Riley Herbst

ARCA Menards Series

Rain hampers first of two-day ARCA test at Daytona

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Friday’s first day of a two-day open test for the ARCA Menards Series at Daytona International Speedway was cut short due to rain.

A total of 37 cars – out of 50 that were entered – took to the 2.5-mile oval, with Connor Hall of Chad Bryant Racing turning in the fastest lap of 181.046 mph, followed by Ronnie Osmor (180.890 mph) and Jacob Heafner (180.843).

“We were working on single car runs this morning,” Hall said in an ARCA media release. “We had a game plan to work on the car and getting air where we wanted it.

“We made some gains and learned some things we liked and didn’t like. That’s what testing is all about. We were focused on what we needed to be better on last year. We have a great racecar. We are happy but not totally happy so we’ll get back to work tomorrow.”

Added Heafner, “It was a learning curve at the beginning. I calmed myself down and got to driving. It is a big change coming from late models on short tracks. We worked a little on single car runs and then got out there in the draft a little. We’re learning a lot and ready to come back in February.”

Other notable names in the field included Ty Gibbs, grandson of NASCAR team owner Joe Gibbs, who was fourth fastest (180.825 mph), Riley Herbst (seventh, 180.552), Tanner Gray (17th, 176.602), Hailie Deegan (18th, 176.167) and Sam Mayer (30th, 172.894).

2020r01 Daytona Test Friday Speeds

Teams hope the weather is more cooperative Saturday, the second day of the two-day test, which is in preparation for the season-opening Lucas Oil 200 on Saturday, February 8. A morning session begins at 9 a.m. ET, while the afternoon session is set to start at 1 p.m. ET. Live timing and scoring will be available throughout the day at ARCARacing.com.

Here’s a video, courtesy of the Daytona Beach News-Journal, of an interview Deegan gave before the rain came:

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Friday 5: Youth movement expanding in NASCAR

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While the focus during the offseason is on which drivers will fill what seats in Cup, Xfinity and Trucks, there’s also a lot taking place for younger drivers seeking to reach NASCAR’s top levels someday.

Toyota Racing Development spends the end of the year evaluating talent and seeing what roles those drivers can have in the coming season.

“When I look at kind of that 16- to 21-year old group … there’s some pretty fantastic talent in that group,” Jack Irving, whose duties at Toyota Racing Development include overseeing the organization’s driver development program, told NBC Sports earlier this month. “(Also) we’ve literally tested 14- and 15-year olds that I’m extremely excited about in the same way.”

The question is where might that talent go if it remains in Toyota’s pipeline.

Toyota has five Cup seats with three filled by drivers who competed in the championship race this season — 2019 champion Kyle Busch, runner-up Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin, who placed fourth in the points. Toyota’s other two Cup seats are filled by budding stars Erik Jones (23 years old) and 2020 Cup rookie Christopher Bell (24).

Joe Gibbs Racing’s 2020 Xfinity lineup includes Brandon Jones, who turns 23 in February. This will be his third consecutive season with JGR. Joining him is Riley Herbst, who turns 21 in February, for his first full season with the team, and 19-year-old Harrison Burton for his rookie campaign.

Kyle Busch Motorsports will have 18-year-old Raphael Lessard compete full time in 2020 after running five races for the team this past season. The team also will have 19-year-old Christian Eckes, who won the ARCA title this past season, drive full time. He made eight starts in 2019 and four starts for the organization in 2018. A third truck will feature several drivers. Chandler Smith, who doesn’t turn 18 until June and is limited in what tracks he can run before then, likely will run some races for the team.

Then there’s Derek Kraus, the 18-year-old who won the title in what is now known as the ARCA West Series. There’s also 18-year-old Hailie Deegan, who finished third in points in the ARCA West Series and shows signs of climbing NASCAR’s ranks. And Ty Gibbs, the 17-year-old grandson of car owner Joe Gibbs, who won twice in ARCA and once each in what is now ARCA East and ARCA West Series in 2019. Many others are in the pipeline, which stretches to the formidable Keith Kunz Motorsports midget teams.

As each season nears an end, the work increases for Toyota Racing Development to evaluate drivers and where they will race for next year. The competition can be intense.

“I think there is a point here somewhere quickly where you get pushed pretty hard to start winning and competing,” Irving said, “to compete for top five in all the races and not have wrecked cars and do all these things and then also be a good teammate and a good person and all those kinds of things that you don’t necessarily always talk about that are pretty important for what we do from a structure perspective.”

Another key factor can be how a young driver ends a season, even if it doesn’t end in a championship.

“You typically want to see them under pressure, so the end of the season really does matter in the whole scheme of things,” Irving said. “If they’ve had a tough season, how are they finishing? If they’re having a good season, then how are they finishing?

And there’s more that is examined.

“We typically go through an analytics run through with the group,” Irving said. “A few of us will get together and kind of go through … some of the things from the coaches, some of the things from the engineers who work with them and what they’ve done with the team, so we’ll start talking to the individuals in the team, if it’s the team owner, if it’s crew chief, car chief.”

It’s all about seeking to find the next talent for the Cup Series.

2. New Generation

Based on what driver lineups that are set for next year, the 2020 Daytona 500 could see half the field age 29 and younger.

Drivers who will be age 29 and under as of next year’s Daytona 500 (Feb. 16) and have rides announced are:

Age 22: William Byron, Cole Custer, Quin Houff

Age 23: Erik Jones

Age 24: Chase Elliott, Tyler Reddick

Age 25: Christopher Bell

Age 26: Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Bubba Wallace

Age 27: Chris Buescher, Ty Dillon, Kyle Larson

Age 28: Matt DiBenedetto

Age 29: Austin Dillon, Joey Logano, Ryan Preece

One also can add Corey LaJoie (age 28), Ross Chastain (27), Parker Kligerman (29) with the expectation they will each be in a Cup car for next year’s season-opening race. That would put the list at 20 drivers age 29 and under in next year’s Daytona 500. And there could be even more, including Daniel Suarez, who turns 28 in January, and John Hunter Nemechek, 22.

Compare that to 2015 when there were 13 drivers age 29 and under in that year’s season opener.

3. 99 Club

Five drivers completed at least 99% of the 10,255 laps run this season in Cup, the first time any driver has reached that mark since 2015.

Joey Logano led the way, completing 99.67% of the laps (10.221). That’s the highest percentage of laps completed by a driver since 2010 when Matt Kenseth ran 99.93% of the laps. Kenseth ran all but eight of the 10,778 laps run that year.

Also completing more than 99% of the laps this Cup season were Paul Menard (99.63%), Ty Dillon (99.18%), champion Kyle Busch (99.14%) and series runner-up Martin Truex Jr. (99.00%).

4. Ticket deals

With all the sales for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, many tracks also have announced special deals for tickets to NASCAR races this coming season.

NBC Sports’ Daniel McFadin has compiled what deals many tracks have starting today. You can find the information here.

5. Banquet week

The NASCAR Awards Show, which will celebrate Kyle Busch’s championship, takes place next week in Nashville, Tennessee. Festivities will be Dec. 3-5 with the Awards show taking place Dec. 5.

NBCSN will air Burnouts on Broadway at 11:30 p.m. ET on Dec. 4. and replay it at 7 p.m. ET Dec. 5. NBCSN will air the Cup Awards show from 8-10:30 p.m. ET on Dec. 5 with a replay immediately afterward.

The Xfinity Awards show will air from 9-11 p.m. ET on Sunday (Dec. 1) on NBCSN.

Xfinity practice report at ISM Raceway

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FINAL SESSION:

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).

Tyler Reddick was second-fastest (130.011 mph), followed by Cole Custer (129.618 mph), Justin Allgaier (129.613), Austin Cindric (129.385), Zane Smith (129.282), Noah Gragson (129.231), John Hunter Nemechek (128.977), Justin Haley (128.917) and Riley Herbst (128.742).

Qualifying for Saturday’s race will take place at 12:35 p.m. ET (televised on NBCSN). The green flag for the race will fall shortly after 3:30 p.m. ET (televised on NBC).

Click here for the full final practice results.

FIRST SESSION:

Christopher Bell was fastest in the first of two NASCAR Xfinity Series practices Friday afternoon at ISM Raceway near Phoenix.

Bell circled the one-mile oval at a speed of 129.795 mph, just a tick faster than Cole Custer’s effort of 129.716 mph.

Tyler Reddick was third-fastest (129.711 mph) followed by Zane Smith (129.478) and Justin Allgaier (129.399 mph).

A total of 35 cars and drivers took to the track for the 50-minute session.

The final Xfinity practice is slated to take place this evening from 6:05 – 6:55 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Click here for first Xfinity practice results

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Joe Gibbs Racing announces Xfinity crew chief lineup for 2020

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Joe Gibbs Racing has announced its Xfinity Series crew chief lineup for the 2020 season, which will see full-time efforts by Brandon Jones, Harrison Burton and Riley Herbst.

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.”

Preliminary entry lists for NASCAR at ISM Raceway

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The end is nigh for all three NASCAR national series with only two races left for each series.

They will hold their final playoff elimination races this weekend at ISM Raceway near Phoenix.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for each race.

Cup – Bluegreen Vacations 500 (2:30 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC)

Thirty-nine cars are entered.

John Hunter Nemechek is entered in his second race in Front Row Motorsports’ No. 36 Ford in relief of Matt Tifft.

Joe Nemechek is entered in Premium Motorsports’ No. 27 Chevrolet.

Both Nemecheks are entered in all three races this weekend.

Kyle Busch has won the last two races in Phoenix. In this race last year, he beat Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson. In the spring he beat Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney.

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity – Desert Diamond Casino West Valley 200 (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC)

Thirty-eight cars are entered.

Riley Herbst is entered in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota.

More: Herbst to compete full-time for JGR in Xfinity in 2020

Ryan Vargas is entered in JD Motorsports’ No. 4 Chevrolet for his third career start.

Bobby Earnhardt is entered in MBM Motorsports’ No. 66 Toyota.

This race won last year by Christopher Bell over Daniel Hemric and Matt Tifft. The spring race was won by Kyle Busch over Ryan Truex and Tyler Reddick.

Click here for the entry list.

Trucks – Lucas Oil 150 (8:30 p.m. ET Friday on FS1)

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.

DGR-Crosley will field five entries for the first time: Dylan Lupton (No. 5 Toyota), Tanner Gray (No. 7 Toyota), Anthony Alfredo (No. 15 Toyota), Tyler Ankrum (No. 17 Toyota) and Natalie Decker (No. 54 Toyota).

This race was won last year by Brett Moffitt over Noah Gragson and Harrison Burton.

Click here for Truck entry list