Matt Borland

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NASCAR reinstates crew chief Matt Borland

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NASCAR announced Tuesday it has reinstated crew chief Matt Borland after suspending him Aug. 26 for violating the sanctioning body’s Substance Abuse Policy.

Borland, crew chief for Ty Dillon at Germain Racing, cited a diet coffee he had been drinking for about six months as including a banned substance that caused him to fail a random drug test.

Borland, who has 13 career Cup wins as a crew chief, was reinstated after completing NASCAR’s Road to Recovery program. He’ll be permitted to the return to the garage this weekend at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

NASCAR also announced Tuesday that Clifford Turner had completed the Road to Recovery program and has been reinstated. Turner was suspended June 18.

Crew chief Matt Borland cites diet coffee as cause of failed drug test

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Germain Racing and crew chief Matt Borland stated Monday morning that Borland failed a random drug test and has been indefinitely suspended by NASACR, per its Substance Abuse Policy

Borland cited a diet coffee he has been drinking the past six months as including a banned substance.

“This past weekend I was informed by a NASCAR doctor that I had DMAA (2-amino-5-methylhexanamine) in my system,” Borland said in a statement. “After the surprise of this and not even knowing what that was, I asked if it could have come from a diet coffee I have been drinking for the past six months. I gave the doctor all of the details of the coffee and ingredients, and after he researched it, he said he thought that this was the cause.

“Even after doing my due-diligence, I felt comfortable in drinking the coffee. I plan to work with NASCAR to figure out what exactly has happened and resolve this issue as quickly as we can. I will cooperate with them and do whatever is requested of me to make this situation right. I have worked in the NASCAR garage for 20 years now, and have never been a part of anything like this in my life. I take full responsibility for this incident and want to get it taken care of completely.

“I would like to sincerely apologize to my team, sponsors, associates, NASCAR and my family and I look forward to resolving this situation in an efficient manner.”

Team owner Bob Germain Jr. said in a statement: “Matt Borland has informed me that he was notified by NASCAR that a random urinalysis showed a substance, DMAA (2-amino-5-methylhexanamine) that is impermissible under the NASCAR Substance Abuse Policy. We reviewed the ingredients label on a coffee product that Matt had been drinking and it includes DMHA (2-amino-5-methylheptane), a derivative of DMAA.

“Based upon the ingredients label we do not believe that Matt had reason to know that the coffee contained a banned substance. However, we also understand and respect NASCAR’s decisions to strictly uphold their policies for each and every owner, driver and crew member in the garage. As an organization, we stand behind Matt. He has been and remains an integral part of our race team and we look forward to his return to the garage and pit box.”

The team stated that Justin Alexander will serve as the interim crew chief for Ty Dillon.

Here is the FDA’s page on DMAA

Here is the FDA’s page on DMHA

Ty Dillon says he will remain with Germain Racing after this season

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Ty Dillon says he will remain with Germain Racing after this season and not join his brother Austin at Richard Childress Racing and drive the No. 31 car.

That car is open for next season with Ryan Newman leaving RCR to drive the No. 6 at Roush Fenway Racing after this year.

During a break in testing Monday at Kansas Speedway, Ty Dillon reaffirmed his commitment to the No. 13 team.

“I made them a commitment and I’m staying by my commitment,” he said. “I believe in my race team and that’s where I’m going to be.”

Dillon is in his second season with Germain Racing. He finished 24th in the points last year and is 29th in points entering Sunday’s race on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. He has three top-15 finishes this season. His best result this year is sixth at Daytona in July.

He talked at the Kansas test of using this season to help make the team be better for 2019. This is his first season with crew chief Matt Borland.

“This is another opportunity that we can take another step to getting better as a race team,” Dillon said. “For us, right now, it’s all about leading into next year. If we can come here later on this year and have a good run and be strong, improve on our approach, work as a team and learn about things going forward as a team, this is what is good about a test for us.”

While Dillon says this season has not gone “what we hoped as a team. We’ve got to keep fighting and we’ve got to keep grinding. There’s always the next season. We have a great sponsor in Geico and a great group of guys who were committed for a couple of years down the road, so it’s about improving over the next couple of years. So we’ve got to take every weekend as a learning step and … just keep improving. We all believe in the fact that we can.”

Mother Nature fooled several crew chiefs late in race at Michigan

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BROOKLYN, Mich. — With victory and a playoff spot there for any team willing to gamble Sunday evening at Michigan International Speedway, only one did not pit at the end of the second stage under threatening skies.

But that gamble was short-lived after the team pitted before the ensuing restart and gave the lead to Clint Bowyer, who went on to win.

It was shocking that more teams outside the top 10 did not stay out and gamble with low-hanging clouds, rain on the way and the race past the point where it was an official event and could end at any time.

“Part of you wants to stay out, but part of you wants to play the safe bet and try to outsmart those guys another way,” said Erik Jones, who was ninth at the end of the second stage and went on to finish 15th.

Crew chiefs said they were tricked by a sneaky weather system that made it appear as if several more laps would be run. Instead, the race went only 13 more laps after the second stage before rain ended the event.

For a brief time, Kasey Kahne was in position to steal the victory. He was 24th when the second stage ended. Everybody in front of him pitted. Crew chief Travis Mack had Kahne stay out and assume the lead under the caution.

“The rain was right on top of us,’’ Mack told NBC Sports, noting he and his team monitored four different radar applications from the pit box. “We knew it was a couple of minutes. We banked on those couple of pace laps and we could ride around and hope for rain. We knew if it started sprinkling, they wouldn’t go back green. So we had a couple minute window. If it started raining, we could have won the race.

“Just trying to put ourself in an opportunity to take advantage of something like that. If (other teams are) going to try to hand it to us, we’ll take every advantage to take it.’’

Mack had gambled earlier in the race. He called for a two-tire change at the end of the first stage, putting Kahne in the lead after he had finished that stage 18th.

Kahne led nine laps until Lap 71. He steadily fell back and was 14th on Lap 80. He pitted with the field after Kyle Larson’s spin brought out the caution on Lap 87. Kahne was mired outside the top 20 after that.

When the second stage ended, Kahne’s chance arrived.

He led two laps after those in front pitted, but then he went to pit road on Lap 125 with one lap to go until the race restarted.

With the radar changing, making it seem rain would not come soon, and Kahne on older tires, Mack brought his driver in.

“We did everything we could,’’ Mack said. “We were trying to make something happen.’’

Matt Borland, crew chief for Ty Dillon, admits that staying out would have been the “right call” but said he didn’t take the gamble — even though Dillon was outside the top 20 at the end of the second stage — because “we weren’t fast enough today.

“To have 30 laps on tires and put yourself in a situation where you can’t even get to the next (fuel) window, so now you’re going to be slow, (have to) pit an extra time; you take yourself from 20th-place position to 30th, three laps down.”

Dillon finished 21st, tied for his best finish in the last five races.

The field ran three laps in the final stage before the caution came out when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. crashed after contact from Kahne. Rain fell. After four laps, NASCAR sent the cars to pit road and the race was over. Kahne finished 23rd.

Mack said he was “very surprised” nobody else tried his strategy.

Ryan Newman was 19th when the second stage ended and crew chief Luke Lambert is known for his gambling ways. Lambert’s decision not to pit late at Phoenix in March 2017 led to Newman’s most recent victory.

Lambert said Mother Nature fooled him Sunday.

We were running like two or three different weather applications and looking at everything,’’ Lambert told NBC Sports. “Honestly it was probably one of the most challenging calls to make as far as what the weather was going to do. It’s easy to make these decisions when you’ve got a clear storm front coming in and there’s a hard line on it’s going to rain and it’s this many miles out and it’s tracking at this speed and we can calculate pretty much on the point when it’s going to hit.

“This scenario was not one like that. What we had going on was there was a front to our west and it was breaking up. It looked like it was splitting to the north and the south (of the track). What we were concerned would happen ended up happening, but we couldn’t guarantee it .

“It just built right on top of us. It wasn’t something that was moving toward us at a trajectory we could anticipate. At the point in time, when we were making our decision for the last stage, it looked pretty clear like we were going to keep running.

“I did not expect … that we were going to have that short of a run and then get misted on and end the day.’’

Bubba Wallace was running outside the top 20 at the end of the second stage and crew chief Drew Blickensderfer said the radar kept him from pitting.

“The actual green stuff (signifying rain) was probably 30 miles away,’’ he told NBC Sports. “This mist wasn’t on the radar. It kind of caught us.’’

Because of that, Bowyer was able to emerge with the win due to a gamble by crew chief Mike Bugarewicz. Bowyer was second at the end of the second stage and Bugarewicz called for a two-tire change to get his driver back on track quickly.

“When we were coming on pit road, I was 100 percent sure two tires was the right call,’’ Bugarewicz said. “We got about three quarters of the way down pit road, I was about 70 percent sure. When he slid into the pit box, I was about 50 percent sure. By then, we were leaving. It was too late (to change).

“Clint asked, Are we the only one with two?

“Yeah, we’re the only one with two.’’

Bowyer held off teammate Kevin Harvick on the restart and used that pit strategy to win.

“It was a gamble on his part,’’ Bowyer said of Bugarwicz’s call. “Like I said, it was uncharacteristic for him. That’s part of growing, blossoming as a crew chief, being one of the elite. He did that today.’’

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Friday 5: Questions about the upcoming Cup season

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Many places often celebrate Friday at 5 where the weekend begins. Although there’s no NASCAR Cup action this weekend, fans can still enjoy Friday 5 with a (fun) look at the upcoming season with these five questions.

1. What is the new driver/crew chief combination that is most intriguing?

Among the new driver/crew chief combinations this year:

Billy Scott with Kurt Busch at Stewart-Haas Racing

John Klausmeier with Aric Almirola at SHR

Matt Borland with Ty Dillon at Germain Racing

Greg Erwin with Paul Menard at the Wood Brothers

Travis Mack with Kasey Kahne at Leavine Family Racing

Greg Ives with Alex Bowman at Hendrick Motorsports

Darian Grubb with William Byron at Hendrick Motorsports

The one that intrigues the most is the Grubb/Byron pairing. Grubb won a championship with Tony Stewart in 2011, led Denny Hamlin to the title race in Homestead in 2014, worked with Carl Edwards in 2015 and won the 2006 Daytona 500 with Jimmie Johnson while serving as interim crew chief with Chad Knaus suspended.

Grubb has never worked with a rookie.

Byron is more than a rookie. The 20-year-old is viewed by many to be the future of Hendrick Motorsports. Grubb will play a key role in molding Byron and that’s an important responsibility. How Byron handles the highs and lows of the season will rest with Grubb. This will be worth watching closely.

2. How will Fords compete with the other manufacturers this season?

Chevrolet brings out the Camaro ZL1 this season. Toyota won 16 races with the updated Toyota Camry last year. Ford will have the oldest model among the three.

Brad Keselowski raised issues about Toyota’s success last year and NASCAR not keeping the manufactures closer. He sounded a warning about the 2018 season moments after the 2017 season finished in Homestead

“When that (Toyota) car rolled out at Daytona, and I think we all got to see it for the first time, I think there (were) two reactions: One, we couldn’t believe NASCAR approved it; and two, we were impressed by the design team over there,” Keselowski said. “I don’t think anyone ever had a shot this year the second that thing got put on the racetrack and approved. It kind of felt like Formula 1, where you had one car that made it through the gates heads and tails above everyone, and your hands are tied because you’re not allowed to do anything to the cars in those categories that NASCAR approves to really catch up.

“As to what will happen for 2018, you know, I don’t know. I would assume that Chevrolet will be allowed to design a car the same way that Toyota was for this one, but Ford doesn’t have any current plans for that. If that’s the case, we’re going to take a drubbing next year, so we’ll have to see.”

That’s the challenge Fords could face this season. Ford won 10 races last year, but only two of the final 19 races last year. Will that trend continue this season?

3. There were three first-time Cup winners in 2017. Will that number be equaled this season?

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Blaney and Austin Dillon each scored their first career Cup victory last season.

Among the drivers seeking their first career Cup win this season: Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, Chase Elliott, William Byron, Alex Bowman, Ty Dillon and Darrell Wallace Jr. Those drivers represent Joe Gibbs Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Germain Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports.

It would seem a good bet that Elliott and at least one other driver on that list scores their first career Cup win this year. It’s possible there could be three first-time winners again.

4. For fun, who is your way-too-early final four picks at Homestead?

Let’s go with Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch.

5. For fun, in the way-too-early category, how many drivers who didn’t make the playoffs last year make it this year?

Let’s go with three. Thinking Joey Logano, Erik Jones and Alex Bowman.

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