Friday, 19 April 2024

DQS Solutions & Staffing is off to the races.

The Dearborn, Michigan-based company, which places employees in a variety of industries in areas like security, warehousing, healthcare, and automotive, is now in the passenger seat of a promising young Truck Series racer making his full-time debut. 

Along with strategic partner Masked Owl Technologies, DQS will support Bayley Currey’s first full-time season in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, which gets underway in February. Currey drives the No. 41 truck for Niece Motorsports. The team’s primary sponsors include Precision Vehicle Logistics and AutoVentive.

“I’m excited to work with everyone at Precision Vehicle Logistics, AutoVentive, Detroit Quality Staffing and Masked Owl Technologies” Currey said. “We can’t do what we love without the support of great partners, so it means a lot that they’ve returned to Niece Motorsports with the 41 team. We’re looking forward to a strong season.”

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Below is part four (the final installment) of my reflections on the year that was, and what’s to come in 2024, for Cup series teams:

Legacy Motor Club
Results: Erik Jones (27th in points); 32nd in owner point standings for 42 car (multiple drivers)
Grade: C-

The big news for Legacy Motor Club this year was that they’ll be moving from Chevy to Toyota for 2024, and that’s probably a wise move. 

Their final year with Chevy was disastrous, as talented Erik Jones could only muster a single top-5 in 2023, and 7 top-10 finishes, in the 43 car. 

The 42 car was even worse, with Noah Gragson delivering zero top-10 runs in 21 races before being sacked after his social media controversy. Next year is much more promising for the team, with John Hunter Nemechek taking over the 42 car full-time and bringing his crew chief with him, and Jones returning. If Toyota can provide them with fast cars, these are two drivers who can definitely step up for Legacy Motor Club in 2024.

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Part three of my reflections on the year that was, and what’s to come in 2024, for Cup series teams:

RFK Racing 
Results: Chris Buescher (7th in points); Brad Keselowski (8th in points)
Grade: A-

Talk about overachieving: RFK Racing was the breakout Cup team of 2023. RFK Racing co-owner/driver Brad Keselowski had long hyped up his teammate Chris Buescher’s talent, but that was backed up when Buescher shocked everyone by rattling off three wins this summer. 

Meanwhile, Keslowski consistently ran up front all year, and took home 7 top-5 finishes. He could easily return to victory lane next season. The fact that both these drivers finished in the top 8 in points is extremely impressive for a team still aiming to rebuild back to the levels of success once enjoyed in the former glory days of Roush Racing. 

Look for Buescher and Keselowski to remain contenders in 2024 in the newly unveiled Mustang Dark Horse. 

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Part two of my reflections on the year that was, and what’s to come in 2024, for Cup series teams:

Joe Gibbs Racing
Results; Christopher Bell (4th in points); Denny Hamlin (5th in points); Martin Truex Jr. (11th in points); Ty Gibbs (18th in points) 
Grade: A-

Despite only one driver making the Final Four, this was a very strong overall year for Joe Gibbs Racing, with 8 wins between the trio of Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. and Christopher Bell. Ty Gibbs did not win, but he did run very well as a rookie and had the second-best finish in the points among non-playoff drivers. With all four drivers returning in 2024, I expect all four, including young Ty, to make the playoffs and several to make deep runs. 

Denny Hamlin’s continued struggles with completing a title run will once again be at the forefront of conversation next season, but I wouldn’t put it out of the realm of possibility that Hamlin does win it all in 2024, and Truex and Bell could be right there beside him battling for the title.

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With the racing wrapped up for 2023, and the teams already looking forward to getting back to it next February starting with the Clash at the Coliseum, this is a time for Cup teams to reflect on what went right (or wrong) in 2023. And more importantly, what the future might hold in next year’s battle.

Below is part one of my reflections on the year that was, and what’s to come in 2024.

Team Penske
Results: Ryan Blaney (champion); Joey Logano (12th in points); Austin Cindric (24th in points)
Grade: A-

Team Penske was not the championship favorite all season, but the great thing about a playoff system is that sometimes a competitor will rise above expectations. 

Just as the New York Giants beat a previously undefeated New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, the formerly young Ryan Blaney won his way into the Final Four and then rose above the stiff Hendrick competition in the final race of the season to become the 2023 Cup Champion. That gave Roger Penske a second straight Cup title, following Joey Logano’s title in 2022. Blaney will be an excellent champion for the sport, and his win shows you can never count out the Captain.

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I remember the first time I had a hint of what was to come from young Ryan Blaney, in the media center at Michigan International Speedway in 2013.

It was back when he was quite young, still a teenager in fact, and I had just watched him finish second in an ARCA race at the track.

He was very fresh in the sport at that point, having competed in some Xfinity and Truck series races as an 18-year-old in 2012.

When Blaney showed up in the media room to take questions, he was agitated, almost pissed off the entire time. Why, you ask? He hadn’t won the race (coincidentally, the race was won by Brennan Poole and Grant Enfinger finished 5th that day.)

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As we often hear late in a race broadcast, the pay window is now open. And not just for one race, but for the whole shebang.

It’s that time of year where it’s all on the line, and the sport will crown its champions out in Phoenix before heading off into the sunset until February. Whether you like the format or not, we have four drivers who have risen above the rest and have their shot at glory out in the Soronan desert.

Here’s my take on how things will shake out this weekend, as these gladiators take to their chariots for the final time in 2023.

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DEARBORN, MI — Ford Performance has unveiled the new Mustang for the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series based on the Mustang Dark Horse. After a busy year of Mustang racing news, this 2024 NASCAR Cup Series Mustang is the icing on the cake for the full family of performance Mustang cars.

Based on the seventh-generation Mustang, this Dark Horse version adds to the impressive lineup of racing Mustangs, and means that starting in 2024, Mustang will be eligible to race on six continents.

“What a crazy year it has been revealing our new global Mustangs for racing. The positive response from our fans around the world has been amazing, and we’re confident that this Mustang Dark Horse Cup car will be no different and that NASCAR fans will be excited to cheer us on next year,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Performance Motorsports. “Our Ford Performance staff, together with our NASCAR race teams, have worked tirelessly in the wind tunnel developing this car, and I can’t wait to finally see it race on the track next season.”

Ford unveiled the all-new Mustang Dark Horse just over a year ago, marking the first new performance nameplate for Mustang since 2001. It is the most track-capable 5.0-liter V8 street-legal Mustang ever and has inspired the current roster of Mustang cars that started racing this year in the Repco Supercars Championship in Australia and Formula Drift series.

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Saturday’s race at Daytona was an exciting conclusion to a season where we’ve seen everything under the sun, as we finished our second regular season with the Next Gen car.

The three-wide racing for much of the night was downright thrilling and the best of what plate racing has to offer. On the flip side, no pun intended, Ryan Preece went on a terrifying ride when he barrel rolled at least a dozen times before finally landing right-side up. Thankfully he did not sustain any serious injuries, nor did any of the drivers involved in a “big one” at the end of the second stage.

While the extreme tumbling is cause for investigation by NASCAR (and they are examining the Preece car for data on why that happened), the fact that Preece could walk away shows that the Next Gen car has the goods to keep drivers safe even in extreme wreck situations like the one Preece experienced on Saturday.

The big news, of course was Bubba Wallace’s strong run that locked him into the final playoffs spot. Making the playoffs is a big burden off Bubba’s shoulders. And now he just has to perform and try to get as far along in the playoffs as possible. This will be a tough task to execute, with so many strong drivers ahead of him. But if he makes it to at least the round of 12, I would consider that a successful year and a launch pad for further playoff marches in the future.

Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman both missed the playoffs, and it’s been a rough year for Hendrick, which has only 2 cars in the playoffs. William Byron and Kyle Larson qualified and should both be contenders. But to put that in perspective, the Hendrick team only qualified as many cars as RFK Racing and 23XI racing, and one less than Joe Gibbs Racing.

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It’s hard to choose a favorite moment from the two decades-plus that I’ve watched Kurt Busch compete on the racetrack in NASCAR’s top levels.

Perhaps it's the famous battle to the checkered flag at Darlington vs. Ricky Craven.
Or Kurt being given the bird by Dale Earnhardt Sr. during the 2001 Daytona 500.
Or his running the NASCAR/Indy double and finishing 6th in the Indy 500.
Or his leadership at so many teams, from Roush and Penske to Phoenix Racing to Furniture Row to Stewart-Haas to Ganassi and finally 23XI
Or his winning the 2004 Cup series title in dramatic fashion after a close call, losing a tire as he was entering pit road during the race

I could go on, but you get the drift. The man did just about everything you could in this sport since entering the NASCAR ranks as a very young man in the late 1990s.

I say all this because we heard an emotional farewell this weekend from Kurt Busch at Daytona. He said he’s officially done with Cup racing as he continues to focus on his health after a qualifying crash at Pocono in 2022.

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