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Gotta say that this year’s Daytona 500 edition (the race was held on Monday, not Sunday due to rainy weather) was about Ford v Chevy with Chase Elliott winning Stage 1 and Austin Cindric winning Stage 2 where we saw a few of The Big One wrecks not long after the race start and not long before the end of the race. At the end of the day, the winner belongs to William Byron in the No.24 Chevy Camaro from Hendrick Motorsports. He too had a great start who worked his way up to 2nd during the first half of the day, steered clear of caution at all costs including the last restart to stay in 1st as Cindric eventually lost control alongside fellow contender Ross Chastain on the last lap and the race is his to take after all with his first Daytona 500 win. It’s been 10 years since Hendrick last won a 500 with Dale Jr behind the wheel in the No.88 Chevy & double that back to nearly 20 when Jeff Gordon last brought the No.24 car into victory lane back in 2005. Let’s see if Byron can pull off the season championship & end Team Penske’s two-year dominance come November at Phoenix after he finished 4th at the season-finale race last year that saw him end up 3rd in the drivers’ standings behind Kyle Larson and eventual champ Ryan Blaney.

Meanwhile, shoutout to Corey LaJoie in 4th for Spire Motorsports with his best Daytona 500 finish as this team is tipped for big things this year following their huge off-season investments with the 3rd charter for Zane Smith and taking over Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Truck Series. Same goes to both Legacy Motor Club cars of John Hunter Nemechek and Erik Jones in 7th & 8th respectively as they are a Toyota team now and their next target is to push the No.42 and famous No.43 for higher honours up front for regular Top 7-10s every week going forward – having seen the No.43 long been under an American manufacturer for several decades. And also great to see Noah Gragson back this time in the No.10 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing after he had to sit the 2nd half last year out due to an inappropriate social media activity. He didn’t do bad in 9th where there’s still a long way to go towards getting that struggling team out of the middle & into the front once again.

If that’s not enough even though someone was there at the 500 but only racing in the other categories, how about our Kiwi Shane Van Gisbergen on his first full US season debut weekend for Kaulig Racing after a decorated career here in Supercars? Well, things might not have been easy from the start where he dropped a few spots from 5th to somewhere outside the Top 10-15 before he suffered some damage from the crash not long before the halfway mark on Lap 37. But fortunately his race wasn’t over where most cautions went his way to regain track position other than the last yellow whilst was running Top 10 for another while in Stage 3 as he completed his first Xfinity Series race in 12th. Yes, there are things where he could’ve been better running the Top 5 and even up front if it wasn’t for the yellows or the mid-race damage. But it’s his first full season in the US after a long time here in Australia, having also raced in the main ARCA Series race on the same weekend. Despite an unfortunate result there on what has been a wreck-spinning race, he did enough to pass the rookie superspeedway test as long as he participated including the practice orientation ones per NASCAR rules. Now he will look to look to dominate up front by getting used to winning with unfinished business ahead for the next race at Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend.

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Image Reference: Zach Catanzareti via Wikipedia, CC BY 2.0

You wouldn’t believe it by surprise as New Zealand will get live NASCAR coverage this season & it’s free to view too without a subscription where ThreeNow will stream every race of both Cup & Xfinity Series while continuing to one-hour highlights on Sundays through their CRC Motorsports show on the main Three TV channel. It’s brilliant timing ahead of Shane Van Gisbergen’s first full season racing NASCARs in the US starting soon, although the new racing season will return on Monday morning beginning with the non-points Busch Clash race at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

As said, it’s exciting times for NZ’s own SVG who will compete full-time in the Xfinity Series including a few part-time Cup races with Kaulig Racing under loan development for the year from Team Trackhouse. Yes, he will have to race the ARCA main series opener at Daytona on his first racing weekend out of 2024, but that’s only for him to pass the superspeedway requirements by NASCAR before he’s allowed to raced there. He has never done it before other than road courses where he made his name in Supercars while he won at Chicago on his Cup debut + raced on a short oval with Niece Motorpsorts in Trucks last year. He won’t be lost at Trackhouse after all despite the late change due to AJ Allmendinger’s return to the Xfinity Series also to Kaulig as his new team-mate. They are preparing him well at the right place ahead of racing Cup level full-time in 2025 & beyond either in their potential third car or possibly replacing Daniel Suarez in the No.99 Chevy Camaro.

So what does that mean for Australia? It will still be on Fox Sports/Kayo every week Live for all Cup and Xfinity races where you would need to pay at $25 a month to watch these races behind a paywall. Yes, it didn’t cost that much for Three to stump up the money in order to show races live legally now in NZ. Speaking of Three, they are owned by Warner Bros Discovery whose parent cable channel TNT will return to the sport next year under the next Domestic TV rights contract (five late summer races live alongside Max as a sports streaming add-on with all 2nd half practice & qualifying events via TruTV).

But despite the Three NASCAR deal in NZ, don’t see NASCAR coming back on free-to-air in Australia anytime soon even it’s only one-hour highlights like IndyCar. Anyone can watch YouTube at anytime for a few mins highlights from the race without having to sit few hours each time & there’s always full race replays during the mid-week too that is all for free worldwide.

We don’t even know what is happening with Brodie Kostecki right now after he shockingly decided to leave Erebus Motorsport in Supercars this week not long before the new season starts soon despite winning the championship. I hope he can come back sometime this season & race part-time at Cup level again with Richard Childress Racing. There’s still always hope to see an Australian racing in NASCAR though every week alongside SVG whether it’s with or without Kostecki. Plus, you got Tickford Racing’s Cameron Waters potentially racing a few road course races there later this year for RFK Racing’s 3rd part-time vehicle in a Ford Mustang & he’s so passionate about this sport, having visited 1-2 races at Martinsville I (April) & Daytona II (August) last year.

For now, NZ Motorsport fans can enjoy watching NASCAR races live for free every Sunday & Monday thanks to ThreeNow. But for us Australians, don’t hold your breath when most top-level motorsports content is behind a paywall – even with an Aussie and SVG in there when most people are at work during the day except when you can Xfinity Series races on most Sundays.

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What an amazing finish to the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season after 36 points-series races across nine months of the calendar year where the same Ford team has won another championship in Team Penske, but this time it’s Ryan Blaney who is now your new drivers’ champion for the first time at age 29. Great start by William Byron with his opening stage win but was inconsistent as the race goes on where failure to stay ahead up front was the one weakness that ultimately costed him the race & championship itself in 4th. Meanwhile, unlucky from Christopher Bell due to a brake issue before things went bad to worse after he made contact with the wall in Stage 2. Then Byron’s team-mate at Hendrick Kyle Larson may entered the fight late into the 3rd & final stage in a bid to add Championship win No.2, but he couldn’t defend & stay ahead of Blaney under pressure at the last restart in 3rd where he had to settle as runner-up on the final drivers’ points standings of 2023. 

And last but not least, it’s the man of the hour Ryan Blaney who steered this No.12 Ford Mustang home that secured him his first major silverware of NASCAR, despite finishing 2nd in the race to Ross Chastain (Trackhouse). He may have started slow & steady from outside the Top 10 earlier on, but he gradually improved along the way towards the Top 2-3 places before Blaney locked out both Hendrick Chevy cars at the checkered flag. Roger Penske will be thrilled to see another championship-winning race car showing up at his race shop in Mooresville after Blaney’s team-mate Joey Logano won his 2nd Cup crown just one year ago in the sister No.22 team. Enjoy the 14-15 weeks of off-season before we go back all over again for the next NASCAR Cup Series season beginning with the 66th edition of the Daytona 500 on Sunday February 18th, 2024.

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Didn’t see it coming that Erebus Motorsports has today expressed their interest to enter into the world of NASCAR via Auto Action, especially Cup level; but only on a part-time basis to support their full-time Supercars driver Brodie Kostecki’s US adventure to a further extent next year. If this happens, we expect to see him race in a Chevy Camaro (Car No. TBD) with technical support coming from their great mates at Richard Childress Racing, who helped Brodie get his foot on the door at Indianapolis (Road Course) last month.

More details will come as soon as next season’s calendar comes out both for Supercars here & NASCAR. I’m glad the group at Erebus wants to have a crack at NASCAR on top of their successful Supercars operation considering their excellent relationship with RCR. With one year left on Brodie’s existing contact, although it seems too ambitious for Erebus to go full-time in NASCAR if you look at the huge costs to run from day-to-day, but sure he will end up at a RCR affiliate team like Kaulig or even RCR’s Xfinity Series team with the blessing/support of Erebus at some point in 2025.

He does not have much ovals experience right now on a national series level just like fellow Supercars driver Shane Van Gisbergen, who will move to the US full-time next season on an initial development contact with Team Trackhouse. But he can always continue to run 1-2 more road course events at Cup level alongside an odd short track oval race to round off his 2024 NASCAR adventure. Then he can move to the US full-time just like SVG but initially at Xfinity level & go from there to earn his stripes & get more ovals experience before being ready to race on Sundays (Cup level) after that either within in-house RCR or via one of their satellite Chevy teams like Kaulig Racing.

Whichever direction Brodie is heading the next step in NASCAR, he’s got excellent potential as our next NASCAR racer from Australia – even better when racing with a team also coming from Australia & the Supercars Championship for a start that will assist with his long-term goals. He certainly won’t be rushing too quickly as Brodie has the Bathurst 1000 this weekend as well as the rest of the Supercars season in the hope of waking away as the series’ champion, but glad he will get more opportunities which will in turn come with excellent on-track results.

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Image Reference: Zach Catanzareti via Wikipedia, CC BY 2.0

Spire Motorsports have made another big investment today and this time they have purchased all of Kyle Busch Motorsports’s Truck Series team including its race shop/facilities and Industrial engineering division for $25 million. Kyle Busch himself has confirmed it while Spire will be provide more information about their transaction of KBM this Saturday at 10.30am ET during the Fall Talladega race weekend.

What does that mean going forward? They would field up to 2-3 full-time cars where 1-2 of them will be racing for the whole season while the other would feature multiple drivers which could include Kyle Busch. Although it seems that Kyle would fully focus driving the No.8 Chevy Camaro at Cup level for Richard Childress Racing as well as spending more time with his son Brexton.

So at some point we will get to see Kyle race a full season of Trucks to try win a championship there? Yes, let’s hope so as sure Spire would let him fulfil his wish where they’ve got a great business relationship together. Then after that, he can pass it on to Brexton once he’s 18-19, who also signed a big contact with RCR at the same time they hired his dad from Joe Gibbs Racing  (which is a Toyota team) during the announcement a year ago.

Image Reference: Zach Catanzareti via Wikipedia, CC BY 2.0

For now, we could see Spire set its own ladder from Trucks to Cup level where one of their next full-time Truck drivers would go on & drive for any of the three Cup cars in about three years time. We don’t know who might it be but I guess one will be a youngster and another experience in the form of Marco Andretti with thanks to the Gainbridge $$$ backing.

With that being said, I think Spire would be content running three cars after 2024 while keeping all three charters. So for teams like Trackhouse, they would have to buy one of the charters out from Stewart-Haas Racing which is the going to be the No.41 whereas the other No.10 charter would go to Richard Childress Racing & set up a 3rd full-time Cup car there for Austin Hill. Then for Stewart-Haas’s end, they would be happy to settle just running two cars (No.4 & No.14) while looking to run Chevys again once the existing Ford contract expires after the 2024 season.

Image Reference: TaurusEmerald via Wikipedia, CC BY 4.0 International

It’s a crazy and expensive market but Spire is no stranger in making big investments as we hope we can see the next step of Spire being at their best on the race track sooner rather than later. Plus, we thank Kyle Busch for everything at Trucks level mainly as a team owner that led to so many of his young drivers honing their craft that led to wins and championships before they go on & race at the highest levels, while he too can also win Truck races himself from time to time where he hopes to keep on doing it with Spire next year before looking to race a full season there for the championship at some point.

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Image Reference: TaurusEmerald via Wikipedia, CC BY 4.0 International

Ryan Preece has received a confirmation from Stewart-Haas Racing today during a radio interview with Dave Moody and he will be back for another year in the No.41 Ford Mustang, even though things were slow and difficult for him this season other than the 5th placed finish at Richmond Raceway back on July 30th in Virginia.

So things will still need more time for him to make a more consistent impact as he’s currently 25th on drivers points right now, with three places behind team-mate Aric Almirola in the No.10 car & five places up of another team-mate Chase Briscoe in the sister No.14 car. All in all, it’s hard to see him be at Ross Chastain’s level, whom they’ve both raced not just on the dirt tracks but also showed some talent on these low-budget race cars via Xfinity Series level in the past. However, the results is just not there right now where Ryan can hopefully turn things around starting with these Top 10 results in 2024.

If not, we’ll have to wait & see what happens as SHR is open to selling up to 2 charters. I don’t think the fire sale will happen just yet for at least another year when you got the experienced veteran Aric Almirola holding the glue as Kevin Harvick will step away for good at season’s end in November at Phoenix, with Josh Berry replacing him in the No.4 team soon.

I also don’t think Almirola will retire just yet as well when he initially announced his retirement at the end of last season but then he changed his plans & continued to race for SHR under a multi-year deal where he will want to stick around for one more year, then retire this time for good.

That way, it would be perfect timing for the team to sell the No.10 charter to Richard Childress Racing for Austin Hill as well as the No.41 charter if the results still not good to any one of the current two-car teams ahead of the next TV rights contract to start from the 2025 season.

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Weeks after Shane Van Gisbergen has announced his full-time move to the US with Trackhouse under an initial development deal, Brodie Kostecki has today updated his plans to race NASCAR as a part-time driver again following his Cup debut last month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) in the No.33 Chevy Camaro for Richard Childress Racing.

Although it’s too early to tell since the 2024 schedule isn’t out yet, but he hopes to be there up to three races – we just don’t which type of races could it be? One is definitely a road course since he has tons of experience there, but he could also be racing on an oval for the first time as well where he raced there a few times before a long time ago in the ARCA Series.

Although I bet it will be on a short track oval or else it will be all road course events in the short-term while he has a year left on his current contract with Erebus Motorsport in the Supercars Series here. I don’t think RCR would wanna put him on a high-banked oval so early without ovals experience unless he can do it in the lower series first, which is where everyone got their first goes there & the same will go to SVG on what is about to be his learning/work experience year with these race cars.

So yes, Brodie could be the perfect replacement for Austin Hill at RCR’s Xfinity Series team from 2025 should A.Hill be promoted to their Cup squad as long as they can get a 3rd charter off Stewart-Haas Racing’s No.10 team. Actually, this can be possible – have a look at Connor Moshack who also raced in ARCA in the past before gaining tons of road course experience in the Trans-Am TA2 series over the last two years. Then he went straight to Xfinity level for the majority this year where he split his time between Sam Hunt Racing & Joe Gibbs Racing with little ovals experience beforehand & he too got to race at these tracks more often other than road courses for the first time.

I know Brodie wants full-time Cup someday & resume his Supercars rivalry with SVG, but I’d like to see him follow Connor lead’s first once his Erebus contract is up by racing on ovals before he can race Cup every weekend.He has a bright future ahead as if it wasn’t for that qualifying crash last month, then he would’ve been Top 5-7 material but glad he’s getting more opportunities with the support being backed by RCR.

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Image Reference: TaurusEmerald via Wikipedia, CC BY 4.0 International

After the big charter sale by Live Fast Motorsports the other day which went to Spire Motorsports for a whopping $40 million, it looks like the next team who would be looking to sell them is Stewart-Haas Racing. They currently run Ford Mustangs at the moment as a four-car team which ran since 2017 from Chevys with initial success, but it hasn’t been the same that way sadly in the last few years.

I guess Aric Almirola would want to stay for at least one more year in 2024, then bow it out on a high alongside Smithfield Foods in the No.10 team. That way, this could be perfect timing for Richard Childress Racing to buy the No.10 charter & expand to three cars for Austin Hill ahead of 2025, who is currently driving for them at Xfinity level, regardless of price.

So that is one charter SHR is open to selling, there’s also another charter they would like to put on the shop window which is the No.41 team. Since Kurt Busch left at the end of 2018, the team’s momentum has done way downhill over time off the back of Daniel Suarez for one year followed by Cole Custer & now Ryan Preece. The first year here is always tough for Preece, especially when he impressed in Xfinity and Trucks level last year after a few years beforehand at JTG Daugherty Racing. Now he might be back for another year in 2024 which is good news, but if he doesn’t do so well again then it would be no surprise that SHR is gonna close down the No.41 team as well. The problem is which team is gonna take it from there?

RFK Racing would be a great shoutout as long as SHR makes it available. I’m not so sure about Trackhouse but I think they will eventually purchase a charter off Spire & expand to three cars with Zane Smith onboard next year – so don’t think they will need another one. The same goes to Spire as I think they will want to make a small profit off Trackhouse & use the potential sale to improve their equipment eventually back as a two-car team. Maybe 23XI Racing perhaps to let a Toyota Racing talented driver to hone his skills for the first year or two before making the step up at some point to Joe Gibbs Racing? They wouldn’t be against the idea of expanding to having three full-time Cup cars, even though the rumour of 23XI racing under Ford Mustangs has been gone lately thanks to Denny Hamlin staying at JGR.

And I think unless Legacy Motor Club can improve their on-track performance next year with Erik Jones & now John Hunter Nemechek, I don’t see them spending $50 million on something that can guarantee them to race days following their recent switch to Toyota that will begin next year. So there you have it, we expect the No.10 charter to be sold off to Richard Childress Racing come 2025 following the retirement of Aric Almirola. And I guess we will have some competition amongst two-car teams for the No.41 charter, should Preece continue to flop next season.

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It’s good to see Ryan Preece being given the chance to prove himself in a top-notch race car by Stewart-Haas Racing, where he will replace Cole Custer in the No.41 Ford Mustang from next season. 

There has been division for some time between the co-owners – Gene Haas & Tony Stewart – about choosing Custer or Preece for the best driver to drive the No.41 team next year – but Custer had his ample chances over the last three Cup years with mostly average results despite the one regular-season win that earned him both a Playoffs spot (finished 16th in points) and the Rookie of the Year award back in 2020 – as SHR demoted Custer down back to their Xfinity team in the No.00 alongside No.98 of Riley Herbst. 

Although, I would’ve liked to see Custer help out Rick Ware Racing as SHR’s satellite team and get them up to speed on-track, but then he will most likely be racing for them part-time in the No.15 Cup machine. Sadly, there is nothing much RWR can do other than keep running multiple drivers in the No.15 unless they can find a driver that can cover full season sponsorship, while Rick’s son Cody will always be driving full-time in the No.51 with Nurtec ODT backing.

Meanwhile, on the flip side, this is Ryan’s chance now to turn the No.41 around as a regular front-runner again, which hasn’t really been the case after Kurt Busch last drove for SHR back in 2018. His replacements, Daniel Suarez (2019) and Cole Custer (2020-2022) couldn’t replicate to Kurt’s level on the race track ever since.

If Preece can show that he is capable of winning races in a top-notch car, then it looks like that SHR will have their own Ross Chastain, who had an unreal 2022 campaign finishing 2nd behind champion Joey Logano (No.22 Team Penske Ford) in the No.1 Chevy Camaro ZL1 at Trackhouse. 

And as for Custer, going back to Xfinity will help him get used to running upfront again and winning races which hasn’t happened a lot for the majority so far at Cup level. But I’m sure Custer will be ready to go back to Cup again at some point either in the No.10 car or even the No.41 again, with Preece moving to the No.4 team in place of Kevin Harvick after his expected retirement at the end of 2024. 

Now we will have to see what Almriola has to say about his long-term future after 2023, especially when he reversed his retirement plans a few months ago. If he does decide to retire this time, then it will be up to Herbst if Custer’s presence will benefit his on-track improvements at last next season. Otherwise, SHR will have to find elsewhere and pluck someone from another team like Erik Jones or Noah Gragson at Petty GMS.

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I’d like to see Preece being given a go at Rick Ware Racing full-time in the No.15 first next year if SHR chooses to keep Custer in the No.41 for another year; as long as SHR can help RWR a bit more with technical support on their equipment & hopefully post some good results on-track in order to avoid charter repossession by the sport.

When it comes to the long-term makeup though at SHR, I think Harvick will get a one-year extension in the No.4 car going into 2024 and then retire in time for the next TV rights deal in 2025 & be an analyst with Clint Bowyer & Mike Joy/Adam Alexander (if Joy retires) during the first half of the season for FOX/FS1.

His replacement? I know Hailie Deegan did so well on her Xfinity debut at Las Vegas last week but we’ll wait and see if Ford will give her a full-time Xfinity opportunity next year & try to post more Top 10-15 results on a regular basis after two full years at Trucks level.

Meanwhile, Riley Herbst still needs more time to challenge upfront every week in order to boost his chances of winning races in the No.98 SHR Xfinity car. Now he may have sponsorship but his average/inconsistent results tells me that he is not ready to take the mantle from Harvick or Almirola at this stage and then hope for the best because SHR is a top-notch team wanting to challenge for the championship. So another two years at least would hopefully see Herbst be on the same standard as Custer and Briscoe when they were racing Xfinitys really well at the time before it’s safe to say that he can finally proceed to Cup racing.

Although I do see him as a like-for-like replacement for Aric Almirola in the No.10 car, who also brings similar strong sponsorship packages like Herbst as he’s also into his 40s like Harvick; but again, consistent results will be his major issue to solve over the next year or two, otherwise he will have to try his luck elsewhere.

Now who would be the best person to step up into Harvick’s No.4 car if Deegan is either not ready, gone into Almirola’s No.10 car instead of Herbst or is poached by Toyota or Chevy? Maybe convince Erik Jones to join SHR? He too is doing so well at Petty-GMS with a win last month that ended a long-running drought of eight years for the No.43 team in victory lane, despite missing the playoffs. He brings so much talent to deliver top-half finishes with the right equipment where he was well treated by Toyota Racing during his earlier days with a Truck Series title at Kyle Busch Motorsports, as well as finishing 2nd in Xfinity level back in 2016 and also won a couple of Cup races here and there at Joe Gibbs Racing before he was replaced by Christopher Bell last year. Now Erik may have signed another contact extension with Petty-GMS lately but should Harvick retire, then I wouldn’t be surprised to see SHR throwing out some money to get him onboard.

And although Ross Chastain would be a good get from Trackhouse who is doing outstanding right now, but again SHR can develop their own Ross in Ryan Preece & help him find a full-time ride with vaulable equipment, while Custer will still be driving Cup cars for long time regardless of where he will end up either in the No.41 car for a fourth straight season or being shipped to their satellite team alongside Cody Ware at RWR.

All eyes on the long-term futures of the No.4 and No.10 Stewart-Haas cars going into 2024 and 2025, as the team prepares for life without Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola once they both hang up their racing career.

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