Sunday, February 18, 2018
Sports

NASCAR's musical chairs leaves Montoya, Newman searching

HAMPTON, Ga. — When the music stops, everyone hopes to have a seat.

A seat behind the wheel of a stock car, that is.

NASCAR is going through its version of musical chairs, with several big-name drivers moving to new rides or scrambling for a spot in Sprint Cup for 2014.

This week, former Cup champion Kurt Busch completed his move to Stewart-Haas Racing for next season. Another big piece of the puzzle was finalized Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, where Kyle Larson, 21, was announced as the next driver of the No. 42 car at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing.

Those moves left Ryan Newman and Juan Montoya, respectively, on the outside looking in for the moment.

"I find it interesting, just like everybody else does," said Dale Earnhardt Jr., who doesn't have to worry about his status at Hendrick Motorsports. "I'm anxious to find out where certain drivers end up, what kind of competition there's going to be next year."

The situation is especially complex for Newman, who is trying to get Stewart-Haas' No. 39 car in this year's 10-race Chase for the Championship while weighing his options for next year.

"I would say it's more of a challenge because you have to compartmentalize, stay focused at different times on different subjects," said Newman, 15th in points going into Sunday's race at Atlanta, the next-to-last event before the Chase. "It takes away from the relaxing time in your mind, which is just as important as being focused on what you need to at any given time, be it 2013 or 2014."

Qualifying: Ricky Stenhouse earned his first Sprint Cup pole at Atlanta, turning a lap of 189.688 mph on the 1.54 tri-oval.

"When we unloaded the car, we weren't very good," Stenhouse said. "We kept making changes, making big changes, and got it where we needed to be."

Roush Fenway Racing teammate Carl Edwards was second at 189.021 mph. Tampa's Aric Almirola (184.886) will up 29th and Zephyrhills' David Reutimann (183.728) 34th.

IndyCar: The series installed new rules involving drivers and the safety of pit crew members, days after a controversial penalty against Scott Dixon for clipping a tire carried by a member of Will Power's crew at Sonoma, Calif.

Starting this weekend at the street race in Baltimore, the series added "courtesy zones" to the outside edges of each pit box to aid in monitoring pit stop conduct. The courtesy zones are defined by 45-degree dotted lines as part of the painted pit boxes.

Also, anyone putting a car, equipment or personnel in a hazardous spot could be penalized.

"I'm obviously not as angered. I'd probably take back some of the words I used," said Dixon, who lost the lead Sunday and finished 15th. "But still, I think the guy was incompetent, not paying attention, and we don't need that on pit lane."

NHRA: Rookie Brittany Force led Top Fuel qualifying at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. Force, the daughter of Funny Car star John Force, had a 3.820-second run at 313.44 mph in the first of three days of qualifying, unique to this event. Bob Tasca III topped Funny Car, Allen Johnson led Pro Stock and Matt Smith was first in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

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