One of the biggest surprises of the young NASCAR season has been the strength of Ryan Sieg and the No. 39 team in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Two months in, the team grades its season as “A-plus.”
Through the opening eight races, Sieg has recorded a pair of top-five finishes, including one last weekend at Richmond Raceway, and a handful of top 10s — both of which are career bests. The No. 39 has a best outing of fourth, which came in the season opening event at Daytona International Speedway, where his RSS Racing teammate Jeff Green also finished in the top 10 (seventh).
Sieg admits there have been some struggles but they are internal — none that the audience can physically see. Sitting ninth in points, the No. 39 team is 58 markers ahead of Ross Chastain, who’s currently the first driver on the outside looking in as far as the playoff picture. And the three drivers sitting 10th-12th in points are Noah Gragson, Justin Haley and Brandon Jones, all of whom run for or have an alliance with Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series-affiliated teams.
“A-plus, you’ve got to [grade 2019], Sieg told Frontstretch. “Our finishing order has probably been A-plus, but there have been some problems that we’ve had, though you can’t really see them. We’ve worked on those and have gotten better. At Bristol [Motor Speedway], we had a loose wheel and some pit crew woes here and there, but everything is getting better. It’s just a work in progress.”
RSS Racing hired veteran crew chief Shane Wilson to lead the No. 39 team this season. During his NASCAR tenure, Wilson has 27 career wins, 17 of which came in the Xfinity Series, most recently with Brendan Gaughan in 2014.
Sieg believes having Wilson has brought the No. 39 team to the next level, even though the company has just five full-time employees and rents out a pit crew through Elevated Performance each week (same crew every week).
“You’ve got to bring knowledge and bring good cars and motors,” Sieg said. “Knowledge has a lot to do with it and getting a plan together. Shane is good at getting a plan together and sticking to it all weekend, coaching me through what we need in the race and how he thinks it’s going to play out.”
Over the off-season, RSS Racing purchased three cars from Richard Childress Racing, all of which raced last season. In the past, Sieg ran cars that were three-four years old, if not older. The team has also upped its engine program, buying motors from ECR Engines, as opposed to building their own.
Sieg said these updates are probably “60-75 percent” of the reason why the team is performing better on a weekly basis.
So where do Sieg and the team need to improve?
“Unloading a little bit better, but when you don’t have every tool possible, you’re going to be a little off when you unload,” he stated. “We have to catch up a little bit to everyone else because everything is a little off.”
Flashback to 2016 and Sieg finished ninth in the championship standings. That season, he scored three top 10s, with an average finish of 17.8. Through the first two months of 2019, the No. 39 has an average finish of 8.6, never taking the checkered flag worse than 12th.
Due to a pit strategy made by Wilson, Sieg won his first career stage at Texas Motor Speedway a few weeks back. Because of that, the No. 39 team has a playoff point and plans on using it in the postseason. And the team will get even more playoff points should it get its first career victory.
“With Shane’s knowledge and we’re getting better each week and bringing great cars, it’s not out of the question,” Sieg said on if he believes the team can get its first victory. “It’s tough because it’s hard to run against [Joe] Gibbs [Racing] and the money they’ve got with the resources they have.
“I don’t think it’s out of the question. If we hit everything just right and keep after it, I think our stuff is good enough, Shane’s good enough, I’m good enough, we should be able to get close enough to them where we are in contention for a win. Move them out of the way and get a win or something. If we’re there, we’re going to get the win.”
The old adage in racing is money buys speed. With the results this year, the No. 39 team has seen more sponsorship come its way, meaning an influx of money is coming in.
Now that the team has more resources than ever before, Sieg believes he is proving what he’s worth this season.
“I have the potential to run well,” Sieg said. “We lost some sponsorship and went to the waste side for the past two years. We didn’t have the right group of guys, and we’ve changed that up. You need to have the total package, and we have that this year. And it’s shown we have the potential to run with the Cup teams and should be able to compete with them.”
The series has an off week before heading to Talladega Superspeedway (April 27). In five races at Talladega, Sieg has a quartet of top 20s, with a best finish of sixth coming last year.
- Quick recap of 2019: Through the opening eight races of the season, there have been four different winners. Kyle Busch leads the way with three, as Xfinity regulars Christopher Bell and Cole Custer have two each. Michael Annett kicked off the season with a bang by winning at Daytona.
- Bell, Custer, Justin Haley, John Hunter Nemechek and Tyler Reddick competed in a Goodyear tire test this week at Iowa Speedway. Last season, Bell and Justin Allgaier won the events held in the Hawkeye State.
- On Tuesday (April 16), JD Motorsports announced Landon Cassill will drive the No. 4 car at Talladega next weekend. Cassill spent the majority of 2013-2015 competing for JDM, with a trio of eighth-place finishes, including one at Talladega in 2014. Ross Chastain, the primary driver of the No. 4 car will be running the No. 10 for Kaulig Racing at the superspeedway.