No. 12: Harvick gives son Keelan Harvick a ride to Michigan’s victory lane.
No. 11: NASCAR reveals a version of the new rules package in the All-Star race at Charlotte. Harvick won.
No. 10: Clint Bowyer snaps a 190-race winless streak at Martinsville in the spring.
No. 9: Hailie Deegan gets a historic win as the first female in a major NASCAR series at Meridian (ID) Speedway.
No. 8: “Sliced bread” Joey Logano becomes the toast of NASCAR with his championship win. Mark Martin gave Logano his nickname before he ever entered the Cup series.
No. 7: Ross Chastain shoulders the pressure and gets his first Xfinity win at Las Vegas. “I’m just a watermelon farmer from Florida,” he said at the start-finish line.
No. 6: Logano bumps Truex out of the lead in Turn 4 at Martinsville in the fall to win and clinch his spot in the Championship 4.
No. 5: The Kyle and Kyle show gets physical on the last lap at Chicagoland. Kyle Larson knocks Kyle Busch out of the lead. Busch returns the favor. Dale Earnhardt Jr gets a catch phrase with “Slide Job!”
No. 4: Austin Dillon kicks the season off in style by spinning Aric Almirola out of the lead on the last lap of the Daytona 500 and become the first driver to secure a spot in the 2018 playoffs.
No. 3: The end of an era. Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus part ways after 17 years together.
No. 2: Chaos on the Charlotte Roval including one the wildest last laps of the season. Ryan Blaney wins after Truex and Johnson crash in the final chicane.
No. 1: The beginning of the future. Chase Elliott wins at Watkins Glen after finishing second eight times. His Hall of Fame father Bill Elliott scored his first win on the road course of Riverside International Raceway after finishing second eight times.
Friday 5: Why Christopher Bell won’t have a full-time Cup ride in 2019
So why wasn’t Bell introduced as the driver of the No. 95 car?
“Between ourselves and Joe Gibbs Racing, we’ve been very intentional about Christopher’s development,” David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, told NBC Sports. “Was there some conversation? Absolutely. But we collectively decided to stay the course and genuinely believe it will serve Christopher to invest another year (in Xfinity). It’s not going to hurt him.
“One of the challenges of this new alliance is next year we’re … starting from some respects from ground zero (with a new partner in Leavine Family Racing). I don’t think it’s fair to put a rookie driver in the midst of that. This is why Matt will be a good fit. His experience will lend itself to building this alliance and building the level of competitiveness.”
Leavine Family Racing replaces Furniture Row Racing, which will cease operations at the end of this season, in the Toyota camp. But the two teams are very different. Leavine Family Racing is behind where Furniture Row Racing was when it joined Toyota in 2016. Furniture Row Racing had already won in Cup. Leavine Family Racing has not. Even though both are single-car teams this year, car owner Bob Leavine said his team has 35 employees, about half the number that work at Furniture Row Racing. Leavine also said he doesn’t have the budget Furniture Row Racing has.
Wilson’s focus of building Leavine Family Racing is understandable.
Wilson confirmed that Toyota Racing Development will support five Cup teams next year — the four Joe Gibbs Racing teams and Leavine Family Racing — and no more.
But there’s still a way for Bell to run some Cup races next year. Leavine said he planned to ask Wilson about Toyota Racing Development providing an extra engine to run Bell from time to time.
“That’s for them to decide,” Leavine said. “We’re just going to be available if they want to do it to put it all together and make it all work.”
Joe Gibbs Racing, which will provide the cars to Leavine Family Racing, also would have to be able to build cars for those extra races.
Wilson is open to the idea of a second Leavine Family Racing car running at times if it makes sense.
“We’ve not made any definitive plans along those lines but certainly it gives us some options,’’ he said. “The challenge in doing that is making sure that you do it in a manner, not that you expect to win per say, (but) you can risk spreading your resources too thin.
“Next year will be our first year with LFR and the priority needs to be building their capabilities and building their success, so if we have the opportunity to do something creative like that without compromising our primary mission, then we might take a look at that.”
The 17-year-old is fifth in the points in her first season in the series. Is her win and two runner-up finishes this season enough to have her run a Toyota Truck at Martinsville or Phoenix later this season?
“There’s no plans right now to put her anywhere this year,” David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, told NBC Sports. “We’re still working very closely with Hailie and the family about the right steps, the next steps. I don’t think we’ve made any definitive decisions at this point.”
So what about a Truck next year?
“There’s not a plan,” Wilson said. “You need to put her experience in perspective. She’s literally only run 20-something races on pavement and is 17 years old. She just need mores races, more laps, more seat time. There’s not a burning urgency of we’ve got to get her in a truck.”
A possibility for her could be to move to the K&N Pro Series East next year and run the full season there.
Another Toyota driver looking to move up the development ladder is Seavey, who leads the USAC National Midget standings and seeks to become the third rookie to win that championship.
“We have a lot of faith and belief in Logan,” Wilson said. “What we’ll see with Logan is just more pavement time. We’ve got some great relationships across the Super Late Model ranks and I would expect next year that we give him some more opportunities with (those) races and maybe some K&N and ARCA. He’s definitely on the right track and we’re excited about his potential.”
3. Right from the start
Kyle Busch and wife Samantha have been open about their struggles to have children and that they had to go through in vitro fertilization to have son Brexton in May 2015.
Kyle and Samantha both recently announced that they are wanting to give Brexton a baby sister and said they planned to share all the ups and downs they go through during this process publicly.
“If we only showed the good times, and we only showed when it was a success and went well, that’s not fair to all the women that have (not had stories that have gone like that),” Samantha Busch told NBC Sports.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen, and it is a little scary to know that things may come up down the road that may not be as easy as last time, but for all those couples out there that need to go through this or have gone through this and need to know that they’re not alone and need to understand that this can happen to anybody, I think it’s important to start from the beginning this time.’’
Samantha said she has begun taking a shot a night to prepare her body for the process and will be scheduled to have additional shots before the in vitro fertilization takes place.
“I think it was already done” by then, Knaus said of the decision.
Johnson was second and in a position to advance to this round of the playoffs but challenged Martin Truex Jr. for the win and spun in the final chicane. The result was that Johnson lost enough spots and Kyle Larson gained a spot on the last lap to forge a three-way tie among Johnson, Larson and Aric Almirola for the final two transfer spots. Larson and Almirola advanced based on their best finish in the first round was better than Johnson’s best.
“That was … heartbreaking,” Knaus said Thursday of the Roval finish, (but) that was not part of it. I wanted to win that race just as bad as he did.
“I beat myself up more than I probably ever blamed Jimmie for what happened there. I could have probably come on the radio and said one or two things and he probably would have maybe thought and checked up a little bit, but my last words to him was ‘go get his ass.’”
Said Johnson: “I was crossing the start/finish line watching the white flag wave when he said that… yeah, that is what we do, we are there to win.”
5. New frontier
With Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus splitting after this season, Knaus will become William Byron’s crew chief.
Byron is excited about the opportunity to work with the seven-time champion crew chief and knows it will push him to be better.
“I think Chad is going to be brutally honest with me, and I’m okay with that,” Byron said Thursday. “I want to succeed in this sport. That’s my number one goal, and I’ll do whatever it takes to do that.”
Although Knaus is 47 and Byron is 20, Byron says he sees similarities with Knaus.
“Probably attention to detail,” Byron said. “Type A personality. I don’t like excuses so that will fit well.”
Knaus said he’s “so geeked up” to be working next year with Byron and the No. 24 team, a team Knaus worked for when he started at Hendrick Motorsports in 1993.
Jimmie Johnson said he thinks the pairing of Knaus and Byron will be good.
“I am really excited for William,” Johnson said. “We have chatted quite a bit about it, and I feel that William is a lot like me. He likes to be coached along. I think there are some personalities that liked to be coached and others that don’t thrive or succeed in that environment. William is a lot like me in that he likes to be coached and with Chad’s wisdom and years and experience his intensity and desire to win, I think it could do a lot of good for him.”
On Saturday night at a .250-mile track in Meridian, Idaho, Deegan knocked down the oldest of those barriers.
But she had to knock a teammate out of the way to do it.
It came on the last lap of the NAPA Auto Parts Idaho 208 (airing at 1 p.m. ET on Friday on NBCSN), in Deegan’s 12th career start.
In her way was Cole Rouse, a 21-year-old driver also seeking his first win.
In Deegan’s ear for the final 13 laps was a cacophony of voices.
“I couldn’t even tell who was on the radio,” Deegan recalls. “I got (owner) Bill McAnally on the radio, my crew chief (Kevin Reed Jr.), got my spotter and maybe my dad (action sports star Brian Deegan), I don’t even know.”
The final 13 laps went by so fast, on Monday she thought it had just been five.
Right before the white flag, Reed told her “Do whatever you got to do to win.”
“And I knew what I had to do,” Deegan says.
Since she was a kid, Deegan has watched many videos of her racing and losing battles for position.
“It’s cool to see me excel on those (videos) and kind of get better,” says Deegan, who thought, “‘Ok, I’ve practiced, I’ve worked on my little bump-and-run things at the kart track for hours and hours. I am able to do them.'”
As Rouse dove into Turn 1, his No. 99 Toyota went high.
Deegan went low. She was so focused, she didn’t even notice the No. 77 of Andrew Koens sitting backwards on the apron.
Halfway through the turn and even with Rouse’s left-rear fender, Deegan gave him “a little budge.”
“We ran after that,” Deegan says.
NASCAR’s newest winner called her historic night in Idaho “probably the most fun I’ve had in America.”
As her 12 minute interview window winds down, Deegan says she knows more eyes will be watching and waiting for to win again.
There are two races left in the K&N West season and Deegan is fifth in the standings, 67 points back from Derek Thorn.
“Honestly, it just motivates me,” Deegan says. “It makes me feel like I’m privileged to be bombarded with media and have these opportunities, ’cause not many drivers get to have these opportunities and that’s what these drivers dream about having and that’s what makes their careers. I think being able to have all this going on is a blessing. … I think that right now it makes me feel like I just want to keep pushing even harder so I can keep kind of checking off my goals.”
Historic: Hailie Deegan becomes first woman to win K&N Pro Series race
“I was in bed last night thinking, ‘If it comes down, last lap, I’m in second, I’m a car length off of him, what am I going to do?’ And I found that Turn 1 spot. I knew what exactly I had to do there. I was doing it to some other people just getting right under them to get them a little light to get them, not wrecking loose, nothing crazy, but enough to just get a little under them and make the pass happen. We did that. I knew exactly what I had to do the last lap. I did it, we executed, and we made it happen.”
Rouse told Hometracks.NASCAR.com of the last lap: “We were going into Turn 1 … and she doesn’t lift and drives into me, gets me completely sideways. We were going to win that race if it was run clean, but unfortunately it wasn’t. I’m just going to go into the next two races, not give her any slack and we’re going to win both of those. It was a good night, but I don’t really care about second, honestly.”
The race is scheduled to air at 1 p.m. ET Friday (October 5) on NBCSN.