Posted in Cup Series, Xfinity Series

Joe Gibbs inducted into Hall of Fame

Along with Buddy Baker, Bobby Labonte, Tony Stewart and Waddell Wilson, team owner Joe Gibbs was one of five men inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina on January 31.

“The NASCAR family is just unreal,” Gibbs said, referencing his concerns about leaving the National Football League and focusing his efforts on America’s top form of auto racing nearly 30 years ago.

“Everyone stretched out their arms. The fans, the fellow competitors … that meant a lot as we took off in racing.”

Gibbs holds the unique distinction of also being a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. During his first stint as the head coach of the Washington Redskins from 1981-92, Gibbs’ teams won three Super Bowls (1983, ’88, ’92) and he was twice named Associated Press Coach of the Year (1982-83).

Following a 12-year hiatus, Gibbs returned to coach the Redskins a second time for four more seasons from 2004-07. Overall, he posted a 154-94 record, good for a .621 winning percentage.

Opened in 1992, Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) has captured five Cup Series championships: Labonte in 2000, Stewart in 2002 and 2005 and Kyle Busch in 2015 and 2019.

It is fitting Labonte and Stewart joined their former owner in the 2020 class; Busch will surely join the trio following his retirement. Based on his 2019 campaign, however, this date is still several years away.

NASCAR on NBC shared a portion of Gibbs’ induction speech:

Beginning with the Daytona 500 on February 16, JGR will again field four Toyota Camry’s in 2020: The No. 11 for Denny Hamlin, No. 18 for Busch, No. 19 for Martin Truex Jr. and No. 20 for Erik Jones.

The green flag will wave shortly after 1 p.m. ET for the 62nd running of “The Great American Race” on NASCAR on FOX.

Posted in Cup Series

Acorns “pausing” Roush Fenway Racing sponsorship

First reported by the Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern, Acorns will not be returning as a Roush Fenway Racing (RFR) sponsor in 2020.

The company served as the primary sponsor on Ryan Newman’s No. 6 Ford Mustang in six races in 2019.

Launched in 2012 and based in Irvine, California, Acorns is a financial services company specializing in micro and robo-investing.

Announced on Wednesday, RFR has taken steps toward filling this void by agreeing to a new sponsorship deal with Castrol.

Newman’s 2020 Castrol Ford Mustang.

His first season with RFR following a five-year stint with Richard Childress Racing (RCR), Newman totaled three top-five and 14 top-ten finishes in 2019.

Newman has 18 wins to his credit over 656 career Cup Series races; the most recent came in the Camping World 500 at then-Phoenix International Raceway on March 19, 2017.

Posted in Cup Series

Kurt Busch unveils 2020 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

Less than four weeks from the 62nd running of the Daytona 500, Kurt Busch took to Twitter to unveil his 2020 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE on Wednesday.

Busch points out the changes in his 2020 car.

A native of Las Vegas, Nevada, the 41-year-old Busch joined Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR) in 2019 following a five-year run at Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).

Taking over for NASCAR on FOX analyst Jamie McMurray, he piloted the No. 1 to a 13th-place finish in the final standings, collecting six top-five finishes, including winning the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway in July.

Over the course of his 20-year career, Busch has racked up 31 wins, 298 top-ten finishes and claimed 27 pole awards.

With the green flag set to wave shortly after 1 p.m. ET, the Daytona 500 will air on FOX with Mike Joy, Jeff Gordon and Larry McReynolds on the call. This will be the network’s first airing of “The Great American Race” without 1989 winner Darrell Waltrip since he announced his retirement from broadcasting last year.

Posted in Monster Energy Cup Series

It’s now or never for Jimmie Johnson’s playoff hopes

Speedway, IN – Sunday’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway was a step in the right direction for the 48 of Jimmie Johnson, but the seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) champion still faces an uphill battle in his quest to qualify for the postseason.

Finishing second in Stage 1 and seventh in Stage 2, Johnson racked up 34 points en route to a 16th-place finish.

With Daniel Suarez and Ryan Newman, who are 18 points ahead of Johnson for the final playoff spot, only earning 26 and 14 points, respectively, Johnson was able to close the gap a bit.

The Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard on Sunday, September 8 (2:00PM ET, NBC) marks the final race of NASCAR’s regular season. While it is possible for Johnson to point his way into the playoffs, a win is the only way for him to control his own destiny.

“We are running out of days and if we miss it, it’s only going to be by a few I believe,” Johnson said.

“If I look back over the first half of the season, I see a lot of races where we gave a few points away. So, it’s kind of unfair to put all the pressure on one race in Indianapolis. But we are going there to win a race.”

Johnson’s last win came on June 4, 2017 in the AAA Drive for Autism 400 at Dover International Speedway. Mired in a career-long winless drought, Sunday would be the perfect time to snap out of it.

Despite how he has been running for the last two-plus seasons, Johnson has a history of success at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In 17 career starts at the 2.5-mile rectangular oval, he has won four times – most recently in 2012 – and has recorded seven top-10 finishes.

Johnson finished 14th in the 2018 edition of this event, which was won by Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski.

The only driver to qualify for the playoffs every year since the original Chase format was introduced in 2004, Johnson is confident headed into Sunday’s finale.

Holding an outside shot at being the sport’s only eight-time champion, it all hinges on Sunday for Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports.

Posted in Monster Energy Cup Series

Denny Hamlin, Matt DiBenedetto shine at Bristol Motor Speedway

Bristol, TN – Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin picked up his fourth win of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) season in Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Leading 79 of the 500 laps, Hamlin worked his way back after falling two laps behind after making contact with the No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson in Stage 1.

The real story of the night, though, was Matt DiBenedetto’s No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Toyota Camry leading a race-high 93 laps.

Hamlin’s No. 11 Camry passed DiBenedetto with 11 laps to go and the fan favorite was able to hold on to second-place.

Even Hamlin felt the electricity of the underdog story.

“I’m so sorry to Matt DiBenedetto, (crew chief) Mike Wheeler…I know what a win would mean to that team.”

While he fell just short of his first career win, DiBenedetto’s second-place showing was a career-best and it came at the end of a tumultuous week for the 28-year-old.

It was announced just days prior that DiBenedetto would not return to LFR and the No. 95 in 2020, a seat that is likely to be occupied by Christopher Bell.

Saturday was DiBenedetto’s third top-five of the season and he is showing his peers – and prospective car owners – that he can compete for wins at NASCAR’s highest level.

Said Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney, “That would have been a pretty cool story. He just announced that he’s not going to be in that car next year and I think he does a great job. He really drove for that one. It stinks he couldn’t get it done, but he’s a great driver. I hope he lands somewhere good.”

“A lot of people have respect for him,” Hamlin added. “He’s humble. This is not a story of he’s just going to go away. This is only the beginning for him. He’s writing his resume on TV every weekend.”

Slightly disappointed, of course, DiBenedetto was also upbeat and optimistic post-race.

“I’m sad. Congrats to Denny, raced hard and I’ve been a fan of his since I was a kid. To be racing door-to-door with him at Bristol in front of a great group of fans – I’m trying not to get emotional but it’s been a tough week and I just want to stick around and want to keep doing this for a long time to come. I am not done yet. Something is going to happen.”

The upset victory would have guaranteed DiBenedetto a spot in the Cup Series’ 16-driver playoff field. Instead, he’ll take the 41 points he earned and enjoy 22nd-place in the standings.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Daniel Suarez holds a two-point lead over teammate Clint Bowyer for the final playoff spot. Hendrick Motorsports’ Jimmie Johnson sits in 18th-place, 26 points back of Suarez.

With just two races remaining in the regular season, time is running out for these drivers to make their move and secure their spots.

One of the sport’s crown jewel events, the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway is next up on the schedule.

Taking place at 6:00PM ET on Sunday, September 1, NBCSN will air the 70th running of the event.

Feel free to follow Teddy Rydquist and the Lapped Traffic Podcast on Twitter @TeddyRydquist @lappedtrafficpc.

Posted in Monster Energy Cup Series

David Ragan to retire from full-time racing following 2019 season

Bristol, TN – David Ragan, driver of the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford Mustang, announced Wednesday he will retire from full-time racing following the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) season.

Ragan said, via a team statement, “I’ve prayed and heavily considered this decision, but for myself and my family, I believe this is the right thing to do.

“I am a husband and a father to two young girls first, and I am a driver second. To compete in what I consider the greatest series in the world, you need full dedication of your time and focus. My children are growing up quickly, and I want to concentrate my time in being the best father and husband I can be.”

Just 33-years-old, Ragan will be stepping aside after 14 years in NASCAR’s top series.

Making his Cup Series debut in the 2006 Dover 400 with Roush Racing, he originally drove for FRM from 2012-14.

Following a two-year span that saw him drive for Joe Gibbs Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing and BK Racing, Ragan returned to FRM in 2017.

With three races still remaining in the 2019 regular season, Ragan sits 30th in the driver standings, 10 points back of Go Fas Racing’s Corey Lajoie for 29th.

To date, Ragan has two wins and 40 top-ten finishes across 457 career starts. His first win came in the 2011 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway as a member of Roush Fenway Racing.

“There aren’t enough words to thank everyone who has helped me in career and to all the fans who have supported me in this journey,” Ragan said near the closing of his statement.

He still plans to run a select number of races in 2020 and will continue to be part of Fox Sports 1’s NASCAR Race Hub.

Feel free to follow Teddy Rydquist and the Lapped Traffic Podcast on Twitter @TeddyRydquist @lappedtrafficpc.

Posted in Monster Energy Cup Series

Jimmie Johnson on wrong side of playoff cutline

Brooklyn, MI – Jimmie Johnson has never missed the postseason in his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) career. Since NASCAR implemented the original “Chase for the Cup” in 2004, Johnson has qualified for the postseason in all 15 seasons.

After his performance in Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway, this streak is in serious jeopardy.

The issues began early for Johnson as he cut a tire and hit the outside wall on Lap 15. Forced to pit multiple times, he was seven laps down by the end of Stage 1.

Ultimately finishing 34th, Johnson’s No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Ally Chevrolet Camaro recorded just three points on the day.

It would have been interesting to see how Johnson’s day would have played out without the early damage.

“Great car. Just really bummed,” Johnson told NBCSN post-race. “That really hurt for sure. Have to rally on. These guys are doing an amazing job. Just keep digging.”

The 16th and final playoff spot is currently occupied by Stewart-Haas Racing’s Clint Bowyer with 559 points. Thanks to his fifth-place showing on Sunday, fellow SHR driver Daniel Suarez sits 17th with 553 points.

That leaves Johnson and his 547 points in 18th-place with just three races remaining in the regular season.

12 points is still easily within striking distance and Johnson is keeping his strategy simple.

“Just fight hard for every point.”

Next up on the schedule is the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday, August 17.

Green flag is set for shortly after 7:30PM and NBCSN will air the race.

Johnson recorded a top-ten in April’s Food City 500 at BMS.

Another performance like that would go a long way toward keeping one of NASCAR’s most impressive streaks alive.

Feel free to follow Teddy Rydquist and the Lapped Traffic Podcast on Twitter @TeddyRydquist @lappedtrafficpc.