Monster Energy Cup Series News

Monster Energy Cup Series News (15363)

Leavine Family Racing (LFR) has named Jon Leonard as the interim crew chief of the No. 95 Camaro ZL1 driven by veteran driver, Kasey Kahne, in a personnel change effective today for the organization. 


Leonard has served as the team’s lead engineer in the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and also served as the team’s interim crew chief for the final five races of the 2017 season.


The change atop the No. 95 pit box will take effect as the series returns to competition at Sonoma Raceway for the first road course race of the season after having taken a weekend off. 



Gaunt Brothers Racing (GBR) will field an entry in the upcoming Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway (Calif.) for driver Parker Kligerman, extending a partnership that began with last month's Coca-Cola 600.

Kligerman drove GBR's No. 96 Toyota Camry to a 27th-place finish in the season's longest race, his debut with the team. He'll make his second start with GBR when the team makes its first Cup Series road course appearance on Sunday, June 24.

"We're happy to have Parker back in the car for Sonoma," said Marty Gaunt, GBR owner. "This is our first road course race and we'll be leaning on his experience at this type of track."

Kligerman has nine road course starts across three NASCAR-owned series, averaging a 5.9-place finish. This includes his 2016 ARCA Series win at New Jersey Motorsports Park and a third-place finish in the 2013 Xfinity Series race at Road America (Wis.).

"I really enjoyed the whole weekend with GBR at the Coca-Cola 600 and I'm thankful to have another opportunity," said Kligerman. "I feel some of my best races in NASCAR have come on road courses, so I'm looking forward to Sonoma."


Matt Kenseth will pilot Roush Fenway Racing’s flagship No. 6 Ford for 10 more races in 2018. Starting on July 14 at Kentucky Speedway, Kenseth’s summer stretch of four-straight weekends will conclude at Watkins Glen International on August 5.

Kenseth made his return to Roush Fenway earlier this year at Kansas Speedway and raced five consecutive weeks at the helm of the No. 6 Ford. After Kentucky, he will be behind the wheel of the car at Loudon (July 22), Pocono (July 29) and Watkins Glen (Aug. 5) – tracks where the Cambridge, Wisconsin, native has tallied a combined five wins.

The 2003 NASCAR Cup Series Champion will make back-to-back appearances at Darlington (Sept. 2) and Indianapolis (Sept. 9) – two tracks he has a combined 12 top-five finishes.

His fall schedule continues with a trip to the Monster Mile, Dover International Speedway on October 7. The 39-time Cup Series race winner will close out the 2018 season with three of the final four races, including Martinsville (Oct. 28), Phoenix (Nov. 11) – where he is the defending race winner – and Homestead (Nov. 18). Additional races for Kenseth are still under consideration.

Combined, Kenseth boasts 12 wins all-time at the 10 remaining tracks on his 2018 schedule, along with 67 top-five and 135 top-10 finishes.

Matt Kenseth 2018 Schedule

Kentucky             July 14

Loudon                 July 22

Pocono                 July 29

Watkins Glen     Aug. 5

Darlington           Sept. 2

Indianapolis        Sept. 9

Dover                    Oct. 7

Martinsville        Oct. 28

Phoenix                Nov. 11

Homestead        Nov. 18


Owners of the Gadsden, Alabama-based U-27 Wiggins Racing – H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Team announced today that they will be paying tribute to 2019 NASCAR Hall of Fame member Alan Kulwicki by carrying his image on the cockpit of their boat during the upcoming Guntersville Lake HydroFest 2018.

“I always had so much respect for Alan and what he was able to accomplish in NASCAR in such a relatively short period of time,” said U-27 Wiggins Racing team owner Charley Wiggins. “We can certainly identify with Alan, as our team is a small family-run operation that takes great pride in getting the most out of our equipment and limited personnel. It’s a sincere honor to be able to pay tribute to Alan this way. Like so many other racers and fans out there, we were cheering when his name was announced as a member of the Hall of Fame Class of 2019.”

Wiggins comes from a racing family. His uncle, John Wiggins, was a noted successful drag racer who campaigned the famous “Glow Worm” dragster all over the Southeast. His father, Milton, is co-owner of the team and first raced outboards as a youngster back in 1954. Over the years, Milton moved to the inboard category of boats powered by automotive engines and eventually to the GP Grand Prix class. Charley followed his father’s footsteps and became a successful boat racer in his own right, driving since he was nine years of age and growing through the ranks all the way to pilot the famed U-6 Miss Madison Unlimited Hydroplane during the 2000 season.

“One of the things that impressed me the most about Alan was his educational background,” said Wiggins. “He was not only a driver and team owner, he also had an engineering degree. That was unheard of back then and I feel like it was such an asset. To be successful in our contracting business (Chase Building Group, Inc), I earned my degree in Building Science (has a B.A. degree from the College of Architecture, Design and Construction at Auburn University). I had a few classes in engineering, but I wish I could have taken more. The education and degree I have works perfectly on the construction side of my life, but I wish I had done additional engineering studies to help over on the racing side.

“We’re really looking forward to the big race weekend in Guntersville,” said Wiggins. “The promotion of our racing there has been referred to as being like NASCAR on the water. With that in mind, it’ll be really cool to have a NASCAR champion and Hall-of-Famer like Alan Kulwicki riding on the cockpit of our U-27 out there.”

While the special decal commemorating Kulwicki’s spot in the 2019 HOF Class will debut on Wiggins’ Unlimited Hydroplane in two weeks in Guntersville, racing fans from Nova Scotia, Canada, to Seattle, Washington, will become familiar with it during the remainder of the 2018 racing season.

“We want to thank Charley and everyone associated with Wiggins Racing for helping us introduce the decal in such a spectacular fashion,” said Tom Roberts, a Guntersville resident who was Kulwicki’s media representative during his entire career and now serves as the Executive Director for the Kulwicki Driver Development Program. “I know Alan would get such a huge kick out of seeing himself riding on the cockpit of the U-27. I certainly will.

“After Charley’s team carries the decal in the HydroFest, we will be sending out a supply to every driver who has carried the KDDP colors over the last four years,” Roberts said.  “We’ll be asking them to proudly display the decals on their race cars, pit boxes and support vehicles in celebrating Alan’s election to the Hall of Fame.”

The Guntersville Lake HydroFest 2018, set for June 22-24, will feature both the H1 Unlimited and Grand Prix World (GPW) hydro classes. Wiggins Racing will be fielding entries in both classes, with veteran Cal Phipps driving both boats.


It’s going to be difficult for Clint Bowyer and his three Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) teammates to top last Sunday’s performance at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. Bowyer won his second Monster Energy Cup Series race of 2018 and, for the first time in its history, SHR swept the top three finishing spots – the first 1-2-3 sweep in the Cup Series since Roush-Fenway Racing did it at Dover (Del.) International Speedway on Sept. 21, 2008.


The June 24 Save Mart 350k at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway is next on the schedule after the Cup Series takes this weekend off to celebrate Father’s Day. Bowyer said it isn’t out of the question for his No. 14 One Cure Ford Fusion and his SHR teammates to put on a repeat performance similar to Michigan at the first of the Cup Series’ two road-course races in 2018.  


“I don’t want to jinx myself, but Sonoma is my favorite racetrack,” said Bowyer, who has scored six top-five finishes in the last 10 races in California Wine Country. That’s two more top-five finishes than the next-closest driver Kurt Busch, his SHR teammate, who owns four.  


“I love that weekend,” Bowyer continued. “It’s a vacation for everybody involved. It’s a challenging racetrack. I’m good at it. You always look forward to going to tracks you’re good at. We’ve gotten this wave of confidence going at the moment. Hopefully, we can ride off to Sonoma and enjoy some success there, as well.”


Bowyer said he was aware how well he and his teammates were racing at Michigan and throughout the season. All four SHR Fords were in the top-five on the opening lap at Michigan. SHR’s four Fords have led 1,530 of 4,595 laps – 33.2 percent – in 2018 on their way to winning seven Cup Series points races plus the NASCAR All-Star Race. Each driver would be in the NASCAR playoffs were they to start now.


“That’s the coolest thing about it,” Bowyer said. “You’re up there looking in the mirror, even when I was running second, I said to myself, ‘Gosh, this is a moment.’ We’re running 1-2-3 at a track that is an aero track, that’s a horsepower track, it’s a demanding racetrack on your equipment.


“Then, to be able to get there and give each other hugs, be happy, truly, genuinely happy for one another, that’s what it takes. That’s what it takes to push you to another level – working together, the communication, pushing each other each week. It’s not just the drivers. It’s our teams, our crew chiefs, our pit crews, everybody who raises the bar for everybody involved. It’s cool to see.”


But now, SHR’s focus is on Sonoma, where Bowyer finished just .754 seconds behind SHR’s Kevin Harvick in 2017, making it a 1-2 sweep for the team. Busch, the 2011 race winner at Sonoma, and SHR newcomer Aric Almirola are likely to join the Harvick-Bowyer party at the front of the field on the 10-turn, 1.99-mile track.


Bowyer, the former body shop repairman who grew up amid the wheat fields of Kansas, nowhere near a road course, claims not to know why he runs well at Sonoma. But he can easily tick off what a driver must do to be competitive at Sonoma.


“You have to get yourself right,” he said. “That’s the most important thing to get right. Mental attitude is everything. You have to manage that racetrack, that racecar, and manage traffic, make no mistakes, hit your marks, go easy on your throttle and brake pedals. You really have to take care of those four Goodyear tires because those are what are going to take you to victory lane if you take care of them.”


Bowyer’s best moment at Sonoma came in June 2012, when he held off Busch and Tony Stewart, who with Gene Haas co-owns Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford. Bowyer dominated the race by leading 70 of the 112 laps. Defending race-winner Busch was all over the bumper of Bowyer’s car late and got a final shot in a two-lap overtime sprint to the finish. Bowyer raced side-by-side with Busch at the green flag, then cleared Busch and pulled away for the win. Bowyer had to walk to victory lane to celebrate with his crew after his car ran out of gas during the cool-down lap. Stewart passed Busch on the final lap to claim second.


Bowyer’s No. 14 team knows a little bit about Sonoma, as well. In addition to last year’s runner-up finish with Bowyer in 2017, the crew chief Mike Bugarewicz-led unit won the race with Stewart in 2016 in what turned out to be the last of Stewart’s 49 Cup Series wins.


Obviously, Bowyer and the No. 14 team arrive at Sonoma with momentum. Bowyer’s aggressive driving at Michigan and a two-tire stop just laps before rain halted the race after 133 of a scheduled 200 laps gave the team its second victory of the season. The win moved Bowyer to fifth in the season standings and allowed him to join Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Martin Truex Jr. as the only multiple race winners this season.


The Cup Series will enjoy an off weekend this weekend before traveling to California. Not only is an off weekend precious during a 38-race schedule, but it coincides with Father’s Day on Sunday. Bowyer plans to spend it with his father Chris “Pops” Bowyer.


“Father’s Day and the off weekend at the same time – yes!” he said. “You know, Father’s Day will always be about my father. Every time I think of Father’s Day, I think of him. It’s his day. He was always my hero growing up. You can bet I’ll be spending this weekend with him in one way, shape, or form.”


Pops Bowyer will enjoy his children and grandchildren Sunday, but last week’s Michigan victory from his son Clint might be his favorite Father’s Day present this year.


Unless, of course, there’s a repeat in Sonoma.



Three of the four Joe Gibbs Racing teams in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series were hit with L1 penalties on Tuesday by NASCAR. The penalties involved the No. 11, 18 and 20 cars.

Each team violated section 20.4.3.a (splitter did not meet rule specifications). Each car chief will be suspended for one race and each crew chief, Mike Wheeler, Adam Stevens and Chris Gayle, have been fined $25,000 dollars as a result.

The No. 19 of Daniel Suarez was the only Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota not found with a non-compliant splitter during pre-race inspection at Michigan International Speedway.

Each of the teams involved have three business days to file an appeal with NASCAR Appeals.  

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Infraction Date Track Team Level Infraction Penalty
6/10/2018 (pre-race inspection) Michigan No. 20 L1 Sections 20.4.3.a: Splitter
Note: Splitter did not meet rule specifications.
Crew chief (Chris Gayle) has been fined $25,000. Car chief (Jason Overstreet) has been suspended from the next Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Points Event.
6/10/2018 (pre-race inspection) Michigan No. 18 L1 Sections 20.4.3.a: Splitter
Note: Splitter did not meet rule specifications.
Crew chief (Adam Stevens) has been fined $25,000. Car chief (Nate Bellows) has been suspended from the next Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Points Event.
6/10/2018 (pre-race inspection) Michigan No. 11 L1 Sections 20.4.3.a: Splitter
Note: Splitter did not meet rule specifications.
Crew chief (Mike Wheeler) has been fined $25,000. Car chief (Brandon Griffeth) has been suspended from the next Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Points Event.


The Jimmie Johnson Foundation announced today the five recipients of this year’s $25,000 Blue Bunny Helmet of Hope grants. The Blue Bunny Helmet of Hope program invites fans and consumers across the country to nominate not-for-profit (501c3) organizations that support K-12 public education for the opportunity to receive one of five (5) available grant packages.


The five grant recipients are:


●  Hamilton Heights Educational Foundation in Arcadia, Indiana

●  Life Pieces to Masterpieces in Washington, DC

●  Read Better Be Better in Phoenix

●  Siouxland Ag in the Classroom in Moville, Iowa

●  The Pencil Box in Tulsa, Oklahoma


The final five were selected via a week-long public vote. More than 280,000 votes were cast for the 10 semi-finalists during the voting period. 


“The semi-finalist charities were so creative in how they engaged their supporters this year. They worked really hard and all of them did a great job,” said Johnson. “Chani (wife) and I are so grateful to our friends at Blue Bunny for making this opportunity available. We’re proud to be able to support the amazing work these non-profits are doing on behalf of K-12 public education.”


In addition to a $25,000 grant, each of the five recipient organizations will receive a Blue Bunny ice cream party and special recognition on Johnson’s race helmet during the NASCAR Cup Series race on July 14, 2018 at Kentucky Speedway.To date, the Blue Bunny Helmet of Hope program has contributed more than $1 million to 101 different charities.


“Congratulations to the five recipients of the 2018 Blue Bunny Helmet of Hope grants,” stated Mike Wells, President & CEO, Wells Enterprises, Inc., maker of Blue Bunny ice cream. “The rallying effort by the fans and supporters of the 10 semi-finalists is always impressive and illustrates the energy and passion around the purpose and mission of each organization. It is an honor to help each of them further the important work they are committed to around education.”


Thanks to the generosity of Wells Enterprises, Inc., the remaining five semi-finalist charities will each receive a $1,000 grant and a Blue Bunny Ice Cream party as well.


For additional information about the Blue Bunny Helmet of Hope program,

Stage 1
The start of the FireKeepers Casino 400 was delayed due to rain. Once the track drying efforts were complete, Corey LaJoie took the green flag in the 32nd position in the ZOMONGO No. 72
Competition Caution Lap 25: LaJoie had fallen a lap down and was in the Lucky Dog position when the caution flag was displayed. He reported the ZOMONGO No. 72 was plowing tight. He came in for service of four tires, fuel, air pressure and wedge adjustments. He took the restart in the 33rd position, posted back on the lead lap
Caution Lap 37 (incident): LaJoie reported he was lacking turn. He stayed out on track and resumed competition posted 29th on the leaderboard
Caution Lap 58 (spin): LaJoie stayed out on track
Stage 1 Completion Caution: LaJoie completed the stage 27th. He pitted for four tires, fuel, air pressure and wedge adjustments and a packer added to the left front
Stage 2
LaJoie took the green flag restart 26th to start Stage 2
Caution Lap 67 (incident): LaJoie was posted 25th and stayed out under the caution
Caution Lap 87 (spin): Running 31st in the ZOMONGO No. 72, LaJoie reported right front chatter. Crew Chief Frank Kerr called for four tires, fuel, wedge adjustment and packer pulled from the left front. LaJoie rejoined the field 28th
Stage 2 Completion Caution: LaJoie was posted 29th and had fallen one lap down from the leader. He relayed he lacked rear stability, free in, tight in the center and free off. He stayed out on track to take the wave around
Stage 3
LaJoie started Stage 3 in the 27th position, back on the lead lap
Caution Lap 133 (incident): The caution flag was displayed for an incident and quickly became a red flag due to rain. NASCAR deemed the race official. LaJoie brought home a 27th place finish in the ZOMONGO No. 72 at Michigan International Speedway
triStar PR

Clint Bowyer along with Stewart-Haas Racing teammates made it a 1-2-3 finish at Michigan International Speedway, sweeping the FireKeepers Casino 400. The No. 14 of Bowyer, with Kevin Harvick and pole winner Kurt Busch, made history with the first 1-2-3 finish for Stewart-Haas Racing in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race while marking Bowyer’s 10th career Cup win and SHR’s 46 points Cup win.

Ford Motor Company also brought home the Heritage Trophy, awarded to the winning manufacturer at Michigan.

“Congratulations to Clint, Tony, Gene and the Stewart-Haas organization,” said Doug Yates, President and CEO of Roush Yates Engines. “It was a strong showing by the Ford’s this weekend with Kurt taking the pole Friday and to see seven Fords finish in the top-10 was great. We always want to run good, but when you’re in Michigan it's extra special when you can help bring the Heritage Trophy back to Dearborn and the Ford family.”

The Ford Fusions powered by the Ford FR9 EFI engines all ran strong from the time they were brought off the haulers at Michigan International Speedway with the No. 41 of Kurt Busch winning the pole at 203.361 mph. The Ford teams went onto lead 121 out of the 133-lap race.

After a rain delay start to the race, the Ford Fusions showcased their speed as Team Penske driver Ryan Blaney won Stage 1 and SHR Harvick won Stage 2. As the weather moved in just after the completion of Stage 2, a strategy call by Mike Bugarewicz, Crew Chief of the No.14 decided to take two tires. In the showdown between teammates, Bowyer held off Harvick on the final restart and was able to retain the lead before rain shortened the 200-lap race and stopped the event.

“That was a gutsy call,” commented Bowyer on Bugarewicz’s call. “When we went out there on two tires I looked in the mirror and I was so far ahead of everybody else, I was like, 'Oh man, we are in trouble!' The rain came just in enough time. He was so much faster than me in one and two. I got down in three and just had to take his line because that bear was coming.”

In total, seven Ford’s topped the leader board to end the race; Bowyer (P1), Harvick (P2), Busch (P3), Wood Brothers’ No. 21 Paul Menard (P5), Team-Penske teammates No. 2 Brad Keselowski (P6), Joey Logano (P7) and Ryan Blaney (P8) and just outside the top-10 was No. 10 Aric Almirola (P11).

“I think it's a real honor to drive the Roush‑Yates engines when you get to a place like this because you can be a lot easier on your car,” commented Harvick after the race. “Doug Yates and those guys, they like to make big horsepower on the big end of the motor, put a lot of effort into this particular race weekend.”

The Ford Performance teams will ride this momentum out to Sonoma Raceway on June 24th. Reference the full 2018 schedule on Roush Yates Engines.


Paul Menard and the No. 21 Menards/Jack Links team played their race strategy just right in a rain-shortened Firekeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway and came away with the team’s first top-five finish of the season.
Menard started 15th and dropped back on the initial start but worked his way back to 20th place by the time the competition caution flag flew on Lap 25.
But Menard was nabbed for speeding and had to restart at the rear of the pack. He passed seven drivers before another caution for a spin by David Ragan, one he narrowly avoided himself.

 Menard continued his march forward and ended Stage One in 16th place.
Seven laps into the second stage, Menard was hit by the No. 19 of Daniel Suarez, an impact that caused damage to the rear fender – and possibly the suspension - of the Menards/Jack Links Fusion.

 The team made repairs, and on the next caution flag, crew chief Greg Erwin elected to stay on the track, a move that put Menard in the lead but on older tires and with barely enough fuel in the tank to complete the remaining 31 laps of the second Stage.
On the restart, Menard fell in behind the No. 4 Ford of Kevin Harvick and remained in the top five for the rest of the Stage to finish fifth and earn six Stage points.
Menard then lined up eighth for the start of the final Stage but quickly drove his way back to fifth place, where he was running when rains halted the race after 133 of a scheduled 200 laps had been completed.
It was his 20th career top-five finish and his second of the weekend, his first coming in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race in which he drove the Menards/Richmond Mustang.
“We had a good car today and all weekend,” Menard said. “We didn’t qualify as good as we would have hoped and went from the back and got put to the back twice. Once I sped and another time we got door slammed.”
But in spite of all that, he came away with a great finish, thanks to some skillful driving and the quick work and smart decisions made by the Menards/Jack Links crew.”

 “I am really proud of my guys,” Menard said. “We made a gutsy call to stay out on no tires with a bunch of laps on them. Gutsy call.” 

 “We had the car to hold on though, so it worked out.”
 Team co-owner Eddie Wood said he too was pleased with the way the day turned out, especially with Ford drivers taking seven of the top eight finishing positions including the top three.
“We didn’t think we’d even get to race with the forecast like it was,” Wood said. “And then to come back from adversity to get a top-five finish was a bonus.”
“You always want to run well at Michigan since it’s the home track for Ford Motor Company. There were hundreds of Ford people here at the track, and we were especially glad to have a top-five finish with Ford executive Brett Wheatley with us on the pit box.”
Menard’s finish moved him into a tie with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for 16th place in the championship standings. The two drivers are four points behind Alex Bowman, who holds the final spot in the playoff standings with 11 races remaining in the 26-race regular season.