For the fifth time in the last seven weeks, NASCAR has suspended a crew chief for rule violations – in this case, for infractions found during post-race inspection following the Monster Energy Series race last weekend at Martinsville Speedway. Mike Bugarewicz (bug-a-RAV-ich) of Stewart-Haas Racing drew a one-race suspension and was fined twenty-five thousand dollars after it was discovered that the weight of the simulated T-V video component on Clint Bowyer’s Number-14 Ford did not meet NASCAR specifications. The team was docked ten owner and driver points, which does not affect Bowyer’s 18th-place position in the point standings. He finished third in Sunday’s First Data 500. Seven crew chiefs across all three of NASCAR’s national series have now been suspended since the 2017 playoffs began in September.
James “Jim” Watson, a road-crew fabricator for Furniture Row Racing’s NASCAR Cup Series teams, passed away Saturday night at the age of 55 after suffering a heart attack.
A native of Greenfield, Wisconsin, Jim had been a member of Furniture Row Racing since February 2017. He worked for Roush Fenway Racing from 2006-2015 and spent last season with HScott Motorsports. Jim was a longtime race car driver, competing in dirt late models and in asphalt super late models throughout southeast Wisconsin.
He is survived by his wife, Laurie, and daughter Brittany.
Martin Truex Junior continued his mighty march to Miami with his seventh victory of the season Sunday at Kansas Speedway, putting an exclamation mark on the second round of the playoffs with two wins in the last three weeks. He’s among the eight drivers who advance to the semifinal round that opens next weekend at Martinsville Speedway but the only one with a stat sheet that makes him a near-certainty to qualify for The Championship Four next month at Homestead-Miami Speedway. With the playoff bonus points Truex has banked this season, he’s already fifty-two above the cutoff that determines the four title contenders who’ll race for a championship – before a single wheel has been turned in the semifinals! Truex started Sunday’s race from the pole and led twice for ninety-one laps, including the final fifty-seven trips around the mile-and-a-half Kansas City oval. His margin of victory over runner-up Kyle Busch was two-point-two seconds with Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin completing the top five … Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 was an elimination race with four playoff participants dropped from title contention. Kyle Larson was sidelined by engine failure and finished thirty-ninth … Matt Kenseth was disqualified for having too many men over the wall working on his car during a pit stop under caution, a rule he said he was unaware of. Kenseth placed thirty-seventh … Accidents sidelined Ricky Stenhouse Junior and Jamie McMurray – saddling them with finishes of twenty-ninth and thirty-fourth, respectively.
To the family of Robert Yates, a legendary NASCAR engine builder and championship team owner who passed away Monday after his long battle with liver cancer. Doug Yates announced his father’s passing on Twitter, saying “My dad and hero … has passed and is with the Lord. Thanks for all the prayers and support.” Yates was selected for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018 in May, leading all nominees with ninety-four percent of the votes. Robert Yates was 74.
Leavine Family Racing has signed Kasey Kahne to drive its No. 95 Chevrolet in the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Kahne is presently wrapping up his sixth and final season with Hendrick Motorsports, and qualified for the 2017 playoffs as the No. 13 seed. He’ll replace Michael McDowell, who did not qualify for the post-season and has a best finish of fourth at Daytona International Speedway in his 27 starts this year.
“I’ll work as hard as possible to help them continue improving,” said Kahne. “I’m ready for this challenge and look forward to making a fresh start.”
“We look at this as an opportunity to go to the next level,” said team owner Bob Leavine. “This deals partially with performance because Kasey is a playoff-caliber driver. He has a wealth of information being with a larger organization like Hendrick Motorsports and we think that will help us. We also look at this as an opportunity for marketing, to be able to sell sponsorship.”
Next stop for NASCAR is Chicagoland Speedway for Sunday’s Tales of the Turtles 400, opening race of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. The ten-race title series will conclude in November at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Furniture Row Racing’s Martin Truex Junior is the top seed with four wins during the regular season, a total matched by Kyle Larson – who is seeded Number-2. Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and defending champion Jimmie Johnson hold spots three through five in the sixteen-man field … The next three races comprise the opening round, after which the bottom four drivers will be eliminated from title contention. Any one of the sixteen qualifiers that wins a race at Chicagoland Speedway, New Hampshire or Dover will automatically advance to the second round that opens October 8th at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Danica Patrick revealed on her Facebook page Tuesday that she will not be returning to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2018. Her post came just hours after S-H-R announced that Smithfield Foods would be joining the organization next season to sponsor an unnamed driver and team. In nearly five full seasons behind the wheel of the Number-10 Monster Energy Series entry, Patrick has failed to qualify for the post-season playoffs and never finished higher than twenty-fourth in the point standings. She ended the 2017 regular season twenty-eighth with a best finish of tenth in her twenty-six starts … And speaking of the Smithfield Foods announcement from earlier in the day on Tuesday, the Virginia-based company is currently sponsoring the Number-43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford for Aric Almirola. Team owner Richard Petty was not pleased with the day’s developments. A statement from Petty was released late yesterday afternoon, confirming that Almirola would not return in 2018 and reading, in part: “Over the past few months, Smithfield had continually told me they wanted to be with us and I recently shook hands on a deal to extend our relationship. I come from a time when we did major deals with sponsors like S-T-P on a handshake. I’m sad to see this is where we are now. This decision is unexpected, and we are extremely disappointed in this late and abrupt change of direction.”