LaJoie said two weeks ago at Kansas Speedway that he likely would return for a second season at Go Fas; the team said in the release that “2020 driver negotiations are still ongoing.”
In a news conference Friday at Texas, team owner Archie St. Hilaire ruled out Cole Custer, who has seven victories in the Xfinity Series this season for Stewart-Haas Racing, as a candidate for the No. 32.
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Nov. 1, 2019) — Starting with the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season, Go Fas Racing (GFR) will enter into a technical alliance with Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), one of Ford’s most competitive organizations.
GFR team-owner Archie St. Hilaire has been preparing for the opportunity to take his organization to the next level since the team’s first full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2014.
“2020 will be an exciting year at GFR with the addition of SHR cars and their technical assistance,” St. Hilaire said. “I can’t thank all of the great people at SHR for the opportunity to align with them. All of this couldn’t happen without the help of our wonderful sponsors and marketing partners. GFR has improved every year in our six years in the NASCAR Cup Series and I believe that the best is yet to come for this little team and our great group of employees.”
Via this new alliance with SHR, GFR will be provided with chassis, data and technical support for the No. 32 Ford Mustang in addition to their present relationship with Ford Performance and Roush Yates Engines.
“This arrangement will allow Go Fas Racing to improve its performance in 2020 and position itself for future growth,” said Greg Zipadelli, Vice President of Competition for SHR.
To date, St. Hilaire has more than 200 NASCAR Cup Series starts under his leadership, giving a wide array of drivers the opportunity to compete at NASCAR’s level, including past champions.
2020 driver negotiations are still ongoing.
Friday 5: Bowman Gray’s Madhouse represents what NASCAR’s future could be
Although one can’t see Bowman Gray Stadium from the roads that many teams, media and fans will take to Martinsville, its impact on the sport can’t be overlooked.
Bowman Gray Stadium, which recently completed its 71st season of racing, could be the most important track to NASCAR.
As the sport looks to 2020 and beyond, NASCAR is carving a schedule that increases the chance for conflict and controversy — exactly what made Bowman Gray Stadium a must-see for fans, inspired the TV show “Madhouse” and stocks Google searches with stories and videos of altercations and cars ramming each other.
This could be the future of the Cup Series.
Call it a return to its past.
Beating and banging is nothing new in NASCAR. It’s part of Dale Earnhardt’s legacy. It’s why fans long for North Wilkesboro. It’s how some measure the present.
But NASCAR is putting in motion a plan that could increase the likelihood that the chaos often seen at Bowman Gray could become more common in Cup.
While next year’s Cup schedule features the same six short track races as this year, those tracks will have greater significance in the playoffs.
The Bristol night race moves into the playoffs for the first time and is the opening round’s elimination race. It will be held the week after Richmond, marking back-to-back short track playoff events for the first time. Don’t think there won’t be some contact and tempers?
And to raise the intensity, NASCAR moved Martinsville Speedway to the final race before the championship race next year.
Aric Almirola said on NASCAR America’s MotorMouths this week that “Martinsville is always kind of a place where you have to get rough when you need, but I do feel like that Joey opened Pandora’s box there. … I think anybody else that is in the Round of 8 that saw that and sees that if they have an opportunity to win at Martinsville, don’t be nice. You have to take that opportunity.”
Imagine what it will be like next year when Martinsville is the last chance to get into championship race (which will be held at ISM Raceway, a track more conducive to beating and banging than Homestead-Miami Speedway).
Desperate times call for desperate measures. That could lead more contact on the track, which would could lead to an altercation with drivers and crew members on pit road after a race.
Isn’t that what many fans want to see? Drama, conflict and controversy.
Fans could see that again Sunday at Martinsville (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN) and even more likely next year with its place in the playoffs.
Yes, it could be just like a Saturday night at Bowman Gray Stadium.
“The first year moving here, I went to Bowman Gray,” AJ Allmendinger said on NASCAR America’s MotorMouths this week. “I was like what is this place? This is insanity … but this is awesome. I love this place.
“I love seeing the races there, the videos that go with it because it’s true passion and a little bit of craziness mixed in.”
And the future.
2. A faster approach
Although Corey LaJoie says he hasn’t signed anything with Go Fas Racing for next year — “we’re working toward making that happen,” he said last weekend at Kansas Speedway — he is seeking to add partners so the team can purchase better engines for some races next year.
“Faster you can make that horse that I sit on every week run a little faster, it hopefully puts me in the conversation the next couple of years for a race-winning ride,” he said.
“It costs money to go fast. It’s a matter of trying to get more and more of that money, because upgrading the engine package is substantial, especially stretched out for majority of the year.”
LaJoie said the focus is on upgrading engines with plans for the team to purchase some cars from Stewart-Haas Racing.
The key will be money. As it is for any driver and team.
“Bringing funding is the name of the game,” LaJoie said. “You can act like it doesn’t exist, but it does. The first thing they say is, ‘We’d love for you to drive for us.’ The second question is ‘How much you got? Because I’ve talked to this guy and he’s got $2 million and this guy has a million and a half. What are you bringing to the table?’ Bringing helmets and seats isn’t what moves the needle. You have to have actual cash money.”
3. Chasing a record
Joe Gibbs Racing’s 16 wins this season are two short of the modern-era record of 18 set by Hendrick Motorsports in 2007. NASCAR’s modern era is from 1972.
It seems likely JGR will tie the mark with four races left. JGR drivers have won the past four short track races: Kyle Busch won at Bristol in April, Martin Truex Jr. swept the two Richmond races this year, and Denny Hamlin won the Bristol night race in August.
Also, consider Joe Gibbs Racing’s dominance at short tracks since 2009.
JGR drivers have won 31 of the 65 races at short tracks since that time. The next three teams: Hendrick Motorsports (10 wins), Team Penske (10) and Stewart-Haas Racing (seven) combine for 27 wins in that stretch.
4. A new look
The Kannapolis Intimidators are no more. The minor league baseball team, which took its name from Dale Earnhardt, announced previously that this would be its last season with that name. A team official told NBC Sports in February why it was changing the name that it had used since 2001.
Speed51.com streams a variety of short track races from across the country.
Speed51.com’s statement read:
“Speed51 confirms that it has been purchased by the Race Team Alliance. Post-acquisition, Speed51 will continue to operate in the manner as it always has and remains committed to providing the best in live, short-track racing to the racing fan base. The RTA, with its mission to promote North American stock car racing, is ideally suited to provide Speed51 with access to an overall larger racing fan base over time. Founder, Bob Dillner, will continue is his role as the President of Speed51.”
Cup teams in the Race Team Alliance are: Stewart-Haas Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Team Penske, Hendrick Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing, JTG Daugherty Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports, Chip Ganassi Racing, Germain Racing, Leavine Family Racing, Go Fas Racing and Wood Brothers Racing.
The Race Team Alliance issued a statement to NBC Sports on the purchase of Speed51.com:
“Race Team Alliance confirms the purchase of Speed51, a leading live, short-track racing distribution company based in Concord, NC. The RTA, which represents the common interests of its 13 NASCAR Cup Team members, looks for strategic opportunities which both compliment the RTA’s core principles of promoting and growing the sport and advancing the common interests of the member Race Teams. The RTA identified Speed51 as a growing company with strong synergies to RTA’s commitment to the racing community and aligns with our fan bases’ enthusiasm for grass roots racing. The Speed51/RTA combination will explore ways to create and distribute to race fans exciting new Team related content, and allow the Teams to better connect directly with their fans.
“Speed51, which first started operating as a short-track news and information site in early 2000’s, has become a prominent player in the live, short-track world, streaming over 400 races each year to a dedicated fan base. Founded by racing and sports broadcasting personality, Bob Dillner, Speed51 has consistently grown throughout the years and the RTA identified the company as one with great potential. Post-acquisition, Bob will continue in his role as the President of Speed51 and report to RTA’s Executive Director, Jonathan Marshall.”
Rob Kauffman, chairman of the RTA said in a statement: “On behalf of our Member Race Teams, we are very excited about our new initiative with Speed51. Bob Dillner and his team have created a great platform to cover grass roots racing , which touches the core fanbase of our sport – as well as many of our past, current and future racers and team members. We are looking forward helping him grow the business and plan to work together to create even more interesting content for our fans.”
Bob Dillner, founder and president of Speed51 stated: “Speed51 has always had an intense passion for short track racing and the RTA shares the same desire to bring more attention to this style of racing. The RTA member teams are undoubtedly some of the most influential race teams in the world and at the same time understand grassroots racing because it’s where they came from. I am thrilled to be partnered with this group of owners and with their help, not only will Speed51 be able to grow, but so will the industry surrounding short track racing, from track owners and promoters, to series organizers and the racers themselves. This initiative will create better access for fans to witness the rise to stardom of some of the sport’s future prospects.”
Friday 5: Can Jimmie Johnson repeat Tiger Woods’ Masters magic at Indy?
A generation of drivers grew up watching Jimmie Johnson win races and championships year after year.
It was nearly all they knew from 2006-10 when Johnson won the Cup championship five consecutive seasons and visited victory lane in nearly 20% of the races run during that time.
Now, they see the seven-time champion winless in his last 84 races and fighting to make the playoffs. Critics question Johnson and expect his 15-year streak of postseason appearances to end when the checkered flag waves in Sunday’s regular-season finale at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).
Those drivers who watched Johnson dominate when they were teens are not among the doubters.
“I would like to see him just win to shut everyone up,” said Kyle Larson, who was 14 when Johnson won his first Cup title. “When you are watching somebody like that dominate, you never expect to see them in this position, being winless for as long as he’s been, at risk of not making the playoffs and having a chance to win the championship.
“I think it just shows how tough our sport gets, how tough our drivers are, how close our equipment is, and how good of a combination him and Chad (Knaus) really were. Hopefully they can figure something out and finish upfront where he belongs.”
Xfinity title contender Christopher Bell also is rooting for Johnson this weekend.
“I love to see the greats win,” said Bell, who was a month shy of turning 12 when Johnson celebrated his first Cup crown. “For example, seeing Tony Stewart win at Sonoma (Raceway in 2016) was unbelievable. That was one of the coolest things ever. Sammy Swindell, Steve Kinser, the dirt drivers, seeing those guys still compete and win – Steve’s done now, but Sammy still runs – that’s the coolest thing ever to me.
“Like Tiger Woods winning the golf deal, right? How awesome was that when he won the Masters? I don’t think Jimmie is done by any means, but it’s going to be really, really cool whenever we see him win again just because he’s been doing it for so long and you have to respect how good he’s been for so long and we’re not sure if we’ll ever see that again, right?”
Alex Bowman was 13 when Johnson’s title reign began. Now he watches Johnson’s challenge up close as a teammate at Hendrick Motorsports.
“We are doing all we can to get Jimmie into the playoffs,” Bowman said. “But, at the end of the day, they’ve had a lot of bad luck and a tough year. He is still more motivated and fired up than ever, at least since I’ve been around. He’s a big part in the success that I’ve had, I feel like. He definitely still has it and he’s not given up.
“I think everyone has learned over the years that you can’t count the 48 out by any means.”
Johnson enters the weekend 18 points out of the final playoff spot. He’s among four drivers vying for the final two spots. Clint Bowyer has an eight-point lead on Daniel Suarez, who holds the last playoff spot. Suarez and Ryan Newman have the same number of points but Suarez is ahead based on the tiebreaker of best finish this year. Then comes Johnson.
For those that have counted out Johnson?
“I can’t wait to shut up the keyboard warriors that are out there,” he said. “The people that are close to me and the people on my race team know the truth. They know the story. They’ve been working hard on it and when you work hard, wins will come. So, that’s where I find my peace. I know all the effort I’ve put into this program and for what my guys have put into the program.”
2. Sticking to the plan
For all the focus on Jimmie Johnson seeking to make the playoffs a 16th consecutive year, new crew chief Cliff Daniels continues to preach the need to build the No. 48 team at a deliberate pace.
While making the playoffs gives Johnson a chance to win a record eighth title, realistically, his odds of accomplishing that feat this year would be slim based on how the team has performed.
It is Daniels’ job to manage building a team while pursuing the playoffs.
“Part of the reason for the methodical approach we took coming (to Darlington) and we’re going to take to Indy is to make sure we’re placing the building blocks correctly so that as we move forward we know why we have run good, why we’ve made the calls that we’ve made or made the decisions that we’ve made and all of that is in place,” Daniels said after last week’s Southern 500.
“Jimmie and I both know how important it is to meet our goals now but sometimes things just don’t work out. We’re still going to go to Indy with a really solid approach and things may work out and I certainly hope they do. But in the event that they don’t, we still have 10 races where this approach, this team, this energy, this vibe and just the whole process that we’ve built is really going to carry us. Now we get to go into the season one way or the other with a plan in place for how we’re going to meet our goals and take that into those final 10 races one way or the other and build on that for next year.”
A key is that Daniels is having more of an impact on the cars Johnson drives. Daniels was promoted from engineer to crew chief before last month’s race at Watkins Glen. With cars built or refined ahead of time, it wasn’t until last week’s Southern 500 where Daniels was able to do more with the car’s setup for Johnson. The result was that Johnson qualified sixth — his best starting spot since Chicagoland in June — scored points in both stage points for only the third time this season.
3. Don’t look back
History can’t beat someone but history can show the challenges ahead.
Take Ryan Newman and Roush Fenway Racing. Newman enters this weekend outside of the final playoff spot based on a tiebreaker with Daniel Suarez.
While Newman could finish deep in the field and still make the playoffs, that scenario isn’t as likely. Good chance he’ll need a strong finish, but history has not been kind to Roush Fenway Racing at Indy.
The organization’s last top 10 at Indy was in 2012 when Greg Biffle placed third.
Since, these are the organizations that have scored at least one top 10 at Indy:
Joe Gibbs Racing (16 top 10s since 2013)
Stewart-Haas Racing (10 top 10s)
Hendrick Motorsports (9 top 10s)
Team Penske (8 top 10s)
Chip Ganassi Racing (5 top 10s)
Richard Childress Racing (5 top 10s)
JTG Daugherty Racing (2 top 10s)
Furniture Row Racing (2 top 10s)
Wood Brothers Racing (1 top 10)
Go Fas Racing (1 top 10)
Michael Waltrip Racing (1 top 10)
If you wish to counter that, then look at what Newman did the past two seasons with Richard Childress Racing, finishing 10th at Indy last year and third the year before. And he won the 2013 race for Stewart-Haas Racing.
Hendrick Motorsports has qualified three of its drivers (Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott and William Byron) with Jimmie Johnson trying to claim one of the final spots.
Stewart-Haas Racing could have all four of its drivers make the playoffs for a second year in a row if Clint Bowyer and Daniel Suarez both advance to join Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola.
Roush Fenway Racing is trying to break into the playoff picture with Ryan Newman.
Unless there is a surprise winner Sunday at Indy, the Cup playoffs could feature drivers from just five organizations. Last year’s Cup playoffs featured drivers from seven organizations.
5. High standards
Tyler Reddick could clinch the Xfinity regular-season title in Saturday’s race at Indianapolis (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN).
He needs to leave Indy with a 61-point lead on second in the standings. Reddick holds a 51-point lead on second-place Christopher Bell.
Reddick, the reigning series champion, is on the cusp of the regular-season title because of a season that ranks among the best in series history.
His average finish of 4.9 ranks second all time among drivers to compete in all 24 races. His 21 top 10s are tied for second most through 24 races all time in the series. His 19 top-five finishes are third most through 24 races all time in the series.