NASCAR Sprint Cup silly season update for 2014

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On Monday, Jeff Burton found a home for 2014 in a part-time role with Michael Waltrip Racing. We haven’t done one of these yet in full for NASCAR Sprint Cup, so here’s a quick recap of who’s going where, who’s set, and what’s still to be determined in the remaining weeks before Daytona testing commences in January. As you can see, the pickings are slim among available remaining rides.

CHEVROLET (17)

  • Hendrick (4): 48-Jimmie Johnson, 24-Jeff Gordon, 88-Dale Earnhardt Jr., 5-Kasey Kahne
  • Stewart-Haas (4): 14-Tony Stewart, 4-Kevin Harvick, 41-Kurt Busch, 10-Danica Patrick, Mark Martin (test driver until Stewart returns)
  • Childress (3): 31-Ryan Newman, 27-Paul Menard, TBA-Austin Dillon (Not officially announced and number to be determined)
  • Earnhardt Ganassi (2): 1-Jamie McMurray, 42-Kyle Larson
  • Furniture Row (1): 78-Martin Truex Jr.
  • JTG Daugherty (1): 47-AJ Allmendinger, with EGR technical alliance
  • Germain (1): 13-Casey Mears, with ECR engines
  • Baldwin (1): 7-Michael Annett, with ECR engines

FORD (10)

  • Penske (2): 2-Brad Keselowski, 22-Joey Logano
  • Roush Fenway (3): 16-Greg Biffle, 17-Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 99-Carl Edwards
  • Petty (2): 9-Marcos Ambrose, 43-Aric Almirola
  • Front Row (2): 34-David Ragan, 38-David Gilliland
  • Leavine Family (1): 95-Michael McDowell

TOYOTA (6)

  • Gibbs (3): 20-Matt Kenseth, 18-Kyle Busch, 11-Denny Hamlin
  • MWR (2+1 PT): 15-Clint Bowyer, 55-Brian Vickers, 66-Jeff Burton (part-time third car; test driver until Vickers returns), 66-Michael Waltrip (Daytona 500 only)

YET TO BE CONFIRMED

  • The Wood Brothers and Trevor Bayne, with No. 21 Ford, have not announced 2014 plans. Have ran a part-time schedule for several years.
  • Both of BK Racing’s No. 83 and 93 Toyotas are TBD. 2013 drivers were David Reutimann and Travis Kvapil.
  • Turner Scott Motorsports takes over the No. 51 Chevrolet formerly of Phoenix Racing, likely driver to be Justin Allgaier.
  • Joe Nemechek’s own team, No. 87 Toyota, TBD on plans after start-and-parking most in 2013.
  • Swan Racing’s No. 30 could be either Chevrolet or Toyota and seeks a young driver. Cole Whitt, Kevin Swindell and Parker Kligerman all possibilities after driving for the team in 2013.
  • Frank Stoddard’s Fas Lane Racing’s No. 32 Ford unsure of its driver. Ken Schrader retired from Sprint Cup after Homestead, Terry Labonte, Timmy Hill and Boris Said also drove in 2014.
  • Joe Falk’s Circle Sport Racing No. 33 Chevrolet TBD; ran most of 2013 with Landon Cassill. No. 33 was also used by RCR for a fourth car in selected races.
  • Tommy Baldwin’s second car, No. 36 Chevrolet, TBD.

OTHER POTENTIAL POSSIBILITIES

  • Possible third car part-time for Ryan Blaney at Penske Racing
  • Possible third car at Front Row Motorsports, the one vacated by Josh Wise
  • Possible that Phil Parsons Racing continues with its No. 98 Ford, although 2013 driver McDowell left for Leavine Family Racing.

MRTI: Barber Recap

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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The weekend at Barber Motorsports Park for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires was a tale of two completely different days.

Saturday was a picturesque Spring day for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, with bright sunshine and temperatures above 70 degrees. Sunday, however, was much cooler and wetter, with rain hitting both the Pro Mazda and Indy Lights races.

Still, the packed weekend for both series produced plenty of drama, and each now sees its championship picture beginning to take shape.

Major stories to surface from the weekend at Barber for both series are below.

Indy Lights

  • Pato O’Ward has been, by a considerable margin, the fastest driver after four races in 2018. A winner of three races – which easily could be four if not for a mistake while leading Race 2 in St. Petersburg – and a polesitter for two, O’Ward has asserted himself as the early-season man to beat in the title chase, leading Santi Urrutia with 110 points to 94. O’Ward already has big-league championship to his name – he was a co-champion of the Prototype Challenge class in the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship last year, and he is poised to add to that in 2018.
  • Victor Franzoni is starting to get his arms around the IL-15. Last year’s Pro Mazda champion gets better with every race, and he earned his first Indy Lights podium in Race 2 at Barber, finishing second. It would hardly be a surprise if Franzoni breaks into the win column soon.
  • Aaron Telitz’s run of hard luck continued in Race 1 on Saturday, as he was collected by a spinning Dalton Kellett and retired from the race with a damaged right-front. That meant through three races, Telitz had completed a combined four corners. Race 2 finally produced a clean day for the 2016 Pro Mazda champion, as he ran all the laps on his way to finishing fourth.
  • Colton Herta scored a double-podium at Barber, with finishes of second and third. Sitting on 83 points, he is 19 back of leader O’Ward. He’ll need to break into the win column to make up ground, but consistently finishing on the podium will also help his efforts, and prevent O’Ward from making big leaps away from him.

Pro Mazda

  • Although he might be disappointed to miss out on sweeping the weekend, Parker Thompson has lots of reasons to smile leaving Barber, as he overtook Rinus VeeKay for the championship lead by four points, 102 to 98. Thompson has had two strong weekends to open the Pro Mazda season, with finishes of second, fifth, first, and second after four races. He and VeeKay have emerged as possible title combatants after the opening two weekends.
  • Speaking of VeeKay, the 17-year-old Dutchman had a quiet weekend at Barber, with finishes of fourth and fifth after lacking pace in qualifying – he qualified seventh and ninth for Race 1 and Race 2. After dominating at St. Pete, VeeKay’s lack of pace was somewhat puzzling, though it could be indicative of a Pro Mazda field that is deep with talent. Expect him to rebound at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course in May.
  • Oliver Askew’s troublesome start to the 2018 season only got worse at Barber, with finishes of seventh and 12th on a weekend in which he never factored into the outcome. The struggles of him and Cape Motorsports is mystifying given their prowess in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda on their way to winning the championship last year. Getting into championship contention at this point is a tall task – he is 46 points behind Thompson – but righting the ship will be priority No. 1 for him and Cape heading to Indianapolis.
  • Harrison Scott enjoyed a great rebound after struggling in St. Pete, where he finished ninth and 12th. He took his first Pro Mazda podium in Race 1, finishing second, and then survived a chaotic and rainy Race 2 to take his first victory. The successful weekend also vaulted him into fourth in the championship.
  • David Malukas has also put together a solid season through four races, with finishes of seventh, second, third, and fifth. The BN Racing driver sits third in the championship, and may well end up challenging for race wins soon.

All three series of the Mazda Road to Indy will be in action at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course during the weekend of the INDYCAR Grand Prix (May 11-12), with USF2000 returning after a two-month break following the season opener in St. Petersburg.

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