Sunday, August 12, 2018

THE DIGEST: Chase at the Glen, France DUI, Silly Season Rumors & More

Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR Media
What a week in the world of NASCAR racing! This week’s edition of The Digest runs the gamut of a first time winner’s exuberance to the pitfalls of the a CEO in turmoil. Sprinkled in for good measure are plenty of silly season rumors with a new car as the cherry on top.

Chase Elliott Scores First Cup Victory

In his third full time NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series season, Dawsonville, Georgia’s Chase Elliott finally found his way into the winner’s circle by claiming the victory in the Go Bowling at the Glen in Watkins Glen, New York. Elliott held off a stout Martin Truex Jr, who ran out of gas on the final lap after the two raced neck and neck throughout the final stage of the race. This was Elliott’s first win in 99 career starts, after having previously scored eight runner-up finishes.

Elliott was strong throughout the weekend, having topped the leaderboard at the end of final practice and qualifying a solid third place. Elliott continued to show his strength on Sunday leading 52 of the scheduled 90 laps and winning Stage 2 en route to the eventual win.

“Holy cow, what a thrill,” Chase Elliott said in victory lane. “Golly, I don’t know what to say. Just so thrilled, so emotional, so much relief. Working on three years and hadn’t won one. I came here with a great opportunity today and was I was able to get it done.”

The Georgia native almost gave it all away in turn one of the final lap.

"I started to wheel-hop, and I knocked it out of gear in order not to spin out, and luckily I had a big enough gap where he (Truex) couldn't get me; but what a day!"

While Elliott found himself at the top of the heap come the checkered flag, he was only a single caution flag away from possibly having to deal with Kyle Busch. Busch had perhaps the best car in the field, but after a fueling blunder on pit road he found himself restarting the race from the 24th position.

"Every year we come here, we have a fast car and fail to execute,” said Busch. “Whether that's just called bad luck or whatever. Last year we had a lug nut get stuck in the caliper. This year we had fueling problems. It never ceases to amaze me."

 Busch charged through the field and ended up third.

"It was a heck of a lot harder than it should have been," he said. "But that was the predicament we were put in, and we had to go to work. I certainly gave Joe (Gibbs) his money's worthy today."

Brian France Out as NASCAR CEO After DUI

Kyle Busch’s early dominance, Chase Elliott’s breakthrough, pit road mishaps from multiple teams, and tight competition throughout the entire field made this year’s race at Watkins Glen perhaps the best show of 2018 thus far and maybe even the best Cup Series race ever held at the New York road course.

That is what should’ve dominated the NASCAR news scene on Monday, however the poor choice of NASCAR CEO Brian France instead took center stage after the top NASCAR executive was arrested for a DUI in the Hamptons on Sunday night.

Related: France DUI Shows Need for New NASCAR CEO

After being released on Monday from the Sag Harbor Police Department, France quickly issued a statement.

“I apologize to our fans, our industry and my family for the impact of my actions last night. Effective immediately, I will be taking an indefinite leave of absence from my position to focus on my personal affairs.”

Soon afterward, NASCAR also issued a statement echoing Brian France’s leave of absence and announcing that Jim France, uncle to Brian and brother to the late NASCAR leader Bill France Jr, would take the helm of the sanctioning body in the interim.

In the wake of the France’s arrest, the NASCAR world has been left with questions concerning exactly who will be leading the sport into the future. At this time it is unclear if NASCAR will have Brian France resume his duties once his personal affairs are in order, or if the sport will look toward introducing new leadership at its top level.

Stewart Open to Another Indy 500 Run

Tony Stewart
Tony Stewart talked with reporters this week during the unveil of the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series Ford Mustang. He said that he’d be open to another opportunity at racing in the Indianapolis 500.

"I’d want to do at least one race before that," Stewart said. "I’ve been there and ran it. If I go, I’m not going just to run it. I don’t want to be a sideshow like Danica (Patrick) was at Indy this year. If I go, I want to go feeling like I got the same opportunity to win that everybody else in the field does.

"It’s an insult to those guys who do it every week to just show up and think you’re going to be as good as those guys. They are on the their game. They know their cars. They know how they need their cars to feel in traffic to be good in the race. It'd be foolish to think you can just show up and be competitive and think I was going to win."

Stewart did not reveal any hard plans or details, but has simply left the door open for a return to the festivities during the month of May in Indy.

Ford Unveils 2019 Cup Series Mustang

Ford Performance unveiled the 2019 Ford Mustang to be entered into competition in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series on Thursday. The new car replaces the Fusion, which as been in competition for over a decade in NASCAR’s premier series.

Ford has seen an uptick in performance this season as rival Chevrolet has struggled with the introduction of their newest body style, the Camaro.

The introduction of the Camaro came just as NASCAR was transitioning to an optical-scan-based inspection system and a fresh aero rules package for 2018. As a result, Chevy as seen a significant drop in its performance this season, with only two victories after 22 races thus far… the season opening Daytona 500 and last week’s race at Watkins Glen.

It remains to be seen how the new Mustang will stack up, but the hope for Blue Oval loyalists is that having a season of experience with the optical scanners in inspection, and a return (more or less) of this year’s areo package for next year will benefit the transition for Fusion to Mustang and limit the growing pains in 2019.

Silly Season Questions Building Up

The rumor mills are really beginning to crank up as we enter the end of the NASCAR regular season. The dominos are stacked and waiting to for the first to fall in a series of moves that will set the stage for the 2019 season.

Early in the week Bob Leavine, owner at Leavine Family Racing, confirmed to reporters that the team was looking to retain driver Kasey Kahne in 2019. While there is a strong likelihood that Kahne will return to the 95 seat, the big speculation is that LFR will move from Chevy to Toyota next season. The team has informed suppliers Richard Childress Racing that they will not be continuing their partnership after the conclusion of the 2018 season. It has also been confirmed that Leavine is in talks with Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing.

AJ Allmendinger
It was also announced that JTG-Daugherty Racing will move from Earnhardt Childress Racing engines to Hendrick engines after this season. JTG-Daugherty left the RCR technical alliance for Hendrick after last season.

Richard Childress said Sunday in Watkins Glen that replacements would be found for the departure of Leavine Family Racing from the technical alliance and JTG-Daugherty from the engine program next year.

“We’re good,” Childress said. “We’ve got replacements for all of them but one, so we’re fine.”

Speaking of JTG-Daugherty Racing, after several less than stellar seasons and too many missed opportunities to capitalize on raceday, it looks as though AJ Allmendinger may be heading out of the 47 car after this year. Adam Stern, motorsports reporter at the Sports Business Journal has reported that JTG-Daugherty is evaluating its driver lineup for 2019 with speculation that Ryan Preece or Daniel Hemric could be tapped to drive the 47 car.

The biggest bombshell of the week in silly season news came with rumors of Kurt Busch leaving Stewart-Hass Racing with sponsor Monster Energy and heading over to Chip Ganassi Racing, replacing Jamie McMurray. All parties have been pretty quiet about the possible changes, aside from Busch saying, “I’ve talked to a bunch of teams.” A possible replacement for Busch in the SHR 41 car could be in the form of Cole Custer, who currently races for the team in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

The Digest is a weekly recap of top stories and tidbits from the previous week in the world of motorsports. If you've made it this far into the post, thank you. Please consider sharing this content on the interwebs and following PixelatedSPEED on Facebook and Twitter and joining in on the conversation.

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