NBCSN will have complete coverage of tonight’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Awards from Las Vegas, as the sport salutes Joey Logano‘s championship.
A special edition NASCAR America will air at 8 p.m. ET. with red carpet coverage. Carolyn Manno hosts and is joined by Kyle Petty and Parker Kligerman. Marty Snider will be on the red carpet for driver interviews. Reigning Daytona 500 champion Austin Dillon also will serve as a reporter on the red carpet.
The Awards show airs at 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Rutledge Wood and Kelli Stavast host. Along with honoring Logano, the show will feature the announcement of the National Motorsports Press Association’s Most Popular Driver. With Dale Earnhardt Jr. an analyst for NBC Sports, his streak of 15 consecutive Most Popular Driver awards will end.
NASCAR America: Examining potential Cup rivalries for 2019
In the second half of 2018, budding rivalries began to take shape that might bear fruit in 2019 according to the NASCAR America analysts.
Kyle Petty thinks next year’s greatest rivalry will be Joey Logano versus the field. He raised the ire of Martin Truex Jr. with a bump-and-run move to win at Martinsville. The next week, Aric Almirola had harsh words for how he raced at Texas.
“It’s Joey Logano versus everybody,” Petty said. “I say that because … Joey Logano is only 28 years old. He’s in the middle. We talk about Chase Elliott turning 22 or 23. We talk about William Byron turning 21. … We talk about Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex (Jr.) and those guys being 39, 40, 41 … He’s right in the middle, so he’s getting it from both sides.”
“A rivalry that might be brewing that nobody else is thinking about would be Jimmie Johnson versus Chad Knaus,” Parker Kligerman said on Wednesday’s show. “Which one of them goes out and gets a win without each other first.”
Kligerman believes Johnson’s greatest rival may be time, however.
Despite winning the 2018 championship, Joey Logano did not top the Westagate Las Vegas Superbook odds to win the title again in 2019.
Westagate believes the Big 3 from 2018 will pick up where they left off with Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch listed as co-favorites at 9-2 odds. Martin Truex Jr., who will become Busch’s teammate next year, is listed at 6-1.
Last year, relatively minor changes in the body style caused Chevrolet to begin the season with little momentum and allowed Ford to get a head start. Teams now have several large changes that need to be factored into the handling of their cars.
“With a new package, it’s a bit of a reset,” Kligerman said on Wednesday’s show. “No one exactly knows what is going to be best. Everyone is going to show up at Daytona and then go on to Atlanta and say ‘all right, what’s best? I don’t know. We’re going to find out.’
“They’re going to do the best simulation, the best research they can, but when you have that unknown – that X-Factor – that just opens up that door for teams to catch up to other teams and for bigger teams to make a mistake and not really hit it right off the bat.”
According to Kligerman, this could result in an extremely tight race in the middle of the pack. Last year Richard Childress Racing placed one of its drivers in the playoffs on the strength of Austin Dillon‘s Daytona 500 win. Teammate Ryan Newman finished the season 17th in the standings.
“We’re talking about the rule change condensing the field and maybe giving midfield teams a chance to catch up. And when I look at teams that would be right there in the middle – your fringe playoff contenders – I look at (Richard Childress Racing). And now the other side of that is if some of those teams behind them are able to catch up more, it puts more competition. … It almost condenses the field and gives them some teams they weren’t fighting with before catching up.”
Sponsors and crew chief pairings will be announced at a later date.
Tifft will drive the No. 36 Ford, a number which has special meaning to him.
“I drove earlier in my career under Ken Schrader (in ARCA), that was his number back in the day,” Tifft said in a live video announcement on NASCAR’s YouTube page. “Obviously it fits into the 30 series of numbers for Front Row Motorsports. For him being my early mentor, the coincidence of that being my number now is really cool.”
Owned by Bob Jenkins, FRM debuted in Cup in 2005 when it made 13 starts with seven drivers. It didn’t compete in a majority of the races with one driver until 2009 with John Andretti (34 starts).
David Gilliland was the first driver to start all 36 races for the team in 2011. Gilliland and Ragan were full-time in 2012 and the team has had two full-time cars each year since, culminating in Ragan and McDowell as its drivers in 2018.
“We’ve made it clear in recent years that it was our intent to continue to invest in NASCAR and expand to a three-car team,” Jenkins said in a press release. “Not only are we here to stay, we’re here to grow.
“We already have two proven veterans in our line-up, and now we’ll get to add an impressive young talent and championship contender who will inject some new energy into the group. With the introduction of the Ford Mustang into the Cup Series, 2019 is shaping up to be an exciting season for us.”