Randall Burnett

Tyler Reddick, Austin Dillon complete special day for RCR

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A day of promise began with an unforgettable moment. By the time the clock passed midnight, a special day had ended for both of Richard Childress Racing’s drivers.

Rookie Tyler Reddick finished a career-high fourth at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and teammate Austin Dillon placed seventh.

Sunday marked the first time since the July 2018 Daytona race that RCR had two cars finish in the top 10. The last time two RCR cars finished in the top 10 at a track other than Daytona or Talladega? That was 2017 at Darlington.

But before the day’s results would be recorded as among the team’s highlights, Sunday began with the birth of Dillon’s son.

Ace Dillon arrived at 6:30 a.m. Sunday. He weighed 9.1 pounds and was 21.5 inches. Austin Dillon spent a few hours with his son and wife Whitney before flying to Miami for the race.

Austin Dillon with wife Whitney after the birth of their son Ace. (Photo: Austin Dillon)

“You’re just kind of like starry-eyed kids and you feel like you are 18 years old, but it ain’t that way anymore and you’re about to get ready to have a baby,” Dillon told NBC Sports of arriving at the hospital early Sunday morning. “It was funny on the way in, it was kind of surreal. We go through the process and the baby comes out into the world and it just blows your mind.”

Dillon said mother and son were fine afterward, noting “Ace was a stud.”

But Dillon had to leave by about 10 a.m. to go to the airport for his flight. He made it to the track about halfway through the Xfinity race and had time for a quick nap.

While this day had been circled for his son’s birth, Sunday also had special meaning for Reddick. It marked the return to the South Florida track that witnessed Reddick’s victories and Xfinity championships the past two seasons. Few drivers seemed to have been such a perfect fit for this 1.5-mile track as Reddick, who helped revolutionize running along the wall in the Xfinity Series.

Expectations were high for Reddick. He delivered with his first Cup top-five finish. But when it was over, Reddick had mixed emotions.

“I feel like if I could have just gotten ahead of those guys, what if, right?” Reddick told NBC Sports after the race. “I was definitely a little tighter than I needed to be. That was going to make it very challenging for me.

Tyler Reddick’s fourth-place finish was the best result by a Cup rookie at Miami since 2007. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

“We thought we were going to make the right adjustment to help us, but we couldn’t quite get our Chevy Cares Camaro to rotate better into Turn 1 like we have been wanting. We really couldn’t find that answer and, unfortunately, I think that is what held us back from being able to break through tonight.”

The more Reddick runs at the front, the more experience he and his team gain in making the right adjustments to take command late in a race.

“It’s me trying to figure out what I can do to the car to make it better,” he said. “It’s (crew chief Randall Burnett) figuring out what adjustments, what knobs can he turn better. On the Xfinity car we kind of had that notebook, we kind of knew what we could do to make those adjustments that I needed.

“On these Cup cars, they just drive a little bit differently. Because of that, it’s kind of like starting from scratch for him and myself and trying to predict that next step the track takes with the 400- and 500-mile races that we have and understanding that the next step is going to be another learning curve we’re going to have to tackle.”

Still, Reddick couldn’t be too down, saluting his pit crew’s performance. Reddick also was happy with something he didn’t do Sunday night while running close to the wall.

“i don’t feel like I stepped over the edge and made the Tyler Reddick rookie mistake,” he said. “Granted that could have been very well what held me back from being that little more aggressive to win the race, but it was going to be hard (to gain to pass the leaders late). I was just trying to play it smart. I guess that’s the biggest thing, I didn’t do anything extremely stupid to on the racetrack hurt our car, damage it or back us up through the day. We were able to get to the front and stay there. That made for a much smoother day than we’ve had in the past when we’ve gotten the good runs.”

Sunday’s race wasn’t easy for Dillon. His car’s handling was off early and he complained about it to crew chief Justin Alexander. The proper adjustments helped but NASCAR penalized Dillon for an uncontrolled tire on a pit stop. That dropped Dillon from fifth to 26th on Lap 175 of the 267-lap race.

Austin Dillon rallied from a pit road penalty to finish seventh. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Dillon climbed into the top 20 on Lap 184. He moved to 15th on Lap 195. He was 10th by Lap 211. After green-flag pit stops, he was back to 10th on Lap 219 and stayed inside the top 10 the rest of the race.

“We ended up having a very fast car,” Dillon said. “At the end of the race, we were a top-four car. The pit road penalty with the loose tire getting away, that hurt us, but we were able to drive from dead last up to seventh and you don’t usually do that. That was pretty special to get a seventh-place finish with the day that we had with having baby Ace. I was very pumped for that. Reddick had a good run also.”

While Richard Childress Racing had one of its better days in recent seasons, Dillon suggested more such days could be coming.

“I feel like people have been sleeping on us a little bit,” he said. “Since we came back from the quarantine, our No. 3 team has been pretty stout. We had an up-and-down race at Darlington, the first one we were good, the second one we were OK. Past that, the Charlotte races we flexed our muscles.”

Dillon finished 14th in the Coca-Cola 600.  He followed it by placing eighth at the second Charlotte race, sixth at Bristol and 11th at Atlanta before finishing 37th at Martinsville after exiting the car early when he was overcome by fumes after early damage.

“We’ve had good cars for the last couple of weeks and it’s been fun to be a part of,” Dillon said. “I feel like we’ve got a good group, the 8 and the 3.”

Penalty report from Auto Club Speedway

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NASCAR has issued three fines to crew chiefs for having one unsecured lug nut on their cars during last weekend’s races at Auto Club Speedway.

There were two fines in the Cup Series. Randall Burnett, crew chief on Tyler Reddick‘s No. 8 Chevy, and Mike Shiplett, crew chief on Cole Custer‘s No. 41 Ford, were each fined $10,000.

In the Xfinity Series, Dave Rogers, crew chief on Riley Herbst‘s No. 18 Toyota, was fined $5,000.

There were no other penalties announced by NASCAR.

Richard Childress Racing names crew chief for No. 21 Xfinity car

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Richard Childress Racing announced Tuesday that Andy Street has been promoted to crew chief for the No. 21 Xfinity car that will feature drivers Myatt Snider, Anthony Alfredo and Kaz Grala this season.

Street has been with RCR for 16 years. He joined the team as a design and test engineer. He served as an engineer in Cup, scoring 10 wins with Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer. Most recently, Street’s role was as an engineer in the Xfinity Series. His duties included R&D work as a design engineer specializing on chassis and suspension systems.

“Andy is a brilliant design engineer, who has spent a lot of time and effort at RCR over the past 16 years,” said Andy Petree, vice president of competition, in a statement from the team. “When Andy stepped into the Xfinity Series crew chief role in Richmond Raceway last fall, I was very impressed with how he went about the weekend running and leading the race team. He proved he is worthy of this role. He’ll be the perfect complement to both Justin Alexander and Randall Burnett because of his engineering background and having worked with both of these guys on the R&D side of the company.”

What’s different in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2020

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The fog of the offseason has begun to lift and the start of a new NASCAR season looms.

When the fog clears, we will be met with the 62nd Daytona 500 on Feb. 16.

But this won’t be the start of just another season in NASCAR’s premier series. It will have a very different landscape compared to when the 2019 season ended in Miami in November.

While there’s a lot to breakdown for the coming season, it’s all essentially a preamble for 2021, which will see the Cup Series with its Next Gen car and potentially a very different race schedule.

Here’s what the table looks like for the Cup Series heading into 2020.

New Era, New Names

After serving in the role for three years, Monster Energy is no longer the entitlement sponsor of the Cup Series. With its departure also comes the end of the Cup Series’ entitlement sponsor model that had been in place since 1971 beginning with Winston.

After five decades of being the Winston, Nextel, Sprint and finally the Monster Energy Cup Series, the premier series will simply be called the NASCAR Cup Series.

2020 marks the start of NASCAR’s premier partner program, which includes Xfinity, Coca-Cola, Geico and Busch Beer.

Farther down on the series ladder comes the official merger of the ARCA Menards Series with NASCAR and what had been its K&N Pro Series circuits. The regional series will now be called the ARCA Menards Series East and West.

A glimpse at what Martinsville Speedway will look like at night. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

Shuffling the Schedule

There’s a lot of expectations for what the Cup Series schedule will look like in 2021 after the end of NASCAR’s current five-year agreement with tracks.

But 2020 also has plenty of groundbreaking schedule developments.

– Martinsville Speedway will host its first official Cup night race on May 9. The short track also will host the final playoff elimination race for all three national series, with the Cup race held Nov. 1.

– Pocono Raceway will be the site of the Cup Series’ first ever doubleheader weekend June 27-28. Saturday’s race will be preceded by a Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series event and Sunday begins with a Xfinity Series race.

– Daytona International Speedway will host the Cup regular season finale, moving its second date from the traditional July 4 weekend to Aug. 29. The July 4 weekend race is now held by Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Cup races there July 5).

– Darlington Raceway and the Southern 500 will open the Cup playoffs on Sept. 6. It’s joined in the opening round by Richmond Raceway and in the playoffs for the first time, Bristol Motor Speedway, which will be the first elimination race.

– After being the site of the first elimination race the last two seasons, the Charlotte Roval will be the Round of 12 elimination race (Oct. 11) and be preceded by Talladega Superspeedway.

–  After a nearly two-decade run, Homestead-Miami Speedway is no longer the site of the championship weekend. Its place is now held by Phoenix Raceway, with the Cup championship race scheduled for Nov. 8. Miami’s Cup race will be March 22.

– Other notable changes: The Xfinity Series will compete at Martinsville (Oct. 31) for the first time since 2004. The Truck Series returns to Richmond Raceway (April 18) for the first time since 2005.

Chevrolet

Chevrolet Remodel

Chevrolet Cup teams will appear in Daytona with a slightly different look to their cars.

Chevy will field its Camaro ZL1 1LE model in 2020, replacing the basic ZL1 model. One reason for the change is difficulties with the latter’s pointed nose when it came to pushing other cars at Daytona and Talladega compared to Ford and Toyota and their flatter noses.

Familiar Names, Different Teams

When the full Cup Series starting grid forms for the first time at the Daytona 500, there will be a lot familiar faces sporting new numbers with new teams. That includes a rather accomplished rookie class.

Matt DiBenedetto debuts with Wood Brothers Racing in the No. 21 Ford, moving over from Leavine Family Racing and taking over for Paul Menard, who retired from full-time racing.

–  After a decade with Roush Fenway Racing, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. begins the 2020s with his first season at JTG Daugherty Racing driving the No. 47 Chevrolet. Teammate Ryan Preece will drive the No. 37. Stenhouse will have Brian Pattie as his crew chief. Preece will work with Trent Owens.

Chris Buescher left JTG Daugherty Racing to return to Roush and race the No. 17 Ford, which was vacated by Stenhouse. Buescher will be paired with crew chief Luke Lambert.

Christopher Bell moves up from the Xfinity Series to drive Leavine Family Racing’s No. 95 Toyota along with crew chief Jason Ratcliff. Harrison Burton replaces Bell in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Xfinity car. 

Tyler Reddick was promoted by Richard Childress Racing to drive its No. 8 Cup car after winning the last two Xfinity Series titles. He moves up with crew chief Randall Burnett. Reddick replaces Daniel Hemric, who will drive a part-time Xfinity schedule for JR Motorsports.

Cole Custer and Mike Shiplett after their first win together in 2019. (Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images)

– Cole Custer and crew chief Mike Shiplett were promoted by Stewart-Haas Racing to take over its No. 41 Cup car, taking the place of Daniel Suarez. Suarez has not announced his plans for this season. SHR has not announced plans for its Xfinity program in 2020.

SHR also paired crew chief Mike Bugarewicz with Aric Almirola on the No. 10 and John Klausmeier with Clint Bowyer on the No. 14.

– Rookie John Hunter Nemechek takes over Front Row Motorsports’ No. 38 Ford, which was driven by the now retired David Ragan. Nemechek is paired with Seth Barbour at crew chief.

– Rookie Brennan Poole will drive for Premium Motorsports full-time in the No. 15 car. 

– After making 17 Cup starts in 2019, Quin Houff will race full-time in StarCom Racing’s No. 00 Chevrolet.

Joey Gase and J.J. Yeley will race full-time for Rick Ware Racing.

Martin Truex Jr. will have a new crew chief after the surprise resignation of Cole Pearn. The No. 19 team will be led by James Small.

Team Penske shook up its crew chief lineup for this year. Paul Wolfe will now work with Joey Logano, Jeremy Bullins is paired with Brad Keselowski and Todd Gordon is paired with Ryan Blaney.

Bubba Wallace also has a new crew chief. The Richard Petty Motorsports driver is reunited with Jerry Baxter, who he worked with in the Truck Series.

– Ryan Sparks joins Go Fas Racing after 13 years with Richard Childress Racing, primarily as an engineer, and will serve as crew chief for Corey LaJoie in the No. 32, replacing Randy Cox.

A Post-Jimmie Johnson World

Jimmie Johnson announced soon after the 2019 season finale that 2020 would be his final full-time Cup season.

That means the storyline of who will replace him in the No. 48 will simmer underneath the surface for much of the season. Who could succeed the seven-time champion?

Kyle Larson is entering the final season of his contract with Chip Ganassi Racing.

Erik Jones is racing on a one-year extension with Joe Gibbs Racing

Matt DiBenedetto is under a one-year deal with the Wood Brothers.

More possible candidates could include Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski and others.

Building for the Future

Ford provided one of the biggest storylines of the offseason when it announced that Hailie Deegan was joining the manufacturer as a development driver after a few years spent in the Toyota pipeline.

Deegan will compete full-time in ARCA Menards Series with DGR-Crosley.

NBC Sports Power Rankings: What were best NASCAR teams overall in 2019?

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As NASCAR Talk continues its post-season Power Rankings, here are the 10 teams we feel performed the best throughout the entire season across all three major series: Cup, Xfinity and Trucks.

We made our picks based using a number of variables including which drivers work the best with their crew chiefs, which teams have the strongest pit crews, how a team was run, and assorted other elements that often spell the difference between success and lack thereof.

Note that we are selecting the best TEAMS, not necessarily the best organizations overall. But as you will soon find out, several of those best teams also came from within the same organization, as well.

Here’s how we picked them:

1. Kyle Busch and No. 18 Cup team (30 points): Sure, this team slumped a bit in the second half of the season, going winless in 21 of the final 22 races (although they still were able to win the regular season championship), but when everything was on the line in the championship-deciding race at Miami, Busch and crew chief Adam Stevens proved why they are the best … and why they are the champions.

2. Martin Truex Jr. and No. 19 Cup team (27 points): From an overall consistency standpoint, there are few teams like the one spearheaded by Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn. Truex won the championship in 2017 and finished second in 2018 and 2019. The No. 19 also had a combined 19 wins in those three seasons. No other team matched that kind of performance (although Busch came close with 18 wins and finishes of 2nd, 4th and 1st during that same period). Truex will have a new crew chief in 2020 after Pearn unexpectedly announced he was leaving his position with Joe Gibbs Racing on Monday.

3. Kevin Harvick and No. 4 Cup team (23 points): Even though most other teams would welcome the opportunity to have the kind of performance the No. 4 team has enjoyed, the No. 4 team is seemingly stuck in a loop of sorts. Even though Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers have a team that has won 14 races in the last three seasons and have one of the best pit crews in the business, they’ve finished third in each of those last three seasons. This is a team that has made a few mistakes over that same time period, and it can be argued that may be one of the reasons why it finished third so frequently.

4. Denny Hamlin and No. 11 Cup team (22 points): The combination of Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart together for the first time in 2019 paid big dividends, particularly with six wins (including the Daytona 500). Not only was that the second-most number of wins in a single season for Hamlin – and the most races he’s won in a decade – but also was a big bounceback after Hamlin failed to win even one race in 2018 with former crew chief Mike Wheeler. Sadly, the season did not end the way Hamlin and company had hoped. And given he is now 39 years old, it may very well have been the last strong bid Hamlin will have to win that elusive Cup championship.

5. Christopher Bell and No. 20 Xfinity team (15 points): There’s domination, then there’s what this team did from 2018-19. No titles, but 15 wins, 38 top fives and 41 top 10s in 66 races. Bell now advances to the Cup Series for 2020 and he’s taking crew chief Jason Ratcliff with him, which is a no-brainer.

(tie) 6. Chase Elliott and No. 9 Cup team (7 points): Valiant comeback to advance past the second round was wasted when everything went wrong in the next round. Elliott and crew chief Alan Gustafson have become a strong team, winning a combined six races in the last two years, but there is still the issue of performing well under pressure. Elliott appeared a lock to advance to the Championship 4 round until he reached the third round and finished 36th, 32nd and 39th, ending his title hopes with a definitive thud.

(tie) 6. Ross Chastain and No. 45 Truck team (7 points): A team that opened the season not planning to run a full season with one driver, switched to a championship hunt after eight races, bounced back from having a win disqualified to win the next race and made it to the Championship 4.

(tie) 6. Cole Custer and No. 00 Xfinity team (7 points): Upgraded at crew chief with Mike Shiplett and went from a one-win-per-season team for the previous two seasons to finishing with seven wins in 2019, one less win than Christopher Bell. Not surprisingly, Custer and Shiplett will remain together when Custer jumps to the Cup series and the No. 41 in 2020.

(tie) 9. Joey Logano and No. 22 Cup team (6 points): It was a similar season to 2018 for Logano and crew chief Todd Gordon in 2019, but the end results were diametrically opposite. Whereas Logano went from underdog to champ in 2018, he fell short of running for a second career title in 2019, ultimately finishing fifth in the standings. Still, this duo works very well together. One thing that needs to be looked at if Logano wants to improve in 2020 is to cut down on the number of mistakes both he and his pit crew make.

(tie) 9. Tyler Reddick and No. 2 Xfinity team (6 points): This was an outstanding season for Reddick despite some challenges. Not only did Reddick move to Richard Childress Racing after he won the 2018 Xfinity championship for JR Motorsports, Reddick and crew chief Randall Burnett worked seamlessly throughout the season, winning five times and failing to finish in the top 10 just six times in 33 races. No surprise, they’ll stay together when Reddick drives the No. 8 for Richard Childress Racing in 2020, with Burnett going with him.

Others receiving votes: Brad Keselowski and No. 2 Cup team (5 points), Austin Hill and No. 16 Truck team (5 points), Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 51 Truck team (2 points), Kyle Larson and No. 42 Cup team (3 points) and Ryan Newman and No. 6 Cup team (1 point).

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