JRM Endures Roller Coaster Afternoon at Chicago

JR Motorsports | 6/21/2015

Alpha Energy Solutions Ben Rhodes Chase Elliott Chicago Goody's NAPA News Race Report Regan Smith XFINITY Series

JR Motorsports drivers Regan Smith, Chase Elliott and Ben Rhodes fought an up and down day in Chicago, suffering from damage and controversy along the way.

Race 14 of 33: Owens Corning Atticat 300 at Chicagoland Speedway

Track Specs: 1.5-mile oval / 200 laps

Weather:  Partly Cloudy, 77 degrees

Race Winner: Erik Jones

Smith’s finish: 13th

Elliott’s finish: 14th

Rhodes’ finish: 21st

Regan Smith

The Owens Corning Atticat 300 at Chicagoland Speedway was up and down for Regan Smith and the JRM No. 7 team. After qualifying fourth in the Goody’s Chevrolet Camaro, hopes were high as the team looked to gain ground in the NASCAR XFINITY Series driver standings, and early on, it looked as if it was going to be a good day.

But a persistent handling issue—tight in the middle of the corners—presented itself early and never quite went away, no matter how much crew chief Jason Burdett and the team tried to get it out. At the first pit stop on lap 26, a competition caution following Saturday night’s heavy rain which postponed the race a day, Smith was sixth; after the pit crew knocked out an 11.55-second four-tire stop, he was second. On the ensuing restart, he raced away from the pack to gain the lead. It was the first of 18 laps Smith would lead on the day.

It was short-lived, however, as eventual race winner Erik Jones got past eight laps later, and the handling got progressively tougher for Smith to hold onto and he fell to sixth. Another pit stop, this one 11.1 seconds, got Smith back to second on a caution at lap 97, and he led again, but Jones again passed for the lead on lap 113.

It went that way until lap 150, when the crew cranked out another sub-12-second stop to get him more track position. NASCAR maintained that Smith and 22 other cars had hit a closed pit road and called a penalty. Despite the specter of starting from the tail, Smith rolled off 10th on the restart.

On the final restart, Smith began in the fifth position, but couldn’t hold off the cars behind him and wound up 13th at the finish.

Jones won the race, followed by Ryan Blaney, Austin Dillon, Brendan Gaughan and point leader Chris Buescher. JRM teammate Chase Elliott was 14th, while JRM rookie Ben Rhodes came home 21st. Smith’s finish kept him fourth in the driver standings, but he lost ground to leader Buescher, sitting 62 points out of the lead after 14 races.

Regan Smith, driver No. 7 Breyers team

“We were fast, but just so tight all day. We kept trying to free it up in the middle, but nothing seemed to work and it was affecting my entry and exit. We finally had to quit trying to fix the middle and just get what we could.  The pit crew was outstanding today, getting the Goody’s Chevrolet spots on every stop, and we were able to do good things with it every time we stopped, but we just couldn’t hold onto the spots they gave us. We’ll go to work and figure it out with Jason and the crew guys before we head back to Daytona.”

Chase Elliott

Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet, finished 14th in Sunday’s Owens Corning AttiCat 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) race at Chicagoland Speedway.  Elliott remains third in the championship standing, 43 points behind leader Chris Buescher.  Jones led a race-high 94 laps on his way to capturing his second career XFINITY Series victory.

Elliott qualified in the sixth position on Saturday, but had to wait until Sunday for the green flag, as the series endured its first rain out of the season.  For the majority of the race’s first half, Elliott maintained a steady pace inside the top-10 and eventually led lap 76 before coming to pit road under a scheduled green-flag stop.  Directed by crew chief Ernie Cope, the NAPA team worked on tightening up the Chevrolet as Elliott was struggling to move around the race track.  As Elliott mentioned early in the going, the bottom line seemed to be his best line, but needed to be able to run the high line of the 1.5-mile oval in order to continue to progress forward.

During a lap-150 caution, Elliott continued to express that he was free and his issue was worsening as each run continued.  During Elliott’s lap-152 pit stop, NASCAR indicated the No. 9 team (and other teams) entered a closed pit road, ultimately dropping Elliott to 14th on the ensuing restart with 41 laps to go.  The team only was able to only put fuel in the Camaro under the stop.

As the race neared the finish, Elliott’s misfortune continued.  On lap 178, Elliott got loose exiting turn two, eventually bringing out the caution after his right-side tires deflated.  Elliott would come to pit road for fuel and four new tires, dropping him off the lead lap with 18 laps to go – in the 28th position.  Elliott would reap the benefit of a caution flag just two laps later, propelling him back to the lead lap.  On the race’s final restart, Elliott sat 28th and within 12 laps he made up half the ground for a 14th-place rebound finish.

Jones bested Ryan Blaney, Austin Dillon, Brendan Gaughan and Chris Buescher for the win.  

Chase Elliott, driver No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS team

“It was a tough day from start to finish.  We battled a loose NAPA Chevy most of the going, especially in the high groove.  My team kept making adjustments, but we ultimately couldn’t go too far with our adjustments or it would upset my ability to turn off each corner.  When we made those adjustments, I would start the run off really snug, but would end the run very loose.  We kept after it all day, fighting until the end, but we just came up a bit short.  We will take some time to revisit this race during our off-week and be ready for Daytona in two weeks.”

Ben Rhodes

JRM rookie Ben Rhodes put forth a solid effort in Sunday’s Owens Corning AttiCat 300 at Chicagoland Speedway, bringing the No. 88 Alpha Energy Solutions Chevrolet home in the 21st position and learning a lot in the process. The rain-delayed race marked Rhodes’ second NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) start and his first NXS start on a 1.5-mile track.

Rhodes rebounded from several brushes with the wall and contact with another competitor on lap 183, during which he made a fantastic save to keep the No. 88 from spinning, and looked to have at least a top-15 finish when an aggressive late-race restart cost him several positions. The driver of the No. 88 Chevy was running 14th, three spots better than his starting position, before the final restart on lap 188. Unfortunately, he was already battling a tight condition and couldn’t get a good run in the outside lane and several competitors were able to get underneath of him. Rhodes was never able to regain those positions as the tight handling issue continued to persist over the last 10 laps, and he ended the race in the 21st position.

In the early going, Rhodes radioed that his Alpha Chevy was very loose on corner exit and the No. 88 crew made a wedge adjustment on the first pit stop to help remedy the problem. The adjustment, combined with the 18-year-old driver learning the effect that aerodynamics would have on his racecar, helped Rhodes to gain forward momentum and he worked his way into the top 15 before the next pit cycle. Spotter Eddie D’Hondt helped coach the young driver as he searched for different lines on the racetrack, adjusted to running in traffic with an aero-dependent car and focused on improving his entry to his pit stall. 

By lap 142, the No. 88 Chevy had gone from loose to tight, and the tight condition would remain throughout the final 58 laps. Rhodes pitted for tires and another round of adjustments on lap 151, but received a penalty, along with 22 other cars, for pitting before pit road was open, as NASCAR had radioed that the pits were open even though the red lights, signaling a closed pit, were flashing. Once the field was sorted for the restart, the Alpha Chevy lined up 15th. Within two laps, Rhodes jumped up to 11th, but even with the recent adjustments, the No. 88 was still too tight and Rhodes fell back to 14th, where he would run until the final restart. Overall, the 21st-place finish didn’t diminish what was a great learning day for the rookie driver. 

Erik Jones earned his second NXS victory of 2015. He was followed to the stripe by Ryan Blaney, Austin Dillon, Brendan Gaughan and Chris Buescher.

Ben Rhodes, driver No. 88 Alpha Energy Solutions team

“We had a pretty decent Alpha Energy Solutions Chevy to start the race. Pretty much the entire race was about me learning. A 21st-place finish is not where we should be with the speed that we had, but I definitely put us in the hole by making a couple of mistakes. I’ve got to do a better job of saving the car and staying calmer on the restarts. I got aggressive and made up a lot of spots, but then I got too aggressive on some of them and once I made up the spots I would fall back from overdriving the corner. But, I learned a lot. I learned how to race around these guys, how to use the aero to my advantage, how to use the aero to their disadvantage and just how to drive these cars. It was really fast out there today, but it just comes down to me learning. I don’t even think I could write down everything I learned – it was probably 200 different things. I want to thank all of the guys on this No. 88 team for their hard work today and I look forward to getting back in the car at Loudon.”

 

 

No. 7 Goody’s Chevrolet Camaro

Regan Smith 

Start

4th

Finish

13th 

Laps Completed (Led)

200 of 200 (18)

Points (Bonus)

31 (1)

Standings (from leader)

4th (-62)

Status

Running

 

 

 

No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS

Chevrolet Camaro

Chase Elliott

Start

6th

Finish

14th

Laps Completed (Led)

200 of 200 (1)

Points (Bonus)

31 (1)

Standings (from leader)

3rd (-43)

Status

Running 

 

 

 

No. 88 Alpha Energy Solutions

Chevrolet Camaro

Ben Rhodes

Start

17th

Finish

21st

Laps Completed (Led)

200 of 200 (0)

Points (Bonus)

23 (0)

Standings (from leader)

6th (-71)

Status

Running

 

Articles

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XFINITY Series Schedule

  • May 23 01:00 PM ET
    Alsco 300 at CharlotteCharlotte Motor Speedway
  • May 30 01:00 PM ET
    Mid-Ohio 170Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
  • June 6 01:30 PM ET
    LTi Printing 250Michigan International Speedway
  • June 13 08:30 PM ET
    Iowa 250Iowa Speedway
  • June 20 04:00 PM ET
    Chicagoland 300Chicagoland Speedway

XFINITY Series Standings

After LS Tractor 200

Phoenix Raceway | 3/7/2020
RankDriverPointsBehind
1Harrison Burton #1760
2Chase Briscoe173-3
3Austin Cindric155-21
4Brandon Jones148-28
5Ross Chastain146-30
6Noah Gragson143-33
7Ryan Sieg143-33
8Justin Haley140-36
9Justin Allgaier138-38
10Michael Annett119-57