Luke Lambert

NASCAR penalty report after Mid-Ohio, Michigan

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Only one new penalty was assessed on this week’s NASCAR penalty report, released Tuesday.

Jeff Meendering, crew chief of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driven by Brandon Jones in the Xfinity Series, has been fined $5,000 for an improperly installed lug nut(s) found in Saturday’s post-race inspection at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Two other penalties — $25,000 fines and the loss of 10 driver and 10 owner points in each instance — were assessed over the weekend at Michigan International Speedway to Danny Stockman, crew chief for the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, and Luke Lambert, crew chief for the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet in the Cup Series.

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Long: Let’s talk about 250 NASCAR wins for Kyle Busch, not 200

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As Kyle Busch approaches 200 NASCAR victories, the question that should be asked is how many more will he win in his career instead of how his victory total compares to Richard Petty’s 200 Cup wins.

Busch could reach 200 total NASCAR victories this weekend at Auto Club Speedway. He’s entered in the Xfinity race — he’s won both series races he’s entered this season — and the Cup race.

But why stop there? Busch doesn’t turn 34 until May 2, meaning he could have another decade of racing in NASCAR. That would put him at the age Jimmie Johnson is. Johnson turns 44 in September.

Could 250 wins be a possibility for Busch?

Without a doubt.

Provided NASCAR continues to limit Cup drivers to five Gander Outdoors Truck Series races a season, Busch could have another 50 races if he goes a decade longer. He has a 36.1 percent career winning percentage in that series. At that pace, he would win 18 times in 50 more starts.

The Xfinity Series is a bit tricky. Busch is limited to seven series races a year, but he has hinted that once he reaches 100 series victories, he would reduce his involvement in that series. He enters this weekend with 94 series victories. So one can figure on at least six more wins, but after that it remains uncertain. Still, if he got six wins and 18 in the Trucks that would put him at 224.

So what about Cup?

To figure this out, take a look at what Johnson has done. Johnson has won 36 races since the season he turned 34 (the season Busch is in now). If Busch won 36 more Cup races before his career ended, that would give him 88 total, putting him behind only Petty (200), David Pearson (105) and Jeff Gordon (93) in that category. Johnson is at 83 so he could finish with more than 88 career wins.

If you want to pencil Busch in for 36 Cup wins the rest of his career and add it to his projected total for Truck and Xfinity, that would put him at 260 total wins.

So, yes it is possible for him to top 250 career NASCAR wins. 

Get ready for some more bows.


With track position so critical, strategy and restarts proved key Sunday at ISM Raceway.

Kyle Larson again showed what makes him so special with restarts, making moves others couldn’t.

Larson finished a season-high sixth and it was because of his restart ability.

Twice in the final stage, Larson restarted on the outside and rode the high line to gain multiple positions on a day when Joey Logano said “it was really, really, really, really, really hard to pass.”

Larson was 12th when the final stage began on Lap 158. He went to the outside of Aric Almirola, starting the row ahead of him  and was up to ninth entering Turn 1. Larson stayed in the high line and was about to pass Logano for seventh off Turn 2 when Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson both bobbled, killing Larson’s momentum. He still managed to be ninth on the first lap after the restart.

Larson started on the outside in 14th after pit stops later in that stage. He took four tires while a few others in front of him took no tires or two tires. Johnson blocked the high line so Larson went underneath him but got boxed in. Larson still had gained two spots before the caution came back out.

Larson then restarted 12th on the outside and made his biggest move on the Lap 233 restart. This time, Larson got outside of Johnson and passed four cars by the exit of Turn 1. He gained two more spots — for a total of six positions — before another quick caution. That put him in position to finish sixth

“You had to take advantage of the restarts for sure,” Larson said after the race. “I felt like I did a good job of that today going to the very top when I was in the outside lane and passing four or five guys at times. Yeah, that was important and then just being able to pass some cars and get in line and just kind of try and maintain and not make any mistakes.”


Richard Childress Racing is not afraid to take chances, particularly at ISM Raceway.

Recall that Ryan Newman won there in March 2017 on a pit gamble by crew chief Luke Lambert to stay out late. Newman took the lead while others pitted just before the overtime restart. He led the final six laps to win.

Sunday, Danny Stockman, crew chief for Austin Dillon, called for a two-tire stop twice and no tires on what was to have been their final pit stop. That put Dillon in position for a fifth-place finish despite a speeding penalty on Lap 196 of the 312-lap race. The plan failed when Dillon had to come to the pits late for fuel and finished 21st.

“Danny made a good call during the final stage to take fuel only to put us back up front, but that cut us just a couple laps shy of making it,” Dillon said after the race. “I was doing everything I could to save through the remaining cautions and lift as much as I could once we got spread out. It was just a little short this time around.”

Also, Lambert, who is with rookie Daniel Hemric this season, had Hemric not pit when the field did on Lap 222. Those with fresher tires ate up Hemric but he went on to finish 18th, which is his best result of the season.

Keep an eye on this organization and the chances they take in the coming weeks.


Kyle Busch’s victory marked the fourth different winner in the season’s first four races.

That’s not a new trend.

Seven times in the last nine years, the season opened with different winners in each of the first four races.

What’s different this time is that Sunday marked the first time Busch had won in the first four races of the season since 2011. He won the season’s fourth race, which was at Bristol, that year.

The last time there were five different winners in the first five races was 2017. It also happened in 2011, ’13 and ’14 in the previous nine seasons.

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Long: A championship five seasons in the making for Joey Logano’s pit crew

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. — When the champagne bottles were passed out to Joey Logano’s team after he won the Cup championship Sunday night, Ray Gallahan found a place to sit at the back of the stage to watch his teammates spray each other.

“I’m not a heavy drinker, and I don’t like being too sticky,” Gallahan told NBC Sports. “I usually bow out for the champagne part.’’

Ray Gallahan (seated) watches his teammates spray each other with champagne after Joey Logano won the Cup title. (Photo: Dustin Long)

The celebration was poignant for Gallahan, who served his final race as Logano’s fueler Sunday. The 35-year-old Gallahan will move into a role as an assistant pit coach for Team Penske.

But this victory had extra meaning for Gallahan. He was Logano’s jackman in 2014 when the car fell off the jack with less than 20 laps to go in that championship race, all but ending Logano’s title hopes.

“That crumbled me up pretty hard because I was supposed to be the guy that didn’t mess up,” Gallahan said.

The team returned to the championship race in 2016. Logano’s title hopes faded when he went to pass Carl Edwards on a late restart and Edwards blocked, leading to contact that eliminated Edwards and damaged Logano’s car.

Sunday, Logano’s pit crew gained him two spots on the final pit stop, allowing him to restart third and charge to the win. It was pretty much the same unit that had been there in 2014 and ’16.

Front tire changer Thomas Hatcher, rear tire changer Zachary Price and tire carrier Dylan Dowell had been on the team since 2014. The only new member was jackman Graham Stoddard, who had been teammate Ryan Blaney’s jackman but moved to Logano’s team after Blaney was eliminated in the playoffs at Kansas.

That four of the five pit crew members remained since 2014 is a remarkable achievement in an era where changes to pit crews can be common. This unit excelled late in the playoffs, playing a key role in helping Logano win at Martinsville, and having a strong performance in the championship race.

“I think the longer you are together, the more you learn what to expect from the other guy, so it actually makes you faster,” Dowell told NBC Sports.

Having experienced the lows of the title race — and missing the playoffs last year — it allowed the team to appreciate its accomplishment.

“It definitely made it sweeter,” Hatcher told NBC Sports. “It definitely made it sweeter.”


Morgan Shepherd had Landon Cassill drive his Xfinity car for him last weekend in Miami, but Shepherd says he plans to be back.

“This is 51 years for us,” the 77-year-old Shepherd told NBC Sports at Homestead-Miami Speedway, “and I’ve started on my next. If I can get it in, I’ll only be 127 (years old). We’ll see where we land.”

Morgan Shepherd (Photo Getty Images)

Isn’t it time for retirement?

“Nah,” Shepherd said as he sat on the pit wall. “I’m just a servant. I might not be able to help myself but I can help other people with what we’re doing. Our charity is 32 years old. … We’ll go as long as the Lord wants me to go.”

Shepherd understands that change will come at some point.

“We definitely would be better with a younger driver and build it around him,” Shepherd said. “We’ll see where it goes. We haven’t quit yet.”


Crew chief Luke Lambert told NBC Sports he’s signed a new deal with Richard Childress Racing and will serve as rookie Daniel Hemric’s crew chief on the No. 31 car next season.

It will make the first time Lambert has worked with a young driver. He’s previously worked with veteran drivers Jeff Burton and Ryan Newman. Lambert had been with Newman the past five seasons. Newman moves to Roush Fenway Racing for 2019.

“It will be different in ways,” Lambert said of working with a rookie. “I’ve been around situations with young drivers a lot so I’m very familiar with what sort of things need to be done differently. Ultimately, it’s going to be about learning each other and what he needs different to be successful and for me to help figure out ways to provide that for him.”

What drivers said after Cup playoff race at Miami

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Joey Logano — Winner: “No, I told you we weren’t and showed you why were not (the underdog). We were the favorite like I told you before the race started. I am so proud of everybody for rising to the occasion. We executed down the stretch like nobody’s business. … I can’t wait to break that Mustang out.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 2nd: “I just needed time. That’s all I needed. They were faster than us for 15 or 20 laps all day long. It was like a reverse scenario from last year. Last year we took advantage of the short run car at the end – the 18 (Kyle Busch) car should’ve won the race and tonight we should’ve won the race and they (Joey Logano) took advantage of the short-run car. I don’t know what else we could’ve done. Honestly, we worked our guts out all weekend and just to get here, I told you earlier we shut a lot of people up and made them eat crow and that felt good. To come here and almost upset the field and almost win it back to back was really awesome. I just wish that last caution hadn’t come out. Other than that, I don’t know what we could’ve done.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 3rd: “Obviously, we got loose as the night went on. Really, it was a great pit call there in position to win the race if the caution doesn’t come out and we came down to a pit stop and a restart and we didn’t do either good. I just hate it for all our guys on our Jimmy John’s Ford.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 4th: “Just not at all what we wanted obviously and not what we expected either. We knew the 22 (Joey Logano) was fast, but man, I thought we were way closer than that. We kind of held up the first half of the race, but after that we were just never close. I don’t know what happened, just didn’t have the feel in the race car that I needed tonight. Just all night long, as soon as we got out of the gas and into the corner we were just sideways, just turning to the right and trying to save it. You do that for 50 or 60 laps, whatever it is on tires and you just can’t hang on. I couldn’t hang after eight laps, let alone the 50. Bummed for all of our guys, Adam Stevens (crew chief) and my guys did a phenomenal job. This M&M’s Camry team was really, really good – just not good enough on the night we wanted the most. We finished fourth, last of the Playoff guys. That’s not what it takes these days.

Chase Elliott — Finished 7th: “Man, if we make this (Championship) 4 one day, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 8th: “I want to congratulate everyone at Ford Performance. I wish it were Kevin (Harvick) winning the championship, but I’m glad we kept it in the Ford family. That was a decent way to end the season tonight for us. We didn’t qualify like we wanted Friday, but we had a good car tonight. We’ve had a good year. My guys have worked hard and had a lot of fun and a lot of success. We’re ready for a break, but it won’t be long, and we’ll be ready to go to Daytona and start the new season.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 9th: “It was a great year for us, our first year working together. That was quite an accomplishment for us to battle the way we battled and to come out of here with a top five in points, I’m just really proud of everybody on this Smithfield team. Ford had an amazing year. We won 19 races, so just an incredible year and I’m really excited about getting ready for 2019.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 11th: “Man, I really wanted a top-10 finish today to finish out the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season and we came so close. Our Dow UCON Camaro ZL1 had handling issues for most of the race, but I had confidence in crew chief Justin Alexander and the Dow Racing team that they would be able to work on our Camaro ZL1 during pit stops. They’ve been great at that all season long. We knew half the battle was gaining track position and we worked hard to do that both on the track and on pit road. By the final stage, the handling improved a lot. I was digging at the end but came up just short of a 10th-place finish. That was fun. I want to thank everyone at RCR and ECR and all of our partners for a great 2018 season. We were able to accomplish a lot together and I’m looking forward to next year.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 13th: “I didn’t push it too early because I ran up there every lap, but I don’t know… I guess lost focus or whatever and hit the wall. I’m pretty mad at myself about that because I felt like we had a really good shot to win there and I just gave it away.”

Jimmie Johnson — Finished 14th: “It’s tough. When you think of the relationship with Lowe’s, I hate to see that come to an end. Seventeen, 18 years really when you look at my first three races that I ran for them, everything we accomplished together, their belief in me and the company’s support of me and this team over the years. So that is one piece and then the other piece obviously with Chad (Knaus), you know it’s time for us to move on and have a new project and have new people to work with. But he is my brother, there is just no way around it. So, not an easy situation it sure has not been easy, especially the second half of the year. We knew this was coming prior to the release or the announcement, I should say, but the season is behind us now and I look forward to a good off season and get geared up for 2019.”

Ryan Newman — Finished 15th: “Our E-Z-GO Camaro ZL1 was consistent all weekend. We turned in a great qualifying effort, made it to the final round and started eighth. No matter what changes we threw at it tonight, our Camaro ZL1 was tight through the middle of the corner and crazy loose off. I want to thank Richard Childress for giving me this opportunity to drive for him these last five seasons. To my crew chief Luke (Lambert), my crew, my teammate Austin (Dillon), and all the RCR team members, I want to say thank you. It was an honor to work with so many incredible people and partners over the years. We did great things together and it sure was fun to run for championships and give Luke his first ever Cup win.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 22nd: “I appreciate all of the hard work that this Germain Racing team put in all year long to get our GEICO Camaro ZL1 to the track every week. Our road crew leaves their families behind each weekend, and all of our guys put in countless hours at the shop. We didn’t have the results this year that we wanted, but we had a lot of great racing moments and this team never gave up. That hard work mentality isn’t going to end just because the season is over. They will all be back in the shop tomorrow morning to start building our cars for the 2019 season. We’re in this together, and there’s nobody else that I wanted battling with me tonight in Homestead and come February for the Daytona 500.”

William Byron — Finished 24th: “It was a good effort today, but things didn’t go our way. Overall, we’ve had a lot of ups and downs this season, but it’s been a good learning experience. We’ll get back after it in 2019.”

 

NASCAR penalty report from Phoenix

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NASCAR has fined two crew chiefs for unsecured lug nuts last weekend at ISM Raceway.

In the Cup Series, Luke Lambert was fined $10,000 for one unsecured lug nut on Ryan Newman‘s No. 31 Chevrolet.

In the Xfinity Series, David Elenz was fined $5,000 for one unsecured lug nut on Tyler Reddick‘s No. 9 Chevrolet.

There were no other penalties announced.