Silly Season includes crew chief moves at Hendrick Motorsports

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Matt DiBenedetto, whose career has often been overshadowed, got to bask in the attention surrounding his 2019 ride at Leavine Family Racing for a couple of hours Wednesday.

Then Hendrick Motorsports shook the sport by announcing it was splitting Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus – one of NASCAR’s greatest driver/crew chief combinations – after this season.

That just added to a Cup Silly Season that has already seen four drivers announce new rides for next year – and more to come with future announcements for Martin Truex Jr., Daniel Suarez and Kurt Busch, among others.

Here’s a look at where things stand in Silly Season:

ANNOUNCED CUP RIDES FOR 2019

No. 6: Ryan Newman joins Roush Fenway Racing for next season (announcement made Sept. 22)

No. 13: Ty Dillon said he will remain at Germain Racing for the 2019 season (announcement made Sept. 24)

No. 31: Daniel Hemric replaces Ryan Newman at Richard Childress Racing beginning next season (announcement made Sept. 28)

No. 43: Bubba Wallace will remain with Richard Petty Motorsports through the 2020 season (announcement made July 28)

No. 47: Ryan Preece replaces AJ Allmendinger at JTG Daugherty Racing beginning next season (announcement made Sept. 28)

No. 95: Matt DiBenedetto moves to Leavine Family Racing for 2019. Leavine Family Racing also switches to Toyota beginning next year (announcement made Oct. 10)

CUP RIDES NOT YET ANNOUNCED FOR 2019

No. 1: The Associated Press reported Sept. 10 that car owner Chip Ganassi had offered Jamie McMurray a contract to drive in the 2019 Daytona 500 and then move into a management position. Ganassi was awaiting McMurray’s decision. The move means the No. 1 will be open for 2019.

No. 23: Front Row Motorsports purchased the BK Racing team in bankruptcy court in August. Front Row needs the team to run the rest of the season to maintain the charter. After this season, Front Row could run a third car, lease this charter or sell this charter.

No. 32: Go Fas Racing is looking for a driver after Matt DiBenedetto announced Sept. 7 that he won’t return to the team after this season.

No. 41: Kurt Busch signed a one-year deal in December to remain at Stewart-Haas Racing. He said Aug. 31 at Darlington that he has two contract offers for 2019 but did not reveal what teams they were from. Busch said Sept. 7 he had no updates on his status.

DRIVERS WITHOUT ANNOUNCED PLANS FOR 2019

AJ Allmendinger: He has not announced what his plans will be for 2019.

Trevor Bayne: 2011 Daytona 500 winner is looking for a ride after the Sept. 12 announcement that he won’t return to Roush Fenway Racing in 2019. He told NBC Sports on Sept. 14 that he has been calling car owners looking for a ride and would look at any of NASCAR’s top three national series. 

Kurt Busch: 2004 champion’s contract expires after this season with Stewart-Haas Racing.

Jamie McMurray: Although he has not revealed his plans, car owner Chip Ganassi told the AP that he had offered McMurray a contract for only the 2019 Daytona 500 before McMurray would move into a management role.

Daniel Suarez: With reports stating that Martin Truex Jr. will go to Joe Gibbs Racing and drive the No. 19, Suarez is looking for a ride. He said Sept. 21 that “we’re talking to a lot of people.” Suarez is the favorite for the No. 41 ride.

Martin Truex Jr: Reigning series champion has not announced a ride for 2019 with the Sept. 4 news that Furniture Row Racing is shutting down after this season. Truex, though, is expected to move to the No. 19 at Joe Gibbs Racing and replace Daniel Suarez.

CREW CHIEF CHANGES

No. 24: Chad Knaus replaces Darian Grubb as William Byron‘s crew chief in 2019 (announcement made Oct. 10)

No. 48: Kevin Meendering will replace Chad Knaus as Jimmie Johnson‘s crew chief in 2019 (announcement made Oct. 10)

XFINITY SERIES

ANNOUNCED CHANGES FOR 2019

No. 1: Noah Gragson replaces Elliott Sadler at JR Motorsports beginning next year (announcement made Sept. 25).

Friday’s Xfinity practice report from Dover

Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
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Final Practice

Under misty conditions, Justin Allgaier posted the fastest single lap of 153.446 mph in final practice. He also paced the field in the first session.

He beat Cole Custer (153.440 mph) by only .001 seconds.

John Hunter Nemechek (153.296), points leader Christopher Bell (153.191) and Austin Cindric (153.029) rounded out the top five.

Bell had the quickest 10-lap average with a speed of 152.037 mph.

Drivers under the cutoff line who need to find a little more speed are Brandon Jones (152.342) with the ninth fastest time, Ryan Truex (151.515) with the 14th fastest time and Ryan Reed (151.356) with the 16th fastest time. Reed was the slowest playoff eligible driver in this session.

Click here for complete results

First Practice

Justin Allgaier posted the fastest lap in the first practice session for the Bar Harbor 200 at Dover with a speed of 154.712 mph. He enters the Round 1 elimination race at Dover 11 points above the cutoff line.

Allgaier beat second-place Tyler Reddick (154.195) by .078 seconds.

Cole Custer (153.748), Daniel Hemric (153.597) and Christopher Bell (153.590) rounded out the top five.

Ryan Preece had the quickest 10-lap average of this session with a speed of 152.041 mph.

The four playoff drivers below the cutoff line are Brandon Jones (153.152) with the eighth fastest speed. Austin Cindric (153.126) was ninth, Ryan Truex (151.675) was 15th and Ryan Reed (151.350) was 16th.

Click here for complete results

Xfinity Roval race results, points standings

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CONCORD, N.C. – Chase Briscoe‘s win Saturday at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval meant no one automatically advanced to the second round of the Xfinity playoffs since Briscoe is not racing for a title.

He didn’t mind. He was too busy celebrating his first career series win. Justin Marks placed second. The rest of the top five had Austin Cindric, Ryan Preece and Christopher Bell.

Click here for race results

The points were jumbled by Saturday’s results. Tyler Reddick climbed from seventh to third in the points (behind Christopher Bell and Daniel Hemric) after placing ninth in Saturday’s race. Cole Custer went from ninth to fourth in the points after finishing seventh in the race. Justin Allgaier, who spun after contact from Cindric and placed 15th, fell from third to seventh in the points.

Ross Chastain holds the last cutoff spot by nine points on Cindric. Next weekend’s race at Dover will trim the playoff field from 12 to eight.

Click for points report

Silly Season: Two Xfinity drivers moving up to Cup in 2019

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Ryan Preece and Daniel Hemric announced hours apart Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway that they will move up to the Cup Series next season.

Hemric was asked what it meant that both drivers, who had modest financial backing, had announced Cup rides on the same day.

“Everybody says that the path of how we got here might not have been ideal,” Hemric said. “At the end of the day, you did whatever you could with what you had. To any racer out there that thinks it can’t be done, I think today is a huge step in that direction to show that it can be. Hopefully, it inspires some racers across the country to be able to continue to put one foot in front of the other and do the right things in life to hopefully align yourself with the right situation.”

Hemric will drive the No. 31 for Richard Childress Racing next year. Preece will drive the No. 47 with JTG Daugherty next season.

ANNOUNCED CUP RIDES FOR 2019

No. 6: Ryan Newman joins Roush Fenway Racing for next season (announcement made Sept. 22)

No. 31: Daniel Hemric moves up from Richard Childress Racing’s Xfinity program to drive this Cup car and replace Ryan Newman (announcement made Sept. 28)

No. 43: Bubba Wallace will remain with Richard Petty Motorsports through the 2020 season (announcement made July 28)

No. 47: JTG Daugherty hires Ryan Preece to replace AJ Allmendinger in this ride (announcement made Sept. 28)

CUP RIDES NOT YET ANNOUNCED FOR 2019

No. 1: The Associated Press reported Sept. 10 that car owner Chip Ganassi had offered Jamie McMurray a contract to drive in the 2019 Daytona 500 only and then move into a management position. Ganassi was awaiting McMurray’s decision. The move means the No. 1 will be open for 2019.

No. 23: Front Row Motorsports purchased the BK Racing team in bankruptcy court in August. Front Row needs the team to run the rest of the season to maintain the charter. After this season, Front Row can run a third car, lease this charter or sell this charter.

No. 32: Go Fas Racing is looking for a driver after Matt DiBenedetto’s announcement Sept. 7 that he won’t return to the team after this season.

No. 41: Kurt Busch signed a one-year deal in December to remain at Stewart-Haas Racing. He said Aug. 31 at Darlington that he has two contract offers for 2019 but did not reveal what teams they were from. Car owner Gene Haas said Sept. 16 that he had conversations with Daniel Suarez about the ride. Haas said the team was hopeful a driver could bring along some sponsorship money.

No. 95: Kasey Kahne announced Aug. 16 that he would not return for another full-time season. Also, this team has told Richard Childress Racing it won’t be a part of its technical alliance next year. Car owner Bob Leavine said Aug. 5 that “in our talking to the manufacturers this year, Toyota has been head-and-shoulders above the rest so far.”

DRIVERS WITHOUT ANNOUNCED PLANS FOR 2019

AJ Allmendinger: Won’t return to JTG Daugherty after this season. Road racing expert could find a place in IMSA if there are no viable options in Cup.

Trevor Bayne: 2011 Daytona 500 winner is looking for a ride after the Sept. 12 announcement he won’t return to Roush Fenway Racing in 2019. He told NBC Sports on Sept. 14 that he has been calling car owners looking for a ride and would look at any of NASCAR’s top three national series. 

Kurt Busch: 2004 champion’s contract expires after this season with Stewart-Haas Racing.

Matt DiBenedettoSaid he was betting on himself by leaving Go Fas Racing and looking to race elsewhere. While he would like a full-time ride, he would entertain a part-time ride in the Xfinity Series with a winning team, following what Ryan Preece has done.

Matt KensethHe told NBC Sports on Sept. 22 that there was no way he could devote the time and effort to run full-time while also raising four daughters age 9 and under. If he does any type of racing beyond this season, though, Kenseth said “it would be for Jack (Roush).”

Jamie McMurray: Although he has not revealed his plans, car owner Chip Ganassi told the AP that he had offered McMurray a contract for only the 2019 Daytona 500 before McMurray would move into a management role.

Daniel SuarezWith reports stating that Martin Truex Jr. will go to Joe Gibbs Racing and drive the No. 19, Suarez would be looking for a ride. He said Sept. 21 that “we’re talking to a lot of people.”

Martin Truex Jr.Reigning series champion has not announced a ride for 2019 with the Sept. 4 news that Furniture Row Racing is shutting down after this season. Truex, though, is expected to move to the No. 19 at Joe Gibbs Racing and replace Daniel Suarez.

XFINITY SERIES

ANNOUNCED RIDES FOR 2019

1: Noah Gragson will take over this ride at JR Motorsports for Elliott Sadler, who is stepping away after this season. 

Friday’s Xfinity practice report from the Charlotte Roval

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Daniel Hemric was fastest in the final Xfinity practice on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval Friday, posting a top speed of 104.966 mph.

The top five was completed by Ryan Truex (103.657 mph), Cole Custer (103.300), Ty Majeski (103.273) and Justin Allgaier (102.936).

Matt Tifft, Kaz Grala and Michael Annett each recorded the most laps with 20.

Of the five drivers who made 10-lap run, Grala had the best average at 101.414 mph.

Ryan Preece spun without contact six minutes into the session in the frontstretch chicane.

Spencer Gallagher also had a harmless spin about 43 minutes into the session.

Click here for the speed chart.

First practice

Austin Cindric was fastest in the first of two practice sessions Friday for tomorrow’s Xfinity Series race on the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course.

Cindric, who was also fastest in Thursday’s first practice session, posted a top speed of 104.636 mph.

The top five was completed by Daniel Hemric (104.479 mph), Alex Labbe (104.479), Ryan Preece (103.838) and Justin Allgaier (103.503).

Katherine Legge, Justin Marks and Tyler Reddick recorded the most laps with 19.

The session was red flagged after 28 minutes for J.J. Yeley crashing nose-first into the Turn 1 tire barrier.

Christopher Bell spun exiting Turn 3 with about 8 minutes and 30 seconds left in the session. He hit a tire barrier with the right side his car.

Click here for the practice report.