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:
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.
Ben Rhodes takes NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Win in Charlotte
CONCORD, NC (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Ben Rhodes picked up the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory Friday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, grabbing the lead on a late restart and beating Corey Heim to the checkered flag by 2.398-seconds.
“I didn’t qualify the best, and here it came to life at night,” said Rhodes. “This is so much fun. Charlotte is a track that we come to—ThorSport Racing, we’re based in Sandusky, Ohio—we come to the North Carolina guys’ house, and we like to win.”
The victory was the first of the year for Rhodes and seventh of his career and first at Charlotte. The victory also locks Rhodes into the Playoffs.
“A championship being locked in, I’ll take that,” said Rhodes. “The last three races have been so unbelievably hard on my team. We’ve been wrecked in the last three and haven’t had very good showings because of it so I’ll take the points—thank you.”
Heim, who won the the race’s first stage, couldn’t get to Rhodes because he was busy battling Carson Hocevar and Dean Thompson.
“Me and the 42 (Hocevar) and the 5 (Thompson) were probably the best trucks,” said Heim, who led a race-high 49 laps. “But the 99 (Rhodes) just came along really strong, and once we got to second on the restart where the 42 got put in the middle there, I really thought we had a shot at it. But it just proves that clean air is king here.”
Thompson finished a career-best third with Hocevar, who won the races second stage, finishing fourth. Grant Enfinger rounded out the Top 5.
Wexford native Kris Wright finished 32nd in the No. 02 FNB Corporation Chevy after suffering contact with Tyler Antrum on the backstretch on lap 105.
Racing Notebook: Rosenqvist earns INDYCAR Pole; Dixon starts 2nd; Hocevar, Smith earn NASCAR victories
FORT WORTH, TX – (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The NTT INDYCAR SERIES gets back on track Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway with Arrow McLaren and Chip Ganassi Racing leading the field to green. In NASCAR, Carson Hocevar and Chandler Smith each earned victories on Saturday and Alex Bowman will lead the Cup field to green on Sunday.
Felix Rosenqvist wins INDYCAR Texas Pole:
- Arrow McLaren Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist is on the pole position for Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES PPG 375. Rosenqvist’s 2-lap average of 220.264 mph was slower than the 221.110 mph he posted in 2021. The pole is the second consecutive for Rosenqvist at the 1.5-mile oval. “I think we just built on last year,” said Rosenqvist. “Maybe it was a good thing to start early. The track kind of warmed up. We’ll take it. We’ve always been good here, but this is a whole different confidence level compared to last year. Let’s try to wrap it up tomorrow.” The 250-lap race starts at Noon (ET) Sunday with live coverage on NBC, Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network.
Dixon Puts PNC Bank Honda on front row:
- PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon will start on the outside of the front row for Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES PPG 375 at Texas Motor Speedway. Dixon’s 2-lap average around the 1.5-mile oval of 219.972-mph was 0.292-mph behind pole-sitter Felix Rosenqvist. Dixon, a 6-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion has five career victories at Texas, including wins in four of the last nine races. Dixon’s CGR teammates Takuma Sato and Alex Palou will start 6th and 7th respectively. CGR’s Marcus Ericsson will roll off 16th in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda.
Carson Hocevar Wins NASCAR Truck Race at Texas:
- Carson Hocevar avoided a crash on the white flag lap to power to the win in the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway. Hocevar made contact with the back of the truck of Nick Sanchez, as Sanchez was recovering from door-to-door contact with Zane Smith. Sanchez spun and collected Smith as Hocevar avoided the mayhem to take the double-overtime victory. The win was Hocevar’s first career win. “I didn’t mean to get into him, I just meant to give him a push and he got sideways the second I hit him, I apologize to them, I’ll take the fall for it.”
Chandler Smith takes NASCAR Xfinity win at Richmond:
- Rookie Chandler Smith earned his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series victory Saturday afternoon at Richmond (Va.) Raceway holding off John Hunter Nemechek on a final race restart to win the ToyotaCare 250. Smith’s margin of victory was .298-seconds. Smith’s No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet led a race best 83 of the 250 laps.
Alex Bowman on NASCAR Cup Series Pole at Richmond:
- Current NASCAR Cup Series championship leader Alex Bowman will start Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) from pole position in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet with Kyle Busch completing the front row in the No. 8 Richard Childress Chevy after NASCAR’s Cup Series practice and qualifying sessions were cancelled Saturday morning at Richmond (Va.) Raceway because of poor weather.
Kyle Busch takes NASCAR Cup Series win in California
FONTANA, CA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The pairing of Kyle Busch and Richard Childress Racing is paying dividends as two races into their partnership, they were celebrating victory at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Busch beat Hendrick Motorsports Chase Elliott by ?.?-seconds to pick up his ??-career Cup Series victory and the ?? of his NASCAR career.
“I felt like there was going to be a little bit of a learning experience, a little bit of a growth pattern, but also on the flipside of that, I always just kind of looked back and watched some of their results and success that they had last year with Austin,” explained Busch. “He ran second here last year, and Reddick was super, super fast. They were fast at the Clash before they broke, the 8 car was.”
Busch said the transition to a new team has been good.
“It’s just been really, really cool, and it’s been a great piece of — we’re making history, right, but a great piece of opportunity to go out there and continue to win races at a new team with RCR, so I can’t say enough about Austin giving me a call, first and foremost, but then Richard and Judy giving me this opportunity to go out here and race for wins.”
Elliott was happy for his manufacturer teammate and former Champ and to get a finish after getting crashed out of the Daytona 500.
“Congratulations to Kyle,” said Elliott. “For him to leave and then to go get the job done like that is pretty cool. He’s always been really good to me, so happy for them. Obviously I think we still have some work to do, but it was really nice to just see a lot of that hard work pay off and have the car driving like we were wanting it to do. So that’s always a good thing. Appreciate everybody on our NAPA team, Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet for just sticking with it and sticking with each other. Looking forward to getting to Vegas and hopefully competing for some more wins.”
Ross Chastain, who led a race high 92-laps, finished third in the No. 1 Kubota Chevrolet for Trackhouse Racing.
“Our balance was building loose most of the day, so I thought we did everything right,” said Chatain. “We kept up with it. It would just feel pretty loose late in the runs, and at times it was enough, and at times they got way better.”
The NASCAR Cup Series moves on to Las Vegas for the Pennzoil 400 March 5th.