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.

 

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.— When it comes to racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, being consistent on the track is an important factor.

 

For Michael McDowell and Leavine Family Racing, the Coke Zero 400 from Daytona International Speedway. A fourth place finish extended their streak of consecutive top-25 finishes to seven. McDowell and the team also earned their best finishing individually and as a team on Saturday.

 

McDowell qualified in the 23rd position, but reported no issues to the car at the beginning of the race. When the first caution flag flew, Todd Parrott, crew chief, brought McDowell down for tires only and then would bring him down during the competition caution for fuel only just six laps later.

 

With the strategy from the pit box, McDowell and Leaving Family Racing scored their first stage points, where he finished sixth.

 

The second stage began with McDowell being forced down pit road to avoid a wreck entering into the tri-oval. For the team, they were able to get a caution a couple laps later to assess the damage they may have received from entering pit road at a high rate of speed.

 

After fixing damage, McDowell worked his way to the top-10, but avoided a wreck. However, McDowell was unable to score stage points in the second stage.

 

When the third stage began, McDowell was able to avoid numerous wrecks. With 50 laps remaining, Parrott called McDowell pit road to fix a tire rub and to gather enough fuel to the finish. When the final caution flew and sent the race into NASCAR Overtime, McDowell restarted fifth. He worked his way up to second, but fell back to the fourth position.

 

"It was a great run for us. Really building off the Daytona 500 where we were in the top-five and ran out of gas. We really had a fast car. The boys did a great job. It wasn't without trouble. We were around a lot of the carnage out there.  There was just a lot of hard racing out there tonight,” said McDowell after the race. “Three-wide, bumper-to-bumper all night long. It is great to have a top-five. Really excited about that. Coming to the white, I thought I might have had a shot at it. But Ricky and I were just too far out and those cars behind us had a big run. Very thankful for the opportunity. We have great people.  They are relentless. They work hard. Everybody back at the shop. ECR power under the hood, that helps."

 

With his fourth place finish, McDowell moved up in the points standings to 25th.

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.