Tag: Regan Smith

The New World Charter

Talk of a charter system taking over the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series ownership model has heated up as we get closer to the start of the 2016 season. With no firm deal yet, it is hard to speculate on what kind of impact this will have, but we are starting to see movement by teams in preparation of what will come.

The first such move was the dissolving of the Hillman Racing team (#40) and the merger of Cirlce Sport Racing and Leavine Family Racing (LFR). In essence, Circle Sport took its cars and points from their #33 car and has allowed the LFR team to now go for a full season for the first time in their history. While it is always sad to see teams go away because of the impact on the team workers, in this case it was a welcome move.

Circle Sport Racing only seemed to perform when it had direct help from Richard Childress Racing, not only behind the scenes, but with either Ty Dillon or Brian Scott driving. When it wasn’t either one of those drivers, it was a random mix of drivers ranging from Alex Kennedy to Ryan Ellis to even B.J. McLeod. Each one getting the ride because they had some sponsor to bring with them.

In an interview with Popular Speed, Ellis said the days of a driver buying a ride for the weekend could be over. This is the same driver who took to fans to raise money needed for driving. How is this a bad thing? While less teams inherently mean less opportunity, just because a driver has sponsorship does not mean they are worthy of an opportunity.

Furthermore, what is better for NASCAR racing, having more cars that are less competitive or less cars that are more competitive? I would say I’d rather see 35-40 cars out there if they will all compete, versus getting to that magic 43 number that was picked for some reason during the 1998 season.

That point plays into what transpired during the day on Thursday, which was the moves by Tommy Baldwin Racing (TBR). About a month after announcing a sponsor and getting their pictures taken with driver Alex Bowman, TBR released Bowman from his duties.

The cited reason by team owner Tommy Baldwin was “as NASCAR transitions to different business and competition models, teams have to make decisions accordingly.” In plainer terms, TBR needs to be running closer to the front and it might be because the charter might be based upon points positioning from this year.

Baldwin has chosen veteran Regan Smith, who is an upgrade over Bowman, but it is not clear what kind of miracles he can work with the TBR team. They are optimistic in their hire, as we should be optimistic that this charter system can lead to stronger teams going forward knowing they are locked into the field each week.

Question Marks Heading Into Atlanta Over Replacement Drivers

The season opening Daytona 500 is over, but there will be many questions to answer in the coming days for the next event on the schedule. Ironically it involves both of the Busch brothers and polar opposite reasons.

The elder, Kurt, has been indefinitely suspended by NASCAR because of the findings of a local Delaware court to issue a restraining order to keep himself away from his ex-girlfriend. Busch appealed the initial suspension by NASCAR, but the appeals panel upheld the decision and for now Kurt will be in limbo waiting to see when NASCAR might let him back into the sport.

To cover on Sunday, the Stewart-Haas Racing team tabbed Regan Smith. Smith did good job finishing 16th. For Atlanta and beyond, the team has been mum on who might take the reins. This isn’t their first rodeo in dealing with a driver being out, they had to make arraignments prior for Tony Stewart the last two years. My guess is since the Xfinity Series schedule matches up with the Sprint Cup Series schedule, they will have Smith continue to drive for them until Busch is brought back. A wildcard here might be Jeff Burton, who filled in for Stewart last season, and is available until the second half of the season when his new television contract kicks in when NBC takes over.

I like the idea of the team, with its strong Hendrick Motorsports ties, putting in Chase Elliott to make his Sprint Cup Series debut at Atlanta next weekend. It would the perfect setting for Elliott, who grew up down the road in Dawsonville, Georgia, to get his first race under his belt.

For the younger brother Kyle, he is out indefinitely after suffering a compound fracture of his right leg and a broken left ankle. No time table has been announced, but taking in both those injuries, I suspect he will be out of commission for about two months minimum. Thinking back to when Tony Stewart broke his leg in August of 2013, he was out the final three months of the season. He was not even back in a racecar until February of 2014, so that time table for Busch might be even longer.

Who might replace Busch is an interesting question. The team had Matt Crafton fill in on Sunday, with Crafton finishing 18th in his series debut. With gaps in the Truck schedule, he could be a worthy fill in. Looking at the drivers in house for Joe Gibbs Racing you have Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez who could fit the bill. The only question I have with both is being rookies to even the Xfinity Series, would Gibbs rely on them to carry the 18 team with Busch on the sidelines.

A wildcard in this might be Michael McDowell, who’s running for Leavine Family Racing, but they are not expected to attempt all the races. He could possibly pop in when LFR is not planning on running. Anyone who is picked would need Toyota ties, in my opinion, which is why Crafton lined up very well for the team on such short notice.

I would expect both teams to try and line up one driver to take on the schedule instead of picking drivers each week. Who exactly they go with, we’ll have to wait and see what is announced for Atlanta and beyond.

Smith Evening Out At Wrong Time

Regan-Smith-NASCAR-Charlotte-1-2013-Nationwide

Regan Smith finished 12th Saturday night at the Kentucky Speedway. The problem was the two drivers he is chasing in the standings, Sam Hornish, Jr. and Austin Dillon, finished ahead of him. To be exact Dillon finished second and Hornish was fourth.

Which means Dillon gained 11 points and Hornish nine points on Smith. That’s been the story of Smith’s season, his first with JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series. He was able to grab the points lead with a victory at Talladega in race number eight. That’s where he stayed until a 13th place finish at Chicagoland ten races later.

A 19th and 11th the races after Chicagoland don’t seem bad on the outside, but that lead to him finishing fourth at Watkins Glen and dropping to third place.

A tough outing at Mid-Ohio and Bristol (15th and 21st) put him down to fourth in points. He’s been able to dig out of there with a 9th at Atlanta and 3rd at Richmond, but again that was followed up with a 13th at Chicagoland, and a 12th Saturday.

Consistency is something that Smith and his team have lost from the first half of the year. With only six races to go and 45 points to make up, Smith is going to have to be on his game here on out. The good news is three out of the six races he finished in the top-10 the first time around at those tracks.

The next opportunity for Smith to take a chunk out of the points is this weekend at the Dover International Speedway. The 5-Hour Energy 200 can be seen live at 3:30 PM EST on ESPN2.