Rhodes Wins Stage, Wrecks Shortly After
SPARTA, Ky.— For Ben Rhodes, his “Old Kentucky Home” at Kentucky Speedway was not what he had hoped for.
Rhodes started the Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 in the fourth position after qualifying was rained out. Rhodes was able to run in the front for all of stage 2. After leaders made pit stops during the caution period for a spin by Matt Mills, Rhodes cycled to the race lead.
Rhodes was able to hold off chariest from behind to score his first stage victory of the season. During the first stage break, Rhodes hit pit road for four tires and fuel. Rhodes started the second stage in the 13th position.
Shortly after the second stage began, Rhodes was involved in an accident involving Grant Enfinger, Matt Crafton, Christopher Bell, and TJ Bell.
Rhodes explained what caused the accident:
“I saw an opening on the bottom. This place is pretty much a superspeedway at a mile and a half. A lot of drafting, a lot of really hard, crazy racing tonight. I saw them go four-wide in front of me and they were making it work at that time and everybody else was doing the same thing on the restarts ahead, so I decided to go three-wide and side draft them down into the corner, said the Kentucky native. “We had good position on them, but I saw everybody start to come down on me, so I tried checking up as much as I could. We just ran out of room. Miscalculation on my part. I should’ve known that everybody was going to get together like that. Just unfortunate that it was us in that position.
With the playoffs quickly approaching, Rhodes and his ThorSport Racing team will reevaluate.
“It’s unfortunate cause that was one of our better trucks that we’ve had good success with this year. I know how bad that can bite us for the rest of the season, so we’re going to have to reevaluate, fix my mistakes and get us a faster truck built for the next races to get us into the playoffs,” Rhodes stated.
Rhodes will be assessed with a 27th position. Rhodes was accredited for leading five laps. After the race, Rhodes sits fifth in the points just 134 points back from leader, Johnny Sauter.
Kenseth Confirms 2018 Suspicions
SPARTA, Ky.— As silly season has ramped up in NASCAR, Matt Kenseth’s name has been brought up as a driver who could leave his current organization, Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR).
"As of today, I do not have a job for next year," Kenseth stated Friday morning in his media availability. "I don't think I'll have the option to race at JGR next year.”
The statement from Kenseth confirmed rumors around the garage that Kenseth would be leaving JGR and racing for a different organization come 2018.
Who replaces Kenseth in the No. 20 Toyota Camry? That person could potentially be Erik Jones. When Jones was signed on at Furniture Row Racing for 2017, Joe Gibbs was adamant that the deal with Jones and Barney Visser was for one year only.
Just yesterday, Jones was unable to comment on what his plans for 2018 are:
“I’m just driving. For the most part, for me, whether – I don’t know where I’m going to be yet. They haven’t let me know. For me, I’ve been really happy at Furniture Row (Racing) and it’s been a steady group of guys over there that I think work really well together,” said Jones. “I don’t yet. Hopefully I know soon. You know it’s kind of getting down to that point. I guess it’s July now, so I’m sure we’ll have an answer here soon.”
Where will Kenseth land? How many years does Kenseth have left? The speculation is that Kenseth would be replacing Dale Earnhardt, Jr in the No. 88 at Hendrick Motorsports as a placeholder for William Byron in 2019. If Jones is leaving Furniture Row for JGR, Kenseth could potentially move to the No. 77 Toyota Camry.
When asked if it was a possibility, Kenseth stated, “I probably already said too much about what I’m not doing next year, so I don’t really have anything to talk about what I am doing at this point. At this point, I don’t have anything going on next year and am trying to get focused on running better and winning races.”
Despite the rumors and looking for a ride, Kenseth is focused on his performance in 2017.
“It’s been a slow start,” Kenseth said. “It has not been a good year at all. I just want to try to get back to victory lane and qualify for the playoffs and have a shot at the championship.
The landscape of JGR has changed over the past two years. With the vanishing of Carl Edwards, Daniel Suarez was brought up from the Xfinity Series, although most people suspected it would be Jones before Suarez at JGR.
With the comments from Kenseth, the domino about silly season is about to fall.
Bell Scored Victory at Kentucky
SPARTA, Ky.— For the third in 2017, Christopher Bell was victorious in the rain-delayed Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 from Kentucky Speedway.
“This is pretty special man. This is an extremely tough race for me. We had our ups and downs there and through practice yesterday, just kind of – practice didn’t really go smooth. We had such a good Toyota Tundra that I knew, I knew if the right circumstances came up we could do it and Rudy (Fugle, crew chief) did a great job on top of the pit box just getting me track position after I made a mistake there and spun out. Just really glad to be here," said Bell in victory lane. "Really thankful for all the guys at TRD, everyone at Kyle Busch Motorsports – they build such fast Tundras. It’s a pleasure to drive them. Our Joe Gibbs engines are flawless and that showed today.”
Despite a late race charge, Brandon Jones was just 0.187 seconds away from victory, but finished second at Kentucky.
“It was all fun and games for sure. It was a great truck for sure. I think it showed a lot about a team that can go from running a couple races in a year to one of the best teams in the series right now. I was tickled to death and pumped. Just wish we could have ended up in victory lane,” Jones stated.
Sitting quietly through much of the race, Justin Hayley finished in the third position.
“We snugged it up a bit tonight. Our Chevy was very fast tonight,” said Justin Hayley.
The race saw 10 lead changes among eight different drivers. Bell led the most laps at 54. The caution flew eight times for 42 laps.
Next up for the Truck Series is a trip to Eldora Speedway. The race will be broadcasted on Fox Business Network and Motor Racing Network beginning at 9:30 p.m. EDT.
NCWTS Qualifying Cancelled From Kentucky
SPARTA, Ky.— With persistent rains in the area, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series qualifying has been cancelled from Kentucky Speedway.
NASCAR tried their best efforts to dry and the the track ready for Truck qualifying, but rained quickly returned to the track. The field will be set per the rule book.
Johnny Saucer will lead the field to green. Christopher Bell will start second. Chase Briscoe will start third, but will go to the rear due to a backup. Matt Crafton will start fourth. Ben Rhodes will round out the top-five. Joe Nemechek is the lone driver to head home due to not having enough attempts.
NASCAR hopes to get Xfinity practice in later this evening.
Drivers Have Strong Words For Tire Dragon
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.
Hey @KySpeedway , why do all this work on running in the bottom groove? I would be running-in the wall on down...Will get 2 bottom naturally pic.twitter.com/guY9aCqvNs— Parker Kligerman (@pkligerman) July 5, 2017
?that helps nothing need it from the wall down! https://t.co/vcEsOgeO7p— Ty Dillon (@tydillon) July 5, 2017
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.