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NASCAR Winter Notebook

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DAYTONA BEACH, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The 2020 NASCAR Season gets underway in a little over a month with the season-opening Busch Clash and Daytona 500.  The short off-season was not short on news however.  Here’s some of the biggest headlines to get you up to speed.

  • NASCAR is tweaking the short track package for the 2020 Season following a whopping six lead changes at both races at Martinsville Speedway.  The new package is a reduced downforce package that will also be in effect on road courses and includes these changes:
    • Spoiler size reduced to 2.75-inches from 8-inches.
    • Splitter overhang reduced to 0.25-inches from 2-inches.
    • Radiator pan vertical fencing to be removed.
  • Team Penske is swapping crew chiefs on all three Cup Series entries.  Jeremy Bullins moves to the No. 2 Ford Mustang of Brad Keselowski.  Todd Gordon moves to the No. 12 Ford Mustang of Ryan Blaney and Paul Wolfe moves to the No. 22 Ford Mustang of Joey Logano.  Not only are the crew chiefs moving but the road and pit crews for each team will follow their crew chiefs.
  • Joe Gibbs Racing is promoting James Small to crew chief for Martin Truex and the No. 19 Toyota.  Small replaces Cole Pearn, who announced in December that he was leaving racing to spend more time with his family.
  • Joey Gase will compete full-time in the Cup Series with Rick Ware Racing.
  • Jerry Baxter is joining Richard Petty Motorsports as the crew chief for the No. 43 Chevrolet of Bubba Wallace.  Baxter and Wallace worked together in the Truck Series in 2013-14, winning five races and finishing third in the championship.
  • Ryan Sparks will be the crew chief for the No. 32 Go FasRacing Ford Mustang driven by Corey LaJoie.  Sparks spent 13-years with Richard Childress Racing as race engineer, most recently for Austin Dillon.
  • World of Outlaws racer David Gravel, who won the Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup this past July at Lernerville Speedway, will try his hand at NASCAR by running a couple of Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series races for GMS Racing.
  • NASCAR is experimenting with new pit stop procedures at select standalone Xfinity and Truck Series events.  This graphic explains the new rules:
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Speedweeks gets underway beginning Friday, February 7th when the ARCA Menards Series practice followed on Saturday with Busch Clash Practice for Cup Series followed by ARCA qualifying.  Two Daytona 500 practice sessions for the Cup Series take place in the afternoon with the Lucas Oil 200 for the ACRA Series at 4:45 p.m. ET.

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NASCAR

Chase Elliott Wins NASCAR Cup Series Championship

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AVONDALE, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 08: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates with his parents Cindy Elliott and NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Season Finale 500 and the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway on November 08, 2020 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

AVONDALE, AZ (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chase Elliott knew he wanted to be a race car driver when he was growing up and on Sunday he followed in his Hall of Fame father Bill’s footsteps by winning the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Championship.

Elliott passed Joey Logano for the lead on lap 270 and powered to victory in the season finale at Phoenix Raceway to fulfill a lifelong dream.

“I’m not sure I could have sat down and drawn it up any better, you know?,” said Elliott. “So for me, it’s unbelievable. It’s something that I’m not sure — well, I know I haven’t let it sink in yet.”

Elliott, 24, started racing go-karts as a kid and slowly moved up the short track ranks when NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick signed him to a driver development deal at the age of 14.

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“Just so grateful for the opportunities and the things I’ve had over the years, great people,” said Elliott. “My mom (Cindy) and dad (Bill) and their support obviously has been from the beginning. Mr. Hendrick came in and really changed my life when he wanted to help. Not to sound like a NASCAR driver, but NAPA Auto Parts, too, coming in when they did. 2014 wouldn’t have happened without them and the championship that came that season. And man, they’ve been a champion partner for years. Now they have a championship to go with it.”

Elliott and his father Bill are just the third father-son duo to win NASCAR Championships, joining Lee and Richard Petty and Ned and Dale Jarrett.

“You know, heck, this is as big as it gets,” said Elliott. “I mean, my goodness. I mean, a champion in the Cup Series? Are you kidding me? It’s nuts. It’s absolutely nuts.”

Elliott’s championship came on the same day that 7-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson ran his last race, signaling a changing of the guard at Hendrick Motorsports.

“Certainly appreciate his support,” said Elliott. “He’s been a great support system this week. I’ve talked to him multiple times. He’s reached out on a couple occasions, which is very cool. Very thankful.  He’s a hero of mine. I think he’ll go down as the greatest to ever do this.”

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Austin Cindric Wins Race And NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship

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Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

AVONDALE, AZ (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Austin Cindric passed Justin Allgaier on the final lap of NASCAR overtime to win the NASCAR Xfinity Series Desert Dimond Casino West Valley 200 at Phoenix Raceway and capture the 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series championship.

The victory was Cindric’s sixth of the season and his first in six starts at the one-mile Arizona speedway and his 100th NASCAR Xfinity Series start.

“This was an amazing effort by Brian Wilson and everybody back at the shop,” said Cindric. “There was a lot of work put into this Ford Mustang. I’ve got to thank Roger Penske and everyone from Team Penske plus the Menards family who put so much support into racing itself. It’s awesome to get them a championship in NASCAR, to be a champion in NASCAR, and do it in front of all these great people cheering us on at championship weekend. Thanks to Ford Performance, Doug Yates, and everybody at Roush Yates Engines. I’m speechless. I’m pretty humbled by the effort for sure.”

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Allgaier took the final green flag from the outside of the front row with Cindric behind him and Ross Chastain on the inside.  Allgaier’s teammate Noah Gragson was inside of Cindric.  Allgaier cleared Chastain with Cindric in tow coming off turn four.  Gragson was on the inside of Cindric and could have helped his teammate but elected to dive low heading into turn one.  That gave Cindric room to get around Allgaier, who was helpless to hold him off.

“I’m disappointed; this racetrack for me lost a lot when we put PJ1 down, and I felt like if we had been able to run the bottom like normal and not run stuck in that high groove, I felt like we definitely would have had the best car,” said Allgaier.  “So I’m disappointed in that, but at the end of the race today we were on old tires. I knew it was going to be sketchy at best. To be honest with you, to finish the race, it actually really surprises me that we were that close. Austin got that pass and ran through the middle of 3 and 4, and my teammate did a great job of trying to pull up and obviously race for the win. That’s what he needed to do. He needed to end the season strong. But I thought if he could have just got up a little bit in front of the 22 and been able to block that run, we may have had a little bit more of a shot, but it just wasn’t meant to be.”

Gragson finished second followed by Brandon Jones.  Michael Annett finished fourth followed by Allgaier.

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NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Championship Preview

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Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

AVONDALE, AZ (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – NASCAR’s Championship 4 Weekend gets started Friday night with the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series title fight.

Four drivers (Sheldon Creed, Grant Enfinger, Brett Moffitt and Zane Smith) are eligible for the Championship in the Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix Raceway.

Sheldon Creed (No. 2 GMS Racing Chevrolet):

  • Creed is tied for the series lead with 4-wins this season. Creed also has 8 top-five and 12 top-ten finishes.  Creed also has a series-high 11 stage wins. Creed locked himself into the Championship 4 with a victory at Texas Motor Speedway two weekends ago.  Creed has two NGOTS starts at Phoenix with a tenth place finish in 2018 and a 12th place finish in 2019 where he led 16-laps.
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Grant Enfinger (No. 98 ThorSport Racing Ford):

  • Enfinger is tied with Creed for the series lead with 4-wins in 2020.  Enfinger also posted 8 top-five and 13 top-ten finishes this season to go along with a stage win. Enfinger locked himself into the Championship 4 with a win last week at Martinsville Speedway.  In three NGOTS starts at Phoenix Raceway, Enfinger has two top-five finishes (4th 2018; 5th 2019) and has led 10-laps (2018).

Brett Moffitt (No. 23 GMS Racing Chevrolet):

  • Moffitt has one win in 2020 (Kansas Speedway).  Moffitt has also posted 10 top-fives, and 15 top-tens, 2nd best in each category for the series.  Moffitt is looking to become just the fifth driver in series history to win multiple NGOTS championships, joining NASCAR Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr. (1996, 1998, 2007, 2009), Matt Crafton (2013, 2014, 2019), Jack Sprague (1997, 1999, 2001) and Todd Bodine (2006, 2010).  Moffitt has two series starts at Phoenix posting a win in 2018 en route to his championship and a 10th place finish in 2019.

Zane Smith (No. 21 GMS Racing Chevrolet):

  • Smith is looking to become just the second rookie to win the championship joining Erik Jones, who accomplished that feat in 2015.  Smith captured two wins, 6 top-fives and 12 top-tens in 2020.  Smith will be making his NGOTS debut this weekend at Phoenix.

The race starts at 8 p.m. ET on Friday.  Television coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on FS1.  The race can be heard on Motor Racing Network affiliates and on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

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