain said in a press release. “I’ve only had one start in the Daytona 500 (finished 10th in 2019 with Premium Motorsports), and can’t wait to run that race again in what I know will be a competitive car. I’m also looking forward to racing the Coca-Cola 600. That’s another iconic race that all of us want to win.”

Chastain, a Florida native, won the Xfinity Series race at Daytona last July for his second career Xfinity win.

AdventHealth has been a partner of CGR since 2016. It sponsored Jamie McMurray in last year’s Busch Clash and Kurt Busch in last year’s Fall race at Kansas. It also sponsored Larson when he won last year’s All-Star Race.

Strategy is goal of pit road experiment in Xfinity, Trucks

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While Xfinity and Truck Series teams will save some money with the newly announced pit crew and strategy rules for seven standalone races, two NASCAR team officials cited a desire to increase “strategy” and “wit” with the move.

The financial angle is a “small aspect” of the format according to Ryan Pemberton, competition director for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series, where the rules will be used in four races — at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (May 30), Iowa Speedway (June 13 and Aug. 1) and Road America (Aug. 8).

“I really think it’s about leveling the playing field a little bit and mixing it up, giving people opportunities to do something different on pit road that don’t normally have that opportunity,” Pemberton said after the announcement. “You take a 15th-place car and you can pick one of those guys back there that are having a good day, and it’s hard to have a real successful day due to the fact that maybe (it’s) their pit crew versus somebody else’s (more experienced) pit crew.

“I think from a strategic point, from a crew chief’s point of view, it puts more people in play, and it should be broadened ‑‑ the competition, how many guys could be in the top 10 on a regular basis and have more opportunities. And then from a logistics standpoint, it helps out, too, as far as the people and moving people across the country.

“But for the most part, it’s really about competition.”

Pemberton emphasized that teams that take two tires on a pit stop will start ahead of teams that took four.

“That mixes things up, makes for different opportunities for different people,” Pemberton said. “And then maybe one guy does it, maybe two guys do it, and the third guy wants to do it, next thing you know it really flips the field.”

David Pepper, the general manager of ThorSport Racing in the Truck Series, made small team owner Jordan Anderson the poster child for those who could benefit from these rules in his series, which will use them at Iowa Speedway (June 12) and the playoff races at World Wide Technology Raceway (Aug. 21) and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (Sept. 6).

Anderson, a driver-owner on an underfunded team, has only two top-10 finishes in 101 Truck Series starts. Those top 10s came at Daytona and Talladega.

“Jordan Anderson, who has had many good runs, and then we come down pit road and he can’t compete on pit road with the pit crew,” Pepper said. “This will allow that to go away and a team like that to compete at a high level and have an opportunity to showcase their crew chief and driver talent and their team’s talent in building a fast race truck.

“So we’ve leveled the playing field, and I think you’re going to see a lot of really good stories from a lot of really good race car drivers that are out there that are going to have an opportunity to go run in the top five and go run in the top 10.”

Among the rules is when teams can take two or four tires.

  • On an oval track, teams may add fuel and change two tires per stop. A second stop must be made to change the other two tires.
  • On a road course, teams may add fuel or change four tires per stop.

Pemberton raised the risk/reward that a team that is leading a race will have to consider when the caution comes out.

“How many people are going to take two behind me versus taking four?” Pemberton said. “That’s going to make even the guys up front rethink what they’re doing. Maybe they get cold feet and they go like, ‘Man, I’m only going to get two because I don’t want to give up the lead, and next thing you know maybe the guys right behind them get four.

“So it’s going to really change how you go about these pit stops. And that’s where the strategy comes in play, and I think that’s where the excitement level comes in.”

Eric Peterson, the Xfinity Series technical manager, addressed how the rules impact the relationship between the haves and have nots in the NASCAR garage.

“One of the things we looked at was kind of the data of our current pit stops and all the teams that consistently run in the top 10,” Peterson said “Our current pit stop strategy really did not mix the field up very well.  The average position change was right around one position.

 “That’s the reason we kind of took this other approach, is that kind of the purpose of coming down pit road and doing pit stops is to hopefully mix the field up a little bit where you don’t have a ‘follow the leader’ race the entire race.”

The first Xfinity race at Iowa last year saw Christopher Bell lead 186 of 250 laps to win. There were two lead changes in the last 190 laps of that race. Last year’s Truck race at Iowa saw Ross Chastain lead the final 141 laps to take the checkered flag before his victory was taken away when his truck failed post-race inspection.

The perspective of one Truck Series crew chief was provided by Kyle Busch Motorsports’ Rudy Fugle Wednesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive.”

Fugle said he’d be “open-minded” about the rules change, but said he’s “not 100% for” them.

“As the son of a mechanic, my first job as a young kid was working with someone disassembling cars at a salvage yard,” Fugle said. “I kind of grew up wanting to be a guy that changes tires on pit road. Taking that element out, or maybe leading to taking that element out is kind of … it’s not exciting to me. But I’ll be open-minded and we’ll attack and figure out how to make the system the best for KBM and figure out how to beat everybody, no matter what the rules are.”

Fugle also addressed how the new rules at the standalone races will impact the role of a spotter in pit strategy.

“Normally … the crew chief gets a lot of help on some of the ways the rules are and the way the pit road rules are from the spotter,” Fugle said. “Because the spotter can see what’s happening. So you want your spotter to know 100% what the rule is. … But now we go to the standalone races, you’re not going to have a normal spotter. You’re going to have a guy that only does three or four NASCAR races, so he’s not going to know those rules, let alone the new rules. We’re going to have to spread those delegations out a little bit through the team to make sure that we’re thinking of everything and not messing something up so we don’t make a mistake. I think that’s the biggest fear.”

While the financial savings of this limited pit format might be a “small aspect” for a team like JR Motorsports, it’s a different conversation for Tommy Joe Martins, who will race for his family-owned team in the Xfinity Series this year.

 

NASCAR makes changes to pit stops for select Xfinity, Truck races

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NASCAR will implement new pit stop rules for select Xfinity and Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series races in 2020, the sanctioning body revealed Tuesday.

The rules will be in place for most Xfinity and Truck races that do not compete with the Cup Series at the same track on the same weekend.

Here are the new rules for the select Xfinity and Truck races this season:

  • The field is frozen when the caution is displayed. Stage breaks will have a full pit cycle (two opportunities to pit). For non-stage breaks there will be a full pit cycle (two opportunities to pit). There also could be an optional quickie yellow (one opportunity to pit).
  • The team roster will consist of eight crew members at these events. The pit crew — four to service the car, one fueler and one driver assist — must come from among those eight team members on the roster. This is a way to help teams save money since they won’t need to pay for the services of a pit crew that is not a part of their team roster.
  • The pit stop must be completed within a designated time period. That time will be determined later.
  • On an oval track, teams may add fuel and change two tires per stop.
  • On a road course, teams may add fuel or change four tires per stop.

NASCAR stated that the following penalties will be issued for violations: 

  • Cars will start at the tail end of the field if they exceed the time limit on pit road.
  • If a car is involved in an incident, the team will be allowed to change four tires at once to avoid damaging the vehicle but will start at the tail end of the field.
  • A car will start at the tail end if it pits other than on the designated lap.

NASCAR will issue two-lap penalties for the following violations:

  • Change four tires and add fuel on any pit stop
  • Change tires under green (unless approved by NASCAR for damage)
  • Perform a four-tire stop on any pit stop (on oval track only)

For the restart, the field will line up:

  • Vehicles that did not pit
  • Vehicles that pitted one time, followed by vehicles that pitted two times
  • Free pass vehicle, wave around vehicles and penalty vehicles.

As for the reason for the change in format at the select races, Eric Peterson, technical manager for the NASCAR Xfinity Series, said: “We believe this procedure will increase competition on track, incentivize different strategy plays to bring interesting storylines for the fans and bring efficiencies to teams that will help help strengthen the garage now and into the future.”

The new rules will be in place for Xfinity races at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (May 30), Iowa Speedway (June 13 and Aug. 1) and Road America (Aug.  8). Truck races at Iowa Speedway (June 12), World Wide Technology Raceway (Aug. 21) and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (Sept. 6) will use the new procedures.

The Truck race at Eldora Speedway (July 30) already has special rules regarding pit stops.

The exception for the Truck Series is the June 5 race at Texas Motor Speedway. That race will not have these special rules.

Peterson said NASCAR is using these races “as an avenue to test and try this out. … We wanted to dip our toe in the water and do a deliberate, strategic approach to implementing and getting a look at it. The reason why we selected the events we did was because they are standalone events. Any events for the Gander Truck Series and the Xfinity Series that are not with Cup presents some challenges from a logistical end from doing the pit stop. This is a way to alleviate the burden that teams have with performing pit stops at the races that are not companion events to the Cup Series.”

Peterson said the reasoning for limiting what teams can do on pit stops is to alter strategies and restarts.

“All the teams that consistently run in the top 10, our current pit stop strategy really did not mix the field up very well,” Peterson said. “It was an average position change of right around one position. That’s the reason we took this other approach. The purpose of coming down pit road and doing pit stops is to hopefully mix the field up a little bit where you don’t have a follow-the-leader race the entire race. What we currently have at all the other events does not mix that up very well. That was one of the reasons we are going this route with these standalone races.”

The first Iowa race last year saw Christopher Bell lead 186 of 250 laps to win. There were two lead changes in the last 190 laps of that race. Last year’s Truck race at Iowa saw Ross Chastain lead the final 141 laps to take the checkered flag before his victory was taken away when his truck failed post-race inspection.

Peterson said that while each race will still have three stages, the length of the stages will be altered to prevent the need for a green-flag pit stop. In 2019, the final stage was typically longer than a fuel run, forcing teams to stop. The final stage will be shortened for 2020.

Peterson said fans will play a role in determining if this system is used in more races.

“The primary driver of that will be fan interest and engagement and feedback we get from the fans, along with how we see the races play out and utilizing the metrics we have here for passing,” he said.

Peterson also said the focus remains on the Xfinity and Truck Series for these rules.

“Right now there are no plans for the Cup Series,” he said.

Wayne Auton, the Xfinity Series managing director, said Wednesday morning on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that the designated time will be based on when a car enters pit road, crossing a yellow line, and when it exits pit road by crossing a yellow line.

Auton also addressed what would happen if a race on a road course started in dry conditions and then it rained, forcing teams to change to rain tires.

Auton said NASCAR would throw a caution and open pit road and declare the caution is for weather or track conditions. Teams then have the option to come down pit road and change to rain tires. At any time during the race, teams will be approved to come down pit road under green to change to slicks if the track dries. Auton said that teams will have a minimum time that they cannot beat — the time from when the car enters pit road road, performs its service and exits pit road — in those green-flag stops.