Friday 5: Kyle Busch making an impact at RCR off the track NASCAR Friday schedule at Atlanta Motor Speedway Kevin Harvick bringing back No. 29 for All-Star Race Kaulig Racing will appeal penalties from Phoenix weekend Hendrick Motorsports names interim crew chiefs for Atlanta weekend
Bye Kyle Bush gave Richard Childress Racing his first Cup win of the season last month, his biggest contribution may be how he promotes the organization and those teams associated with the RCR.
Bush’s level of preparedness, his observations and questions in meetings had already made an impact early in his tenure.
“He’s offering us something we haven’t had before,” Andy Petri, RCR’s vice president of competitions, told NBC Sports.
Austin Dillon cited Bush’s recall as an area his new teammate would influence when the deal with Bush was announced last September.
“You may never have to question his reviews,” Dillon said at the time. “If he says there’s a problem with the cars, we start working on it.”
Bush said that in January, he and his team discussed how they prepare for each event and how to incorporate those ideas into their meetings.
“I brought up a lot of different topics,” Bush said. “I haven’t done everything I want yet. Most of it is based on data and materials that you get after practice or after qualification, so still insist on most of it.”
Bush called the team meetings this season “good.”
“I feel like they were a bit productive,” he said. “I hope those who are with us in these meetings feel the same way, so it was common sense. I know that Austin and I really liked the way it is and how we set it up, so it was useful for us.”
Petrie, who was Dale Earnhardt’s crew chief for the last two Earnhardt Cup championships, says Busch provided more details about the car than Earnhardt did.
“Earnhardt was an incredible driver, but he didn’t have the skill that Kyle had to take apart so many parts in a car,” Petrie said. “Earnhardt would come out and give you every ounce of speed that was in him, but he wasn’t really good at giving such detailed feedback.
“You should have gotten something out of him. … Kyle will just take apart things that you don’t even think about.”
Kaulig Racing and Legacy Motor Club have teamed up with Richard Childress Racing and all three teams meet together. Cowlig Racing Justin Hailey says watching Bush act in these sessions impressed him.
“I’ll tell Kyle he never asks questions,” Hailey said. “If he even has an idea of what, if or why, he is not afraid to ask about it. I really appreciate that of him.
“Our alliance and our organization as a whole, he pushes us. He’s not afraid to say, “Hey, that’s not what we should be doing. Hey, that’s wrong” or “Hey, that’s right.”
“I think what you appreciate about him is that he always asks why. Even though he has so much experience, he always has to learn. He pushes us all in the right direction.”
Eric Jones survived team encounters with Busch while both were with Joe Gibbs Racing. Now with the Legacy Motor Club, Jones once again sees the impact Busch can have on the team off the track.
“He approaches meetings the way we do in those days,” Jones said. “I think it was very good for the band. I think, overall, it brought in some good structure, it brought in good and better reviews, and it probably focused on more of the right things that are needed, things that will really make the cars go faster.”
2. Restart zone plans
Sunday’s event at Atlanta Motor Speedway marks the final of NASCAR’s five-race race with an extended restart zone. Series officials will decide after this weekend whether to keep the restart zone at its current size or return it to a smaller size.
NASCAR increased the length of the restart zone to give the leader more time to decide when to go. In a smaller restart zone, other drivers have a better chance of guessing when the leader will go and catch up with him, limiting the advantage of the leader.
The only major incident in the restart zone occurred in Fontana, California, when the leader Joey Logano waited for the end of the zone to leave. The other cars behind guessed when he would go and then had to slow down as he hadn’t picked up speed yet, causing an accordion effect that drew nine cars.
“I don’t think this will be the last time you see him.” Ross Chastain spoke about the incident. “I don’t think it will be that big, but some stacks and some bumper tags will continue.”
Kyle Busch said he doesn’t believe the extended restart zone gives the leader any advantage.
“I think all he did was cause the crash in California,” Bush said. “So, in my opinion, nothing has changed; nothing positive. It just added to the negative because in California Joey was just maintaining his speed and everyone was dialing and dialing and dialing and dialing and closing their gaps because everyone was trying to back off and then time it.
“So he just waited for everyone to face everyone and then went to the end of the zone. Thus, the later you create this zone, the more anticipation everyone will have and the more accordion effect you will get. I knew about it, and I was not in favor of lengthening this zone, but no one tends to listen to me much.
Martin Truex Jr.who said he was fine with the restart zone going on as is, said the key was what the drivers were doing.
“They are telling us all not to put off all the time for restarts,” he said. “Many guys get away with it a lot more than others. As long as we can all stay closed, this won’t be a problem. This gives the leader the advantage that it should be.”
The suspension of all four Hendrick Motorsports crew chiefs — as part of significant fines NASCAR has imposed on teams for hood louvre modifications — results in a reunion of the pilot and crew chief combination.
Greg Ives will lead the crew Alex Bowman this weekend in Atlanta. Ives was Bowman’s crew chief from 2018-22 after working together in 10 races for Bowman to fill in for an injured man. Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2016.
Ives worked on the Garage 56 car that Hendrick Motorsports is preparing to race in NASCAR at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.
Asked if Ives helped speed up communication between Bowman and new crew chief Blake Harris this season, Bowman responded last weekend: “Everything was great. Greg was very busy with the Garage 56 deal. I saw him here and there, but not a ton. I think Greg prepared Blake really well and helped with the transition, but right now he’s very busy.”
Although Hendrick Motorsports is appealing the penalties, the team has decided that all four crew chiefs will not race this weekend in order to count one of the four races they will have to miss if they lose the appeal.
The absence of a permanent crew chief this weekend should not negatively impact Hendrik’s teams. There is no practice. Before the race, the cars will only qualify. Crew leaders usually have limited influence in super-speed circuit racing.
With his move to the Rookie Cup Ty Gibbs will no longer switch between Xfinity and Cup Series. Last year, Gibbs won the Xfinity championship and made 15 cup races as a substitute for the injured. Kurt Bush.
The focus on the Cup allowed him to concentrate on preparing for these events, as well as on his free time.
“Definitely a little quieter, of course,” Gibbs said of this season compared to last year and hosting both series. “I have some free time… I think it’s really important. I think I had more time to learn one thing, which allowed me to get over the learning curve faster than I had to worry about winning championships in other series and just having so much to do.”
Gibbs can appreciate that Josh Berry does by participating in the Xfinity series, replacing an injured Chase Elliott.
“I respect and really appreciate Josh,” Gibbs said. “He is a good friend of mine, he is a really great driver and very talented. Happy for him for this opportunity and hope Chase gets better soon.
“But for (Berry), I think just enjoying the moment is the most important thing. It’s very hard because there’s a lot going on. Are you worried about the launch of Xfinity and Cup. Just enjoy the moment. I think this is the most important thing. Learn as much as you can.”
5. Avoiding history
Last year’s two races in Atlanta resulted in a total of 24 warnings, including 19 for incidents.
At least 30 cars were involved in crashes in both races last year, the first year of a reconfiguration of the track that included more lean in corners.
Both races had at least one crash involving at least nine cars.
“I feel like Atlanta is probably the most mentally draining place we’re going to right now” Chase Briscoe said. “It’s kind of a hybrid. Obviously, this track is a full mile shorter than Daytona or Talladega, but the concept of racing is the same.
“You are in a pack, but with a mile growth, everything happens much faster. Your reaction time should be better. Runs develop much faster and faster. Your observer should be able to communicate with you much faster, and your brain should process information much faster.”