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NASCAR teams, groups approved for millions in federal COVID-19 loans

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Several NASCAR teams and related organizations were approved for between $150,000 and $10 million in loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPE), according to data provided Monday.

The U.S. Small Business Administration posted a list of PPP loan data on the U.S. Department of the Treasury website. The Paycheck Protection Program was included in the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that was established to help businesses weather the financial stress of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Among the many NASCAR teams, racetracks and related organizations (with data including the range of the loan and the number of jobs retained):

* Richard Childress Racing ($5-$10 million, 334 jobs)

* Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates ($2-5 million, 179 jobs)

* Roush Fenway Racing ($2-5 million, 179 jobs)

* Roush & Yates Racing Engines ($2-5 million, 192 jobs)

* JTG Daugherty Racing ($1-2 million, 88 jobs)

* GMS Racing ($1-$2 million, 89 jobs)

* Kyle Busch Motorsports ($1-$2 million, 71 jobs)

* JR Motorsports ($1-$2 million, 88 jobs)

* Germain Racing ($350,000-$1 million, 41 jobs)

* Richard Petty Motorsports ($350,000-$1 million, 43 jobs)

* Dale Earnhardt Inc. ($350,000-$1 million, 55 jobs)

* DGR-Crosley ($350,000-$1 million, 67 jobs)

* Premium Motorsports ($350,000-$1 million, 46 jobs)

* Pocono International Raceway ($350,000-$1 million, 142 jobs)

* Hattori Racing ($150,000-$350,000, 16 jobs)

* Jimmie Johnson Racing ($150,00-$350,000, 8 jobs)

* Motor Racing Outreach ($150,000-$350,000, 9 jobs)

* Rev Racing ($150,000-$350,000, 12 jobs)

* Starcom Racing ($150,000-$350,000, 20 jobs)

* Kaulig Racing ($350,000-$1 million, 36 jobs)

* Mesa Marin Raceway ($150,000-$350,000, 16 jobs)

* Bill McAnally Racing ($150,000-$350,000, 19 jobs)

* Young’s Motorsports ($150,000-$350,000, 0 jobs)

* JD Motorsports ($150,000-$350,000, 0 jobs)

In a statement accompanying the data, the SBA said the data was for businesses that were approved for PPP loans but “does not reflect a determination by SBA that the borrower is eligible for a PPP loan or entitled to loan forgiveness. All PPP loans are subject to SBA review, and all loans over $2 million will automatically be reviewed.”

Contributing: Nate Ryan

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Friday 5: Ford boss reaffirms commitment to motorsports

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The executive overseeing Ford’s racing program said the company is “committed to motorsports” even as the manufacturer faces economic challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Performance Motorsports, said motorsports remains important to the manufacturer but admitted that “scrutiny to make sure we’re getting the return from every dollar is probably higher than it ever has been before, or at least in the last five years.

“So that is part of the discussions that we have internally with our motorsports steering team and governance board that we have with our racing partners, but Ford is a company founded based on motorsports with Henry Ford (winning a race in 1901) and ultimately forming the company over 100 years ago. It’s part of who we are today, so we’re here to be in motorsports. We’re committed to motorsports.”

Ford announced during an earnings call in April that it lost $2 billion in the first quarter of the year. Before taxes and after adjusting for one-time items, Ford lost $632 million. Projections at that time were that the number could top $5 billion in the second quarter. Even so, Ford stated in April it had $35 billion in cash.

“Be assured that everyone at Ford is squarely focused on both today and our future,” said Jim Hackett, President and Chief Executive Officer, Ford Motor Co., during the April earnings call. “We believe it remains bright and it’s a great source of motivation for us as we serve that future and of course take care of all these immediate needs.”

On the track, Ford has been a leader this season, winning seven of the 13 Cup races. Ryan Blaney’s victory Monday at Talladega gave every Cup driver at Team Penske at least one series win this season.

Ford’s wins this season are by Kevin Harvick (two), Brad Keselowski (two), Joey Logano (two) and Blaney (one). Seven Ford drivers are in the 16 playoff spots at the halfway mark of the regular season: Harvick, Keselowski, Logano, Blaney, Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer and Matt DiBenedetto.

“The season is going really well so far,” Rushbrook said. “Certainly the four races before the break that we had with our two wins out of those four races and just continuing that momentum even a little bit better for our win percentage since we’ve returned from that break.”

2. Missing practice

Although racing without practice appeases some fans, it creates challenges for some teams.

Chris Buescher, who is in his first season back at Roush Fenway Racing and has a new crew chief in Luke Lambert, said the lack of practice has impacted his team.

Buescher said the team knew “that it was going to be very difficult to start up coming back to a new team with a new crew chief and not having the ability to do any testing, and then after just four races taking away all of our practice. 

“That’s made it extremely difficult for us as a team trying to build chemistry and come together, so we’ve been put at a pretty serious disadvantage, and I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to do in the last several weeks. We’ve made some huge gains that are really helping us be able to be more competitive.”

Chris Buescher is 19th in the points at the halfway mark in the regular season. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) 

With the regular season at the halfway point, Buescher enters this weekend’s races at Pocono Raceway 19th in the standings. He is 40 points out of what would be the final playoff spot, which is held by rookie Tyler Reddick.

Buescher opened the season by scoring four consecutive top-20 finishes, which included a third-place result in the Daytona 500. Those races featured practice.

When the sport resumed in May after a 71-day pause because of the coronavirus pandemic, practices were eliminated. In the nine races since, Buescher has three top-20 finishes, including a sixth-place finish Monday at Talladega.

Cup teams are not scheduled to practice at upcoming races at Pocono, Indianapolis, Kentucky, the All-Star Race at Bristol and Kansas. Weekend schedules for upcoming races at Texas and New Hampshire have not been revealed.

With 13 races left until the playoffs begin in September, Buescher and his team will need to show better results despite not having any practice time.

“I feel like we should be stepping our game up every week going forward right now,” he said. “I think we’ve gotten a lot of the elementary stuff behind us that we had to learn as a group and being new with Luke Lambert leading the charge for the 17 group, for me not being able to go into the shop and be a lot more hands-on with everything has been very difficult.

“It’s something I’ve always enjoyed and pride myself in being able to know exactly what’s underneath our race cars, what’s going into it and how we’re going to be better. With this distance, it’s just made it difficult, so where we’re at we definitely have a chance to make (the playoffs) still. We just have to clean up. We have to keep progressing in what we’ve been able to do the last couple of weeks.”

3. Looking ahead

While Cup races Saturday and Sunday at Pocono Raceway, it is not expected to be the only doubleheader weekend this season for the series.

NASCAR has not announced its schedule beyond Aug. 2 but Michigan International Speedway and Dover International Speedway are expected to host doubleheaders after both tracks had earlier races postponed by the pandemic.

Doug Yates, CEO of Roush Yates Engines, said this week that he would be concerned most about engines at Dover.

“I’m a little bit more nervous about a doubleheader at Dover than the other tracks,” Yates said. “Dover is a long race no matter what and it’s also a race where on a green track you turn a lot of RPMs and as the lap times fall off, the RPM comes way down, so when we go there to qualify or when we used to qualify we would turn 9500 RPM on Friday in qualifying, but during the race you’re about 9000 RPM, so it’s a big swing. Conditions change a lot, so I think Dover is the one that makes me nervous and obviously we’ll do our homework and prepare, but just something to look out for and it is a different track.”

As for running two races this weekend at Pocono and the impact on engines? Yates said it shouldn’t be a problem.

“When Pocono was originally laid out, we were going to have practice and qualifying and then two 350-mile races, which would have put us over 700 (miles),” Yates said. “… So if we were to go over 700 miles, we would need to change springs after Race 1 before the second race. Now that we’re not going to have practice or qualifying, we’re going to run both races without changing valve springs. We’ve made a pretty extensive checklist, so we’ll probably end up changing oil and checking the filters, going back through some things that you would normally do after a race event.” 

4. More of the same?

Drivers at Joe Gibbs Racing have combined to win each of the last five Pocono races.

Kyle Busch has won three of the last five races there. Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. each has a win during that time. Erik Jones has finished in the top five in each of the past three races there, including a runner-up finish in the most recent race there last season.

In the last six Pocono races, Joe Gibbs Racing drivers have five wins, 11 top-five and 18 top-10 finishes. They’ve also combined to lead 51% of all the laps run in those races. Joe Gibbs Racing has 14 career wins at Pocono. The only track JGR has won more races at is Richmond. JGR has 16 Cup victories there.

5. Leading the way …

Ryan Blaney has scored the most points in Cup since the series resumed in May. He has scored 342 points, collecting one win and six top-five finishes in those nine races. After Blaney in points scored since the season resumed is Martin Truex Jr. (328 points), Kevin Harvick (326), Brad Keselowski (323) and Denny Hamlin (317).

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Roman to sponsor Ryan Newman in Coca-Cola 600

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Ryan Newman will sport a new sponsor in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Roush Fenway Racing announced Wednesday that Newman’s No. 6 Ford will be branded by Roman, a men’s digital health clinic.

Roman offers a personalized healthcare experience for men from online treatment to the delivery of medication and ongoing care.

“We are excited to have Roman on board this weekend,” Newman said in a press release. “The Coke 600 is one of the most challenging races of the season. Roman’s support of men’s health initiatives makes it a great fit for this weekend, at a race where you really have to be on your game both mentally and physically to compete at the highest levels for 600 miles.”

Ross Chastain, Chip Ganassi Racing sticking to their ‘plan’

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The last 10 weeks provided surreal sight after surreal sight as the NASCAR community and the world at large navigated the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of those odd sights came on May 5 courtesy of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch. In a video posted to Twitter, Busch showed off his racing gear as he prepped to take part in go-kart races at the GoPro Motorplex in Mooresville, North Carolina, to get ready for NASCAR’s return 12 days later at Darlington Raceway.

At one point, Busch showed two figures social distancing in the parking lot. Busch referred to them as “secret weapons.”

The one sitting on a curb was 48-year-old Matt Kenseth, recently brought in from the cold to drive the team’s No. 42 Chevrolet 17 months after his last NASCAR start.

The other was 27-year-old Ross Chastain, the CGR development driver who competes full-time in the Xfinity Series for Kaulig Racing.

Making it more surreal: Chastain was the driver many expected to get the nod to replace Kyle Larson after his firing by CGR.

Chastain is all about opportunities to race.

Last year, he competed in 77 of a possible 92 national NASCAR series races, competing full-time in the Truck Series while missing only one of 36 Cup Series races.

Before NASCAR entered its COVID-19 imposed lockdown in March, Chastain had competed in every national NASCAR series race – four Cup races, four Xfinity races and two Truck races. Over the course of those 10 races, Chastain drove vehicles for five different teams: Kaulig Racing, Niece Motorsports, Spire Motorsports, Ryan Sieg Racing and Roush Fenway Racing as a substitute driver for Ryan Newman (and as one of its drivers in the Pro Invitational iRacing Series).

“It’s just been when opportunities come up in the top three levels of NASCAR like, yes, yes, take them as a driver and make the best of them,” Chastain told NBC Sports.

Chastain will be back in Spire Motorsports’ No. 77 (Chip Ganassi Racing prepared) car for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600. But before that, he returns to his full-time job driving Kaulig Racing’s No. 10 Chevrolet in the Xfinity Series, which is scheduled to end its 10-week hiatus tonight at Darlington.

But for a brief window of time last month, Chastain seemed the logical choice to take over the CGR’s No. 42, and to be in it last Sunday.

However, that wasn’t part of the plan.

Ross Chastain on the track during Xfinity practice at Phoenix Raceway in March. (Photo by Lyle Setter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“Obviously, what all happened (with Larson) hit everybody really fast,” Chastain said. “I don’t know all of the details about it. But I just know that in my mind, we’re on a path. … Obviously, when Chip and (Chief Operating Officer) Doug Duchardt and (Managing Director) Max Jones and I … sat down two years ago or I guess the middle of 2018 and set out this plan, there was a lot of other factors involved like we all know and that all went away.

“All the other factors that supported me with them went away and they’ve kept me on, they’ve kept building out a plan for me and they didn’t give up whenever they very easily could have. … I just know that they haven’t given up on me and I surely haven’t given up on them.”

And you won’t hear Chastain complaining about having Kenseth as an unexpected teammate five months into the year.

“Too much of our plan was in place and obviously getting to know Matt now, he’s the right guy,” Chastain said. “He knows stuff and has been a part of stuff that I only watched as a kid on TV and he just rattles off this scenario, that scenario, this racetrack, that race car. And it’s great to be around him a little bit and learn from for sure.”

Kenseth and Busch took to the track Sunday at Darlington in the first NASCAR race in 71 days. It was also the first NASCAR race without Chastain in the field since last year’s Xfinity finale in Miami. Chastain expected to talk to Kenseth and Busch “a bit annoyingly” afterward to get feedback.

“They can just talk in such literal terms of, everything else aside, what did the track do?” said Chastain. “Doesn’t matter what kind of race car you had, if you were the leader, you were 32nd place, what did the racetrack do? What were the trends? Was it normal Darlington? What do you see? That’s where I found that Kurt is really, it’s why Matt says he’s such a good teammate so often is that he just can articulate what we all think, but we can’t put in words. … He genuinely wants to help.”

When Chastain straps into his No. 10 car at Darlington, it won’t be his first time in it since March. Last week, he and teammate Justin Haley visited Kaulig Racing’s shop on the Richard Childress Racing campus in Welcome, North Carolina, and gave their cars for the races at Darlington and Charlotte (Monday, May 25) shake down drives.

“We did the Charlotte car first and it worked fine, drove for two laps around the RCR compound and hopped over into the Darlington one,” Chastain said.

That’s when the team discovered an issue on Chastain’s car that could have resulted in a “big scare” tonight.

“We actually had a (radio) wiring harness in the Darlington car that did not work,” Chastain said. “I couldn’t hear my crew and they couldn’t hear me.”

Chastain said his team “kind of felt silly. … We all were laughing like, ‘Why are we doing this?’ And then as soon as that happened and we replaced the whole wiring harness … we were like, ‘Okay, it was all worth it.”

Chastain feels “confident” going into Darlington, the track where he made his debut with CGR two years ago in the Xfinity race and had a good shot at a win before an incident with Kevin Harvick. That performance helped lead to his signing with CGR later that year.

But Chastain admits “just because I had a good run there two years ago does not mean a whole lot.”

“I’ve used the end of that race as motivation for a lot of stuff and a lot of training,” he said. “Looking back at it. Yeah, obviously, you want to go replicate how the first two thirds that race went, if you can, and then clean up the end.”

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Ryan Newman: ‘I feel like a complete walking miracle’

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When Ryan Newman went to Darlington Raceway last month as part of the process to be medically cleared by NASCAR, he felt no apprehension climbing back into a car for the first time since his Daytona 500 crash.

I was so excited and ready to go and just kind of prove myself that I actually had to slow myself down and make sure that I didn’t go out there and fence it on the first lap by trying too hard,” Newman said during a zoom media conference this week. “So I never felt like I had to be apprehensive toward it, other than the fact that I wanted to make sure that I didn’t mess up my own test.”

Newman said his first five laps topped last year’s Southern 500 pole speed of 172.487 mph by William Byron.

Newman ran 30 laps that day. He showed no issues from the brain bruise he suffered in the last-lap crash at Daytona that forced him to be hospitalized two days.

He missed three races before the Cup season was suspended by the coronavirus outbreak. NASCAR medically cleared him to race last month and he’ll make his return Sunday at Darlington Raceway (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX).

“I feel like a complete walking miracle,” Newman said.

Newman says that as he reflects on all that came together to protect him during the savage crash.

Track workers attend to Ryan Newman after his crash in the Daytona 500. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

“Everything aligned in so many ways,” he said. “The safety workers, the personnel that were involved, that were inside the car with me, spent time with me during and after the crash, every layer of it there was multiple miracles – big miracles and little miracles, in my opinion – that aligned for me to be able to walk out days later with my hands around my daughters and to be thankful, so I can’t answer all of those things and I don’t think anybody can when miracles do happen, but we need to be thankful for that.”

Newman notes that the Daytona 500 was just the second race he had used his carbon fiber helmet.

He said that his helmet was struck in the incident — he’s unsure if it was by Corey LaJoie’s car or something inside his car. Whatever it was, Newman said the contact “crushed” the helmet. In a March 11 interview on NBC’s “Today” show Newman said his car’s roll cage was “compromised” in the accident. NASCAR has since mandated additional support in the car.

“My helmet did have contact and my HANS did have contact, and I was being moved backwards in my seat as (LaJoie’s) car was moving me forward,” Newman said. “So I can’t honestly tell you what percentage of that inertia and those physics that went into the actual action of the crash were being driven by his car hitting me or his car hitting my roll bars. 

“It’s not a fair assessment to say, but everything happened really quick and everything was all in that compartment, basically, and I guess it would be like a case of high-quality whiplash that kind of happened when I was hit.”

Newman said he remembers little about the accident but recalls some of what happened after his car came to stop upside down beyond the exit of pit road. The car was eventually rolled over with Newman inside. Safety workers extricated Newman 15 minutes, 40 seconds after the car came to rest, according to NASCAR.

“I know that I was fighting the medical crew there for a little while and they kind of helped me out in more ways than one,” Newman said. “But I really don’t have any recollection of the last lap and everything after that until I walked out of the hospital with my daughters (two days later).”

When Newman later watched video of the crash, he turned to his dad and said: “Hey, did this really happen?”

Questions remain if he suffered a concussion. Newman said doctors gave him different assessments on that.

“I kind of put it in layman’s terms of having a bruised brain because everybody knows what a bruise is,” Newman said of his injury. “You can’t see a concussion. It’s just a medical diagnosis, but a bruise you can see and the part of your brain or the fact that my brain was injured, I guess, in this accident to the point that it knocked me out and I don’t remember the actual parts of the accident that day, tells me that something happened. 

“So I kind of self-diagnosed myself with that bruised brain because the reality is you need to give time for a bruise to heal. That’s what I needed was time for my brain to heal. I’ve really felt completely normal since, I guess in the last eight weeks no problem, no question. That doesn’t mean that I was and that’s why when it comes time to having a bruise heal, especially one you can’t see, you have to be extra careful.”

Healed, now the focus returns to racing.

NASCAR has granted Newman a waiver should he need it to qualify for the playoffs. He enters this weekend 29th in the driver standings, 54 points out of a potential playoff position.

“We certainly recognize that the easiest path to make the playoffs is win a race,” Kevin Kidd, competition director for Roush Fenway Racing, told NBC Sports. “We’re going to do everything in our power to accomplish that.”

Newman is not phased by returning to run five Cup races in 14 days, starting Sunday.

“I’ve done several races in several days in a row before, that’s no big deal,” he said. “I feel like the way the schedule is set, doing the one-day shows, you wouldn’t be doing something that we physically weren’t capable of or asked upon us by everybody that’s involved, and that’s from driving the race car to the hauler drivers and the pit crews and everybody involved. So I think that’s not a big deal. It’s not an easy ask, but I don’t think that’s insurmountable.”