Johnny Sauter

Bump and Run: Forecasting race for final playoff spots

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Erik Jones moved into the final playoff spot with his third-place finish at Kentucky. Seven races remain until the Cup playoffs begin. Will the 16 drivers in a playoff spot now be the same 16 when the regular season ends?

Nate Ryan: Unlikely, but there probably won’t be that much volatility. Jones probably will make it, but Ryan Newman seems a solid bet to bounce another driver.

Dustin Long: No. With drivers in positions 14th-18th separated by a total of 12 points, I expect some changes in the coming weeks.

Jerry Bonkowski: No. There is still way too much uncertainty remaining in the next seven races. We could still see a number of drivers earn their first wins of the season, which would greatly shake up the playoff standings. I’m convinced we won’t know the 16-driver field until after the final playoff-determining race at Indianapolis.

Daniel McFadin: No, I believe drivers like Ryan Newman and Daniel Suarez can get back into the top 16, especially Newman, who has settled into a very consistent groove over the last few races.

 

Which is more surprising: Jimmie Johnson is in danger of falling out of the playoffs or Stewart-Haas Racing has yet to win this year?

Nate Ryan: The latter, especially considering Stewart-Haas Racing enjoyed its greatest season in 2018 with four winners and probably the best across-the-board team in NASCAR. Some regression naturally was expected with a driver change, but to be winless past halfway is astounding. Despite his two-year winless streak, Johnson seems to be performing better than at this point last year, and missing the playoffs for the first time always seemed a possibility after the No. 48’s first crew chief change in 17 years.

Dustin Long: Didn’t see Stewart-Haas Racing’s inability to win a Cup race more than halfway through the year.

Jerry Bonkowski: I’d say Stewart-Haas Racing’s inability to reach victory lane is more surprising, particularly with Kevin Harvick not having won even one race after winning nearly one-quarter of last year’s races. He’s been close several times, but hasn’t been able to seal the deal, which is a mystery to many. As for Johnson, while he may be in danger of not making the playoffs, I still believe he makes it. Whether he advances past the first round, however, is a different story — unless he can win in each of the first three playoff rounds.

Daniel McFadin: Stewart-Haas Racing without a win. They won 12 times last year, so I would never have expected this kind of drought, which is now the latest in a season they’ve ever gone without a win. Johnson, on the other hand has been struggling for more than two years with his own winless streak. 

 

Tyler Ankrum won the Truck race at Kentucky and has received a waiver to be eligible for the playoffs. The waiver is for missing the season’s first three races because he was not 18 and could not race at Daytona, Atlanta and Las Vegas because of an age restriction. Are you OK with NASCAR granting him a waiver?

Nate Ryan: Absolutely. Both for the sake of Ankrum and NASCAR (which certainly needs a winning teenager in the playoffs of a developmental series), he should be eligible on the good faith of starting every race since turning 18. The rule requiring drivers to attempt every race is in place ostensibly to dissuade winners from taking races off; Ankrum’s situation certainly isn’t in violation of its spirit.

Dustin Long: I’m fine with it because he missed less than 20 percent of the regular season, but I don’t think a driver that misses more than a third of the regular season because of an age restriction should be granted a waiver. If so, where’s the limit? Will it be OK for a driver to miss half the regular season because they don’t turn 18 until then and still make the playoffs if they win?

Jerry Bonkowski: I have mixed feelings. While I’m glad to see Ankrum get a waiver to compete in the playoffs, I also think of how many other young drivers — regardless of the series — who have been prevented from getting waivers based upon their age over the years. I would hope that by giving Ankrum a waiver, NASCAR will make it a policy going forward to continue doing so for other young drivers faced with similar circumstances.

Daniel McFadin: It sure seems NASCAR loves giving out waivers. But if it didn’t give them out, especially in the Truck Series, the playoff field this year probably wouldn’t have very many race winners in it. Were Ankrum not given one and had NASCAR not approved Ross Chastain‘s mid-season points declaration for Trucks, there would be only three drivers – Johnny Sauter, Brett Moffitt and Austin Hill – in the playoffs off wins. We could also have a conversation about allowing Ankrum in the playoffs despite having multiple start and parks this year with NEMCO Motorsports. 

Truck Series practice report from Kentucky

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Brett Moffitt was fastest in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series final practice session Thursday at Kentucky Speedway.

Moffitt posted a top speed of 181.861 mph around the 1.5-mile track.

The top five was completed by Grant Enfinger (181.104 mph), Sheldon Creed (180.819), Brandon Jones (180.270) and Johnny Sauter (180.114).

Creed recorded the most laps in the session with 32.

Harrison Burton had the best 10-lap average at 177.273 mph.

Click here for the speed chart.

First practice

Harrison Burton was fastest with a top speed of 180.481 mph around the 1.5-mile track.

The top five was completed by Creed (179.432 mph), Sauter (179.336), Tyler Ankrum (177.702) and Moffitt (176.985).

Stewart Friesen was seventh fastest in his backup truck after his primary truck was confiscated by NASCAR due to a firewall issue.

Spencer Boyd, who was 28th on the speed chart, recorded the most laps with 33.

The session was stopped once for a spin by Tyler Hill.

Click here for the practice report.

Matt Kenseth wins Slinger Nationals on last lap

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Matt Kenseth won his record eighth Slinger Nationals on Tuesday night, passing Ty Majeski on the final lap. It was the only lap Kenseth led.

The victory came in Kenseth’s first race since last year’s Cup finale in Miami.

Kenseth and Majeski dueled in the final laps. Majeski brushed the wall on the backstretch on the last lap. Kenseth was underneath Majeski on the final corner and drifted up to pass Majeski for the win.

“Exactly what I’d have done,” Majeski told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Kenseth told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “It’s short-track racing.

Daniel Hemric finished ninth. Johnny Sauter placed 23rd.

Go here for the rest of the race results.

 

Brett Moffitt earns second Truck Series win in last three races

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Brett Moffitt won for the second time in three races, capturing Friday night’s Camping World 225 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Chicagoland Speedway.

Moffitt did it with domination, not drama, as was the case in his previous win two races ago at Iowa Speedway. In that race, Moffitt finished second to Ross Chastain. But about an hour after the checkered flag, Chastain’s truck was found to be too low in post-race inspection, prompting NASCAR to take the win away from him and give it to Moffitt instead.

But in Friday night’s race, Moffitt – last year’s Truck Series champion – led a race-high 72 laps, nearly half of the 150-lap event. In taking the checkered flag, he held off runner-up Brandon Jones, who won Stage 1 Friday night, followed by Stewart Friesen, Harrison Burton and Austin Hill.

“It’s been a rough start to the year, but we’re getting it rolling now,” Moffitt told FS1. “We didn’t have the results early, but it’s getting a lot better now.”

In earning his ninth career truck race — and eighth in the last two seasons (2018 and 2019) — Moffitt has now won more truck races during that time than any other driver. It was also the second straight win at Chicagoland Speedway for Moffitt, who won last year’s Truck race there.

Sixth through 10th were Todd Gilliland, Chastain, Matt Crafton, Anthony Alfredo and Dylan Lupton.

It was an especially frustrating night for ThorSport Racing.

First, Ben Rhodes barely got through one lap before his truck began smoking heavily. He made his way to pit road for service, but was pushed by his crew back to the garage just a few moments later.

Rhodes missed the first practice session on Thursday with an engine issue. It’s unclear if Friday’s problem was related to Thursday’s issue.

It’s just sickening,” Rhodes told FS1. “It’s awful and puts us in a bad spot for the playoff picture. What hurts the most is I thought we had a truck that could win tonight. Just weird stuff has been happening.

It was just oil dumping out of the main seal, didn’t show anything in qualifying and it just starts doing it as I go through the gears coming up to the green. I don’t know what to say, just a big letdown.”

In the second stage, Johnny Sauter had motor issues that saw him drop from qualifying second to 23rd after repairs on pit road. Sauter finished 18th, the fifth straight race that he has failed to finish in the top 10 following his win at Dover.

Then, early in the final stage, Spencer Davis got into Grant Enfinger’s truck and put him in the wall, causing extensive damage to Enfinger’s ride. Davis then bounced off and into the side of Austin Wayne Self’s truck, putting both trucks out of the race.

Enfinger had led the most laps up to that point (49) and won Stage 2 prior to the incident with Davis. Enfinger also had a slight confrontation with Austin Hill after the race (see tweets below).

On top of all that, Matt Crafton had the engine replaced in his truck after Thursday’s practices, forcing him to start Friday’s race from the back of the field. While he managed to work his way into the top 10, Crafton finished eighth.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Brandon Jones (passed Grant Enfinger on the last lap)

STAGE 2 WINNER: Grant Enfinger (held off Brandon Jones on last lap)

Race results: Click here

Point standings: Click here

WHAT’S NEXT: Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 at Kentucky Speedway at 7:30 p.m. ET on July 11 on FS1

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Austin Hill, Johnny Sauter on front row for tonight’s Truck race at Chicagoland

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Austin Hill won the pole for tonight’s NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Camping World 225 race at Chicagoland Speedway.

Hill covered the 1.5-mile layout at a top speed and a track record of 176.632 mph. Alongside him on the front row for tonight’s race will be Johnny Sauter (176.494 mph).

It could be an interesting race, as it will be the first time Hill and Sauter have been on the same race track in two weeks. Hill and Sauter tangled two weeks ago at Iowa Speedway, when Sauter intentionally slammed into Hill’s truck during a caution period, leading to NASCAR to suspend Sauter for the following race last weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway (formerly Gateway Motorsports Park).

Qualifying third through 10th fastest were Brett Moffitt (176.332 mph), Tyler Ankrum (176.108), Grant Enfinger (176.005), Anthony Alfredo (175.982), Sheldon Creed (175.821), Harrison Burton (175.781), Dylan Lupton (175.741) and Stewart Friesen (175.678).

Other notables include Todd Gilliland (13th, 175.456 mph), Ross Chastain (16th, 174.916 mph) and Ben Rhodes (17th, 174.859).

The race takes the green flag tonight at 9:05 p.m. ET (FS1 on TV and Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on radio).

Click here for the full row-by-row qualifying chart.

Follow @JerryBonkowski