Posted in Monster Energy Cup Series

Go Bowling at The Glen recap: Chase Elliott makes it back-to-back

Watkins Glen, NY – Leading 80 of the 90 laps in Sunday’s Go Bowling at The Glen at Watkins Glen International, Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott picked up his second win of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) season and his second win in a row in the event.

Beginning from the pole position, Elliott swept all three stages to pick up the maximum 60 points on the day. He is now just three points behind Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch for seventh place in the driver standings.

“We had such a bad fast Camaro, and we stayed mistake-free,” Elliott said. “Martin was a little quicker those last two runs, but track position was key.”

The “Martin” he is referring to is, of course, Martin Truex Jr. In a race that looked very reminiscent of last year’s version, Elliott and Truex battled throughout the last quarter of the race and, ultimately, Elliott was able to hold him off once again.

“I tried to do all I could,” Truex said of his attempts to pass the No. 9. “Chase did an excellent job, just not making mistakes, and really all I could do was get to two car lengths.

“Unfortunate, but our Bass Pro Camry was really, really fast today.”

Truex’s No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was fast all weekend. He finished in the top-seven of both practice sessions and qualified fourth. Thanks to his teammate Kyle Busch’s spin on lap three, he quickly moved up a spot.

After finishing Stage 1 in third, Truex ran second to Elliott in each of the latter two stages. Earning 52 points on the day, he sits just 18 points back of another teammate, Denny Hamlin, for third-place in the standings.

Elliott’s classmate in the 2016 rookie class, Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney was the highest-finishing Ford Mustang of the day in fifth-place.

However, he had to ruffle some feathers to get there.

Contact between Blaney and the No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson on lap 63 sent Johnson into the tire barrier and cost the seven-time champion valuable points as he lives life on the playoff cutline.

Normally a very cool customer, Johnson was audibly upset post-race.

“I don’t know what the hell the problem is,” Johnson told NBCSN, who aired the race.

“He just drove through me and spun us out and it clearly has big implications on what we’re trying to do for the playoffs right now. Clearly not happy with his actions there.”

Sitting comfortably in tenth place in the standings, Blaney was much more ho-hum about the incident.

“Just racing. He had old tires. They just did gas only and he was pretty slow and I passed 10 guys off the bus stop all day and he hit the third curb pretty bad and it got him out of position and he was up and I had a good run. I was there. He left probably a lane and a quarter or so. I took it.”

Posting an average qualifying time of 70.34 seconds, Blaney did not advance to the second round of qualifying and began the race in 19th.

He worked himself up to ninth by the end of Stage 2 and gained four more spots in the final 50 laps to secure his seventh top-five of 2019. Still searching for his first win of the season, Blaney is seven points back of Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola for ninth in the standings.

True to form, Almirola was solid, but unspectacular on Sunday, finishing 12th.

NASCAR returns to the Irish Hills of Brooklyn, MI and Michigan International Speedway for the Consumers Energy 400 on Sunday, August 11.

SHR’s Kevin Harvick won the 2018 edition, leading 108 of the 400 laps.

Penske’s Joey Logano won the June race at MIS, the FireKeepers Casino 400, in a green-white-checkered finish holding off Kurt Busch.

You can catch the action on NBCSN with Rick Allen, Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Steve Letarte beginning at 3:00PM ET.

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

Posted in Monster Energy Cup Series

Chase Elliott returns to site of first Cup Series win

Watkins Glen, NY – On August 5, 2018, Chase Elliott led 52 of the 90 laps in the Go Bowling at the Glen at Watkins Glen International to pick up his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) win.

Since then, Elliott has gone on to win three more times, including April’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Locked into the playoffs and sitting eighth in the driver standings with 616 points, the 23-year-old is in a very comfortable position.

While he has been the best of the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaros in 2019, he has cooled down since rattling off five consecutive top-five finishes from Talladega to the first Pocono race.

Dating back to the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway, Elliott has failed to finish in the top-ten and has came in 20th or worse in five of the seven races.

Seeking to snap out of this slump, NASCAR’s trip to New York is coming at the perfect time.

In his three starts at Watkins Glen, Elliott has an average finish of ninth. Excluding the Charlotte Roval because of sample size, this is his sixth-best average at any track.

Throughout his time in the Cup Series, he has established himself as one of the best road course racers on the circuit. In eight road course attempts – four at Sonoma Raceway, three at Watkins Glen and one at the Charlotte Roval – the Dawsonville, GA native has four top-ten and two top-five finishes.

Finishing in the top-ten in half of your road course starts is nothing to sniff your nose at. Expect to see Elliott get the ship righted on Sunday.

The Go Bowling at the Glen from Watkins Glen International begins at 3:00PM ET on Sunday. You can catch the action on NBCSN.

Feel free to follow Teddy Rydquist on Twitter @TeddyRydquist.

Posted in Monster Energy Cup Series

Jimmie Johnson, crew chief Kevin Meendering split after just 21 races

Sitting 12 points back of the final playoff spot with just five races remaining in NASCAR’s regular season, every moment matters for seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson.

Hendrick Motorsports decided a change atop the pit box could be what this team needs to kick it into gear. After just 21 races, Kevin Meendering has been replaced as Johnson’s crew chief by Cliff Daniels.

Previously serving as a race engineer, the move is a step up for Daniels. Meendering will remain with Hendrick Motorsports in a senior competition role.

“We have to act now,” Johnson told NASCAR.com. “We don’t have any time to waste.”

While Sunday’s Go Bowling at the Glen at Watkins Glen International will be Daniels’ first race as a crew chief, he and Johnson do have some familiarity with one another.

Daniels was a race engineer under Chad Knaus during Johnson’s 2016 championship season. Knaus was moved to the No. 24 team with William Byron prior to the 2019 season. In their 17 seasons (2002-18) together, Johnson and Knaus won seven championships, including five straight from 2006-10.

This built-in familiarity should help the No. 48 team, but they need to hit the ground running. Currently on the wrong side of the playoff cutline, Johnson has three top-five finishes and an average finish of 15.095 in 2019.

Amid a career-long winless streak, a trip to Watkins Glen probably wasn’t exactly what Johnson was looking for. In 17 starts at the road course, he has yet to record a win and has an average finish of 17.059.

The Go Bowling at the Glen will take place at 3:00PM ET on Sunday, August 4. You can catch the action on NBCSN.

Feel free to follow Teddy Rydquist on Twitter @TeddyRydquist.

Posted in Monster Energy Cup Series

Denny Hamlin wins at Pocono for fifth time

Long Pond, PA – For the fifth time in his Cup Series career, Denny Hamlin visited Victory Lane at Pocono Raceway.

Hamlin was strong throughout the afternoon and finished in the top-five of all three stages in Sunday’s Gander RV 400.

Seeking his first victory since the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in March, Hamlin held off teammates Erik Jones and Martin Truex Jr. in overtime to seal the deal in this one.

Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson rounded out the top-five. Championship leader Joey Logano came in 13th.

The win was the third of the season for the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry.

Sitting fourth in the driver standings, 2019 is shaping up to be Hamlin’s best shot at a title since 2014.

“I feel as long as we keep putting the effort in what we’re doing, I have as good a shot as any,” he said.

He is also driving with plenty of confidence.

“We’re running our best right now,” he glowed. “There’s no doubt about it.”

The numbers back up his statement. Sunday marked three consecutive-top five finishes for the 38-year-old and his 10.048 average finish speaks to his consistency.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) next heads to Watkins Glen International for the Go Bowling at the Glen on Sunday, August 4. You can catch the action on NBCSN at 3:00PM ET.

In 13 career starts at the 3.4-mile road course, Hamlin has one win, three top-five and six top-ten finishes.

Feel free to follow Teddy Rydquist on Twitter @TeddyRydquist.

Posted in Monster Energy Cup Series

Kevin Harvick breaks Stewart-Haas Racing’s 21-race winless drought

Loudon, NH – The drought is over!

For the first time since the AAA Texas 500 on November 4, 2018, a Stewart Haas Racing driver visited Victory Lane.

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Beer/National Forest Foundation Ford Mustang, led 41 of Sunday’s 301 laps to win the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

“We’ve run well enough a few times this year to win, but we’ve just made mistakes,” Harvick said post-race. “To finally battle and get over that hump is a great day for everybody at SHR and everybody on the No. 4 car.”

One of just three drivers to finish in the top-10 in all three stages – the other two being Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin – Harvick gained 46 points on Sunday and has a 22-point lead over Hamlin for third-place in the driver standings.

While his 11th-place finish doesn’t jump off the page, Aric Almirola added to SHR’s strong day.

The winner of Stage 2, Almirola recorded 44 points on the day, trailing only Harvick and Kyle Busch.

When the caution flag waved late in the second stage, Almirola and crew chief John Klausmeier were faced with an interesting dilemma: Go for the stage points or play it safe with an eye on possibly winning the race.

“It’s kind of a double-edged sword when the caution comes out that late in the stage,” the driver of the No. 10 said. “We chose to score stage points and that paid off. We won the stage, but in the end, we got behind and couldn’t recover from track position.”

Sunday was Almirola’s 11th consecutive top-20 finish, the longest active streak on the circuit.

Finally free from the shackles of being winless, SHR will look to keep their success going in the Gander RV 400 at Pocono Raceway on July 28.

In 83 combined starts at “The Tricky Triangle,” the current stable of SHR Mustangs have yet to win a race.

For the latest on all things NASCAR, follow Teddy Rydquist on Twitter @TeddyRydquist.

Posted in Monster Energy Cup Series

Erik Jones matches season-high with third-place finish

Sparta, KY – For the fourth time this season, Erik Jones was able to guide his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry to a third-place finish in Saturday’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway. After a rough stretch, the 23-year-old now has top-ten finishes in four of the last six races.

With all the rumors circulating about how he and Christopher Bell fit into the picture at JGR, Jones has done a good job of quieting the noise.

Qualifying 21st with a time of 29.821 seconds, Jones was able to move up to second-place by the end of Stage 2.

Things really got interesting when Bubba Wallace brought out the final caution of the night on lap 261. Utilizing the green-white-checkered finish, Jones dove to the bottom of the track and briefly took the lead.

In perhaps the most exciting finish of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) season, the Busch brothers were able to pass Jones up high in turn 3.

“I had two choices there going into 3 and 4,” Jones recalled. “I knew they were probably going to slide up, so I was going to try to run to the bottom and make a run on them, but they didn’t slide up enough, and I was tight and couldn’t quite get the run I needed to.”

While he would have liked the ending to play out differently, Saturday still produced 43 points for the Byron, Michigan native. Currently holding a two-point lead over Ryan Newman for the final playoff spot, each point is critical for the No. 20 team.

“We built ourselves a big deficit through some misfortune and bad luck, and we’re digging out of it now,” Jones said about his team’s standing.

“Getting back on the good side of it (the playoff cutline) is a good start, we just need to keep it rolling and hopefully get a win here soon.”

If Jones is going to win a race to secure his spot in the postseason, he will have to do it at a track he has never won at before. His only Cup Series win came in the 2018 Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

The next opportunity for Jones will come on Sunday as NASCAR heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301.

In three career starts at Loudon, Jones has one top-10 finish.

For the latest on everything NASCAR, follow Teddy Rydquist on Twitter @TeddyRydquist.

Posted in Monster Energy Cup Series

Clint Bowyer has much-needed strong run in Quaker State 400

Sparta, KY – Finishing 34th or worse in three of the last four races, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Clint Bowyer needed a strong run in Saturday’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.

Starting seventh, Bowyer would pilot his No. 14 Ford Mustang to a sixth-place finish.

Stage 1 was the roughest of the night for the Emporia, Kansas native. He reported that his car was a little tight and he quickly dropped to 14th. Pitting under green on lap 41, Bowyer would drop a lap behind the leaders. A caution came out on lap 48 and he took advantage of the wave-around to return to the lead lap. At the end of the first 80 laps, Bowyer crossed the line in 18th.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) veteran would begin to show progress in Stage 2. Due to his late stop in the first stage, Bowyer was able to start the second segment in second-place. He was able to finish the stage in fifth-place and picked up six important bonus points.

This was very similar to how the final stage would go. Holding a lead over eventual winner Kurt Busch, Bowyer elected to pit on lap 206. A caution in the final laps led to an exciting green-white-checkered finish, Bowyer could climb up to fifth and ultimately finished in sixth.

All in all, Bowyer picked up 37 points on the night. He is in 14th-place in the driver standings, eight points above the playoff cutline.

“It was a positive night for us,” Bowyer sounded. “It didn’t start out well, but we did a good job of working together, staying in it and not giving up.

We needed a solid finish and we got that and got some positive mojo back with our team and we will build on it.”

Building off Saturday’s success will be key for the No. 14 team. He is tied in the point standings with Jimmie Johnson, and Erik Jones, Ryan Newman and Daniel Suarez are all within 12 points of the duo.

Bowyer will look to get some separation in Sunday’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

In 25 career starts at the track, Bowyer has two wins and nine top-10 finishes.

For the latest on everything NASCAR, follow Teddy Rydquist on Twitter @TeddyRydquist.