JD Motorsports

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Landon Cassill to run Talladega Xfinity race

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Landon Cassill will drive for JD Motorsports in the April 27 Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway, the team announced Tuesday.

The race is a Dash 4 Cash event. Drivers earning Cup points cannot compete in those events. Cassill confirmed to NBC Sports that he has switched what series he’ll earn points from Cup to Xfinity to be eligible to compete.

Cassill will drive the No. 4 car at Talladega for Ross Chastain, who will be in the No. 10 car for Kaulig Racing that weekend. Chastain will return to the No. 4 car at Dover, the week after Talladega.

Cassill drove full time for JD Motorsports from 2013-15 and in three races for the team last season. The Talladega race marks his first Xfinity superspeedway race since July 2015 at Daytona.

“We are ecstatic to have Landon back in the seat for Talladega”, said team owner Johnny Davis in a statement. “He has always been considered one of the best drivers we had ever had in our cars in the time that he has spent driving for us, and I’m excited to see what we can accomplish with his wealth of experience on the Superspeedways.”

Flex Seal will sponsor Cassill’s car.

Tyler Matthews to make Xfinity debut at Richmond

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JD Motorsports with Gary Keller announced Tuesday that Tyler Matthews will make his Xfinity Series debut Friday at Richmond Raceway.

“Man, I can’t stress enough how much this opportunity means to me,” Matthews said in a statement from the team. “Getting the chance to drive for one of the most respected team owners in the garage area in Johnny Davis is huge. I know that this will be a big step up in my career, coming from racing Late Model stocks and all, but I’m treating this as just another race car. If we can stay out of trouble and keep the car within the top 25, I think that would be a solid day for us.

“I know we can do it, and I’m just counting down the hours until I can get on track to practice.”

Linetec Services will be the primary sponsor of Matthews’ No. 15 Camaro.

Matthews won the 2016 North Carolina NASCAR Whelen All America Series championship running Late Models throughout the state.

Matthews, 22, made three starts in the Truck series last year. His best finish was 17th at Gateway Motorsports Park.

Friday 5: Will Martinsville provide another memorable door-banging finish?

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Last fall’s Martinsville race was memorable for a finish that saw Joey Logano move Martin Truex Jr. out of the lead on the final lap to win and earn a spot in the Championship 4 in Miami.

As the series returns to the half-mile Martinsville Speedway this weekend, what are the chances of such action repeating?

“I would say that it’s probably not going to be, there’s less of a chance that it will be like that,” Truex said. “Just because it’s not a race to get into the final four. I would think it would be tame and normal like we’ve seen there in the past.”

Logano disagrees.

“I see a trophy on the line,” said the reigning series champion. “A big clock (given to the winner). I don’t see that any different from the spring to the fall.”

The first race of the season at a track less than 1 mile will test drivers and could lead to aggressive actions. The question is how aggressive will drivers be.

“The (driver) code has definitely changed,” said nine-time Martinsville winner Jimmie Johnson. “People reference the code a lot. But I think ultimately whatever code exists is between the two drivers. And that same code might not exist between driver C and driver D or driver A and driver D; it just changes all the time.

“When I look at it, sure it was a very aggressive move and Joey knew what he was doing to get that win and I’m sure we’ll expect the same to come back from Martin at some point. … In my eyes, sure it was aggressive but it could have been a lot worse.”

2. A familiar refrain

Coming off his dominant run on the West Coast swing, Kyle Busch heads to a type of track he’s ruled lately. Busch has won five of the last nine Cup races on tracks less than 1 mile in length.

Busch’s wins have been at both Richmond races in 2018, the spring Bristol race in 2018 and fall race there in 2017 and at Martinsville in fall 2017.

Teammate Denny Hamlin, whose last win at a track less than 1 mile in length was at Richmond in Sept. 2016, explains Busch’s success.

“He works tremendously hard at his craft,” Hamlin said. “I don’t think it’s just all natural talent. I think he works very hard as well.”

3. Perfect attendance

Ross Chastain is the only driver who has competed in every national series race this season. That’s five Cup, five Xfinity and three Truck races. He’s entered in this weekend’s Truck and Cup races at Martinsville.

Chastain has been running at the finish in every race. He’s completed 98.7 percent of the laps run in Cup, Xfinity and Trucks this season (2,498 of 2,532 laps run).

Such a schedule was expected entering this season. He had a deal to drive select races for Niece Motorsports in the Truck Series. He also was set with a Cup ride with Premium Motorsports.

Chastain was to have raced for Chip Ganassi Racing in the Xfinity Series but those plans went away after the FBI raided the headquarters of sponsor DC Solar and home of the DC Solar’s CEO. With DC Solar unable to fulfill its sponsor obligations, Chip Ganassi Racing shuttered its Xfinity team. That forced Chastain to look for other options.

He’ll drive three races for Kaulig Racing (he drove for the team at Daytona) and the rest of JD Motorsports this season.

So far this season, Chastain finished 10th in the Daytona 500 — giving Premium Motorsports its second top 10 in 231 Cup starts — placed seventh at Las Vegas for JD Motorsports and was third in the Daytona Truck race for Niece Motorsports.

4. “Like what I don’t like”

Xfinity rookie Justin Haley enters the off-weekend for the series 12th in points with a season-best finish of eighth at Atlanta.

Haley placed 10th last weekend at Auto Club Speedway and explained what he needs to do to have better finishes.

“I just need to get better on the feel from practice to the race, how the car transitions and goes through the process of loose and tight,” the Kaulig Racing driver told NBC Sports. 

Haley, who finished third in the points in the Truck series last year, said that experience can’t help him with what he’s seeking to improve upon this year.

“A lot of the times the Truck races are at night, so it’s gripped up,” Haley said. “These are day races, it transitions a lot. Really these Xfinity cars have less downforce. The Trucks, if you were good at the start of the run, you were going to be good at the end. There was no falloff really. Even at like Atlanta, the balance stayed the same. These things (Xfinity cars) take a huge swing throughout the run. So just getting a feel for that is the biggest thing.

“What I like most of the time isn’t what’s fastest, so I have to learn to like what I don’t like to make it fast.”

5. Ever return?

Martin Truex Jr. was asked last weekend at Auto Club Speedway if he thought Furniture Row Racing owner Barney Visser would return to NASCAR after shutting his team down after last year.

Said Truex: “We talk every week. He’s been watching. He’s been talking to us and telling us we’ve been doing a good job, and things like that. I think it’s probably a bit of a relief for him that he doesn’t have to worry about all of the things that come with being a team owner and he’s just able to enjoy it.

“I told him he needs to get to the track soon, we’d like to see him and get him around. As far as your question on whether he’ll be back, if you mean as a team owner? I have no idea. We haven’t talked about it. He hasn’t mentioned it. My best guess is no, but I guess you can never rule out anything.”

Garrett Smithley, Stephen Leicht to compete for JD Motorsports in Xfinity

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JD Motorsports continues to fill out its driver lineup for the 2019 Xfinity season with announcements that Garrett Smithley and Stephen Leicht will compete for the team.

Smithley, 26, returns to drive for the team for the fourth consecutive year. He will pilot the No. 0 Chevrolet.

The Feb. 16 season-opener at Daytona International Speedway will be his 100th series start.

“I’ve been working hard this offseason to make my fourth year with JDM the best ever, I think it will be,” Smithley said in a press release. “I’m so blessed to be given the opportunity to race here by Johnny and all my sponsors. Daytona will be my 100th Xfinity start and all but two of those races have been at JDM. It’s an amazing race team and family, and I can’t wait to get this season going.”

Leicht, 32, is set to drive the No. 01 Chevrolet in his first full-time season since 2007 with Robert Yates Racing. That season he won his only NASCAR race at Kentucky Speedway.

Daytona will also be his 100th series start.

“I’m super stoked about my opportunity to drive for Johnny Davis,” Leicht said in a press release. “He has competitive cars with smart people in his stable and I’m looking forward to seeing what the season brings.”

Jani-King will be an associate sponsor of Leicht this season.

“Stephen is a great talent to have in our arsenal this season at JD Motorsports,” owner Johnny Davis said in a press release. “With his experience spanning nearly ten years in the series, we are confident that he will be able to take care of his equipment, which as we all know is very important for family teams. I am genuinely looking forward to seeing how he can improve our operations this season with all the knowledge he brings to the team.”

The announcements for Smithley and Leicht follow the news that Ross Chastain will return to drive the No. 4 Chevrolet in 30 races, in addition to competing in three races for Kaulig Racing.

Blake Koch to drive for JD Motorsports full-time in 2019

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Blake Koch will return to NASCAR full-time in 2019 to drive the No. 4 for JD Motorsports in the Xfinity Series, the team announced Tuesday.

Koch replaces Ross Chastain, who will drive for Chip Ganassi Racing next season.

Koch will be sponsored by FilterTime in select races, beginning with the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway. Koch started FilterTime after he lost his ride at Kaulig Racing following the 2017 season.

The 33-year-old driver has 213 Xfinity Series starts since 2009. He competed full-time from 2015-17, with the last two seasons coming with Kaulig Racing in the No. 11. He made the playoffs both years.

“It’s hard for me to explain how excited I am to race again and to do it for JD Motorsports,” Koch said in a press release. “I have seen the progress of this team and have raced against them for many years. Coming off their best season with Ross making the playoffs, it’s a perfect time to join them.”

Outside of starting FilterTime, Koch stayed within the sport as a driver coach for Matt Tifft and as an analyst for Fox Sports.

“We are excited to get Blake back in a race car,” said team owner Johnny Davis in a press release. “He is another overlooked talent that needs an opportunity to race, and we’re happy to have him at our organization.”