Todd Gordon

Crew chief describes ‘frightening’ scene on pit road at Indy

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Crew chief Todd Gordon said it was “frightening” to see rear tire changer Zach Price hit on pit road and then try to scoot away from cars during Sunday’s Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Price, who changes tires for Ryan Blaney’s team, was injured when he was struck by Brennan Poole’s car during a melee near the entrance of pit road early in the race.

Gordon, speaking Monday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, said indications are that Price’s injury was a “fracture someplace in the knee area.”

Price was treated and released from an Indianapolis hospital on Sunday night and traveled home with the team. Gordon said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that Price was scheduled to see a doctor Monday.

“Just hope to get him back and get him back going again and healthy,” Gordon said.

Gordon described what he saw as cars made contact.

“A really frightening moment for me,” he said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I was really terrorized when I saw (Price) drag himself back across the pit box arms only for a while there. As the situation kind of progressed and the medical staff was working with him, I could see in his face he was better off than I thought he was to start with.

“Fortunate that the guys got up and got at least in the air. The jackman (Graham Stoddard) got on top of the car. Just one of those terrible situations. I felt like those accidents happened mid-pit road. That’s why I picked way back there to be behind it.”

Said Justin Allgaier, who was involved in the accident on pit road that led to six cars eventually being eliminated:  “The No. 15 (Poole) actually got in the back of me. I didn’t know if I got the gentleman on (Blaney’s pit crew) or not. Once the wreck started happening in front of us and we all got bottled-up there, one car after another were getting run into.”

Indianapolis’ pit road is the most narrow of all the tracks the Cup Series races. The two travel lanes are 24 feet wide. The pit stall for each team is 15 feet wide.

Tire changer released from hospital after being struck on pit road

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Zach Price, a tire changer for Ryan Blaney‘s team, has been treated and released from a local hospital after he was struck by Brennan Poole‘s car in a pit road melee early in Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Team Penske said Price will “travel back to North Carolina with the team for further evaluation.”

The pile-up occurred near the entrance to pit road. It involved Justin Allgaier, Corey LaJoie, Ryan Preece, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Poole and Martin Truex Jr.

After avoiding being hit by Allgaier, Price was hit by Poole. He then scooted behind Blaney’s car to avoid further danger. Blaney’s jackman had to leap on the car’s roof to being hit. Afterward, Price was placed on a stretcher and put in an ambulance. He gave a thumbs up before he was put in the ambulance.

The red flag was displayed in order to clean up the incident.

Truex and LaJoie were eliminated from the race. Allgaier attempted to continue, but went to the garage on Lap 22, ending his day. Stenhouse and Poole also tried to continue but were unable to maintain minimum speed, ending their day.

Allgaier was driving in the place of Jimmie Johnson, who is missing the race after he tested positive for COVID-19.

“(Poole) actually got in the back of me, I didn’t know if I got (Price) or not,” Allgaier told NBC. “Once the wreck started happening in front of us and we all got bottled up there, one car after another was getting run into. Just a shame.”

Bump and Run: Impressive Cup drivers from season’s first half

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1) With the regular season at the halfway point, what Cup driver or team has impressed you the most?

Dustin Long: Ryan Blaney. First year with crew chief Todd Gordon and has been in position to win multiple races. Team has been fast from the start. 

Daniel McFadin: Brad Keselowski. He’s working with a new Cup crew chief for the first time in a decade and he hasn’t faltered much, winning twice, including the Coca-Cola 600 for the first time. 

Jerry Bonkowski: Chase Elliott has had an up-and-down season at times, but he has been solid since NASCAR returned from the pandemic. He very easily could have three wins and maybe even four if it hadn’t been for his crash at Darlington. If he can keep his momentum going, he’s definitely a championship contender.

 

2) What Cup driver or team has surprised you the most in the first half of the regular season?

Dustin Long: John Hunter Nemecheck and Front Row Motorsports. He was overshadowed by the others in the rookie class going into the season but has shown well and has seven top-20 finishes in the first 13 races. Not sure if a lot of people would have predicted that at the start of the year for Nemechek and his team.

Daniel McFadin: Cole Custer and not in a good way. He was my pre-season pick to be the best rookie out of the gate and he’s done nothing to back it up, earning just one top 10 and finishing in the top 15 just once in the last nine races.

Jerry Bonkowski: Team Penske in general and Ryan Blaney in particular. I’ve been very impressed with Blaney particularly of late. He’s earned a win at Talladega and six top-five finishes in the last seven races.

3) Who would be your pick for top Cup rookie at this point in the season?

Dustin Long: Tyler Reddick has been the standout this season and the rookie who has run more consistently at the front. 

Daniel McFadin: Tyler Reddick easily. He’s the only rookie with a stage win and he has three top 10s, including a top five, through the first 13 races.

Jerry Bonkowski: Tyler Reddick, who is the highest-ranked rookie in the Cup standings, with one top-five and three top-10 finishes. I really like what I’ve seen from Reddick. But I’ve also been pleasantly surprised at the performance of fellow rookie John Hunter Nemechek.

 

4) Which driver or team do you think can make the biggest improvement from the first half of the regular season to the second half?

Dustin Long: I’m waiting to see what Matt Kenseth and the No. 42 team will do. After finishing 10th at Darlington in his first race back, Kenseth has not finished better than 15th since. With the way the Chevys are strong this year, got to think his results will turn around soon.

Daniel McFadin: I think Alex Bowman is going to put together a solid back half after a rather disappointing output since NASCAR returned. He has two top 10s in the last three races, but that followed a stretch of only one top-15 finish over four races when he had a car capable of winning in both Charlotte races. He has lots of promise, he just needs to put together complete races.

Jerry Bonkowski: Jimmie Johnson has had some strong performances during the first half of the season. He already has two top-five finishes in the first 12 races, just one less than he had in all of last season. And he is already halfway [six] to the number of top-10 finishes he had all of last season. I firmly believe it’s just a matter of time before he breaks his three-plus year winless streak.

Ryan Blaney: ‘We’re close’ to breakthrough win

Ryan Blaney
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If not for an early spin and wreck at Bristol Motor Speedway last month, Ryan Blaney could be the owner of the best hot streak in the Cup Series through 12 races.

Instead, the Team Penske driver can simply take satisfaction in having top-four finishes in five of the last six races ahead of this weekend’s visit to Talladega, where he won last fall.

Blaney’s latest top five came Sunday night in Miami, where he drove his No. 12 Ford to a third-place finish behind race winner Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott.

It completed a week where Blaney finished fourth at Atlanta last Sunday and second in Wednesday night’s race at Martinsville. But it also left him as the only Team Penske driver without a win this year.

Not one to openly brag or complain, the 26-year-old driver knows he could be doing far worse.

“We could be running 20th every week,” Blaney said after Sunday’s race. “You’re proud of the runs that you’ve created and the speed our team’s got. I’m proud of that. … The way I look at it is, just keep running up towards the front like that, I think those things come.

“Just proud of the speed we have, that we’re close. Just little things will go a long way when you’re this close. If you have to find 15 spots worth of speed, that’s when it’s troublesome.”

Blaney’s front-running speed comes in his first season with crew chief Todd Gordon, who was shifted from Joey Logano‘s No. 22 team to Blaney’s in the offseason.

Blaney observed that he and Gordon’s communication have led to key adjustments in recent races.

“I feel like Todd and I have gotten along really well,” Blaney said. “We’ve communicated great. The only thing that really stands out to me, some races we don’t start off very good. Atlanta and Martinsville we didn’t start off very good, but at the end of the race we were very good. …

“To be able to communicate like that kind of in the early part of our relationship has been really nice. I look back at a lot of the … bad finishes we’ve had, of me wrecking in Bristol, tire coming apart at Fontana, the caution coming out in Vegas, we’ve had some really strong runs. That’s something to be proud of. …

“It’s been a nice run we’ve been on here. I can’t wait to get that first win together here soon. The group deserves it.”

Blaney and the No. 12 team take their streak to Talladega, the superspeedway where Blaney earned his third Cup series win last fall in the playoffs.

He followed that up with second-place finish in February’s Daytona 500.

Unlike those two races, the series will race on the 2.66-mile track with a new rules package, a result of changes made by NASCAR in answer to Ryan Newman‘s violent wreck on the last lap of the Daytona 500.

Those changes include:

  • Elimination of aero ducts at superspeedway tracks.
  • Reduction in size of throttle body from 59/64” to 57/64” (superspeedways only).
  • Slip tape must be applied along the entire length of the lower rearward facing surfaces of the rear bumper cover and extension (superspeedways only).

A practice session originally scheduled for teams to get acclimated to the rules package was cancelled over the weekend, meaning their first time at speed with it will be when the green flag drops Sunday.

With the new package, Blaney hopes the runs drivers are able to make on another car “aren’t as big.”

“That was something that we talked about with NASCAR,” he said. “The runs were gigantic. We get hooked up, that made your runs even bigger. … There’s a fine line. You need the draft to work to where you get runs on cars, but not monstrous drafts where it’s dangerous to kind of block them and things like that. Hopefully we can find a fair in-between.”

Regardless of the rules package, Blaney recognizes his momentum from the last six races doesn’t mean much with the unpredictability of Talladega.

“That’s just a whole other beast,” Blaney said. “We say it all the time: you get caught up in someone else’s stuff, it’s just part of it. … As far as the momentum side, yeah, you feel good for sure, stringing together some decent runs. It’s hard to kind of carry that over to Talladega. You just never know what can happen.”

Ryan Blaney leads dominant night for Team Penske at Martinsville

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Team Penske did everything but win Wednesday’s Cup night race at Martinsville Speedway.

While Martin Truex Jr. ran away with the victory in the final leg of the race, he was followed by Team Penske’s three cars, as Ryan Blaney led Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano.

At the end of the night, the three drivers combined to lead 273 of 500 laps as Logano led 234 laps and won the first stage.

But Blaney’s second-place finish – his fourth top five in the last five races – was anything but easy.

Blaney started on the pole but quickly dropped through the field and was lapped by Logano on Lap 51.

“We started off really bad,” Blaney said. “We went from starting on the pole to being a lap down in 60 laps. That’s kind of tough to do. We found a way to do that. We already dug ourselves a hole early. … After the first pit stop, we got our car a lot better, a lot better. I think just the green racetrack didn’t really go well with what we had or something. We really wore our tires out. I had to run the top a lot, was getting passed. I don’t think that helped.”

After 63 circuits of the track spent a lap down, Blaney received a free pass when the caution came out on Lap 113. He then charged to 10th place by Lap 161, fifth by Lap 182 and was second at the end of Stage 2 on Lap 260.

“We had a great long‑run car,” said Blaney, who took the lead 35 laps into the final stage. “(It was good) to be able to get the lead there at the start of the third stage, kind of biding our time, taking care of our stuff.”

It came undone during a caution that came out on Lap 328 when Blaney was penalized for a crew member going over the pit wall too soon. Blaney had to restart at the back of the field. But with just under 170 laps left in the race, Blaney charged again and was in second place with 44 laps to go.

“(Truex) just got away from me,” Blaney said. “I couldn’t run him down. By the time I got to second, he was gone. … I was never really close enough … on equally worn tires to see what we had for him.”

For Keselowski, it was his sixth straight top-10 finish, which includes two wins. He also rallied from being a lap down early.

“By the time we were able to get the lap back, we were at Stage 2,” Keselowski said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t get any stage points, but rallied to get up to the lead there about 150 to go. Wasn’t quite good enough to hold off (Truex). He was super, super strong. He proved why he’s so good. He just kept passing cars, just flying. Pretty impressive.

“All in all was really proud. The first time I’ve been here with (crew chief) Jeremy Bullins. This is a track you get a lot of reps with a crew chief, you reiterate, find small things to get to the front, to be the best. To come here our first time together and run third I think is a pretty good mark for us.”

For all three drivers it was their first time at Martinsville with their respective crew chiefs, who were swapped among the teams in the offseason. It’s a move that’s proven to be fruitful. Both Keselowski and Logano have two wins each and Blaney has had winning speed the last five races.

Logano isn’t totally surprised by the success of the crew chief swap after 11 races. He called the season so far “enlightening.”

“I think if you look at what was going on last year we all had good speed, all of our cars were strong at different points of the season or different types of race tracks, so I really didn’t see much of a risk by doing it and I think I’ve seen just a longer runway for everybody because you’re really sharing information,” Logano said.

“Obviously, we share setups and we talk to each other, but I never drove Brad’s car. I never worked with (crew chief) Paul (Wolfe).  Blaney never worked with Todd (Gordon) and Jeremy with Brad.  We can talk about it and we can try to mimic setups, but it’s not the same. … At the same time, I’m bringing what we did last year to Paul and Paul is bringing what he did last year and we’re able to just kind of try to make the best of both worlds. It’s been fun.

“There have been a lot of interesting conversations that get sparked that otherwise wouldn’t have happened. As weird as it is to see what was your team for six or seven years working with Blaney, but I honestly can tell you that the relationships that you build with your team it becomes family, so I hope for their success and I’m glad to see Blaney is running really well and leading a lot of laps and a win is right around the corner.”