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Tifft to Run Full XFINITY Series Season in 2017

Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) announces today Ohio-native Matt Tifft will pilot a Toyota Camry full-time in 2017, across all 33 races of the NASCAR XFINITY Series. The 20-year old rookie, a part-time driver currently in the Joe Gibbs Racing stable, who accomplished his first top-five result and first pole-qualifying run in only nine races in 2016, has now earned a larger opportunity to compete in NASCAR’s XFINIY series, appropriately themed “Names are Made Here.”

Tifft has run a limited schedule in both the XFINITY Series and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series over the last three seasons, making a combined 31-career starts. In these early stages of his career Tifft has recorded one top-five and eight top-10 finishing spots in the Camping World Tuck Series and one top-five, five top-10 finishes and a pole-qualifying position in the XFINITY Series. Tifft has also recorded time in NASCAR’s K&N Pro West, K&N Pro East and ARCA Series and the X-1R Pro Cup Series.

Tifft made his first career XFNITY Series start and first entry with JGR at Kentucky Speedway in 2015 earning an impressive 10th-place finish in his debut.

His racing career would take a detour in 2016 when in June of this year a low-grade glioma in his brain was discovered during routine evaluations for some back pain. In July the young driver had surgery to remove the benign tumor and began rehabilitation. By August the strong rookie was working his way back to driving a consumer vehicle and in September he returned to NASCAR competition with the Camping World Truck Series race at Chicagoland (Ill.) Speedway. One week later he was back with JGR in the XFINITY Series at Kentucky Speedway, ironically the same track where he accomplished his initial series start. Tifft’s fast return from brain surgery to on-track racing yielded 12th place and fifth-place results respectively. The Kentucky run was Tifft’s first top-five finish of his young XFINITY Series career.

“It has been an incredible year and I am honored to have the opportunity to continue working with Joe Gibbs Racing in the 2017 season. I’ve always wanted the chance to contend for a championship with the Chase for the Championship program, I am thrilled to be with JGR and know they will be instrumental in my career. Through my health challenges this year and while I have continued to learn and improve my driving skills, Coach Gibbs, the staff, and veteran drivers here have mentored me and I look forward to the opportunity to be around them now for a full season,” remarked an appreciative Tifft.

In addition, JGR announces that Matt Beckman will serve as crew chief for Tifft and team in 2017. Beckman currently serves as the race engineer under crew chief Mike Wheeler with the No. 11 Sprint Cup Series Toyota team. Beckman joined JGR in 2007 as an engineer with the race team support group and was promoted to manager of the group in 2014 before becoming race engineer on the No. 19 Sprint Cup Series Toyota team in 2015. He holds an undergraduate degree from Michigan Tech and earned his master’s degree from the University of Minnesota.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for me and I’m excited to work with Matt (Tifft),” said Beckman. “Joe Gibbs Racing has had incredible success for many years now in the XFINITY Series and I know the organization takes immense pride in those accomplishments. You don’t have to look any further than JGR’s Cup Series crew chief lineup to realize the tradition they established at JGR and I’m honored to become a part of it starting next season.”

Tifft’s 2016 XFINITY Series schedule afforded him the opportunity to compete in eight races to date, which yielded one top-five, four top-10 finishes, a first pole capture and 23 laps led. The rookie has two scheduled races remaining on the 2016 XFINITY Series schedule, this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth and in two weeks at the season-ending Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway.

Tifft further described next year’s opportunity, “I am very excited to work with a new crew chief and look forward to building on my race experience alongside Matt (Beckman). I know I have two more races to finish this year, but 2017 is right around the corner, and I can’t wait to get started in Daytona!”

JGR has history of developing young drivers with Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez most recently achieving success in their program.

“We look forward to continued development with Matt (Tifft) over this next race season,” said Executive Vice President of XFINITY Series Operations and Development Steve DeSouza. “He’s shown strength through adversity and a strong willingness to advance his performance level for a long-term career in racing. JGR has enjoyed watching young drivers such as Erik (Jones) and Daniel (Suarez) move through our system and build experience that is yielding them positive results on the racetrack. With the championship caliber NASCAR Sprint Cup Series programs, drivers and personnel to draw from here, these young competitors continue to grow. I know Matt will take full advantage of this continued opportunity.”

When he’s not improving his race skills to become a veteran NASCAR driver, Tifft is also a second-year student at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, as a business management major.

Primary sponsorship across the 33 designated races with Tifft and the assigned car number will be further developed and announced at a later date.

Daniel Suarez & ARRIS Racing Win the XFINITY Championship!

Post-Race Highlights:

  • · Making his second-career NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) start at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday afternoon, Daniel Suárez earned the pole and went on to lead a race-high 133 laps en route to his third NXS victory in 2016 and his first-career NXS Driver’s Championship.
  • · With his win, Suárez becomes the first Latin American Driver to win a NASCAR National Series title.
  • · Suárez was followed to the checkered flag by Ty Dillion, Elliott Sadler, Ryan Blaney and Austin Dillion
  • · Suárez finished the 2016 campaign with three wins, 19 top-five finishes, 27 top-10 results and three pole positions in his second season in the series.
  • · Suarez’ three wins this season, including his first career NXS victory at Michigan International Speedway (June 11), followed by first-place trophy at Dover International Speedway (October 2) and the season-finale at Homestead Miami Speedway
  • · Suarez’s title marks the second driver’s championship for Toyota in the XFINITY Series with fellow Toyota driver Kyle Busch earning the title in 2009.
  • · Suarez’s win also captured the 2016 manufacture’s championship for Toyota Racing.

DANIEL SUAREZ, No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 1st
How does it feel to win your first NASCAR championship and all the interviews you will have to do?
“Honestly I don’t mind doing all the interviews in the world. I’m just so happy for my team, so happy for my family who is here and a lot of friends, the sponsors – ARRIS, Interstate Batteries, Juniper, DeWALT, Coca-Cola, Toyota – everyone who has helped for this to happen and to be here right now.”

What does this mean to you and your family?
“It’s very hard to put into words. I’m speechless right now. I’m just very proud of everyone and thankful to have the family that I have – my mom, my dad. They gave me all the tools to be here right now. They put me in a car even when we didn’t have the support or the racing background. They supported me and right now we are just living a dream.”

What kind of champion are you going to be?
“I just love NASCAR. When I was racing all over the world with TelMex Racing and they told me about NASCAR and thought I had the opportunity in stock car racing.”

Cody Coughlin the First to Win Dual CRA Championships

WINCHESTER, IN – Cody Coughlin has made history. The Joe Gibbs Racing Development driver is the first to win both Champion Racing Associations Late Model touring series championships in a single season.

With a fifth-place finish in Sunday’s Winchester 400 in Indiana, Coughlin clinched the 2016 ARCA/CRA Super Series championship. Friday he dominated the JEGS / CRA All-Stars Tour event until mechanical woes end the night early. He has built up a sufficient cushion in the standings that the minor bump in the road has no outcome in the final results and his second Tour title in that particular series.

Sunday’s race was the most difficult of Coughlin’s season. The already challenging Winchester 400 event became even more challenging after Coughlin slapped the turn four wall near the halfway mark of the marathon race. His JEGS.com Toyota Camry suffered enough damage to make the car hard to drive, but Coughlin never gave up.

The 20-year-old driver ran a conservative race from that point forward to ensure that the championship would be his.

Coughlin dropped as low as 13th, but his crew kept encouraging him all race long. Eventually, the cars ahead of him started to have trouble and Coughlin rebounded to another top-five finish to close out the season.

“This feels awesome,” Coughlin said. “We had a bit of a sloppy race today, but we kept digging and got the job done. We worked so hard all year long, so to get this championship just feels amazing.”

The Delaware, Ohio native finished the 2016 ARCA/CRA Super Series season with four wins, nine top-five finishes, and 10 top-10 finishes. Add in the two triumphs from the JEGS / CRA All-Stars Tour and Coughlin racked up six Late Models victories this season.

“It is so cool to say that we are the first team to win both the Super Series and JEGS Tour championships in one season,” said Coughlin. “This team just worked so hard all season long. Jack (Smith, crew chief), Kevin (Hamlin, team manager), Scott (Wimmer, spotter), Dave (Holt, crew member) Jon (Ziti, crew member) and everybody that helped us at any point this season worked so hard each and every race. I am so thankful for everybody that helped us get to this point, including my parents (Di and John) for how much love and support they give me each and every day. I also am so thankful for my sister, Kennedi for coming to almost every race. She’s awesome, and I am so blessed by our Lord to have all of them as my family.”

For more information on Cody Coughlin and Team JEGS, visit www.teamjegs.com and follow Cody on Twitter, @Cody_Coughlin. Follow Team JEGS on Twitter, @TeamJEGS, and “Like” JEGS Performance on Facebook. Also be sure to check out Cody’s new website, www.codycoughlin.com. Any other inquiries for Cody Coughlin can be sent to Bob Dillner via email at bd51sports@gmail.com.

Sprint Cup Race Report: Chicago

Denny Hamlin led Joe Gibbs Racing with a sixth-place finish in this afternoon’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Meanwhile, teammates Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, and Carl Edwards finished eighth, ninth and 15th respectively.

This was the first race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship. Four teams will be eliminated from the Chase after the first three-race segment which follows the next two races at New Hampshire and Dover respectively. All four JGR teams remain in the top 10 in points after today’s race. The current point standings are: 1. Truex (2050), 2. Keselowski (-1) 3. Kyle Busch (-4), 4. Hamlin (-5), 5. Logano (-7), 6. Elliott (-11), 7. Kenseth (-12), 8. Johnson (-13), 9. Edwards (-18), 10. Kurt Busch (-19), 11. McMurray (-20), 12. Stewart (-22), 13. Dillon (-23), 14. Harvick (-23), 15. Larson (-23), 16. Buescher (-34). The victory today by Martin Truex, Jr. automatically advances him into the next round of the Chase.

Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota in third and jumped up to second on the opening lap, but debris on the front grill of his car would cause him to drop back a spot to shake it loose. Hamlin would run sixth prior to the first round of pit stops. A caution would come out just as the field was starting a round of green flag pit stops and the 11 would cycle through to restart sixth on lap 57. He was running ninth at lap 100. A caution on lap 119 would bring the leaders down pit road and Hamlin would line up sixth for the restart on lap 125 and held the position through the halfway point. A round of green flag stops at lap 172 would cycle Hamlin through in fourth. A caution on lap 192 would bring the leaders back down pit road and he would restart third on lap 198. Hamlin was running fourth with 50 laps remaining. He would make a green flag pit stop from fifth with 30 laps to go and cycled through to hold the fourth position. Hamlin was running third when a final caution came out with five laps to go. Crew chief Mike Wheeler would make the call to bring the FedEx Camry down pit road and he would restart seventh for a green-white-checkered finish after several cars stayed out on the track. He would go on to finish sixth.

Busch started the No. 18 Skittles Toyota from the pole position and led the opening 21 laps before finally relinquishing the lead and falling back to run third prior to the first round of pit stops. A caution on lap 49 would come out just as the field was starting a round of green flag pit stops. Busch would bring his Skittles Camry down pit road under caution and once all everyone had cycled through he would restart third on lap 57. He was running fourth at lap 100. A caution on lap 119 would bring the leaders down pit road and Busch would hold onto the fourth position for the restart at lap 125 and continued to hold that position at the halfway mark. NASCAR would rule that the Skittles Camry was too fast on pit road during a round of green flag pit stops on lap 172 resulting in a pass through penalty. He would cycle back in a lap down in 20th but managed to drive his way around the leader to get back on the lead lap. A caution on lap 192 would bring the leaders back down pit road and he would restart 12th. Busch was running 13th with 50 laps remaining. A final round of green flag pit stops would see Busch cycle through back in 12th. He would drive his way into the top ten and was running ninth when a final caution came out with five laps to go. Crew chief Adam Stevens would bring the Skittles Camry down pit road one final time and Busch would restart 10th after several cars remained out on the track. He would gain two positions over the two-lap green-white-checkered finish to come home in eighth.

Kenseth started the No. 20 DEWALT FLEXVOLT Toyota in the seventh position and dropped back to run 10th during the opening green flag run while battling an extremely tight handling racecar. A caution on lap 49 would come out just as the No. 20 Camry was making its way onto pit road. Kenseth would cycle through to restart 14th on lap 57. He was running 11th at lap 100. A caution on lap 119 would bring the leaders down pit road and Kenseth was hit with a speeding penalty that sent him back to 19th for the restart on lap 125. The tight handling conditions on his DEWALT FLEXVOLT Camry would continue while racing back in traffic as he held on to 19th position. A round of green flag pit stops would cycle Kenseth through in 13th at lap 180. A caution on lap 192 would bring the leaders back down pit road and he would restart 10th and continued to hold that position with 50 laps remaining. A final round of green flag pit stops would cycle Kenseth through in 10th. He would race his way into sixth before a final caution with five laps remaining. Crew Chief Jason Ratcliff would bring the 20 down pit road and he would restart eighth with two laps remaining after several cars remained out on the track. He would go on to finish ninth.

Edwards started the No. 19 STANLEY Toyota from the fifth position and settled in to run seventh through the opening green flag while battling tight handling conditions. A caution on lap 49 would come out just as the field was starting a round of green flag pit stops. Edwards would bring the STANLEY Camry down pit road under yellow and once all was sorted out he would restart ninth on lap 57. He was running ninth at lap 100. A caution on lap 119 would bring the leaders down pit road and he would restart 12th on lap 125. Edwards was running 14th at the halfway mark. A round of green flag pit stops would cycle Edwards through in 16th at lap 180. A caution on lap 192 would bring the leaders back down pit road and he would restart 17th. He would gain one spot to run 16th with 50 remaining. A final round of green flag pit stops would cycle Edwards through to run 16th. He was up to 11th when a final caution came out with five laps to go. Crew chief Dave Rogers would make the call to remain out on the track allowing Edwards to restart third for a green-white-checkered finish. With everyone racing behind him on fresher tires the 19 would fall back to finish 15th.

Martin Truex, Jr. captured the win, followed by Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five. There were four cautions for a total of 22 laps and 17 lead changes among nine different drivers.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway next Sunday for the second race in the opening three-race segment in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship. Live coverage on NBCSN will start Sunday, September 25 at 1:30 PM (race starts at 2 PM ET). The race will also be carried on Sirius NASCAR radio channel 90.

Erik Jones Wins the Chicago Xfinity Race!

Unloading at Chicagoland Speedway for the final regular season race to set the field for the inaugural NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase, Erik Jones and the No. 20 Hisense USA team qualified in the fifth position and led 10 laps on the way to capturing their fourth win of the season. Rolling off the grid in the fifth position, Jones quickly slipped to ninth on the opening laps and reported to the team that he was too tight and didn’t have the speed he needed on the straightaways. The first caution waved on lap five for the 70 car and the team opted to stay on track. The race restarted on lap 10 with Jones ninth. NASCAR waved a Competition Caution on lap 25 due to rain moving through the area over night and Crew Chief Chris Gabehart called Jones to pit road for four tires, fuel and a round of adjustments to help with the tight-handling conditions. With a solid stop on pit road, the race restarted on lap 31 with Jones in the sixth position. Focused on the leaders and with coaching from Gabehart and spotter Chris Lambert, Jones was able to move up to fifth on lap 42 where he remained when the field started making green-flag stops on lap 80. Gabehart called Jones to pit road from the second position on lap 81 for four tires, fuel and another round of adjustments. As the field cycled through stops, a competitor spun on the track to bring out the caution. Jones remained on the track and restarted the race on lap 88 from the fifth position. Following multiple cautions, Jones worked his way up to second on lap 117. As the race continued under green-flag conditions, teams were forced to make a second round of green-flag stops. Jones reported that he was happier with the handling of the No. 20 Camry and made his green-flag stop on lap 154 for four tires, fuel and another round of adjustments. Once the field cycled through stops, Jones returned to the second position with his focus on leader Busch as he began closing the gap between first and second. With two more late-race cautions, including one involving leader Busch, Jones was able to take the lead for the final time on lap 191 and hold off a hard charging Kyle Larson to secure his second win at Chicagoland Speedway in just his third start at the track.

Daniel Suárez, driver of the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing, finished fourth during the 200-lap event after battling back from damage suffered on pit road. During the only practice session on Friday due to rain in the area, Suárez unloaded fast and maintained his speed throughout the day, finishing third on the time charts with a speed of 176.887 MPH in the ARRIS Camry. Suárez then went out on Saturday morning and qualified his No 19 ARRIS Toyota second for the 200-lap event, turning a lap time of 29.884 seconds at 180.699 MPH around the 1.5-mile speedway. Following the drop of the green flag under a perfect Saturday afternoon night in Joliet, IL, Suárez took the lead on lap two and would be scored in the second position when the first caution of the afternoon waved on lap six. Staying out under the caution, Suárez restarted in second and maintained his position inside the top five until the NASCAR mandated competition caution waved on lap 25. During the caution, crew chief Scott Graves called Suárez down pit road for four fresh Goodyear Tires, Fuel and a round of adjustments. Unfortunately, as Suárez was leaving pit road following his stop, he suffered left and right side damage to his ARRIS Camry after multiple cars hit him on pit road. The damage was severe enough that Suárez came back down pit road to fix the damage and restarted in 29th on lap 31. Despite the setback, Suárez wasted no time working his way to the front, and cracked the top 10 by the time he made a scheduled green-flag pit stop on lap 80 for four tires, fuel and another round of adjustments. Once pit stops cycled through, Suárez would be scored in the eighth position. Suárez would continue his march towards the front following the pit stop, and would be scored in fourth at the halfway point of the race. The 24-year-old from Monterrey, Mexico would continue to be a mainstay inside the top five for the remaining portion of the race, ultimately crossing the finish line in the fourth position for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) veteran Kyle Busch and the No. 18 NOS Energy Drink Toyota team started from row one, a first-place qualifying lap at 180.735 mph captured in 29.878 seconds. Busch led the field nine times over 154 event circuits and was in strong contention for another checkered-flag capture, his ninth of the year, when late in the race, car damage from a wall scrape caused tire damage and a subsequent spin. The No. 18 NOS Energy Drink Camry came home in 13th place while teammate Erik Jones proceeded to grab the checkered flag.
The top-15 finish added to the team’s strong season performance that has documented 10 wins, 16 top-five finishes, 18 top-10 finishes eight poles and 1,905 laps led this year. Busch’s next No. 18 NOS Energy Drink competition will be October 1 at Dover International Speedway for the Drive Sober 200 XFINITY Series event.
In two practice sessions on Friday over the 1.5-mile Illinois racetrack, Busch and team had a difficult time initially with their Toyota Camry. In the first practice session that afternoon, they blew a motor and lost the remainder of that practice session to make the fix. In practice two later on Friday the No. 18 Toyota started to come to life, still needing adjustments, but by the end of the final practice time they were posted fastest on the board.

Qualifying was successful for the No. 18 Toyota team when Saturday morning with a speed of 180.735 mph Busch posted the fastest lap of the field, earning the team their ninth pole of the season, Busch’s seventh first-place start. It was the veteran driver’s 55th pole in 326 XFINITY series races – a series high. At green flag start and from the pole-starting position the NOS Energy Drink Toyota battled initially among traffic, with teammate Daniel Suarez, and dropped to the second-place position. By lap five, however, Busch had regained the top spot and started to pull away from the field when the first race caution appeared. Another restart and again the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Suarez battled hard for position with Busch – taking the lead once more. Busch passed his teammate back once more and again maintained the top position when the competition caution appeared by NASCAR. Busch noted a ‘vibration’ and the team came to their pit box for four new Goodyear tires and Sunoco Racing fuel. They remained in first place with the restart on lap 29 of 200 scheduled event laps. The vibration feeling went away but Busch advised his crew chief Chris Gayle that his Toyota Camry was now beginning to feel tight in the center of the turns. “Exit of one and two is our only problem,” Busch relayed to Gayle. A green-flag pit stop ensued and the team didn’t feel they needed to make any car adjustments. At race halfway, Busch and the NOS Energy Drink team were still leaders. Past the mid-race mark, Busch relayed further to his team about a loose condition with turning in the front and center of the turns. Another pit-road visit and while the No. 18 team elected to replenish four Goodyear tires, other competitors either stayed on the race track or took only two new tires. The No. 18 team restarted in the fourth position but eventually regained the race lead. When asked if he liked the car handling after the last pit stop Busch remarked, “It’s turning better, but it’s not the adjustment I wanted. We’ll be good for short runs but we’ll see how restarts go.” The race momentum changed for the No. 18 team when on lap 148 Busch tried to give room to a lapped car and got pushed up towards, and into the wall, which caused damage to the right rear of the NOS Energy Drink Toyota. “The car will probably go tight now, so don’t make any changes to it. Geez I barely touched it, but it must have really damaged the car, all the rivets are popped out,” Busch relayed to Gayle. Pit road visits occurred at lap 153 and again at lap 161 but the damage forced further issues for the team when on lap 180 they blew a tire. Forced to visit pit road one more time, the No. 18 team replenished tires once more. With the last pit stop at lap 186 NASCAR advised the No. 18 team their crew members made car adjustments by jumping over the wall “too soon.” The penalty was for Busch to restart the final race green flag at the tail end of the line. With only 11 laps remaining to complete the race, Busch didn’t have time to recover and brought his NOS Energy Drink Camry home with a top-15 result, in 13th place.
Saturday’s XFINITY Series event recorded an average speed of 120.576 mph and saw 22 lead changes across 11 drivers. Busch led the field nine times for a race-high 154 laps. There were eight caution periods for 38 laps of the 300-mile event. With Saturday’s 13th-place finish the No. 18 NOS Energy Drink team moves to second place in the series Owner’s Championship competition, now two markers behind the No. 02 Richard Childress Racing team.