Spade Racing’s Silly Season So Far Recap Q&A

What was expected to be a comparatively quiet offseason has turned into quite an active one—and we’re not even into the offseason yet!  In case you’ve been confused by the dribs and drabs of information that’s leaked out so far, here’s an article to catch you up:

Is Christopher Bell FINALLY moving up to the Cup Series next year?  Yes he is.  He’ll be driving Leavine Family Racing’s 95 car, which will have an “enhanced” alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing and TRD (so basically they’ll be like Furniture Row Racing).  Rheem will join Procore as a major sponsor.
Matty D will be in a Ford next year

So what’s happening to Matt DiBenedetto?  The darling of the internet fanbase found himself out of a ride briefly due to Joe Gibbs Racing essentially having five drivers for four cars.  However, in a surprise move, Matty D has been hired to drive the Wood Brothers 21 car next season.

WHAT?  How’d that happen?  Paul Menard announced his retirement and, when informing Wood Brothers’ management of his decision, apparently put in a good word for Matty D.

So what’s the catch?  Oddly enough there doesn’t seem to be one—Menards will be returning as a major sponsor and the alliance with Team Penske will be continuing.

Impressive.  OK, so what’s this late-breaking news about Roush Fenway Racing?  This past week RFR stunned the Nascar world by announcing that Chris Buescher—who drove for the team in the Xfinity Series—will be returning to drive the 17 car next year.

So where does that leave Ricky Stenhouse Jr.?  Without a ride (currently) for 2020.

Did the arrival of Ryan Newman show them how poorly the team was doing with Stenhouse as their “lead driver”, or did Newman just do his usual “great first year with a new team” move and make the ride seem better than it was?  Yes.

Hmm, well, what about Buescher’s old ride at JTG-D?  The 37 car is now the top open ride for next year.  Meanwhile, Ryan Preece is assumed to be returning to the 47 car.
Tyler Reddick is all but confirmed for
the 8 Cup car next year

Who could wind up in the 37?  Stenhouse is a possibility assuming he doesn’t have an overriding deal with Ford.  Otherwise Daniel Hemric could slide into the ride.

Doesn’t Hemric race the 8 car for RCR?  Well, he did.  Hemric was informed that he won’t be retained for 2020.

Who’ll be in the 8 car next year then?  Tyler Reddick is all but confirmed and is expected to bring some of his Xfinity Series sponsors along with him.

OK, so two of the Xfinity Series “Big 3” are moving up next year.  What about Cole Custer?  Stay with me because this one’s a little tricky:  Stewart-Haas Racing (who’s CEO is Cole’s dad) is rumored to be signing GoFAS Racing (the 32 car) as a “satellite team” similar to JGR with Leavine Family Racing.  Cole Custer would likely drive the 32 with heavy SHR support UNLESS they chose to let go of either Clint Bowyer or Daniel Suarez.

Why would Bowyer or Suarez be let go?  Both are in contract years (although Suarez apparently has a “roll over” option) and both have had less-than-stellar years.  Also, Bowyer’s car frequently lacks sponsorship.

OK, ok—so if Custer gets the 32 car, where would Corey LaJoie go?  LaJoie’s been rumored for the 38 car at Front Row Motorsports.

Why’s that?  David Ragan announced his retirement from full-time racing effective the end of the year.

I think I got it all now.  Anybody NOT making any big changes?  Hendrick Motorsports isn’t expected to make any major driver changes, and sponsorship is relatively locked-in except for the 88 which is losing Nationwide.  Team Penske is expected to return with the same lineup of drivers and sponsors.  No driver changes have been announced or expected for the single car teams of Germain Racing and RPM.

Wait, did you leave off Ganassi?  Yeah, because while Kyle Larson is locked-in for next year, Kurt Busch (again) is in a contract year (again) but is expected to return (again) with sponsor Monster (again).

Spade Racing Picks: Uncle Max vs. Mystery Picker—Charlotte Roval

Getting ready to take a road trip this weekend and I thought I could give you some Do’s and Don’t’s on how to travel (EDITORS NOTE—take any of this advice with a grain of salt):

DO—agree to split expenses like gas and tolls if you’re sharing the ride with someone else.
DON’T—ride with someone who constantly demands that you change drivers without opening the doors “…like they do it in sports car racing”.

DO—take a break roughly once every two hours to avoid “highway hypnosis” and inattentiveness.
DON’T—go an hour out of your way to stop by a dirt track that Tony Stewart was at five months ago.

DO—do a “once-over” on your car before leaving to check for low tires and any possible fluid leaks.
DON’T—make “air gun noises” when you check air pressure.

DO—put your phone on silent while driving to avoid unnecessary distractions.
DON’T—throw your phone at your passenger for constantly asking you to “save (you) some fuel on this run”.

CUP SERIES Bank of America Roval 400: Mystery Picker (1 win) picks Kyle Larson.  Favorite (4 wins): Kyle Busch—sticking with him and not getting desperate (unlike Mystery Picker).  Next Favorite (3 wins): Martin Truex Jr.—sweeping the round.  Dark Horse: Kurt Busch—races his way into the next round.

XFINITY SERIES Drive for the Cure 250 (7 wins): Christopher Bell—no idea if he’ll dedicate the win to Robert Smith.

ELIMINATORS—Spade Racing’s Elimination Race Breakdown

Cards take a break this week for a new, possibly-ongoing series here as we take a look at who’s where with a Playoff round finale coming up.
"He's got points...he knows
how to use them..."

The Charlotte Roval means on-track mayhem, off-track strategy, and the ever-present possibility of getting a sign stuck to your car.  With Nascar visiting its one-of-a-kind track this weekend, here’s where the sixteen Playoff drivers stand (special thanks to NBC Sports' coverage in this article):

CLINCHED: Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch.  These three can sit back and relax—heck, maybe they can run around the back like the Hendrick guys did for that one All-Star race.

GOOD BARRING DISASTER: Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Chase Elliott.  This foursome should be fine as long as nothing insane happens like a last-place finish or failing inspection (aka “Pulling a Kaulig Racing”).

GOOD BARRING A BAD DAY: Kyle Larson—The Elk Grove Ninja needs to have a solid day as he’s currently 25 points to the good.  So basically make sure to stay away from Rick Ware Racing cars.

ON THE BUBBLE BUT IN CONTROL: Ryan Newman and Ryan Blaney—Newman (+14) and Blaney (+8) are in what other sports would call “Control Their Own Destiny” territory—have a decent day and they should be fine.  Although one has to wonder if any of us truly control our own destiny…

ON THE BUBBLE AND NEEDING HELP: Aric Almirola, William Byron, Alex Bowman, Clint Bowyer—a mere five points separates this quartet that straddles the cutoff line.  My apologies for putting “Clint Bowyer”, “straddles” and “cut-offs” in the same passage.

NEEDS HELP: Kurt Busch—The In-Law is 14 points behind the cut-off and, barring a win, would need a bubble driver to have trouble to advance.  If not, he can get an early start on postponing announcing his plans for 2020.

NEEDS A WIN: Erik Jones—After failing inspection at Richmond That Jones Boy is in a literal “must-win” scenario—that’s the only thing that would move him on to the next round.  Then again, now that he’s locked into the 20 car for the foreseeable future, missing the next round wouldn’t be ALL that bad, when you think about it.

Timmy Hill Votes Self for Most Popular Driver

Journeyman Nascar driver Timmy Hill confirmed today that, earlier this week, he voted himself in online balloting for Nascar’s Most Popular Driver.
“I was on (Nascar).com looking to see if they had any of my merch(andise) for sale and I saw the ad to vote”, Hill said when reached for comment.  “So I figured why not—might as well.”
Hill, while ineligible for Cup Series points, has competed in several Cup Series races so far this year for MBM Motorsports, making him eligible for Most Popular Driver voting.  Hence why he was included on the ballot with favorites such as Chase Elliott, Chase Elliott, and Chase Elliott.
“I know Chase (Elliott) is the odds-on favorite to win, but you never know”, Hill said.  “Frankly, I was happy that I didn’t have to write my name in like I used to do in the past.  Er, I mean, that’s what I’ve been told other people had to do.”
Hill has made over seven dozen starts in the Cup Series over the past decade and while failing to post a single top-ten race finish, he has acknowledged that he has established himself to a certain degree.
“I’m glad that when team owners need a guy who can bring the car home clean, they know to call me”, Hill said.  “And I might not be the fastest, or the richest, or the speediest, or even the most-popular, but at least I might be the 47th most-popular this year.”
When reached for comment Nascar officials stated that Hill was currently in last-place in voting with totals “…in the single-digits”, reportedly trailing such drivers as BJ McLeod, Stanton Barrett, and write-in candidate Mike Rotch.

Spade Racing Picks: Uncle Max vs. Mystery Picker—Richmond

Despite last week’s picks (thanks a lot, Rick Ware Racing) things seem to be turning around for ol’ Uncle Max.  First off I easily won my Week 2 matchup in my fantasy football league.  Then I got my “need service now” light taken care of for cheap—turns out it was just a loose gas cap.  THEN I find out I have next weekend off from work!  Finally a chance to take a non-summer road trip!  Where to?  Maybe a local college football game, maybe a new sports bar, or maybe some good old fashioned apple picking.  What—I have interests outside of sports, you know.

CUP SERIES Federated Auto Parts 400: Mystery Picker (1 win) picks Daniel Suarez.  Favorite (4 wins): Kyle Busch—bounce back after he got Smithley’d last weekend.  Next Favorite (3 wins): Denny Hamlin—big win for a local guy.  Dark Horse: Erik Jones—noticing a Toyota trend with these picks?

XFINITY SERIES Go Bowling 250 (7 wins): Tyler Reddick—flyin’ high now that he has a ride ready for him in Cup.

Opening a Sealed Box of 2019 Donruss Racing Cards PACK 21

Recently I got a sealed box of 2019 Donruss Racing Cards—24 packs, 8 cards per pack.  Join me as I go through the entire case, pack-by-pack, to see what awaited me. (Click any picture to enlarge)

PACK 21 OF 24: Harvick, Carl’s Slick, and Fabric

OVERVIEW: A lot of repeats in this one, most-likely a consequence of getting so deep into the box.  Its hard to hold that against it, though, since most people would be unlikely to buy an entire box of cards and open them all themselves.  Also, since it hasn’t been mentioned before, check out the “wavy lines” design that appears on most of the regular modern cards.

SPECIAL SPECIAL: One of the only downsides to the OPTIC cards is that they look unusually shiny and slick, especially when they’re having their picture taken.  Well, that and the whole “the driver looks like a specter” thing.

IN FOCUS: ANOTHER INSERT!  This one appears to be one of the J’s from Kevin Harvick’s Jimmy John’s fire suits.  A nice-looking piece if ever there was one.

SPOTLIGHT: Ryan Truex goes to show the difficulty of putting positive copy on the backs of some of these cards (which I forgot to turn 90 degrees to the left, sorry).

SCORE: 9 pit stops out of 10

Spade Racing’s 2019 Playoff Preview

PROGRAMMING NOTE: We’re shaking things up for the Playoffs here at Spade Racing!  Rather than doing a “Burnout” post-race article (which I haven’t been able to do much lately anyways), there’ll be “Lap Zero” posts during the pre-race through to the end of the season.

The Playoffs.  Formerly The Chase, It’s Nascar’s way of determining a champion.  But why wait until Homestead to figure out who’s going to win it all—here’s Spade Racing’s preview of the 2019 post-season.

Ryan Newman—a prompt exit from contention will allow him to devote more time to building towards 2020, working on his “rescue ranch”, and spreading conspiracy theories about the moon landing.

William Byron—the official “Gets Eliminated, Then Goes On a Tear” driver of 2019.  Expect to see him contend for a win or two before the season it out with the pressure being off.

Alex Bowman—the only driver with a win to go out in the first round, Bowman will quietly sink to the back before failing to win at the Roval.  On the plus side, being out of the Playoffs will allow him to connect on a deeper level with Jimmie Johnson

Aric Almirola—needing a strong finish at the Roval, expect to see him come up jusssst a few points short, followed by an outburst.  Although for someone as even-keeled as Double-A, expect that “outburst” to be a slight shaking of the head and possibly blaming everything on Brian Scott.

Erik Jones—with the safety of a future contract with JGR in place, Jones will go into the offseason relaxed and ready to come on strong in 2020.  Then again, I give it five minutes at Speedweeks before he starts getting asked if he’s going to swap rides with Christopher Bell in 2021.

Kyle Larson—sneaking past the first round, Larson will be in a “Win or Go Home” scenario at Kansas.  Then he’ll scrape the wall, develop a vibration, have to pit, and wind up finishing the first car a lap down.  As usual.

Joey Logano—how can this be?  I’ll tell you: a bad day at Dover caused by a poor qualifying effort and a bad setup, followed by being caught up in the “big one” at Talladega.  Joey comes up a little short at Kansas and is left with nothing.  Well, besides his loving family, steady ride for one of the sport’s best teams, dozens of accolades and millions of dollars.

Ryan Blaney—Blaney is a point or two short after Kansas and is forced to look forward to next year.  Which, granted, is a pretty good philosophy overall.

Clint Bowyer—after racing his way in at Kansas (leading to accusations that the race was fixed), Bowyer will have a rough day at Martinsville and never really recover.  Somehow, people will say that one of the sport’s most-engaging drivers being eliminated is ALSO fixed.

Kurt Busch—quietly strong runs throughout the first two rounds aren’t enough momentum to overcome a bad day at Texas, putting him in too deep of a hole to come back at Phoenix.  Then again, his mortal enemy is behind bars for a year and a day, so there’s that.

Brad Keselowski—a tough pill to swallow at Penske as all three of its drivers are eliminated before Homestead.  They start work post-haste on a strong 2020 program with a name like “20/20 Vision” or “Mustang Momentum” or “Menard is Finally Gone”.

Martin Truex Jr.—does “so much adversity” get brought out again by Rick Allen?

4. Chase Elliott—the lone Chevy sneaks its way through the first round, then wins a Talladega Sweep, followed by three strong runs in the penultimate round.  Then he has a crummy day at Homestead and people claim that it’ll lead to the death of the sport.

3. Kevin Harvick—a Playoff win and top-15s in all but one race have him as a favorite at Homestead, only for pit stop issues to sink their day.  Kevin Harvick responds by firing his pit crew mid-race, forcing him to try and use a manual jack on his own car.

2. Kyle Busch—the odds-on favorite coming in has a spirited battle but comes up just a little bit short.  So of course we get a smirking post-race interview and a vague threat to shut down his Truck team.

Denny Hamlin—only one win in the Playoffs but its the only one that matters—Phoenix.  Then he finishes runner up at Homestead to clinch his first championship in the Cup Series.  Oh, and who wins Homestead?  William Byron, of course.

Spade Racing Picks: Uncle Max vs. Mystery Picker—Las Vegas

Something strange is going on lately, and I’m not just talking about Mystery Picker’s pick this weekend.
Last weekend I got eliminated from my “knockout pool” for football—a week one knockout!  Then I find out that I lost in my main fantasy league on a freaking tiebreaker.  And on top of all of that I get a “Need Service Now” light on in my car.  I tell ya, its not a fun time to be Uncle Max.
On the plus side it looks like Mystery Picker is getting desperate to eek out a win over me to keep their identity a secret.  Keep trying—I’ll know who you are by season’s end!

CUP SERIES South Point 400: Mystery Picker (1 win) picks Paul MenardFavorite (4 wins): Kyle Busch—hometown track, hometown performance.  Next Favorite (3 wins): Kevin Harvick—guessing he would love to spoil Rowdy’s fun.  Dark Horse: Aric Almirola—seems about time for an out of left field non-upset surprise.

XFINITY SERIES Lilly 250 (7 wins): Justin Haley—here’s hoping they pass inspection with no issues.

TRUCK SERIES World of Westgate 200 (8 wins): Ross Chastain—hey, did you know that he’s a watermelon farmer?  No one every brings it up!

Opening a Sealed Box of 2019 Donruss Racing Cards PACK 20

Recently I got a sealed box of 2019 Donruss Racing Cards—24 packs, 8 cards per pack.  Join me as I go through the entire case, pack-by-pack, to see what awaited me. (Click any picture to enlarge)

PACK 20 OF 24: Kyle is Rowdy, DW’s Dowdy, and 48’s Proud-y

OVERVIEW: A lot of champions in this set, as well as a father-son combo of Bill Elliott (finally wearing his Coors gear!) and Chase (limited edition, too).  Jimmie Johnson, meanwhile, looks very satisfied with himself—something that was pretty rare in 2018.

SPECIAL SPECIAL: Kyle Larson’s Originals card shows how he grew up around the race track.  With such a laser-focused life, it makes me wonder how he could make such tone-deaf comments about doing autograph signings.  Or maybe it explains it better.

IN FOCUS: I don’t know WHY this Chase Elliott card is limited.  I don’t know WHY its limited to 299.  And I don’t know WHY the picture of the back turned out so blurry.

SPOTLIGHT: DW’s Retro Rated Rookie card shows off his love of the number 17 in honor of David Pearson.  Later in his career he’d show his love of number 43 by starting there in as many races as possible.

SCORE: 6 commercial breaks out of 10

Brickyard 400 Regular Season Finale Drinking Game

Due to unforeseen circumstances I won’t be able to watch today’s race.  Instead, enjoy this pre-race post-race article.

The Brickyard 400, one of Nascar’s four Crown Jewel races…or so they tell us.  Anyone with some experience watching the sport will tell you that Nascar’s annual trip to Indianapolis is typically one of the dullest races of the year.  And while making it the “regular season finale” was an attempt to add more drama, it seems to have mostly just added more tedium for those watching at home.  So if you find yourself bored out of your mind and getting sick of the storylines being pushed by NBC, enjoy this drinking game from Spade Racing (please drink responsibly—that’s why “fuel mileage” isn’t included in this game).

Take a SIP when…
—anyone says the words “drama”, “cut-off” or “bubble” (this is why you should drink responsibly)

—Paul Menard and/or Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are mentioned as drivers who could “win their way in”

—Ryan Newman doesn’t let someone pass him

—any awkward transition to a promo for tonight’s Sunday Night Football is made (example: “Speed on the track, and we’ll see some speed on the football field tonight!”)

—Jeff Burton and/or Dale Jr. and/or Steve LeTarte talk over each other

Take a DRINK when…
—JGR’s dominance is mentioned

—anyone tries to politely state that Jimmie Johnson’s best days are behind him (example: “And with so many races, so many wins, how many more are left for this seven-time champion and has he maxed out?”)

—Rutledge Wood talks about fishing that damn brick out of the water

—any commercial caution (side-by-side/nonstop doesn’t count)

Take a GULP when…
—any “win-and-they’re-in” driver goes on a different pit strategy

—any broadcaster shoehorns in a reference to Antonio Brown (example: “Erik Jones getting his contract situation sorted out, unlike a certain wide receiver who was in the news yesterday”)

—two or more drivers fight on pit road

—anyone manages to justify holding next week’s race on a SUNDAY NIGHT

—a fan manages to get on camera ranting about Jeffrey Earnhardt


—the track sells out the grandstand

Spade Racing Picks: Uncle Max vs. Mystery Picker—Indianapolis

Well I won’t be able to watch the race this Sunday.  And no, its not because I’ll be immersed in football—its because I have to work!
Usually I’m able to beg off Sundays (especially during football season) or at least work the early morning shift.  But this week there was no getting out of it.  Corporate’s sending some people to visit us on Monday so its “all hands on deck” from the local management team, including yours truly.  So here’s hoping nothing insane happens on the track OR on the gridiron.

CUP SERIES Big Machine Vodka 400: Mystery Picker (1 win) picks Chase Elliott.  Favorite (4 wins): Denny Hamlin—going into the Playoffs with Big ‘Mo.  Next Favorite (3 wins): Kyle Busch—or we could just have Rowdy asserting his dominance.  Dark Horse: Clint Bowyer—or someone “Pulling a Mayfield”?

XFINITY SERIES Indiana 250 (6 wins): Kyle Busch—naturally.

Opening a Sealed Box of 2019 Donruss Racing Cards PACK 24

Recently I got a sealed box of 2019 Donruss Racing Cards—24 packs, 8 cards per pack.  Join me as I go through the entire case, pack-by-pack, to see what awaited me. (Click any picture to enlarge)

PACK 24 of 24: Cole Times 2, A Man that’s New, and We’re THROUGH

OVERVIEW: No idea how I lost the back of Bobby Labonte’s card (sorry about that), but it can’t put too much of a damper on this final pack.  Some current drivers are joined by the brothers Labonte, and we get the rare repeat in the same pack from Cole Whitt (although one is limited edition).

SPECIAL SPECIAL: I don’t know where Cole Custer’s going, but it looks like its to beat someone up.

IN FOCUS: Bobby Labonte reminds us all that yes, he DID start out in Nascar Cup with Bill Davis, NOT Joe Gibbs Racing.

SPOTLIGHT: What does auto repair have to do with a push-lawnmower?  Oh, and sorry for the blurriness.

SCORE: 5 burnouts out of 10

Opening a Sealed Box of 2019 Donruss Racing Cards PACK 19

Recently I got a sealed box of 2019 Donruss Racing Cards—24 packs, 8 cards per pack.  Join me as I go through the entire case, pack-by-pack, to see what awaited me. (Click any picture to enlarge)

PACK 19 OF 24: Larson, Dillon, and the Wrong One

OVERVIEW: We get a healthy mix of the past and present here with some bonafide legends.  Also, double the Harvick as he gets both the TOP TIER and the limited edition treatment.

SPECIAL SPECIAL: Again—why use a picture of Bill Elliott in his McDonald’s firesuit for his RACE KINGS card?  He did next-to-nothing in the 94 car and did MUCH better when he had Coors or Dodge Dealers sponsorship.

IN FOCUS: Mark Martin says that flying an airplane is “…almost like having your own private spaceship”.  Except the whole “not going to space” thing, Mark.

SPOTLIGHT: Here’s something I’ve always wondered—do you think sponsors get irritated when drivers put their sunglasses over their logos on their hats?  And has anyone thought to put their logo on sunglasses themselves in any way?

SCORE: 4 pole positions out of 10

Throwing Back to 69—The Number, Not the Year

Because the weather won't cooperate
In honor of the throwback race that may or may not happen tonight (well, not for Ricky Stenhouse Jr., spoil-sport) let’s take a look back at one of the least-used numbers in Nascar Cup history—69.


OK, now that we have THAT out of the way, let’s do a Q&A on the history of this relatively-unused number.

JUST HOW LITTLE-USED WAS THE NUMBER 69?  Cars bearing the number 69 have only been run 104 times in Cup, the second-least-used number in the series 70+ year history (only ahead/behind of number 65).

Note the misspelled name
WHO’S THE MOST-FAMOUS PERSON TO RACE NUMBER 69?  Probably a toss-up between LeeRoy Yarbrough and Hershel McGriff.  Oddly they’re at two different ends of the longevity spectrum—LeeRoy having posted one incredibly successful year in (ironically) 1969, while Hershel raced in Cup sparingly from 1950 through 1993 and has continued to make cameo appearances in developmental series to this day.

WHO WAS THE MOST-SUCCESSFUL DRIVER OF THE 69?  Johnny Allen, who posted a pole and a runner-up finish (amongst other top-tens) during a part-time run in the 69 from 1960-61.  The last top-ten posted by a driver in a #69 car was the aforementioned Hershel McGriff in 1977.
The last run for number 69

WHO WAS THE LAST DRIVER TO DRIVE A CAR NUMBERED 69?  Road racer Denny Wilson, who did so at Watkins Glen in 1992.

WHY HASN’T ANYONE RUN THE 69 SINCE?  Well, its likely the reason you think.  Sponsorship drives Nascar and few traditional companies want to associate with such an innuendo-laden number.  Meanwhile, Nascar both controls number assignments and reserves the right to block offensive sponsorships, so even if someone DID come in wanting to use the number, Nascar could put a stop to it (as was rumored when Big Johnson sponsored a Busch Series car in the 90’s).

WHO RUNS IT TODAY?  Will Kimmel runs the 69 car for his own team in the midwest, most-notably on occasion in the ARCA Series.  the Kimmel family has a history of using number 69—in fact, Bill Kimmel Sr. ran it in Cup at Daytona in 1969 and 1970.