ELKHART LAKE, Wis. -- News of Richard Childress Racing 's crew chief switcheroo for its Nos. 3 and 33 Chevrolet teams in the NASCAR XFINITY Series might've seemed like a rash measure back in June. With Ty Dillon sitting second in the driver standings, the swap resembled an overhaul more than a tweak. Eight races later, the early returns are promising for both RCR outfits, with momentum aligning for Dillon's championship push heading into Saturday's Road America 180 Fired up by Johnsonville (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Dillon remains second in the standings with a 19-point deficit heading into the 23rd of 33 races this season, but he also has a streak of four straight top-five finishes built up for the final road course event of 2015. The Richard Childress -owned team announced its move June 24, moving Nick Harrison over to call the shots for Dillon's No. 3 operation. Danny Stockman shifted over to RCR's No. 33, a full-time team but with three part-time drivers -- Austin Dillon , Brandon Jones and Paul Menard -- sharing the seat. The younger Dillon said the change has gone smoothly so far, but that the more encouraging byproduct has been the team's ability to compete for top-five finishes rather than settle for top-10s. "It's going really good. We're all figuring it out and we've made sure we've had our communication down the last couple weeks," Ty Dillon said. "Every week, we've gotten stronger and stronger and had really good race cars. It makes it easier to finish top-five when you have such good race cars. Nick's been calling good races and we just have a lot of momentum right now, heading in the right direction. We keep finishing in the top five like we are, we're going to get some wins and really put the heat on them." The move paid some immediate dividends for Austin Dillon , who prevailed at Daytona International Speedway in the team's first event since the personnel change. The Dillon-Stockman pairing reunited the driver-crew chief combination that netted the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship in 2011, then the XFINITY crown two years later. Menard will participate in his fourth race under Stockman's watch this weekend, making his first XFINITY start in his home state of Wisconsin since 2010. The Sprint Cup Series regular said he understood the reasons for altering the team dynamic. "It was more for Ty, honestly," Menard said. "They called me to see if I was OK with making the switch and I said whatever is better for the company is fine with me. I know we'll run good with both those guys." Ty Dillon has methodically made up ground -- or at least held serve -- in the weeks following the change. After crashing out at Daytona and slipping to 43 points in arrears, he's chopped the deficit in half and then some, helping him apply pressure to Roush Fenway Racing 's Chris Buescher , the points leader since May. It's resulted in additional spring in the step for Dillon, noticeably so according to Harrison. "We've had a string of top-fives here, so we've got some kind of mojo rolling and we've been having fun doing it," Harrison said. "The pressure and intensity level's getting higher as we creep down toward the end of the year. Having some momentum is definitely showing to be a strength, and you can tell it's helping everybody's spirit going into the closing part of the year. "We've had two top-fives at Mid-Ohio and Watkins Glen, so coming here, I think confidence is up for not only us but especially Ty. I feel like that's real important. You can just tell his attitude and charisma is where it needs to be right now and I feel like that's going to help tremendously." The poise may come in handy this weekend on the blazing fast 4.048-mile circuit, where off-course pitfalls and the prospect of fender-bending conflicts await. Dillon has managed to steer clear of the former if not quite the latter in this month's other two road-course events, gathering top-five finishes at both. The potential for trouble -- mixed in with the uncertainty of possible racing in the rain -- hasn't done much to deter Dillon's outlook as the final third of the season begins. "We're going for it. This is definitely an opportunity," Dillon said. "We're not sitting back and trying to let things happen for us. We're going for it. You never know what can happen with rain and the way a road course races anyway, so we've got to be on the attack and try to win this race."
RELATED: Practice 2 results The NASCAR XFINITY drivers were battling some weather conditions during the second practice session on Friday afternoon with light rain. Despite the rain, Paul Menard was the fastest during the second practice at Road America . Menard's No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet clocked in at 108.202 mph. Second on the leaderboard was the No. 54 Toyota of Boris Said , soaring around the 4.048-mile road course at 108.044 mph. Chase Elliott 's No. 9 Chevrolet had some speed in the second session with a quickest lap of 107.672 mph, followed by the No. 22 Ford of Ryan Blaney (107.656 mph), for fourth on the leaderboard. Rounding out the top five was the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Ty Dillon (107.636 mph). NASCAR XFINITY Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying for the Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville is set for Saturday afternoon at 12:15 p.m. ET (NBCSN/ Live Extra ). The Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville will be held on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET (NBCSN / Live Extra. , MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). RELATED: Practice 1 results Ben Rhodes topped the leaderboard for Friday afternoon's first NASCAR XFINITY Series practice session at Road America for the Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville. Rhodes' No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet posted a fastest lap of 108.500 mph. The No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet of Chase Elliott was next on the leaderboard, clocking in a fastest lap of 108.133 mph. Last week's winner in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Ryan Blaney , rounded out the top three with a fast lap of 108.039 mph in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford. The No. 42 Chevrolet of Justin Marks (107.948 mph) and the No. 2 Chevrolet of Brian Scott (107.947 mph) came in fourth and fifth, respectively. Points leader Chris Buescher just missed the top five as he had a fastest lap of 107.879 mph and was sixth on the leaderboard. The race at Road America is the final road course race of the 2015 season for the XFINITY Series.
The history Richard Childress Racing and full crews for Ryan Newman, Paul Menard and Austin Dillon
Almost two full years after the rule was amended, NASCAR drivers are still voicing concerns about the policing of restarts during races. The subject came up during the Sprint Cup Series' pre-race drivers' meeting Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway , three days after Ryan Blaney was penalized for jumping the restart during the Aug. 19 Camping World Truck Series race at BMS. Prior to the beginning of the Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2013, NASCAR eliminated the rule that stated the second-place car could not cross the start/finish line before the race leader on a restart. However, the race leader is still the "control car," meaning the second-place car can't take off before the leader in the restart zone located before the start/finish line. "We wanted to really put it in the driver's hands where the leader starts the race," Steve O'Donnell, Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer, told NASCAR.com Monday. "The second-place car in this case, if we don't believe they've jumped the restart, can beat the leader to the start/finish line. "Obviously, some questions have come up. We've reviewed each of the calls we've made and feel confident based on the technology we've used to make those calls that they were the right calls. But anytime there's dialogue with the industry, we'll continue to monitor that. If we don't have to change it, we'd like to keep it consistent throughout the year, but we always review each and every call for each race." RELATED: Restarts a hot topic at Bristol drivers' meeting In the NCWTS event, Blaney was penalized for jumping the start on Lap 38. Although he was the race leader, officials ruled Blaney re-started before he was in the restart zone. The subsequent pass-through penalty put the Brad Keselowski Racing driver one lap down. Blaney managed to bounce back from the penalty, however, and won the race. "I had to kind of compose myself there," crew chief Chad Kendrick admitted afterward. "I was trying to tell (Ryan) on the radio, 'Don't worry about it, alright, it's done, over.' I was pretty upset about the call." Blaney said Cole Custer , running second and lined up to his inside on the restart, "didn't maintain caution car speed at all. "As soon as the caution car pulled off, he stopped pretty much," said Blaney. "And I maintained (my) speed. He was going to try to get a run, just like everyone tries to do, which is what you have to do on the bottom if you want to have a shot at it. And I wasn't going to give him that run; I wasn't going to let him start creeping forward. So I went as soon as I got to the mark, maybe a half a car length early. It made it look worse than it was with him being so slow for sure. "But I'm pretty sure you have to have a warning. From every restart I've seen with people maybe going a little bit early I've seen 'em get a warning. That honestly shocked me when they black-flagged us with no warning. When it wasn't five car lengths before the line or anything, when it was something really small like that, it kind of surprised me. Luckily it worked out for us." Two Sprint Cup teams have been penalized this season for either jumping the start or passing before crossing the start/finish line on a restart. Two penalties have also been handed down in the XFINITY Series for similar infractions while the penalty has been called seven times in the NCWTS. MORE: Herman Unplugged: Talking restarts, quiet Harvick Joey Logano , winner of Saturday night's Irwin Tools Night Race at BMS, said he had spent "a lot of time" with officials recently, "trying to understand what I can and can't do ... understand where their head is at and what they're thinking when you look at a restart." "You've got to understand the rules," the Team Penske driver said. If it Ain't Broke ... NASCAR XFINITY Series teams competing this weekend at Road America will run the same tire code used at the road course since 2013. The tire was previously used this season at Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio. Wet weather tires will also be available should conditions require their use, which was the case during last year's event. Likewise, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series teams will run the same tire code used since '13 for the series' stop at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park . The tire has previously been run on the right side at Martinsville in '13 and '14. MORE: Complete schedule for Road America and Canada Testing, 1-2-3 NASCAR Sprint Cup teams wrap up their 12th open test of the season Wednesday at Homestead-Miami Speedway . According to HMS officials, 10 teams are set to take part in the test -- Joey Logano ( Team Penske ), Dale Earnhardt Jr . ( Hendrick Motorsports ), Kyle Larson ( Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates), Kevin Harvick ( Stewart-Haas Racing ), Clint Bowyer ( Michael Waltrip Racing ), Martin Truex Jr . ( Furniture Row Racing ), Trevor Bayne ( Roush Fenway Racing ), Ty Dillon ( Richard Childress Racing ), Denny Hamlin ( Joe Gibbs Racing ) and Ryan Blaney ( Wood Brothers Racing ). Dillon, Larson, Bayne and Bowyer were slated to take part in a two-day Goodyear tire test at the 1.5-mile track, site of the season-ending race, on Monday and Tuesday. Three tests are scheduled for remainder of year, at Kansas (Sept. 14-16), Phoenix (Oct. 12-14) and Auto Club Speedway (Oct. 27-29).
Austin Dillon's paint scheme for Darlington Raceway is patterned after one used by his grandfather, Richard Childress .
Richard Childress Racing drivers look to stay consistent in 2015 but also want to return to Victory Lane.
Daytona International Speedway held the first ever DAYTONA Rising Escalator Duel. NASCAR driver, Austin Dillon, and his NASCAR team owner, Richard Childress , raced to the top of the new 150-foot grandstand using stairs and escalators.
RELATED: Buy tickets for Homestead It's a primetime test time for NASCAR teams this week as many head to Homestead-Miami Speedway, site of the Nov. 20-22 season finale Ford Championship Weekend. Four drivers will participate in a Goodyear tire test at the 1.5-mile South Florida track Monday and Tuesday with an open test scheduled for Wednesday -- NASCAR allowing each Sprint Cup Series team to be represented by one car. Trevor Bayne ( Roush Fenway Racing ), Clint Bowyer ( Michael Waltrip Racing), Ryan Newman ( Richard Childress Racing ) and Kyle Larson ( Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates) are scheduled for the Goodyear test. With the increased importance on Homestead in the new Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup elimination format, as the track's host the final race that determines the series champion, teams will be taking advantage of the open test as well. Joey Logano ( Team Penske ), a winner last Saturday night at Bristol, is among those scheduled to test on Wednesday along with other Chase-qualified drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr . ( Hendrick Motorsports ), defending Homestead winner and series champ Kevin Harvick ( Stewart-Haas Racing ), Martin Truex Jr . ( Furniture Row Racing ) and Denny Hamlin ( Joe Gibbs Racing ). Ty Dillon ( Richard Childress Racing ) and Ryan Blaney ( Wood Brothers Racing ) will also participate. "It's an opportunity for the teams to really dial in the tire and the aero package for '15," NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Monday morning. "Certainly an important event for just about everybody in the series so they'll be going down there, working with Goodyear to make sure they've got the right package to be able to obviously share that data with the race teams and get ready for the final push that we see in November."
RELATED: Full starting lineup Denny Hamlin was the car to beat in Friday's Coors Light Pole Qualifying at Bristol Motor Speedway, leading all three rounds en route to his first career XFINITY pole at the Tennessee short track. Hamlin rounded the 0.533-mile oval at 126.896 mph in his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Hamlin's JGR teammate Kyle Busch will also start on the front row in tonight's Food City 300 (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Busch used a fast lap of 126.312 mph to snag the runner-up spot in his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Kevin Harvick , piloting the No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet this weekend, will roll off the grid third (126.021 mph), while Richard Childress Racing 's Brian Scott will start fourth (125.996 mph). Points leader Chris Buescher rounded out the top five in his No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford with a fast lap of 125.699 mph. Practice leader Brendan Gaughan advanced to the second round, but wasn't able to make the final round and will start 15th in tonight's event. Reigning series champion Chase Elliott advanced to the the final round and will roll off the grid 10th tonight.
RELATED: Full race results " Updated series standings BRISTOL, Tenn. -- It's a familiar scenario facing Ryan Newman as the Richard Childress Racing driver prepares for a two-race journey to lock in one of the 16 spots in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field. At this same point in the season last year, Newman sat ninth in points and was winless with two top-five and eight top-10 finishes. He eventually earned a Chase bid based on his points position, then parlayed the consistency that got him a berth into a ticket into the Championship Round, where he nearly became the series' first winless champion. Following his 10th-place finish in Saturday night's Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, Newman finds himself 11th in points, with four top-five and 12 top-10 finishes thus far this season. He's also still searching for that first win, which would guarantee his status as a Chase participant. At Bristol, Newman and his No. 31 team, led by crew chief Luke Lambert, once again did what they have become nearly the best in the series at doing -- taking a car that wasn't particularly fast and earning a top-10 finish with it. "We weren't the best car all day," Newman said while standing beside the No. 31 Chevrolet on pit road after the race. "We kind of finished where we ran, if not just a little bit better. "It was a good run for the team. We took a 20th-place car in practice and qualifying and turned it into a top-10 (in the race). We were not the best car and we didn't win the race, but the guys did a good job in the pits and we made the race car better." Newman and the team hadn't shown speed on Friday, working their way to 26th- and 18th-place positions during the first and second practice sessions, respectively. At the end of the day, Newman logged the 18th-fastest time in qualifying for the series' 24th race of the season. Saturday night, Newman slowly made his way through the field, eventually cracking the top 10 well into the second half of the 500-lap race. Not having that initial speed when arriving at the track has been a problem, Newman admitted, but added that it's kept the team close as they battle to secure a Chase spot. "Yeah it's better when you start off the weekend better," he said, "but that's what makes us pull together as a team, find speed and … fight strong at the end." Newman, RCR teammate Paul Menard , Jamie McMurray ( Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates), Jeff Gordon ( Hendrick Motorsports ) and Clint Bowyer ( Michael Waltrip Racing ) currently hold the five final Chase positions with two races remaining -- at Darlington Raceway and Richmond International Raceway -- before the postseason starts. Newman, 37, is a six-time qualifier for the Chase, with last season's runner-up finish to Kevin Harvick a career-best points finish.