Darian Grubb Named William Byron’s Crew Chief For 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

DARIAN GRUBB NAMED CREW CHIEF OF NO. 24 TEAM IN 2018

CONCORD, N.C. (Nov. 1, 2017) – Hendrick Motorsports has named veteran crew chief Darian Grubb to lead the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 team of driver William Byron, who will make his NASCAR Cup Series debut in 2018 and compete for rookie of the year honors.

Grubb, 42, led Tony Stewart to the 2011 Cup championship and has posted 23 total victories in the series, which ties him for third among active full-time crew chiefs. He has recorded 18 pole positions, 72 top-five finishes and 132 top-10s in his career atop the pit box.

“This is our last major piece of the puzzle for next season,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “Darian is an all-around terrific person and a proven winner. The experience and leadership he brings will be a difference-maker for William and everyone on the team. He has a clear vision for the future and already is plugged in with our other crew chiefs. He’s a great fit.”

The Grubb-Byron combination fills out the 2018 Hendrick Motorsports lineup, which includes the crew chief and driver pairings of Alan Gustafson with Chase Elliott, seven-time champions Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson, and Greg Ives leading newcomer Alex Bowman.

“The opportunity to work with William and the No. 24 team is big,” said Grubb, a native of Floyd, Virginia, with a mechanical engineering degree from Virginia Tech. “William is a phenomenal young driver and already a great communicator in the race car. I’m looking forward to building a strong relationship with him and working with Alan, Chad, Greg and all of our talented people. Everyone on the team will be committed to continuing the winning tradition of the No. 24.”

Hendrick Motorsports announced in August that Byron, who is currently second in the NASCAR XFINITY Series playoff standings, will drive the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in the NASCAR Cup Series beginning in 2018. The 19-year-old Charlotte, North Carolina, native has three wins this year as an XFINITY Series rookie.

“I have so much respect for Darian and everything he’s accomplished in this sport,” Byron said. “There aren’t many people with a résumé like his, and I will definitely tap into that knowledge from day one. He knows how to win races and win championships. To have that kind of person leading the No. 24 team gives me a ton of confidence about what we can all do together.”

Grubb originally joined Hendrick Motorsports in January 2003. He served as the lead race engineer for the No. 48 Chevrolet and driver Johnson from 2003-2006, including four races as interim crew chief during the team’s 2006 championship season. Grubb earned one win in 2007 as crew chief for Casey Mears before being named engineering manager for the Nos. 5 and 88 Hendrick Motorsports teams for 2008.

In 2009, Grubb moved into a crew chief role at Stewart-Haas Racing, where in three seasons with driver Stewart he won 11 races and the 2011 Cup Series title. He then joined Joe Gibbs Racing, recording nine total victories from 2012-2015 as crew chief for drivers Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards. Grubb rejoined Hendrick Motorsports in January 2016 to oversee race car manufacturing as vehicle production director and was recently promoted to director of competition systems.

Last month, Grubb was named crew chief for the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team for the remaining nine races of the 2017 season. In 2018, the No. 24 team will be fielded by the current No. 5 team.

ABOUT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS:
Founded by Rick Hendrick in 1984, Hendrick Motorsports has earned 249 points-paying race victories and a record 12 car owner championships in the premier NASCAR Cup Series. The organization fields four full-time Chevrolet teams on the Cup circuit with drivers Kasey Kahne, Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Headquartered in Concord, North Carolina, Hendrick Motorsports employs more than 600 people. For more information, please visit HendrickMotorsports.com or interact on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

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

Liberty University Signs On With Byron For 12 Races In 2018

William Byron
Liberty University and 12-time NASCAR Cup Series champions Hendrick Motorsports have reached a two-year agreement that will make the world’s largest Christian university a primary sponsor of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro driven by William Byron.

Byron, 19, will carry primary sponsorship from Liberty University in 12 Cup Series races in both 2018 and 2019. It was announced Aug. 9 that the Charlotte, North Carolina, native will move to NASCAR’s premier level next season and compete for rookie of the year honors.

Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick and four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon appeared with Byron in front of more than 11,000 people today at the first Convocation of Liberty University’s fall semester. Held at the Vines Center in Lynchburg, Virginia, the school’s Convocation is the world’s largest weekly gathering of Christian young people.

“Since we first met William, he has never ceased to amaze us with his skills on the racetrack, the strong Christian values he displays and his focus on academics,” said Jerry Falwell, president of Liberty University. “We have watched him develop very quickly into a driver who can compete with the best in his sport. It’s a privilege to begin our relationship with Hendrick Motorsports and to support William in his career, in his education and in life.”

Liberty University began its support of Byron in 2014 when he drove late models for Hendrick Motorsports affiliate JR Motorsports and is now in its fourth season sponsoring the driver. Founded in 1971, it is the largest private, nonprofit university in the United States, the largest university in Virginia and the largest Christian university in the world. Byron is currently a sophomore working toward an undergraduate business communications degree through the school’s online program.

“My experience with Liberty University has been awesome on so many levels,” Byron said. “I’m lucky to have them support my driving career, but I’ve also lived on campus and seen first-hand how they lift up their students. I’m grateful for what they’ve done for me both professionally and academically, and it’s very cool to have them take this next step and continue working with us on the No. 24 team.”

In 2016, Byron turned in the most successful debut season in Camping World Truck Series history with a NASCAR national series rookie record seven victories. This year, he progressed into the NASCAR Xfinity Series, where he has already earned three wins — Iowa, Daytona and Indianapolis — and currently ranks second in the standings with JR Motorsports.

“Liberty is a new partner for us, and we see a tremendous opportunity to help promote their academic programs,” said Hendrick, who is also chairman of Hendrick Automotive Group, the largest privately held car dealership group in the country. “On the retail side, we’ve worked with their automotive dealership management program, which is already one of the best in the country. I’ve visited campus and we’ve brought in their students for internships. It’s very impressive to see the level of talent and integrity in these young people. William will continue to be a terrific representative for the school, and we look forward to building a great relationship.”

Hendrick Motorsports signed Byron in August 2016. Next season, he will join drivers Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson and Alex Bowman as a member of the four-car NASCAR Cup Series operation.

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

Hendrick Motorsports Announces Leadership Promotions

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS STRENGTHENS ORGANIZATION WITH EIGHT LEADERSHIP TEAM PROMOTIONS

CONCORD, N.C. (Aug. 15, 2017) – Hendrick Motorsports has elevated eight senior leaders into new positions designed to strengthen the 12-time and defending NASCAR Cup Series champions and enhance the team’s overall management structure. The eight executives, who will assume their new roles immediately, have more than 150 combined years of service with the organization.

“I believe the best leaders serve their teammates, not the other way around,” said , owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “Servant leadership is an approach that’s been successful for us in both racing and the automobile business, and it’s something our organization has wholeheartedly embraced. These people have grown in our culture and are trusted throughout our company. I’m proud to see them expand their responsibilities as we look toward the future together.”

Vice president and chief financial officer Scott Lampe has been promoted to executive vice president, making him Hendrick Motorsports’ third-ranking officer after owner Hendrick and team president Marshall Carlson. The Appalachian State University graduate will continue as CFO with responsibility for core business functions that include accounting, aviation, human resources, information technology, legal affairs, purchasing, and real estate. The Durham, North Carolina, native has been with the company for 18 years.

Veteran racer Ken Howes, who has 32 years of service with Hendrick Motorsports, has been named vice president and chief of staff to provide leadership, coordination and support across the organization’s senior executive team and all racing operations. The Johannesburg, South Africa, native previously was vice president of competition and is the company’s most experienced team executive with a decorated auto racing career that spans NASCAR, Formula 1 and IMSA.

Director of engine operations Jeff Andrews has been elevated to vice president of competition. With 25 years of experience with Hendrick Motorsports, Andrews is now the organization’s senior competition executive supporting its crew chiefs and four NASCAR Cup Series teams. His responsibilities include oversight of the company’s engine operation and the newly formed competition systems group. The Fresno, California, native will be the organization’s representative on the NASCAR competition committee and serve as its co-chair representing Chevrolet teams.

Nos. 5 and 24 team manager Brian Whitesell has been promoted to the new position of vice president of operations. He will oversee the organization’s vehicle engineering group and direct all vehicle-related production, including chassis, bodies, composites and other unified vehicle production functions. The Stuarts Draft, Virginia, native holds a mechanical engineering degree from Virginia Tech and has 25 years of service with Hendrick Motorsports.

Lampe, Howes, Andrews, Whitesell and longtime vice president of marketing Patrick Perkins will report to Carlson, along with crew chiefs Alan GustafsonGreg IvesChad Knaus and Keith Rodden.

“Without question, our greatest strength is the more than 600 people working at every level inside Hendrick Motorsports,” Carlson said. “We’ve spent a great deal of time listening to team members throughout the organization, front to back, and identified ways to better align management and organize capabilities to take full advantage of our talent. The first priority is our people, and the best way we can serve them is to continue winning races and competing for championships for many years to come. We believe these decisions will help to ensure we meet that goal.”

Other new assignments include:

·  Longtime director of engine engineering Jim Wall has been promoted to director of powertrain. In conjunction with Andrews, Wall will continue managing the development and delivery of championship-caliber engines with the added responsibility of overseeing the gear and transmission unit, which will be integrated with the engine operation. The Concord native holds undergraduate and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from North Carolina State University. He has more than 30 years of service with Hendrick Motorsports.

·  Vehicle production director Darian Grubb has been promoted to director of competition systems, reporting to Andrews. The Floyd, Virginia, native will work to enhance team capabilities that directly support at-track competition with day-to-day oversight of the new competition systems group, which includes the organization’s simulation programs, analytics platforms, data acquisition and communication technologies, and at-track research and development.

·  Manager of aerodynamics Diane Holl, a former principle engineer at the McLaren Formula 1 team, has been promoted to director of vehicle engineering, reporting to Whitesell. The Guildford, England, native will lead the vehicle engineering group and integrate the design-and-build processes employed in race car development and production.

·  Nos. 48 and 88 team manager Michael Landis has been promoted to director of operational support, reporting to Lampe. The New York City native will provide responsive business services to the competition and operations units with oversight of essential support functions including purchasing, apparel, travel, and logistics and transport.

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

Kasey Kahne Is On The Search For A 2018 Ride

Kasey Kahne
Kasey Kahne’s job hunt started soon after it was announced that he would not return in 2018 to the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

He has won six races in his nearly six years at Hendrick Motorsports and 18 in his career. He is widely considered to have underperformed in his time at Hendrick. Kahne is hopeful he will be able to land a ride in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and that the new job will rejuvenate his career.

“I think that it’s all about people,” Kahne said. “If you can get the people behind you and believe in you and then I believe in them, and we work together for the same goal to win races. It’s a competitive series it is a super tough series to win in and so many things have to go right for the entire race weekend and then throughout the race.”

Team owner Rick Hendrick shouldered the blame for the No. 5 team’s subpar performance and says he will help Kahne get a new ride. “To have him behind you is a really good thing,” Kahne said. “I respect him a ton. Yeah, I hope we can build something out of that, but I also have been working in my own direction as well on certain things to make sure I just check out everything that is out there for sure.”

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

William Byron: “I’m Ready”

William Byron
William Byron summed up his future at Hendrick Motorsports in two words: “I’m ready.”

That was the answer Byron gave team owner Rick Hendrick on Sunday night, when Hendrick first broached the possibility of the 19-year-old moving up to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2018.

“He didn’t know why we were meeting,” Hendrick said on Wednesday during a conference call with reporters. “I said, ‘William, how’d you like to drive in Cup next year?’ And he said, ‘I’m ready.’ There was no hesitation.

“We’re just really excited. It was a special moment. … Just to see his face and the excitement there, those are real special moments when you can break the news.”

On Wednesday morning, HMS made that news official. Byron will drive the No. 5 Chevrolet in the Monster Energy Series next season, with primary sponsorship from existing partners Axalta and Liberty University filling most of the race dates. Byron replaces Kasey Kahne, who will leave the car with one year remaining on his contract.

“We haven’t gotten the job done,” Hendrick said of the results from the No. 5 car. “I take full responsibility for that. For whatever reason, we weren’t getting it.”

Though Byron has never driven a Monster Energy Series car in competition, he has shown enormous talent at every level of racing, winning seven times in his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series rookie season last year and winning three times in 20 NASCAR XFINITY Series starts this season. Byron currently is second to JR Motorsports teammate Elliott Sadler in the XFINITY standings.

“As a kid, this is the race shop that I would drive by and look in the windows,” Byron said of his early affinity for Hendrick Motorsports. “Actually, at the 5/24 (shop), they have the window there, and I would walk up to that, and it’s pretty cool to be on the other side of it next year. …

“I feel like I’ve put the work into it, and I feel like I’m learning on the job, and that’s been the biggest thing for me, to learn from the best people I can have around me. Just looking forward to the future.”

With 24-year-old Alex Bowman recently announced as the successor to Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 Chevrolet, the shift to Byron from Kahne further reduces the age and experience of the Hendrick roster. Second-year driver Chase Elliott, who replaced Jeff Gordon into the No. 24 car last year, is 22.

That leaves seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, who will turn 42 in September, as the only veteran in the Hendrick camp.

“Jimmie Johnson will be a mentor to all three of them,” Hendrick said. “We still have Jeff Gordon involved, and Dale Earnhardt’s going to be involved. He’s still going to be involved with the team, so we’ve got a lot of coaches. But the main thing is just not putting too much pressure on them and let them go out and learn.”

Hendrick says he is also trying to help Kahne take the next step in his career. Kahne has spent six years in the No. 5 car and recently qualified for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs with a victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“I have an obligation to Kasey, so I’m paying two drivers next year,” Hendrick said. “And I’m also trying to help Kasey in another situation that we could be involved with helping another team.

“So therefore, it’s not so much about money. It’s about the future and building for the future, getting a fresh start.”

That’s precisely what Hendrick hopes and expects from Byron.

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

William Byron Is The New Driver Of The HMS No. 5 Chevy!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WILLIAM BYRON TO COMPETE IN THE NASCAR CUP SERIES FOR HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS BEGINNING IN 2018

AXALTA AND LIBERTY UNIVERSITY ON BOARD AS PRIMARY SPONSORS

CONCORD, N.C. (Aug. 9, 2017) – Record-breaking teenager William Byron will drive for 12-time NASCAR Cup Series champions Hendrick Motorsports beginning next season. He will debut at stock car racing’s highest level in the 2018 Daytona 500 and compete for rookie of the year honors.

Byron’s No. 5 Chevrolet team will feature sponsorship from Axalta Coating Systems and Liberty University, which currently support the 19-year-old driver in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Beginning in 2018, the two primary sponsors will cover the majority of Byron’s Cup races annually. Additional details of the multi-year partnerships will be announced at a later date.

In 2016, Byron turned in the most successful debut season in Camping World Truck Series history with a NASCAR national series rookie record seven victories. This year, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native progressed into the Xfinity Series, where he has already earned three wins — Iowa, Daytona and Indianapolis — and currently ranks second in the standings after 20 of 33 races with Hendrick Motorsports affiliate JR Motorsports.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Byron, who will turn 20 on Nov. 29. “Mr. (Rick) Hendrick has built such a great team. The people at Hendrick Motorsports have dedicated their lives to giving their drivers the best chance to win every weekend. I have a responsibility to them to work hard and put everything I have into this opportunity. They need to know I’m always giving 100 percent because that’s what they do.

“When I told my parents that I wanted to drive race cars, they supported me and believed I could do it. Without them, there’s no way this would be possible. Axalta and Liberty University are awesome partners, and I’m so thankful for their faith in me. I’m going to do all I can to make my family, my sponsors and my teammates proud and represent them all in the right way.”

Hendrick Motorsports signed Byron in August 2016. Next season, he will join drivers Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson and Alex Bowman as a member of the four-car NASCAR Cup Series operation.

“At every step, William has proven how quickly he can adapt,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “Some drivers have raw talent and some have a strong work ethic. William has both. It’s impressive to see a young guy who never gets rattled and instinctively knows how to communicate with his team. That level of commitment, poise and pure ability is rare at any age. I think he’s just scratching the surface.”

Axalta Coating Systems (NYSE: AXTA), a leading global supplier of liquid and powder coatings, became a sponsor of Byron’s Xfinity Series effort this season. With primary sponsorship across teammates Byron and Alex Bowman (15 races), the company will increase its already significant presence with Hendrick Motorsports in 2018. Axalta has been a Hendrick Motorsports corporate partner since 1992 and recently opened its state-of-the-art Customer Experience Center on the team’s campus.

Liberty University began its support of Byron in 2014 when he drove late models for JR Motorsports and is now in its fourth season sponsoring the driver. Founded in 1971 and located in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty University is the largest private, nonprofit university in the United States, the largest university in Virginia and the largest Christian university in the world. Byron is currently a sophomore student working toward an undergraduate degree in business communications through the school’s online education program.

“To have this opportunity with a new partner (to Hendrick Motorsports) in Liberty University and to grow what’s been an incredible long-term relationship with Axalta, it’s very special,” Hendrick said. “These are two sponsors who have already built effective programs around our sport and now see even more possibilities. It’s a big compliment to William, who has been a terrific ambassador for them both, and we look forward to a bright future together.”

WILLIAM BYRON YEAR-BY-YEAR:

2017: As a rookie, has posted three wins, one pole position, seven top-five finishes and 14 top-10s through 20 of 33 races in the Xfinity Series. Recorded wins at Iowa Speedway and the iconic venues of Daytona International Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Currently second in driver points, first in playoff points and leads the rookie of the year standings.

2016: Recorded the most successful rookie season in NCWTS history with seven wins (a national series rookie record), three poles, 11 top-five finishes and 16 top-10s driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Named rookie of the year after leading 21 percent of the season’s total laps and securing the NCWTS owner championship. Started two ARCA Racing Series events, finishing second and eighth. Signed by 12-time NASCAR Cup Series champions Hendrick Motorsports in August.

2015: Crowned NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion after posting four wins, three pole positions, five top-five finishes and 11 top-10s. In 14 events, led 740 of the season’s 1,730 total laps (43 percent). Started two K&N Pro Series West races, recording two top-five finishes. Competed in two ARCA events, earning a second-place finish in his series debut after leading 120 of 200 laps at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Won the pole at Kentucky in second ARCA start. Posted one win and three top-five finishes in three CARS Super Late Model races. Made NASCAR national series debut with a NCWTS start Nov. 13 at Phoenix. Outside of racing, earned the Boy Scouts of America rank of Eagle Scout, the highest advancement rank in scouting.

2014: Turned professional in legends cars in January and promptly won the Charlotte Winter Heat Series U.S. Legend Car Pro championship. Crowned Pro Legends champion at the Winter Nationals at Florida’s Auburndale Speedway after winning six of six races. Gained experience in full-sized stock cars across the U.S. Legend Car Pro division, NASCAR Whelen All-American Series late model division and select pro late models. Signed to compete regionally for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s late model program at JR Motorsports, competing 21 times at North Carolina’s Hickory Motor Speedway. Earned first-ever victory in a stock car on Sept. 6 at Hickory. Named the state of North Carolina’s rookie of the year in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Late Model Series. In total, competed 56 times with 11 wins, 24 pole awards, 29 top-three finishes and 37 top-five finishes.

2013: After racing exclusively online, began competing in the U.S. Legend Car Young Lions division. Raced in 69 legends car events across the United States, posting 33 wins, 59 top-five finishes and 64 top-10s en route to the U.S. Legend Car Young Lions national championship. In addition, won the 2013 ThursdayThunder Young Lions championship at Atlanta Motor Speedway and the Young Lions all-star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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

Hendrick Motorsports And Kasey Kahne End Six Year Association

Kasey Kahne

Hendrick Motorsports and Kasey Kahne will end their six-year run together following the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series season. The driver has been released from the final year of his contract, allowing him to immediately pursue opportunities for 2018.

“Kasey has worked extremely hard,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “He’s a tremendous teammate and person, and he has been totally dedicated to our program since day one. I’ve always believed that he’s a special talent, and I know he will thrive in the right situation. We will do everything we can to finish the season as strong as we can.”

Kahne, 37, will complete the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series schedule for Hendrick Motorsports. He was signed by the organization in April 2010, nearly two years before his February 2012 debut in its No. 5 Chevrolet. Now in their sixth season together, Kahne has earned six of his 18 career points-paying Cup victories with the No. 5 team.

“I’d like to thank Rick and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports for their hard work and dedication, along with providing me a great opportunity and success over the last six years,” said Kahne, who most recently won July 23 at Indianapolis. “We won six races together and I’m coming off of one of the biggest wins of my career at the Brickyard, which has given the (No.) 5 team a lot of momentum heading into the playoffs. We still have a lot of racing left in 2017 and finishing strong is our top priority. I look forward to what the next chapter in my career holds.”

Hendrick Motorsports will announce 2018 plans for its four-car operation at a later date.

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

Does HMS Need To Get Alex Bowman Some Race Experience This Season?

Dale Earnhardt, Jr and Alex Bowman

Now that Rick Hendrick has announced that Alex Bowman will be driving the HMS No 88 in 2018, how will Hendrick prepare Bowman for next year?

Bowman has been the “test driver” for HMS over the past couple of years, testing cars, running simulation, etc, but that is no substitution for the actual racing experiences necessary to keep a driver’s skills sharp.

It would appear that Hendrick may need to find Bowman some Cup racing experience in the remaining part of the 2017 season. Since HMS is already at the four race team limit decreed by NASCAR, there are a few options that could be exercised to get Bowman back into a Cup car for some races this season.

Hendrick could do that by trying to put together some race packages with some of the other Chevy race teams.  The one Cup team that has room to expand, and uses Hendrick engines is Chip Ganassi Racing.  Would Chip Ganassi be willing to help out a competitor, Hendrick Motorsports, when in the heat of a championship run with Kyle Larson?  I am just say…..

Another prominent Chevy team is Richard Childress Racing, however it is high unlikely that Childress would be willing to help further a competitor, HMS, in their attempt to gain experience for Bowman.

Likewise, would the Chevy team of JTG/Daugherty Racing be willing to expand to a third team for a few races to help out Hendrick this year?

There are a couple more race teams that may be willing to partner with Hendrick Motorsports.  However, unless there is an overwhelming financial windfall to those teams, it may be unlikely that Rick Hendrick can put together that kind of package with another Cup team.

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

Hendrick Announces Alex Bowman Replaces Dale Earnhardt, Jr. In The HMS No. 88 For 2018!

Alex Bowman
One year after his impressive debut with Hendrick Motorsports, the team has named Alex Bowman full-time driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Cup Series with a 19-race majority sponsorship from Nationwide beginning in 2018.

Bowman, 24, piloted the No. 88 Chevrolet SS in 10 of the final 18 Cup races last season in place of injured driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. The Tucson, Arizona, native debuted July 17, 2016, at New Hampshire and went on to earn three top-10 finishes with the team including a sixth-place result at Phoenix, where he won the pole position and led a race-high 194 laps.

“Ever since I was a kid, racing is all I’ve wanted to do,” Bowman said. “I’ve had so many people believe in me along the way. My family has sacrificed a lot and always been behind me. I would never have this chance without the support of Dale and everyone involved with the No. 88 team. To be part of Hendrick Motorsports and for Mr. Hendrick to have this confidence in me, it’s just amazing.

“The No. 88 team is such a great group of people. I know we can pick up where we left off last year, and I truly believe we can win races and contend for a championship. I’m excited to build on the relationship with Nationwide and all of our partners. It means the world that they have faith in me, and I’m thankful to have them on my side. Now I just want to go win.”

Nationwide, one of the largest and strongest diversified insurance and financial services organizations in the United States, joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2014 as a corporate partner and in 2015 became majority sponsor of the No. 88 Chevrolet with driver Earnhardt, who will retire from full-time racing at the end of 2017. Nationwide’s 19 primary races with Bowman and the team in 2018 will include the season-opening Daytona 500.

“We are thrilled to continue our relationship with Hendrick Motorsports and welcome Alex to the No. 88 Nationwide team,” said Terrance Williams, chief marketing officer at Nationwide. “Rick Hendrick and the No. 88 team have been exceptional partners for the last three years, and we look forward to our joint commitment and engagement with the NASCAR community, both on and off the track.”

In addition to Nationwide’s one-year extension, Axalta Coating Systems (NYSE: AXTA), a leading global supplier of liquid and powder coatings, will increase its number of races featured as the primary sponsor of the No. 88 team by two for next season, bringing its total to 15 Cup events with Bowman in 2018. Axalta has been a Hendrick Motorsports corporate partner since 1992 and a sponsor of the No. 88 Chevrolet since 2016.

Hendrick Motorsports signed Bowman on Oct. 6, 2016, following his first four races driving for Earnhardt and working with No. 88 crew chief Greg Ives. In 2017, he has been an integral part of the simulation and on-track testing programs for the 12-time NASCAR Cup Series champions and manufacturer Chevrolet.

“Alex impressed the heck out of us last year with his talent, poise and professionalism,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “He stepped up in a very demanding situation and showed that he can run with the best and compete for wins. His ability to stay focused through it all, and the way he’s handled himself since then, has shown a lot of character. Greg and the team loved working with Alex, and that dynamic will get even better with more time together.

“Our relationship with Nationwide is unbelievable. They have a true passion for NASCAR and our fans, and to have them extend with us is gratifying for our whole team. It’s also a credit to the way Alex carried himself last season and built lasting relationships. We’re fortunate to work with partners like Nationwide and Axalta that have built impactful, enduring programs around the countless opportunities our sport provides.”

At 7 years old, Bowman began racing on the short tracks of Arizona and California, driving quarter-midgets before advancing to USAC sprint cars. He transitioned to full-bodied stock cars at age 17, initially making starts in the 2010 Pro Cup Series and later the 2011 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, where he finished sixth in points and won rookie of the year.

Bowman also entered two ARCA Racing Series events in 2011, winning them both — at Madison International Speedway and Kansas Speedway. After Team Penske signed him in 2012, Bowman posted four ARCA wins — Salem, Winchester, Iowa and Kansas — and led 20 percent of the season’s total laps to earn another rookie of the year award. He made his first NASCAR national series start Sept. 15, 2012, at Chicagoland in the Xfinity Series, which he ran full-time in 2013 for RAB Racing.

As a 21-year-old rookie, Bowman made his NASCAR Cup debut in the 2014 Daytona 500. Over the 2014 and 2015 seasons, he started 71 Cup events while running full-time for BK Racing and Tommy Baldwin Racing. Notably, he competed twice in the 2014 Xfinity Series and once in the 2015 NASCAR Truck Series for Earnhardt’s JR Motorsports, which is affiliated with Hendrick Motorsports.

In 2016, Bowman made nine Xfinity Series starts for JR Motorsports, recording one pole position, three top-five finishes and seven top-10s. His 10 Cup Series appearances for Hendrick Motorsports in 2016 included top-10 results in playoff races at Chicagoland, Kansas and Phoenix. He now has 133 career starts across NASCAR’s three national series, including one in the 2017 Truck Series.

This announcement was not a great surprise to this reporter, but I am sure that it may be seen as curve ball to others!

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

The 2017 “Silly Season” Is Now In Full Swing

Matt Kenseth

The announcement of Erik Jones as the replacement for Matt Kenseth in the No. 20 Toyota by Joe Gibbs Racing could be the first in a multitude of driver moves for the 2018 Cup season.

There are many drivers, sponsors and teams whose plans for next year have yet to be put to paper, solidified, and published.

Here is a rundown of who could be headed where and with whom:

ANNOUNCED RIDES

Erik Jones will be in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota, thus forcing Matt Kenseth out of the JGR stable of drivers, and a free agent for 2018.  This fact we know for sure!

OPEN/POSSIBLY OPEN RIDES

No. 88: Team owner Rick Hendrick hasn’t revealed what direction he will go to fill the HMS No. 88 for 2018, telling reporters at Daytona there was no timetable for naming Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s replacement.  Rick Hendrick has a few options for this team, he could hire Matt Kenseth to fill in for the short term while his young star, William Byron, gets another year of experience in the Xfinty Series.  He could also stick young Alex Bowman in this ride in the interim as well, or put him in the JR Motorsports No . 9 if Byron is promoted to Cup.

–No. 5: This car virtually has no sponsorship announced for next season, and Kasey Kahne’s status is uncertain. It is believed that Kahne is under contract to HMS through the end of 2018, with HMS carrying the option.  With Kanhe not being very productive throughout his stint with HMS, Hendrick would very easily terminate that contract and move in another direction with a new driver, possibly Kenseth, or HMS’ test driver, Alex Bowman, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, or possibly Paul Menard.

Is appears that Hendrick Motorsports seems committed to remaining a four-car team next year.

No. 77: Jones is returning to Joe Gibbs Racing after one season in Furniture Row Racing’s new car. Team owner Barney Visser said after Kentucky that “we have nothing concrete. … Our hope is to have two cars.” 5-hour Energy has an option to return in 2018 and can’t leave for another team. There is speculation Furniture Row Racing might move 5-hour Energy to the 78 with Martin Truex Jr., which would seem to leave this ride’s future in doubt.

If Visser is to keep the No. 77 viable and functioning, then the driver selected to fill the slot would have to bring turn-key sponsorship with him to Denver!

No. 10: Sponsorship has yet to be announced for next season, and Danica Patrick’s contract is in its last year with the team.  With the trouble securing proper sponsorship for Patrick this year, it would appear that the interest in Danica Patrick by corporate America is declining.  Therefore, the SHR No. 10 may have a different driver in the cockpit in 2018, and if Cole Custer is promoted to Cup, a different number as well.  Custer has been using the 00 number on his NCWTS and NXS rides, which was one of the numbers that Gene Haas has used when he started up his Cup team.

No. 41: Stewart-Haas Racing is facing a sponsorship problem.  NASCAR and SHR sponsor Monster is mulling whether to return as a team sponsor in addition to its series title sponsorship. Monster must inform NASCAR within the next few months if it’s picking up the option on its series title sponsorship (which is a two-year deal with a two-year option). Co-owner Gene Haas has indicated Stewart-Haas Racing wants to stay at four cars. But if sponsorship isn’t there, contraction could become an option for the team.

No. 2: The news on whether Brad Keselowski will be re-signed to a Team Penske contract has not been revealed yet.  If he were to leave, Miller Lite is expected to stay and is said to like Ryan Blaney as a possible replacement driver (whose social media persona and youth would seem a good fit for a beer company).

AVAILABLE DRIVERS

Brad Keselowski: Still hasn’t re-signed with Team Penske. There are conflicting reports on whether the deal is virtually done or negotiations are at an impasse. The sticking point is believed to be more support from Ford for his Brad Keselowski Racing truck team, similar to the way in which Toyota Racing Development helps subsidize Kyle Busch Motorsports’ trucks. (Keselowski sparked an interesting discussion last week by saying that NASCAR needs more manufacturers.)

Matt Kenseth: Is out at Joe Gibbs Racing but wants to remain in a championship-caliber ride. Hendrick’s Nos. 88 or 5 seems the most likely landing spots, and he has a good friend in Dale Earnhardt Jr. to lobby on his behalf. Stewart-Haas Racing seems as if could be a possibility to fill either the No.41 or the No.10 rides.

—William Byron: Hendrick Motorsports has gauged the 19-year-old’s comfort level about a promotion to Cup. Rick Hendrick and Axalta (which has sponsored Byron in Xfinity races and likes his personality and potential) would like to move him up.

Kurt Busch: The 2017 Daytona 500 winner said at Daytona he is waiting for Stewart-Haas Racing to pick up his contract option and was optimistic that it would because “I deliver for the team.” Also mentioned there were many “moving parts” involving Monster and NASCAR.

Kasey Kahne: Has a deal through next season, but the team controls the option to keep him, and it’s widely thought it could be his last year at Hendrick.  If this is his last year at HMS then he too could be a key player in the silly season.

Ryan Blaney: Roger Penske said recently he wants to bring Blaney into the fold as early as next season, possibly in a third full-time car (or perhaps in the No. 2 if Keselowski were to leave).

Danica Patrick: In her final year with Stewart-Haas Racing. She said last month she intends to drive next season, but the sponsorship uncertainty leaves her status murky for next year.  Looking at the sponsorship difficulties have have prevailed for her this year, Patrick may be forced out of the NASCAR arena in 2018.

Alex Bowman: If Hendrick goes young, he possibly could be in play for the No. 5 if the team puts Byron in the No. 88. Also in play for the No. 9 at JR Motorsports if Byron goes to Cup.

Paul Menard: Hasn’t been announced as returning to Richard Childress Racing, and the Menards sponsorship could be on the move (it already sponsors Team Penske in the IndyCar Series).  However, as long as his father, John Menard, wants to write the big check, Paul will have a ride with some team.

Aric Almirola: He hasn’t been announced yet as returning to RPM next season. Almirola has been tied closely to sponsor Smithfield, which also had been mulling a move in its contract year, but which just had a key decision-maker leave.

GMS Racing/Spencer Gallagher: The team is mulling a move next season to Cup from the Xfinity Series. At Kentucky, Gallagher told SiriusXM that racing in Cup “definitely is a subject that has been broached, and we’ve put a lot of thought into it. We’ve always known that is our long-term goal to be racing in Cup. We’re looking at different ways we might do it and different times in which it would be best. It’s still in the formative stages.”

It is July, just barely past the the halfway point of the season, and “The Silly Season” is now in full swing.  The aforementioned drivers and teams is just the tip of the iceberg that may come into play as the 2017 season shifts into high gear.  There is no doubt that there may be a few more players, teams as well as drivers, that will be put into play before the season ends at Homestead.

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