Todd Gilliland

Long: Aretha sang about it, Kurt Busch says he has it with Chip Ganassi Racing

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SPARTA, Ky. — As Kurt Busch decided last year where he would drive this season, it didn’t take long.

A short meeting with car owner Chip Ganassi laid the foundation for a deal that was completed in about three hours, announced in December and bore fruit last weekend with Busch’s first victory of the season.

In the 30-minute conversation Busch had last year with Ganassi about driving for the car owner, Busch found what he sought.

“(Ganassi’s) level of commitment as a racer is something that I saw,” said Busch, who had run the previous five seasons with Stewart-Haas Racing. “Yes, Tony Stewart is a racer, but I was more on the Gene Haas side. When Chip said, ‘I want you to win for me, I want you to make these guys winners, and if you can bring that (Monster Energy) sponsorship with you, I’m going to pay you this,’ it was just like the most respect that I had felt in a long time when it came to a contract negotiation.”

Respect was a word the former Cup champion used in multiple interviews Saturday in discussing his move to Ganassi.

Busch said on NBCSN’s post-race show that when a contract extension with Stewart-Haas Racing didn’t work, he called Ganassi and quickly had a deal.

“That’s just the respect factor that I was looking for,” Busch told Krista Voda, Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett.

Busch went on to say in the media center after the race about how quickly a deal was agreed upon: “It meant that I was wanted. And when you have that, that’s that extra desire to push and to make this group a winner.”

When the deal was announced in December, Ganassi said: “It’s not oftentimes that a NASCAR champion, a Daytona 500 winner becomes available. When you’ve got a guy that is a racer like Kurt … you’ve got to take a serious look at it. It didn’t take me long when he became available.”

As Busch, who turns 41 on Aug. 4, looks ahead to the playoffs, he also has to focus on what he’ll do next season. The deal with Ganassi is only for this year. So what’s next for Busch?

“For me, it’s a matter of just having the dominos line up and everybody fall together and to make it happen,” he said. “I guess the easiest way to move things forward is request for proposals are going out Monday with sponsors, with manufacturers, with team owner. 

“Yes, a win, that might have happened last week at Daytona, is one of those moments. Tonight is one of those stamps on — this 1 team is a powerful team, and it would be stupid not to keep this group together, and that’s part of my leverage, but at the end of it, we just want to make it work for all parties.”

After a night like Saturday, Busch said: “It gives you that energy of, yeah, it’s fun, and let’s get our sponsors lined up and let’s do this (again).”

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Ryan Newman has a simple rule on blocking, a tactic that has become more prevalent with the race package this year.

“I don’t do that personally, that’s not the way I race, I race hard,” Newman said. “Because it’s not the way I want to be raced. It’s not right.

“You don’t change the way that you enter a corner to choke somebody off knowing that it’s going to slow you down. You as a racer are supposed to go out there and race as hard as you can to try to catch the guy in front of you, not let the guy behind you stay behind you.”

Newman also noted a conversation he had with Ryan Blaney earlier this season after he was blocked by Blaney multiple times.

“Ryan Blaney and I have had it out after the race, not in a mean way,” Newman said. “(I) just told him, I said, ‘Listen, the next time you do that, it’s not going to be good for you. That’s not the way I race. You want to block me, it’s not going to be good.’ I don’t mean it as a threat. I’m just telling him that’s the fact of it.

“I don’t race that way. If I block you, you’ve got the right to turn me around, but if you choke me down going into the corner just to try keep me behind you, expect to get loose.”

Blaney admitted he threw “a couple of big blocks” on Newman in the Charlotte races in May.

“You make those decisions in a split-second,” Blaney said. “You’re not trying to screw that guy over, you’re just like ‘I have to help myself.’ Between me and Ryan (Newman), I’ve always liked that you could talk to someone afterwards and have an understanding about it.

“Newman said that was a big block, that was a kind of a late one. I said, ‘Yeah, I knew it was close, sorry.’ You could tell how close it was by how hard he hit you on the bumper. It’s good to talk about it and not kind of let it brood over. Me and Ryan have always been good friends. He’s someone I’ve looked up to for a long time. He’s been a friend of my family’s for a long time. It was good to talk to him and understand it.”

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To NASCAR,  it was a simple call in penalizing William Byron for jumping the restart at Kentucky Speedway.

Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, explained the penalty on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday.

“(Byron) fired first in the restart zone, and he wasn’t controlling the restart,” Miller said. “It’s kind of as simple as that.”

In the rules video that was played in the drivers meeting at Kentucky, it stated: “It will be the control vehicle’s discretion to restart in the zone between the double marks and the single mark on the outer wall and on the racing surface.”

Clint Bowyer was the leader at the time.

The penalty took place on Lap 184 of the 267-lap race. Byron went from second place to a lap down after serving the penalty and never recovered. He finished 18th.

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Paul Menard confirmed this past weekend his contract status for next season, saying:

“I have a good job, for sure. I love the Wood Brothers. I love my race team. They are good people. I have a contract for next year. I guess it is getting to be that time of year when people start talking about things. I have a contract and I love my team. We just have to perform better, that is all.”

Menard finished 11th Saturday. He is 20th in the season standings, 54 points out of the final playoff spot.

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Sponsorship issues nearly cost eventual Truck champion Brett Moffitt his playoff eligibility last year and threaten the playoff eligibility for Tyler Ankrum this season.

Ankrum won last weekend’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Kentucky but lack of sponsorship could be an issue for him.

Ankrum was set to run a full season for DGR-Crosley once he turned 18 in March. He announced in June that he would not be running a full season with the team because of lack of sponsorship.

He started races at Iowa and Gateway for NEMCO Motorsports and retired after less than 20 laps in both races, finishing 31st at Iowa and 30th at Gateway. By starting those races, he kept his playoff eligibility. Ankrum received a waiver from NASCAR for missing the season’s first three races because he was not 18 years old at the time and could not run at Daytona, Atlanta and Las Vegas. He’s run the remaining races.

DGR-Crosley is a Toyota team and it leads to the question of what responsibility Toyota has to ensure that one of its playoff teams remains eligible for a championship run.

David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, said the company will help in ways its best suited to do so.

“Our focus is on providing technical support to our team partners, and David Gilliland and his family, they’re not maybe at the (Kyle Busch Motorsports) level but make no mistake, we do have a strong technical partnership with them,” Wilson told NBC Sports after Ankrum’s win.

Wilson said that Toyota had been with the team when they took what was the winning truck to a wind tunnel earlier.

“We obviously are engaged and hopeful that they can put enough (sponsorship) together to keep Tyler moving forward, and we’d love to have him in the playoffs,” Wilson said.

Wilson admits a focus for Toyota is on Kyle Busch Motorsports. Harrison Burton and Todd Gilliland are both outside a playoff spot with three races left in the regular season.

Toyota has two teams in the playoffs as of now with Ankrum and Austin Hill, who won at Daytona for the reigning Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship team, Hattori Racing Enterprises.

Whatever Toyota teams are in the playoffs will get Wilson’s attention.

“Obviously we’re going to focus our resources on whomever is fighting to win the championship,” Wilson said. “There’s not a question about it. If it happens to be non-KBM trucks, so be it.”

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Grant Enfinger wins pole for Truck Series race at Kentucky

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Grant Enfinger won the pole for tonight’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Kentucky Speedway.

He claimed the first starting position with a speed of 181.953 mph. It is his second pole of the season (Texas) and the fifth of his career.

He will be joined on the front row by Sheldon Creed.

The top five is completed by Todd Gilliland, Matt Crafton and Ross Chastain.

Stewart Friesen will start from the rear after going to his backup truck, a result of NASCAR confiscating his primary truck after it found an issue with the firewall on his No. 52 Chevrolet.

The race is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1.

Click here for the qualifying results.

Brett Moffitt earns second Truck Series win in last three races

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Brett Moffitt won for the second time in three races, capturing Friday night’s Camping World 225 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Chicagoland Speedway.

Moffitt did it with domination, not drama, as was the case in his previous win two races ago at Iowa Speedway. In that race, Moffitt finished second to Ross Chastain. But about an hour after the checkered flag, Chastain’s truck was found to be too low in post-race inspection, prompting NASCAR to take the win away from him and give it to Moffitt instead.

But in Friday night’s race, Moffitt – last year’s Truck Series champion – led a race-high 72 laps, nearly half of the 150-lap event. In taking the checkered flag, he held off runner-up Brandon Jones, who won Stage 1 Friday night, followed by Stewart Friesen, Harrison Burton and Austin Hill.

“It’s been a rough start to the year, but we’re getting it rolling now,” Moffitt told FS1. “We didn’t have the results early, but it’s getting a lot better now.”

In earning his ninth career truck race — and eighth in the last two seasons (2018 and 2019) — Moffitt has now won more truck races during that time than any other driver. It was also the second straight win at Chicagoland Speedway for Moffitt, who won last year’s Truck race there.

Sixth through 10th were Todd Gilliland, Chastain, Matt Crafton, Anthony Alfredo and Dylan Lupton.

It was an especially frustrating night for ThorSport Racing.

First, Ben Rhodes barely got through one lap before his truck began smoking heavily. He made his way to pit road for service, but was pushed by his crew back to the garage just a few moments later.

Rhodes missed the first practice session on Thursday with an engine issue. It’s unclear if Friday’s problem was related to Thursday’s issue.

It’s just sickening,” Rhodes told FS1. “It’s awful and puts us in a bad spot for the playoff picture. What hurts the most is I thought we had a truck that could win tonight. Just weird stuff has been happening.

It was just oil dumping out of the main seal, didn’t show anything in qualifying and it just starts doing it as I go through the gears coming up to the green. I don’t know what to say, just a big letdown.”

In the second stage, Johnny Sauter had motor issues that saw him drop from qualifying second to 23rd after repairs on pit road. Sauter finished 18th, the fifth straight race that he has failed to finish in the top 10 following his win at Dover.

Then, early in the final stage, Spencer Davis got into Grant Enfinger’s truck and put him in the wall, causing extensive damage to Enfinger’s ride. Davis then bounced off and into the side of Austin Wayne Self’s truck, putting both trucks out of the race.

Enfinger had led the most laps up to that point (49) and won Stage 2 prior to the incident with Davis. Enfinger also had a slight confrontation with Austin Hill after the race (see tweets below).

On top of all that, Matt Crafton had the engine replaced in his truck after Thursday’s practices, forcing him to start Friday’s race from the back of the field. While he managed to work his way into the top 10, Crafton finished eighth.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Brandon Jones (passed Grant Enfinger on the last lap)

STAGE 2 WINNER: Grant Enfinger (held off Brandon Jones on last lap)

Race results: Click here

Point standings: Click here

WHAT’S NEXT: Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 at Kentucky Speedway at 7:30 p.m. ET on July 11 on FS1

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Truck Series practice report from Chicagoland Speedway

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Matt Crafton will start at the back of the field in Friday’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series race after his team made an engine change during Thursday’s final practice session at Chicagoland Speedway.

Anthony Alfredo was the fastest in the final practice session with a lap of 176.453 mph. He was followed by Johnny Sauter (176.447 mph), Austin Hill (176.108), Brett Moffitt (175.541) and Sheldon Creed (175.375).

Click here for final practice results

Grant Enfinger ran the most laps in the session at 49. He was ninth on the speed chart with a top lap of 175.154 mph.

Practice 2

Anthony Alfredo topped the speed chart in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series’ second of three practice sessions Thursday at Chicagoland Speedway.

Alfredo posted a top speed of 176.269 mph around the 1.5-mile track.

The top five was completed by Brett Moffitt (176.005 mph), Grant Enfinger (175.810), Sheldon Creed (175.781) and Dylan Lupton (175.012).

Moffitt is the only driver who was in the top five for the first two practice sessions.

Brandon Jones and Ben Rhodes recorded the most laps in the sessions with 40 each.

Rhodes had the best 10-lap average at 170.563 mph.

Click here for the practice report.

The remaining practice session is scheduled for 6:35 – 7:25 p.m. ET.

First practice

Brandon Jones was fastest in the first practice session.

Jones, who posted a top speed of 175.678 mph, led a Kyle Busch Motorsports’ sweep of the top three spots.

He was followed by Harrison Burton (175.160 mph) and Todd Gilliland (174.357).

The top five was completed by Brett Moffitt (174.216) and Anthony Alfredo (173.149).

Gateway winner Ross Chastain was 12th on the speed chart (172.238).

Sheldon Creed, who was seventh on the speed chart, recorded the most laps with 33.

Click here for the speed chart.

 

NBC Sports Power rankings: Martin Truex Jr. is unanimous No. 1

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This week’s NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings were thrown into disarray.

The culprit? The first road course race of the year.

While Martin Truex Jr. is the unanimous leader of the power rankings after his fourth win of the year Sunday at Sonoma, there are six new drivers in the top 10 from the last Cup ranking after Michigan.

The biggest jump comes from Denny Hamlin, who went from unranked after the Michigan race two weeks ago to third this week. Kevin Harvick also went from unranked to the top five.

Another of the new additions is Ross Chastain, who earned his second Truck Series win at Gateway a week after an inspection failure took a win away in Iowa.

1. Martin Truex Jr. (40 points): Has matched his 2018 win total with four wins over the last eight races. The only driver with multiple wins in that stretch.  Last time: 3rd

2. Kyle Busch (36 points): Scored his fourth consecutive top-five finish but couldn’t catch teammate Martin Truex Jr. at the end at Sonoma.  Last time: Tie for 1st

3. Denny Hamlin (26 points): Has not finished worse than 11th in the last three races and scored the most points at Sonoma. Last time: Not ranked

4. Joey Logano (21 points): Despite an alternator issue and a 23rd-place finish at Sonoma, still has seven top 10s in the last nine races and leads the points. Last time: Tie for 1st

5. Kevin Harvick (20 points): Lacked winning Sonoma speed of past three years but at least put together a strong sixth-place finish. Last time: Not ranked (was in others receiving votes).

6. Ryan Blaney (15 points):  Earned first top five since Bristol and his second straight top five on a road course. Last time: Not ranked

7. Matt DiBenedetto (12 points): As the whispers about his Cup future begin to swirl again, his first career top five was a statement. Last time: Not ranked

8. Ryan Newman (11 points): Seventh-place finish was his second top 10 in a row. He’s completed all but eight laps this season to rank third in most laps run (behind only Busch and Logano). Last time: Not ranked

(tie) 9. Tyler Reddick (9 points): Xfinity didn’t race last weekend but stays in the top 10 as numerous Cup drivers had off days at Sonoma. Last time: Tie for 6th

(tie) 9. Ross Chastain (9 points): His watermelon smash counted in Gateway when his winning truck passed inspection, giving him two wins this year. Previously: Unranked in normal Cup power rankings, but ranked 4th in Xfinity/Trucks ranking.

Others Receiving Votes: Aric Almirola (6 points), Kyle Larson (5 points), Brad Keselowski (5 points), Chase Elliott (3 points), Chris Buescher (1 point) and Todd Gilliland (1 point).