Wood Brothers Racing

NASCAR Silly season features Bubba Wallace, Michael Jordan

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NASCAR Silly Season took a twist Monday. A day that started with the announcement that Ross Chastain would drive for Chip Ganassi Racing next year ended with the news that Denny Hamlin would co-own a team with Michael Jordan and have Bubba Wallace as the driver in 2021.

As JTG Daugherty Racing co-owner Brad Daugherty said: “I think it’s a pretty dynamic trio with Michael, Denny and Bubba. They’re going to be like rock stars.”

The 26-year-old Wallace is in his third full Cup season. All 105 of his starts in NASCAR’s premier series have been with Richard Petty Motorsports.

“Bubba has shown tremendous improvement since joining the Cup Series and we believe he’s ready to take his career to a higher level,” Hamlin said in a statement. “He deserves the opportunity to compete for race wins and our team will make sure he has the resources to do just that. Off the track, Bubba has been a loud voice for change in our sport and our country. MJ and I support him fully in those efforts and stand beside him.”

A team name, car number, manufacturer and sponsors will be announced at a later time.

ANNOUNCED CUP RIDES FOR 2021

No. 00: Quin Houff enters the second year of his two-year deal with StarCom Racing.

No. 1: Kurt Busch enters the second year of a multi-year contract that Chip Ganassi Racing announced last season.

No. 2: Brad Keselowski and Team Penske announced a contract extension Aug. 3.

No. 4: Kevin Harvick signed a contract extension in February that will keep him at Stewart-Haas Racing through the 2023 season.

No. 8: Tyler Reddick said Aug. 7 that he will be back with Richard Childress Racing next season.

No. 9: Chase Elliott is under contract with Hendrick Motorsports through the 2022 season.

No. 10: Aric Almirola extends deal with Stewart-Haas Racing for 2021 season.

No. 11: Denny Hamlin is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 12: Ryan Blaney and Team Penske announced a multi-year extension earlier this season.

No. 18: Kyle Busch is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 19: Martin Truex Jr. is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 20: Christopher Bell moves from Leavine Family Racing to take over this ride in 2021.

No. 22: Joey Logano is tied to Team Penske “through the 2022 season and beyond.”

No. 24: William Byron is under contact with Hendrick Motorsports through 2022.

No. 42: Ross Chastain takes over Chip Ganassi Racing’s ride for the 2021 season.

No. 47: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. enters the second year of a multi-year deal with JTG Daugherty Racing.

No. 88: Alex Bowman will race for Hendrick Motorsports under a one-year contract extension announced earlier this year.

No. TBA: Bubba Wallace joins the new team co-owned by Denny Hamlin and NBA great Michael Jordan. The team purchased Germain Racing’s charter. Germain Racing will not continue after this season.

 

Available/possibly available rides

No. 14: Clint Bowyer is in a contract year to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 21: Matt DiBenedetto said Sept. 17 that Wood Brothers Racing has an option to pick up his contract for next year and the deadline is the end of September.

No. 32: Ride is open with Corey LaJoie announcing he will not return to Go Fas Racing in 2021.

No. 43: Bubba Wallace will not return to Richard Petty Motorsports in 2021, the team confirmed on Sept. 10.

No. 48: With Jimmie Johnson retiring from full-time competition, Hendrick Motorsports has this seat to fill.

No. 95: Spire Motorsports purchased the charter and assets of Leavine Family Racing and will be a two-car operation in 2021.

No. 96: Daniel Suarez and Gaunt Brothers Racing announced Sept. 15 that they would part ways after this season.

 

Silly Season: Ross Chastain to drive No. 42 Ganassi Cup car in 2021

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Another puzzle of Silly Season has been set with Ross Chastain headed to Chip Ganassi Racing to drive the No. 42 Cup car for next season.

Chastain has been a development driver for the team since 2018. He drove three Xfinity races for Ganassi in 2018, winning once. Chastain was to drive a full Xfinity season in 2019 for the team until D.C. Solar’s sponsorship ended after its offices were raided by the FBI. The company later declared bankruptcy.

Chastain is competing for the Xfinity championship this season for Kaulig Racing. He is winless this season but has five runner-up finishes, including this past weekend at Bristol.

ANNOUNCED CUP RIDES FOR 2021

No. 00: Quin Houff enters the second year of his two-year deal with StarCom Racing.

No. 1: Kurt Busch enters the second year of a multi-year contract that Chip Ganassi Racing announced last season.

No. 2: Brad Keselowski and Team Penske announced a contract extension Aug. 3.

No. 4: Kevin Harvick signed a contract extension in February that will keep him at Stewart-Haas Racing through the 2023 season.

No. 8: Tyler Reddick said Aug. 7 that he will be back with Richard Childress Racing next season.

No. 9: Chase Elliott is under contract with Hendrick Motorsports through the 2022 season.

No. 10: Aric Almirola extends deal with Stewart-Haas Racing for 2021 season.

No. 11: Denny Hamlin is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 12: Ryan Blaney and Team Penske announced a multi-year extension earlier this season.

No. 18: Kyle Busch is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 19: Martin Truex Jr. is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 20: Christopher Bell moves from Leavine Family Racing to take over this ride in 2021.

No. 22: Joey Logano is tied to Team Penske “through the 2022 season and beyond.”

No. 24: William Byron is under contact with Hendrick Motorsports through 2022.

No. 42: Ross Chastain takes over Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 ride for the 2021 season.

No. 47: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. enters the second year of a multi-year deal with JTG Daugherty Racing.

No. 88: Alex Bowman will race for Hendrick Motorsports under a one-year contract extension announced earlier this year.

 

Available/possibly available rides

No. 13: Ty Dillon is in a contract year at Germain Racing. The team is considering putting itself up for sell.

No. 14: Clint Bowyer is in a contract year to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 21: Matt DiBenedetto said Sept. 17 that the team has an option to pick up his contract for next year and the deadline is the end of September.

No. 32: Ride is open with Corey LaJoie announcing he will not return to Go Fas Racing in 2021.

No. 43: Bubba Wallace will not return to Richard Petty Motorsports in 2021, the team confirmed on Sept. 10.

No. 48: With Jimmie Johnson retiring from full-time competition, Hendrick Motorsports has this seat to fill.

No. 95: Spire Motorsports purchased the charter and assets of Leavine Family Racing and will be a two-car operation in 2021.

No. 96: Daniel Suarez and Gaunt Brothers Racing announced Sept. 15 that they would part ways after this season.

 

Trevor Bayne says fire remains to run more races

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Former Cup driver Trevor Bayne says he’d like to continue racing in NASCAR after running the past three Truck races for Niece Motorsports.

Bayne crossed the finish line fifth in Thursday’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway but was disqualified when his truck failed post-race inspection.

He will not drive for the team in next weekend’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway but looks to be back for an undetermined number of races.

“We’ll see what happens from here,” Bayne said after Thursday’s race. “Obviously, I don’t want to be done. I don’t feel like I need to be done. I’m 29 years old and I have a lot of experience and the fire to still do this thing.”

Trevor Bayne and his crew celebrate in Victory Lane after winning the 2011 Daytona 500. (Gary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 winner, last competed in NASCAR in 2018 before his return.

He made 187 Cup starts from 2010-18. He won the Daytona 500 for Wood Brothers Racing in his second career series start. Bayne didn’t run a full schedule until 2015 when he moved to Roush Fenway Racing.

He ran 21 Cup races in 2018 season, sharing his ride with Matt Kenseth at Roush. Bayne was not retained after that season and had not competed until driving for Niece Motorsports at the Darlington Truck race on Sept. 6.

“I’m trying to make the most of every lap and enjoy every lap because you don’t know when it’s your last lap,” Bayne said. “For me I would love to rebuild. If I could run a truck full-time and battle for a championship, I think that would be awesome. I think that would be great. If down the road it led to a Cup deal, then I wouldn’t be mad about it, but that’s also not really the goal right now. The goal is to make the most of it at Niece Motorsports with how many races I get.”

Since losing his ride, Bayne opened Mahalo Coffee Roasters, a specialty coffee shop in Knoxville, Tennessee. Bayne admits to mixed emotions since his exit from racing.

“It was a roller coaster,” he said. “There were weeks when I was blowing everybody’s phone up that I knew in racing, like, ‘Hey man, what do you got? Is there anything we can put together?’ Probably getting on everybody’s nerves. Some weeks I was just over it.”

Bayne said he decided recently to compete in Super Late Model races and was preparing a car when he got the chance with Niece Motorsports to run at Darlington.

“It’s putting a smile on my face to be turning laps,” Bayne said.

Matt DiBenedetto ‘anxious’ about Richmond playoff race

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After a disappointing 21st-place finish in the Southern 500 to open the playoffs, Matt DiBenedetto is “anxious” about what awaits the Cup Series this weekend.

The Wood Brothers Racing driver – who is 15th on the playoff grid and 17 points behind the cutoff –  heads to Richmond Raceway for the first of two short-track races – followed by Bristol – to close out the first round.

But this visit to the .750-mile track (7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN) is different than every other fall trip to Richmond for the Cup Series.

Because of NASCAR’s 10-week shut down earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this will be the series’ first and only race on the short track this season.

The 400-lap race will be held on a different tire compound than last year and will see the series use its low-downforce package there for the first time.

“This is one that I am kind of anxious to get to and interested to see how it goes because we are in the playoffs and this is the first time that we are running at Richmond when otherwise we would normally have had a race under our belt and that would allow you to know without practice where we need to roughly be because we would have learned it at the first race,” DiBenedetto said Thursday. “We don’t have that. I think it is interesting. I actually talked with my crew chief (Greg Erwin) and engineer to kind of see what the strategy is and how they come up with their starting setup.

“Man, it makes my head hurt all the information that they look through to try to get a close or what they think will be a close starting setup for the race.”

DiBenedetto said his team uses “a whole bunch of different equations and aero stuff” in order for them to “take their best guess” at what his No. 21 Ford needs off the hauler.

“We have to kind of jumble it all up and put it in simulation and hope it spits out a close setup,” DiBenedetto said. “But man, there are a lot of variables and nobody is really going to hit it perfect right off the truck. We will have to see how it goes and we will have to be really good on pit stops, adjustments and communication with the team.”

While the tire being used this weekend is new to Richmond, the Cup Series has used it this year at Phoenix and New Hampshire.

DiBenedetto is a fan of it.

“This tire has been really good,” DiBenedetto said. “This has been my favorite tire we have ran on this year because it has a lot more wear and fall off. Goodyear did a good job with this one. Hopefully it makes for a good race.”

DiBenedetto finished 13th at Phoenix and sixth at New Hampshire. His best result at Richmond in 10 starts was 14th last fall while driving for Leavine Family Racing.

DiBenedetto said tire fall off at Richmond is “huge.”

“I think you are going to see a drastic amount of fall off,” DiBenedetto said. “I think the fans will enjoy watching that. The tire makes a big difference in how the race plays out, more than anything at Richmond. … I am predicting with this tire that it will be more drastic than ever, but if you have a guy that comes in and bolts on a set of tires and everyone else is on old tires, they will drive by everyone like they are in reverse. It is that drastic and that much fall off. I am really anxious to see how this tire races here.”

As a playoff driver, DiBenedetto has another reason to be anxious about the next two races.

Entering Richmond, DiBenedetto is tied with Ryan Blaney for the last spot on the playoff grid.

Despite that, DiBenedetto is still “pretty optimistic” he can move on in the postseason.

“I know these next two race tracks, while Darlington was a weak one for us, these next two I feel really good about,” DiBenedetto said. “I think if we can go out there and continue the momentum of races we had through the middle of the season when we were in the top five and top 10 on a weekly basis, if we can do that at a couple tracks that are great strengths for us, we need to rack up some points. I feel really optimistic that we can do it.

“This weekend will be a big teller. The next two races will have to be very strong for us. It can’t just be one good one and one mediocre or bad one. They will both have to be really good.”

Winners and losers after Daytona regular-season finale

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A look at the winners and losers from Saturday’s night’s Cup regular-season finale at Daytona International Speedway.

WINNERS

William ByronScores his first career Cup points win and does it at Daytona in the regular-season finale to advance to the playoffs. He joins Jeff Gordon as the only drivers to win a Cup race in the No. 24 car.

Brendan GaughanFinishes eighth for Beard Motorsports in what is expected to be his final Cup start at Daytona. He finished seventh in the Daytona 500 so he’ll go out with top 10s in both races there this season.

Bubba Wallace His fifth-place finish is his third career top five in Cup. He has two such finishes at Daytona and the other at Indianapolis.

Matt DiBenedetto He seemed to be in a safe spot to make the playoffs a couple of weeks ago before his team struggled. He overcame challenges Saturday to earn his first playoff bid and the first playoff bid for Wood Brothers Racing since 2017 with Ryan Blaney.

LOSERS

Tyler Reddick His failed slide job led to a 10-car crash late in the race. Reddick took the blame. Some drivers were not happy with Reddick. Kyle Busch said: “Slide job gone bad. … I saw him coming and even checked up and we still ran into each other.” Ryan Newman said: “The 8 car obviously just ran out of talent.”

Jimmie JohnsonHe won’t get a chance to race for a record eighth Cup title. Johnson finished six points behind Matt DiBenedetto for the final playoff spot. He fells short in a season where his runner-up car was disqualified after the Coke 600, and he missed the Brickyard 400 because of a positive COVID-19 test. He was collected in a late crash Saturday ending his title hopes. That leaves Johnson focused not on a championship but trying to win a race before the season ends.