Mutliple outlets reported that Newman will drive the No. 6 Ford next season for Roush Fenway, which recently announced that Trevor Bayne won’t return to the team. Bayne had been the full-time driver of the car since 2015 until four months ago when he began splitting the ride with Matt Kenseth, whose NASCAR future remains unclear.
Roush Fenway Racing has scheduled an announcement for 3 p.m. Saturday in the Richmond Raceway media center.
If Las Vegas proved anything, it’s that desperation can play havoc to a fantasy lineup. Well into Stage 2 of last weekend’s Cup race, the top 10 was filled with playoff contenders. But then Kevin Harvick cut a tire and Erik Jones couldn’t avoid Harvick’s car. From that point on, all bets were off.
Seven playoff contenders finished outside the top 20. That contributed to three non-playoff contenders earning top 10s and major points in the revamped NASCAR America Fantasy Live game that requires half of the lineup to come from their ilk.
Short tracks can become wild card events. Drivers are constantly in heavy traffic and small mistakes have major consequences. Add in the X-factor of several playoff hopefuls needing to win in order to get a good night’s sleep between Saturday and next week’s race on the Charlotte Roval and you have a recipe for disaster.
1. Denny Hamlin (three-year average: 3.60) Playoff
Hamlin has seemingly been one of the best values several times this year. He hasn’t always lived up to that potential. In an uneven season, his statistics need to be taken with a grain of salt. Still, this is the one track he’d want to visit while needing to climb out of the hole he fell into at Las Vegas. He has six consecutive results of sixth or better at Richmond.
2. Joey Logano (three-year average: 5.00) Playoff
Logano has the longest top-10 streak among active drivers at Richmond this week. He has not finished outside that mark in the last nine races on this track. In that span, he has two wins. The most recent of these came in spring 2017 and he nearly added another last fall with a second to Kyle Larson.
3. Kevin Harvick (three-year average: 7.00) Playoff
Harvick has not scored back-to-back results outside the top 10 since last October at Dover. That can be viewed two ways. The positive view is obvious: He should easily rebound. However, his 36th at New Hampshire and 17th at Dover came in back-to-back playoff races and no one expected him to stumble then either.
5. Kyle Busch (three-year average: 7.40) Playoff
Busch’s victory this spring was his fifth at Richmond. Additionally, he has six more runner-up finishes – two of which came since 2015. He has not been perfect in recent seasons, however; three of his last four attempts on this short track ended ninth or worse. That is not what fantasy players have come to expect from the driver of the No. 18.
6. Kyle Larson (three-year average: 7.80) Playoff
In nine starts at Richmond, Larson has never finished worse than 16th. The biggest recommendation to start him this week comes from last year’s Federated Auto Parts 400 victory and a second in that race in 2016. Three top-fives in the last four races of 2018 certainly don’t hurt his odds any.
6. Jimmie Johnson (three-year average: 7.80) Playoff
Last week, Johnson was one of the drivers who might have benefited from the carnage among the playoff contenders. He climbed through the ranks as the competition was eliminated one by one – until he was also caught up in an incident late in the going. He’s on the outside looking in and hasn’t won at Richmond since 2008.
8. Kurt Busch (three-year average: 8.20) Playoff
All those sixth- to ninth-place finishes in the past couple of months have to look pretty good to Busch after last week’s crash-induced 21st at Vegas. He should be able to rebound nicely, however, because he has six top 10s and an 11th in his last eight Richmond starts.
9. Daniel Suarez (three-year average: 9.67) Non-Playoff
Last week, Suarez was the highest finishing non-playoff driver at Vegas. He should be able to repeat at Richmond because he has not finished worse than 12th on this track in three starts. With some luck, he could earn a career-first top five if the attrition is heavy again.
10. Martin Truex Jr. (three-year average: 11.20) Playoff
No one is too worried about Truex fading during Round 1, but as the season progresses and if the No. 78 team loses crew members, he could become a risky proposition. The key to fantasy success is going to be knowing exactly when to jump off his bandwagon for the remainder of the season.
Other Notable non-Playoff Drivers
11. Jamie McMurray (three-year average: 12.40) Non-Playoff
McMurray was prepared to play spoiler to the playoff hopefuls last week. He ran in the top 10 for much of the race until he had a tire go down that sent him into the wall. McMurray entered Vegas with back-to-back top 10s this season. He also has two top 10s in his last four Richmond attempts.
15. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (three-year average: 18.00) Non-Playoff
Stenhouse has been uneven at Richmond throughout his career. He finished fourth in the spring 2017 race there, which is one of only two career top 10s. That is enough to give him the third-best average finish on this track among non-playoff drivers. Fantasy players need to remember that he is not racing against Harvick, Busch or the other marquee picks this week and take whatever points they can.
16. Ryan Newman (three-year average: 18.60) Non-Playoff
Newman finished second in both of his rookie races at Richmond. He won there as a sophomore in 2003. This is a track that has been kind to him often during his career. Forget about his average finish at the moment and concentrate on the third-place he earned in last year’s edition of this race and the seventh he scored in spring 2017.
Pole Winner: The Richmond pole has been swept by a driver twice in the past three years. Matt Kenseth did so last year. Joey Logano swept the pole in 2015. The one year in which it was not swept, the spring race was set by the rule book when qualification was rained out; Hamlin won the fall pole. That suggests Truex is a driver to watch closely this weekend.
Segment Winners: Team Penske has been the dominant force in regard to segment wins at Richmond. Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski split the stages in spring 2017. Logano swept the stages this spring. If those two drivers qualify well and have quick 10-lap averages in practice, they should be slotted into the Segment Winners bonus positions.
LAS VEGAS — Garrett Smithley walked out of Victory Lane with a smile on his face.
On a day when he wrecked in qualifying and finished 18th in a backup car, he couldn’t contain his excitement for Ross Chastain, typically his teammate at JD Motorsports but not on this day.
Saturday’s Xfinity race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was one of three races this season that Chastain will run in Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 Chevrolet — a car with more funding and resources than Chastain’s regular ride.
Chastain scored a dominating win.
“It gives all the little guys hope,” Smithley said of Chastain’s victory.
As if it to make sure that Chastain’s win was real and the embrace they shared in Victory Lane was not imaginary, Smithley said it again.
“It gives all the little guys hope.”
Money is king in NASCAR and the owners with it are the kingmakers.
For those without money, everything is harder. There are fewer resources to develop new parts and make cars faster. Instead, such teams rely on less reliable parts, tape measures instead of laser measurements and hand-written notebooks instead of computer simulation programs. It’s a gap that rarely can be closed.
Facing such obstacles, teams are left only with hope. It’s why crew members get up at 5 a.m. to head to the shop and why they might not leave until midnight trying to repair a car from the last race and get it ready for the next one. Instead of flying to the upcoming race like many teams, it often means long drives through the night with little sleep before the garage opens the next morning and the race for speed resumes.
For such teams, the race for 25th can be as meaningful as the race for the lead to bigger teams.
Ryan Preece knows both worlds. He drove for JD Motorsports in 2016 and had one top-10 finish for the underfunded team.
Nobody noticed him.
So he took the sponsorship money he had and went to Joe Gibbs Racing to run two races (that later became four) instead of 33.
Preece won in his second race with Gibbs. He’s won again with the team this year. Although he says he’s focused on the remaining races with Gibbs, his gamble will likely lead to a full-time ride next season in the sport.
Preece isn’t alone in believing less is more. Alex Bowman lost his Cup ride before the 2016 season. With no rides left, he signed to run select races with JR Motorsports that year and also served as the test driver for Hendrick Motorsports’ simulator program. That put him in position to replace Dale Earnhardt Jr. after Earnhardt had to sit out the second half of that season because of symptoms from a concussion. Bowman went on to take over the No. 88 when Earnhardt retired after last season and is in the Cup playoffs.
Those moves did not unnoticed.
Matt DiBenedetto, who also had to start and park early in his career and has run for a variety of small-budget teams, announced recently that he would leave his full-time Cup ride with Go Fas Racing after this season and bet on himself like Preece did.
“I paid a whole lot of attention to those guys and what they did,” DiBenedetto told NBC Sports of Preece and Bowman. “They were a big driving force in me making this decision.”
DiBenedetto said he decided to follow the model Preece tried after “seeing other guys get just barely bumped above me on those lists (for rides). That was the push I needed to make this bold and risky decision.”
For Chastain, the risk was low. Jeff Carpoff, president and CEO of DC Solar, which sponsors the No. 42 Xfinity car, approached Chastain earlier this year at Auto Club Speedway as Chastain walked with helmet in hand from his Xfinity car to the Cup garage. The brief conversation led to further talk by Carpoff of putting Chastain in the No. 42 Xfinity Ganassi car at some point this season.
Chastain revealed Saturday that he’s not getting paid for these three races — he also ran the car at Darlington and makes his last start in it next week at Richmond.
“I get laughed at from inside the garage,” Chastain said of his no-money deal for these three races. “We literally bet on ourselves that we wouldn’t make any money now, but it would pay off.”
Chastain had to hold off Justin Allgaier, the regular-season champion, in a spirited duel that included contact and had Allgaier ranting on the radio at the time. Allgaier later attributed his anger to being in the moment.
But when Chastain pulled away from the field on the final restart and it became clear he would score his first career Xfinity win — in his 132nd series start — he just wanted to enjoy the moment.
He didn’t yell or scream on the radio. He put his head down, punched the steering wheel and stayed silent.
“They were all congratulating (me) on the radio,” Chastain said of the team. “I just wanted to listen and hear it.”
It was a sound he could not have imagined when he was starting and parking early in his career because there wasn’t the money to run a full race.
“That’s not the ideal way,” Chastain said. “I wouldn’t recommend that because it’s tough, and it’s very trying. A lot of phone calls (with family) late at night. We didn’t know it was going to get better, but they kept telling me that.”
Ryan Newman joined the list of drivers who will be on the move in 2019 when he announced Saturday on Twitter that he will not return to the No. 31 car at Richard Childress Racing.
Newman is in his fifth season with RCR. He finished second in the championship in 2012, his first season with the team. Newman made the playoffs three times at RCR. He did not make the playoffs this season.
Newman stated he was not ready to announce his future plans in Cup. Childress also was not ready to announce who will drive the No. 31 after this season.
No. 6: Car owner Jack Roush said Sept. 12 on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that Trevor Bayne would not be back with Roush Fenway Racing after this season. Bayne, who has shared the No. 6 ride this season with Matt Kenseth, has driven in Cup for Roush since 2015.
No. 41:Kurt Busch signed a one-year deal last 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.
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 DiBenedetto: Said 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.
Daniel Hemric: The Xfinity driver for Richard Childress Racing was asked Aug. 17 at Bristol about his future and he described it as: “Cloudy, very cloudy.” He said then he has not signed anything for the 2019 season, adding: “I’m trying to do everything I can on the race track to prove to somebody that would be willing to put me in a car and give me a shot.”
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.
“I’ve called every team owner and every sponsor that I know probably twice or three times,” Bayne told NBC Sports on Friday morning in the garage at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. “For me, all I know right now is Texas. When I get to Nov. 5 that’s the last race I have scheduled that I know. Hopeful for an opportunity, but just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Asked if he could take sponsor Advocare with him to prospective car owners, the 27-year-old Bayne told NBC Sports: “I don’t know what they’re going to do with the sport or Roush or whatever. As it stands, when I go to these team owners and they say, ‘How much money do you have?’ I’m kind of selling myself in I think I can win races if I’m in a really good car.”
Bayne said he would be open to a ride in Cup, Xfinity or the Camping World Truck Series part-time or full-time.
“I’ve struggled and I’ve seen what it’s like to run 15th every week, and I just don’t want to do that anymore,” he told NBC Sports. “To me, if I can’t get into a race-winning car, a top-10 car or a top-five car, then I don’t want to do it just to be here. For me, any opportunity I’m looking at (is) in a really good car with a really good team and really good culture.
“I do this to win races, not to make paycheck. I think I’ve got the ability to do it. I’ve proven that anytime we have fast cars, even Bristol a couple of weeks ago. When I’m in a fast car I can get it done. That’s what I’m looking for, what I’m wanting to do. I’m also praying about it. ‘Lord, what do you want me to do? If you want me here, I need an opportunity. If you don’t want me here, make it clear.’
“I just don’t know what’s going to happen next. It’s a scary, weird feeling to think about. Am I going to be in NASCAR or not next year? For me, that is a really hard thing to swallow. I’ve always said I’m not defined by this but when you actually get to that crossroads of ‘Hey, there may not any opportunity,’ it’s a weird feeling.”
Bayne has had a star-crossed career. He became the youngest driver at age 20 years and 1 day to win the Daytona 500 when he won the 2011 race for Wood Brothers Racing. The victory came in his second career Cup start.
Without enough funding, he was only able to run a partial Cup schedule from 2011-14 for the Wood Brothers. He returned to Roush Fenway Racing — where he ran in the Xfinity Series from late in the 2010 season through 2014. He won two Xfinity races during that stretch.
An unknown illness in 2011 that year sent him to the Mayo Clinic and kept him out of the car briefly. He ran 17 Cup races that year.
His results yo-yoed as Roush Fenway Racing struggled. The team announced in April that it was hiring Matt Kenseth to drive the No. 6 in select races, replacing Bayne.
“The first four weeks were super tough on me,” Bayne said of the time after Kenseth’s hiring. “Those weeks were a lot of anger, a lot of frustration and how could this happen? This is kind of unprecedented in how it was happening. It didn’t feel like that my performance, as far as compared to how our cars ran, warranted that but it’s just what God has for me right now.”
Bayne, who has made 182 career Cup starts, has five races remaining in the No. 6 car this season — Las Vegas, the Charlotte Roval, Talladega, Kansas and Texas.
“I just want to enjoy it,” Bayne said. “I love racing and it’s not fun to struggle at the Cup level. I know I can get it done at the Cup level. That’s not the question. To me, it’s more so what is the opportunity. I look at guys like Aric Almirola or even Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano, where they were in situations and got into a good car with a good culture and took off. I know I can do that.”