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SHR owner Gene Haas says no driver has ‘intrigued us’ enough to sign yet

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LAS VEGAS — Stewart-Haas Racing owner Gene Haas said Sunday that the team continues to search for a driver for the No. 41 car and that he does not view moving up SHR Xfinity driver Cole Custer as a viable option at this time.

Haas said the team is not ready to sign any driver.

“We haven’t seen anybody that’s intrigued us enough to say, ‘OK we’re willing to sign you at the moment,’ ” Haas said before Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. “We’re kind of hoping there is an undertow … where a driver or a sponsor, maybe that combination that didn’t exist a few weeks ago, maybe they come together and it’s something we can look at. But at the moment we don’t really have anything.

“As far as we know, Kurt Busch has signed up with Chip Ganassi. That’s the rumors we hear. But he hasn’t announced it yet, either. I think the only thing I’ve heard from him is he hasn’t signed anything.

“I think he’s out looking around and see what kind of a deal he can put together. I assume it’s over at Chip Ganassi Racing.”

It was Haas who expanded the organization to create room for Busch for the 2014 season. Busch has won six races for the team since joining it but has never finished better than seventh in the playoffs.

Still, could Busch find a way back to the No. 41 team?

“If he gets on a tear and wins five races and goes on to win the championship, we definitely would talk to him,” Haas quipped.

“That’s why we signed him to win a championship. As time went on, it became less probable that that would happen. That’s why we’re at where we’re at now. I think he’s kind of stated, too, that next year is going to be his last year.”

Haas said that Monster Energy, which is tied to Busch, “significantly cut down their sponsorship last year, and now they’re about the same money next year.”

As for other drivers, Haas said his team has had talks with Daniel Suarez’s camp.

“We’ve talked to him,” Haas said. “He brings a different group of sponsors. Like anything else, it comes down to the bottom line. How much sponsorship are we talking? How much money does SHR get? How much money does the driver get? Those are the kind of typical things that can take a while to iron out because everybody wants everything.”

Excluding a driver’s salary, Haas said it takes $20 million “to run a competitive Cup team.”

While some might view the 20-year-old Custer, who drives for SHR’s Xfinity team, as an option to move up to the team’s Cup ride, Haas is not convinced.

“We think Cole is a good talent,” Haas said. “I think he’s talented. He’s very marketable. I think a lot of things are positives, but he has to win in the Xfinity (Series) before he can really move up to Cup racing. If we were to push that, I think we might do more harm than good. He needs to prove that he can win consistently in Xfinity before I think we’ll consider him for a Cup ride.”

Custer has one win in 64 career Xfinity starts and finished third in Saturday’s Xfinity race at Las Vegas. He is winless this year. He is in the Xfinity playoffs for the second consecutive year. He finished fifth in the points last year.

Haas also said it is “not really an option” to downsize to three teams next year.

“We have Ford money per car, and the 41 car gets prize money, and prize money is based on previous years,” Haas said. “It wouldn’t be nearly as profitable not to run it as it would be to run it in some shape or form.”

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Report: Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 1 Cup car open for next year

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Car owner Chip Ganassi told The Associated Press on Monday that he’s offered Jamie McMurray a contract to drive in next year’s Daytona 500 and then move into a leadership position with the team.

Such a move means the No. 1 car that McMurray has driven since 2010 would be open for next season.

McMurray declined to discuss his future plans on Friday. The Associated Press reported that Ganassi declined to comment on signing Kurt Busch for the No. 1 car for next year.

Ganassi told the AP that McMurray has not decided if he would take the offer or seek a full-time job elsewhere. McMurray, 42, seven career wins, including the 2010 Daytona 500 and 2010 Brickyard 400. His most recent points win came in 2013 at Talladega.

McMurray, who is in his 16th full-time Cup season, must win Monday’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to make the Cup playoffs.

Bump & Run: Is Kyle Larson’s Southern 500 run a sign of progress?

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What do you make of Kyle Larson not winning the Southern 500 after dominating the race? A sign of progress based on the speed the car had or a sign that the team can’t find a way to win in a season where Larson no wins, five runner-up finishes and two third-place results?
Nate Ryan: It was more indicative of the importance of lane choice on restarts at Darlington Raceway than anything else. If the pit crew is able to dispatch the No. 42 Chevrolet about a tenth of a second earlier, Larson restarts on the inside and likely wins the Southern 500. It still was a highly encouraging week for Larson, whose team regained the speed that had been missing the past two months by installing some last-minute components on the car from a test at Richmond Raceway
Dustin Long: I look at how encouraged Kyle Larson was moments after climbing from his car after the race. Instead of being dejected with a win going away, he talked on pit road about how that car was the best he’s had in more than a year.
Daniel McFadin: It showed that no matter how good a car Larson has, if you take away the high lane from him at a track like Darlington he becomes mortal. That was a result of a marginally slower pit stop than Brad Keselowski‘s team. The No. 42 team has lacked the killer instinct it had in closing out races last year.
Dan Beaver: Finishing second or third has to be getting a little tiresome overall, but this week might be a different. Larson has finished in the top three seven times in 2018, but this is the first time he has backed up one top five with another so he should be encouraged.
What did Ross Chastain’s performance this past weekend driving for Chip Ganassi Racing in the Xfinity event at Darlington show you?
Nate Ryan: He is worthy of consideration for a top-tier Xfinity Series ride.
Dustin Long: It showed he belongs in the conversation for some open rides in the series this season.
Daniel McFadin: It solidified Chastain as a wheelman, something he’s shown in over-performing with JD Motorsports. But it also exemplified the stark difference in equipment between the frontrunners in Xfinity and the teams running just outside the top 12. It’s night and day.
Dan Beaver: The equation of car versus driver skews slightly toward car. Before Chastain, everyone who has driven the No. 42 this year has scored at least a top 10. All but Justin Marks has a top five.
The only way the 16-driver Cup playoff lineup changes this weekend at Indianapolis is if a driver outside that group wins. Of those needing to win to make the playoffs, who would you give the best chance of doing so?
Nate Ryan: Ryan Newman. The Indiana native is a past winner of the Brickyard, and Richard Childress Racing seems to have its Chevrolets trending in the right direction. How delightfully apropos would it be if Newman, who finished runner-up in the 2014 playoffs despite going winless, were to upset the most points-dependent playoff grid in history?
Dustin Long: Ryan Newman has had better performances lately and crew chief Luke Lambert is good at strategy. That’s the type of combination it will take for such a win this weekend.
Daniel McFadin: Daniel Suarez if he can use what he learned at Pocono in a near-winning performance. But the No. 19 team does not have momentum entering Indy. They’ve placed 11th or worse in the last three races.
Dan Beaver: Quite frankly, it’s impossible to predict. Anyone currently outside playoff contention who can win will do so with race strategy. If it comes down to a driver who suddenly finds a burst of speed, Daniel Suarez or William Byron are most likely because of the strength of their organizations at Indy.

Penalty report from Darlington Raceway

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NASCAR announced two penalties from the Darlington race weekend.

Chad Johnston, crew chief on Kyle Larson‘s No. 42 Chevrolet in Cup, was fined $10,000 for having one loose lug nut following the Southern 500.

In the Xfinity Series, Brandon Jones‘ No. 19 team at Joe Gibbs Racing was docked 10 driver and owner points for his car failing pre-qualifying inspection four times Saturday.

Jones remains seventh in the driver point standings following the L1 penalty.

JGR will not appeal the penalty.

 

 

Ross Chastain to run three Xfinity races with Chip Ganassi Racing

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Chip Ganassi Racing announced Thursday that Ross Chastain will make three Xfinity Series starts in the No. 42 DC Solar Chevrolet, beginning Sept. 1 at Darlington. He will also compete at Las Vegas and Richmond.

This season, Chastain has started all 22 Xfinity races driving the No. 4 car of Johnny Davis with a best finish of fourth at Iowa Speedway in July. Chastain sits 12th in the points standings.

Chastain has competed in 22 of the 24 Cup races driving for Premium Motorsports with two top 20s to his credit – an 18th at Texas in April and 20th at Dover in June.

“This opportunity with DC Solar and Chip Ganassi Racing is unbelievable,” Chastain said in a press release. “I want to recognize Johnny Davis for all that he has done for my career and express how proud I am of our performance this year.”

DC Solar will also be the sponsor of the Las Vegas Xfinity race.

MORE: How Ross Chastain stopped doubting himself and embraced Cup racing
MORE: Ross Chastain is a David among the Xfinity Goliaths

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