What’s the latest Silly Season development?
More Silly Season dominoes fell into place this week, with Richard Childress Racing announcing the departure of Daniel Hemric from the team.
— RCR (@RCRracing) September 17, 2019
It has been a fairly rough Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookie season for Hemric. The 28-year-old from Kannapolis, N.C., has struggled with inconsistency this season. Hemric has just two top-10 finishes, and his lone top five was a fifth at Talladega Superspeedway. Hemric is 25th in points, good enough to be ahead of Ryan Preece in Rookie of the Year points but easily the lowest ranked major organization driver.
In the meantime, Tyler Reddick has been heating up in the Xfinity Series. Reddick won a championship in 2018, but he didn’t really explode as a Cup prospect until this season, his first with RCR. In 2018, Reddick had seven top-five finishes and 20 top 10s, good enough for an average finish of 12.9. In 2019, in seven fewer starts, Reddick has 20 top fives, 22 top 10s and an average finish of 5.7.
What’s more is that after winning last week’s NXS regular season finale and hoisting the NXS Regular Season championship trophy, a proud Richard Childress straight up compared him to Cale Yarborough. When a Cup owner is in victory lane and comparing an NXS driver to one of the true legends of the sport, it’s a really good sign of things to come. Combine that with Reddick racing a third RCR Cup car well ahead of both Hemric and Austin Dillon at Kansas Speedway in May, and this only makes more sense.
RCR hasn’t officially announced that Reddick will be in the seat, but come on. Who else are they going to have there? Maybe Ty Dillon could finally join his grandfather’s race team and Reddick would be farmed out to Germain Racing, but that isn’t happening after years of it not happening.
As far as Hemric goes, so much for all of that pre-season talk about being childhood friends with the Dillon brothers and bringing the No. 8 back to prominence. Look at all of the job security that gave him!
Anyway, Hemric has a few possibilities for future employment. Front Row Motorsports is looking for a driver to replace David Ragan, and Hemric is by far the best free agent on the market. Hemric could also move back down to NXS and find a ride if he has sponsorship. A lot of teams at that level are still trying to figure out their lineups for next year, and Hemric would be a good fit with JR Motosports in the No. 8 Chevrolet or with Kaulig Racing if it chooes to expand this off-season.
Is JTG Daugherty Racing about to do something dumb?
One possibility I’m not a fan of is the idea of Hemric joining JTG Daugherty Racing. It’s concerning that Chris Buescher hasn’t confirmed that he’ll be back with the team next year yet, even though he logically should be.
In reply to Knighter, Buscher says #nascar driver deals have become "year by year stuff for a lot of people."
Asked if he talked to other teams and was optimistic about staying at JTGD, Buescher says it's a "private situation" but should know future in "next couple of weeks." https://t.co/9SuX3sVsAE
— Nate Ryan (@nateryan) September 13, 2019
JTG has always been a one-step-forward-two-steps-back kind of team. AJ Allmendinger brought the team to the point in 2016 where it could finish in the top 20 in points even without a road course win getting it into the playoffs. What does the team do? Expands to two cars in the next off-season and lose about five years of progress in the process. Before that, Marcos Ambrose left the team after it had finally started to figure things out, and its choice to replace him was a washed-up Bobby Labonte.
Names like Landon Cassill’s are often brought up as far as underrated drivers, but nobody is more underrated at the Cup level than Buescher. Remember, this is an NXS champion, probably the last person who is going to bring Jack Roush a NASCAR championship. He completely outclassed Bubba Wallace in 2015 when both ran the same equipment in NXS competition. Buescher is on pace to have the best season as far as average finish goes of any driver in JTG’s history in a season where he hasn’t finished outside of the top 20 since Talladega and a season where he’s completed all but 11 laps if we take his two wrecks at Daytona and Talladega out of the equation. These are incredible numbers for a JTG driver.
If the team replaces Ryan Preece with Hemric, that would be a little more understandable. But even then, why replace a driver who has won NXS races with a driver who has not won NXS races, especially when both drivers probably have very similar ceilings? And this isn’t really a case of Hemric bringing more money to the table than either driver, considering JTG has had Kroger/partners of Kroger on both cars for almost the entirety of the last three years.
Will Alex Bowman and Ryan Blaney pick up the pace at Richmond Raceway?
Richmond will play host to one of the most important playoff races this year in the Cup Series. The goal for 15 drivers heading into the weekend is simple: don’t go into the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL next week without clinching a spot in the Round of 12.
The best way for a driver to do so is to, well, win the race. But even if that isn’t in the cards, a number of drivers, including Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, can clinch on points depending on who ends up winning.
Two playoff drivers who have struggled mightily at Richmond over the years have been Alex Bowman and Ryan Blaney. Bowman just can’t seem to find a stride at Richmond, with a best finish of just 12th there since joining Hendrick Motorsports. Meanwhile, this is by far Blaney’s worst racetrack, and the young driver just can’t seem to figure out how to go fast at the Virginia short track, with a best finish of just 18th and an average of 26.7.
Is there a problem with NASCAR’s drug policy?
Nick Harrison, an Xfinity crew chief for Kaulig, suddenly passed away in mid-July following the NXS race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
At the time, one of the more popular theories was that heat exhaustion was partially to blame. It was incredibly hot at Loudon that weekend, and it would have made sense with how suddenly everything had happened.
This week, however, the toxicology report on Harrison’s body came in.
NC medical examiner rules July 21 death of Nick Harrison as accident of acute cocaine, oxycodone & alcohol intoxication. Landed in NC at 11pm, went to friend’s home, got home 4:30am, found not breathing 6:30am. Toxicology: Cocaine 0.14mg/L, oxycodone 0.32 mg/L, alcohol 0.08% BAC
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) September 18, 2019
Before digging into this topic, let me be very clear. Harrison was a human being, one who had either major problems that he never got the help that he needed for or made one huge mistake on one night of his life. Neither scenario should define him as a person nor trivialize his death, and to demean the man as a junkie is an incredibly self-centered thought.
Likewise, it’s also very important that this story was reported. I’ve seen criticisms on social media platforms of Bob Pockrass’ reporting on the story, saying that it was disrespectful to Harrison and that it would bring unwanted media scrutiny to the sport. None of that really matters, especially when the information Pockrass reported was already publicly released by the toxicology lab.
NASCAR’s existing drug policy will be and should be scrutinized. Even if Harrison had never touched cocaine in his life before that night, that doesn’t mean the sport should be entirely off the hook just yet. And if he had, how did he get access to it so easily if all he did was leave the airport, “stopped at a friend’s house” and then returned home?
And if Harrison didn’t take cocaine/oxycodone that night and had instead done so earlier that weekend, somebody with cocaine in their system was the crew chief for a NASCAR team. And that’s an absolute failure on the part of the testing, especially if this wasn’t the first time this had occurred. If it was the first time, it is a little more understandable, but it’s still an absolute failure to have somebody die with hard drugs in their body within 30 hours of a checkered flag waving at an event they competed in, driver or not.