chip ganassi racing

Long: Aretha sang about it, Kurt Busch says he has it with Chip Ganassi Racing

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SPARTA, Ky. — As Kurt Busch decided last year where he would drive this season, it didn’t take long.

A short meeting with car owner Chip Ganassi laid the foundation for a deal that was completed in about three hours, announced in December and bore fruit last weekend with Busch’s first victory of the season.

In the 30-minute conversation Busch had last year with Ganassi about driving for the car owner, Busch found what he sought.

“(Ganassi’s) level of commitment as a racer is something that I saw,” said Busch, who had run the previous five seasons with Stewart-Haas Racing. “Yes, Tony Stewart is a racer, but I was more on the Gene Haas side. When Chip said, ‘I want you to win for me, I want you to make these guys winners, and if you can bring that (Monster Energy) sponsorship with you, I’m going to pay you this,’ it was just like the most respect that I had felt in a long time when it came to a contract negotiation.”

Respect was a word the former Cup champion used in multiple interviews Saturday in discussing his move to Ganassi.

Busch said on NBCSN’s post-race show that when a contract extension with Stewart-Haas Racing didn’t work, he called Ganassi and quickly had a deal.

“That’s just the respect factor that I was looking for,” Busch told Krista Voda, Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett.

Busch went on to say in the media center after the race about how quickly a deal was agreed upon: “It meant that I was wanted. And when you have that, that’s that extra desire to push and to make this group a winner.”

When the deal was announced in December, Ganassi said: “It’s not oftentimes that a NASCAR champion, a Daytona 500 winner becomes available. When you’ve got a guy that is a racer like Kurt … you’ve got to take a serious look at it. It didn’t take me long when he became available.”

As Busch, who turns 41 on Aug. 4, looks ahead to the playoffs, he also has to focus on what he’ll do next season. The deal with Ganassi is only for this year. So what’s next for Busch?

“For me, it’s a matter of just having the dominos line up and everybody fall together and to make it happen,” he said. “I guess the easiest way to move things forward is request for proposals are going out Monday with sponsors, with manufacturers, with team owner. 

“Yes, a win, that might have happened last week at Daytona, is one of those moments. Tonight is one of those stamps on — this 1 team is a powerful team, and it would be stupid not to keep this group together, and that’s part of my leverage, but at the end of it, we just want to make it work for all parties.”

After a night like Saturday, Busch said: “It gives you that energy of, yeah, it’s fun, and let’s get our sponsors lined up and let’s do this (again).”

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Ryan Newman has a simple rule on blocking, a tactic that has become more prevalent with the race package this year.

“I don’t do that personally, that’s not the way I race, I race hard,” Newman said. “Because it’s not the way I want to be raced. It’s not right.

“You don’t change the way that you enter a corner to choke somebody off knowing that it’s going to slow you down. You as a racer are supposed to go out there and race as hard as you can to try to catch the guy in front of you, not let the guy behind you stay behind you.”

Newman also noted a conversation he had with Ryan Blaney earlier this season after he was blocked by Blaney multiple times.

“Ryan Blaney and I have had it out after the race, not in a mean way,” Newman said. “(I) just told him, I said, ‘Listen, the next time you do that, it’s not going to be good for you. That’s not the way I race. You want to block me, it’s not going to be good.’ I don’t mean it as a threat. I’m just telling him that’s the fact of it.

“I don’t race that way. If I block you, you’ve got the right to turn me around, but if you choke me down going into the corner just to try keep me behind you, expect to get loose.”

Blaney admitted he threw “a couple of big blocks” on Newman in the Charlotte races in May.

“You make those decisions in a split-second,” Blaney said. “You’re not trying to screw that guy over, you’re just like ‘I have to help myself.’ Between me and Ryan (Newman), I’ve always liked that you could talk to someone afterwards and have an understanding about it.

“Newman said that was a big block, that was a kind of a late one. I said, ‘Yeah, I knew it was close, sorry.’ You could tell how close it was by how hard he hit you on the bumper. It’s good to talk about it and not kind of let it brood over. Me and Ryan have always been good friends. He’s someone I’ve looked up to for a long time. He’s been a friend of my family’s for a long time. It was good to talk to him and understand it.”

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To NASCAR,  it was a simple call in penalizing William Byron for jumping the restart at Kentucky Speedway.

Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, explained the penalty on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday.

“(Byron) fired first in the restart zone, and he wasn’t controlling the restart,” Miller said. “It’s kind of as simple as that.”

In the rules video that was played in the drivers meeting at Kentucky, it stated: “It will be the control vehicle’s discretion to restart in the zone between the double marks and the single mark on the outer wall and on the racing surface.”

Clint Bowyer was the leader at the time.

The penalty took place on Lap 184 of the 267-lap race. Byron went from second place to a lap down after serving the penalty and never recovered. He finished 18th.

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Paul Menard confirmed this past weekend his contract status for next season, saying:

“I have a good job, for sure. I love the Wood Brothers. I love my race team. They are good people. I have a contract for next year. I guess it is getting to be that time of year when people start talking about things. I have a contract and I love my team. We just have to perform better, that is all.”

Menard finished 11th Saturday. He is 20th in the season standings, 54 points out of the final playoff spot.

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Sponsorship issues nearly cost eventual Truck champion Brett Moffitt his playoff eligibility last year and threaten the playoff eligibility for Tyler Ankrum this season.

Ankrum won last weekend’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Kentucky but lack of sponsorship could be an issue for him.

Ankrum was set to run a full season for DGR-Crosley once he turned 18 in March. He announced in June that he would not be running a full season with the team because of lack of sponsorship.

He started races at Iowa and Gateway for NEMCO Motorsports and retired after less than 20 laps in both races, finishing 31st at Iowa and 30th at Gateway. By starting those races, he kept his playoff eligibility. Ankrum received a waiver from NASCAR for missing the season’s first three races because he was not 18 years old at the time and could not run at Daytona, Atlanta and Las Vegas. He’s run the remaining races.

DGR-Crosley is a Toyota team and it leads to the question of what responsibility Toyota has to ensure that one of its playoff teams remains eligible for a championship run.

David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, said the company will help in ways its best suited to do so.

“Our focus is on providing technical support to our team partners, and David Gilliland and his family, they’re not maybe at the (Kyle Busch Motorsports) level but make no mistake, we do have a strong technical partnership with them,” Wilson told NBC Sports after Ankrum’s win.

Wilson said that Toyota had been with the team when they took what was the winning truck to a wind tunnel earlier.

“We obviously are engaged and hopeful that they can put enough (sponsorship) together to keep Tyler moving forward, and we’d love to have him in the playoffs,” Wilson said.

Wilson admits a focus for Toyota is on Kyle Busch Motorsports. Harrison Burton and Todd Gilliland are both outside a playoff spot with three races left in the regular season.

Toyota has two teams in the playoffs as of now with Ankrum and Austin Hill, who won at Daytona for the reigning Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship team, Hattori Racing Enterprises.

Whatever Toyota teams are in the playoffs will get Wilson’s attention.

“Obviously we’re going to focus our resources on whomever is fighting to win the championship,” Wilson said. “There’s not a question about it. If it happens to be non-KBM trucks, so be it.”

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Kurt Busch gushes about Kyle: ‘I love to call him my little brother’

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Kurt Busch won the race to the finish line Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway, but his younger brother won the race to the airport.

“I was supposed to fly home with him, and now I’m looking for a plane ride,” Kurt said with a laugh after outdueling his younger brother, Kyle, during an overtime restart on the 1.5-mile oval. “So that’s Kyle. He won’t even wait. We shared a plane ride earlier this year. It was Phoenix where he won, and I had to sit there and wait for him to do his little victory lane thing.

“It’ll be fine. We’re going over to his house actually for a little get‑together on a Sunday off, and I’m going to plop the trophy down right on his kitchen counter.”

It was the third time the brothers from Las Vegas had finished 1-2 in a Cup race, but the first in which Kurt had emerged the victor. The most recent was at Bristol Motor Speedway three months ago when Kurt had vowed he would have wrecked Kyle if he’d gotten close enough.

They nearly crashed on the final lap at Kentucky, making contact off the final turn that nearly caused both to lose control (watch the video of the finish above).

“It’s obviously cool to put on great races and great finishes and been a part of a lot of them and … none with my brother like that, so that was a first,” said Kyle, who did also win a spirited battled with his older brother in the June 28, 2015 race at Sonoma. “You know, no hard feelings, and we move on.”

Though they both have one title in NASCAR’s premier series, Kyle has the upper hand in Cup victories with 55 (of his 206 in NASCAR national series); Kurt’s win Saturday was the 31st of his career.

“It’s very special to race a sibling,” Kurt said during an interview in the NASCAR on NBC postrace show. “I couldn’t be more proud of (Kyle) over the years on how many wins he’s accumulated. He crested over that 40-win mark a while back. Now he’s 50-plus wins, and the Xfinity wins, the truck wins, the truck ownership.

“His passion for motorsport is way beyond where I thought the coach potato he was when he was my little brother growing up, and I love to call him my little brother, but he gave me room on that outside. I think he gave me room where maybe he wouldn’t have given that little half a foot to somebody.”

Though they haven’t competed head to head for victories often in their 15 full seasons of racing in Cup together, Kurt said “it’s special to race against my little brother each and every week.

“The Manning brothers, the Williams sisters, there’s plenty of siblings that go head to head,” he said, “but they don’t go head to head week in and week out like we do.”

During his interview with Krista Voda, Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett on the NBCSN postrace show, Kurt Busch also provided a detailed account of the final two laps at Kentucky, how his career has been viewed and why Chip Ganassi Racing was the right fit when he moved this season.

Watch the interview in the video below or by clicking here.

Kyle Larson pushes Kurt Busch to win, finishes fourth at Kentucky

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For about 267 of 269 laps, Kyle Larson wasn’t a factor in the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.

Then he restarted behind teammate Kurt Busch in overtime.

Larson’s No. 42 Chevrolet was third in the outside row while Busch’s No. 1 Chevrolet restarted behind race leader Joey Logano.

When the final green flag waved, Logano’s car was slowed by a sidedraft from Kyle Busch in second as the field roared into Turn 1.

That’s when the Chip Ganassi Racing drivers pounced.

“I was satisfied with the launch I got,” Larson said after his fourth-place finish in Saturday’s race. “I was going to be committed to Kurt (Busch)’s back bumper no matter how much of a run I had because I knew I couldn’t get to the lead from the third row so if I could help a teammate out, I was happy with that.”

Kurt Busch swept to the outside and Larson followed, pushing his teammate by Logano, who fell back. The help from Larson gave Kurt Busch enough momentum to begin racing side-by-side with his younger brother.

“I thought the race for the lead there was really good from what I could see. It was good, maybe a little better than your normal Kentucky,” Larson said. “Kyle (Busch) was loose a couple of times below him and they made contact I think a couple of times. There was some really good car control and it was fun to watch from my seat.”

The Busch brothers battled non-stop for two laps until Kurt Busch took the checkered flag.

The win snapped a 64-race winless streak for Chip Ganassi Racing, stretching back to Larson’s win at Richmond in September 2017.

Both Ganassi cars finished in the top five for the first time since the June 2017 race at Michigan.

While Kurt Busch earned his first win with Ganassi, Larson has claimed two top fives in the last three races.

“I’m happy for Kurt, (crew chief) Matt McCall and everybody on the 1 team,” Larson said. “They have been really strong all year-long. They should have won last week (Daytona), so it’s nice for them to get some redemption today.”

Kurt Busch on the ‘wrong side of a lightning bolt’ at Daytona

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Kurt Busch said he was on the “wrong side of a lightning bolt” Sunday at Daytona International Speedway.

Busch finished 10th in the rain-shortened Cup race after his team and others decided to make a pit stop from the lead under caution on Lap 127, thinking the race would resume on the ensuing lap.

But with 33 laps to go, NASCAR issued a red flag for a lighting strike in the area after Busch returned to the track in 10th. The red flag remained for more than two hours, and Justin Haley was declared the winner of his first career Cup race.

“Our plan was to stay out as long as we could, and when they said one to go (until the green flag), we have to pit,” Busch told NBCSN. “Then they said a lightning bolt came by, which that was the same one from before.”

Busch called the decision by NASCAR a “judgment call on their part.”

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver was in the lead and in position to win before his pit stop after he avoided an 18-car wreck with 43 laps to go.

He had bounced back from an incident on Lap 75 when his No. 1 Chevrolet got into the wall in Turn 2 and then spun in Turn 3, clipping Brendan Gaughan‘s No. 62 Chevrolet with his left-front fender.

“All-in-all with everything we went through today to finish 10th, we’ll take it,” Busch said. “Let’s go to Kentucky.”

Friday 5: Can anyone beat Joe Gibbs Racing, Team Penske?

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Maybe it will happen this weekend.

Or maybe the streak will keep going. If it does, the question becomes when will someone beat Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske to win a Cup race? It might not be until well into July. Or later.

NASCAR has seen its share of dominance through the years from Richard Petty winning 10 consecutive races in 1967 to Hendrick Motorsports winning nine of 10 races in 2007 with four different drivers.

That level of dominance has returned. Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske have combined to 15 of the first 16 races. JGR has 10 of those wins, including seven of the last 10.

As the series heads to Chicagoland Speedway for Sunday’s Cup race (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN), Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske will look to continue their reign on 1.5-mile tracks.

The two organizations have won all five races on 1.5-mile races this season. Brad Keselowski won at Atlanta and Kansas, Joey Logano won at Las Vegas, Denny Hamlin won at Texas and Martin Truex Jr. won the Coca-Cola 600, the most recent race at a 1.5-mile track.

JGR and Team Penske have combined to win nine of the last 11 races on 1.5-mile tracks, dating back to Kyle Busch’s last-lap win a year ago at Chicagoland Speedway.

OK, that’s what has happened but look at what could happen in the coming weeks.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s current drivers have won the past four races at Chicagoland Speedway. Add Team Penske and those two organizations have won six of the last seven Chicagoland races. That other race? Since retired Matt Kenseth won for JGR.

If not at Chicagoland, maybe some other team can win at Daytona on July 6. They’ll race the same package that was run at Talladega. Chase Elliott won there, giving Hendrick Motorsports its only victory of the season. While it was with a different package, the last time Cup raced at Daytona, Hamlin was celebrating his second Daytona 500 triumph.

If not at Daytona, what about Kentucky on July 13? Don’t count on it. Current JGR drivers and Team Penske drivers have won seven of the eight races there. The exception? Kenseth won in 2013 for Joe Gibbs Racing.

If not at Kentucky, what about New Hampshire on July 21? Kevin Harvick did the bump-and-run on Kyle Busch in the closing laps to win that race last year and end JGR’s run of five wins in six races there.

OK, if not New Hampshire, then it is back to Pocono on July 28. Busch won there in June for the fourth consecutive win by a current JGR driver.

So when?

Of course, some other team may win this weekend at Chicagoland or in the coming weeks, but even if they do, good chance it won’t turn into a streak.

2. What about Kevin Harvick?

If there is a favorite to topple the reign of Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske, it is Kevin Harvick, who continues to search for his first victory of the season.

Harvick is due. Only one other time since 2013 has he failed to win by the season’s 16th race (this weekend marks the 17th race of the year).

He has had his chances this season, particularly on 1.5-mile tracks. Harvick has scored the most points (214) on such tracks this season. Chase Elliott is next at (185). Denny Hamlin is third at 175.

Harvick has two top-five finishes and four top-10 results in the five races on 1.5-mile tracks. Maybe it’s his time?

3. Stranger than fiction

Ross Chastain was the guest on this week’s NASCAR on NBC podcast with Nate Ryan. Among the topics was how star-crossed Chastain’s career has been.

He’s fought to climb the ranks in NASCAR and got his best chance in a three-race Xfinity stint with Chip Ganassi Racing last year. Chastain was battling Kevin Harvick for the lead at Darlington when they had contact. Chastain came back to win the Xfinity race at Las Vegas. He signed a deal to drive for Ganassi’s Xfinity car this season but the ride went away after DC Solar declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy after a raid by the FBI.

That left Chastain scrambling for a ride this season. He started the year by running every race in Cup, Xfinity and Trucks until the June 9 Cup event at Michigan International Speedway.

During that time, Chastain changed his declaration for points from Xfinity to the Truck Series. His win at Iowa seemed to have set him for the playoffs until his truck failed inspection and was disqualified. No problem, Chastain went out and won last weekend at Gateway.

“It’s definitely not the way I would have written it,” Chastain set on the podcast about his up-and-down path. “ I don’t think they would ever make a movie about this or write a book, it would have to be a fictional book because no one would believe it.”

4. Manufacturer scorecard

Since the start of the 2018 season, Ford has 24 Cup wins, Toyota 23 and Chevrolet five.

Four of Chevrolet’s five wins are by Chase Elliott. The other victory was by Austin Dillon in the 2018 Daytona 500.

5. Another win but …

Ty Majeski scored his third ARCA victory of the season Thursday night at Chicagoland Speedway.

After a humbling Xfinity season last year at Roush Fenway Racing where Majeski was eliminated by a crash in four of his 12 starts, to rebound and win in ARCA has been meaningful to him.

“This is personally what I needed,” Majeski said of his success.

But his summer will be spent mainly racing Late Models. He said he “highly doubts” he’ll do any Xfinity races this season. The only ARCA race he’s scheduled to run is the season finale Oct. 18 at Kansas Speedway.