NASCAR Cup Series News (17900)
Paul Menard was correct in his post-qualifying assessment on Saturday that his No. 21 Menards/Jack Links Ford Mustang would be faster than his 31st-place qualifying result indicated.
In Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, Menard quickly moved forward and ran in the top 15 – and the top 10 at times - before fading to 20th at the finish.
In the third and final segment of the race, Menard was still running in the top 15 when he made a green flag pit stop just before the caution flag flew for a spin by Bubba Wallace.
Crew chief Greg Erwin elected to take the wave-around to rejoin the lead lap, but that meant Menard would be restarting at the back.
Between the lost track position, a tight handling condition and an 86-lap green-flag run to the finish Menard was unable to regain the lost ground and ended the race in 20th place.
Eddie Wood said he was liking the way things were going for the No. 21 team until the last quarter of the race.
“The first two Stages went pretty good,” he said. “We ran in the top 10, and although we wound up not getting any Stage points we were right there the whole time.
“Everything was ok with the car until that caution came out. We went a lap down there, and never could make up what we lost.”
Menard and the Wood Brothers team return to the track next weekend for the Bluegreen Vacations 500 at ISM Raceway in Phoenix.
Race Winner: Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)
Stage 1 Winner: Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)
Stage 2 Winner: Aric Almirola of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)
Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-85):
● Daniel Suárez started seventh and finished 15th.
● The No. 41 driver remained in the top-five and stayed out on the track during the first two cautions, on laps 10 and 15.
● Suárez was in the second position by lap 20 and remained in the top-five until the third caution on lap 44.
● Unfortunately, as the Walmart Family Mobile driver was trying to leave his pit box during the third caution, he had to slow due to a competitor trying to enter the pit stall in front of him.
● The Mexico native restarted 17th. He remained in the top-20 until he pitted under caution on lap 73.
● Suárez received a pit road speeding penalty during the lap-73 stop and was forced to restart at the rear of the field on lap 77.
● The final caution of the stage meant a one-lap shootout to end Stage 1, which the Ford driver finished in 15th.
● During the stage break, Suárez did not visit pit road.
Stage 2 Recap (Laps 86-170):
● Suárez started sixth and finished eighth to earn three bonus points.
● By lap 120 Suárez was in the third position.
● On lap 146 the 27-year-old made a scheduled green-flag pit stop for fuel, four tires and adjustments to help with his racecar’s tight condition.
● The remainder of the stage ran under green, and Suárez ended it in eighth.
● The team pitted during the stage break for four seconds of fuel and an adjustment.
Final Stage Recap (Laps 171-334):
● Suárez started second and finished third.
● He took the lead on lap 179 and held the top spot through the lap-186 caution.
● Caution was displayed again on lap 191, and the Walmart Family Mobile driver stayed out to maintain the lead.
● Although SHR teammate Aric Almirola took the lead from Suárez on lap 201, he held in the top-three until he made a scheduled green-flag pit stop on lap 241.
● The caution was displayed as Suárez was headed down pit lane, and when he returned to the track, he was able to earn the second spot after pit stops cycled through under caution.
● Suárez restarted second on lap 248 and maintained a top-five position until the conclusion of the race, ultimately finishing in third.
● Suárez earned his fourth top-five and 11th top-10 of the season and his second top-five in six career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts at Texas.
● Suárez’s second consecutive third-place result at Texas equaled his previous best finish at the track – third, earned in the series’ previous visit to the track in March.
● Suárez led twice for 25 laps to increase his laps-led total at Texas to 34.
● Kevin Harvick won the AAA Texas 500 for the third consecutive year. His margin of victory over second-place Aric Almirola was 1.594 seconds.
● There were 11 caution periods for a total of 56 laps.
● Only 14 of the 40 drivers in the AAA Texas 500 finished on the lead lap.
● Ford took the top-four finishing positions and five in the top-10 in the AAA Texas 500.
Daniel Suárez, Driver of the No. 41 Walmart Family Mobile Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
“Tonight was a very solid night, and I am very happy with the performance and speed that we brought from the shop. Everyone back at the shop did a great job. We knew we would be fast here. We had a solid performance here last time. We did a good job. We had good execution and a good clean day. I am very happy for Stewart-Haas Racing, and the No. 41 Ford Mustang was pretty sporty. I am very happy for Kevin (Harvick) getting his ticket for Homestead.”
The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Bluegreen Vacations 500k on Sunday, Nov. 10 at ISM Raceway near Phoenix. It is the penultimate race of the 10-race playoffs and the final race in the Round of 8. The event starts at 2:30 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by NBC and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
NBC Sports continued its coverage of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Sunday afternoon with an action-packed AAA Texas 500 from Texas Motor Speedway on NBCSN. Kevin Harvick won the second race of the Round of 8, his fourth of the season, and secured a spot in the Championship 4 alongside Martin Truex Jr., who won last weekend in Martinsville. Harvick has now advanced to the Championship 4 for the fifth time in six years.
NBC Sports’ Rick Allen called the action alongside 21-time Cup Series race winner Jeff Burton, who won his first career Cup Series race at the inaugural race at Texas in 1997. Daytona 500-winning crew chief Steve Letarte and racing legend and two-time Daytona 500-winner Dale Earnhardt Jr., who won his first career Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in 2000, provided commentary from a second booth. Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast, Rutledge Wood, and Dave Burns reported from pit road and the grandstands.
Krista Voda hosted Sunday’s pre-race coverage alongside analysts Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett.
The following are highlights from this afternoon’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race coverage on NBCSN:
Harvick on the win: “Texas has been so great to us and what a racetrack…It’s been a lot of work put into this race. We knew it was a good racetrack for us.”
Snider on Harvick: “Third straight time he wins a Texas playoff race, and the ticket for Kevin Harvick and the four team to Miami is now punched and a shot to win the title!”
Burton on Playoff race: “We’ve seen it all year long. We keep thinking this is the best driver, this is the best team, and we get surprised every week.”
Letarte on Playoffs race: “I’m done making predictions because what I’ve learned this week is it is unpredictable.”
Petty on Harvick: “I’ve been waiting on Kevin Harvick to show up in the Playoffs. They showed up in a big way today.”
Earnhardt Jr. on next week’s race: “We’ve got a lot of guys who are desperate…It’s going to be fun to watch.”
Jarrett on next week’s race: “There’s not a driver below that cut line that I don’t think is capable of winning next week.”
Burton on Logano’s chances to advance: “I think he’s got to be really nervous. They have not had a clean Playoffs…Even Kyle Busch sitting there in third. They haven’t had a great Playoff either.”
Hamlin to Stavast on his confidence after today’s crash: “There’s no doubt in my mind we can go (to Phoenix) and win. Especially in these circumstances, I like the challenge.”
Allen on final lap: “He will now tie Tony Stewart 14th all-time for wins. Kevin Harvick wins at Texas!”
Burton on Harvick: “How about his performance tonight…When they need to, they can step up to the plate and make something happen…I just don’t think you can ever count this team out.”
Burton: “I think the survivor in these Playoffs has been Joey Logano.”
Burton on Harvick overtaking Almirola on lap 254: “It is impressive how good that #4 car is.”
Burton on non-playoff drivers: “This is great racing. It’s fun to see these guys. None of these guys are in the playoff battle, but everyone one of them needs a win.”
Burton on Jimmie Johnson crash: “Think about the guys that have had trouble today. The biggest names in the sport – Bred Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, we just saw Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott. The biggest names in the sport lost cars all by themselves basically.”
Allen on Jimmie Johnson leading in Stage 2: “I was asked the question, ‘Is Jimmie Johnson going to lead another lap in 2019?’ I think a lot of people were thinking, ‘I don’t know. We don’t know if Jimmie Johnson will lead another lap.’ Well sure enough, it’s right here at Texas.”
Allen on cautions in Stage 1: “Six cautions now, that’s a new record for a stage. It’s happened here at Texas. Emotions run high. The pressure is very high on these drivers knowing that there’s only a few opportunities to keep their championship hopes alive.”
NBC Sports PR
Matt Tifft, who suffered a seizure at Martinsville Speedway last Saturday, met with media members for the first time since the season-ending medical episode and addressed his health and future in the sport.
MATT TIFFT, No. 36 Ford Mustang -- “It has been an interesting week for sure. It honestly has been a little crazy with everything that happened so fast. I have my man Keller back here. He was honestly my first responder during the whole thing. It is crazy. You never know what is going to happen in life I guess. I was just talking about simulation stuff and the next thing I know I am on the ground and woke up in the Martinsville hospital and that is the next thing I remember. I am glad to be back here at the track and honestly I wanted to come back today just because it has been very stressful and a lot of anxiety just to come back. I had my seizure five feet behind me here. It is a lot of facing some demons with that and trying to get back. Really, just looking for answers now. The great thing has been that the brain scans have been really good. My brain tumor looked great, or the spot that it was in. Everything there looked really good so the next step is getting an EEG where they hook up the probes to your head and figure out what is going on with the brain waves and see if that is it. If that is not it, then we go down the next chain of command to see what could have sparked it. I am glad to see all you guys here and to be back at the racetrack in full health. Honestly, that was at 8:15. I remember seeing the time before I went down. I had parked my truck 15 or 20 minutes before that. I was extremely fortunate that I was in the infield and not driving the car or anything that happened leading up that morning. It is crazy, but I feel fortunate to be here in good health and talking to you guys. I don't know if I would have expected that fully after last Saturday.”
ARE YOU WORRIED THIS MIGHT BE CAREER ENDING FOR YOU? WHAT IS YOUR PATHWAY LOOKING FORWARD? “I don't know. My goal right now is to find what caused it. I want to be back in a race car but I don't care about anything else right now other than finding out what caused this. Until then, nothing else matters. I have been through this stuff before and I know enough to be mature and smart enough to know that my health comes first. My goal is to get back in this race car and I want to be back as soon as I possibly can but these next few weeks are going to be dedicated to finding answers with doctors to why this happened. It is crazy but the racing part is going to come back and I will get back in a car one way or another, I do honestly believe that. But I have to get my stuff figured out and see what sparked this to happen.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT THE PARAMETERS WOULD BE FOR YOU TO GET BACK IN THE RACE CAR? “I don't fully know yet what it will be. I know a lot of states require you to be good for about six months. That is about what I know to this point.”
SO YOU AREN’T ALLOWED TO DRIVE EVEN A NORMAL CAR? “Not even a passenger car until they know I am good and can get cleared there.”
WAS THAT YOUR FIRST SEIZURE? “Yes it was.”
HOW ARE YOU HANDLING THIS ON THE PERSONAL SIDE? “It is a lot to compartmentalize. If you guys don't mind, it is kind of a lot for me. I will answer further questions as the season goes on but I just wanted to show face and be here in front of everybody but I thank you for you guys checking in. I will keep you guys posted on social media as it goes. It is a little stressful right now and honestly just dealing with the anxiety of it. I just have to take baby steps. I appreciate you guys making the time to come see me. Thank you guys, I really appreciate it.”
STATEMENT FROM FRONT ROW MOTORSPORTS REGARDING MATT TIFFT
JEFF DENNSION, Sr. Director of Sales and Marketing, Front Row Motorsports -- “Matt came to us under a two-year agreement and we will be honoring that. We will still have Matt be here next year. That is our plan. Right now the plan is for Matt to drive for Front Row Motorsports until Matt tells us anything else, but right now we are committed to having Matt back in the car.”
Ford Performace PR
Paul Menard and the No. 21 Menards/Jack Links Ford Mustang are set to start Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway from 31st place, but he said he feels good about the set-up he and the team have prepared.
He said that set-up likely cost him some starting positions but he feels like the strategy will pay off in the race.
“We probably have a little more downforce than some guys, anticipating the race conditions,” Menard told reporters after qualifying. “I felt really good yesterday, even in the draft and being able to run through [Turns] One and Two better than a lot of guys.
“It came with the sacrifice of probably not qualifying very well today.”
Menard was the second driver on track for qualifying, the second time in two weeks that he’s been in the unenviable position of being among the first to go out. He toured the track at 185.344 miles per hour.
That was slower than his best lap in practice on Friday when he turned a lap at 186.981 mph in the final Happy Hour practice. That time was posted on his 26th of 33 laps run and put him 19th on the speed chart for that session.
In the opening practice, also on Friday, Menard’s best lap of 186.400 mph, which he posted on his 20th of 33 laps run, was 17th best in the session.
Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 is set to get the green flag just after 2 p.m. (3 p.m. Eastern Time) with TV coverage on NBCSN.
The race will consist of two 85-lap Stages followed by a 164-lap run to the checkered flag.
Kevin Harvick took the first step toward getting back on the right side of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff cut line, winning the pole for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Harvick, who trails fourth-place Joey Logano by 14 points entering the second race of the Round of 8, toured the 1.5-mile track in 28.465 seconds (189.707 mph) to win his second Busch Pole Award at Texas, his series-best sixth of the season and the 31st of his career.
Erik Jones, already eliminated from the Playoffs, was second fastest at 188.890 mph, .123 seconds behind Harvick. Denny Hamlin, second in the Playoff standings, qualified third at 188.12 mph, followed by Kurt Busch, Alex Bowman and Aric Almirola.
“The best part is our car drove really well in race trim yesterday and still had a lot of speed when we put it in qualifying trim today,” said Harvick, winner of the last two Playoff races at Texas. “So, hopefully, we can keep our track position.
“As you saw the last race (at Texas), you want to be up front and you want to be on the right cycle of rotation of pit strategy. Having that first pit stall is definitely an advantage here. It will be a track position game, and hopefully we can play it right and keep ourselves up front.”
Logano will start 11th in his attempt to protect his position in the standings. Other Playoff drivers earned the following positions on the grid: Kyle Busch 12th, Kyle Larson 13th, Chase Elliott 14th, Ryan Blaney 15th and Martin Truex Jr. 17th.
Truex has already qualified for the Nov. 17 Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway by virtue of last Sunday’s victory at Martinsville.
After a broken axle and a 36th-place finish at Martinsville, Elliott trails Logano by 44 points and likely must win one of the next two races to advance to the Championship 4.
In a substitute role for Front Row Motorsports driver Matt Tifft, who suffered a seizure last Saturday at Martinsville,. John Hunter Nemechek qualified 29th.
“That was the first qualifying run I have ever done in a Cup car,” Nemechek said. “It was pretty interesting. We went faster today than we did yesterday. That is a positive. We’re getting faster every time on the race track. It’s a whole new deal for myself, being over here in the Cup garage. Different scenarios, a whole new team. Different communications. A lot of variables that play into this weekend.
“I’m really thankful for the opportunity from (owner) Bob (Jenkins) and everyone at Front Row Motorsports. I hate that the circumstances are like this. I really wish Matt Tifft a speedy recovery and hope he is back at the race track very soon.”
Kurt Busch will be driving for Chip Ganassi Racing for at least two more years, with Monster Energy as his primary sponsor.
Busch and team owner Chip Ganassi announced the multiyear extension of Busch’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series contract on Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway, but not before Busch teased reporters with an impending retirement gag, amplified by the gift of a rocking chair from TMS president Eddie Gossage.
The specific terms of the driver and sponsor contracts weren’t revealed, other than that both were multiyear commitments.
“It’s been a good career, it’s been fun, and it’s been tough at the same time to see how things have changed and how things have gone,” deadpanned Busch, the 2004 series champion who advanced to the Playoffs this year on the strength of his win at Kentucky Speedway. “Wait! Eddie, really? A rocking chair? It’s not time for a rocking chair. This old guy’s got some kick left.”
With that, Busch and accompanying Monster girls popped a spray of confetti out of champagne bottles to announce the new contract.
Ganassi had high praise for the 41-year-old driver, crediting him with elevating the performance of not only the No. 1 Chevrolet but also with helping teammate Kyle Larson’s effort in the No. 2 Chevy.
“With his driving this year, he’s sparked the No. 1 car, taken it to a place it’s never been before,” Ganassi said. “That was the first time a Chevrolet won at Kentucky, so we were pretty pleased with that. And, obviously, having Monster as a great partner has been a real shot in the arm for our team...
“As Kurt will tell you, he and Kyle Larson have had a great time becoming teammates, and I think it’s made Larson a better driver… So this guy brings a lot more than just what’s on the track. He brought a lot of guys on that 1 team their first Cup win, and I think you saw that in the exuberance at Kentucky. So I’m proud to keep him as part of this team for the foreseeable future.”
A multiyear deal for Busch is an anomaly. His recent contracts—and Monster’s accompanying commitments—have been for one year each.
“To have a multiyear deal, it’s comforting that I won’t have to answer the questions weekly about being a 41-year-old veteran in a sport where there’s a young push,” Busch said. “To have that done, that’ll be refreshing, because the focus should be on track.
“It should be the on-track product, what happens out there racing, what happens during the week with different promotional things and continuing to build this sport that’s given me so much—those are some of the big reasons why I signed on again to keep going, smile out there and go for the trophy.”
CHASE ELLIOTT NEEDS MORE MAGIC TO KEEP PLAYOFF HOPES ALIVE
The 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs have been a repeating story of disaster and recovery for driver Chase Elliott.
After crashing his No. 99 Chevrolet nose-first into the Turn 1 tire barrier at the Charlotte Road Course, Elliott recovered to win the first elimination race of the Playoffs.
But Elliott’s engine expired eight laps into the opening Round of 12 race at Dover. He finished dead last in a field of 38 and scored one point.
Two weeks later, facing elimination at Kansas Speedway, Elliott faced a 20-point deficit to Brad Keselowski entering the race. In an overtime restart, Elliott charged to second place as Keselowski faded. The net difference was just enough for Elliott to grab the final berth in the Round of 8.
The opening race in the Round 8 at Martinsville, however, brought more catastrophe. A broken axle relegated Elliott to a 36th-place finish, 55 laps down. Consequently, Elliott must pull another rabbit out of his hat in the next two races.
Currently 44 points below the cut line for the Championship 4, Elliott almost certainly must win either at Texas or ISM Raceway in Phoenix.
“For us, just trying to keep our season alive,” Elliott said of his approach to Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at TMS (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). “You want to be able to go to Homestead and race for a championship. There’s only going to be four guys that have that opportunity, right?
“So, for us, we’re in a tough spot from a points standpoint that we’ve pretty much got to go win, either here or Phoenix or both or something spectacular happen for us to move on. So, that’s the cards we dealt ourselves after last week and we’ll see how it plays out.”
KYLE LARSON NEEDS TWO EXCELLENT RACES—OR ONE WIN—TO ADVANCE
The thesis has always been that, if rim-rider Kyle Larson ever advances to Homestead-Miami Speedway as one of the Championship 4, he’d have to be considered a favorite for the title, given his unmatched prowess at running the wall at the 1.5-mile speedway.
The problem has been getting there, and approaching Sunday’s AAA Texas 500, Larson is 24 points behind fourth-place Joey Logano in the race for a Playoff berth in the season finale. Accordingly, Larson has no margin for error—and he knows it.
“Obviously, we have to have a really good day,” Larson said. “Twenty-four points out, if I can’t win, I need to do a really good job in each stage and probably finish in the top-three. Hopefully, I can go win, and that would make next week (at Phoenix) easy. I know I have to have a really good day.”
Fortunately for Larson, his average finish of 20.4 at Texas belies the speed he typically has in his No. 2 Chevrolets.
“We’re always really fast here at Texas, especially since the repave (after the November 2016 race),” Larson said. “I’ve just had a crash and two blown right-front tires. I’ve always ran really well here. If you just look at a piece of paper, you would think that I don’t run well here. But we’re always really fast. We just have to keep the right-front holding air.”
Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR) announced today they have signed a multi-year extension for Kurt Busch to return as the driver of the No. 1 Monster Energy Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. In addition, the team also announced a multi-year extension to their partnership with Monster Energy Brand. Busch, a 31-time winner in NASCAR’s premier series will look to build on his success with CGR, after becoming both a race winner and Playoff participant in 2019.
Monster Energy became the title sponsor of NASCAR's premier series, starting with the 2017 season, renaming it the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS). Monster Energy has also been a staple in the action sports world, sponsoring athletes, sporting events and musical acts and concerts, including a near decade-long relationship with driver Kurt Busch.
NOTES OF INTEREST:
- A Monster Career: Busch will extend his accomplished career in the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series and beyond for his 21st season of competition. Overall, he has won 31 races and the MENCS Championship in 2004. His resume includes victories in marquee events such as the Daytona 500 (2017) the Coca-Cola 600 (2010) and the NASCAR All-Star Race (2010). His racing resume highlights also include four victories in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series (NGOTS), a runner-up finish in the NGOTS point standings in his first full-time year of competition in 2000, five wins in the NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS), two starts in the Rolex 24 At Daytona (2005, 2008) and one start in the Indianapolis 500 (2014). He also boasts championships in the 2003 International Race of Champions (IROC) and the 1999 NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Series.
- Veteran Talent: In just his first season with Chip Ganassi Racing, Busch extended his streak of winning at least one race per season in the MENCS to six-consecutive years. He has won at least one MENCS race in 16 of his 20 years of competition. Additionally he has won a MENCS race and claimed a pole on every type of track on which the series competes on (superspeedway, intermediate, short-track and road course).
- A Monster Lifestyle: In addition to the title sponsorship of the MENCS, Monster Energy also sponsors the FIA World Rallycross Championship and the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) Tour. Monster Energy is also known for supporting many extreme sports events such as Bellator MMA, Ultimate Fighting Championship, Moto GP, BMX, Motorcross, skateboarding and snowboarding, as well as Esports. Additionally, Monster Energy promotes a number of music bands around the world.
- Chip Ganassi, Owner, Chip Ganassi Racing: “We couldn’t be more pleased to be making this announcement. We have developed a great relationship with Rodney Sacks (CEO) and everyone at Monster. We look forward to this partnership lasting for a very long time. As for Kurt, I must say that I have been nothing but impressed with him both in and outside of the car. He has such great instincts behind the wheel, has been tremendous with all of our partners and everyone on the shop floor feeds off his intensity on the track and his enthusiasm off it.”
· Mitch Covington, Vice President of Sports Marketing, Monster Beverage Company: “We’re racing people at Monster Energy and we knew immediately that we had found fantastic racing partners in Chip Ganassi, Kurt Busch and all involved at Chip Ganassi Racing. NASCAR is a major part of who we are at Monster Energy and to be able to compete at a championship level with Kurt Busch and Chip Ganassi Racing truly reflects who we are and fires-up our desire to not only win races, but to make a serious all-in run at the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series title. Go Kurt, Unleash the Beast and welcome race fans!”
- Kurt Busch, Driver, No. 1 Monster Energy Chevrolet Camaro ZL1: “Chip made me an offer that I couldn’t refuse! For me personally, it is the fun and refreshing atmosphere working with Matt McCall and all the team here at Chip Ganassi Racing. All signs pointed toward, ’let’s keep going; let’s keep winning.’ It has also been the fans, continuing to work with Monster Energy, the chance to be part of the Next Gen car introduction in 2021, along with building on our successes in 2019 that together makes it an easy decision to continue here at Chip Ganassi Racing. Monster has been with me for nearly a decade and they are so much fun to work with; it is just a natural fit. The outreach of fans to me this year has been inspiring to hear all of them encourage me to keep racing. Additionally I have enjoyed sending veterans and active-duty military to the races this year through our relationship with VetTix.org. This is a chance for me to continue being part of something that I have really enjoyed.”