Road America

Bump & Run: Who is having a better season? Martin Truex Jr. or Kyle Busch?

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With four wins apiece, which Joe Gibbs Racing driver is having the better season, Kyle Busch or Martin Truex Jr.?

Nate Ryan: The points, playoff points and top 10 tallies point to Busch, but Truex gets this nod because he is improving as the season unfolds while making a largely seamless transition to Joe Gibbs Racing. Busch’s No. 18 Toyota has been more consistently excellent, but Truex’s No. 19 team seems slightly more playoff ready.

Dustin Long: It’s easy to get the sense that Martin Truex Jr. and crew chief Cole Pearn are figuring things out, but I’ll take Kyle Busch for having the better season at this point. Busch has led more laps, had more top-three finishes, more top-five finishes and more top-10 finishes than Truex.

Daniel McFadin: Truex has won four of the last eight races, but he struggles in the races following his wins. Meanwhile Kyle Busch has been incredibly consistent through 16 races, failing to finish outside the top 10 just once at Kansas. We’re still waiting to see Busch find his kryptonite.

Jerry Bonkowski: Busch is having a statistically better season than Truex and has been at or near the top of the points for much of the season, but they’re equal where it counts the most. What’s more, they play off each other so well, you’d never know they’re first-year teammates.

 

Do stages need to be re-evaluated for road-course races, particularly Sonoma?

Nate Ryan: Yes. There has been only one “natural” caution over the past 246 miles of Cup racing at Sonoma Raceway. It seems as if having two scheduled yellows in a race that emphasizes strategy might be adversely disrupting the driver behavior and rhythm of an event in which action can be dependent on the randomness of cautions (and this could apply to any race that features green-flag pit stops without losing a lap). While the Sophie’s Choice of going for the win vs. amassing points adds an interesting wrinkle, it also seems too preordained and rote, eliminating some of the tactical genius and unexpected twists that make road-course racing fun.

Dustin Long: I’m not convinced this needs to be done. I do like seeing which teams will toss aside potential stage points for the chance to go for the win and pit shortly before a stage break. If nothing else, stage breaks do provide two restarts and restarts are often some of the most exciting moments in a race. You really want to eliminate two restarts a race?

Daniel McFadin: I think so. With NASCAR keeping in place that caution laps during stage breaks count towards the lap count, Stage 2 at Sonoma had only 15 competitive laps under green compared to the first stage’s 20. I’d add five laps to the second stage there and have the final stage be 45 laps. It’s still significantly longer than the first two stages. 

Jerry Bonkowski: Yes. Personally, I feel stages don’t work well in road course races, especially at a place like Sonoma, which saw a half-mile larger track this year for the first time in more than 20 years (due to adding the Carousel). Road course races should be a constant, moving episode and not interrupted by stages. And if it proves fans like the racing more without stages, it may be something to look at when the major changes come around in 2021. 

 

With the first Cup race of the year on a road course behind us, what’s one road course you’d like added to the Cup schedule?

Nate Ryan: Road America already has proved worthy of the Xfinity Series and also provides a NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader opportunity. If the category were expanded to street races, Toronto already hosts stock cars with NASCAR’s Canadian series.

Dustin Long: Road America. 

Daniel McFadin: Laguna Seca, baby! It was my favorite road course as a kid and I’d love to see a Cup car navigating its variety of turns, especially the Corkscrew. Would three California Cup races, with two on road courses be healthy for the sport? Probably not. But I still want to see it.

Jerry Bonkowski: Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, or Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. I’d be happy with either — actually I’d be the happiest if both were on the schedule.

 

What has been the best story in NASCAR this season?

Nate Ryan: Ross Chastain, and if there’s justice in the near future, his story should continue to unfold on a bigger stage than a third-tier series.

Dustin Long: The development and domination of the Big 3 in the Xfinity Series — Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick and Cole Custer — and the questions of where they’ll race next season.

Daniel McFadin: Without a doubt Ross Chastain and Niece Motorsports. With its Gateway win, the small team will more than likely compete in the Truck Series playoffs. They could deliver a second consecutive Truck Series title from an underfunded team as the giants of the series – Kyle Busch Motorsports, GMS Racing and ThorSport Racing – struggle to find victory lane with their full-time drivers. If you’re a fan of old school motorsports stories, there’s one playing out with this team.

Jerry Bonkowski: It’s a close call, but I am going to go with Tyler Reddick having a slight edge over Kyle Busch in best overall story of 2019.

Regan Smith to return to JR Motorsports for two Xfinity races

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JR Motorsports announced Wednesday that Regan Smith will drive the team’s No. 8 car in two Xfinity Series races this season.

Smith, who also serves as a Fox Sports analyst, will pilot the car Aug. 10 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Aug. 24 at Road America. Long-time sponsor Fire Alarm Services will join Smith.

This will mark the 35-year-old Smith’s first Xfinity start in two years and his first for JR Motorsports since 2016. Smith won in his JR Motorsports debut in 2012 in Miami and drove full-time for the team from 2013-15. He won five times during that stint, including at Mid-Ohio.

“Regan is a great friend, and he means so much to our company,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a statement from the team. “He won a lot of races here, but for me his significance was no more evident than in his very first race for JRM at the end of 2012. That win at Homestead was enormous. It ended a winless streak for JR Motorsports that had dragged us down for more than two years. It was a tone-setter. It gave us momentum that, to be honest, I’m not sure we’ve ever lost. That’s what Regan means to this company, and that’s why I’m thrilled to have him back for these two races at Mid-Ohio and Road America.”

Said Smith: “I can’t tell you how pumped I am for this. Dale, Kelley (Earnhardt Miller) and everyone at JRM have been like family to me, so in a way, it feels like I’m coming home. I have great memories of the years I spent there and the success we had during that time. And to have Fire Alarm on board for these races makes it all the more meaningful. They’ve been both friends and supporters of mine for a long time.”

NASCAR fines Xfinity crew chief

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NASCAR announced Tuesday that it fined crew chief Jeff Meendering $5,000 after officials found one lug nut not secure on Cole Custer‘s car after last weekend’s Xfinity race at Road America.

That was the only penalty from the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series this past weekend.

Justin Allgaier wins Xfinity race at Road America; Bill Elliott places 20th

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Justin Allgaier won the Johnsonville 180 at Road America, continuing a career year with his fourth victory.

Allgaier led 14 laps and the final seven under green after passing James Davison on a restart in Turn 8.

The top five was completed by Matt Tifft, Daniel Hemric, Cole Custer and Elliott Sadler.

James Davison and Justin Marks were competing for second with three laps to go when they made contact and spun in Turn 8.

“The restart there, he kind of left before I did and the 2 (Matt Tifft) gave me a shot … he thought (Davison) was going. I spun the tires really bad after I got hit. I thought I gave it away and when he made the mistake down in (Turn) 8 I just knew I had to be smooth and fast.”

Allgaier has won two of the season’s first three road course races after winning at Mid-Ohio. He placed third at Watkins Glen.

Allgaier came back to win after he and Christopher Bell knocked each other off track on Lap 27.

The race also featured Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, who finished 20th despite being involved in two incidents.

“I feel like I hit everything but the lottery,” Elliott told NBCSN. “It was a great day. … It was a heck of a lot of fun. I just felt like I needed more through (Turns) 9 and 10, the carousel, to carry any speed through there. I feel like I just gave up too much in like (Turn) 3. I was not too bad in (Turns) 5, 6, 7, 8. But it seemed like the carousel, I got a little bit free down into (Turn) 11. But all in all I enjoyed it, I had a good time.”

Elliott said “I doubt it” when asked if he’d race again.

“This was a lot of fun, a good time,” Elliott said. “I felt like I held my own pretty good for where I’m at in my career and what I was trying to do.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: Matt Tifft

STAGE 2 WINNER: Daniel Hemric

MORE: Race results, point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Matt Tifft earned his career-best finish in his 67th start … Ross Chastain finished seventh for his second-best result of the season. He earned his sixth top-10 finish of 2018, his most ever in a single season. … Elliott Sadler earned his first top five since the July race at Daytona … Katherine Legge placed 14th in her second NASCAR start, bouncing back from a spin on Lap 24.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Ryan Reed was eliminated after he wrecked on a Lap 7 restart in Turn 2 … Austin Cindric was eliminated when his engine expired on Lap 15, right as Daniel Hemric passed him for the lead … Tyler Reddick finished 34th after a fluid leak forced him to retire … Josh Bilicki wrecked out with eight laps to go, plowing into a tire barrier in the Canada Corner.

NOTABLE: Cole Custer, Elliott Sadler and Daniel Hemric locked themselves into the playoffs on points … Conor Daly finished 31st in his series debut due to mechanical issues.

POST-RACE INSPECTION: Cole Custer had one unsecured lug nut.

WHAT’S NEXT: VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway at 3:30 p.m. ET on Sept. 1 on NBC

 

Matt Tifft wins Xfinity pole at Road America; Bill Elliott qualifies 23rd

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Matt Tifft will start first in today’s Xfinity Series race at Road America (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN) after winning his second career pole.

Tifft earned the pole with a speed of 109.307 mph around the road course. His previous pole was in 2016 at Talladega.

“It felt really good,” Tifft told NBCSN. “This is kind of cool, back-to-back poles, got it in the Trans-Am race and got this. Just a great job all weekend so far … Had a really good run here last year in both the Xfinity and ARCA races. We’ve been close here so many times and this piece has just been great all weekend.”

Cole Custer will start second (109.294 mph).

The top five is completed by Joe Gibbs Racing’s James Davison, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Justin Marks and Christopher Bell.

Justin Allgaier will start 11th after he went off track during his run in the final round. His No. 7 Chevrolet was undamaged.

Daniel Hemric did not make a lap in the final round and will start 12th.

Hall of Famer Bill Elliott will start 23rd in GMS Racing’s No. 23 Chevrolet.

Conor Daly will start 15th in his NASCAR debut.

Click here for the results.