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NASCAR President Steve Phelps discusses multiple topics in media session

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. — NASCAR President Steve Phelps met with the media for about 40 minutes Sunday, answering various questions about the sport.

Here’s a synopsis of some of the topics he discussed:

On the transition in NASCAR’s leadership that includes Jim France as interim Chairman and CEO: “You have seen Jim France at all the races since Michigan. He goes to driver councils, (manufacturer) councils, team councils, Jim is involved in the business in a significant way.”

On the 2019 rules package: “The rules package was put in place because we want to have the most competitive racing that we can. We believe the 2019 rules package does exactly that. … We do believe that this racing, which today arguably is the best we’ve ever had, is going to get better. We have a promise to our fans and that promise is about close, competitive side-by-side racing and we believe this 2019 rules package will give us exactly that.”

On the inspection process: “We’re going to look at the inspection process. Will there be changes to it? There might be.”

On if Brian France be back as Chairman: “I can’t speak to whether Brian is coming back or not. I do know that Jim France is our Chairman and CEO. I do know that Jim France is incredibly involved in this sport.”

On trying to find new ownership of teams: “I think it comes back to making sure that owning a race team is something that is not a hobby. It is a business. You need to have people that love it. Roger Penske loves racing. We need to make sure we find that next Roger Penske, we find that next Jack Roush, we find that next Rick Hendrick.”

On what is realistic to expect on changes to the schedule: “I think everything is in play. We’ve heard from our fan base that they would like to see more short track racing, they want to see more road courses, they want to see less cookie-cutter tracks, whatever that means. We are looking with our broadcast partners and with our tracks and teams and drivers to get input on what each of them believes would be an idea schedule and then we’re obviously doing fan research as a part of it. Do I believe that everything is on the table? I do. Will we see a lot of the things that have been talked about? So more short tracks, more road courses, doubleheaders, mid-week racing, pulling the season forward, all those things would be in play. Don’t know what’s going to happen, but we are working diligently on what a 2020 schedule would be.”

On if IndyCar and NASCAR could race at the same track on the same weekend: I know that there are people that would like to see that. I think it would be a good show. We would have to figure out how that works.

On how NASCAR can bridge the gap so a driver who performs on track (such as Truck champion Brett Moffitt, who does not have a ride for 2019) can help such drivers with rides: “Listen, Brett Moffitt is obviously a very talented race car driver who has won more this year obviously than he’s ever won.  He has a bright future. What that future looks like, I don’t know.  What I do know is that we work with race teams from a revenue standpoint as much as we can. We also work with drivers to try to bridge driver opportunities. Are we always successful in getting a driver who wants to be driving in whatever series they want to drive in? No. But there are a lot of historical things that we have done to try to make sure that if a driver is interested in continuing that that driver has that opportunity.”

Click here for full transcript of Steve Phelps media session

Scott Graves to be Ryan Newman’s crew chief at Roush Fenway Racing

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Roush Fenway Racing confirmed Tuesday that Scott Graves will be Ryan Newman‘s crew chief next season on the No. 6 Cup team.

Graves had been the crew chief for Daniel Suarez this season until leaving Joe Gibbs Racing Oct. 9.

Graves joined Roush Fenway Racing as an engineer in 2006. He was a crew chief there from 2012-15. He did four races as an Xfinity crew chief in 2012, working with a variety of drivers. In 2013, he served as Ricky Stenhouse Jr.‘s crew chief for three Cup races late in the season. Graves was Stenhouse’s crew chief in Cup for the 2013 season. Graves returned to the Xfinity Series and was the crew chief for Chris Buescher in 2014-15. They won the championship in 2015.

Graves left Roush for Joe Gibbs Racing and was Suarez’s crew chief in Xfinity in 2016 when he won the championship. Graves started 2017 with JGR’s Xfintiy program before moving up to be Suarez’s Cup crew chief early in the season.

“We are very pleased to bring Scott back to the fold,” said team co-owner Jack Roush in a statement from the team. “Scott is an exceptional talent atop the pit box and he has done an outstanding job throughout his career – with multiple championship campaigns attesting to that.

“He brings a strong engineering background to the table and we are excited about the opportunity to pair him with Ryan Newman going into the 2019 season.”

Roush Fenway Racing announced Sept. 22 that Newman would join the team in 2019.

Matt Puccia is the crew chief on the No. 6 car this season. Roush Fenway Racing stated that details on Puccia’s role are being worked out.

 

 

Matt Kenseth feels comfortable with his future beyond this season

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RICHMOND, Va. — Former Cup champion Matt Kenseth won’t say that his driving career will end when he climbs from the car after the season finale at Homestead.

But he does say if he races again, it will be for one team only.

Kenseth’s tenure in the No. 6 car will end after this season by choice.

“We kind of knew ’19 was kind of a crapshoot, was kind of up in the air on what we wanted to do there,” Kenseth told NBC Sports before the drivers meeting Saturday at Richmond Raceway. “It’s been good for me. Time at home was really, really good. I’m really enjoying (wife) Katie and the kids and the ages they are and everything.

“There’s no way I could go full-time and do that at high level. I can’t do both at a high level. My priorities are just different than they were 15 years ago.”

Kenseth has four daughters age 9 and under.

Roush Fenway Racing announced Saturday that Ryan Newman will drive the No. 6 car next season.

Roush Fenway Racing brought Kenseth back in April to help the organization become more competitive. He has shared the No. 6 car with Trevor Bayne since May. Kenseth’s best finish in 10 races this season is 12th at Indianapolis. 

“I wish I could help more,” Kenseth told NBC Sports. “I feel like we have made a lot of improvements, actually and helped identify things and upgrade a lot of things. When I first talked to Jack, the plan was this year to come in and evaluate the car for these 15 or 16 races, evaluate the team, kind of see if I could help a little bit and we did all of that.”

Roush said Kenseth has played a key part in improving the team.

“We’ve been on a path of constant improvement,” Roush said. “We were improving and changing our cars in ways that had some benefit before Matt got involved, but Matt brought to us a sense of what was happening on all four corners of the car. He sat in the car initially and said it didn’t feel right, and he identified the issues he had with what was happening with the front of the car and the back of the car.

“There were questions that were on the list of things we were going to explore that we hadn’t prioritized that we prioritized at his suggestion. That’s manifested … in having extremely competitive cars at Bristol and Indy.”

So what’s next for Kenseth?

“I still hope to be a part of Roush Fenway Racing, where it all started,” said Kenseth, who raced full-time in Cup for Roush from 2000-12 and scored 24 of his 39 career Cup wins there.

“I think it’s cool to end it there. I’m looking forward to still being a part of the company. You never know what’s going to pop up. Maybe something will pop up where you need to run a few races and there’s some opportunities.”

Asked if he’s looking for a ride for next year, Kenseth said: “No. If I drove anything it would be for Jack.”

Ryan Newman joins Roush Fenway Racing for 2019

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RICHMOND, Va. – Ryan Newman will drive the No. 6 car for Roush Fenway Racing next season, the team announced Saturday at Richmond Raceway. The team declined to reveal sponsors for the car.

Newman takes over the No. 6 car that Matt Kenseth and Trevor Bayne shared this season. Bayne told NBC Sports last week at Las Vegas that he’s looking for a ride in any of NASCAR’s three national series

Steve Newmark, president of Roush Fenway Racing, said that Kenseth talked with the team and said he was not prepared to run full-time next season. The team plans to talk to Kenseth about a future role with the organization.

“He came and sat down with me and said, when he was looking at everything, talking to his family, considering at what stage he is in his life, meaning he’s got four young girls, he’s been on the road for almost 20 years, kind of sacrificing a lot of family time, that he just wasn’t prepared to run full-time,” Newmark said of Kenseth. “He said he owed it to his family.”

Roush Fenway Racing becomes the fourth organization to employ Newman. The 40-year-old drove for Team Penske from 2000-08, winning 13 races. Newman ran for Stewart-Haas Racing from 2009-13, winning four times. He has been at Richard Childress Racing since 2014, wining once (last year at Phoenix).

Newman made the playoffs three of his five years with RCR. He did not make it this year.

“Ryan Newman has been one of the most fierce drivers we’ve faced on the race tracks,” car owner Jack Roush said.

Said Newman: “I look forward to the opportunity of driving with the ultimate goal of winning. I’m in a position where I never wanted to stop, never wanted to quit, never wanted to retire and wanted to win a championship. I look forward to this opportunity, obviously finishing out this year strong as we both can in our respective positions, but at the same time with enthusiasm for the Daytona 500 and 2019.”

Newman enters tonight’s race at Richmond 17th in the points.

Roush Fenway Racing has yet to win this season after winning two races last year. The organization has two victories since 2015. Despite the struggles, Roush is confident in his team’s ability to be more competitive.

“We’ve been on a path of constant improvement,” Roush said. “We were improving and changing our cars in ways that had some benefit before Matt got involved, but Matt brought to us a sense of what was happening on all four corners of the car. He sat in the car initially and said it didn’t feel right, and he identified the issues he had with what was happening with the front of the car and the back of the car.

“There were questions that were on the list of things we were going to explore that we hadn’t prioritized that we prioritized at his suggestion. That’s manifested … in having extremely competitive cars at Bristol and Indy.”

That has Roush excited about the future.

“The wins are just around the corner,” he said. “The cars are much improved. I expect them to be more improved when Ryan has his criticism and constructive suggestions to what we can do as we get into next year.”

Silly Season: More rides changing for 2019

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Trevor Bayne is the latest to be looking for a ride for 2019 after car owner Jack Roush said Wednesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that Bayne would not return to the team after this season.

Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 winner, had struggled this season before Roush Fenway Racing brought back Matt Kenseth to share the No. 6 ride with Bayne.

Since he began driving in Cup for Roush in 2015, Bayne has zero wins, four top fives and 11 top-10 finishes in 124 starts.

Here’s a look at where Silly Season stands at this point:

ANNOUNCED CUP RIDES FOR 2019

Bubba Wallace will remain with Richard Petty Motorsports through the 2020 season (announcement made July 28)

CUP RIDES NOT YET ANNOUNCED FOR 2019

No. 1: The Associated Press reported Sept. 10 that car owner Chip Ganassi had offered Jamie McMurray a contract to drive in the 2019 Daytona 500 only and then move into a management position. Ganassi was awaiting McMurray’s decision. The move means the No. 1 will be open for 2019.

No. 6: Car owner Jack Roush said Sept. 12 on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that Trevor Bayne would not be back with Roush Fenway Racing after this season. Bayne, who has shared the No. 6 ride this season with Matt Kenseth, has driven in Cup for Roush since 2015.

No. 23: Front Row Motorsports purchased the BK Racing team in bankruptcy court. Front Row needs the team to run the rest of the season to maintain the charter. After this season, Front Row could run a third car, lease this charter or sell this charter.

No. 31: Ryan Newman announced Sept. 15 that he would not return to the No. 31 after this season. Car owner Richard Childress told NBC Sports: “We’ll announce who our driver is in the near future.”

No. 32: Go Fas Racing is looking for a driver after Matt DiBenedetto’s announcement Sept. 7 that he won’t return to the team after this season.

No. 41: Kurt Busch signed a one-year deal last December to remain at Stewart-Haas Racing. He said Aug. 31 at Darlington that he has two contract offers for 2019 but did not reveal what teams they were from. Busch said Sept. 7 he had no updates on his status.

No. 95: Kasey Kahne announced Aug. 16 that he would not return for another full-time season. Also, this team has told Richard Childress Racing it won’t be a part of its technical alliance next year. Car owner Bob Leavine said Aug. 5 that “in our talking to the manufacturers this year, Toyota has been head-and-shoulders above the rest so far.”

DRIVERS WITHOUT ANNOUNCED PLANS FOR 2019

Trevor Bayne: 2011 Daytona 500 winner is looking for a ride after the Sept. 12 announcement he won’t return to Roush Fenway Racing in 2019. He told NBC Sports on Sept. 14 that he has been calling car owners looking for a ride and would look at any of NASCAR’s top three national series. 

Kurt Busch: 2004 champion’s contract expires after this season with Stewart-Haas Racing.

Matt DiBenedettoSaid he was betting on himself by leaving Go Fas Racing and looking to race elsewhere. While he would like a full-time ride, he would entertain a part-time ride in the Xfinity Series with a winning team, following what Ryan Preece has done.

Daniel Hemric: The Xfinity driver for Richard Childress Racing was asked Aug. 17 at Bristol about his future and he described it as: “Cloudy, very cloudy.” He said then he has not signed anything for the 2019 season, adding: “I’m trying to do everything I can on the race track to prove to somebody that would be willing to put me in a car and give me a shot.”

Jamie McMurray: Although he has not revealed his plans, car owner Chip Ganassi told the AP that he had offered McMurray a contract for only the 2019 Daytona 500 before McMurray would move into a management role.

Ryan Newman: He announced during the weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that he won’t be returning to Richard Childress Racing. He intends to remain in Cup for 2019 but has yet to reveal his destination.

Ryan Preece: Modified ace who has run a limited schedule in the Xfinity Series with Joe Gibbs Racing and had great success has not announced his 2019 plans.

Daniel SuarezWith reports stating that Martin Truex Jr. will go to Joe Gibbs Racing and drive the No. 19, Suarez would be looking for a ride. He said Sept. 9 at Indianapolis that “I’m not really allowed” to talk about his situation and then added: “Everything happens for a reason. I think we are going to be in good shape.”

Martin Truex Jr.Reigning series champion has not announced a ride for 2019 with the Sept. 4 news that Furniture Row Racing is shutting down after this season.

XFINITY SERIES

OPEN RIDES FOR 2019

1: Elliott Sadler announced Aug. 15 that he will not run full-time in NASCAR after this season, creating an opening at JR Motorsports for 2019.