Whisler Weekly Recap: Michigan/Gateway
BK facing turmoil?
Will BK Racing be around when it comes to the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season? In recent weeks, the future of the organization is up in the air. Ryan Sieg was in the car at Michigan that was driven by Gray Gaulding. Alon Day, the first Israeli driver to compete in Cup, will replace Gaulding at Sonoma this weekend. Gaulding and Sieg went to social media last week before Michigan to discuss what is going on. At Dover, Sieg was in the car for Corey LaJoie
I wanted to be the one to share the news with my fans and partners but I will not be racing the 23 this weekend at @MISpeedway pic.twitter.com/sTytMTQF3c— Gray Gaulding (@graygaulding) June 13, 2017
Just an FYI for everyone.The only thing BK wanted me to bring to the table was my driving shoes. Hate it for Gray. Great kid and driver. https://t.co/bcescv3woW— Ryan Sieg Racing (@RyanSiegRacing) June 13, 2017
Over the past couple of weeks, the organization has also reorganized their crew chiefs. Randy Cox moved from the No. 83 team and take over duties as the No. 23 crew chief. Doug George has been named as crew chief for the No. 83 Toyota. Patrick Donahue was relieved from his duties as crew chief for Gaulding after Pocono.
BK Racing has been the joke of many fans and drivers alike because the organization tends to bring out a caution each week.
Ron Devine told "The Pit Stop" on the Speedway Digest Radio Network earlier in the year that they would remain consistent with two drivers throughout the season no matter what and use a third car, if needed, for a rotisserie of drivers.
BK Racing only has one charter in 2017. In 2016, they had two, but over the offseason sold the charter to Front Row Motorsports then leased out to TriStar Motorsports. Because of the charter setup, Front Row will either have to start a third team or sell the charter they acquired.
On the preliminary entry list, BK Racing only has the entry for Alon Day at Sonoma.
Truck count at Gateway
Only 30 trucks in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series made their way to Gateway Motorsports Park this past weekend. At Texas Motor Speedway, the truck count was 28.
When the Truck field is paired with the Cup Series, the field is at capacity or teams are being sent home from the event.
Many fans and media were worried about the truck count. However, it is going to be ok. Many standalone events do not have a high enough purse for many teams to even consider showing up. It would usually be cheaper for a team to sit out of an event that doesn't pay well, than to show up and wrecking the vehicle.
GMS Moves to Cup?
News broke early Saturday evening that GMS Racing could potentially field a team in the Cup Series. According to a report by Motorsport.com, that decision couple come within the next month.
This move would be welcomes as the Cup field has struggled to have 40 or more cars arrive at every single race. Although NASCAR deems a full field as 36, it is concerning that only a couple of "open" teams show up on a given weekend.
Last week, GMS Racing hired on Mike Ford to help run the Xfinity Series program. Ford was a Cup crew chief for Denny Hamlin and Bill Elliott resulting in 21 Cup wins.
With the lose of Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet and Hendrick Motorsports lost a key player in the Cup series. The addition of GMS Racing would allow more information to be shared among teams at Chevrolet.
Because sponsorship and charters are crucial in Cup today, GMS and Maurice Gallagher are looking at running one car. However, if the move to Cup happens, the organization will use Spencer Gallagher for a test run.
It is also interesting to note that just a few short years ago, GMS Racing was a team that would be sent home for failing to qualify in Truck competition. Now, they are a power house in that series as well as a strong dark horse in the Xfinity series.
It is a love hate relationship when it comes to standalone events in NASCAR’s top-three national divisions. In 2017, the Truck series will have a stand alone event at Texas, Gateway, Eldora, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, and Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The NASCAR Xfinity Series has standalone events at Kentucky, Iowa, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and Road America.
In 2018, the Las Vegas Motor Speedway standalone for Trucks and the Xfinity standalone at Kentucky will be no more.
Standalone events have become more cost consuming for many teams. The Xfintiy Series has been called “Cup Lite” because of how many races they run with Cup. The viability of these series is contingent on the performance and presence of drivers in the Cup series.
The slogan for the Xfinity Series is “Names are Made Here”. That slogan is true in the fact that when an Xfinity regular is able to run alongside and compete against a Cup regular it shows that they can beat and compete against the “best of the best”.
The crowd at Gateway was one of the best that has been seen at a standalone event in quiet some time. However, not many Trucks arrived at Gateway.
NASCAR should look at potentially moving the Trucks away from contingent weekends with Cup and Xfinity, but look at ways to help promote the K&N Series at some of their own tracks. This could help NASCAR get reconnected with the grassroots of the sport, something that has been lost as NASCAR has become more corporate.
Debris cautions have been a hot topic after the FireKeepers Casino 400 from Michigan International Speedway. The third to last caution was thrown for debris within the final 20 laps of the event. After that caution, the caution flag flew a total of two more times to do incidents on the restartL Tony Stewart went to Twitter to explain his frustrations:
It's a shame that so many drivers and teams day was ruined by the results of another "debris" caution towards the end of the race today.— Tony Stewart (@TonyStewart) June 18, 2017
NASCAR threw the caution for a trash bag on the racing surface, but did not throw the caution for debris due to a straw hat on the racing surface.
Scott Miller, NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Racing Competition, went on SiriusXM’s “The Morning Drive” to discuss this situation.
"We use all the resources that we have to try to identity what it is that is out there - that being camera, turn spotters and the communication that we've got around the race track to different people who may be able to see it," Miller said.
"If we are actually able to identify what it is and feel like it's something that is OK to leave out there, then we'll do so. But if we can't identify what it is exactly and it could pose something dangerous, then we'll usually, or almost always, error on the side of caution and safety and put the caution out in those circumstances. Sometimes it's untimely and a little bit unfortunate, but we do have to do our job and make sure that everybody is safe."
NASCAR needs to work with its TV partners to show why the caution was flown for debris. This will help clear the air of the black helicopters that encompass debris cautions.
Since instituting the “crash damaged vehicle” policy in 2017, the number of cautions for debris is at 12, while the number of debris cautions in 2016 were at 21.
NXS: Keselowski Victorious at Pocono
After a late race charge and a last lap, Brad Keselowski was the victor in the Pocono Green 250 from Pocono Raceway.
“Hell of a race. Really happy for the 22 team. It's been a while. I think it's been well documented that they haven't been in victory lane. Discount Tire has been a part of this program for a long time. They deserve it. Without them I probably wouldn't have a career in NASCAR. They're on the car today...SKF...proud of them guys. It's good for Ford and everybody. It feels good for me, the team. They deserve it,” said Keselowski post-race.
This is Keselowski’s first victory in 2017. This is his 35th career victory in 245 NASCAR Xfinity Series starts.
On the final restart with 17 laps to go, Keselowski was the race leader, but dropped all the way back to 12th after Elliott Sadler pushed his tires in the air. Keselowski dropped all the way to 12th. Once he regained the momentum, Keselowski worked his way back through the field. Keselowski was able to pass Kyle Larson in the first run on the last lap as Larson was battling tight conditions on corner exit. Keselowski went below Larson to gain the lead and the victory.
Allgaier was a dark horse through much of the race. However, pit strategy brought Allgaier towards the front of the field and ultimately to a second place finish after passing Larson when he lost momentum from the bump and run from Keselowski.
“We knew we had speed in out Chevy. We knew it was fast. We just needed track position. We got behind early, but when we made that call and able to cycle back through, a good restart helped, but fresh tires were what it was all about at the end. Unfortunately, we tried to make it interesting, but didn’t have the speed to pass the 22, but all in all, a good day,” said Allgaier post race.
Larson was the leader on the white flag lap, but lost momentum in the first turn to drop to third. Larson also used pit strategy to work his towards the front of the field to finish in the third position.
“I thought I was a third to fifth place car at best. The 22, by far, was better than anybody else. Disappointed I didnt get the win, but great day for everyone on the Enos team. They did a good job, good pit stops. They made the car better throughout the race. Just not good enough there at the end, but still a good run for us,” said Larson post race.
Sadler, Daniel Suarez, Brendan Gaughan Cole Custer, Ty Dillon, Daniel Hemric, and Matt Tiff rounded out the top-10.
Allgaier holds a one point lead over Sadler. Byron is third in points, 62 points behind Allgaier. Darrell Wallace Jr. sis fourth in points 88 points behind Allgaier. Hemric rounds out the top-five in points 95 points behind Allgaier.
The Xfinity Series will head to Michigan International Raceway on Saturday, June 7th. The race will be on Fox Sports 1 and Motor Racing Network shortly after 1:30 p.m. EDT.
Benjamin Scores First Career Pole at Pocono
In just his second career NASCAR Xfinity Series start, Kyle Benjamin will lead the field to green in today’s Pocono Green 250 from Pocono Raceway for the very first time.
The first round of qualifying became interesting as a fox ran onto the racing surface halting qualifying. Casey Mears will start from the rear of the field as his time was disallowed for impeding the qualifying run of Matt Tifft. Daniel Hemric was fastest in the opening round at 171.798 mph. Justin Allgaier posted the second fastest speed at 171.730 mph. Benjamin was third fastest in the opening round at 171.726 mph. Kyle Larson was fourth fastest at 171.595 mp. Blake Koch rounded out the top-five at a speed of 171.429 mph. All drivers are able to participate in the race this afternoon. Notable drivers who did not advance to the second round include Darrell Wallace, Jr. (P13), Ryan Reed (P16), and Elliott Sadler (P18)
The second round of qualifying went without incident. Benjamin posted the pole winning speed at 171.844 mph. Hemric will start second with his speed of 172.305 mph. Cole Custer will start third with his speed of 172.295 mph. Allgaier will start fourth with his speed of 172.219 mph. William Byron rounded out the top-five with his speed of 171.775 mph.
The Pocono Green 250 will go green shortly after 1:00 p.m. EDT on FOX and Motor Racing Network.
NXS: Pocono Green 250 Preview
The NASCAR Xfinity Series heads to Pocono Raceway for their first and only trip of the 2017 for the second annual Pocono Green 250. The race will feature two 25-lap stages and a 50 lap stage.
41 drivers will head to Pocono to compete for 40 spots on the Saturday afternoon spectacle. Notable names on the list include Paul Menard, Ty Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Brad Keselowski, and Kyle Larson.
The Pocono Green 250 will be an exclusive “Drivers Only” event in the NASCAR on Fox Booth. Kevin Harvick will be the play-by-play announcer with Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer in the booth. On pit road will be Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Ryan Blaney, and Erik Jones. Danica Patric and Denny Hamlin will host race coverage from the Hollywood Hotel.
This will be the final race for Darrell Wallace, Jr. in the Xfinity Series as Roush Fenway Racing will suspend operations of their No. 6 entry. Wallace will make the move to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series to fill-in for Aric Almirola. Almirola was scheduled to race in the Biagi DenBeste entry this weekend, but Casey Mears will be the substitute driver this weekend.
Drives are excited for the second annual event at Pocono. and talk about how unique the tracks three corners are.
“I like Pocono. I had some good success there in a truck and I just think that it is a cool racetrack. It’s hard to pass at times on the track, but I think with the Xfinity cars there, with less downforce, it’s a little easier to pass. It’s for sure easier to pass than the trucks were at times. The track is fast and those three corners are so different, which makes it fun,” said William Byron.
“It’s tough to figure out those three turns. A lot of times you’ll be better on one end than the other. It’s a kind of a tough track because you’re carrying so much speed going into a couple of the corners and they’re pretty much dead flat. You have to figure out how to use your brakes and max your speed going through those corners without sliding up the track. It’s just tough to figure out the flat corners,” said Cole Custer.
Xfinity Series teams will have two practice sessions on Friday at 1:00 p.m. EDT and 3:00 p.m. EDT. Teams will qualify at 9:30 a.m. EDT and race at 1:00 p.m. EDT. Practice and qualifying will be on Fox Sports 1, while the race will be on FOX and Motor Racing Network.
Wallace Jr. Ready For Cup Debut
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will be adding a new driver to their ranks beginning this weekend at Pocono Raceway. Bubba Wallace Jr. will be the interim driver in the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series entry while Aric Almirola continues the healing process after suffering a T5 Vertebrae Compression Fracture at Kansas Speedway last month.
After the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Pocono, Roush Fenway Racing will suspend operations of their No. 6 entry driven by Wallace Jr. Roush Fenway and Wallace Jr. will continue to look at opportunities for him to get in the Xfinity car when sponsorship arises.
“It's an exciting opportunity not only for myself but my family, first of all, my fans, everybody that's helped me get to this level ever since I started racing when I was nine years old and had dreams of running in a Cup race, making my name present in the sport. So this is the perfect opportunity. So I'm very thankful for that,” said Wallace.
Wallace Jr.’s named emerge shortly after 2010 among the NASCAR ranks through the Drive For Diversity program. While in that program, Wallace Jr. showed success. Wallace reflected on that time and where it lead him today.
“That was a great opportunity that presented itself when we signed on with Joe Gibbs Racing, joined on with Rev Racing at the same time to compete in the Diversity Program, K&N Pro Series East,” said Wallace Jr. “With that success came my career where it is now. So definitely without that on‑ and off‑track success we had in those two years, I don't know if I'd be here today. A lot of that credit goes to those guys over there.”
With this step into Cup competition, Wallace Jr. hopes this opportunity helps open the door for more diversity in NASCAR.
“This is a huge step for NASCAR, the whole sport in general, for bringing diversity to its top‑tier level of NASCAR. I'm glad to be leading the forefront of that right now. It just shows that we're trying to bring in a new demographic,” said Wallace. “We're trying to bring in a new face, get a younger generation, no matter what color, what age. We're trying to get everybody involved to bring NASCAR back. It's been a fun journey.”
Although the future is uncertain when Almirola returns, Wallace Jr. will make the most out of this opportunity.
“I don't know what's going to happen. One thing I can touch on is I know I'll go out there and prove to everybody inside the racetrack, outside the racetrack, on the TV, that I belong in the Cup Series. Do the best that I can. Give an extra 200% each and every time I climb in the car for Ford, for Richard Petty, for everybody on the team, for Smithfield, to go out there and make the opportunity the greatest it has been,” said Wallace Jr.
Wallace Jr. has five years of experience in the Xfinity Series. He has six top-five finishes, 34 top-10’s, and two poles. Wallace Jr. hopes this chance in Cup brings many more years to come at NASCAR’s top level.