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NASCAR Race Today: January 2019 Interview with nascarman

Out with the old of 2018 & in with the new of 2019.

There are only seven Sundays left before the 1st Round of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Season.

That’s where the Super Bowl of NASCAR will take place at the iconic Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida.

For now, we go through what the current Cup teams have been up to during the off-season.

We’ll find out as I interview Racing Reference‘s NASCAR & Auto Racing History Writer “nascarman” AKA Tom.

Questions & Answers

1. Stewart-Haas Racing will, at last, unveil Kurt Busch’s replacement next week to drive the No.41 Ford Mustang.

Which driver will take over and why should he deserve that vacant spot to succeed as do the other SHR team-mates?

I think the safe assumption is that Daniel Suarez will get the 41 car as has been rumored for months.

As an Xfinity champion, that’s a safe choice and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him running as well as Almirola did in 2018.

It’s almost odd to say it, but this is probably a step up for Suarez from Joe Gibbs Racing.

But I’d like to know why exactly it’s taking so long to announce this. It’s about a month before the Daytona 500 and still no one has been confirmed.

I remember when Kasey Kahne was announced as a Hendrick driver a year and a half before he started driving for them. Odd for sure.

2. How is Ryan Newman’s addition to the Roush Fenway Racing will create competition to his new team-mate, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., & push this organization competing towards winning races again which is something they haven’t done in recent years?

Adding a veteran to Roush Fenway will help.

It’s good to have someone who knows what a good car is supposed to feel like and what to ask for to change it.

It’s hard for someone like Trevor Bayne to come into a team that’s struggling and make changes to turn it around because he’s never done that before.

Young drivers only succeed when the team they enter is performing well, and I don’t know if Bayne ever stood a chance.

In the past year, Matt Kenseth had a better average finish of 19.9 compared to Bayne’s 23.9.

A veteran is better suited to “turn around” a team that has been underperforming for years.

Will he and Stenhouse be playoff contenders? Hard to say, but I think they’ll be closer this year.

3. After Click n’ Close has cut ties with Richard Petty Motorsports, How does it affect Bubba Wallace’s plans to complete the season in this year’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series?

I wouldn’t say losing Click n’ Close is going to devastate the team.

You hate to see a anybody leave but they only were primary sponsors for 3 races. It hurts but it doesn’t devastate.

Wallace is someone who should represent sponsors well.

I’m taking the optimistic route, if they could get Click n’ Close, they can get someone else for a partial schedule.

Maybe they’ll make more progress at finding money as the season goes along. 

4. As Kurt Busch arrives at Chip Ganassi Racing to drive the No.1 Chevrolet, Why CGR has replaced McMurray with Ku.Busch and how does his expertise will help him, and Kyle Larson improve the competitiveness of this organization?

Ku.Busch is someone who has a history of improving teams. In the year he drove for Furniture Row Racing, Kurt had 11 top-5 finishes for a team that had only 3 in their entire existence before he got there.

And compared to McMurray, Busch led more laps in 2018 than McMurray has since 2011. He should improve that team and get closer to Larson’s level of performance. But maybe Ku.Busch won’t improve the team.

If he runs lousy all year, he might just leave the team at the end of 2019. It gets to a point where drivers don’t want to be aggravated anymore.

So if he does leave, who would be next in line?

Chastain is the 3rd highest ranking driver at Ganassi but what happens to him now that the FBI closed his only sponsor, DC Solar?

He has to be the most nervous man in NASCAR now. 

5. Joe Gibbs Racing has undergone some changes at recent times, how does the addition of Martin Truex Jr. in the No.19 seat will help return to winning ways as last done in 2016 with Carl Edwards and will the change of crew chief, at last, improve Denny Hamlin after a winless 2018 campaign?

I think having Truex and Pearn in the 19 car will do more to improve the team than just changing either the driver or crew chief.

That team should be front-runners right from the beginning.

And changing Hamlin’s crew chief is a risk. With Mike Wheeler as his crew chief, Denny has had 66 top-10 finishes over the last 3 years. That’s hard to improve on.

6. It’s great to see Corey LaJoie have his opportunity to race for GO FAS Racing. Why does LaJoie have a shot to produce the results that predecessor Matt DiBenedetto has done over the last two years?

If so, will Lajoie deserve a big-team ride in years to come like DiBenedetto has done to earn another ride at Leavine Family Racing or fans still see him as a prone wrecker?

I think LaJoie and DiBenedetto are similar drivers and will get similar results.

DiBenedetto had 6 top-20 finishes in 2018, that’s a good number for LaJoie to aim for in 2019.

As that team grows, LaJoie can be a good long-term driver for them. 

7. Hendrick Motorsports has also made changes at recent times where Jimmie Johnson has a new sponsor (Ally Financial) & crew chief (Kevin Meendering) in place while Chad Knaus heads over to mentor William Byron.

How will these several changes, at last, put a Chevy back in the Championship 4 mix has not appeared at all since Johnson won his eighth title three years back?

I’m still skeptical about splitting up Johnson and Knaus.

When a pairing like that win 7 championships together, I don’t think you should ever split them up.

No matter how respected Meendering is, that’s incredibly ambitious to think he’ll provide better results than a 7 time champion crew chief.

But will Knaus do much to revive the pitiful 24 car?

Darian Grubb was the crew chief in 2018 and the car was rotten. Grubb’s a very successful crew chief who in six seasons as a full-time crew chief entering 2018, finished outside the top-7 in points only once.

Byron has a lot on his shoulders to turn around a team that was declining with Kasey Kahne as its driver (then numbered 5).

Its a similar situation to Trevor Bayne, can a young driver help a team turn around its performance?

No matter who is crew chief, the driver has a hand in asking for the right adjustments. 

8. Richard Childress Racing hired Daniel Hemric to drive the No.8 car alongside Austin Dillon in the No.3 seat this year.

Yes, they have a 2018 Daytona 500 trophy in their cabinet thanks to Dillon’s sensational comeback within a lap or two to go.

But they haven’t found the natural feel they’re after through most of the season such as winning races even though Dillon made the Playoffs.

How do these changes such as the addition of Hemric & Danny Stockman helping out Dillon as Crew Chief will push RCR to a level that they’ve never achieved before?

Pairing Dillon with Stockman is a good choice because of all the success they’ve had together.

Hemric is a bit of a mystery. He’s been running really well in Xfinity, but he’s never won a race. He’s never won a race in ARCA, Modifieds, K&N East, Trucks, or Xfinity.

And he’s being asked to improve the results of the 31 Cup team that only had 9 top-10 finishes in 2018.

No matter how good he ran in Xfinity, that’s a tall order for him to help a team improve. 

9. It’s great to see Matt Tifft and Ryan Preece enter the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

How will these two rookies perform with their respective teams after years of racing at XFINITY Series & Truck level?

Tifft is another driver who’s never won a race in ARCA, K&N East, Trucks, Xfinity but has a Cup ride.

He has inexperience and brand new team working against him. If he beats one other full-time team in points, that’s good.

2019 will be a growing year for that team, maybe 2020 will be better.

And Preece is a driver with high expectations. I love that a northeast modified driver is in Cup. Preece’s wins in Xfinity proved that the modified guys in Connecticut can compete against anyone and win.

But Allmendinger performed quite well in that car, getting top-10s at short-tracks, super-speedways, and road courses, tracks that are known for being places where a driver can make a difference in performance.

I think Allmendinger got everything that is possible to get out of that car, if Preece can match A.J.’s stat of 5 top-10 finishes, that’ll be a good first season. 

10. Which driver in your opinion will win this year’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship?

I think Kyle Busch will win the Championship in 2019.

Changing cars model hurt Chevrolet very much in 2018, and I think Ford will take a step back in 2019 with their new Mustang as teams figure it out.

Toyota isn’t changing their car, Gibbs is bringing Truex and Pearn into the team, and Adam Stevens is a good crew-chief.

They’ll win the regular season championship and enter Homestead as the favorites.

Conclusion

Thank you to “nascarman” for your time, consent caption for the feature (Although, that’s not him, just his social media avatar) photo and I hope we talk again very soon.

If you like to keep in touch with “nascarman” AKA Tom, make sure you follow him on Twitter & YouTube where he provides his library of throwback NASCAR content.

Plus you can follow & read his range of articles via the Racing Reference’s Blog Archive page here.

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