Newman Spoils The Show At Phoenix
AVONDALE, Ariz.-- With a gutsy call to stay out on old tires, Ryan Newman went to claim victory in the Camping World 500 at Phoenix Raceway to snap a 127 race winless streak. This is his first win since 2013 at Indianapolis and Richard Childress Racing’s first victory since Phoenix in 2013 with Kevin Harvick.
“I’ve lost count; that’s how long it’s been. I’ve got to thank Grainger, Caterpillar, Coca-Cola, Monster Energy, for supporting our series, and Chevrolet. The list goes on and on. What a gutsy call by (crew chief) Luke (Lambert). I called for two tires and he called for none. I’ve won more races no tires than I have with four. I’m just proud of these guys. We had a good car all day. We kept it out of trouble and collected in the end,” said Newman post-race.
The first stage of the race was dominated by Logano. Logano continued to stay up in the front through much of the first stage. As he entered into lapped traffic, Kyle Larson inched closer and closer. But Logano was able to win the stage with Larson in second, Brad Keselowski third, Chase Elliott fourth, and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top-five.
The second stage saw the dominance of Logano fade away. Logano was passed by Elliott and Larson on lap 84, but it was Elliott who would take the lead and dominate the stage. Logano stayed in the top-five, but was caught speeding on pit road and had to start at the tail end of the field after the caution flew on lap 117. On the restart, Elliott and Larson battled for the lead, but Elliott prevailed to win the stage. Larson finished second, Kyle Busch finished third, Jimmie Johnson finished fourth, and Keselowski rounded out the top-five.
Elliott started the stage as the race leader. As the caution came out for a hard hit coming off of the fourth turn by Matt Kenseth, the leaders pitted. Ky. Busch won the race off pit road and went on to lead the most laps in the round. The caution flew three more times. The final caution of the day was caused by Logano who blew a tire on the frontstretch with four laps remaining, sending the race into NASCAR Overtime. Ky. Busch and the other leaders pitted, but Newman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Martin Truex Jr. stayed out on older tires while many guys behind them had two. On the final restart, Larson tried to make a move on Newman, but went sideways stacking up the field behind him giving Newman the advantage and the ultimate victory. Larson finished second, Ky Busch finished third, Stenhouse Jr. finished fourth, and Keselowski rounded out the top-five.
For Larson, this was the fourth time finishing in the second position since Homestead last year. Larson talked about his move on the final restart post-race.
“Yeah, my spotter said ‘clear’ and I started turning down. I guess I just didn’t anticipate him driving in as far as he did. Maybe I should have just run the middle lane there just to be safe. But all in all, it was a good effort for our Credit One Bank Chevy. And dang it, I wish I wouldn’t have gotten sideways there in (Turns) 1 and 2; and I would have stayed close enough to Newman and I probably would have got him down in (Turns) 3 and 4 coming to the white,” said Larson. “You never know though. That’s how the races play out. Maybe I made a mistake there. This one stings because I feel like I was in the best spot out of anybody there to line up fourth on two tires. But, it’s really, really cool to be the point leader right now. That was a goal of mine going into today. So, thanks to everybody at Chip Ganassi Racing for all your hard work. We’ll hopefully continue to have this speed in our race cars and maybe close some of these races out.”
It was all but Ky. Busch’s race to lose, but the last caution and pitting cost him five playoff points.
“Everything’s great, we got a top five and that’s what we set out to do today and we got a third so we should be pumped about that and how good this Skittles Camry ran today. It was awesome there at the end and the guys made some really good calls there at the end – Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and the guys did a good job being able to make some good adjustments and make it feel better once we got out front,” said Busch. “Thanks to my pit crew – the car really liked clean air. We just got caught up in traffic a little bit early in the race, but we were mindful of that and just kind of bided our time and got up to the front when we did, but we had a little miscue there on pit road with Kurt (Busch) and from there it was just too many cars that stayed out. If it was just two that stayed out maybe, but we really needed the outside like (Kyle) Larson had. Overall we should be proud of our run today and we will move on.”
The caution flew eight times for 45 laps. There were 15 different lead changes among eight different drivers.
Next up for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is the final installment of the West Coast Swing with a trip to Auto Club Speedway for the Auto Club 400. FOX and Motor Racing Network will have live coverage next Sunday beginning at 3:30 p.m. EST.
Brendan Gaughan Racing for a Championship Late in NASCAR Career
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.”
NASCAR Hall of Fame Nominee Preview: Richard Childress
Richard Childress was a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Driver. Currently, Childress is a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series Team Owner. His career in NASCAR started in 1969 and continues to succeed in NASCAR’s premier divisions.
Childress started his racing career with limited means. At the age of 17, he purchased his first car for only $20. Childress was well-respected as a racer, and was a consummate self-made racer. Childress has six top-five finishes, 76 top 10’s, all within 285 starts. Childress finished fifth in the points standings in 1975. Ultimately, he retired in 1982.
In 1972, Childress formed Richard Childress Racing. And the rest is history from there. Much of his team’s success came with NASCAR Hall of Famer, Dale Earnhardt. Under Earnhardt’s career at RCR, Childress won six championships and 67 races from 1984 to 2000. Drivers who have driven for Childress have received five additional championships. Childress became the first team owner to win championships in all three of NASCAR’s premier divisions. Childress is ranked second on the championship list with 11.
“Once you've raced, you never forget it...and you never get over it,” said Richard Childress.
Childress is still active in the community of Welcome and Lexington, North Carolina. Childress started his own vineyard located in Lexington, North Carolina. He and his wife started the Childress Institute for Pediatric Research in 2008.
Austin Dillon Looks to Continue his Growth in NASCAR
Circling the track in the car made famous by his grandfather and NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt, pressure has been on the shoulders of one young man for several years. Since the return of the No. 3 Chevrolet hit the high banks of Daytona International Speedway in 2014, Austin Dillon has emerged as a driver that has experienced the ups and downs of Sprint Cup Series racing.
Dillon, 25, has achieved a careers worth of knowledge in his eight years in the NASCAR industry. He’s been on a roller coaster journey, from seeing the ultimate high’s of winning two championships, to the lows of struggling in the Sprint Cup Series.
But again, he’s only 25.
Heading into 2016, Dillon has competed in two full-time seasons at the helm of the No. 3 car. Being the wheelman of the historic number provides pressure within itself, he puts all of the pressure on his back.
Driving for his grandfather, Richard Childress it could raise the question on whether or not he is qualified for an elite ride, or if it was it a given that he would one day drive for “pop-pop.”
Though he has only recorded nine top-10 finishes in his first two seasons, there is reason for optimism within the camp heading into Daytona.
“You never know, Daytona could be our day,” Dillon told Speedway Digest. “The effort is there. Now it’s putting it all together to consistently run up front. The first win comes from running up front and proving that you can lead laps.”
Leading laps is one thing that Dillon has struggled to do in his first two seasons in the Cup Series. The No. 3 team has been out front for just 49 laps in the 72 races that it has been back on track, 19 of which came at Michigan last summer when he finished a career-high fourth. That was just his second top-five finish of his stint in the Cup Series.
“Michigan was a huge boost,” Dillon said. “It proves that I can lead laps and race with the best of the best. I knew I was doing it on Saturday so why couldn’t it come true on Sunday. That’s a fun part of my job is to put that effort in and when it comes out and you race up there.”
As the 2016 season approaches, Dillon’s confidence level continues to increase. Some of that comes with running in the XFINITY Series on a regular basis, getting more track time for the advanced series on Sunday. The 2013 XFINITY Series champion believes that repetition on a racetrack can help at certain citcuts, especially at ones that he struggles on such as Richmond and Dover.
Last season alone Dillon posted four victories in the XFINITY Series while leading over 500 laps in his 20 starts for RCR.
Midway through last season, Dillon teamed up with Richard “Slugger” Labbe and it elevated the performance on the Cup side. From Sonoma on, the No. 3 car had four top 10s, including his scary crash at Daytona when he flipped into the catch fence where his car came to a halting stop.
Though the end results weren’t exactly what the organization was looking for, it is something to build on for the new year. The speed was there to be competitive and compete with the Chase drivers.
Dillon’s two teammates, Ryan Newman and Paul Menard were more consistent than he was in the two previous seasons, but neither of them have won recently, either.
RCR is currently in its longest winless drought as an organization at 73 races, with the last win coming at Phoenix in the fall of 2013 when Kevin Harvick took the checkered flag.
“I think that leading laps is even more than just finishing in the top 10,” Dillon said. “When you run in the top five that is when I do believe the wins will come. So if you start seeing our top-five finishes go up, that means a win is right around the corner.”
As he gains more experience in the big leagues, Dillon has been able to settle in as a person. He has been able to translate his personal life onto the racetrack and perform at a better pace because of it.
“I’m at the point where I’m happy with me as a person,” he said. “I’m comfortable in my own skin. Now, I just want to go perform and win more, win championships and compete and make that name even more than what it is now.”
As Dillon enters his third season in the Cup Series, he is in the best position to make his first career Chase for the Sprint Cup. RCR as a company is communicating better than it has in the previous two seasons as the chemistry has begun to grow within the three teams.
One thing that might slow down Dillon and RCR in general is the loss of Furniture Row Racing as an affiliate. Martin Truex, Jr. is coming off his strongest season, which featured the No. 78 team making it to the championship four, then jumping to Toyota, aligning itself with Joe Gibbs Racing.
However, RCR still works closely with Germain Racing and JTG Daugherty Racing. Newcomers, Circle Sport-Levine Family Racing and Tommy Baldwin Racing, have been added to the plethora of organizations that are under the RCR wing with technical support.
Dillon has a long NASCAR career ahead of him, but the No. 3 team needs to be better than average. As long as he somewhat performs throughout his career it seems almost guaranteed that he will have a ride with his grandfathers team. In the two seasons that he has competed in he has finishes of 20th and 21st in the points standings. But last year his average finish decreased by over three positions to that of 2014.
Like all teams, Dillon would love to have it no other way that start off the 2016 season with a bang and end up in Victory Lane following 500 miles in Daytona. If a track were to owe a driver anything, it seems like Daytona owes Dillon for the nasty crash that happened last July.
What a storyline that would be, plus the No. 3 car would be back in Victory Lane for the first time just days after the 15-year anniversary of Dale Earnhardt’s tragic crash.
Championship or Bust for Ty Dillon
Ty Dillon was expected to have great success before he ever competed full-time in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. The grandson of legendary NASCAR team owner Richard Childress has experienced the ups and downs of racing for one of the sport’s most prestigious teams.
Richard Childress Racing dates back to when Childress himself was a racecar driver. Since then, Dale Earnhardt Sr. became the face of the franchise long after the unfortunate accident at Daytona in 2001 that claimed his life. RCR has experienced a transition period since its last title at the Sprint Cup Series level, but has established plenty of success in the XFINITY Series.
For Dillon, the XFINITY Series has been no different, expecting to excel with his grandfather’s race team.
The driver of the No. 3 Chevrolet is entering his third full-time season in the XFINITY Series with RCR. In his first two years of competition, Dillon has seen slight success. In 2014, he was victorious in his third career start at Indianapolis after passing Kyle Busch late in the event. That race was a huge momentum boost for the team, but ultimately, he came up short of the season end goal of a championship.
At the end of the season, Dillon finished fifth in the point standings and was looking forward to 2015. When the new season began, he was fully motivated with the team that was assembled around him. After earning 10 top-10 finishes in the first 14 races of last season, RCR decided to change the outlook of its lead car by slotting Nick Harrison atop the pit box, replacing Danny Stockman.
From that point on the No. 3 car had 15 top 10s in the final 19 events. But again Dillon came up just short in the championship battle, this time losing out to Chris Buescher.
Dillon is a very driven individual as he grew up in a household full of competition. From competing against his older brother, 2013 XFINITY Series champion Austin Dillon, on the race-track, or even the baseball field, he wants to be the best in his sport, like all drivers do. However, his brother has two national championships, including a Camping World Truck Series title in 2011, and is just a Cup title away from having a championship in all three series.
“The pressure to perform is all on myself,” Dillon told Speedway Digest. “A lot of people try to pressure on you, but it’s nothing compared to what I want to do. I want to win the races, I want to win the championship and nobody is going to be able to put more pressure on me than myself.”
In 2016, the XFINITY Series will have a new outlook. With the newly implemented Chase system which includes 12 drivers making the cutoff, the pressure to perform is there more than ever before. However, after losing series veterans, such as Regan Smith and Chase Elliott who are championship threats, he looks to be the favorite heading into the new season.
The 2014 XFINITY Series champion Elliott has moved up to take over the No. 24 for the retired Jeff Gordon in the Cup Series. In December, it was announced that 2015 champion Chris Buescher would make the jump to the Cup level and drive for Front Row Motorsports. Then on Thursday evening news broke that Regan Smith will be replacing Alex Bowman at Tommy Baldwin Racing.
These three drivers, along with Dillon were in the battle for the championship all the way down to Homestead. But with the other three making the move to Cup, Dillon is in the best position to win a title at this stage of his young career.
The XFINITY Series is gaining the returning Justin Allgaier who is piloting the No. 7 for JR Motorsports and will look to rival Dillon as the top dog in the fight for the championship. Anything but winning a title in 2016 will be a disappointment for the 23-year-old.
“Somewhat, it’s the third time around,” Dillon said. “I just want to win races and with that it will become a championship opportunity. If we get locked in that Chase, you’ve got to win the races just like they do in the Sprint Cup Series. You know you’re going to go down to that last race and I don’t know if you’re going to be battling for the win in the Homestead race for the championship, but I think you will be battling for a top-three.”
In three career starts at Homestead, Dillon has a pair of seventh-place finishes and one finish of 14th. If the team is fortunate enough to make it to Homestead it would need to up its game in order to win the championship, since the one race determines a championship and not a series of races.
Before even thinking about Homestead, the team must get through Daytona and the other 31 races leading up to the season-finale. In the past two seasons, Dillon has had at least 24 top-10 finishes which would solidly get him in the Chase based on points if he fails to earn a triumph before the cutoff.
He wants to win, and in order to do so, the team will need to make the cars more competitive and bring faster equipment off the hauler. If the team continues to bring average cars to the track then that is exactly what the team will be, and more vulnerable to the competition.
Around the XFINITY garage, Dillon is considered to be one of the early favorites to win the title. His statistics out perform any other series driver in the series in 2016 based off the last two years. Of all the other drivers he will be racing against full-time in 2016, Daniel Suarez was the closest to him on points in 2015, 96 points behind the No. 3 team.
“I always see myself as the championship favorite,” Dillon said. “I feel like I’m a favorite to win the Daytona 500, a lot of people might not feel like that, but I’m always going to bet on myself.”
Dillon will running the Daytona 500 for Circle Sport-Levine Family Racing as the driver of the No. 95 Chevrolet, teaming with Michael McDowell. He will be running in at least a handful of events while being paired with veteran crew chief Todd Parrott. Though his final Cup schedule has not been determined, they are looking at up to 10 races in 2016.