Christopher Bell Dominates at New Hampshire
Christopher Bell drove himself to his fifth win of the season at New Hampshire on Saturday afternoon.
Bell led 186 of the 200 laps in the Roxor 200, holding off Cole Custer to take the checkered flag. He and Custer are tied with five wins a piece this season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
Finishing second in Stage 1 after a three-wide finish, Christopher Bell elected to pit for fuel and fresh tires before the next stage. Bell dominated the stage with over a six second lead over Justin Allgaier.
With the laps winding down, the action on the track began to heat up. On lap 140, Noah Gragson tagged the wall to bring out a caution, allowing for the final round of pit stops under yellow.
The No. 20 Joe Gibbs Toyota led the way followed by Allgaier, Reddick, Custer and Cindric. Custer made his way up to second and set his sights on Bell.
Menard got into Burton with less than 50 laps to go, bringing out another caution. Bell and Custer were side by side on the restart, but Bell had the advantage.
Custer closed the gap to a 1.5 second lead, but ran out of time and laps.
Bell drove the No.20 Joe Gibbs Toyota to victory lane for the 13th time in his Xfinity Series career.
“I’m very thankful to be driving these Supras for Joe Gibbs Racing. All of our partners, man, they just provide really fast race cars and I’m the lucky guy who gets to drive them.”
Cole Custer, Justin Allgaier, Tyler Reddick and Paul Menard rounded out the top five.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series heads to Iowa Speedway for the U.S. Cellular 250 on July 27 at 5:00 PM on NBCSN.
Larson Scored Fourth Pole of 2017 at New Hampshire
Kyle Larson will start from the pole in Sunday’s Overton’s 301 from New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the fourth time of 2017.
“Our Target Chevy has been really fast all day. It has a lot of speed. Like I really don’t have to drive that hard and it just makes a lot of speed. So, that is good. We are missing Chad (Johnston, crew chief) this weekend and for the next couple of weeks, so good to rebound with a pole,” said Larson. “That is pretty strong out of our organization. I’ve got a great lineup of guys and gals. Hats off to everybody at the shop. It’s been so much fun this year. I have never really been a great qualifier, but this is our fourth pole of the season.”
The first round of qualifying was delayed for 20 minutes. Despite being delayed, numerous teams were still sitting in the inspection line as the round began. Luckily, all teams were able to pass inspection. Larson was fastest in the round at 133.189 mph. Erik Jones was second fastest at 132.172 mph. Jamie McMurray was third fastest at 132.149 mph. Chase Elliott was fourth fastest at 131.906 mph. Brad Keselowski rounded out the top-five at 131.856 mph. All drivers will race in the race on Sunday. Notable drivers who did not advance include Ryan Newman (P25), Austin Dillon (P27), Trevor Bayne (P28), and Danica Patrick (P31).
In the second round of qualifying, Larson was fastest at 133.436 mph. Kyle Busch was second fastest at 132.706 mph. E. Jones was third fastest at 132.370 mph. Martin Truex, Jr. was fourth fastest at 132.287 mph. McMurray rounded out the top-five at 132.222 mph. Notable drivers who did not advance to the final round include Kevin Harvick (P13), Joey Logano (P14), Ryan Blaney (P16), and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (P19).
Larson posted the pole winning speed at 133.324 mph. Truex Jr will start second with his speed of 133.077 mph. Jimmie Johnson will start third with his speed of 132.688 mph. Matt Kenseth will start fourth with his speed of 132.324 mph. McMurray rounded out the top-five with his speed of 132.071 mph. Kahne, E. Jones, Ky. Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Kurt Busch round out the top-10.
The Overton’s 301 will be broadcasted on NBCSN and Performance Racing Network beginning at 3:00 p.m. EDT on Sunday, July 16th.
Logano Explains Season Struggles
Despite winning at Richmond International Raceway, Joey Logano is still looking to fight for his way into the NASCAR Playoffs.
Logano was received an encumbered penalty at Richmond, which stripped his win away for use towards the playoffs. Logano’s car was found to have a trailing arm spacer that was not in complete contact with its corresponding surfaces.
As a result, Logano lost Todd Gordon, his crew chief, for two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points events.
Before the penalty, Logano had an average eight place finish in the first eight events. Before Richmond, Logano led 218 laps. After the penalty, Logano’s average finish was 21.8, while only leading 163 laps in eight races.
However, Logano does not believe the penalty from Richmond is the reason for the slump.
“I think we know what it is and I don’t think it is that. That was so small that it didn’t make our car faster. That is the unfortunate part. it wasn’t something we were trying to do, it was something that happened after the race and it was a 32nd-of-an-inch,” Logano stated.
Logano attributes the struggles to crashing and new different body modifications to the cars.
“After Richmond, we had three crashes in a row. There were some different modifications to our bodies that NASCAR started regulating that took some performance away from our cars and we have to try to make that up. That is kind of the biggest thing right now,” said Logano.
Logano is now in a precarious position sitting right on the bubble of either making the playoffs or sitting out. Logano is currently in a battle with Matt Kenseth for that final playoff position.
“It is going to be a battle to the end for sure. I feel like both the race teams are really good. Both the race teams have fought for championships before. It is kind of interesting that we are both in this unique position right now trying to make the playoffs,” said Logano.
Logano is surprised that he is in the position that he is in, but knows that hard work will be an important key. The biggest key for the No. 22 team and Team Penske as a whole, it is about finding more speed.
“Our team is still capable of winning. We do have to get a little more speed in our cars. I think that is apparent. We have to be able to make our cars faster,” Logano stated.
Logano and his No. 22 team only have eight more chances to either win or score the most points to be able to run for a championship beginning in September.
Truex Not Concerned About Furniture Row's 2018 Plans
With the announcement of Erik Jones returning to Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) in 2017, the future of Furniture Row Racing (FRR) remaining a two-car organization came into question.
The announcement of Jones leaving FRR was expedited after Matt Kenseth made comments last weekend at Kentucky Speedway that he would not be returning to JGR in 2018.
Currently, Jones pilots the No. 77 Toyota for FRR. The car number currently has a charter, purchased from Premium Motorsports over the 2016 offseason.
“It was exciting going to two cars and I know it was something that Barney has thought about and talked about for a long time and I know his plans originally were not for this team to be a one year deal,” said Truex Jr. about the organization moving to a two car organization in 2017.
Truex has seen improvements in the young team throughout the season. Being the veteran driver, Truex has seen the benefits of having a teammate like Jones.
“I’ve enjoyed working with Erik (Jones). He’s been a good teammate. He’s a great kid. Love talking to him and hearing his point of view and things, so it would have been nice to have him for a couple years,” Truex stated. “That program I feel like just keeps getting stronger each and every week and they had a good run last weekend and it’s a shame to see that happen that quickly
Reiterating what he said at Kentucky, Barney Visser, team owner, released a statement about the future of FRR being a two car organization.
"We are working on our team plans for 2018 but don't have anything concrete to report at this time except that Martin Truex Jr. will continue to drive the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota,” Visser stated.
Despite 2018 plans being up in the air, Truex Jr. doesn’t believe the organization would change if they went back to a one car organization. Truex believes the strongest part of the team is that everybody know what they are doing really well.
“We’ve got a really, really tight group of guys that have done a good job working together over the last few year and have a lot of trust and confidence in each other and I think one of the strongest parts of our team is just everybody doing their own jobs and understanding what they are and doing them really well, so I don’t see anything changing,” said Truex.
Despite the uncertain future for a two car organization. Truex is leaving those issues to Visser and Joe Garone, FRR team president.
“I’ll leave that up to Barney (Visser, team owner) and Joe (Garone, team president) and everybody that runs the show,” said Truex.
Truex has scaled to 28 playoff points over the 2017 season. He has three wins, six top-fives, and 12 top-10 finishes. He has lead 1,115 laps.
In his inaugural season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Jones has one top-five, five top-10’s, and has led 31 laps.
In a wreck-filled Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Joey Logano was able to come out on top for the fourth time in the 2014 season for Team Penske. The Connecticut-native, who won his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Loudon, has now locked himself into the Contender Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
During the Sylvania 300, there were 15 cautions as nine of the 16 drivers in the Chase were involved in incidents. However, Logano was able to survive after taking four tires during his final pit stop as his No. 22 Ford worked through traffic as five yellow flags were thrown within the final 50 laps. The victory marks the seventh in 211 career starts for the 24-year-old. Combined with his teammate Brad Keselowski, the Team Penske organization now has eight wins on the year; the first time they have amassed that many triumphs since Ryan Newman won eight races in 2003.
"This is my home race track, the coolest place to win for me," Logano said. "I could never pick a better race track to win. I watched my first Cup race here when I was five and I won that other Cup race here, but I just felt like I had to win one the right way here, and this means so much. I’ve got to thank all the boys at Team Penske. We’re doing what we’ve got to do to win this thing right now – both teams are – and I’m proud of that. This is my home track so it means so much to me.”
Keselowski had the fastest car throughout the race, and led the first 37 laps after starting from the pole. However, during the competition caution period, crew chief Paul Wolfe and he elected to take four tires – contrary to what everyone else did inside of the top 15. Keselowski dropped to 15th on the restart, and fell as far back as 22nd. With a drop more than 100 laps remaining, Matt Kenseth and he got together. Keselowski spun, but didn’t sustain any damage to his car. On Lap 228, the No. 2 Ford was back out front until Lap 268, but wasn’t able to hold onto the lead with a hard-charging Kevin Harvick taking over for a few laps until Logano set sail as he led the final 29 laps.
Jeff Gordon, who was in position to lock himself into Round 2 of the Chase, blew a tire with nine laps remaining in the race. The orange-soaked No. 24 Chevrolet raced inside of the top five throughout the 300-lap event, but finished the day with a 26th-place result. He now sits seventh in points, but is ahead of 12th-place driver Kasey Kahne by 15 markers.
Denny Hamlin finished 37th in the No. 11 Toyota after a wild day for Joe Gibbs Racing. His car was experiencing trouble getting his fuel tank full. During the caution flag on Lap 104, he brought his car down pit road to get the issue fixed. With a lack of comprehension for what was occurring, Hamlin began to scream at his crew chief Darian Grubb. He ended up getting collected in a multi-car wreck on Lap 179, which collected Cole Whitt, Martin Truex Jr. and David Ragan.
Kyle Larson finished in the runner-up position for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. He came on strong late in the race after running outside of the top 20 during the first half of the event. Larson recorded his seventh top-five finish of 2014. His teammate Jamie McMurray had a strong showing at Loudon. The No. 1 car was inside of the top five for the duration of the Sylvania 300. Although he was not able to lead a lap, McMurray was the strongest non-Chase driver in the race. Larson currently holds a 39-point advantage over McMurray for the 17th position in the standings, which is the highest a driver can finish if they did not make the Chase.
Aric Almirola closed the gap to 12th-place in points with a sixth-place result in the No. 43 Ford. He is just 10 points behind Kahne, and is within four markers of the three drivers in front of him. Kurt Busch fell to 15th in the standings as he blew a tire on Lap 221. The finish dropped him back from ninth in points and is now behind Hamlin and Greg Biffle, who finished 16th after being multiple laps down on Sunday afternoon.
Five of the 16 drivers in the Chase finished outside of the top 20. Harvick is now locked into Round 2 of the Chase after finishing in third-place. He is 45 points ahead of Kahne, which is more than a full race advantage.