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Erik Jones looking to put together complete races for Joe Gibbs Racing

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After 15 races in his first year with Joe Gibbs Racing in the Cup Series, Erik Jones barely gives his No. 20 team a passing grade.

“I’d say our team as a whole is probably a C,” Jones told media Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway while promoting the July 7 Cup race at the track.

“I think we’ve had good race cars and had fast race cars, we just haven’t been able to finish really where we’ve ran,” Jones said. “We haven’t done a good job of that. Making sure we’re closing these races out is going to be the big thing for us. We’re bringing top 10 cars to the track every week in speed and just not taking and getting the finishes out of that.”

Following Sunday’s race at Michigan, where Jones placed 15th, the No. 20 team has one top five and five top 10s. He has one top 10 in the last eight races (Kansas, seventh)

In the last three races, Jones has failed to finish better than 15th.

Jones has started in the top 10 in four of the last seven races. In each race, he finished 13th or worse.

“Making sure we’re taking full advantage and executing on pit road and on the race track, not losing track position is going to be the big thing for us coming up,” Jones said. “Staying on that track is what we need to do.”

The next three races take Jones and the series to Sonoma Raceway, Chicagoland Speedway and Daytona. Jones made his first Sonoma start last year and placed 25th after starting 30th. His first Chicago start saw him finish 33rd after a late spin.

In three Daytona starts, he’s managed not to crash out in one, when he placed ninth in last July’s race.

Being one of the four drivers competing for JGR, Jones was asked what’s made the difference in Kyle Busch‘s dominating ways and his struggles in getting to Victory Lane for the first time.

“Obviously, we do have the same resources and equipment at our disposal, it’s just a matter of the way every team is using them,” Jones said. “You look at Kyle, he’s a very talented driver, No. 1. He’s very good at what he does. He and (crew chief) Adam (Stevens) have a good thing going on and they’re able to use the resources very well and take full advantage of them. Me and (crew chief) Chris (Gayle) are still trying to get in our groove of figuring out exactly what we need to get our cars to do to be successful week in and week out.”

Gayle and Jones were paired together during Jones’ rookie season with Furniture Row Racing.

“We’ve done a good job of putting together cars with good speed,” Jones said. “We just need to put together the rest of the package. That’s what Kyle’s done a very good job of this year. He’s qualified really well, he’s stayed up front, he’s had good pit stops and not ever put himself back in the pack and put himself in opportunities to have to gain a lot of track position. I think that’s really important this year … more than the last few years at least. They’ve done a really good job of just staying ahead of the game on that.”

NASCAR penalizes Joe Gibbs Racing teams for Michigan infraction

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NASCAR fined the crew chiefs for the Joe Gibbs Racing teams of Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Erik Jones $25,000 each and suspended their car chiefs each one race.

Joe Gibbs Racing will not appeal the penalties.

NASCAR penalized the teams for inspection issues with the splitter before last weekend’s Cup race at Michigan International Speedway. NASCAR stated the splitters did not meet rule specifications.

The $25,000 fines go to crew chiefs Mike Wheeler (Hamlin), Adam Stevens (Busch) and Chris Gayle (Jones). Car chiefs suspended for a race are Brandon Griffeth (Hamlin), Nate Bellows (Busch) and Jason Overstreet (Jones).

All three teams were forced to start at the rear for Sunday’s race because of the infraction.

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Kyle Busch’s wins wish list isn’t complete yet

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According to Kyle Busch, “Everybody wants to make my life more difficult.”

Busch, who won last weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 and starts today’s race in fifth, is the first driver in Cup history to win on every active track he’s raced.

That accomplishment will be in the record books for about four months. Then the Cup Series will compete on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval for the first time on Sept. 30, presenting yet another box for Busch to check off his wish list.

“I’m sure that I won’t be credited for all the racetracks once the Roval gets here, so that would certainly be the next one that comes up,” Busch said Friday at Pocono Raceway. “Richard Petty has won 13 races at Richmond, right, but nobody characterizes the dirt track versus the pavement track being different. So whatever. It’s my life, so we’ll just keep going, keep trying to win in it, and the Roval is next.”

MORE: Kyle Busch doesn’t need to win on Roval to win at every track

No matter how long it takes him to win on the Roval, Busch says his current accomplishment is still special.

“It’s hard to find things that have never been done in this sport,” Busch said. “It’s been around for a long, long time. So it’s very meaningful and special and something that I’ve kind of strived for. Whenever you’re able to achieve your goals, reach your goals, then it makes you feel better about what’s going on, and it’s a special thing for my team. There’s a lot that (crew chief) Adam Stevens puts into helping me continue to reach my goals, and he takes a lot of pride in that, as well as the rest of our team guys, as well. We’ve just got to keep doing our deal and executing and we’ll see where the wins come next.”

After the Roval, there’s one big race Busch has yet to claim victory in.

Despite 47 Cup wins, he’s never won the Daytona 500. His best result in the “Great American Race” is third in 2016.

He’s expected to make his 14th start in the race next season.

“It took another guy that’s very, very popular 20 years to get it done,” Busch said, referring to Dale Earnhardt’s win in 1998. “So I’d like to think it won’t take me that long, although I’m creeping up on that number, so we’ll see how soon we can get that one accomplished.”

NASCAR issues two fines for unsecured lug nuts at Auto Club Speedway

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NASCAR announced two crew chief fines for unsecured lug nuts last weekend at Auto Club Speedway.

Adam Stevens, crew chief on Kyle Busch‘s No. 18 Toyota, was fined $10,000 for one unsecured lug nut.

In the Xfinity Series, Eric Phillips, the crew chief for Ryan Preece‘s No. 18 Toyota, was fined $5,000 for an unsecured lug nut.

No other penalties were announced.

Here’s what is new in 2018 for Cup teams

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A new year brings many changes. Such is the case for NASCAR teams. Here’s a look at some of the key changes heading into the 2018 season for Cup teams that have announced drivers for this season.

(Drivers are listed in order of their car number with where they finished in the points last year)

No. 1 Jamie McMurray (12th in points in 2017)

What’s new: Chip Ganassi Racing announced Wednesday that Doug Duchardt has been hired to be the organization’s chief operating officer.

What’s the same: McMurray is back for a ninth season with the team in his second stint there. Matt McCall begins his fourth season with McMurray.

 

No. 2 Brad Keselowski (4th)

What’s new: Discount Tire moves over to be a primary sponsor of Keselowski’s car for 10 races.

What’s the same: Keselowski is back with crew chief Paul Wolfe for an eighth consecutive season.

 

No. 3 Austin Dillon (11th)

What’s new: He has only one teammate, Ryan Newman, at Richard Childress Racing, with the team cutting back to two cars for 2018.

What’s the same: Crew chief Justin Alexander is back after being paired with Dillon in May 2017.

 

No. 4 Kevin Harvick (3rd)

What’s new: Wife DeLana delivered the couple’s second child, a daughter in late December.

What’s the same: Crew chief Rodney Childers is back for a fifth season with Harvick. Since they’ve been together, they’ve won one championship, scored 14 victories and captured 13 poles.

 

No. 6 Trevor Bayne (22nd)

What’s new: AdvoCare is back but with a new paint scheme for this season. 

What’s the same: Matt Puccia is back as Bayne’s crew chief. They’ve been together since the 2016 season.

 

No. 9 Chase Elliott (5th)

What’s new: A new number for the son of Hall of Famer Bill Elliott.

What’s the same: Crew chief Alan Gustafson is back and Elliott, who enters his third Cup season, seeks his first career series win.

 

No. 10 Aric Almirola (29th)

What’s new: A new ride for Almirola, as he moves from Richard Petty Motorsports to Stewart-Haas Racing. That’s just among the many changes. Almirola also will have a new crew chief. John Klausmeier, who has been an engineer with the organization since 2009 and filled in as in interim crew chief previously, moves into that position for Almirola’s team. And a new look. Smithfield joins Almirola in the move, but its car will be black and white.

What’s the same: Even with the move, Almirola is driving a Ford again. 

 

No. 11 Denny Hamlin (6th)

What’s new: No major changes have been announced.

What’s the same: Crew chief Mike Wheeler is back for his third season with Hamlin. They’ve combined to win five races and three poles the previous two seasons.

 

No. 12 Ryan Blaney (9th)

What’s new: A new team. Blaney moves from the Wood Brothers to a third entry for Team Penske. He’ll be teammates to Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. Team Penske purchased a charter from Roush Fenway Racing for Blaney’s car.

What’s the same: Crew chief Jeremy Bullins joins Blaney in the move from the Wood Brothers to Team Penske.

 

No. 13 Ty Dillon (24th)

What’s new: Crew chief Matt Borland joins the team from Richard Childress Racing.

What’s the same: Germain Racing remains aligned with Richard Childress Racing.

 

No. 14 Clint Bowyer (18th)

What’s new: No major changes have been announced.

What’s the same: Crew chief Mike Bugarewicz is paired with Bowyer for a second season in a row.

 

No. 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (13th)

What’s new: Stenhouse is no longer dating Danica Patrick

What’s the same: Crew chief Brian Pattie and Stenhouse are set to begin their second season together after winning two races and making the playoffs last season.

 

No. 18 Kyle Busch (2nd)

What’s new: No major changes have been announced.

What’s the same: This will be the fourth Cup season for crew chief Adam Stevens and Busch. They’ve won 14 races and 11 poles the past three seasons together.

 

No. 19 Daniel Suarez (20th)

What’s new: No major changes have been announced.

What’s the same: Suarez is back with Arris and Stanley as sponsors in 2018.

 

No. 20 Erik Jones (19th)

What’s new: A new driver in this car that Matt Kenseth had run the past five seasons. Also, crew chief Chris Gayle moves with Jones, the 2017 Cup rookie of the year, from Furniture Row Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing for the 2018 campaign.

What’s the same: The car has the same number as last year.

 

No. 21 Paul Menard (23rd)

What’s new: A new home for Menard, who goes from Richard Childress Racing to the Wood Brothers. Greg Erwin will be the new crew chief, taking over for Jeremy Bullins, who moves from the Wood Brothers to Team Penske with Ryan Blaney.

What’s the same: The Wood Brothers.

 

No. 22 Joey Logano (17th)

What’s new: Logano’s wife is expecting the couple’s first child in January.

What’s the same: Crew chief Todd Gordon is back for his sixth season with Logano. They’ve combined to win 16 races and 14 poles working together.

 

No. 24 William Byron (Did not race Cup in 2017)

What’s new: A new driver and new number for what had been the No. 5 team at Hendrick Motorsports. The Xfinity Series champion moves up from JR Motorsports. He’ll have Darian Grubb as his crew chief.

What’s the same: Liberty University, a longtime backer of Byron, is back as a sponsor.

 

No. 31 Ryan Newman (16th)

What’s new: No major changes have been announced.

What’s the same: Caterpillar, which has been a partner with Richard Childress Racing since 2009, will sponsor Newman’s car in select races in 2018.

 

No. 32 Matt DiBenedetto (32nd)

What’s new: No major changes have been announced.

What’s the same: DiBenedetto is back with the team for a second consecutive year.

 

No. 34 Michael McDowell (26th)

What’s new: New ride for McDowell, who moves from Leavine Family Racing to Front Row Motorsports and joins David Ragan at that organization. Front Row Motorsports also has expanded its technical alliance with Roush Fenway Racing.

What’s the same: Team remains in the Ford camp.

 

No. 37 Chris Buescher (25th)

What’s new: The team purchased a charter after leasing one last season.

What’s the same: Buescher is back for his second year with the team.

 

No. 38 David Ragan (30th)

What’s new: He has a new teammate with Michael McDowell joining the team and replacing Landon Cassill.

What’s the same: Ragan is back for his fifth season (in two stints) with Front Row Motorsports.

 

No. 41 Kurt Busch (14th)

What’s new: Is what’s old. Busch is back with Stewart-Haas Racing as is sponsor Monster Energy after his contract option was not picked up last season amid questions about sponsorship. Busch also has a new crew chief. Billy Scott moves from the No. 10 team to be Busch’s crew chief this season. Scott replaces Tony Gibson, who moves into a position at the shop.

What’s the same: The car number for Busch, who will enter his fifth season at Stewart-Haas Racing. 

 

No. 42 Kyle Larson (8th)

What’s new: A new sponsor for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver. Credit One will replace Target on the No. 42 Chevrolet in 2018. Also Larson got engaged to girlfriend Katelyn Sweet in December.

What’s the same: Larson will be teamed with crew chief Chad Johnston for a third consecutive year. They’ve combined to win five races and three poles together. 

 

No. 43 Darrell Wallace Jr. (50th)

What’s new: Wallace joins the team after running four races for Richard Petty Motorsports when Aric Almirola was injured last season. RPM also has switched from Ford to Chevrolet and formed an alliance with Richard Childress Racing and will get its engines from ECR Engines this season. Team also is adding sponsorship with Smithfield putting most of its resources with Almirola at Stewart-Haas Racing. 

What’s the same: Crew chief Drew Blickensderfer returns to be Wallace’s crew chief.

 

No. 47 AJ Allmendinger (27th)

What’s new: No major changes announced.

What’s the same: This will be Allmendinger’s fifth season with JTG Daugherty Racing.

 

No. 48 Jimmie Johnson (10th)

What’s new: No major changes announced.

What’s the same: He’s back with crew chief Chad Knaus for a 17th consecutive year.

 

No. 78 Martin Truex Jr. (1st)

What’s new: A new moniker for Truex – reigning Cup champion. Also, the team is back to a one-car operation with the shuttering of the No. 77 team.

What’s the same: Champion crew chief Cole Pearn is back to lead this team.

 

No. 88 Alex Bowman (Did not race Cup in 2017)

What’s new: Bowman takes over the former ride of Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Hendrick Motorsports.

What’s the same: Greg Ives is back as the team’s crew chief.

 

No. 95 Kasey Kahne (15th)

What’s new: Kahne joins Leavine Family Racing, replacing Michael McDowell. Travis Mack, who had been the car chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s team at Hendrick Motorsports, makes the move to be Kahne’s crew chief.

What’s the same: The car number for the team.

 

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