Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR

NASCAR announces 12 invitees to Drive for Diversity combine

Leave a comment

NASCAR announced the 12 drivers invited to compete for the 2019 Drive for Diversity program on Monday. The dozen drivers have competed on three continents in a variety of racecars.

“The drivers invited to this year’s NASCAR Drive for Diversity Driver Development Combine represent a wide range of diverse backgrounds, both in terms of heritage and driving disciplines,” said Jusan Hamilton, NASCAR senior manager of racing operations and event management in a press release. “The combine has been tremendous in helping the NASCAR industry identify and develop top diverse talent and this year is no different.”

Rev Racing serves as the on-track partner for the Drive for Diversity program. Since the inception of the program, Rev Racing has earned 19 wins, 88 top fives and 186 top-10 finishes.

The combine will help set their lineup in 2019.

“As we embark upon our 11th year managing the Drive for Diversity program in partnership with NASCAR, we couldn’t be more excited about the evolution of our driver development program,” said Max Siegel, CEO of Rev Racing. “Through selection process and training program we look forward to selecting and developing some of NASCAR’s brightest stars.”

In addition to testing their skill behind the wheel of a racecar, candidates will undergo a physical fitness assessment as well as tests to determine their ability to effective communicate and market sponsors.

This year’s combine invitees include Ruben Garcia Jr. – current points leader in the NASCAR Peak Mexico Series.

Trans Am standout Ernie Francis Jr. will also compete. He has scored four wins in this series in 2018 and currently leads the series standings

Chase Cabre, Juan Manuel González, Loris Hezemans, Perry Patino, Nick Sanchez, Brooke Storer, Ryu Taggart, Gracie Trotter, Ryan Vargas and Brittney Zamora round out the list.

Zamora became the first female driver to win the Northwest Super Late Model Series Championship in 2017.

These hopefuls look to follow in the footsteps of Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez and Bubba Wallace – all of whom have gone through the program.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter

Nine Cup cars to be docked practice time at Talladega

Getty Images
Leave a comment

UPDATE: NASCAR has announced that three additional teams will be docked practice today. Those will be the teams of playoff contender Brad Keselowski, DJ Kennington and Landon Cassill after their spotters missed the mandatory spotters meeting.

TALLADEGA, Ala. – Six Cup teams, including playoff competitors Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr., will be penalized practice time Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway.

All the violations stem from inspection issues last weekend at Dover.

The teams of Kyle Busch, Daniel Suarez and David Ragan will be docked 15 minutes for being late to pre-race inspection.

The teams of Kurt Busch and Truex will be docked 15 minutes for failing pre-race inspection twice.

The team of Bubba Wallace will be penalized 30 minutes for failing pre-race inspection three times. Wallace said that he will not have a backup car this weekend. The penalty should lessen the impact of not having a backup car.

Final Cup practice will be from 11:05 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

 

Bubba Wallace without backup car for Talladega Cup race

2 Comments

Bubba Wallace will be without a backup car for this weekend’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. Sunday on NBC).

The Richard Petty Motorsports rookie will have to make it through one practice session and qualifying on Saturday with one No. 43 Chevrolet at his disposal before competing in his second Cup race on the 2.66-mile track.

“Out of all the speedway races we have had, we have run okay, but then the cars are totaled at the end,” Wallace said Friday at Talladega. “That is part of it. So, yeah, we are just going to go out and do our own deal until the race starts. That was new news to me going into this weekend. I was like ‘Oh, alright’.”

He finished 16th at Talladega in the spring and placed 14th in the July Daytona race.

The lack of a backup car is a product of RPM’s lack of funding.

The team has struggled to secure sponsorship for Wallace, who finished second in the Daytona 500 but has one top 10 in the 29 races since. He has wrecked in four of the last 10 races.

RPM also auctioned off Wallace’s Daytona 500 car in May. The car went for roughly $83,000.

Sunday’s race will be the seventh where Petty’s Garage and Medallion Bank have been on the car. Both are companies operated by the team’s co-owners, Andrew Murstein (Medallion Bank) and Richard Petty (Petty’s Garage).

NBC Sports’ Dustin Long chronicled the team’s sponsorship struggles while embedded with RPM in August.

“Reality is we were so late in what took place in ’17, budgets were petty well set in ’18,” Brian Moffitt, the team’s CEO, said at the time of signing Wallace. “We knew this year was going to be like it is. We were hoping we would close more business in-season like everybody does. We really think that ’19 and the discussions that we do have are very positive around Bubba.”

Wallace called the team’s situation “ballin’ on a budget.”

“Money is the root of all evil and success for us,” Wallace said. “We just need a partner, and we have great partners right now with World Wide Technology for a brand-new sponsor to come on-board and to take a big leap with us is big. So, they have done a lot for us. STP, Air Force, Click N’ Close, and we have had a number of great partners throughout the year to get us to where we are at, but we still need more. We want more funding to help our speed, help all resources that go into making a race team successful. …

“We will go out and finish out these next six races the best that we can. We have a new car coming here in a couple of weeks, so we have some good things coming it’s just a matter for having a little bit of luck on our side. I was just glad to be able to finish Dover last weekend (in 23rd, his best finish in seven races) and now we can kind of get through this weekend, hopefully unscathed and then get the last five I would say into a smooth consistent roll into the off-season. And then get really prepared for when February comes around.”

NBCSN will debut “Racing Roots: Featuring Bubba Wallace” at 6:30 p.m. ET Saturday after Cup qualifying.

After Saturday’s qualifying, Wallace posted a message on Twitter for those who had been concerned about the team not having a backup car this weekend.

NASCAR America Fantasy League: 10 Best at Talladega in last three seasons

Leave a comment

Streaks are hard to come by on restrictor-plate superspeedways.

Since the 2010 season, 29 of the drivers entered this week have scored 127 top 10s. In those eight seasons, 13 drivers have managed to string together three or more consecutive top 10s. Of those, only four have a streak longer than four straight.

Clint Bowyer has a five-race streak from 2010 through 2012 plus another streak of three consecutive races and a pair of top 10s. And yet his three-year average at Talladega is not enough to include him in the list below.

Brad Keselowski has a three-race streak and a couple of back-to-back top-10 finishes. Keselowski is only 12th best in terms of his three-year average finish.

David Ragan enters the weekend with three top 10s in the past three races and another streak of four in 2012/2013. He also fails to make the list.

That makes this one of the most unpredictable tracks on which NASCAR competes. Setting this week’s NASCAR America Fantasy Live roster is going to come down to intuition and luck.

1. Kurt Busch (three-year average: 9.00) Playoff
From fall 2010 through spring 2014, Busch’s best result at Talladega was 18th. He was seventh in the fall 2014 race and has finished worse than 12th only one time in his last eight attempts. Whether he’s been lucky or has found a way to stay out of trouble, he is a solid anchor to this week’s roster.

2. Aric Almirola (three-year average: 10.20) Playoff
One never wants to go to Talladega with their playoff hopes on the line but Almirola could certainly pick a worse place based on his recent performance. With four consecutive top 10s, he has the best active streak. In 2017, he swept the top five. He is 10 points behind the cutoff and needs only a good finish this week to give him a solid chance to advance on his Kansas performance.

3. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (three-year average: 10.60) Non-Playoff
Stenhouse took a lot of criticism for his performance at Daytona in July. He saw that race as his best opportunity to win and secure a spot in the playoffs and might have been a little too enthusiastic. That should not detract from his fantasy appeal on plate tracks, however; Stenhouse has one win and three top fives in his last four Talladega starts.

4. Joey Logano (three-year average: 12.60) Playoff
Logano won this spring’s Geico 500 at Talladega on the heels of a fourth-place finish there last fall. Before one gets overly excited about that, however, it should be noted that most of Logano’s results on this track have been feast or famine. Since the beginning of 2012, he has three wins, a fourth, and an 11th. Seven of his remaining eight races in that span ended 25th or worse.

5. Ty Dillon (three-year average: 13.00 in three starts) Non-Playoff
Talladega is filled with dark horse contenders. Dillon has made only three Cup starts on this 2.66-mile track and has swept the top 15. His best effort was one that does not impact his official record. Dillon finished sixth in relief of an injured Tony Stewart in 2016.

5. Denny Hamlin (three-year average: 13.00) Non-Playoff
Hamlin has shown consistency during his last four attempts at Talladega. Since fall 2016, he’s swept the top 15 with a best of third and an average of 8.5. He would be much higher on this list if not for a pair of accidents in spring 2016 that cost him 18 laps and relegated him to 31st.

7. Chase Elliott (three-year average: 13.20) Playoff
Elliott enters the weekend as the only driver who knows he will advance to Round 3 of the playoffs. That is good news because plate tracks have not been uniformly kind in the past. He crashed out of the 2017 spring Talladega race and has been running at the end of only two of the five plate races since.

8. Kevin Harvick (three-year average: 13.80) Playoff
If these stats belonged to anyone but Harvick, he would be considered a solid value: Since fall 2013, he has earned five top 10s, three more top 15s and had a worst finish of 23rd in 10 races. He has only one top-five finish in that span, however. One expects a lot more from a driver who has dominated much of the season.

9. Daniel Suarez (three-year average: 14.67 in three attempts) Non-Playoff
Young Cup drivers are not supposed to be strong on plate tracks. Conventional wisdom used to be that the veterans didn’t want to draft with them and would find a way to dump them. As young guns became more prevalent in the series, that changed. Suarez has gotten progressively better at Talladega. He finished 19th in the 2017 spring race, was 15th in the fall and 10th this spring.

10. Kyle Busch (three-year average: 15.00) Playoff
Like fellow Big 3 contender Harvick, Busch is less likely to challenge for a top five at Talladega than most tracks. He missed the spring 2015 to injury and since then has scored only two top 10s in six starts. For some reason, the fall races have been particularly unkind. Three of his last four attempts in this race ended outside of the top 25.

Bonus Picks

Pole Winner: Poles can be almost as difficult to predict as race finishes on plate tracks. One driver who has been uniformly strong is Elliott, however. In 11 previous attempts at Talladega and Daytona, he has earned four poles (three at Daytona and one at Talladega) and qualified worse than eighth just one time.

Segment Winners: If picking a race winner is difficult, it’s even more difficult to predict who will be the segment winners. A little guesswork can be taken out of the equation by looking at the average running position, though. The three drivers with the best Talladega average running position as reported by NASCAR Statistical Services are three aggressive young guns. Elliott has an average place of 10.705, William Byron has a 12.460 and Bubba Wallace is third at 13.798.

For more Fantasy NASCAR coverage, check out Rotoworld.com and follow Dan Beaver (@FantasyRace) on Twitter.

Silly Season includes crew chief moves at Hendrick Motorsports

Leave a comment

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).