Rusty Wallace

Photo courtesy Darlington Raceway

Brad Keselowski to have Rusty Wallace Darlington throwback weekend look

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To paraphrase an old saying, there’s something old and something new for the Blue Duece.

Or in this case, it’s now the Black Deuce.

Brad Keselowski revealed on Twitter Monday afternoon the paint scheme his No. 2 Team Penske Ford Mustang will carry in the upcoming Darlington Raceway throwback weekend will be an homage to the 1996 ride of NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace.

MORE: Retro rundown 2019 Southern 500 paint schemes

Check it out:

As for Keselowski’s reaction, here it is:

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Bump and Run: Who will earn final playoff spots?

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Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, Daniel Suarez and Jimmie Johnson are fighting for the final two playoff spots (provided someone below them in the points doesn’t win any of the next three races). Which two do you think make the playoffs?

Nate Ryan: Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer.

Dustin Long: Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson.

Daniel McFadin: Ryan Newman and Daniel Suarez. Of the four drivers they’re the only two who have produced consistent enough results.

Jerry Bonkowski: Daniel Suarez and Jimmie Johnson. Suarez has had a strong season but hasn’t gotten the recognition he deserves. Making the playoffs will be a huge boost for him and his team. Ditto for Johnson. Sure, he hasn’t won in his last 82 starts, but he’s never missed the playoffs. That would be even more embarrassing than remaining winless for the rest of the season.

At this point, who would be your Championship Four in Cup for Miami?

Nate Ryan: Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr.

Dustin Long: Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano

Daniel McFadin: Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin

Jerry Bonkowski: Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick.

There are 36 charter teams. Sixteen make the Cup playoffs. That’s 44.4% of the charter teams making the playoffs. Are you OK with that? Or should there be a different number of teams make the playoffs?

Nate Ryan: I’d prefer that the field be limited to 12 drivers and the elimination sets changed to reach the Championship Four (how about eight drivers after Round 1 and six after Round 2?). While the “anybody who gets in can win the championship” argument is appreciated (and with Tony Stewart’s 2011 as a rallying cry), this season in particular seems to have accentuated that there are only so many teams truly worthy of running for a title. While Jimmie Johnson extending his playoff streak and Ryan Newman gritting out a berth are both nice storylines, they are the NASCAR equivalent of 16 seeds.

Dustin Long: It’s too many. But it’s on par with the Truck series where eight of the 19 drivers (42.1%) who have run in at least 80% of the races made the playoffs. And it’s on par with the Xfinity Series where 12 of the 28 drivers (42.9%) who have started at least 80% of the races will be in the playoffs. The 80% marker is used since one Truck driver, Tyler Ankrum, started 81.3% of the regular-season races, missing the first three because he was too young to race on those tracks, and made the playoffs.

Daniel McFadin: I’d be OK if there were only 14 drivers in the Cup playoffs. It would add more drama to the regular season and postseason. Playoff eliminations don’t have to include round numbers in each round. 

Jerry Bonkowski: I’d like to see the playoff structure changed to see the top-20 teams make the playoffs. Then, 10 teams would be eliminated after the fifth playoff race, five others would be eliminated after the penultimate race, leaving five teams/drivers to battle it out in a winner-take-all race in the season finale.

What is your most memorable Bristol memory?

Nate Ryan: As far as races covered there, my first taste of a night race in person – Jeff Gordon bumping Rusty Wallace aside for the win during a 2002 race filled with emotion (Ward Burton’s heel pads, Jimmie Johnson’s obscene gesture, Elliott Sadler’s finger-pointing) – would rank at the top, beating out Carl Edwards’ bump on Kyle Busch in August 2008, Jeff Gordon’s shove of Matt Kenseth in March 2006 and Kurt Busch’s win under duress in August 2003.

Dustin Long: The 1999 night race where Dale Earnhardt spun Terry Labonte but meant only to “rattle his cage” on the last lap. What is most memorable is that several minutes after the race ended, the track played the radio call of the final lap on the PA system and when it got to the point where Earnhardt spun Labonte, boos cascaded from the stands. The stands appeared to be more than half full even then, people not wanting to leave after seeing such a wild finish.

Daniel McFadin: My memory comes from the first time I covered a race at Bristol in 2017 and it doesn’t involve the race itself. While driving to the track, I rounded a corner and suddenly it was in front of me. It just doesn’t make sense that a facility like Bristol exists where it does. Having grown up for 20 years watching Bristol races, it was a surreal moment.

Jerry Bonkowski: The first time I attended the night race at Bristol in 2000 is a memory that will forever stay with me. It was a battle of the senses, sounds, smells and more. Honestly, when cars took the green flag to start the race, the first thing I immediately thought of as I watched the action from pit road was tens of thousands of angry hornets had been released, the sound was deafening and overpowering.

Today’s Cup race at Texas: Start time, lineup, more

Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images
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FORT WORTH, Texas — Can an organization other than Team Penske or Joe Gibbs Racing win a Cup race? It hasn’t happened in the season’s first six races.

Or will Kyle Busch win and complete the sweep of Cup, Xfinity and Truck races this weekend at Texas?

Here’s the pertinent information for today’s race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace will give the command to start engines at 3:07 p.m. The green flag is scheduled for 3:16 p.m.

PRERACE: The crew chief and drivers meeting is at noon. Driver introductions will begin at 1:40 p.m. The invocation will be given by Bret Shisler with Texas Alliance Raceway Ministries at 3 p.m. The 1st Calvary Division Army Band will perform the national anthem at 3:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 334 laps (501 miles) around the 1.5-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 85. Stage 2 ends on Lap 170.

TV/RADIO: Fox will broadcast the race with coverage beginning at 2:30 p.m. Performance Racing Network will broadcast the race. PRN’s coverage begins at 2 p.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry PRN’s broadcast, which is also available at goprn.com.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 54 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain for the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Kevin Harvick won the November playoff race (only to have his car fail inspection at the R&D Center). Ryan Blaney was second (also penalized for failing inspection after the race). Joey Logano was third. Kyle Busch won this event last April. Harvick was second. Jamie McMurray placed third.

TO THE REAR: Alex Bowman (backup) and Ryan Newman (car failed inspection twice before race).

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the lineup.

Coffee with Kyle: Mike Helton opens up about the loss of Dale Earnhardt

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There are “a lot of conversations” from Feb. 18, 2001 that Mike Helton will “probably take to my grave.”

Those conversations resulted in Helton, now NASCAR’s Vice Chairman, revealing to the world that day that Dale Earnhardt had been killed in a wreck on the last lap of the Daytona 500.

“By then I think of most of the industry had figured it out. But we had to authenticate it and make it official,” Helton said in the latest episode of “Coffee with Kyle.”

Mike Helton moments before he announced Dale Earnhardt’s death on Feb. 18, 2001.

“I got picked to do it,” Helton told Kyle Petty. “I said, I used some adult words, ‘But we just lost the biggest thing in our sport. What am I going to say?’

“Brian France or maybe Paul Brooks or somebody said, ‘Well, that’s what you say, we just lost the biggest thing in our sport today.'”

Eighteen years later, Helton thinks he knows “more about what I said later on looking at it than I did at the moment of saying it. Because it was tough.”

In the wake of Earnhardt’s death, Helton said NASCAR leadership recognized how much it relied on The Intimidator’s voice in the garage.

“We couldn’t tap the next Dale Sr. on the shoulder and say, ‘You’re it,'” Helton said. “It needed to be organic out of the garage area. We were kind of settling in to see who that would be. (Jeff) Gordon wasn’t ready to accept it, although people said, ‘You should and you need to.’ But Rusty Wallace, Dale Jarrett and Bobby Labonte, those individuals banded together to do it as a group instead of an individual until Gordon was ready to be that voice.”

But in the nearly two decades since, Helton said there hasn’t been a driver voice that’s emerged that has been as “strategic and as pragmatic” as that of Earnhardt.

Watch the above video for more of Kyle Petty’s interview with Helton.

Richard Petty Motorsports promotes Derek Stamets to Bubba Wallace’s crew chief

Photo: Dustin Long
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Richard Petty Motorsports announced Thursday it has promoted lead engineer Derek Stamets to crew chief for Bubba Wallace in the No. 43 Chevrolet.

Stamets has been RPM’s lead engineer since 2012, being part of race wins with Marcos Ambrose and Aric Almirola. Prior to joining RPM, he recorded multiple Cup wins with a number of drivers including NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace, Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray and David Ragan.

“Derek was a logical decision for us to move up,” RPM director of competition Philippe Lopez said in a media release. “He spent the full season with Bubba and our Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 program last year and has been with our organization for seven seasons. We want to keep the chemistry that Derek and Bubba built together while continuing the experience we built with Chevrolet and Richard Childress Racing. We are confident in Derek’s leadership of the No. 43 team.”

Stamets will begin his new duties immediately and take part in the NASCAR test with Wallace today and Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He replaces Drew Blickensderfer, who moved to crew chief of Front Row Racing’s No. 34 Ford, driven by Michael McDowell.

“Derek has a lot of knowledge of our program,” Wallace said. “He’s not having to learn a new program and I’m not having to learn a new personality. I’m comfortable working with Derek and this makes the most sense for improvement. I think he’s eager to make more of the decisions and put his footprint on our race team.”

Wallace is entering his second full-time season on the Cup circuit. As a rookie in 2018, Wallace had one top five – a runner-up finish in the Daytona 500 – and three top-10 finishes, with an average start of 24.8 and an average finish of 24.5. He also had six DNFs.

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