Monster Energy Cup Series News (15952)
Ashton Kutcher said it best during the popular film released to widespread acclaim in December 2000 – “Dude, Where’s My Car?”
Standing with Seann William Scott, who was playing the character Chester Greenburg, they didn’t know where their car was parked. And Kutcher, who was playing Jesse Montgomery III, said simply, “Dude, where’s my car?”
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), might be saying, “Dude, where my oval?” as the NASCAR Monster Cup Series head to Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway this weekend.
Busch has competed in 36 point-paying races on the 1.5-mile oval at Charlotte, as well as 19 non-points races. But the 55 races he’s competed in on the 1.5-mile oval won’t help him as this week, he will drive on the 2.28-mile, 17-turn Charlotte “roval.”
And this isn’t Sonoma Raceway in northern California or Watkins Glen International in the state of New York. It’s half oval and half road course. Thus, the hybrid term roval.
Think back to the 1971 Questor Grand Prix conducted at Ontario (Calif.) Motor Speedway. It used parts of the oval and road course at the track. But don’t expect Jackie Stewart or Mario Andretti – the latter who won the Questor Grand Prix – to be in Charlotte.
Busch has tested twice on Charlotte roval – in October 2017 and in July 2018. And like everyone else, he doesn’t know what to expect this weekend, other than to expect the unexpected.
Busch has he been good at Sonoma and Watkins Glen. Busch has one pole, one win, four top-threes, seven top-fives and nine top-10s and has led a total of 198 laps in his 18 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Sonoma.
His only road-course win in the Cup Series came at Sonoma in 2011 and it was a dominant victory as he led a race-high 76 laps. He passed Denny Hamlin for the lead on lap 13 and stayed out front for the next 19 circuits around the 1.99-mile track. He relinquished the lead twice for scheduled, green-flag pit stops and took over the top spot for the final time on lap 88, then led the final 23 laps.
He’s even had success at Sonoma in the NASCAR Southwest Tour Series, finishing third in 1998 after starting 19th and winning the 1999 race after starting third.
He hasn’t been bad at Watkins Glen, either, as he finished second there in the Truck Series in 2000. In his three NASCAR Xfinity Series races at Watkins Glen, he started first in each, won in 2006 and 2011, and finished third in 2007. In those three races, Busch led 98 of the 250 laps available – 39.2 percent
Busch has one pole, three top-five finishes and nine top-10s at Watkins Glen in Cup competition.
But the roval is new to the series competitors. And hopefully, at the end of this race, Busch can ask, “Dude, where’s victory lane?”
“AJ Allmendinger has been a valuable asset to the growth of our company, and we are grateful for his professionalism with our brands and the passion he has shown for this race team over the years,” Tad Geschickter said. “As hard as it may be, we’re moving in a different direction for the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season and will be parting ways at the end of this season. It’s not an easy decision and change is never easy. We wish him the very best in his endeavors and he will always be family to us.”
JGT Racing PR
The menacing adjectives were flowing last weekend at Richmond Raceway when playoff drivers were asked about this Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at the Roval – the new road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Terrified, crazy and scared were the most often used descriptions about the high-stress 17-turn, 2.28- mile road circuit, which will host the final playoff race in the Round of 16 and determine the four drivers who will not make the cut for the Round of 12.
Martin Truex Jr. was one of those drivers with a daunting outlook about the Bank of America ROVAL 400 before the Richmond race. But after posting a third-place finish at the Virginia short track and securing enough points to clinch a berth in the next round of the playoffs, his trepidation level about the Roval sunk to a point where he even became a little giddy.
“Yippee!” Truex shouted with a beaming smile after learning he was set for the next playoff round. “Not having to worry about the Roval to advance is a giant relief. We’re going to go there and have some fun and see if we can get some more (playoff) points. I feel really bad for the guys who are going to go in there and have to do something (to advance).”
With his recent success at road courses, Truex has earned the moniker as the road race guru. He has two victories and a runner-up in the last three NASCAR Cup Series road races. He won the 2017 road race at Watkins Glen, followed by another win in June at Sonoma Raceway and came in second in the August race at Watkins Glen. He also won the 2013 road race at Sonoma.
“I’ve always said I really enjoy the road courses,” said Truex, who will drive the blue No. 78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota in Charlotte. “But what we’ve accomplished recently at the road races at Sonoma and Watkins Glen really can’t relate to the Roval. It’s just different and I wish we had more practice time on the Roval. I am not sure how the race will shake out, just too many unknowns at this time.”
So far, Truex is once again displaying playoff consistency as he did last year when he won the NASCAR Cup Series championship with a 10-race finishing average of 4.3, which included a 23rd-place finish at Talladega due to a race-ending accident. He had four victories during the 10-race playoff run – at Chicagoland, Charlotte, Kansas and Homestead.
In the first two playoff races of the current season – at Las Vegas and Richmond -- he has scored a pair of third-place finishes, led the most laps in each race and won three stages.
“I felt we had a strong enough car to win at both Las Vegas and Richmond,” said Truex, who enters the Charlotte race as the playoff points leader. “Your first goal is to win, but being consistent with solid finishes goes a long way too. Hopefully we’ll get the playoff wins when we really need them. Outside of the wildcard race at Talladega I feel really good about the other two races in the next round at Dover and Kansas.”
Ragan on Charlotte Roval
"I don’t really know what to expect at the Roval. Michael McDowell did the test for Front Row Motorsports. I’ll be able to lean on him quite a bit. Some of the uncertainty going in is going to go away. Even though it’s a new track and a new tire and new problems that you’re going to face, we’re all professional drivers and teams. We’re going to work through some of those things. And I think you’re going to see the same fast group of cars up in the top 10 or 15 and the same group in the middle of the pack.
"I do think there will be some carnage during the race because there are some really tight parts of the racetrack. It’s a playoff race and a cutoff race, so there should be extra excitement, and I am looking forward to it. I think the fans are going to get a treat because it’s going to be something new and fresh, and it should be a very exciting race."
Ragan Road Course (Sonoma and Watkins Glen) Stats
24 starts, 1 top-20
Best finish: 19th
Ragan Charlotte Stats
23 starts, 1 top-5, 3 top-10s, 5 top-15s
Best finish: 2nd
McDowell on Charlotte Roval
"I think it’s awesome that we’re racing the Roval. I’m really excited. Marcus Smith and everybody at Charlotte Motor Speedway have done a really outstanding job, putting a lot of time and lot of effort and a lot of money into making sure that this thing goes off well.
"I’ve seen over the years that a lot of folks in the industry as a whole do not like change. But I’m excited. I like road courses, obviously. It’s going to be a great race and a good show. We've been fast on road courses this year, and I think we can be fast again in our K-LOVE Radio Ford this weekend."
McDowell Road Course (Sonoma and Watkins Glen) Stats
17 starts, 2 top-15s, 5 top-20s
Best finish: 12th (Watkins Glen)
McDowell Charlotte Stats
18 starts, 1 top-15, 3 top-20s
Best finish: 14th
Sunday, Sept. 30, 11am - Ford Performance display (Charlotte Motor Speedway Fan Zone)
Matt Kenseth fell victim to a pit road penalty and couldn’t recover with an ill-handling car, finishing 25th in his Performance Plus Ford Fusion Saturday night at Richmond Raceway.
Kenseth, a two-time winner at the .75-mile track, rolled off the grid 17th for the 400-lap event, and maintained that position for the opening 50 laps. Crew chief Matt Puccia called him to pit road to split the opening 100-lap stage in half, putting him a lap behind by lap 80. However, he would overcome the deficit, unlapping himself prior to the end of the stage before going on to finish 19th.
Stage two progressed very similar to stage one, going green the entire way before the 2003 Cup Champion crossed the line 23rd, one lap down, at lap 200. He worked his way back inside the top-20 by lap 266, as the team continued making adjustments on his Fusion. Then, coming to his fifth stop under green at lap 320, NASCAR penalized him for a commitment line violation just prior to a caution, the only non-stage caution of the night.
Kenseth was forced to start at the tail end of the field for the final 70 laps, and would go on to finish 25th.
The No. 6 returns to the track next weekend with Trevor Bayne behind the wheel at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s ROVAL. Race coverage begins Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on NBC and PRN.
The official results of Saturday night’s Monster Energy Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway will show that Paul Menard and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team started 21stand finished 22nd.
What those numbers don’t show is a determined effort by Menard and the No. 21 team.
After taking the green flag outside the top 20 on a track that often means going a lap down early due to the relative shortness of the three-quarter-mile oval, Menard finished both of the first two 100-lap Stages on the lead lap. He did so thanks to a short-pitting strategy in which he stopped for four fresh tires under the green flag midway through the stage, falling two laps down to the leader in the process.
With the fresh rubber, Menard ended up passing the leader twice in each Stage to remain on the lead lap for both 100-lap segments.
Thanks to some great driving and equally good pit strategy by crew chief Greg Erwin and perfect execution by the Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew, Menard was still in position for a lead-lap finish halfway through the final stage of the race when he was nabbed for speeding on pit road.
Erwin, who had seen all of his earlier strategy calls deliver the expected result, gambled on taking the wave-around to make up the time lost due to the speeding penalty, but a lack of caution flags pinned Menard and the No. 21 team three laps down all the way to the finish.
Eddie Wood said afterward that he felt good about his team’s performance despite the late-race disappointment.
“We weren’t going to win the race, but we were on track to finish a lot better than we did,” he said. “We ran a lot better than the results showed, and to do that at Richmond was a big improvement for us.
“With no cautions at the end of the race, we never got a chance to make up the ground we lost.
“But all in all, it was a great race, lots of excitement and a great crowd, which is good for the sport as a whole.”
Now Menard and the No. 21 team head to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the first-ever Cup race on the Roval, a new layout that includes portions of the traditional quad-oval and the remainder on the new infield road course.
Race Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 1 Winner: Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing (Toyota)
Stage 2 Winner: Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing (Toyota)
Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-100):
● Kyle Buschstarted 39th, finished 13th.
● While Busch’s official starting position was 11th, he had to go to the rear of the field before the start of the race because his team had repaired damage from contact with the outside wall during qualifying on Friday evening.
● It did not take Busch long to move up through the field, as he found himself in 30th on lap two, 25th on lap seven and in the top-20 by lap 15.
● The 2015 Cup Series champion made it into the top-15 by lap 40, but the long green-flag run didn’t allow the M&M’S team to adjust on the car after Busch radioed to crew chief Adam Stevens that he was lacking forward grip.
● The entire first stage ran caution free, and Busch was up to 13th after the first 100-lap run of the race.
Stage 2 Recap (Laps 101-200):
● Busch started 11th, finished 11th.
● He pitted for the first time on lap 104, taking four tires and a wedge adjustment, and gained two spots coming off of pit road.
● The M&M’S driver settled into the 11th spot for much of the first half of Stage 2.
● Busch still struggled to find the handling during Stage 2, as he radioed to Stevens that he was just too loose up off the corner.
● Stage 2 ended up going green its entire 100-lap duration, and Busch crossed the line 11th at the end of the stage on lap 200.
Stage 3 Recap (Laps 201-400):
● Buschstarted eighth, finished first.
● Stevens brought Busch to pit road on lap 204 for tires and a wedge adjustment. Quick work by the M&M’S over-the-wall team vaulted Busch from 11th to eighth to start the third and final stage.
● In the opening laps of the final stage, Busch was able to make his way toward the front. He was up to sixth by lap 220 and into the top-five by lap 234.
● Busch came to pit road under green on lap 268, and with another excellent stop by the M&M’S crew, he resumed in second spot, within striking distance of leader Brad Keselowski.
● Busch took his first lead of the night on lap 286, sliding by Keselowski and pulling away to lead the next 40 laps.
● Keselowski was scored the leader for a lap during the final round of pit stops under caution on lap 328, but Busch was first on track and led the next 13 laps before Keselowski got back by again on lap 343.
● Busch took the lead for good on lap 364. He stayed in front for the final 36 laps to take the checkered flag .777 of a second ahead of runner-up Kevin Harvick.
● Busch’s victory in this second playoff race of 2018 was his 50th in 490 career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts.
● This is Busch’s sixth victory
● It was his seventh victory and 23rd top-10 finish in 2018, and also advanced him into the playoffs’ Round of 12, which begins Oct. 7 at Dover (Del) International Speedway. The seven victories this season ties him for the series lead with Harvick.
● The victory also gave Busch a sweep of this season’s two races at Richmond, and while he has six career victories at the .75-mile oval, this was his first in the track’s fall event.
● Kyle Busch fan Spencer Shotts had his name and hometown featured on the No. 18 at Richmond as part of M&M’S #18n18 promotion, with one member of Rowdy Nation featured on the No. 18 in every M&M’S race during the NASCAR Playoffs. Fans only need to share a photo with #18n18 for a chance to ride along with Kyle and have their name on the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
"The M&M’S Camry was awesome. The guys did a great job coming back from a dismal qualifying effort and prepared a really good racecar here for us tonight. And, being able to start dead last and come up through the field and win this thing, that’s right Rowdy Nation. All for you, baby. I just wanted to go out there and win this thing – win this thing for M&M’S, win this thing for my team, Toyota, everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota. Obviously, it’s a whole team effort. We were a little bit behind yesterday in qualifying, and the guys did a great job rallying and being able to put it together and giving us a really fast racecar for tonight. Awesome racetrack, and I love coming here. Hey, I finally won a fall race in Richmond. What do you know? My guys – Adam Stevens (crew chief) and my guys – that work on this thing, obviously, I kind of put us a little bit behind there yesterday in qualifying, getting into the wall; and had to go to work this afternoon and put me back together an awesome racecar. So, real proud of the effort and real proud of my guys. This M&M’S Toyota Camry was really good tonight. Early on in the race, the first run of the race, especially when the track hasn’t quite cooled off, yet, you’re always kind of fighting those things of just not a lot of grip. There through the middle part of the race, I think we really had a racecar to contend for the win, and we kind of drove up there. We kept making up spots and making up ground, and I was surprised that it was going as fast as it was going. And then, there at the end, racing as hard as I had to race with the 2 (Brad Keselowski) car, just wore my stuff out a little bit. But, once I was able to get by him, I had some clean racetrack for a little while, and then Harvick started running me down there at the end. I don’t know, 10 more laps and it was going to be a race, so I’m glad this thing is only 400.”
Next Up: The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Bank of America Roval 400 on Sunday, Sept. 30 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. The race starts at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by NBC.
For the second straight playoff race, Martin Truex Jr. posted a third-place result.
His impressive come-from-the-back finish Saturday night at Richmond Raceway earned him enough points to advance to the next round of the playoffs with one race remaining in the opening round of post-season competition.
Truex is one of three drivers advancing (along with Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski), leaving 13 drivers vying for the remaining nine spots in next week’s race at the new road course (Roval) at Charlotte Motor Speedway—Sunday, Sept. 30.
Truex’s top-three finish at Richmond’s 0.75-mile oval didn’t come easy for the defending NASCAR Cup Series champion.
After his No. 78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota dominated the first half of the 400-lap race by winning the first two stages and leading 162 of the first 202 laps, Truex’s momentum stalled when his team was called for a pit road penalty due to an uncontrolled tire. The penalty relegated Truex from first to 21st in track position.
“What an awesome race car the guys brought here,” Truex said after claiming his 17th top-five finish of the season. “The Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota was fast. It was really good all day. But it wasn’t meant to be tonight. Heck of an effort by the guys and good recovery by the guys on pit road. The problem is when you get back there to pass those guys you have to use up your tires. We did really well for only having one caution thrown in there. We needed more cautions so we could pit for tires.
“Thanks to all you guys back in Denver working your butts off to bring these fast cars. We’re moving on — that’s the name of the game and hopefully we’ll get the win when we really need it.”
Truex’s 163 laps led was the most for the race, outdistancing the next closest -- Kyle Busch, who won the race while leading 92 circuits. Truex has now led 675 laps in four of the last five starts at Richmond Raceway’s short track.
“I don’t know what we’ve got to do to win this race,” Truex stated. “We’ve probably led more laps than anyone here that’s not won it.”
After the first two playoff races, Truex has garnered the most points (see point standings below).
The top-10 finishers in order were: Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Truex, Chase Elliott, Aric Almirola, Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski and Clint Bowyer.
The race had three cautions for 23 laps and there were 16 lead changes among eight drivers.