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!

Dale Jr. Wanted To Step Away From NASCAR On His Terms

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.


More than anything, Dale Earnhardt Jr. wanted to be the master of his own destiny.

In announcing his retirement from Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racing on Tuesday at the Hendrick Motorsports campus in Charlotte, North Carolina, Earnhardt described his primary motivation during months of physically and emotionally exhausting rehabilitation from a concussion that sidelined him from the final 18 races of the 2016 season.

Earnhardt said his hiatus from racing gave him “the time to wrestle back some semblance of say-so in this whole matter.”

“So that became my motivation, the opportunity to stand here at this podium to announce my choice, rather than some fate that was decided for me. In that regard, the race car wasn’t my goal. It was simply the vehicle that got me here today.”

Earnhardt said his most difficult conversation he had was with team owner Rick Hendrick, whom Earnhardt told of his planned retirement on March 29. He thanked Hendrick profusely, along with wife Amy Reimann (whom Earnhardt married in December), sister Kelley Earnhardt Miller (his partner at JR Motorsports), crew chief Greg Ives and the entire No. 88 team and the fans who collectively comprise Junior Nation.

“I’ll miss that camaraderie, and I’ll miss it for the rest of my life,” Earnhardt said of his relationships with his team and within the sport. “But the friendships I’ve made will live beyond the time that was spent in the garage together…

“I also want to thank NASCAR for giving me and a lot of other fortunate people a place to race. I’ve never taken that for granted.”

Earnhardt was quick to remind reporters that his career isn’t over yet. He will finish the season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series car, and he still has two NASCAR XFINITY Series races on the books for 2018.

“I’m going to be in Richmond this weekend with my foot on the floor, going down the straightaway, and this press conference will be a distant memory,” said Earnhardt, who said his love for driving race cars remains undiminished, despite Tuesday’s announcement.

Throughout a career that spanned parts of 19 seasons and more than 600 races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Earnhardt claimed 26 wins, including two Daytona 500 victories. He came close to winning the championship on several occasions, finishing in the top five in points four times. Prior to joining NASCAR’s premier series, Earnhardt won consecutive titles in what is now the NASCAR XFINITY Series in 1998-99.

“Dale Earnhardt Jr. is among the most recognizable athletes in the world, unequivocally serving as the sport’s most popular driver for more than a decade,” NASCAR Chairman & CEO Brian France said. “His passion for the sport will leave an impact on NASCAR that will be felt over its entire history. Over his 20-plus year career, Dale has proven himself a leader with a deep commitment to so many areas of the sport – all the way to its roots. We’re excited about the next chapter of his NASCAR career and wish him success for the remainder of 2017.”

While driving, Earnhardt set himself up for the future, starting his own race team, which competes in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. His teams have won 32 times, and captured the 2014 championship with Chase Elliott – who many believe will assume the crown as NASCAR’s most popular driver.

But Earnhardt’s immense legacy will lie in the relationship he forged with millions of NASCAR fans. Even during the leanest of years, from a performance standpoint, Earnhardt’s bond with his fans secured him the Most Popular Driver Award following each of the last 14 seasons, which is a NASCAR record for continuous receipt of the honor.

The expressions of the respect Earnhardt has earned from his peers on amounted to a deluge on social media, once his plans became public.

Tweeted teammate and seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, “You’re a hell of friend and teammate @DaleJr, I’m really happy for you and [wife] @AmyEarnhardt.”

Tony Stewart, who retired following the 2016 season, tweeted, “I’m proud of my great friend @DaleJr for everything he’s done for this sport. I’m even more proud of who he is as a man. Love you friend.”

Earnhardt, who will turn 43 in October, made his first career Monster Energy Series start on May 30, 1999, at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Since then, Earnhardt has experienced the sport’s extreme highs and lows. In the 2001 Daytona 500, he lost his father, Dale Earnhardt, following a last lap wreck. The next time the series raced at Daytona, Earnhardt Jr. won, driving the No. 8 Dale Earnhardt Inc. Chevrolet. In 2012, Earnhardt missed two races due to a concussion, but came back two win a combined seven races in 2014-15.

The last of his 26 victories came in the November race at Phoenix in 2015. Then came the season-ending concussion in 2016 and the rigorous rehab regimen Earnhardt had to follow to get back into a race car.

It was that perseverance that endeared him to millions of fans, and earned him the respect of those closest to him.

Tweeted his wife, Amy: “I’m so proud of Dale for working so hard to get back and even prouder of his courage and self-awareness to make the decision to retire. I’m sure God has many other great plans for him and us!”

Tell me it ain’t so, Dale Jr!

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

Is William Byron Kasey Kahne’s Replacement?

William Byron

For the casual NASCAR fan the name William Byron may not  strike a chord or breed familiarity.  But, sports fans, this is a name that you should pay attention to this year!  Byron does not come from a racing background.  He has no famous racing relatives to help “grease the skids”, open the doors, help land big sponsorship deals, or guide him into some great helping hands.

Here is a little background information on how Byron has navigated his rather short racing career to now be under contract with one of NASCAR’s powerhouse in the sport, Hendrick Motorsports.

Byron is just 19 years old and became interested in racing when he was six years old, after seeing a stock car race on television and later attending a race at Martinsville Speedway in 2006. He began racing on the iRacing simulator as a teenager, with over 100 wins and 298 top fives in online competition. In 2012, he and his father explored how Byron could start racing offline – in real cars. He started racing Legends that year at the age of 15, relatively late for modern drivers. That year he won 33 races and became the Legend Car Young Lions Division champion.

For 2014, Byron signed with Dale Earnhardt, Jr’s JR Motorsports late model program, in addition to continuing Legends competition. Byron competed in the No. 9 Liberty University Chevrolet at Hickory Motor Speedway in North Carolina for JRM.  Byron scored a single victory and 11 top-five finishes, finishing second in points to teammate Josh Berry at Hickory.

Byron was signed to drive in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East for 2015 by HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks, with sponsorship from Liberty University.  Byron also continued racing late models for JR Motorsports.  In his debut K&N East in February at New Smyrna Speedway, Byron finished 7th.  Byron won the second race of the season at Greenville-Pickens Speedway after starting second and leading all 152 laps (two laps past the scheduled distance).  Byron made his ARCA Racing Series debut at Lucas Oil Raceway in July, driving the No. 55 Liberty University Toyota Camry for Venturini Motorsports. Byron finished second after leading 120 laps. He scored four K&N East wins en route to winning the series championship.

On October 29, 2015, Kyle Busch Motorsports announced that Byron would run a full-time schedule in the team’s No. 9 Toyota Tundra in the Camping World Truck Series during the 2016 season.  To prepare him for the run, KBM fielded the No. 9 for him in the 2015 Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix International Raceway.  Byron started the 2016 season on a low note crashing on the final lap at Daytona to finish 13th, and finishing 32nd at Atlanta after blowing an engine. Later, Byron would get his first top 3, 5, and 10 in the Truck Series after finishing a strong 3rd at Martinsville. Byron won his first Truck Series race at Kansas in May, after avoiding Ben Rhodes and Johnny Sauter’s crash on the last lap of the race, and took his second race win in Texas in June. He won the next race at Iowa, finished 17th at Gateway due to a crash, and won yet again at Kentucky, propelling him to first in points. He followed that up with his fifth win of the season at Pocono Raceway, breaking the Camping World Truck Series record for most wins by a rookie. The previous mark was held by Kurt Busch during the 2000 season with four wins.  He won the first race of the Round of 8 at New Hampshire, but suffered an engine failure at the last race of the Round of 6 at Phoenix, which cost him the chance to join the Championship 4. With a win at the final race at Homestead, he placed fifth in the overall standings, with a total seven wins and eleven top 5s, and 16 top 10s in 23 races. William also won the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award. Despite not being in contention for the driver’s championship, William’s team Kyle Busch Motorsports still collected the owner’s title for team No. 9.

Because of Byron’s meteoric success in the CWTS in 2016,  Rick Hendrick pulled a sneaky surprise on all of the other super teams in NASCAR.  Out of the clear blue sky on August 18, 2016, Byron and Hendrick Motorsports announced they have signed a multi-year driver agreement, with Byron running full-time in the Xfinity Series driving the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro for JR Motorsports in 2017.

It appears that Byron has grown, matured, and had success at every level of racing so far in his extremely short racing career. This year will pose its own particular challenges for Byron, stepping up from the Camping World Truck Series to the Xfinity Series will test his capabilities.  The NXS includes a high level of competition, longer races, a few more road courses and a longer race schedule.

However, there is no indication that Byron will be over his head.  To the contrary, there is every indication that Byron will be one of the drivers that will be in the hunt for the championship when the cars roll into Homestead in November!  Having made that statement, it would also appear that Hendrick is grooming the young Byron to step into the HMS No. 5 Chevy.  the present driver, Kasey Kahne, is under contract with HMS through the end of 2018.  That could give Byron two seasons in the NXS to gather more experience, hone his racing skills, and be ready to assume that ride in “the big show”!

WOMR strongly suggests that you keep your eyes on this incredibly talented 19 year young man.  This year Hendrick has put Byron into a JR Motorsports Xfinity ride where he may be one of the drivers that could be standing in Victory Lane at Homestead hoisting the championship trophy over his head!

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