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Austin Dillon without crew chief for playoff opener

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Austin Dillon will start the Cup playoffs Sunday without crew chief Justin Alexander on his pit box, Parker Kligerman reported Sunday on NASCAR America.

Alexander is back home in North Carolina due to a family matter. He will be replaced by Danny Stockman.

Stockman is the crew chief for Daniel Hemric on Richard Childress Racing’s No. 21 car in the Xfinity Series.

Dillon starts the South Point 400 in 18th. The race is set to begin at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

RCR says Ryan Newman was released from contract last month

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LAS VEGAS — Richard Childress Racing released a statement Sunday addressing Ryan Newman‘s departure from the No. 31 Chevrolet, saying the driver was “released from his contract last month.”

Newman tweeted after final practice Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that he was leaving RCR after the season and intended to continue racing in Cup next season and beyond.

Newman and crew chief Luke Lambert have been paired for the past five seasons, earning a victory and three playoff appearances. Though the RCR release addressed only the No. 31 driver, Lambert’s contract with the team is believed to be up, and he also could be headed elsewhere next season.

Here’s the release from the team:

No. 31 Team Update – Statement from Richard Childress Racing:

As announced yesterday, Ryan Newman will not return to RCR in 2019. He was released from his contract last month.

We want to thank Ryan for his talent and dedication over the past five years, and we wish him the best in his future endeavors. The No. 31 Chevrolet has been an important part of RCR for many years. We have outstanding partners in Chevrolet, Caterpillar, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, Grainger, Liberty National Life Insurance Co., Coca-Cola, Okuma and eBay Motors, and will continue to deliver value for them as we move forward.

We are looking forward to the next chapter for the No. 31 team and will announce our new driver in the near future.

Silly Season: Ryan Newman latest driver on the move

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Ryan Newman joined the list of drivers who will be on the move in 2019 when he announced Saturday on Twitter that he will not return to the No. 31 car at Richard Childress Racing.

Newman is in his fifth season with RCR. He finished second in the championship in 2012, his first season with the team. Newman made the playoffs three times at RCR. He did not make the playoffs this season.

Newman stated he was not ready to announce his future plans in Cup. Childress also was not ready to announce who will drive the No. 31 after this season.

ANNOUNCED CUP RIDES FOR 2019

Bubba Wallace will remain with Richard Petty Motorsports through the 2020 season (announcement made July 28)

CUP RIDES NOT YET ANNOUNCED FOR 2019

No. 1: The Associated Press reported Sept. 10 that car owner Chip Ganassi had offered Jamie McMurray a contract to drive in the 2019 Daytona 500 only and then move into a management position. Ganassi was awaiting McMurray’s decision. The move means the No. 1 will be open for 2019.

No. 6: Car owner Jack Roush said Sept. 12 on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that Trevor Bayne would not be back with Roush Fenway Racing after this season. Bayne, who has shared the No. 6 ride this season with Matt Kenseth, has driven in Cup for Roush since 2015.

No. 23: Front Row Motorsports purchased the BK Racing team in bankruptcy court in August. Front Row needs the team to run the rest of the season to maintain the charter. After this season, Front Row could run a third car, lease this charter or sell this charter.

No. 31: Ryan Newman announced Sept. 15 that he would not return to the No. 31 after this season. Car owner Richard Childress told NBC Sports: “We’ll announce who our driver is in the near future.”

No. 32: Go Fas Racing is looking for a driver after Matt DiBenedetto’s announcement Sept. 7 that he won’t return to the team after this season.

No. 41: Kurt Busch signed a one-year deal last December to remain at Stewart-Haas Racing. He said Aug. 31 at Darlington that he has two contract offers for 2019 but did not reveal what teams they were from. Busch said Sept. 7 he had no updates on his status.

No. 95: Kasey Kahne announced Aug. 16 that he would not return for another full-time season. Also, this team has told Richard Childress Racing it won’t be a part of its technical alliance next year. Car owner Bob Leavine said Aug. 5 that “in our talking to the manufacturers this year, Toyota has been head-and-shoulders above the rest so far.”

DRIVERS WITHOUT ANNOUNCED PLANS FOR 2019

Trevor Bayne: 2011 Daytona 500 winner is looking for a ride after the Sept. 12 announcement he won’t return to Roush Fenway Racing in 2019. He told NBC Sports on Sept. 14 that he has been calling car owners looking for a ride and would look at any of NASCAR’s top three national series. 

Kurt Busch: 2004 champion’s contract expires after this season with Stewart-Haas Racing.

Matt DiBenedettoSaid he was betting on himself by leaving Go Fas Racing and looking to race elsewhere. While he would like a full-time ride, he would entertain a part-time ride in the Xfinity Series with a winning team, following what Ryan Preece has done.

Daniel Hemric: The Xfinity driver for Richard Childress Racing was asked Aug. 17 at Bristol about his future and he described it as: “Cloudy, very cloudy.” He said then he has not signed anything for the 2019 season, adding: “I’m trying to do everything I can on the race track to prove to somebody that would be willing to put me in a car and give me a shot.”

Jamie McMurray: Although he has not revealed his plans, car owner Chip Ganassi told the AP that he had offered McMurray a contract for only the 2019 Daytona 500 before McMurray would move into a management role.

Ryan Newman: He announced Sept. 15 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that he won’t be returning to Richard Childress Racing. He intends to remain in Cup for 2019 but has yet to reveal his destination.

Ryan Preece: Modified ace who has run a limited schedule in the Xfinity Series with Joe Gibbs Racing and had great success has not announced his 2019 plans.

Daniel SuarezWith reports stating that Martin Truex Jr. will go to Joe Gibbs Racing and drive the No. 19, Suarez would be looking for a ride. He said Sept. 9 at Indianapolis that “I’m not really allowed” to talk about his situation and then added: “Everything happens for a reason. I think we are going to be in good shape.”

Martin Truex Jr.Reigning series champion has not announced a ride for 2019 with the Sept. 4 news that Furniture Row Racing is shutting down after this season.

XFINITY SERIES

OPEN RIDES FOR 2019

1: Elliott Sadler announced Aug. 15 that he will not run full-time in NASCAR after this season, creating an opening at JR Motorsports for 2019.

Ryan Newman will not return to Richard Childress Racing in 2019

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LAS VEGAS — Ryan Newman announced on Twitter that he will not return to Richard Childress Racing after this season.

Newman, who did not make the playoffs this season, is in his fifth season at RCR. He has one victory (March 19, 2017 at Phoenix) and three playoff appearances (’14, ’15, ’17) in the No. 31 Chevrolet. Despite going winless, he finished runner-up to champion Kevin Harvick in the playoffs four years ago.

Newman posted in a tweet: “I’m not ready to announce my future plans at this time, but it is my full intention to compete in the NASCAR Cup Series full-time in 2019 and beyond. We are currently working through the options for next season, and hopefully we will be able to announce those plans in the very near future.”

Car owner Richard Childress told NBC Sports he was not ready to name who would drive the No. 31 next year but said “he won’t be our driver next year. We’ll announce who our driver is in the near future.”

Newman, who is in his 17th full-time season, has 18 career Cup victories, including the 2008 Daytona 500.

He joins the expanding list of drivers with uncertain futures beyond 2018.

 

Austin Dillon has hill to climb in playoffs

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Austin Dillon did not have to wait long to punch his ticket into the Cup Series playoffs.

He just had to punch Aric Almirola‘s car out of his way on the last lap of the Daytona 500.

It’s been 25 races since the Richard Childress Racing driver won in Daytona, claiming his second-career victory.

But Dillon, in his fourth full-time season Cup, is not going into the first round of the playoffs with anything resembling momentum.

Ahead of Sunday’s South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN), Dillon has only two top 10s since the July race at Daytona. His peak came four races ago at Michigan, when he drove to a fourth-place finish, his first top five since the Daytona 500.

Dillon ended the regular season with a 22nd-place finish, tying his second worst result since the July Daytona race.

“I will take the dark horse role,” Dillon said Thursday at the Playoff Media Day. “Anything can happen. We show up at times and people least expect it.”

Dillon heads to Las Vegas, where he has one top five and top 10 (fifth in 2016) in six starts.

“It’s a good race track for me in the past,” Dillon said. “We’ve brought some speed to the race track as of late. That’s important. I’ll always enjoy the start of the playoffs. Everybody’s tense. Mistakes are made early and if you don’t make mistakes you probably move on to the first round.”

Here’s how Dillon’s numbers compare to his fellow playoff competitors.

Laps Spent in Top 15

Through 26 races Dillon has completed 6,986 out of a possible 7,189. Of those, Dillon ran in the top 15 for just 2,668 laps, or 37.1 percent.

That ranks 22nd overall and the lowest among the 16 playoff drivers. Six drivers who did not make the playoffs, including teammate Ryan Newman, rank ahead of him. The next closest playoff driver is Alex Bowman in 16th (3,470 laps – 48.3 percent).

Laps Led

Dillion also ranks 22nd in this category with 23 laps led. Jimmie Johnson is 21st with 29 laps led. Five non-playoff drivers separate them from Alex Bowman in 15th (67 laps led).

Percentage of Laps Run on Lead Lap

Dillon actually has the advantage over a fellow playoff driver here. Dillon was on the lead pace for 4,975 of 7,189 laps (69.2 percent). That’s 16th among drivers and one spot better than Bowman (4,965 laps for 69.1 percent). Newman is the lone non-playoff driver ahead of Dillon in 13th (5,733 laps for 79.75 percent).

Average Running Position

Dillon ranks 22nd here with an avg running spot of 18.505. The next best playoff driver is Bowman in 16th (16.598).