Thursday, August 30, 2018

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington


By Carol D'Agostino
Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last five races):
Kevin Harvick- 5
All with 4 - Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman
Both with 3 - Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr.

Driver Rating - Top 10
Since 2015 - Factors in Wins, Finishes, Top-15 Finishes, Average Running Position While on Lead Lap, Average Speed Under Green, Fastest Lap, Led Most Laps and Lead-Lap Finish. A driver can score a maximum driver rating of 150 points per race. Updated Prior to the 2018 race.
SOURCE: MRN.com

Rank
Driver
High Rating
Avg. Rating
1
Denny Hamlin
137.6
110.3
2
Kyle Busch
138.6
105.1
3
Erik Jones
103.1
103.1
4
Jimmie Johnson
141.1
100.8
5
Kevin Harvick
148.9
100.4
6
Kyle Larson
111.1
100.2
7
Martin Truex Jr
125.9
98.8
8
Brad Keselowski
137.4
95.7
9
Matt Kenseth
125.6
93.4
10
Ryan Newman
118.2
93.1
Recent Pole Winners:  
2017 Kevin Harvick
2016 Rained Out
2015 Brad Keselowski

Last Year's Race Winner:  Denny Hamlin

The Likely Suspects: Successful fantasy picks at Darlington require surviving Darlington. These drivers are among my go-tos for Darlington: Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Newman,  Kyle Larson and Jimmie Johnson.

My 2 Cents: When doing your final picks this week remember that experience matters here. If you need to pick between a veteran and a rookie, go for the veteran. Darlington is challenging and the cars won't be looking too pretty at the end, but veteran drivers have a much better chance to make it to the end. My no-brainer pick this week is Kevin Harvick. My next picks are Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones, Ryan Newman and the Dillon brothers Austin and Ty. I'll round out my team with Chris Buescher and Alex Bowman.

My Final Four: Denny Hamlin, Austin Dillon, Ryan Newman and Alex Bowman.

Second-Look Driver: This week's second-look driver is Erik Jones. For a non-veteran at Darlington, Jones is pretty stout here with a series-best average finish of five, having earned one Top 5 and one Top 10. He boasts an average running position of 9.757 which is third best in the series. Our last second-look driver (at Bristol) was William Byron. Despite earning an impressive fifth starting position, his car suffered a handling issue early on that he was never able to recover from. He finished the race in 23rd place.

Points to Ponder:
  • Kasey Kahne leads all active drivers in Busch poles at Darlington with four (2004, ‘05, ’06 and ’11). 
  • Ford leads the series in poles at Darlington with 42 poles; followed by Chevrolet (21).
  • Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers with three wins (2004 sweep, 2012).  
  •  Jimmie Johnson (three) and Denny Hamlin (two) are the only active multiple race winners. Only four other active drivers have won at Darlington – Martin Truex Jr. (2016), Kevin Harvick (2014), Matt Kenseth (2013) and Kyle Busch (2008).  
  •  Hendrick Motorsports has the most wins by an organization at Darlington in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with 14 victories.
  • A total of 11 different manufacturers have won in the series at Darlington; led by Chevrolet with 41 victories; followed by Ford (28).
  • The first starting position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (20) than any other starting position at Darlington. The outside front row (second-place) has produced the second-most wins (17).   
  • Denny Hamlin leads all active drivers in second-place finishes at Darlington with three; followed by Kevin Harvick with two.
  • Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in top fives with nine; followed by Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman with seven each. 
  • Ryan Newman leads all active series drivers with 13 top 10s; followed by Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson with 12 each.
  • Denny Hamlin leads all active drivers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in average finishing position at Darlington with a 5.833 (12 starts).
  • Two active series drivers have an average finish inside the top-10 at Darlington: Denny Hamlin (5.8) and Kyle Larson (8.7).
    Remember, if you're playing Driver Group Game, make your picks by 8 a.m. EDT on Saturday, September 1st, and your final picks by 6 p.m. EDT on race day Sunday, September 2nd.

    Enjoy the race! Post your comments here or follow me on Twitter at @purplecatpr.

    Monday, August 27, 2018

    Trackin’ Trucks: Justin Haley Wins at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park

    Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs

    by Courtney Horn

    Justin Haley earned his second win of the season on Sunday in the Chevrolet Silverado 250 at the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Ontario, Canada.

    Haley led just two laps on Sunday, before clinching a spot in the next round of the playoffs with his victory.
    Haley was running third when race leader Todd Gilliland and Noah Gragson were fighting for position. The No. 18 Toyota of Gragson went into the final corner at Gilliland’s door before making contact, which resulted in both drivers spinning out.

    That paved the way for Haley to squeeze by unharmed to earn the first ticket to the next round of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs.

    “We were just in the right place at the right time,” Haley said. “I can’t thank everyone at GMS Racing enough; it was a truly blessed day.”
    Gilliland had a different perspective of the day. He vividly expressed his thoughts on his run-in with his Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate.

    “I should have never let him get to me,” Gilliland said. “We should have given him the inside. We had the fastest truck and we didn’t win again. I’d go fight him right now, but I can’t.”
    Gragson took full responsibility of the incident and apologized to his teammate as well as the organization that he drives for.

     “I apologize to Todd, the No. 4 team and everyone at KBM,” Gragson said after the race. “I was expecting a little more room on the bottom and we made contact. Again I want to apologize to everyone on that 4 team, that was on me.”
    John Hunter Nemechek finished second after being involved in a wreck on Lap 49. Brett Moffitt finished third, followed by Timothy Peters and Matt Crafton.

    Stewart Friesen finished seventh after an eventful afternoon in Canada. The Halmar-Friesen Racing driver was a lone spinner in the early laps of Stage 1, but Friesen was able to continue without damage to his No. 52 Chevrolet.  

    However, he was involved in a multi-truck incident with Nemechek and the No. 22 of Austin Wayne Self. Self finished in the 21st position, the last truck on the lead lap.
    A Look Ahead (Into The Playoffs)
    The Camping World Truck Series have the next two weeks off before they return to Las Vegas on Friday, September 14th for the World of Westgate 200.

    Brett Moffitt sits second in the Playoff standings, just six points behind points leader Johnny Sauter.
    Friesen and ThorSport Racing’s Matt Crafton are tied for fifth, with 2,047 points to their credit.

    Sauter finished second to Kyle Busch at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March. Can he seal the deal this time to clinch his way into the Round of 6?
    Find out on September 14, 2018 at 9 PM/ET on Fox Sports 1.  

    Travel Tips: Darlington Raceway – Aug. 31-Sept. 2, 2018

    credit: NASCAR Media

    The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and Xfinity Series visit the “Track Too Tough to Tame,” Darlington Raceway in Darlington, SC, for the annual Southern 500 weekend, Friday through Sunday, Aug. 31-Sept. 2. The Cup Series’ Bojangles’ Southern 500 goes green on Sunday, Sept. 2, while the Xfinity Series runs in the Sports Clips Haircuts VFW 200 on Saturday, Sept. 1.

    Festivities kick off on Thursday, August 30 with the 14th annual Darlington Car Hauler Parade and Race Fest. Race Fest begins at 4 p.m. ET at the Florence Civic Center, featuring a KidsZone, a silent auction and more. The Hauler Parade leaves the Civic Center at 7 p.m. ET; it makes its way through Darlington Square before ending at the “Track Too Tough to Tame.” 

    Celebrate seven decades of NASCAR on Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET. This ticketed event will feature NASCAR driver and personality appearances from (scheduled to appear) Chase Elliott, Jeff and Ward Burton, Ray Evernham, Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and others. Your $100 ticket includes admission, light appetizers and Coca Cola beverages and water, a commemorative memento, parking pass and more.

    Key on-track times:

    Friday, Aug. 31
    • Xfinity Series practice – 1:05 and 3:05 p.m. ET
    • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – 2:05 and 4:05 p.m. ET
    Saturday, Sept. 1
    • Xfinity Series qualifying – 12:25 p.m. ET
    • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying – 2 p.m. ET
    • Xfinity Series Sports Clips Haircuts VFW 200 – 3:30 p.m. ET
    • 7 Decades of NASCAR Saturday Night Celebration – 8 p.m. ET
    Sunday, Sept. 2
    • Clay Walker pre-race concert – 4:25 p.m. ET
    • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bojangles’ Southern 500 – 6 p.m. ET
    Fans attending the race weekend can check out the event guide here.

    Find out more about the event and purchase tickets at www.darlingtonraceway.com.

    Wednesday, August 22, 2018

    Recap: Camping World Truck Series Playoff Media Day



    by Courtney Horn

    The Camping World Truck Series Playoff Media Day took place on Tuesday, August 21, 2018 at FOX Sports Studios in Charlotte, North Carolina.

    All eight playoff contenders were present for the event, including former CWTS champions Johnny Sauter and Matt Crafton.

    Five of the eight playoff drivers this season are in the playoffs for the first time in their careers. They include: Grant Enfinger, Stewart Friesen, Noah Gragson, Justin Haley, and Brett Moffitt.

    Drivers are already looking ahead into the playoff schedule for tracks that they consider being their best shot at making the second round.

    Brett Moffitt
    Photo by: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs

    Moffitt, a four-time winner this season, is looking at Las Vegas.

    “We were really really good in the spring,” Moffitt said of his third place finish in March. “The road course we ran good at Watkins Glen in a K&N car. Hopefully some of that will transfer over, and it’s obviously nice having some bonus points going in.”

    Stewart Friesen
    Photo by Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs

    Friesen, who is fifth in the Playoff standings ahead of the Chevrolet Silverado 250 in Ontario, Canada, is looking forward to continue the momentum he’s built into the Playoffs. 

    “We knew coming in [that] we have quality, winning equipment,” Friesen said. “I don’t think we have succeeded our expectations at all, being a new race team. That alliance with GMS has picked us up and kicked us right into the hunt.”

    Haley is looking to make some noise after missing the playoffs last year. The GMS Racing driver has a 9.6 average finish through 16 races, with five top-five finishes and 12 top-10 finishes.

    Justin Haley
    Photo by: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs

    “I feel like the playoffs are our best string of races there are,” Haley said. “I feel like our biggest disadvantage right now is Homestead. We went there and tested last year, but like I said we are kinda saving this truck. We’re gonna run it at Vegas and then Homestead that way we have time to rebuild it.”

    “I’m really looking forward to the playoffs and I think it’s a strong suit for our team.”

    Two-time CWTS champion Matt Crafton is looking to turn things around to advance into the next round of the playoffs. Crafton is winless so far this season, and despite his success in years past, can be considered as a dark horse pick for the championship this year.

    Matt Crafton
    Photo by: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs

    “We were terrible the first part of the season, so we can’t get any worse,” Crafton said. “I know we can get a lot better.”

    The Camping World Truck Series kicks off the post season at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park on Sunday, August 26th at 2:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.

    Tuesday, August 21, 2018

    Travel Tips: Canadian Tire Motorsport Park – Aug. 24-26, 2018

    credit; NASCAR Media

    NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series heads north of the border Friday through Sunday, Aug. 24-26, for the Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmansville, Ontario, Canada. The Truck Series will be joined by the Canadian Touring Car Championship, the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada, the Nissan Micra Cup and the NASCAR Pinty’s Series.

    Key on-track times (NASCAR times only):

    Saturday, Aug. 25:
    • Camping World Truck Series practice – 9:30 and 11:35 a.m.ET
    • Pinty’s Series practice – 1:05 p.m. ET
    • Pinty’s Series qualifying sessions – 5 and 5:25 p.m. ET
    • Camping World Truck Series qualifying – 6 p.m. ET
    Sunday, Aug. 26:
    • Pinty’s Series Total Quartz 200 – 11:05 a.m. ET
    • Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 – 2:30 p.m. ET
    Find a complete schedule for the weekend here.

    Find out more about the weekend and purchase tickets at canadiantiremotorsportpark.com.

    Travel Tips: Road America – Aug. 23-25, 2018

    credit: NASCAR Media

    The Xfinity Series has a stand-alone race this weekend, Thursday through Saturday, Aug. 23-25, at Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI. Joining the Xfinity Series for the Johnsonville 180 weekend are the SCCA Pro Trans Am Series and the Speed Energy Stadium Super Trucks Series.

    The annual Hauler Parade to Road America takes place Friday at 5 p.m. CT. The parade departs from Plymouth High School and ends at the track. The free event begins at 11 a.m. CT with family fun activities.

    Fans looking for something to do throughout the weekend can check out public karting, zip lining and disc golf at Road America. Fans 14 and older (parent/guardian must be present if under 18) can participate in karting at the Road America Motorplex, in the infield over the Johnsonville Bridge, in karts that reach speeds up to 40 mph. There is also disc golf for all ages located across from the Gearbox concession stands in the paddock (front nine) and west of the Sargento Bridge (back nine) – rental discs are available in the Paddock Shop. In addition, the first 48 teams to register ($30 per two person team by Aug. 21) can compete in the Checkered Flag Cornhole Tournament on Friday, Aug. 25 from 5-10 p.m. CT – find out more here.

    Key on-track event times for the Xfinity Series:

    Thursday, Aug. 23
    • NASCAR Hauler parade arrives at track – 5:30 p.m. CT
    Friday, Aug. 24 –
    • Xfinity Series Rookie Track Ride – 11:45 a.m. CT
    • Xfinity Series practice – 12:35 and 2:35 p.m. CT
    Saturday, Aug. 25 –
    • Xfinity Series qualifying – 11:35 a.m. CT
    • Xfinity Series Johnsonville 180– 2 p.m. CT
    Find a complete schedule for the weekend here.

    Find out more about the track and purchase tickets for the weekend at www.roadamerica.com.

    Monday, August 20, 2018

    Right Sides Only: Notes from the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race Winning Crew Chief, Billy Scott

    by Stacey Owens

    If you've ever been to a race and listened to drivers and crew chiefs talk to each other on their headsets, you know that they speak a language unlike any other. Often, those conversations don't go as planned. On Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway, however, Kurt Busch and his crew chief, Billy Scott, understood each other better than ever before.

    "It takes time to learn that communication, what somebody means. But I think now when he says something pretty simple and short on the radio, we get what he's talking about," Scott said.

    More specifically, Busch was able to tell Scott what direction he needed to go with pit stops.

    "Yeah, much to that point, Kurt has a lot of experience and knowledge to know what it takes to get the job done, how to keep perfecting the car as the race goes. We did make a conscious effort to keep -- started out the year having a lot of good runs in the first part of the races, running up front.  It's a lot to capitalize on it, adjusting in the right direction at the right time. That's something that is tough here of all places. Tonight had good feedback back and forth on what direction to go, what we need to keep getting better towards the end of the race," Scott explained.

    Scott has worked alongside several other drivers. What's his opinion of Busch's teambuilding skills when it comes to rallying the team?

    "I've been fortunate to be involved in some good teams along the way. That's carried over into my mentality, too. We've had just in the last month numerous events, going to the rock quarry, his birthday party, even we went testing in Texas this week. The guys that were there, we all hung out at the basketball court at the hotel shooting hoops, joking around, making fun of each other.
     "You can tell, he genuinely loves everybody on the team, believes in them. All that does make a huge difference. It's special to get a lot of them their first win. As a group to win, it will be cherished and appreciated," Scott explained.
    Credit: 357392Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
    When a champion has driven in several races without a win, he may start to get a little anxious. Scott talked about Busch's ending his winless streak.
    "First off, he obviously knows what it takes... But he's never lost the confidence. I don't think it's ever been a question of if the next one will come, it's when. There's been a lot of opportunity there. It's just putting it all together.
    "These things are no doubt everybody knows it's hard to win. Everything has to go right. You have to be in the right position at the right time, have the car right, not have damage, everything else that goes into it.
    "I think it's been clear to him, he's had plenty of opportunity to do so. It just hasn't all come together.  I don't know how it was before, he can elaborate on that part, but just having that confidence carry over to us, we could feel it. He didn't ever question whether it was a possibility to win, it was always we're going to win, we just need to put it all together. Yeah, tonight is a good example," Scott said.
    The question that remains is, "Can they put it all together at the right time, especially as the playoffs come into the picture next month?"
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 
      Stacey Owens lives just outside Music City USA. She's always wanted to be a NASCAR writer, so working as a columnist and support editor for Skirts and Scuffs allows her to live that dream every single weekend.
       The sole NASCAR enthusiast in her home, she's hopeful that one of her three daughters might also harbor an appreciation for NASCAR, but it isn't looking good so far. 
       This self-admitted grammar nerd also loves country music, though she can't carry a tune; Kentucky basketball, even though at 6' tall, she's never played a day in her life; and her husband who's supportive of her NASCAR obsession... as long as she allows him to obsess over college football every fall.