Claire B. Lang

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. responds to Martin Truex Jr.’s criticism from Atlanta

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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. countered Martin Truex Jr.’s claims that Stenhouse, running a lap behind the leaders, held Truex up late in last weekend’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Stenhouse told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Wednesday that he was “confused” by Truex’s assertion and wondered if Truex thought that “lapped cars have dirtier air coming off the car (than those on the lead lap).”

Truex was upset with Stenhouse after the race, saying Stenhouse should have gotten out of the way sooner. 

“(Stenhouse) rode there in front of us forever and ever, running the bottom,” Truex said after the race. “I kept telling him I needed the bottom, and these cars are just so bad in dirty air that he was holding me up really bad.”

Of lapped cars, Truex said: “They just have no respect for the leaders running for the win. It’s completely uncalled for, ridiculous. It’s a shame.”

Stenhouse didn’t see things that way, telling Claire B. Lang on “Dialed In” on Wednesday:

“To me I didn’t feel like we really held him off. If he was that fast, then he could have closed up to us. If leaders get within five car lengths of me, I let them go. Mike Herman Jr., my spotter, was updating me how far back (Truex) was. We were racing to try to get back on the lead lap.

“I felt like there at a moment we were going to be able to catch (Brad Keselowski, who led the final 33 laps to win). We were running faster lap times than he was. So, we were thinking, ‘hey, let’s just old school get our lap back (by passing the leader) and see how it falls.’

“But also (Keselowski) was catching (Chase Elliott) and was going to put him a lap down, and we wanted to make sure that if (Elliott) got lapped that we could get by him as quick as possible in case the caution came out and we could get the lucky dog that way as well.

“The way I see it, if Truex is fast enough and that much faster than me, then he could have caught us. If he would have caught us and got to within five car lengths, I would have let him go. He didn’t have any problem getting within five car lengths of (Keselowski).

“He talks about dirty air and things like that. I don’t know if he thinks that lapped cars have dirtier air coming off the car. Kind of confused me. Brad Keselowski, he restarted behind me, actually nose to tail with Truex and he passed us on the outside.

“Generally, when I have a faster car, I just drive around the lapped cars that I’m lapping. It’s one of those things that I felt like me and my spotter and our team did the right thing for what we had going on.

“Once I slipped up a little bit, Truex closed within five car lengths and I pulled almost on the apron on the back straightaway to give him whatever lane he wanted and slowed up for him. That’s the way I play it. When the leaders get to me, I give them a lane one way or the other when they get close, but he wasn’t close enough to just give up our whole lap or the positions I was racing for either.”

Issues began when there was a caution during a green-flag pit cycle for Ryan Preece running into the back of B.J. McLeod’s car on pit road. McLeod’s car spun, injuring a member of Chris Buescher’s pit crew.

Joey Logano and Kurt Busch were the only cars on the lead lap that hadn’t pitted. They restarted on the front row. Per the NASCAR Rule Book, cars one or more laps down restart next.

That put Stenhouse, a lap down, inside of the second row with Jimmie Johnson to his outside. The third row had Bubba Wallace on the inside and Ty Dillon. Both were two laps down.

Keselowski, who received the free pass, was positioned on the inside of the fourth row for the restart, ahead of cars that had pitted and did the wave around. Truex restarted on the inside of the fifth row, directly behind Keselowski.

Keselowski maneuvered by the four lapped cars ahead of him quickly after the restart. Truex did not.

Roush Fenway Racing won’t field Xfinity Series team in 2019

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
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Roush Fenway Racing will not field a team in the Xfinity Series for the first time in more than a quarter century, RFR President Steve Newmark confirmed Wednesday night on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Roush Fenway Racing first ran in the Xfinity Series in 1992 with Mark Martin, who won once in 14 starts that year. The organization has won a record 138 Xfinity races. Roush Fenway Racing also has captured five Xfinity driver titles — Greg Biffle in 2002, Carl Edwards in 2007, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in 2011-12 and Chris Buescher in 2015.

Newmark told Claire B. Lang on SiriusXM’s “Dialed In” that the focus is on strengthening the Cup program with Stenhouse and Ryan Newman, who joins the team to drive the No. 6 car this season.

“We’re going to focus exclusively on both of those Cup teams (in 2019) and realized we needed to allocate all of our resources there,” Newmark told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “We’ve fluctuated on the number of the teams in the Xfinity Series and a lot of that has been based on need. We’ve been four, we’ve been one, and I think (2019) we’ve decided on how we’re positioned we’ll step out of that for a year and see how that goes and just focus all the resources, all the engineering, all the wind tunnel on making sure that we perform to our expectations at the Cup level.”

Asked if sponsorship was a key factor in the decision, Newmark said: “There’s no doubt that sponsorship plays a factor in everything that we do. For better or worse that’s the way NASCAR is structured right now and sponsorship is the lifeblood for the teams. My hope is that at some point in time we continue to evolve to a model that moves a little bit way from that. But that was just a factor. We had a great run with Lilly Diabetes, five full seasons, we handled the Ford driver development program last year and the Xfinity Series is something that Jack (Roush) has always been passionate about.

“But when we look at where we are and what we needed to focus on, we just felt like that all the resources should be dedicated to Cup. We’ve always used Xfinity as a feeder series … for Cup, and when we look at our drivers, we’ve got those guys locked up and we think that they’re going to be with us for a number of years. We look at the engineering talent, we look at our crew chiefs, and we kind of felt like we had all the pieces of the puzzle in place and so really what we need to do is go out and execute at the Cup level and we’ll see where we end up in Xfinity in the future.”

Last season, Roush Fenway Racing fielded two full-time Xfinity teams: Ryan Reed in the No. 16 and Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric and Ty Majeski splitting time in the No. 60 car as Ford development drivers. Reed finished 11th in the points. 

Friday 5: Jeffrey Earnhardt is tired of being ‘bullied’ on the track

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Jeffrey Earnhardt is tired of being “bullied” on the track and says he’s “not going to take shit” from other competitors.

Earnhardt, who has had an indirect role in key moments in recent races, made his comments Wednesday night on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Dialed In” show.

“You don’t want to feel used, and I feel like we have been used here lately,” Earnhardt told host Claire B. Lang. “We’re tired of being the victims. Whether we start making the other people the victims, whatever it takes, but we don’t want to keep feeling like we’re being bullied and we feel like we are right now.”

Earnhardt’s latest frustration is with Daniel Hemric. They raced together into the final chicane of last weekend’s race at the Charlotte Roval. Earnhardt’s car spun after contact from Hemric’s car.

Earnhardt’s car stalled less than 100 yards from the finish line. That allowed Kyle Larson’s wrecked car to pass him and gain the one position he needed to advance to the second round, which begins this weekend at Dover International Speedway.

“I like to think that I race clean and give people room and then they do shit like that, it gets under your skin,” Earnhardt said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio about the contact from Hemric.

This marked the third time in the last four races that Earnhardt has had an impact on a race.

At Indianapolis, he and Landon Cassill wrecked, setting up the final caution that changed the race’s outcome.

Of that incident, Earnhardt said: “We went into the corner and his story and my story are two different things.”

That caution eliminated Denny Hamlin’s lead and allowed Brad Keselowski to pass Hamlin coming to the white flag and win.

A frustrated Hamlin said afterward: “Just those meaningless cautions at the end by drivers multiple laps down. What they’re doing crashing with three laps to go, I have no idea. It cost us the race.”

Earnhardt did not appreciate Hamlin’s comments.

“The meaningless driver comment was just not smart,” Earnhardt told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “It shows a lack of respect for me or anyone else that are back there that are fighting to make a career out of this.”

At Richmond, Earnhardt caused the only caution of the race — other than the two stage breaks — after contact from Matt Kenseth. NASCAR penalized Kenseth for a commitment line violation and speeding entering the pits on Lap 321. His contact with Earnhardt led to a caution at Lap 327.

On the radio after the incident, Kenseth said: “Tell him, my bad. I drug up the splitter and hit. My bad. Tell him I’m sorry about that.”

Earnhardt was frustrated about that incident as well.

“He can say he was on the splitter if he wants … I don’t agree with what he says,” Earnhardt said.

“It does suck. These guys that feel they can pick on us and use us as a crutch to make their day better. Who knows. There have been several races we didn’t fire off that great, I was wishing for a caution. Maybe I’ll start doing the same. Maybe I’ll use them to get a caution so we can come in and work on our car and make it better.”

2. Manufacturer support

Throughout NASCAR’s explanation this week for deciding on a 2019 rules package that includes a tapered spacer to limit engines to 550 horsepower at many big tracks and 750 horsepower at other tracks was how that could help entice more manufacturers to enter the sport.

It’s no secret that NASCAR would like at least another manufacturer at the Cup level.

“It’s not just today,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, said about the impact of the new rules package. “It kind of falls into where we want to go with the next Gen car.

“A lot of that is going to be based on new technology in the car and a lot of that is going to be based on efficiencies, potentially for the team owners, (manufacturers), putting an engine in place from a horsepower level that could be more relevant in the future that could attract new (manufacturers), which is key and make the owners that we have in this sport healthier and also attract new owners.”

A new manufacturer or manufacturers could be critical to the sport. Even with the charter system, teams must still rely heavily on sponsorship to fund teams. Additional manufacturers could provide greater financial support for charter teams and potentially balance the competition.

Toyota, which backs five teams, has won 12 of 29 races this season. Ford, which backs more than twice as many teams as Toyota, has won 15 of 29 races. Chevrolet has two wins this season (Austin Dillon in the Daytona 500 and Chase Elliott at Watkins Glen).

O’Donnell said that NASCAR is hearing from manufacturers investigating the series.

“Lot more of our calls are being answered, a lot more meetings are taking place with potential new (manufacturers),” he said. “I think where we landed on 2019 sets us up well for the immediate future but long-term as well.”

We’ll find out.

3. Step forward

Chase Briscoe’s victory in last weekend’s Xfinity race at the Charlotte Roval was another key moment for Ford and its driver development program.

Briscoe was the first driver signed to the multi-tiered program Ford announced in January 2017.

Briscoe and Austin Cindric joined Brad Keselowski Racing’s Camping World Truck Series team in 2017. Each won a race.

Cindric is in the Xfinity playoffs this season. Briscoe isn’t because he’s not running the full schedule. Other Ford development drivers are Cole Custer, who also is in the Xfinity playoffs and has one career series win, and Ty Majeski.

“It won’t pay dividends until they actually get to the Cup level because that’s ultimately the goal of what we want to do,” said Mark Rushbrook, Global Director, Ford Performance, of the driver development program. “But we are happy with the start that we’ve had to our development program over the last two years and look forward to continuing to expand that,”

4. Betting at the track

With sports betting legal in Delaware, fans will be able to bet for the first time at a NASCAR track this weekend.

Dover International Speedway will have two kiosks accepting sports bets.

Sunday’s race will have extra gambling options, including bets on driver vs. driver, number of cautions and if the winning car number is an even number or odd number, among other prop bets.

Betting won’t be limited to Saturday’s Xfinity and Sunday’s Cup race. Fans can bet on pro football, baseball, college football, MMA and other sports at the kiosks.

5. Say what?

Consider this: Jimmie Johnson has more wins at Dover (11) than 28 other Cup drivers entered this weekend have in their Cup career.

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