MRN's Week In Review

Christopher Bell

Kyle Busch climbing behind the wheel of the No. 4 truck for two races this year is among the stories that broke this week. (Photo: Getty Images)

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It was a busy week around the racing world as the countdown to the start of the 2018 season continues.

Kaulig Racing Shakeup
Blake Koch won’t be back with Kaulig Racing for the 2018 NASCAR XFINITY Series season as the organization replaces him with Ryan Truex. Koch and team owner Matt Kaulig insist they are parting ways on good terms and the possibility of a second team remains a potential landing spot for the young driver. Truex comes over from Hattori Racing Enterprises after finishing ninth in last year’s Camping World Truck Series standings and will try to up the performance of Kaulig Racing quest for the championship. It’s a bitter blow for the popular Koch, who is now thrust into trying to find a ride only a month and change away from the start of the season. But it is another reminder of how important it is for drivers to have both talent and funding when trying to land a ride, which Truex had over Koch. (Read story)
 
First 2018 Cup Test
Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Aric Almirola took part in a two-day Goodyear tire test at Texas Motor Speedway. It was the first opportunity for the manufacturer to acquire data this season to assist in the production of tires for intermediate tracks including the recently repaved and reconfigured 1.5-mile Texas facility. The session also featured a couple of firsts. Elliott turned laps in the new Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, which the manufacturer will campaign in the Cup Series this year, and Almirola made his official debut as the driver of Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 10 Ford. (Read story)
 
Burton Back to KBM
Harrison Burton will return to the Kyle Busch Motorsports Camping World Truck Series program in 2018. Last year’s K&N Pro Series East champion, Burton will pilot KBM’s No. 51 Toyota Tundra in nine NCWTS races this year beginning in March at Martinsville Speedway. Burton will split his time this coming year as he did last season running a variety of different divisions including the NCWTS, K&N Pro Series and select super late model races around the country. (Read story)

Kyle Busch NCWTS Schedule Set
KBM team owner Kyle Busch will run five NCWTS races this season, the max allowed for Cup veterans under the new NASCAR driver participation guidelines. Busch will make his 2018 Truck Series debut Feb. 24 at Atlanta Motor Speedway behind the wheel of the No. 4 Tundra and will also race for the No. 4 team May 11 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. His three races for the No. 51 Tundra team will be March 2 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, May 18 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and July 28 at Pocono Raceway. (Read story)
 
Truck Series Test Set
Speaking of the NCWTS, Charlotte Motor Speedway will host an open test for the series next Wednesday, January 17. Eight teams will take part in the session including KBM, GMS Racing and Nemco Motorsports. NASCAR has not made any official announcement about the spec engine program expected to debut in a limited roll-out basis this year. However, there is speculation the Charlotte session will include another test for the proposed power plant that is hoped to provide financial savings for teams.
 
Organizations Add Personnel
Two top teams announced personnel additions this week. Team Penske hired industry veteran Robby Benton, will help handle various administrative and competition-related duties for the team’s Cup and XFINITY Series programs. The former NASCAR and IMSA competitor and team owner will report to competition director Travis Geisler. Hendrick Motorsports joins Hendrick Motorsports to oversee the team’s competition systems group. She replaces Darian Grubb who takes over as crew chief for rookie William Byron. Colon comes from General Motors, where she was highly regarded for her engineering expertise and credited for much of the manufacturer’s success over more than two decades.

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