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NASCAR Next driver hoping to get more seat time in XFINITY Series Ryan Preece came up just shy in his pursuit of a second consecutive NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship this year, but his strong closing kick may translate to bigger things as he prepares for an offseason of transition. Preece locked down his third runner-up finish in the last six seasons this year, completing a three-year run in team owner Eric Sanderson's No. 16 with back-to-back victories in the tour's final two races of the year. One day after the dust settled on the season, Preece announced he'd join car owner Eddie Partridge's No. 6 team full-time in the northern-based series in 2015 With the track championship from Thompson Speedway in his home state of Connecticut in hand, the NASCAR Next driver extended his hot streak by winning the non-points North-South Shootout at Caraway Speedway in North Carolina, making his first start for Partridge. But before he continues his career in the ground-pounders from NASCAR's oldest division, he's still getting his feet wet on the national- series stage. "It was really good," Preece said of his season over the weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway . "To end it with the 16 and then start it with the 6, it started really well. Obviously I hope we carry momentum into next year with the Modified stuff, but this is definitely something different here." Something different came in the form of his third career start in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in last Saturday's Ford EcoBoost 300 . Though Preece started 33rd and finished 28th in the scrappy Tommy Baldwin Racing No. 36, he emerged with a lead-lap finish in his first Nationwide start outside of New Hampshire Motor Speedway . The race marked Preece's first start on a track that size, all in a series -- which will be called the XFINITY Series starting in 2015 -- that the 24-year-old driver hopes to spend more time in next year. His Modified schedule is set, but Preece said he has "some other stuff in the works" as his complete plans for 2015 take shape. Until then, he's been reaping the benefits of participating in the NASCAR Next youth initiative for the second straight year. While Preece enjoyed the exposure from championship weekend festivities in the Miami area, he said he's eager to get back on track to keep the good vibes of 2014 going. "They bring me different places, they've put me in front of certain people," Preece said, "and now it's just up to me to get seat time and get out there." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
See where drivers will pit for the Ford EcoBoost 300 (4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2) RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today The NASCAR Nationwide Series pit stall assignments are out for Saturday's Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Coors Light Pole Award winner Brad Keselowski chose the first pit stall off pit road with an empty space in front of him for an easy departure. Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney , Kyle Busch and Brendan Gaughan also have open stalls in front of them. Chase Elliott, who clinched the 2014 series title last week, chose the first pit stall onto pit road for an easy entrance. The Nationwide Series will take the track at 4:30 p.m. ET with TV coverage on ESPN2. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Driver on heels of career-best finish in Nationwide Series Richard Childress Racing announced Tuesday that Mike Hillman Jr. will serve as crew chief for driver Brian Scott with the No. 2 Chevrolet team in the NASCAR XFINITY Series . Hillman, 36, won championships in the Camping World Truck Series with Todd Bodine in 2006 and 2010. Of his 20 wins in the truck tour, 19 came with Bodine and the other was delivered serving atop the pit box for Jeb Burton 's breakthrough victory in 2013. "This is a great opportunity for a guy like me to become part of RCR and the No. 2 Chevrolet team," Hillman said. "When we first talked about this position, I knew this was something I wanted to do and RCR is known for their storied success at every level in NASCAR. Brian Scott is a talented driver who is coming off the best season of his career. He and I share the same goals -- wanting to win multiple races and ultimately the XFINITY Series championship. With the team they already have in place, I am confident we will achieve our goals." Scott, 26, joined the Childress operation for the 2013 season and worked with crew chief Phil Gould the last two seasons in the NASCAR Nationwide Series , which will gain title sponsorship from XFINITY next year. Scott placed fourth in the overall standings, posting the best finish in his five full seasons in the series . "I look forward to building on what we have achieved the past two seasons with RCR," said Scott, who has five Coors Light Pole Awards but is still looking for his first victory in the series . "Mike Hillman Jr. is an excellent addition to our No. 2 Chevrolet team and has a proven track record of success and experience. I am more than confident he will take our team to Victory Lane and race for a championship. "We already have a great nucleus of people on our team and our XFINITY program is strong from top to bottom. With the momentum we had at the end of this past season, I feel confident about our 2015 hopes." Hillman, who starts his RCR tenure immediately, spent last season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on a part-time basis, working with a variety of drivers in 13 races with Circle Sport Racing's No. 33 team. One of those was Scott; the two got a jump on developing chemistry in the season-ending Sprint Cup race, where the two combined for a 28th-place finish. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Race shop hosts event to promote science, technology, engineering, math CORNELIUS, N.C. -- The questions weren't surprising and ranged from "how much do you make" to "how did you get interested in racing." Nothing too bizarre to start off, and with just enough feedback to keep the trip interesting and the attendees attentive. Last month, Michael Waltrip Racing and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Brian Vickers hosted approximately 30 teenagers from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Charlotte (Mecklenburg and Union Counties). It was one of four events the organization took part in this year to help demonstrate the importance of STEM, an academic curriculum focused on science, technology, engineering and math. According to the U.S. Department of Education ( www.ed.gov/stem ), "only 16 percent of American high school seniors are proficient in mathematics and interested in a STEM career. Even among those who do go on to pursue a college major in the STEM fields, only about half choose to work in a related career. The United States is falling behind internationally, ranking 25th in mathematics and 17th in science among industrialized nations." Following the screening of a short video and the open discussion, the teens, ranging in age from 13 to 18, toured the expansive facility where MWR personnel explained the engineering and safety aspects of today's Sprint Cup Series cars in a more hands-on setting. Vickers, a three-time winner in Sprint Cup and a former NASCAR Nationwide Series champion, said he has tried to tailor his approach to the interest of each individual group. "I wouldn't say it's changed it dramatically but certainly there are some things you learn as you go through the process," he said. "It's interesting. Every group is different, some are totally engaged, absolutely thought it was the coolest thing ever, especially the younger kids. The older groups, when you're in high school ... they want to pretend like they're not impressed even though they are. They're just that age where all their peers' opinions really matter so you have to really pull it out of them. "One mistake I made early on was just hammering science, technology, engineering and math. Because that's what it's about, right? I think it should be an integral part of it but the reality is you're not going to get 100 kids in one room and they all want to be engineers." The bigger picture, he said, was the opportunity to promote the value of getting an education. And that was the message he tried to impress upon the teens. "Something I have learned is that everyone here is intrigued by different things. Maybe it doesn't involve STEM, but maybe it does," he said. "What I would say to you is you should take your education seriously, but do something you love. Maybe it is working on race cars or building rockets or building skyscrapers, whatever. Maybe it's writing a play, or maybe it's being the next great artist. I don't know. "I'm not going to stand here and tell you that you need to be an engineer if that's not something that intrigues you. But I will tell you that your education is one of the most valuable assets you're going to have in your life." He doesn't undersell the importance of the STEM program, however. Integrating it with the Boys and Girls Clubs has been a success from the standpoint of providing youngsters with hands-on learning opportunities. In addition to the tour of the race shop, the teens were also the guests of the team at Charlotte Motor Speedway . "It works for us," Vickers said of the program. "Because that's what racing is about. It's engineering-based. One of the last ones we did was in Atlanta, and we got just some amazing responses. "Those kids were so engaged. They had these dreams, and yeah, some of them, a big group of them in fact, wanted to be engineers. We had two or three that really wanted to work on race teams. And one young boy wanted to be an architect, a couple wanted to be musicians. ... And that's great. "But to only talk about (engineering), I think, it doesn't go as well. So I've kind of opened it up a little bit more; still focus on that but talk to them about what do they want to do, what are they interested in?" So just how much does he earn? "I always get that question," he said, laughing. "I do pretty well."
Late caution allows veteran to pass Kyle Busch for victory RELATED: Race results " Series standings AVONDALE, Ariz. - Brad Keselowski took advantage of a late-race caution to edge Kyle Busch for a Nationwide Series victory at Phoenix International Raceway , but Chase Elliott was the day's big winner at Saturday's DAV 200 - Honoring America's Veterans . Elliott, the 18-year-old son of 1988 Sprint Cup champion Bill Elliott , finished fifth to clinch the NASCAR Nationwide Series title, becoming the first rookie to accomplish the feat. The Elliott family joined the Pettys, Pearsons, Jarretts and Earnhardts in becoming families with father-son national touring series champions. Elliott, who won races at Texas, Darlington and Chicagoland this season, did what he needed to, finishing ahead of JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith , who entered the race 48 points behind Elliott in the series standings and ran 10th. Elliott said he wasn't sure how to celebrate his series triumph. "I wasn't sure if it was OK to do a burnout lap or not," he said. "But I did one anyway because I was too excited not to. "I never would have even believed this was in my future. At the beginning of this season I had only run a couple of truck races. I feel lot of this is just due to the group of guys I was able to work with. Those guys were bringing me super-fast cars every week." Elliott's NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet did what Busch's Toyota could not do -- survive a green-white-checkered finish after Alex Bowman was slow on the track, bringing out a race-changing caution flag with slightly more than a lap to go. To that point, Busch had been dominant, seemingly on his way to his eighth win in 25 starts this season by leading 187 of the race's 206 laps. But Keselowski had other ideas, swooping to the inside and driving past Busch in Turn 1 of the final lap to prevent Busch from winning his fourth consecutive Nationwide start at Phoenix. "We didn't give up," Keselowski said. "Kyle was really fast – probably a 10th (of a second) or two faster than everybody. Then, that yellow came out and I really don't know what happened. I think we grabbed a gear and he slipped. "It was a little bit surreal. I really didn't even know the race was over. We were low on gas in that whole (end-of-race) situation." Busch was similarly at a loss for words. "The Monster Energy Camry was faster than everyone else – just not at the right time," said Busch, who said he knew he was in trouble when Keselowski's car "cut better than mine in Turns 3 and 4. "I tried to let him go into (Turn) 1 and cut back underneath, but my (car) wouldn't turn," Busch said. "(Right there) his stuff doesn't turn but it still turned better than ours 'cuz he still got me." Neither Keselowski nor Busch are eligible for the series title because they are full-time Sprint Cup Series drivers. For much of the race, Smith appeared primed to put his teammate's title hopes on hold. But Smith struggled after leaving the pits with 29 laps to go after taking left side tires on a yellow-flag pit stop. Elliott leaped from ninth to sixth in the running order and held serve the rest of the way. Busch took fresh tires during that same caution and restarted fifth. The strategy seemed to pay off as he easily got around Keselowski, Elliott Sadler and Bowman, each of whom elected to forego the pits on that final stop. But Keselowski made it happen in the final two laps of his Nationwide Series campaign. "We have a great team," said Keselowski, who did not finish worse than fourth in any of his 10 Nationwide starts this season. "I'm proud to be a part of it. It's been a phenomenal year and I'm going to remember this one for a long time." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
JGR driver holds off Kyle Busch to win final race of Nationwide's tenure MORE: Full EcoBoost 300 results " Final Nationwide Series standings HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Charging away from a pack of pursuers on the final restart, Matt Kenseth scored his first NASCAR Nationwide Series win since October of last year in Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Chase Elliott, who had clinched the driver’s championship last Saturday in Phoenix, finished 17th after scraping the outside wall late in the race. Brad Keselowski delivered the Nationwide Series owner’s championship to Roger Penske with an eighth-place result in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford. In a mere formality, Elliott also received Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors, making the him the first driver to win both a rookie title and a series championship in the same year in any of NASCAR’s top three national series . At age 18, Elliott also is the youngest national touring series champion in NASCAR history. After losing the lead to Kyle Larson after a restart on Lap 199 of a scheduled 200, Kenseth got a second chance when NASCAR threw the 11th caution of the race for a multicar wreck behind the leader moments before Larson was to take the white flag signaling the final lap, which would have made him a winner under the caution. Instead, Kenseth pulled ahead from the outside lane after a restart on Lap 205 and took the checkered flag on the sixth lap of overtime. Kyle Busch won a drag race to the finish line to take the runner-up spot from Larson, who held third. Ryan Blaney and rookie Chris Buescher completed the top five. Kenseth won for Joe Gibbs Racing in the final outing with the company for crew chief Kevin Kidd, who moves to Roush Fenway Racing next year as director of competition in the Sprint Cup Series . “It’s been a long time since I won a race in anything, so just happy for Kevin,” Kenseth said. “Happy to send him off with a win here. That was pretty cool. Kyle got around me on that second-to-last restart, but when he chose the bottom there, and I had Kyle (Busch) behind me, I knew we had a shot. “I just had to do a better job than I did the time before, so luckily, we got that one last chance to redeem ourselves.” Larson, who led 111 laps, spun his tires slightly on the final restart, allowing Kenseth to take the advantage. “I had good restarts up there until the last 50 laps or so,” Larson said. “Then I finally got a good one underneath Matt (on Lap 199) and was able to get to the lead… I was about 15 feet short of the win. Then we got the yellow, and I thought the 12 (Blaney) had been getting really good restarts, so I wanted to start in front of him (in the bottom lane). “Spun my tires a little bit, and the 20 (Kenseth) was hanging there. I was side-drafting down the frontstretch, and he was able to swerve at me and get me shaken off him. That spun my tires into (Turn) 1, and got me sideways. I was three-wide there, and that was all the 20 needed to win.” Penske won the owner’s championship with five different drivers taking turns in the No. 22 Ford: Keselowski, Joey Logano , Ryan Blaney , Michael McDowell and Alex Tagliani . The championship was the fourth for Penske in the last five years (2010 Nationwide driver’s title with Keselowski, 2012 Sprint Cup title with Keselowski and back-to-back NNS owner’s championships). “Everyone did so much to make this happen, and obviously it didn't come down until the last lap there until we knew we had it,” Penske said. “Two years in a row, I think we had four championships here over the last few years, and that's really important to us as we go forward.” MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
NASCAR Next graduate sets new standards in 2014 MORE: Full race results " Look back at Chase's Sunoco Rookie Report " JR Motorsports championship fast facts AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Proving that stock-car racing talent hasn't skipped a generation, 18-year-old Chase Elliott continued a family tradition Saturday afternoon at Phoenix International Raceway , becoming the youngest champion in NASCAR national series history. Elliott, son of 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Bill Elliott , entered Saturday's DAV 200 - Honoring America's Veterans needing only to lose none of his 48-point lead over JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith . He did, finishing fifth to sew up his Nationwide Series title pursuit with one race remaining. "Are you kidding me?! Yes!" Elliott said over his in-car radio at the checkered flag before running through a list of thank-yous. "You know what they say," his radio crackled back, "you can chase Elliott, but you can't catch him." The siren at the Dawsonville Pool Room -- nearly 2,000 miles east in the Elliotts' Georgia hometown -- sounded loud and proud after the teenager's latest accomplishment, just as it frequently did in his father's heyday. Saturday, the shrill signal celebrated the teenager's impressive body of work throughout 2014, with the Dawsonville institution tweeting, "Call the fire department we might let the "Si-REEN" blare until she catches on fire!!!" and then providing proof. Sorry for the video delay, we are so happy here in Dawsonville we almost forgot to upload it! #di9 http://t.co/LBjiWPlhXK — Dawsonville PoolRoom (@DawsonPoolRoom) November 8, 2014 — Dawsonville PoolRoom (@DawsonPoolRoom) November 8, 2014 Elliott became the first rookie to wear the Nationwide Series crown since the circuit's infancy, landing the first championship for his JRM team -- co-owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr . -- in the process. He also became the first product of the NASCAR Next youth initiative to claim a season-long title at the national series level. And he also followed his father's footsteps to become part of just the fifth father-son duo to claim a NASCAR national series title. "This certainly has not set in for me, and I don't know when it's going to," Elliott said. "I want to enjoy every bit of it. I'm going to enjoy it all the way till the green flag at Daytona because this is just such a cool honor to have. To be able to come and drive the race cars I've been able to this season, and to be able to do this every week, this is a dream come true. I get to go race cars on the weekend; it doesn't get much better than that." The elder Elliott's list of stock-car achievements has few peers with multiple Daytona 500 victories and the Cup championship in 1988. Saturday, though, was a special moment of a different sort for the proud pop. "I think this is above everything. I'm serious," Bill Elliott said. "I think this is above everything that I've accomplished because that's kind of in the past, and this is him living for his future. He's a good kid, he's done a great job and he's kind of got the world by the tail. He's got to keep his head screwed on straight and headed in the right direction, but I feel like he can do that." Elliott broke through for his first NASCAR national series victory last season at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park during his partial schedule in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series . His progress in trucks and other forms of stock-car racing was enough to attract the attention of Earnhardt, who tapped Elliott in January for a full-time ride with his Nationwide Series team. In making the jump, Elliott's car bore the No. 9 that his father made famous, scoring 38 of his 44 career victories in NASCAR's premier series with the car number. NAPA, making its return to NASCAR after departing the Michael Waltrip Racing team weeks earlier, signed on as a full-time sponsor. Though he currently drives for JRM, he remains under contract through the team's association with Rick Hendrick and his Hendrick Motorsports operation -- Earnhardt's team in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series . The 65-year-old car owner, whose eye for budding young racers is credited with developing the championship-caliber careers of Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson , said he noticed Elliott's poise and maturity early on. "He is so mature beyond his years, how he can be fast but not wreck the car," said team partner Rick Hendrick. "It's just unbelievable how talented he is, but how smart he is. I think he's got the whole package and that's what impressed me from the very beginning." While Bill Elliott 's career began as a Ford loyalist, Chase Elliott 's big break came in Chevrolets. Success came early, in just his sixth Nationwide race at Texas Motor Speedway in April. Elliott passed Kevin Harvick with 16 laps to go and led five Sprint Cup regulars -- including Earnhardt -- to take the checkered flag. The following week, he was back in Victory Lane at Darlington Raceway , the treacherous South Carolina track where his father captured the Winston Million triple crown bonus in 1985. Though a crash at Charlotte Motor Speedway at May knocked him out of the lead in standings, he snatched the top spot back with a win in July at Chicagoland Speedway and never relinquished his perch. The Nationwide Series season wraps up next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway with Saturday's Ford EcoBoost 300 (4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2). After a historic Saturday in the desert, Elliott's race will serve as a 300-mile victory lap. Elliott's coronation had just one moment of uncertainty. The rookie-turned-champ had been fast all day, but when it came to doing a post-race burnout, he paused. "Do I go burn 'em down right now?" Elliott said. "Is that acceptable?" Spotter Earl Barban passed the buck over the radio: "You'll have to ask your crew chief." The affirmative reply came from Greg Ives, "Do what you need to do." Elliott complied like a kid at heart, but one accomplished beyond his years. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule