Waltrip's Last Ride

Thursday, Jan 26

Michael Waltrip announced via numerous social media platforms that the Daytona 500 will be his last. Waltrip will be driving the No. 15 for Premium Motorsports in the “Great American Race”.

 

Waltrip won the Daytona 500 in 2001 and 2003. Since retiring from full time driving in 2009, Waltrip has attempted to make the Daytona 500 every season since.

The past few seasons in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for Kasey Kahne, since he moved to Hendrick Motorsports in 2013, have not been the best. Kahne is considered the “underperforming” driver of the organization.

Towards the end of the 2016 season, things began to look up for Kahne. He believes that the performance at the end brought high optimism going into the 2017 season. “I think it is more optimism and just feeling good about where we went last year.”

“we know where we made those gains as a company and as a team because we made them in both areas and we will just get better from there.”

With those gains, the team for Kahne feels “good about it and is excited to get the season started.” However, Kahne feels that optimism comes from the way the season ended with Jimmie Johnson winning the championship and Chase Elliott winning the Rookie of the Year as well as the gains the team made in the last 12 races of 2016. “We know where we made those gains as a company and as a team because we made them in both areas and we will just get better from there.”

When it comes to the offseason, many believe that drivers go off and leave the team with the work, but that is not the case when it comes to the No. 5 team. “Since Monday after Homestead I have been with Keith (Rodden, crew chief), I’ve been with our engineers and all of us as a team, from the pit crew side to the road guys, the guys building the cars, we have been a team and we have been working to progress in those same areas that we made the gains in.  We have had a couple of months to do that, so I feel like that is a lot of hard work,” said Kahne. “Everybody is working hard, but for us we are going in the right direction and it is going to show this year and I’m looking forward to that.”

For Kahne, winning is the goal, but running consistently in the top-10 gives them “fair share of shots to win, whether it’s a stage or the final stage; I’m looking forward to that.” Kahne is looking forward to having faster cars and being a better driver behind the wheel.

BK Racing announced at Richmond International Raceway that 18 year old, Gray Gaulding, will be joining the team for 35 races beginning at Atlanta Motor Speedway.  Gaulding will pilot the No. 23 Toyota Camry.

“When I first walked into the BK Racing shop I felt at home, it has the perfect mixture of corporate America and the old-school race shop feeling” said Gaulding. “Everyone was elbows deep preparing for Daytona, Atlanta, Las Vegas and the entire season. Ron Devine has invested a lot of time, effort, and equity into BK Racing and it shows as you walk the shop floor. To be back with Toyota is great, I’ve kept a great relationship with them and they’re a great technical partner. I can’t wait to get behind the wheel and represent everyone at BK Racing and our partners that allow us to be at the track.”

Sponsorship for Gaulding will be announced at a later date.

However, there is a conflict with the scheduling of the No. 23 ride. Joey Gase is scheduled to drive that car with Best Home Furnishings at Daytona, the Bristol Night Race, and Kentucky.

Gase went to Twitter to explain what would happen.

For all those asking how the announcement made by @BKRacing_2383 today affects me ??? pic.twitter.com/KqI6Cjicmx

— Joey Gase Racing (@JoeyGaseRacing) January 24, 2017

Gaulding ran two races in 2016 at Martinsville and Phoenix, but the performance was not there with a 39th and 37th finishes due to mechanical issues, and failed to qualify for Homestead. 

Landon Cassill has spent eight years in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, but the road to where he is today was a long and tough road. Despite the road being tough, Cassill still has the same humor and wit as when he came into the sport, but is still humble.

Cassill believes his biggest challenge in becoming a professional race car driver was remaining disciplined. That discipline has moved into every aspect of his life from being a father and husband and balancing that with being a driver.

Over the course of his Cup career, Cassill has been with second-tier teams not running up front, but that has not become what drives him today. What drives Cassill is the “my plan and my agenda and my schedule and my goals and knowing that I’m doing everything I can to be the best professional race car driver I can be for my car owner, who hired me to do this job, my sponsors who essentially hired me to do this job, and my family who is relying on me to provide for them.” Cassill believes that helps him have high confidence with his career.

Despite being an eight-year veteran, Cassill feels pretty young in his career because he started out start-and-parking and testing cars for organizations. Cassill feels like this puts him in an unique position because he has “a lot of experience and I’m just kind of cresting that edge of, ‘OK, we’re gonna figure out how to win races,’ because for the first few years of my Cup career it wasn’t really how are we gonna win races, it was how am I gonna get myself onto the race track and who am I gonna be doing it with.”

Cassill believes that 2017 will require “hard work”, especially with this new format. He believes that being one of the “outliers” in this format because “our points position is higher than maybe our average finish – where we can kind of leapfrog some guys because we use strategy midway through these races to collect six or eight or 10 points at a time.”

Cassill feels like being a NASCAR driver is the “first stage” of his life. Cassill is content and excited for the rest of his career, and what his career after being a race car driver holds whether it is selling cars with his dad or the continuation of playing a role in the industry.

 

he 2016 season for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series was one for the record books. The team kicked of their 25th season with winning the Daytona 500 to winning a second consecutive championship. The team formed a technical alliance with Furniture Row Racing, but that did not stop the success of the organization. Drivers for the organization were Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, and Matt Kenseth.

 

Hamlin kicked off the season at Daytona with a close finish in the Daytona 500 edging out Martin Truex Jr. by .008 seconds. Hamlin’s season was plagued with numerous penalties on pit road. Hamlin was in contention to win numerous races over the season. Hamlin had four DNF’s throughout the season with three resulting from accidents and one engine issue. After winning the season opening race, Hamlin scored victory at Watkins Glen and Richmond, where he started on the pole. With his three wins, Hamlin was able to make the playoffs. Hamlin made it to the third round by the skin of his teeth edging out Austin Dillon by .006 seconds at Talladega. In the third round, Hamlin scored three top-10 finishes, but was able to advance to the final round at Homestead Miami Speedway.

 

Busch picked up in 2016 where he left off after his championship in 2015. His season started out with a third place finish at Daytona. In the following week, Busch won the pole but had to forfeit the pole after his time was disallowed due to failing post-qualifying inspection. Despite losing the pole, Busch captured the pole at Phoenix. Busch captured his first victory of the season and first victory at Martinsville leaving Charlotte and Pocono as the only tracks where he hasn’t won at.  He followed up the victory in Martinsville with a win at Texas Motor Speedway. However, Busch was in an accident at Bristol which resulted in his first DNF on the season. However, the rebound came quickly with second place finishes at Richmond and Talladega, and a victory at Kansas Speedway. However, that comeback was short lived with DNF’s at Dover and Charlotte, a 31st place finish at Pocono, and engine issues at Michigan. Busch stayed consistent over the next seven races with a victory at Indianapolis. Bristol was another DNF for Busch as he suffered a crash. Going into the playoffs, Busch started off strong with a win at Chicago that moved him into the next round. In the second round, Busch had strong finishes at Charlotte and Kansas, but was conservative with Kenseth and Edwards to secure a spot in the “Round of 8”. Busch made his way through that round with three top-five finishes in a move to return to the Championship Round at Homestead-Miami. However, Busch came up short on a back-to-back championship, but left the season with strong momentum going into 2017.

 

For Edwards, 2016 would be his last as a driver in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition. His 2016 season started strong with two top-five finishes at Daytona and Atlanta. After an 18th place finish at Las Vegas, Edwards scored two poles at Texas and Bristol as well as two wins at Bristol and Richmond. His first DNF of the season came at Talladega. His second DNF came two weeks alter at Dover. Edwards was able to recover after Charlotte with three top-10 finishes and a pole at Sonoma. His third DNF came at Daytona, but came into Kentucky with a  second place finish. After terrible finishes at New Hampshire and Indianapolis, Edwards posted five top-20 finishes including two poles at Watkins Glen and Bristol. Going into the playoffs, Edwards did not have the momentum, but had the consistency. He scored the pole at New Hampshire in the first round, but no wins. He made it into the second round with finishes of 12th and second at Charlotte and Kansas, and went conservative at Talladega to keep his hopes going into the “Round of 8”. With a win at Texas, Edwards clinched his spot into the Championship Four at Homestead-Miami. Edwards was less than 10 laps away for clinching his first championshi, but greed for position ensued from behind leaving Edwards with a wrecked vehicle.

 

Kenseth rode in 2016 very quietly. In the first few races of 2016, he was without his veteran spotter, Chris Osborne, after he suffered injury from an accident in the offseason. Kenseth was about a half a mile away from winning another Daytona 500, but a gutsy move pushed him out of the draft and resulted in a 14th place finish. The season did not start off strong for Kenseth; His first top-10 finish in the first eight races came at Phoenix. His second top-10 came at Richmond. His first DNF came at Talladega after an accident on the backstretch. However, the next four races resulted in a top-10 finish including a win at Dover. His next run of top-10 finishes began at Kentuck with three top-10 finishes including a win at New Hampshire. After Indianapolis, Kenseth only had two top finishes before the playoff began. When the playoffs began, Kenseth became more consistent with his top-10 finishes. In the opening round of the playoffs, Kenseth had three top-10 finishes. In the second round, Kenseth won at Kansas to move to the third round. Kenseth came just short in the third round to move to the Championship Round. Kenseth ended the season at Homestead with a seventh place finish.

 

2017 will be a year of change at Joe Gibbs Racing. With Edwards going into retirement, Daniel Suarez will move on up and have his chance in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Despite not having Edwards, JGR will continue to be the dominate powerhouse in the Cup Series. It will be interesting to see how Hamlin, Busch, and Kenseth will lean on Suarez and vice versa. JGR is the team to watch going into 2017.