Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Frontstretch Newsletter: Changes in NASCAR's Ranks; OneMain Downsizes Sadler Relationship

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The Best Seat at the Track, The Best View on the Net!
Jul. 13, 2016
Volume X, Edition CXV
What to Watch: Wednesday

- Today, the open test session at Indianapolis Motor Speedway wraps up.  We'll see if anything interesting comes out of there.

- Also, today is the day that NASCAR releases the weekly Penalty Report.  If anyone gets the hammer dropped on them, we'll report on it at Frontstretch.


Wednesday's TV Schedule can be found here.

Top News
by the Frontstretch Staff

NASCAR Announces Competition Department Promotions

Tuesday, NASCAR announced a number of personnel moves designed to strengthen upper management.  Most notably, former Busch Series racer Elton Sawyer has been promoted from Series Director of the Camping World Truck Series to Vice President of Officiating and Technical Inspection.  Read more

OneMain Not Returning with Elliott Sadler for 2017

Elliott Sadler and JR Motorsports received some bad news this month.  OneMain Financial notified the team at Daytona that they will be leaving JR Motorsports and Sadler at the end of the season. The divorce was made public in a story Tuesday published by NBC Sports.  Read more

Jeb Burton to Make XFINITY Series Return at Indianapolis and Richmond

Tuesday, Biagi-DenBeste Racing announced that Jeb Burton will drive their No. 98 Ford at Indianapolis and Richmond.  Sponsorship will be provided by Estes Express as Burton works on a full-time return to the series after his old No. 43 driven by Richard Petty Motorsports suspended operations.  Read more

Kentucky NASCAR TV Ratings Tie Season Low

Saturday night was a disappointment for NASCAR when the Nielsen ratings from Kentucky were released. One week after posting an increase for the Coke Zero 400, NASCAR found itself dealing with another season-low audience for one of its events.  Read more

Have news for The Frontstretch? Don't hesitate to let us know; email us at with a promising lead or tip.
Editor's Note: Mark Howell is off this week.  In his place, we have Clayton Caldwell with a commentary of his own.

Today's Featured Commentary
Toyota's "Good" Problem
by Clayton Caldwell

Toyota has a problem, a good one. It starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with 18-year-old William Byron. In his first year, Byron has taken the series by storm. In ten starts, he's won four races, including three of the last four. He currently leads veteran Matt Crafton by 13 points in the championship standings.

This season isn't the first time Byron has proven his talents in NASCAR. Last year, he won the K&N Pro Series East championship as a teenager, winning by 15 points over Scott Heckert while visiting Victory Lane four times. The success opened the eyes of Kyle Busch and Toyota who signed Byron to a deal with Kyle Busch Motorsports. Now, he appears destined to move up the ranks in NASCAR. 

Byron isn't the only young driver in the Toyota camp with a lot of promise. The manufacturer has taken pride in developing young talent over the last few years and it's paid off. They have produced budding superstars like Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, Byron and Byron's teammate Christopher Bell. Also in the Toyota camp are Cameron Hayley and Rico Abreu, although that duo find themselves a little bit further down the list; at the moment, they're driving for non Cup-affiliated Truck Series team ThorSport Racing.

This plethora of talent will make for an interesting situation in the coming years. If you look at their NASCAR Sprint Cup program, Toyota has five extremely successful drivers with the addition of Furniture Row Racing and Martin Truex, Jr. All four Joe Gibbs Racing drivers have won multiple races and competed for championships at one time or another. However, those veterans mostly find themselves in the prime of their careers. The eldest driver in the group? That would be Matt Kenseth, who turned 44 years old in March but has been terrific and is coming off a season in which he won five races. Kenseth has shown no signs of slowing down while the three other JGR drivers are 35 or younger and don't appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.

That creates a logjam at Toyota. JGR cannot expand past their four-car operation which means there's not a lot of room to grow for the organization. Expansion would have to come through Furniture Row Racing. It's been rumored that JGR development driver Erik Jones will move to a second team at Furniture Row next season, placed as a teammate to Martin Truex, Jr. pending sponsorship. As for the others, it's going to be interesting. Daniel Suarez has sponsorship from ARRIS and is destined for the Sprint Cup Series. Suarez may be a possible replacement for Kenseth but it's hard to envision another driver moving away from JGR in the foreseeable future. That means Byron's long-term prospects with the manufacturer could be in doubt.

The problem with Furniture Row Racing is they only have one charter and while adding a second team is possible, adding additional ones without a charter could be an issue. With only four extra open spots in the Sprint Cup Series field, having two teams in that boat would be very risky. The only other chartered Toyota team in Sprint Cup currently is BK Racing. While they've taken steps to improve in 2016, the team is still a long way away from winning races consistently and competing for a championship. The underfunded operation could serve as a short-term option but unless things change, it's highly unlikely a long-term move with a young driver will happen there.

That could mean Byron, even though he's currently a Toyota product, will have to move elsewhere if he wants to advance to the next levels of NASCAR. This issue wouldn't be the first time it happened to Toyota as the manufacturer lost both Darrell Wallace, Jr. and Kyle Larson. Wallace left for a full-time ride at Roush Fenway Racing and Larson left for a full-time ride at Chip Ganassi Racing. Both drivers were developed by Toyota but there were simply not enough seats to advance their careers.

Byron is still awhile away from even thinking about a Sprint Cup Series ride and a lot can happen between now and then. But if he continues on his winning ways, the teenager presents the first of many interesting dilemmas for Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota.

Clayton Caldwell is a Contributor for Frontstretch.  He can be reached via e-mail at

by Matt McLaughlin

by Tom Bowles

by Amy Henderson

compiled by Aaron Bearden

by Dustin Albino

by Aaron Bearden


Q: In the late 1990s on shorter tracks, Rusty Wallace was someone that you likely would have to deal with at some point.  The 1999 Jiffy Lube 300 at New Hampshire was no exception.  In this race, Wallace qualified up front and ran well.  However, his race ended early.  What happened?

Check back Thursday for the answer, here in the Frontstretch Newsletter!

Tuesday's Answer:

Q:  In 2001, then-New Hampshire International Speedway had a fresh layer of sealer laid down on the 1.058-mile oval.  The sealer and the Goodyear tire made the track a bit tricky that day and Jeremy Mayfield found that out the hard way.  What happened?

A: Mayfield was running in 13th when he blew a right front tire and hit the wall in turn 1.  The crash aftermath and a replay can be seen here.  Mayfield ended up having to go behind the wall for repairs, but eventually came back out to finish the race 75+ laps down.
In The Frontstretch Newsletter:
We'll have any news that breaks in the world of NASCAR, plus a look at Friday's Subway Firecracker 250 in the Critic's Annex.

Toni Montgomery returns with her weekly look at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, Nitro Shots.
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