John Hunter Nemechek Partners With Chip Ganassi Racing’s NXS Team In 2018

John Hunter Nemechek

 Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR) announced today that they have signed John Hunter Nemechek, a five-time winner in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) and former NASCAR NEXT driver, to pilot the No. 42 Chevrolet Camaro in multiple NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) races in 2018. Nemechek, 20, will work with veteran NXS crew chief Mike Shiplett, who has led the team for the last four seasons. Nemechek’s No. 42 Chevrolet will carry primary sponsorship from Fire Alarm Services, Inc. in 2018.

NOTES OF INTEREST:

 

  • Behind the Wheel: Nemechek began his racing career in quarter midgets at the age of five. He was the 2011 Allison Legacy Race Series Rookie of the Year and followed-up with the series championship in 2012. Nemechek moved into late models in 2013 and won the Miller Lite Super Late Model Series Championship at Mobile (Ala.) International Speedway. He won three of the biggest Super Late Model races over the next two seasons including the famed All-American 400 in Nashville, Tenn., the Snowball Derby and Snowflake 100 at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla.

 

  • Fully Covered: Headquartered in Arvada, Colo., Fire Alarm Services, Inc., provides superior fire, life safety, and security services and products for protecting their client’s real estate investment. They are the one source for all of their customer’s fire alarm, electrical, security, sprinkler, fire extinguisher and fire suppression needs.

 

  • Making His Way Through NASCAR: Nemechek made his NCWTS debut in 2013 at Martinsville Speedway at just 16 years old. He competed in the NCWTS on a part-time basis in 2013, 2014, and 2015. Nemechek captured his first series victory at Chicagoland Speedway in 2015 and was also named the series’ Most Popular Driver. He moved to full-time driving duties in 2016 and 2017, where he qualified for the NCWTS playoffs in both seasons. In 76 starts, Nemechek has five wins, one pole, 22 top-five and 38 top-10 finishes. He finished eighth in the final points standings in both 2016 and 2017.

 

  • Family Ties: John Hunter is the son of 1992 NXS Champion and multi-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) winner Joe Nemechek. Joe drove for CGR co-owner Felix Sabates’ SABCO Racing team from 1997-1999 and scored the team’s final MENCS victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in September 1999. John Hunter’s namesake is his late uncle, John Nemechek, who competed in the NCWTS from 1995-1997. He passed away due to complications from head injuries sustained in an accident during a 1997 NCWTS race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, just three months before John Hunter was born.

 

CGR QUOTEBOARD:

 

  • Chip Ganassi, Owner, Chip Ganassi Racing: “We are happy to have John Hunter join our organization and also announce the relationship with Fire Alarm Services. We had a very successful 2017 with our XFINITY program and look to improve upon that.  We feel that John Hunter has the talent to be a future star in the sport and can’t wait to get him behind the wheel.”

 

  • John Hunter Nemechek, Driver No. 42 Chevrolet Camaro:  “I couldn’t be more excited to join Chip Ganassi Racing. I feel like their cars and organization were the talk of the garage in 2017 and I hope to play a part in continuing their run of success in 2018 and beyond. Also, Fire Alarm Services has been a supporter of my career since 2016 at our family-owned team, and I am looking forward to continuing that partnership at Chip Ganassi Racing. I am extremely grateful to Shannon and Connie Smith, owners of Fire Alarm Services, Inc. I also want to thank my father for all that he has done to help grow my passion for racing.”

 

About Chip Ganassi Racing:

Chip Ganassi has been a fixture in the auto racing industry for over 30 years and is considered one of the most successful as well as innovative owners the sport has anywhere in the world. Today his teams include two cars in the Verizon IndyCar Series, two cars in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, one car in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, two factory Ford GT’s in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, and two factory Ford GT’s in the FIA World Endurance Championship. Overall his teams have 18 championships and more than 195 victories, including four Indianapolis 500s, a Daytona 500, a Brickyard 400, seven Rolex 24 At Daytona, the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Ganassi boasts state-of-the-art race shop facilities in Indianapolis and Concord, N.C., with a corporate office in Pittsburgh, Pa.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Dreams Realized For Champions Across The Globe

Todd Gilliland

For a 17-year-old, Todd Gilliland was in a familiar situation when he took the stage at the Charlotte Convention Center at the NASCAR Hall of Fame Friday night.

He had, after all, done this all before. Just one year ago.

“Ever since I was little, all I wanted to do was drive a race car,” said Gilliland. “When I got that chance to do that for Bill McAnally Racing, I really wanted to win him a championship. And now I’m here giving my speech for my second year in a row; 2017 has been a dream season.”

Gilliland wasn’t the only familiar face honored at the NASCAR Home Tracks Awards, officially receiving their NASCAR championship rings and trophies. Doug Coby received the hardware for his fifth NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship, Lee Pulliam picked up his fourth NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship trophy, and Mexico’s Abraham Calderón took home his second NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series title trophy.

They were joined by first-time champions Harrison Burton (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East), Alon Day (NASCAR Whelen Euro Series) and Alex Labbe (NASCAR Pinty’s Series).

Whether they came from Israel and Quebec or North Carolina and Virginia, there was a common theme that was echoed throughout the night of celebration.

Dreams realized. And the support behind chasing the drivers chasing them.

“This season has created so many memories that will stay with me my whole life,” said Burton. “So much has gone into winning this championship, and it’s awesome to just slow down and celebrate it with my team, friends and family.”

“What a journey,” said Day. “To end up here tonight as a NASCAR champion. Who would have thought an unknown driver from a small country in the Middle East would one day wind up being a NASCAR champion. That achievement never would have been reached without the help of so many people.”

It was a night that celebrated the future of NASCAR and toasted the historic achievements of NASCAR veterans.

A year after becoming the youngest champion in NASCAR touring or national series history, Gilliland became the first driver to win back-to-back NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championships since Mike Duncan in 2004-05. He nearly became the first driver to sweep the K&N Pro Series East and West titles, but Burton overcame an eight-point gap by winning the East season finale. In the process, he broke Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Joey Logano’s record as the youngest champion in NASCAR K&N Pro Series East history.

Both Gilliland and Burton also ran several NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races in 2017 as they look to move up the racing ladder.

Canadian Labbe is also eying a move up, but first he had unfinished business in Canada. After a disappointing end to 2016, the 24-year-old bounced back with a decisive 2017 campaign that saw him finish sixth or better in all but the finale en route to the Pinty’s Series title – the national stock car racing championship in Canada.

“It means a lot — I’ve been working on it for a long, long time,” said Labbe. “To finally get that championship, to get the trophy at the end of the year: It’s a dream. It’s something that I’m going to have with me all my life.”

Likewise, Calderón took home his country’s stock car national championship. While he won his first title in 2014 without winning a race, he had a series-high five victories this year, including four in a six-race summer stretch to take command of the series lead.

“For me and my team, it’s something huge — it means a lot — to be here celebrating our second NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series championship. It’s something we’ll never forget,” said Calderón. “I remember the last race in Mexico City, it was a stunning event. I’d like to explain with words what it felt like crossing the finish line but I cannot. It’s something that just flows through your body and makes you feel alive. It was just really, really amazing.”

Day finished second in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series in 2015 and third in 2016 before a magical run in 2017. He made his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup debut at Sonoma, and then won three of the final four races of the Whelen Euro season to edge two-time champion Anthony Kumpen.

For Coby, though, the year started like a nightmare. He was involved in wrecks in his first two races, and four races into the season he was still 51 points out of the championship lead. The Milford, Connecticut, driver didn’t mind that everybody was looking to knock him off the perch.

“I’d rather be the guy with the bull’s eye on his back than the one swinging at it,” said Coby, who scored top fives in 10 of the last 12 races to earn his fourth straight title and fifth in the last six years.

Coby joined NASCAR Hall of Famers Jerry Cook and Richie Evans, NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Mike Stefanik along with Tony Hirschman Jr., as the only drivers in NASCAR Modified history with five or more titles.

“I’m just racing against who I’m racing against and doing thing best I can do in this era,” Coby said.

“It’s a testament to what you’ve done in the sport,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, told Coby. “When you look back at the series and who can represent the sport the best, (the Modifieds are) where legends are made. You’ve heard Doug talk about just concentrating on the present. But it’s fitting we’re here in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. With five championships, you’re well on your way to an historic career.”

Likewise, Pulliam moved closer to one of short track’s indelible records.

Piling up 155 Late Model wins in 290 starts since 2011, the North Carolina native tied Philip Morris for second-most national titles. He’s one behind NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee, the late Larry Phillips. Phillips won five titles between 1989-96.

“Before you become legendary, you’ve got to be successful,” Helton told Pulliam. “I think you’ve laid the foundation on becoming one of the legends in NASCAR.”

Pulliam won 14 times at Myrtle Beach Speedway on his way to the track and South Carolina titles. He finished with 19 wins, 36 top fives and 43 top 10s in 45 starts at eight different tracks across the southeast.

“You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but it gets me every time,” said Pulliam. “I told my wife in 2017, I was going as hard as I can to win national championship number four. As Michelangelo once said, the greatest danger for most of us is not from setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low and hitting our mark.

“Chasing a national championship requires help and sacrifice from so many people. Many nights we saw the sun come up, with no sleep. My guys never gave up. We fought, clawed and battled as a team to accomplish this. This championship was won by people banding together and not stopping until the goal was accomplished.”

Pulliam noted that at 29 years old, he feels he has plenty of racing left.

“And I think I’ve got more titles in me,” said Pulliam.

The championship car owners and crew chiefs were also recognized Friday night.

There were plenty of other trophies handed out, too.

Missouri’s Cody Jolly (Division II), Ontario’s Eric Yorke (Division III), Michigan’s Cole Roelofs (Division IV) and Iowa’s Dustin Thompson (Division V) joined Pulliam in receiving their NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national titles. The night got underway with the awarding of 34 U.S. state and Canadian province championships, along with 59 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division I track champion trophies.

In addition to the championship awards, each series rookie of the year was honored. Calvin Carroll (NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour), Derek Kraus (NASCAR K&N Pro Series West) and Chase Purdy (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East) were the Sunoco Rookies of the Year in their respective series; Adam Martin (NASCAR Pinty’s Series) and Mitch Keeter (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series) received their Josten’s Rookie of the Year for their series; and Stienes Longin was awarded the Junior “Jerome Sarran” Trophy by the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series as the series’ top young driver. Enrique Baca was the top rookie in the NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series.

Ryan Vargas, another rising star who is moving from Late Models in California to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East next year as part of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity and Rev Racing, won the Wendell Scott Trailblazer Award for the second straight year. The award is given to the top performing minority or female driver in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Team Penske and LTi Printing Partner Up For 2018

Ryan Blaney

Team Penske announced a new partnership today with LTi Printing, one of the nation’s leaders in print and print related solutions.

As part of the multi-year agreement that begins with the 2018 season, LTi Printing will be featured as the primary sponsor on Team Penske’s championship-winning No. 22 Ford Mustang team for two races in the 2018 NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS), including the event at Pocono Raceway in June and at Iowa Speedway in late July. LTi Printing will also be an associate sponsor on the No. 22 NXS Ford for the rest of the 2018 season.

LTi will also provide printing services to Team Penske while the partnership will create strategic business-to-business opportunities for the industry-leading printers among the Penske Corporation companies and Team Penske’s diverse partner portfolio.

“We are incredibly excited to partner with Team Penske and their NASCAR XFINITY Series program this coming year,” said Mike Frost, President of LTi Printing. “Team Penske has a proven record of success both on the track, but also in fostering solid business-to-business relationships off the track.  And for us, offering such a diverse portfolio of print products and solutions allows us to be relevant to almost any Team Penske partner. After some time in the NASCAR Truck Series, we are very excited for the move to the XFINITY Series and to have the opportunity to partner with a world class racing organization like Team Penske.”

Team Penske and its partners will have access to a wide-range of printed products and services through the new partnership. LTi Printing focuses on high quality commercial print, folding cartons, pressure sensitive labels, digital printing, and fulfillment. With its branding on the No. 22 Ford Mustang next season, LTi Printing will experience unique exposure and marketing opportunities with a team that just earned its fourth NASCAR XFINITY Series Owners’ Championship.

“We welcome LTi Printing as a new partner to Team Penske and we certainly see the opportunities that exist within this new relationship,” said Roger Penske. “We believe Team Penske can help provide value to LTi through brand exposure as a race team sponsor along with a direct connection to world-class companies, and we are excited to help create solutions for our partners with a first-class printing services provider.”

LTi Printing will make the transition to Team Penske in 2018 after serving as a sponsor with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) team owned by Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski this season. The company was also the entitlement sponsor for the NCWTS race at Michigan International Speedway this August – the LTi Printing 200.

About LTi Printing

LTi Printing was founded in Sturgis, Michigan in 1983 and is based on four business principles: its customers, employees, community and stakeholders. The family owned company specializes in packaging, commercial print, labels, digital print, mailing and fulfillment. Among the variety of industries served by LTi Printing are healthcare, manufacturing, food & beverage, nutraceutical, universities, sports marketing and children’s toys. LTi Printing utilizes industry-leading equipment in both production and graphic technologies and is ISO certified.

About Team Penske
Team Penske is one of the most successful teams in the history of professional sports. Cars owned and prepared by Team Penske have produced more than 470 major race wins, over 540 pole positions and 32 Championships across open-wheel, stock car and sports car racing competition. Over the course of its 52-year history, the team has also earned 16 Indianapolis 500 victories, two Daytona 500 Championships, a Formula 1 win and overall victories in the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring. For 2018, Team Penske will compete in the Verizon IndyCar Series, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, the NASCAR XFINITY Series and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The team also races in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, in a partnership with Dick Johnson Racing, as DJR Team Penske. For more information about Team Penske, please visit www.teampenske.com.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Richard Petty Switches To Chevy And Aligns With Richard Childress Racing

Aric Almirola

Richard Petty Motorsports will switch from Ford to Chevrolet, be aligned with Richard Childress Racing and relocate to the RCR campus in Welcome, North Carolina, according to a report Thursday by SportsBusiness Daily.

Spokespersons for Chevrolet, Richard Petty Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing told NBC Sports on Thursday they had no comment on the report.

Richard Petty Motorsports is in the midst of significant change. The team announced Oct. 25 that Darrell Wallace, Jr. would drive the No. 43 car next season. He will take over for Aric Almirola, who left after this season to join Stewart-Haas Racing.

RPM stated Aug. 28 that it would vacate the race shop it leased in Mooresville, North Carolina, after the season.

The organization continues to look for sponsorship. Smithfield had been a primary sponsor the past six years. Smithfield will sponsor Almirola at Stewart-Haas Racing next year but also is expected to stay on in some form with RPM, according to a SportsBusiness Daily report in October. Richard Petty Motorsports announced Nov. 3 that Click n’ Close will sponsor the car in at least three races next year, including the Daytona 500. STP announced Nov. 13 that it would sponsor RPM in two races in 2018. 

The pairing of Richard Petty Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing makes sense because RCR appears to have room at its facility. Richard Childress Racing, which has run three full-time Cup teams the past six seasons, has not announced plans for the No. 27 Cup team. That ride was left in question after Paul Menard and sponsor Menard’s announced in July that they would move to the Wood Brothers for 2018.

Richard Childress Racing, which has three charters, has announced only Cup entries for next season for Austin Dillon and Ryan Newman. Richard Petty Motorsports has two charters (it leased one last year) but is only expected to field the No. 43 for Wallace.

By partnering, it would allow RPM to have access to the engineering support Richard Childress Racing can supply. By adding RPM, it would allow Earnhardt Childress Racing Engines to offset the loss of the No. 27 team if it doesn’t run next season.

Also, a move by Wallace and RPM to Chevrolet would mean that half the 14 Chevrolet Cup drivers who have been announced with rides for next season would be age 25 or under to start the season. Wallace is 24 and would join William Byron (age 20), Chase Elliott (22), Alex Bowman (24), Kyle Larson (25), Ty Dillon (25) and Chris Buescher (25) in the Chevrolet roster with such a move.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

What Made Martin Truex, Jr. The Champion?

Martin Truex, Jr.

Understandably, the proudest moment of Martin Truex’s racing life was simultaneously a source of enormous frustration for Kyle Busch.

But both drivers recall with indelible clarity the closing laps of the Nov. 19 Ford Eco-Boost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race that made Truex a champion and Busch a disappointed runner-up for the title.

For the record, Truex powered his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota across the finish line, with Busch’s No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota .681 seconds in arrears. But the outcome was in doubt for the final 17 laps, after Busch passed Kevin Harvick for second place on Lap 250 of 267 and took off after Truex, who had claimed the lead off pit road for a restart on Lap 234.

With Busch driving a faster long-run car, Truex found a small patch of grip high in Turn 4 and kept Busch’s Camry in his mirror.

“For me, it’s probably one of my proudest moments, because I got put in that position, and my guys said, ‘Here it is; it’s all up to you now; here’s the lead with 32 laps to go – show us what you’ve got,’” Truex told the NASCAR Wire Service.

“It’s definitely one of the proudest moments of my career to be able to bring it home for them, after all, they’ve done for me and giving me the opportunity they have and putting me in a position to be a champion. I was glad I could hold up my end of the deal.”

Though Truex hasn’t watched a replay of the race in its entirety, he relishes the memory of every second of the closing green-flag run.

“I can remember every single one of those laps,” Truex said. “I can remember everything that happened, everything I thought, when I missed the line when I hit it, and, most importantly, when I found that little patch of grip up there off of Turn 4.

“That was the game-changer for me.”

For Busch, not so much.

“I tried that same patch – it didn’t work for me,” Busch said after Wednesday’s Myers Brothers Awards ceremony in the Encore Theater. “I tried to get as close to the wall as I could off of (Turn) 4. I was way too loose. I just didn’t have the drive-off that I needed, and I think that was a lot to do with being in his wake, just being behind him and having the aero deficiency that I had.”

The final 15 laps weren’t just a two-car battle. Enter Kyle Larson, who charged past Harvick for the third position on Lap 252 and, running against the outside wall, quickly rolled up near Busch’s back bumper and began contemplating his prospects of passing the No. 18.

“I got to third, and I felt like, if I was going to win or pass those guys – which I felt like I could – I needed to pass them before 10 (laps) to go,” said Larson, who was eliminated from championship contention by an engine failure at Kansas Speedway.

“I felt like, once we got to 10 to go, I needed to respect them and kind of let things play out between those two… I didn’t want to screw one guy and not the other.”

Interestingly, Busch contemplated letting Larson pass him in the closing laps.

“I actually thought about, with maybe 15 to go, something like that… he (Larson) was really close to me, and I was like, ‘I wonder if I let him go, and he gets in-between us if he’ll go and try to race Truex and pass Truex and help Truex come back to me,” Busch said.

“So I thought about doing that, but I said I can’t give in to that at this moment of letting somebody else within the battle, because, if he doesn’t go up and pass the 78, he just pushes me further behind. That’s why I stayed the way we were and tried to fight it out.”

With Truex making ground near the top of the track, Busch tried a low line, and with three laps left, he lost momentum off Turn 2. With a head of steam around the top, Larson was there to give the No. 18 a nudge.

“I was hoping to launch him forward, but I kind of got him squirrely,” Larson said. “I’m glad he didn’t hit the wall, because I was just trying to help him out. Not that I wanted him to win over Martin. I just wanted to get him closer to make the racing more exciting, I guess.”

In the moment, Busch understood Larson’s intent.

“I knew that was a moment of help,” Busch said. “It wasn’t a moment of trying to screw with me at all. I knew what that was. It’s just that these cars are so loose on the straightaways, with not a lot of downforce, and of course, we were on older tires, with higher air pressure and everything like that, and it got me juked up.

“But I was expecting that, and I was fine with it. It was all good.”

In the end, the bump from Larson didn’t help enough to put Truex’s title in jeopardy. But it helped to make the final 17 laps of the event some of the most riveting in recent memory.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Trevor Bayne And Advocare Are Back In Black!

Trevor Bayne
Trevor Bayne’s AdvoCare Ford Fusion will sport a different look when it hits the track to begin the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) season as the famed Roush Fenway Racing #6 will be sporting the primary color of black.

“This new paint scheme is pretty awesome,” said Bayne. “If you look through history a lot of the great drivers have driven black race cars as their primary scheme and I am pretty excited to have one as well going into 2018. I think that this new look by AdvoCare is really great and shows that we mean business every time we head out onto the racetrack. This scheme just makes me even more excited about getting back behind the wheel in 2018.”

This new scheme marks the first time that the Roush Fenway #6 will be primarily black in the MENCS since the 2005 season with NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin.

“It is really cool to have the #6 Ford black again for Roush Fenway,” added Bayne. “I know that Mark (Martin) ran really well in these colors and hopefully we can replicate that same success next season.”

Bayne, who is coming off of a 2017 campaign that saw a career-high in top-10 finishes, enters his fifth season with AdvoCare as his primary partner and his fourth with the Plano, Texas company in the MENCS.

The 2018 MENCS season kicks off with the 60th running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Kyle Busch Wins The Snowball Derby In Pensacola

 
Date:                            Dec. 3, 2017
Event:                          50th Annual Snowball Derby Super Late Model race
Location:                     5 Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla. (0.5-mile oval)
Start/Finish:                15th/1st (Running, completed 300 of 300 laps)
Winner:                       Kyle Busch of Kyle Busch Motorsports (Toyota)

After starting 15th and running third for the majority of the second half of the 50th Annual Snowball Derby, Kyle Busch dug deep in the late stages and was able to bring home his second Tom Dawson Memorial Trophy. After restarting third with 66 laps remaining in the 300-lap event, Busch was able to work his way around Bubba Pollard for second place with 22 laps remaining and then maneuvered past Jeff Choquette for the race lead with 16 laps to go. Once out front, the Las Vegas native cruised to the victory in the prestigious Super Late Model event.

Throughout the week’s numerous practice sessions, the No. 51 Toyota/Phoenix Construction Camry showed good long-run speed.  The race car didn’t fire off like the way some other competitors could. Busch qualified a disappointing 15th on Friday night, but ended Saturday’s final practice session sixth quick.

The No. 51 Camry began moving forward once the race started, despite communicating that his Toyota was tight handling. He had made his way up to the fifth spot before pitting for four tires and fuel under caution on lap 76. With the field employing several different strategies, KBM’s owner-driver restarted 11th when the field went back green on lap 89.

Busch took advantage of his fresh tires as he advanced up to fourth place on lap 100 and 10 laps later and was able to make his way around Jeremy Doss to lead for the first time. After spending 10 laps at the front of the field, Busch was pressured by Choquettte and Pollard and decide that it was too early to push things as he settled into the third position. Harrison Burton was also able to make his way around his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series owner, leaving Busch in the fourth spot when the race reached the halfway mark.

Crew chief Rudy Fugle summoned Busch to pit road for the second time of the day under caution on lap 171. A speedy four-tire stop by the over-the-wall crew gained the team two positions and the No. 51 Camry took the lap-179 restart from the second position. On the ensuing restart the inside lane got a strong surge and Busch fell back to the third spot.

Busch remained scored in the third position for the final restart of the race with 66 laps remaining. The race would remain caution free the rest of the way. Choquette and Pollard had a sizeable lead on Busch and it appeared that it was going to be a two-car race for the win, but their lap times continued slowing in the second half of the run when Busch’s times had stabilized as he began narrowing the gap with 30 laps remaining.

The No. 51 Phoenix Construction/Toyota Camry continued to post fast lap times as he maneuvered around both Pollard and Choquette in the closing laps to pick up KBM’s third Snowball Derby victory.

Noah Gragson finished 12th in KBM’s No. 18 Switch Camry, while Cole Rouse and the No. 46 Toyota Racing team were relegated to a 25th-place finish after a cut tire caused major damage with 82 laps remaining.

Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 51 Toyota/Phoenix Construction Camry
What does this win mean to you?
“This is huge. Everybody dreams about winning a Snowball Derby. It feels really good today because we had such a good car on the long runs and we outran those guys. We were able to drive through and pass them, it wasn’t a short sprint to the end on tires or anything like that. I couldn’t be prouder of everyone at Kyle Busch Motorsports for the hard work they put in to bringing home this win. Special thanks to Toyota, TRD, Phoenix Construction, Billy Ballew, Family Funeral and Cremation, SRI, Stock Car Steel, Pro Molly and all of our Super Late Model partners.”
Did you think the race was going to go green the final 66 laps?
“I didn’t think it would go green until the end, especially with some of those guys who took tires. I figured they would try to work their way through the field and there would be some accidents with guys getting into guys, but that didn’t happen. Everybody ran a clean race for the most part, it was fun racing against (Jeff) Choquette – he was in the mix the last time that I was here when Erik Jones won. It was also fun racing against Bubba (Pollard) as always — he’s one of the best that there is. It was so much fun to be able to put our car on top today.”
When did you sense that this car was special today?
“It was probably with about 40 laps to go, I started inching in on those guys – Harrison Burton started falling back and I started going forward. I was like ok we’ve got a shot here, just keep everything underneath me and keep feeling it out. When I got closer I was like let’s get by them now and fortunately I could. I had enough drive, had enough grip and got by them.”

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Keselowski Is Interested In Future Cup Ownership

Brad Keselowski
Although Brad Keselowski elected to shutter his racing operation following the 2017 Camping World Truck Series season, on Friday he gifted BKR Truck Series drivers Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric with the F150s from their respective inaugural wins.

Hopefully, Keselowski’s hiatus from team ownership is temporary. Like his mentor Dale Earnhardt Jr., Keselowski provided an opportunity for a number of drivers to hone their skills in NASCAR’s feeder series before moving on to the next level. Ryan Blaney, Daniel Hemric, Tyler Reddick and now Briscoe and Cindric have all come through BKR.

And with ever-aging ownership in the Monster Energy Cup Series, NASCAR needs to cultivate its next generation of team owners. Just looking at the Championship 4, Barney Visser, who owns Furniture Row Racing, is in his mid-60s. Gene Haas, the principal owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, turned 65 last month. Joe Gibbs turned 77 last week, and Keselowski’s owner, Roger Penske, celebrated his 80th birthday in February.

Keselowski’s foray into the cultivation of aspiring talent full-time started with Parker Kligerman in 2011. While he was only able to keep the operation afloat for seven seasons, it remains Keselowski’s dream to revive BKR one day and perhaps have the organization blossom into a NASCAR Cup operation.

“Absolutely. It’s 100 percent my dream,” Keselowski told Motorsport.com. “There’s a lot of things that have to happen to make that a possibility-including the support of a manufacturer and the health of the sport being at a high point. But it’s my intention to get to that position in the long-term future.”

Currently, Keselowski has no intentions of selling the BKR building. It is indeed his hope to return to an ownership role when he hangs up his helmet for the last time.

“It’s going to be up to my generation as not just only as owners or pit crew members or drivers but also fans to take this sport to the next generation as it has been handed to us,” Keselowski said.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Kyle Busch Motorsports Previews The Snow Ball Derby

Kyle Busch

Over 50 Super Late Model teams converged on Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla., this week for the 50th running of the prestigious Snowball Derby, including three entries from Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM). Owner-driver Kyle Busch, who won the event in 2009, will be joined by Noah Gragson and Cole Rouse for Sunday’s300-lap event at the half-mile, high-banked oval.

KBM will be looking to collect its third Tom Dawson Memorial Trophy. In addition to Busch’s win in 2009, the organization visited victory lane with Erik Jones in 2013.

Speed 51 is offering live pay-per-view coverage of the Snowball Derby for fans that cannot attend but wish to watch one of the year’s most exciting racing events. Green flag is scheduled for 2 p.m. CT and coverage begins at 12 p.m. CT with the Snowball Derby Pre Race Show.

Here’s a closer look at KBM’s three entries in Sunday’s race:

Driver:                                      Kyle Busch

Starting Position:                    15th

Final Practice Result:             Sixth

Car:                                          No. 51 Toyota/Phoenix Construction Camry

Associate Sponsors:                Billy Ballew Motorsports, Family Funeral and Cremation, ProMoly, Stock Car Steel and                                                              Aluminum Company, SRI and TRD

Crew Chief:                             Rudy Fugle

Busch hopped on a plane from Las Vegas late Thursday night after attending the NASCAR Cup Series’ annual banquet and arrived in Pensacola just prior to the start of Friday’s first practice session. The Las Vegas native will be looking to score his 14th overall victory of 2017, having posted five wins in both the Cup and Xfinity Series for Joe Gibbs Racing and three Camping World Truck Series victories for KBM.

In addition to his 183 victories across NASCAR’s top three divisions, Busch has posted numerous Late Model victories throughout his career, including the Snowball Derby in 2009. Busch will be making his fourth career Snowball Derby start Sunday, most recently finishing third in the 2012 event.

Busch will be hosting the “Rowdy Roundup” in the Fan Zone at 5 Flags Speedway Sunday morning at 10 a.m. CT. Tickets for the exclusive meet and greet, which allows fans the opportunity to get two items autographed and have their picture taken with Busch, can still be purchased at the 5 Flags Speedway Main Office.

Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 51 Camry

“Obviously 15th isn’t where we wanted to qualify, but Rudy (Fugle, crew chief) and all the guys made our Toyota, Phoenix Construction Camry a lot better for final practice. We made some 20-lap runs and we feel like we have good long-run speed, but we’re probably still lacking a little bit of speed firing off compared to the guys that qualified up front.”

Driver:                                      Noah Gragson

Starting Position:                    20th

Final Practice Result:             Ninth

Car:                                          No. 18 Switch Camry

Associate Sponsors:                Game of War, Machine Zone, Mobile Strike and SpringHill Suites

Crew Chief:                             Marcus Richmond

Gragson competed full-time for KBM in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this season. The 19-year-old’s rookie season was highlighted by a victory at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in October when he outdueled series stalwarts Johnny Sauter and Matt Crafton in the closing laps to pick up his first NASCAR National Series victory. In addition to his win, the Las Vegas native registered three poles, 187 laps led, four top-five and 13 top-10 finishes across 23 Truck Series starts.

In addition to his full-time schedule in the Truck Series, Gragson will be making his third start this season for the KBM Super Late Model team. In his most recent outing he scored a victory in one of the crown jewels of Super Late Model racing, the Winchester 400 at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway.

Sunday will be Gragson’s third consecutive Snowball Derby start. Last year he qualified seventh and finished ninth, improving on an 11th-place finish in 2015.

Noah Gragson, driver of the No. 18 Camry

“The first two days of practice and last night in qualifying I really wasn’t satisfied with the speed of our Switch Toyota Camry, but today in Happy Hour it was a lot better. My crew chief Marcus Richmond and the No. 18 team made some really good changes that helped the attitude of the car. I’m excited to be starting my third Snowball Derby and coming off a win in the Winchester 400, I have lot more confidence this year than I did the last two years. I didn’t grow up racing Super Late Models and don’t have a lot of experience with them, so getting that first big win takes a lot of weight off my shoulders. I know now that I’m capable of beating some of the best guys in the country. This race has a lot of the same field, it’s another long race and you have to have the same mentality to be successful.”

Driver:                                     Cole Rouse

Starting Position:                    23rd

Car:                                          No. 46 Toyota Camry

Final Practice Result:             10th

Associate Sponsors:                JBL, Rouse Custom Homes, SpringHill Suites and TRD

Crew Chief:                             Cody Glick

Rouse’s first season driving for KBM’s Super Late Model team has been a successful one. The Arkansas native collected two victories, one pole, five top-five and nine top-10 finishes across 11 starts en route to the CARS Super Late Model Tour championship.

The 20-year-old has been knocking on the door of collecting his first marquee Super Late Model win. In his most recent start, he won the pole and led the first 115 laps of the Winchester 400 before he went multiple laps down due to a mechanical issue. After fixing the issue the team returned to the track and were able to post a respectable 12th-place finish.

Sunday will be Rouse’s first time being a part of the 36-driver field for the Snowball Derby.

Cole Rouse, driver of the No. 46 Camry

“I over drove it a little bit in qualifying and we are starting further back in the field than we would like to, but I felt like we had a good race-run Camry today in final practice. We had a lot of low lap times and it seemed like any time we were behind someone on the track we were able to catch them — so that’s a good sign. I’m really excited for tomorrow, our Toyota Camry has a lot of drive off and I feel like that will be important when we get to racing and trying to pass people tomorrow.”

In addition to the associate sponsors for each driver, Kyle Busch Motorsports would like to thank the following season-long partners of the Super Late Model Program. Axalta, Basset Wheels, Five Star Race Car Bodies, Interstate Batteries, Lincoln Welders, Mechanix Wear, Rowdy Manufacturing, Safety Kleen and SCHROTH Safety Products.

Notable wins for the KBM Late Model team since its inception in 2007 include: Wisconsin All-Star 100 at the Milwaukee Mile (Kyle Busch 2008), Red Bud 300 at Anderson Speedway (Kyle Busch 2009), Winchester 400 at Winchester Speedway (Kyle Busch 2009, Erik Jones 2013 & 2014 and Noah Gragson 2017), Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway (Kyle Busch 2009 and Erik Jones 2013), SpeedFest at Lanier National Speedway (Kyle Busch 2009 & 2010), SpeedFest at Watermelon Capital Speedway (Kyle Busch 2012), Rowdy 251 at Berlin Raceway (Kyle Busch 2010, 2011 & 2012), All-American 400 at Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville (TJ Reaid 2010), Slinger Nationals at Slinger Super Speedway (Kyle Busch 2011), the Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway (Kyle Busch 2011), Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown at Richmond International Raceway (Kyle Busch 2013), the Howie Lettow Memorial at the Milwaukee Mile (Kyle Busch 2013 and Erik Jones 2014) and the Rattler 250 at South Alabama Speedway (Christopher Bell 2015).

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

The NASCAR World Honors The 2018 Cup Champion

Martin Truex, Jr.

The centerpiece of Thursday night’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Awards Ceremony was Martin Truex Jr., a first-time champion who earned the title in stock car racing’s foremost division with a Furniture Row Racing team that got its unlikely start as a single-car operation in Denver, Colorado.

But the sport also bid farewell—as a full-time driver—to Dale Earnhardt Jr., not only by conferring a 15th straight NMPA Most Popular Driver Award on the 26-time race winner, but also by recognizing his accomplishments with the prestigious Bill France Award of Excellence.

Earnhardt, in fact, introduced Truex, his close friend, as the 2017 champion, and there was no doubt Truex deserved the honor. Driving the No. 78 Toyota, Truex led the series in victories with eight and laps led with 2,253.

With the advent of stage racing for the 2017 season, Truex dominated the new format, accumulating a series-best 19 stages wins and enough playoff points to advance to the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway with one race left in the Round of 8.

Truex then capped the season with a dramatic victory at Homestead, holding off championship runner-up Kyle Busch by .681 seconds.

“I’d have to say the new stage racing worked out pretty well for us,” Truex quipped during his speech, after NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France handed him the championship ring.

Truex’s season, however, wasn’t without its difficult moments. His long-time girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2014, suffered a recurrence earlier this year. The “Never give up” motto of the No. 78 team also became a mantra in Truex’s personal life.

“No one has lived that out more than my life partner Sherry,” Truex said. “She is the true champion.”

Team owner Barney Visser suffered a heart attack late in the season and, after surgery, was unable to attend the festivities at the Wynn Las Vegas. Visser’s son Tim accepted the champion owner’s award in his stead and assured those at the ceremony that his father was doing well.

Furniture Row Racing fabricator Jim Watson passed away unexpectedly during the Kansas Speedway weekend in the Playoff, and Truex offered a toast to Watson from the podium.

“This has been an emotional journey,” Truex said. “I can’t begin to tell you about all the highs and lows.”

One of the absolute lows occurred during 2014, Truex’s first season with the team. Truex posted only one top-five finish that year and ended the season 24th in the series standings.

“In 2014 we struggled, and you didn’t give up on me—thank you,” Truex said team president Joe Garone.

It wasn’t until Truex joined forces with crew chief Cole Pearn late in that first year that the turnaround at Furniture Row started. In 2015 they made it to the Championship 4 and finished fourth. A year later, they were champions.

“You’re the best crew chief and team coach I’ve ever known, and, buddy, thank you for making me a champion,” Truex said to Pearn.

The honors to Truex and the Furniture Row organization followed a special tribute to Earnhardt introduced by the NASCAR chairman.

“The Bill France Award of Excellence is not given out every year,” France said. “It’s for the ultimate achievement and contribution to the sport they love—NASCAR. Sometimes it’s on the track. Sometimes it’s off the track. And every once in a while, it’s both.

“Tonight, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the recipient of the Bill France Award of Excellence.”

It was entirely predictable that Earnhardt would receive his 15th Most Popular Driver Award at the end of his final season in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. The Bill France Award was a surprise.

“It’s a real honor,” Earnhardt said after a long round of applause. “I always tell people all the time that all I wanted to do in racing was to be able pay my bills and be able to race for a long time. I’ve just enjoyed being a part of the sport.

“I didn’t know whether I’d win races or have the opportunity to win championships. I just wanted to be in it. I feel lucky and fortunate to have been able to do some good things, inside the car and outside the car. I always tried to take a lot of pride in taking the sport to new places and introducing it to new people.

“I’ve got to thank the fans, because without them, none of the opportunities that I ever had in racing would have happened.”

Earnhardt then had some sage advice for Truex.

“I remember when I won my first race, my dad (the late Dale Earnhardt Sr.) said, ‘Celebrate this,’ and I know what he meant after all these years, ‘cause you never get to celebrate that first win again,” Earnhardt said.

“You never get to celebrate that first championship again, so we’re going to celebrate it good tonight, Martin.”

In his runner-up speech, Kyle Busch also made a tongue-in-cheek reference to Earnhardt. He thanks NASCAR’s most popular driver for “converting all of Junior Nation into Rowdy fans.” That was one of the biggest laugh lines of the night.

Not lost among the festivities was the contribution 2003 champion Matt Kenseth has made to the sport. With no concrete plans for next year after completing his final season in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Kenseth has announced a hiatus from the sport, one he acknowledges could mark the end of his career as a Monster Energy Series driver.

“Matt, I wish you the best in the future,” Truex said from the podium. “You’re an awesome person and a great driver.”

Truex and Busch, along with Playoff drivers Kenseth and Denny Hamlin, led Toyota to its second straight manufacturers championship.

In a poignant tribute, Bob Carter, executive vice president, sales for Toyota Motor North America, dedicated the championship to J.D. Gibbs. The son of team owner Joe Gibbs has been stricken with a serious neurological disorder.

“J.D. is a friend to everyone in this room,” Carter said. “He’s a father. He’s a great person to be with. J.D., I know you’re home watching. You’re recovering. You’re a fighter. This celebration, this manufacturer’s award is on behalf of you.”

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!