SPARTA, Ky.— With nearly two inches of asphalt relaid at Kentucky Speedway, the Kentucky Tire Dragon was called into action to help rubber in the track.

 

Speedway Motorsports Inc. and Kentucky Speedway officials ran the tire dragon in the middle and lower grooves of the 1.5-mile facility.

 

However, when NASCAR Camping World Truck Series teams arrived on the property on Wednesday morning for practice, the complaints rolled in that speedway officials should have ran the tire dragon in the upper groove of the facility.

 

 

Here are what drivers had to say about where the tire dragon ran:

 

“The thing is I thought they did a really good job at Texas. You saw multi-groove racing at Texas on a repave which is pretty unheard of. They can only do so much man. If we tire drag the whole track, everybody is naturally going to go back to the bottom because it’s a repave and it’s going to be – it’s just gonna be faster down there. It’s just how it’s going to work. I think even if they drag the top in, I don’t think it’s going to be faster up by the wall than it would be right on the white line,” said Erik Jones, who is pulling double duty this weekend. “It’s just a repave and it’s going to be like this for ten years. We’re going to be on the bottom and then we’ll start to work up to the middle. Kentucky really, even on the old surface, was just starting to get up to the wall, so it just takes time.”

 

Yeah, that’s been kind of an ongoing thing at race tracks is running the tire dragon in the bottom groove or putting grip in the bottom groove and it’s – to me I honestly think and from especially what I saw yesterday is the tire dragon, the rubber, the groove is going to be on the bottom especially in Turns 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 because that’s the shortest way around the track here and that’s where it’s going to make the most grip. It’s going to be the fastest. I feel like maybe we should’ve put like a small amount of rubber on the bottom just to help us get going, but a majority of the rubber concentrated in the middle groove and then up a little bit higher,” said NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Ben Rhodes. “Wherever you’re going to put the rubber is where the cars are going to be the fastest at. But with the tires that Goodyear is bringing here, if they drug it in the middle groove, then our left-side tires would be adding to that rubber cause we’re – as drivers, the lower you get the happier you are, so we’re going to add that rubber ourselves to the bottom. I think if they allowed us to work it in that might have maybe widened the groove out a little bit more – if they focused maybe in the middle. Either way, they’ve done a good job with getting rid of the bumps we had last year. Putting that two inches of asphalt all the way around and the tighter compact asphalt that’s here I think is gonna be a little bit better for getting rubber down as well.”

 

The most adamant about running the tire dragon was Brendan Gaughan.

 

“It’s stupid. They need to drag the lanes we don’t race. The lane we don’t practice in. Now, Kentucky has a lot of rain so that will wash lots of it away anyways. You could’ve done the upper two lanes and worked your way down. Lots of places could do that,” said Gaughan. “For some reason, someone doesn’t think thats a good idea. I don’t know why. I’d love to hear an answer for it. Nobody has ever given me one.”

 

Track officials stated that they did it because it worked during the Cup race last season. However, Gaughan was still not pleased with that answer noting that Cup races were shorter.

 

“There are 25 more teams that run harder than in this (Xfinity) series,’’ Gaughan said. “You have more people battling, more race cars, more laps to do it. It works great,” said Gaughan. “I think we’ve all seen in the media and the drivers, the tire dragon works great. … Then why not put it in the places that you want the track to grow to, not where you know that everybody wants to go?’’

 

Racing action from Kentucky Speedway kicks off with tonight’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 at 7:30 p.m. EDT on Fox Sports 1.

Two Day Shows

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series could have easily had a two day show at Daytona International Speedway.

 

All the series did on Thursday afternoon was have two practice sessions. On Thursday, over half the teams did not even make a lap in the second and final practice session for each series, both sessions ran for 55 minutes.

 

The final Cup practice saw 19 drivers make a lap while the Xfinity Series had only 16 drivers made a lap.

 

On Friday, teams arrived at the track for qualifying that began at 2:00 p.m. EDT. NASCAR could have easily had one practice session of 90 minutes on Friday morning to save teams some money during the race weekend. Teams could have spent an extra day at home and save costs on hotels and travel.

 

The sanctioning body and teams should look at ways to reduce the race weekend down to two days in an effort to save on costs.

 

OT Line

The overtime line came into effect in the Coke Zero 400 and the Coca-Cola Firecracker 250. However, uproar from the line came during the Coca-Cola Firecracker 250.

 

When the green flag flew in NASCAR Overtime, the field had to reach the overtime line located towards the middle of the backstretch. Before the field reached the line in the Xfinity race, they were already wrecking. By the time the caution lights were illuminated, the field had already crossed the overtime line. That caused an uproar among fans and media about the delay.

 

After an explanation from NASCAR, the delay was ultimately deemed a human error. The delay was approximately two seconds. The delay was caused from recognizing the crash, calling the caution, and illuminating the caution lights.

 

Should the overtime line be updated? NASCAR is currently looking at overtime procedures to implement in the 2018 season.

 

Little Teams That Did

 

Racing at Daytona and Talladega are always good for the underfunded teams in NASCAR. The draft and restrictor plate racing is the cause of performance for these teams.

 

In the Xfinity Series, little teams that did include but are not limited to include Dakoda Armstrong (P3), Jeb Burton (P4), David Starr (P5), Ross Chastain (P6), and Joey Gase (P10).

 

In the Cup Series, little teams that did include, but are not limited to include Michael McDowell (P4), Brendan Gaughan (P7), Corey LaJoie (P11), and Matt DiBenedetto (P13).

 

For these teams, a good finish at the track does wonders to their budgets and their future.

 

Joey Logano And Locking Bumpers

In the NASCAR Xfinity Series, teams are forced by NASCAR to not be able to lock bumpers at restrictor plate events. If two teams lock bumpers, both teams will be given the black flag and penalized with a pass-through penalty.

 

According to Wayne Auton, Logano is a master at riding that fine line of bumping and locking the bumpers. That difference is so small and subtle that NASCAR has a hard time determining if it is a locking of bumpers.

 

During the 2016 NASCAR XFINITY season, nine drivers made a total of 132 starts for Richard Childress Racing (RCR). While Ty Dillon, Brendan Gaughan and Brandon Jones each ran the full schedule of 33 races, six other drivers rotated shifts in the No. 2 Chevrolet throughout the year.
Dillon began the season sitting on the pole for the Powershares QQQ 300 at Daytona International Speedway. He went on to lead two laps and finish the day 13th on the board. Although the No. 3 Chevrolet driver never visited Victory Lane, he picked up second-place finishes at the ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond, American Ethanol E15 250 and US Cellular 250 in Iowa, Drive Sober 200 at Dover, and Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead.
The XFINITY series made history in 2016 as it was the first year that the Chase format was implemented. Although he led 47 in the first race of the ‘Round of 12’, the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 in Kentucky, Dillon’s championship hopes dampened after a late-race crash.
At the conclusion of the ‘Round of 12’ at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October, Dillon was eliminated. While he may not have made it all the way to Homestead in title contention, he still ended the season with nine top-five finishes as well as 17 top 10’s and led a total of 212 laps.
Gaughan was the second of two other drivers in the RCR stable to make the new NXS Chase. Like Dillon, the No. 62 South Point Chevrolet driver made the ‘Round of 12’ without any race wins. His best finish was at Road America in Wisconsin during the Road America 180 where finished in the runner-up position but led two laps. 
Once he entered the Chase, Gaughan never finished lower than 13th in the ‘Round of 12’ which propelled him to the ‘Round of Eight’ where he would struggle. After a late-race incident at Kansas, he finished 31st. He went on to pick up a 15th-place finish at Texas but a crash at Phoenix would end title hopes for the Las Vegas, Nev. racer.
Despite being eliminated, Gaughan still enjoyed his Chase campaign. “It has been fun to be in the XFINITY Series Chase this year,” he said after Phoenix’s Ticket Galaxy 200 in an RCR post-race report. “I wish we would have had a better second round, but we will come back next year and try to do what we did in the first round through all three rounds.”
Gaughan ended the season with four top five’s, 16 top 10’s and 36 total laps led.
Rookie contender Brandon Jones rounded out the RCR’s Chase field. The No. 33 Chevrolet driver made it as far as the ‘Round of 12’. Jones had 12 top-10 finishes and like Gaughan, he led 36 laps throughout the season. His best finish of sixth place came at the Boyd Gaming 300 in Las Vegas back in March.
Once the playoffs began, Jones finished 26th at Kentucky, 17th at the Drive Sober 200 in Dover and 16th at Charlotte. “My expectation for this Chase was to make it as far as I possibly could,” Jones said in a post-race report after the Charlotte event. “I didn’t really set an expectation for where I wanted to end up. If you took away the poor finishes at Kentucky and Dover we would have been OK. I hate that we did not advance but it’s just part of the game. We’ll come back strong next year and go for it again.”
Austin Dillon, Sam Hornish Jr., Ben Kennedy, Michael McDowell, Paul Menard and Regan Smith were among the six who strapped into the No. 2 Chevrolet, sponsored by Rheem, Ruud and Menard’s. The ride was responsible for earning three wins for RCR.
Dillon made a total of 19 NXS starts in the No. 2 Chevrolet. He was also scheduled to run the Drive Sober 200 at Dover. However, inclement weather postponed the race and made it a double header with the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Due to Dillon’s commitments on the Cup side, Regan Smith stepped into the No. 2 machine and finished 13th. It would be the only start Smith would make for RCR.
After two fifth-place finishes at Daytona and Las Vegas and a seventh at Phoenix, Dillon got his first victory of the year in the No. 2 at the Treatmyclot.com 300 by Janssen in Fontana back in March. His next win came during the Bristol Motor Speedway’s August event, the Food City 300. In both these races, Dillon led very few laps. He led only the final cycle at Fontana and four laps at Bristol.
Although Hornish Jr. won Iowa’s American Ethanol E15 250 in June, it was not under the RCR banner. Piloting the Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 ‘Let’s Go Places’ Toyota, frequently occupied by Kyle Busch, he led a total of 183 laps.
Hornish Jr. made three RCR starts. In the few trips he took around the track, he never finished outside the top 10. His return visit to Iowa netted him a sixth-place finish in the No. 2 Chevrolet. At the Mid-Ohio Challenged, he sat on the pole, led eight laps and finished second. Hornish Jr’s final start of the season came in Kentucky where he finished fourth in the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300.
Ben Kennedy and Michael McDowell made only one RCR start but both drivers made the most of it. Kennedy finished 10th in the American Ethanol E15 250 while McDowell edged Gaughan at Road America to earn the Mid-Ohio Challenge race win, leading 24 laps in the process.
Paul Menard made eight starts in the No. 2 Chevrolet. He grabbed pole position for Darlington Raceway’s VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 where he led six laps but finished 20th. His best run was a second-place finish at Watkins Glen during the Zippo 200 at Glen. Menard also picked up top three’s at the Menard’s 250 at Michigan and the Lily Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis.
In addition to six laps at Michigan, Menard also was credited with leading one lap at Darlington. In very few starts, he earned four top five’s and six top 10’s.
Just before the Christmas holiday, Richard Childress Racing announced that they will field five rides in the team's 2017 XFINITY program. While Austin Dillon and Menard will both pilot the No. 2 Chevrolet, additional drivers will be announced at a later date.
Ty Dillon, Jones and Gaughan will continue their duties in the No’s 3, 33 and 62 and will again contend for the NXS championship. Daniel Hemric is moving up from the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series to join the fleet as a XFINITY rookie contender in the No. 21. machine.

Michael McDowell holds off his teammate Brendan Gaughan and saved enough fuel to win the Road America 180 Fired Up By Johnsonville. This is Mcdowell’s first career win in NASCAR competition in 94 starts. This is Richard Childress Racing’s third consecutive victory in Road America.

 

“Its  just huge. I am so thankful and very blessed. I thank all my guys back in Michigan with Circle Sport Levine Family Racing for letting me be here. They know how bad I wanted a victory at Road America. Just thankful to do it. This is awesome,” said McDowell in a post-race victory lane interview.

 

“Our South Point Chevy was great all day. Michael McDowell and his Richard Childress Racing Chevy was awesome all day. Three years in a row where RCR has won at Road America. I love this racetrack. It didn’t matter if it was rain or dry, Im the only guy that wants it wet, but I don’t care either way. I love this track,” said Brendan Gaughan post-race. 

 

The first half of the race was under dry, but foggy conditions.The opening laps of the race were dominated by Alex Tagliani. Erik Jones flat-spotted his tires and was on pit-road early, but received a lucky break as the caution flew for Garrett Smithley, who spun on the frontstretch. Cars began to hit pit road around lap 10 to help with fuel strategy. Kenny Habul went behind the wall due to a broken axle, but returned to the race. Justin Marks, who was running in the top-three, received a penalty for speeding on pit road during the first cycle of pit stops. As the second caution fell, teams began to evaluate their strategies for the remaining portions of the race. At the halfway portion, Tagliani lead McDowell with Kelly, Marks,and Suarez rounded out the top-five as teams were logging laps in preparation for the second half of the race.

 

The second half of the race began with McDowell passing Tagliani. A light sprinkle of rain began to fall around lap 25, which brought out the third caution. Many teams went with “slicks” instead of the rain tires due to the nature of the cell near the track. Kelly collided with Elliott Sadler, who collided with Brendan Gaughan, as they exited the pits for the weather caution. Tagliani, who dominated the opening half, made contact with McDowell racing for the lead and dropped back to 28th. Teams began to tell their drivers with 10 laps remaining to begin saving fuel if a late race caution pulls the race into overtime. The teams who took fuel became excited as the caution flew for Alon Day, who became stuck in the gravel pit. McDowell dominated the second half after Tagliani’s spin earlier in the second half. 

 

McDowell scored the victory, Gaughan was second, Brennan Poole finished third, Suarez fourth, and Ryan Reed rounded out the top-five.

 

The Road America 180 saw six lead changes among four different drivers. McDowell led the most laps at 24, Tagliani led 17 laps, E. Jones led 5 laps, and Gaughan led two laps. The race saw six cautions for 13 laps. Three cautions were for accidents, two cautions for debris, and one caution for weather. The time of race was 2 hours, 36 minutes, and 20 seconds. The average speed was 74.573 mph. The margin of victory was 0.534 seconds. The race went a total of 48 laps.

 

The Chase grid remains the same after Road America. E. Jones holds the top seed over Suarez and Elliott Sadler. 

 

Sadler holds a 47 point lead over Suarez, a 50 point lead over Allgaier, a 57 point lead over Ty Dillon, and a 63 point lead over Gaughan. 

 

Next up for the NASCAR Xfinity Series will be the VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 from Darlington Raceway, a Labor Day weekend spectacle. The race will be on NBC and Motor Racing Network beginning at 3:30PM EST. 

As Brendan Gaughan’s career dwindles down, he admits that there are no regrets, even if he fails to win a NASCAR championship. In what could be his last season, this might be the best shot he’s had in a long time.

Gaughan is in his 20th season as a NASCAR driver, starting off in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series as a crafty 21-year-old in 1997, when he ran one race for Walker Evans in the No. 20 machine at his home track, Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Since then, the Las Vegas native has raced his way up and down the top three national tours of NASCAR and has 10 career victories on his resume. But in 2016, as Gaughan puts it, he wants to lead Richard Childress Racing to the promise land.  

Gaughan, now 40, is the “old guy” on the team that Richard Childress has assembled in the XFINITY Series. The other two members of RCR, Brandon Jones and Ty Dillon, have a combined average age of 22.5.

That’s not going to get in the way of Gaughan and want he wants to accomplish.

“The sport is all about the team you’ve got,” Gaughan told Speedway Digest. “You can definitely see that on the board. You see what teams have the best stuff. We’re not the best car right now, but that’s what is great about having this race team and I’m not concerned about it.”

Through 14 races in the 2016 season, the No. 62 car has a best finish of fifth at Talladega, with five other top-10 finishes. Currently, Gaughan sits sixth in the XFINITY Series points standings, 78 markers behind point’s leader Daniel Suarez.

The last time any of the three RCR drivers won a race in the XFINITY Series was 2014. However, Gaughan believes that the trio of full-time drivers for RCR will be among the championship favorites by the time the Chase rolls around. Being there for each other could separate RCR from other teams.   

“Any time Brandon Jones or Ty Dillon need anything, I’m always more than happy to be there,” Gaughan said. “These kids nowadays race so much by the time they get here that it’s hard to say that they need much coaching.”

In his third year racing for RCR, Gaughan believes this is his best shot at the championship.

The tracks in the new Chase system are favorable to some drivers, Gaughan included. He runs well on the 1.5-mile racetracks, picking up one of his two-career wins at Kentucky Speedway. He has led 61 laps on the mile-and-a-half tracks, just under half of his 126 career laps led in the XFINITY Series.

Four of the seven races in the Chase are on 1.5-mile racetracks. Kentucky Speedway kicks off the Chase in late September, where Gaughan led a career-high 22 laps en route to his victory in 2014. 

 “I’m really happy with this new Chase format,” Gaughan said. “Even without it, we’re seventh in the points. We were only about two races out of a real striking distance in the old points system format. I really felt strongly coming into this year with the races that are in the Chase and with them adding the Chase format. It wasn’t just going to be strong for Richard Childress Racing, but myself.”

Since joining RCR, Gaughan has picked up the two solo victories of his XFINITY Series career. And though he wishes he had made the move earlier to the race team, he is in good company.

Determination is what has kept him going. Racing for Rusty Wallace Racing in 2009 and 2010 didn’t go as planned with a best championship finish of ninth. The move to RCR allowed him to instantly better that to eighth.  

13 races have passed in 2016 and all three RCR cars are in the top six in points. The teams are said to be working closer than they ever had before and each driver can lean on each other for help. But for Gaughan personally, he knows what the No. 62 team needs to work on to get closer to winning races.

“We’ve got to hit these Happy Hour practices better,” Gaughan said. “We’re not good, but were not fine tuning that last little bit where we need to be. That’s what we are missing consistently from being top five and competing for wins. We’re consistently top 10, but were not consistently top five yet.”

Atop the No. 62 pit box sits veteran crew chief Shane Wilson. While compiling two victories in the Sprint Cup Series, the long-time RCR employee has 17 victories in the XFINITY Series, the last two coming with Gaughan.

This is the third season the duo has worked together and both years, they have finished in the top 10 in points. Winning those two races in 2014 and Gaughan having a career-high 14 top-10 finishes last year has the team confident going into the summer months.

Sitting comfortably in the points, 109 points above the Chase cutoff, the team can afford to take risks. In order to take that next step and win, the team needs to be near perfect, which started when they swapped rear tire changers with Austin Dillon’s Sprint Cup Series team. In order to be perfect, the driver and crew collectively need to put a full race together and not have a pit road penalty, loose tire, pit road speeding penalty, etc.

“We feel pretty strongly that we are going to make the Chase on points, but we want to win before we get there,” he continued. “Once we’re there, the races are very good for us. We’ve been doing a lot of engineering this year at racetracks. It’s been a lot of us practicing for the Chase and getting ready for it, trying to have our barrels loaded and our momentum swinging when that Chase hits.”

Gaughan prefers the Chase over other points systems. He likes the excitement that it has brought to the sport. The last two years the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway has been among his favorites to watch, with all the drama unfolding.

“In this points system it is so difficult to make up points,” Gaughan said. “Now, with a Chase format all that goes out the window and really all you have to do is beat the guy for a couple weeks and anything can happen. I love this Chase format. It has actually prolonged my career.”

Joe Gibbs Racing has dominated the series this season, winning nine of the 13 races, including both XFINITY Series regulars Erik Jones and Suarez winning races this year.  

With many questions regarding Gaughan’s future beyond this season, he has publicly said that RCR is the race team he is going to race for until he opts to retire. But he knows this is his best shot at a victory after a reset in points after every three races in the Chase.

Unlike the majority of XFIINTY Series regulars, excluding Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier, Gaughan has raced against drivers in the Chase. In 2004, he raced the full schedule for Team Penske in the Cup Series, the inaugural year of the playoffs. He finished 28th in the standings that year.

That was the only year that Gaughan had a full-time Cup Series deal. Since then, he’s competed in 14 events with RCR, The Racer’s Group, Phoenix Racing and Premium Motorsports.

As long as Gaughan is competitive, he wants to race for championships. Though this might be his best shot, he could have more opportunities in the future.

“If I can keep getting sponsors on the racecars and keep winning races and running up front and competing for championships, I want to be here,” Gaughan said of his future. “When I can’t, I don’t want to be here.”

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