Nashville Speedway, Nashville, TN — June 25, 2023
With a week off since the last Cup Series race at Sonoma, NASCAR’s silly season has shifted into high gear. With the retirement of Kevin Harvick at the end of the 2023 season, many teams were looking at roster moves based on who would fill the seat in the #4 car for Stewart-Haas Racing.
We now know what has been widely rumored for some time. Josh Berry will replace Harvick. We learned the move’s particulars began last year, long before Berry impressed team owners in his substitute stints driving for Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman while they recovered from injuries.
During interviews at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend, Kyle Busch walked into the Media Center and stated, if you wanted to have a Cup Series ride, you needed to show up with a $6 million check.
Team owner Tony Stewart put a completely different spin on driver selection with the Josh Berry announcement.
“I am not interested in some kid’s father coming and buying their way into the Cup series. I have zero interest in that. We want guys that earn their way, that work hard, that understand the values that it takes to be a top-tier driver – not one that just got his high school diploma and now all of a sudden he’s a Cup driver.”
Stewart continued, “Josh has put in the time, the effort, and every time he’s got an opportunity, he’s made the most of it. Those are the traits that championship drivers are built off of, not the easy ticket to get there. This guy has had to sit there every time he’s made a change. He’s had to make the most of it. That’s why.”
Berry’s comments. “It means a lot, it was an amazing journey to get here racing late model stocks and Xfinity cars for JR Motorsports, and the success we had is something that I will forever look back on so fondly, enjoying those moments so much to get here.”
“The reality of it, heading to the Cup series, is that nobody really cares what your path was to get there. I’m ready for that challenge. I’m ready for the opportunity that’s ahead of me: To try to make a name for myself in the Cup series. I’m proud of how I got here, but the work for 2024 starts today… and it started before today as well.”
Other NASCAR News
If rumors are to be believed. Martin Truex Jr. will return for another season at Joe Gibbs Racing, and Denny Hamlin will continue to be a teammate at JGR.
Aric Almirola will retire again at the end of 2023. Former teammate Cole Custer may get another shot in the Cup Series as Almirola’s replacement at SHR.
Ford driver Zane Smith, last year’s Craftsman Truck Series champion and current Xfinity driver, may have to wait another year for his shot at a Cup ride.
Teams and drivers are crediting NASCAR for changing the start time of this year’s Ally 400 to an evening time slot. With weekend daytime highs in the 90s, night racing will be a full 20 degrees cooler.
Stages are set for 90/95/115 laps making up the 300 laps around the 1.33-mile D-shaped track. Chase Elliott is the defending champion of the race. He starts 14th tonight. Ross Chastain won his first Cup Series Pole and will start on the front row next to Tyler Reddick.
Coming from an off weekend, the NASCAR Cup Series teams are refreshed and focused on the different tasks each has in front of them, with just ten races left in the regular season. Wins and playoff points are at a premium. Expect tonight’s race to be a hotly-contested affair.
At the drop of the green flag, the front row raced side-by-side into turn one. Out of turn two, Ross Chastain(1) moved up in front of Tyler Reddick(45) and began to build an interval between the two. It took a couple of laps for Reddick to find the handle on his car and he then closed up behind Chastain to follow the number one car as the pair pulled away from the field.
Kyle Busch(8) had an early incident that cost him some track position. He ran over something that punctured the right rear tire of his race car and he was able to determine there was a problem before the tire came apart. The early pit stop for four new Goodyears put Busch a lap down.
Chastain held the lead until the entire field pitted at the mid-point of the Stage for fuel and tires. Once pit stops had cycled through, he returned to the front of the pack. The green flag pit stops allowed Busch to gain back the lap he lost during his off-schedule stop.
With 30 laps to go in Stage One, Reddick made a pass for the lead and was able to hold the position. Despite several challenges from Chastain. Busch was able to recover from his early trouble to finish seventh.
Stage One Results
|4||19||Martin Truex Jr.||7|
Despite Logano and Blaney showing some strength before pit stops began, no Fords finished in the top 10 at the end of Stage One.
After Stage ending pit stops, William Byron(24) exited pit road with the lead. Chastain, Martin Truex Jr.(19), Reddick, and Kyle Larson(5) made up the top five. A three-wide battle for the lead developed with Chastain on the high side, Byron in the middle, and Truex on the bottom of the track for three circuits around the speedway.
Truex ultimately prevailed for the top spot with Byron and Reddick moving ahead of Chastain for the third position. Once out front Truex began building an advantage on the remainder of the field.
Green flag pit stops again began at the mid-point of the Stage. Four tires and fuel were the standard for all teams. Reddick’s crew failed to get the right rear wheel tight on his car. He realized the problem as soon as he was back to speed on the track and headed for pit road off turn four. The car got squirrely and he spun at the beginning of the pit road.
The first yellow for cause waved as NASCAR deemed the situation a safety concern. Reddick was able to get the car headed in the right direction and rolled into his pit stall on three wheels. He lost two laps in the process.
Some new names appeared at the front of the field as the caution occurred during pit stops and scrambled the running order. Truex remained the leader, followed by Denny Hamlin(11), Brad Keselowski(6), Bubba Wallace(23), and Byron. On the restart, Keselowski had a problem accelerating. He was hit in the rear by Byron so hard it knocked Keselowski’s hand off the shifter, further causing the car to lose ground on the track.
Cars began to stack up and near mid-pack Kyle Busch ran into the back of Ryan Blaney(12) sending both cars sliding into the grassy part of the front stretch. Busch avoided further contact. However, Blaney ran headfirst into the wall past the exit of pit road.
The impact destroyed the front of Blaney’s Ford Mustang and he was slow to exit the vehicle before taking the ride to the infield care center. Blaney was released after a quick evaluation and said he felt okay. He did say it was one of the hardest hits of his career.
Truex and Hamlin line up again for the restart and the pack fires off this time without incident. Hamlin and Truex run four laps trying to sort out the lead before Hamlin finally noses ahead and is able to pull up the track ahead of his teammate.
Hamlin is able to hold the lead to the finish of the second Stage.
Stage Two Results
|2||19||Martin Truex Jr.||9|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
The Final Stage
Hamlin and Truex again pace the field at the front of the pack. This time Hamlin pulls away with a good jump at the start. Truex and Chastain are the two cars going side-by-side for the second position. After three laps, Truex pulls ahead as Christopher Bell(20) was about to be the third car in the mix.
The three drivers maintained the running order until with 75 laps to go, Chastain caught and passed Truex for second. Five laps later, Chastain took the lead away from Hamlin.
Green flag pit stops began with 65 laps to go and the window for completing the race with a full tank of gas was reached. Chastain was back out front after all pit stops had cycled through. But, Truex replaced Hamlin in second with a four-second interval between them.
As the leaders worked their way through lapped traffic, Truex closed to the bumper of Chastain with 30 laps to go.
Chastain managed the lappers better than Truex and built the interval to almost a second in the process. With 10 laps to go Truex had cut into the gap the leader held until he reported to his crew that he had overheated the rear tires and was not going to be able to catch Chastain.
The victory locks Chastain into the playoffs and takes some of the pressure of points racing out of the picture over the next nine races.
Michigan’s Erik Jones finished eighth, running in the top ten for the latter part of the race.
|1||William Byron||558||In Win(3)|
|2||Kyle Busch||528||In Win(3)|
|3||Martin Truex Jr.(Points Leader)||576||In Win(2)|
|4||Kyle Larson||475||In Win(2)|
|5||Ross Chastain||558||In Win|
|6||Christopher Bell||531||In Win|
|7||Denny Hamlin||512||In Win|
|8||Ryan Blaney*||502||In Win|
|9||Joey Logano*||462||In Win|
|10||Tyler Reddick||437||In Win|
|11||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||415||In Win|
|NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Cut Line|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Chase Elliott continues to move up in the standings and could possibly make the playoffs on points. Three drivers battle it out for the final playoff spot separated by just 10 points. Martin Truex Jr. continues to lead the regular season points standings.
Next week is the inaugural street race from Chicago. The Lasco Press will be live on-sight to provide coverage of the event.
Results of the Ally 400 from Nashville Speedway
|2||19||Martin Truex Jr.||0.789||300|
|22||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||-1||299|