It was Christopher Bell‘s day Friday at ISM Raceway, as the Norman, Oklahoma driver swept both NASCAR Xfinity practice sessions ahead of Saturday’s Desert Diamond Casino West Valley 200 (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC).
Bell paced the 33 cars that took to the track in the final practice session with a speed of 130.147 mph, faster than what he did in the first practice (129.795 mph).
Jeff Meendering will return for a second season working with Brandon Jones on the No. 19 Toyota.
Together the two earned Jones’ first career Xfinity Series win last month at Kansas Speedway.
“I’m having so much fun racing in the Xfinity Series right now and I’m really happy to have Jeff back next year,” Jones said in a press release. “We got our first win together this year and having Jeff and the team stay together on our No. 19 Toyota Supra allows us to build on that momentum. We are focused on finishing out this season strong and working hard to have a fast start to 2020 beginning in Daytona.”
For Burton, he will have Ben Beshore as his crew chief on the No. 20 Toyota.
Beshore served as crew chief on the No. 18 car this year in his first full-time season as a crew chief. He worked with Burton and six other drivers, including Herbst.
“I’m excited to get the 2020 season started and continue building on the relationship that I have with Ben (Beshore) and the entire group at JGR,” Burton said in a press release. “This year has really helped me and I’m ready to take the next step in my career with JGR and the No. 20 team.”
On the No. 18 Toyota, Herbst will be paired with Dave Rogers, who returns to a crew chief role after a tenure serving as JGR’s Xfinity Series technical director.
Rogers has 128 starts and 20 wins as a crew chief in the Xfinity Series since 2006. He has 277 starts and 18 wins as a Cup Series crew chief since 2005.
“I’m really going to lean on Dave Rogers next season to learn as much as I can,” Herbst said in a press release. “He’s had so much success over the years with a number of different drivers and to have a veteran like him will really help as I continue to learn each week on the track. I’m looking forward to continuing to get to know him and build our relationship as we prepare for Daytona and the 2020 season.”
Both Burton and Herbst will compete for Rookie of the Year honors.
“We’ve got a great line up for our Xfinity program for 2020 with Brandon really hitting his stride and both Riley and Harrison continuing to develop and grow their careers,” said Steve DeSouza, Executive Vice President of Xfinity Series and Development for Joe Gibbs Racing, in a press release. “I believe we have the right people in place with Jeff Meendering, Dave Rogers and Ben Beshore leading the 19, 18 and 20 teams. We look forward to each competing for race wins and ultimately a 2020 championship, along with Riley and Harrison contending for Rookie of the Year honors.”
Thirty-four trucks are entered. Two trucks will not qualify for the race.
John Hunter Nemechek is entered in NEMCO Motorsports’ No. 8 Chevrolet.
Derek Kraus, the current K&N Pro Series West points leader, is entered in Bill McAnally Racing’s No. 19 Toyota.
Ty Majeski is entered in Niece Motorsports’ No. 44 Chevrolet for his first career Truck Series start and his first NASCAR start of the season. He will also make his K&N Pro Series West debut Saturday night.
Herbst will have sponsorship from Monster Energy, ORCA Coolers, and Terrible’s, a Herbst-family line of car wash/oil change/convenience stores.
“I’m very excited to compete full-time next season in the Xfinity Series in the iconic No. 18,” Herbst said in a press release. “I’ve enjoyed the transition to the Xfinity car this season, learned a ton and look forward to continuing to learn next season and improve each and every week. I’m eager to get started and have Monster Energy back with me and can’t wait for Daytona.”
Herbst, a native of Las Vegas, Nevada, has nine Xfinity starts since last year and eight this season. His best result is sixth in his series debut at Iowa Speedway. He has raced for JGR since 2017 in the ARCA Menards Series. He has one win in 47 starts in that series.
In seven Truck Series starts with Kyle Busch Motorsports, his best finish is third a Talladega last month.
“Riley has been a part of Joe Gibbs Racing for three years through the ARCA program and now the Xfinity Series,” said Steve DeSouza, executive vice president of Xfinity Series and development for Joe Gibbs Racing, in a press release. “Each week Riley shows improvement and growth, whether it is in the Xfinity Series Supra, the ARCA Series Camry or even the Toyota Tundra’s at KBM. Riley continues to work hard on gaining experience and becoming more comfortable behind the wheel and I think next year will be no different as he competes full-time for Rookie of the Year, race wins, and the Xfinity Series championship.”
NASCAR executive explains yellow line rulings at Talladega
Scott Miller, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition, said the instances of vehicles going below the yellow line on the last lap of the Truck and Cup races at Talladega Superspeedway “were very, very different from one another,” with one being “a lot more blatant” than the other.
Miller made his comments on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive.”
“First of all, one guy won the race or appeared to have won the race by making that move and the other didn’t,” Miller said. “When you’re talking about Johnny’s situation, he drove all four of his wheels under the yellow line to force (Herbst) down there. It was obviously a lot more blatant in our opinion than what transpired on (Monday). Blaney was down there, Ryan (Newman) wasn’t down there, but certainly in our opinion drove him down there.
“We reserve the right to call a car that forces another down below the yellow line. We can kind of use our judgement to assess the situation.
“No two ones of those situations are the same. There’s some subjectivity in it, which isn’t the greatest thing for us. But I think we’re very happy with the calls that we made and feel like both of them were right.”
Miller was asked by SiriusXM NASCAR Radio whether the yellow line rule is one that will be addressed going forward.
“The language of the rule is fine,” Miller said. “There’s always going to be judgment unless we put a wall down there or grass there or something like that. Those things would have their own set of large problems associated with them. We’ve looked at the language many times and have landed on where we are to let us make the calls we feel like are necessary for certain situations.
“If we didn’t have the yellow line rule, there’s no telling what might ensue with all the skid paths and everything leading into the back straight being so wide. We would find guys getting to the other end having no place to go but the apron. We have to enforce the yellow line rule and we are where we are. We look at everything every time when we have to make a call, all of our rules, not only race procedures, but technical rules as well.
“We’re constantly trying to get better. … I mean the yellow line rule is not something that we enjoy by any stretch of the imagination. But we have to have it. If we didn’t, there’d be even more mayhem more than likely.”
Miller also addressed why no caution was thrown on the last lap when Parker Kligerman and Chris Buescher wrecked on the frontstretch as the field approached the start-finish line. Both drivers were turned nose-first into the outside wall in the tri-oval.
“When it feels like that it’s not hampering us from dispatching the safety equipment we’ll let things play out,” Miller said. “That’s kind of our criteria for judging that. Everybody wants to see a checkered flag finish and not a field freeze. We’ll do everything that we can safely to make that happen.”
“That’s always going to be subjective, right?” Miller said. “You’re going to have a race and there’s going to be teammates working together and there’s going to be cars from different camps working together on the situation out there in the race. … I don’t know why it got publicized this weekend as much as it did. I think all of the manufacturers and all of the teams internally meet and try to come up with a little bit of strategy to stick with one another in the draft.
“It’s not something that we can really officiate effectively. We can ask them not to talk about it I would assume, but it’s not something we can really officiate. If something becomes extremely blatant and you have people stopping or doing crazy things, then obviously we have to look at that. But as far as going out there and working together in the draft, that’s something that’s going to change every single lap depending on who you’re around. So there’s really no way to officiate that.”