#nascar, News Around the World

Tony Stewart Gets Engaged

Long-time bachelor Tony Stewart is engaged to be married. The NASCAR Cup Series driver and co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing posted a picture of fiancee Pennelope Jimenez’s ring-adorned hand on Thanksgiving Day, with the caption: “She said YES!”

Stewart, 46, and Jiminez have been together since 2016. The bachelor had long joked he would never get married, but he’s clearly met the right woman.

Congratulations to the happy couple.

#nascar, News Around the World

Martin Truex Jr Wins at Homestead

Martin Truex Junior continued his post-season domination of mile-and-a-half ovals on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, holding off a late charge from Kyle Busch to win the Ford EcoBoost 400 and claim his first Monster Energy Series championship.  Truex won four of the five playoff races run on intermediate-sized ovals this fall including yesterday’s season finale, in which there was little drama until the closing laps.  All qualifiers in The Championship Four – Truex, Busch, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski – ran consistently in the top five for much of the day and all came away with top-ten finishes.  Down the stretch, Busch drove past Harvick to take second place and then set his sights on Truex, who kept his rival in the rear-view mirror and delivered Furniture Row Racing’s first Cup Series title.  The margin of victory over Busch was sixty-eight one-hundredths of a second.  Kyle Larson led a race-high 145 laps and ran third with Harvick and Chase Elliott completing the top five.  Keselowski came home in seventh place … Pole winner Denny Hamlin failed to lead a lap and placed ninth.  Truex started alongside Hamlin on the front row and quickly put the field behind him at the drop of the green flag – leading four times for seventy-eight laps, matching his car number.


Bowyer’s Crew Chief Suspended

For the fifth time in the last seven weeks, NASCAR has suspended a crew chief for rule violations – in this case, for infractions found during post-race inspection following the Monster Energy Series race last weekend at Martinsville Speedway.  Mike Bugarewicz (bug-a-RAV-ich) of Stewart-Haas Racing drew a one-race suspension and was fined twenty-five thousand dollars after it was discovered that the weight of the simulated T-V video component on Clint Bowyer’s Number-14 Ford did not meet NASCAR specifications.  The team was docked ten owner and driver points, which does not affect Bowyer’s 18th-place position in the point standings.  He finished third in Sunday’s First Data 500.  Seven crew chiefs across all three of NASCAR’s national series have now been suspended since the 2017 playoffs began in September.


Wisconsin Native & NASCAR Crew Member Dies

James “Jim” Watson, a road-crew fabricator for Furniture Row Racing’s NASCAR Cup Series teams, passed away Saturday night at the age of 55 after suffering a heart attack.

A native of Greenfield, Wisconsin, Jim had been a member of Furniture Row Racing since February 2017. He worked for Roush Fenway Racing from 2006-2015 and spent last season with HScott Motorsports. Jim was a longtime race car driver, competing in dirt late models and in asphalt super late models throughout southeast Wisconsin.

He is survived by his wife, Laurie, and daughter Brittany.



Martin Truex Jr Wins at Kansas

Martin Truex Junior continued his mighty march to Miami with his seventh victory of the season Sunday at Kansas Speedway, putting an exclamation mark on the second round of the playoffs with two wins in the last three weeks.  He’s among the eight drivers who advance to the semifinal round that opens next weekend at Martinsville Speedway but the only one with a stat sheet that makes him a near-certainty to qualify for The Championship Four next month at Homestead-Miami Speedway.  With the playoff bonus points Truex has banked this season, he’s already fifty-two above the cutoff that determines the four title contenders who’ll race for a championship – before a single wheel has been turned in the semifinals!  Truex started Sunday’s race from the pole and led twice for ninety-one laps, including the final fifty-seven trips around the mile-and-a-half Kansas City oval.  His margin of victory over runner-up Kyle Busch was two-point-two seconds with Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin completing the top five … Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 was an elimination race with four playoff participants dropped from title contention.  Kyle Larson was sidelined by engine failure and finished thirty-ninth … Matt Kenseth was disqualified for having too many men over the wall working on his car during a pit stop under caution, a rule he said he was unaware of.  Kenseth placed thirty-seventh … Accidents sidelined Ricky Stenhouse Junior and Jamie McMurray – saddling them with finishes of twenty-ninth and thirty-fourth, respectively.


Condolences to Robert Yates Family

To the family of Robert Yates, a legendary NASCAR engine builder and championship team owner who passed away Monday after his long battle with liver cancer.  Doug Yates announced his father’s passing on Twitter, saying “My dad and hero … has passed and is with the Lord.  Thanks for all the prayers and support.”  Yates was selected for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018 in May, leading all nominees with ninety-four percent of the votes.  Robert Yates was 74.


Next Stop for NASCAR is Chicagoland Speedway

Next stop for NASCAR is Chicagoland Speedway for Sunday’s Tales of the Turtles 400, opening race of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.  The ten-race title series will conclude in November at Homestead-Miami Speedway.  Furniture Row Racing’s Martin Truex Junior is the top seed with four wins during the regular season, a total matched by Kyle Larson – who is seeded Number-2.  Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and defending champion Jimmie Johnson hold spots three through five in the sixteen-man field … The next three races comprise the opening round, after which the bottom four drivers will be eliminated from title contention.  Any one of the sixteen qualifiers that wins a race at Chicagoland Speedway, New Hampshire or Dover will automatically advance to the second round that opens October 8th at Charlotte Motor Speedway.


Danica Not Returning to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2018

Danica Patrick revealed on her Facebook page Tuesday that she will not be returning to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2018.  Her post came just hours after S-H-R announced that Smithfield Foods would be joining the organization next season to sponsor an unnamed driver and team.  In nearly five full seasons behind the wheel of the Number-10 Monster Energy Series entry, Patrick has failed to qualify for the post-season playoffs and never finished higher than twenty-fourth in the point standings.  She ended the 2017 regular season twenty-eighth with a best finish of tenth in her twenty-six starts … And speaking of the Smithfield Foods announcement from earlier in the day on Tuesday, the Virginia-based company is currently sponsoring the Number-43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford for Aric Almirola.  Team owner Richard Petty was not pleased with the day’s developments.  A statement from Petty was released late yesterday afternoon, confirming that Almirola would not return in 2018 and reading, in part: “Over the past few months, Smithfield had continually told me they wanted to be with us and I recently shook hands on a deal to extend our relationship.  I come from a time when we did major deals with sponsors like S-T-P on a handshake.  I’m sad to see this is where we are now.  This decision is unexpected, and we are extremely disappointed in this late and abrupt change of direction.”


Hendrick Motorsports to Have New Look in 2018

When a new NASCAR season begins in February, rising star Chase Elliott will be reunited with the number synonymous with his legendary racing family and rookie William Byron will take the wheel of one of the most iconic cars in motor sports history.

In 2018, 12-time NASCAR Cup Series champions Hendrick Motorsports will introduce the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro to its four-car team with Elliott in the driver’s seat. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native raced the No. 9 to the 2014 NASCAR Xfinity Series title, and his Hall of Fame father Bill Elliott memorably drove it to 38 Cup-level wins and the 1988 series championship.

“I wasn’t sure I’d ever drive the ‘9’ again,” said Chase Elliott, 21, who is currently in his second season driving the No. 24 Chevy for Hendrick Motorsports. “It’s a huge deal to my family and everyone back home (in Georgia), and I hope all of our fans will be pumped to see it back on the racetrack. There’s a legacy attached to that number, and I want to carry it on. I think it’s awesome that Hendrick Motorsports and NAPA wanted to do this. It’s impossible not to be excited.”

When Byron starts his first career Daytona 500 next year, it will be in the iconic No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet made famous by four-time Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon and his storied Rainbow Warriors team. Byron will begin his 2018 rookie season at the same age Gordon was (20) when he made his Cup debut in 1992.

“Jeff and Jimmie (Johnson) are the drivers I’ve always watched most closely and tried to learn from,” said Byron, 19, who grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, and signed with Hendrick Motorsports in August 2016. “I didn’t think I could be more motivated, but when Mr. (Rick) Hendrick called to tell me (about driving the No. 24), it took things to another level. I have so much respect for all the people who have contributed to the success of the ‘24.’ I know it’s rare to have the chance to be part of something like this. I’m going to make the most of it.”

Next season, Elliott and Byron will team with the No. 48 of seven-time Cup champion Johnson, 41, and the No. 88 of 24-year-old newcomer Alex Bowman in the Hendrick Motorsports stable.

“I know what the ‘9’ means to Chase and his whole family,” said Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “They’ve contributed so much to our sport, and I’m happy we can honor that history by bringing the number back. I think fans will really love seeing it out there. I told Chase we’d only do it if he promised to win a bunch of races, so I’m going to hold him to that.

“The ‘fit factor’ is something I’ve always believed in, and that’s what I see with William and our organization. He reminds me a lot of Jeff at that age with regard to being a special talent and having a great head on his shoulders. But William is also his own person with his own career ahead of him. It’s going to be fun to watch him jump in the ‘24’ and show what he’s capable of.”

The debut of the No. 9 will mark the first time in nearly a decade that Hendrick Motorsports will field a new car number for one of its full-time teams. The most recent addition was the No. 88, which was added in 2008 when driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. joined the organization.

“I’m excited about the future,” Hendrick said. “We’ve made some management decisions recently that I feel really good about. Looking at next year, Jimmie will continue to be a leader and help set the tone. Alex is chomping at the bit and ready to go. When you add the (new) Chevrolet Camaro race car into the mix, it’ll definitely be a new look for us. Everyone’s energized.”

Following the 2017 season, Hendrick Motorsports will withdraw its No. 5 car number from competition. It was the organization’s first car number and has run full-time since the team was founded in 1984. The No. 5 was raced to Hendrick Motorsports’ first victory at Martinsville Speedway during its inaugural season, and Terry Labonte drove it to a Cup Series championship in 1996.

“That was by far the hardest part (of the car number decisions),” Hendrick said. “The ‘5’ means so much to everyone at Hendrick Motorsports and to a lot of our fans. The memories and the history will always be there, and I won’t rule out bringing it back some day. Never say never.”

Next season, Elliott and the No. 9 will be fielded by his current No. 24 team while Byron and the No. 24 will be fielded by the current No. 5 team.

    ·  Will make its Hendrick Motorsports debut with driver Chase Elliott in 2018
  •  Hall of Fame driver Bill Elliott raced it in the NASCAR Cup Series for the first time in 1976
  •  1988 Cup Series championship with Bill Elliott; raced to 38 of his 44 career Cup wins
  •  2014 NASCAR Xfinity Series championship with Chase Elliott
  •  53 combined points-paying wins in Cup Series competition with five drivers
  1. 24 QUICK FACTS:
    ·  First fielded by Hendrick Motorsports with Jeff Gordon in 1992; driven by Gordon until 2015
  •  Currently raced by Chase Elliott, who debuted in 2016 and won Cup Series rookie of the year
  •  With Gordon, four Cup Series championships and all 93 of its points-paying Cup victories; race wins include three Daytona 500s and a record five Brickyard 400s
  1. 48 QUICK FACTS:
    ·  First fielded by Hendrick Motorsports with driver Jimmie Johnson in 2001
  •  With Johnson, a record-tying seven Cup Series championships and 83 of its 86 points-paying Cup wins; Johnson’s wins include two Daytona 500s and four Brickyard 400s
  •  From 2002-2016, 5.3 average wins per year and 3.4 average championship points finish
  1. 88 QUICK FACTS:
    ·  First fielded by Hendrick Motorsports with driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2008
  •  With Earnhardt, nine points-paying race wins, including the 2014 Daytona 500
  •  74 combined points-paying wins in Cup Series competition with five drivers: Earnhardt, Dale Jarrett, Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip and Buck Baker; 1999 Cup championship with Jarrett

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 Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


Kyle Busch Wins Bristol Cup Race

Bristol Motor Speedway was no match for Kyle Busch this past week as the Joe Gibbs Racing driver collected three wins in a four-day stretch including Saturday’s Monster Energy Series race.  After winning Wednesday in the Camping World Truck Series, Busch returned to “Thunder Valley” to claim victory in Friday night’s X-finity Series race.  Then on Saturday, he got the best of rookie Erik Jones as well as the half-mile Tennessee oval, keeping the Number-18 Toyota in front over the final fifty-six laps and beating Jones to the checkered flag by nearly a second-and-a-half.  It’s the second time in eight years that Busch has won all three races across NASCAR’s three national series in the same week at the same track.  He first accomplished the feat in 2010, also at Bristol.  Jones did his best to deny Busch his “Tennessee Trifecta” on Saturday night, starting from the pole and leading a race-high 260 laps.  They exchanged the lead three times during the final stage before Busch asserted himself down the stretch.  After laboring through much of the regular season without a Cup Series victory, the 2015 champion now seems to be building momentum for another title run.  Busch has two wins in his last four starts and has climbed to second in the point standings … Denny Hamlin finished third on Saturday and Matt Kenseth was fourth, giving Toyota a sweep of the top four spots.  Kurt Busch completed the top five in his Stewart-Haas Racing Ford … With just two races left in the regular season, Jamie McMurray leads Clint Bowyer by fifty-eight points in the fight for the final playoff spot … Paul Menard finished sixteenth on Saturday night, just two days before his 37th birthday.