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NASCAR.com reporters make national series predictions
RELATED: Key changes in NASCAR " Fast facts on race enhancements NASCAR.com's Kenny Bruce, Holly Cain, Zack Albert and Jonathan Merryman make their predictions for the 2017 NASCAR season: KENNY BRUCE NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion: Timothy Peters . Rebounds from winless '16 to ride the Red Horse to the title. NASCAR XFINITY Series champion: Elliott Sadler . So close a year ago; his JRM team is rock solid. Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year: Daniel Suarez . Stepping into a title-contending car; just needs seat time to become a challenger. Surprise playoffs qualifier: Daniel Suarez . There will be hurdles for last year's XFINITY Series champ, but he's proven to be a quick study. Daytona 500 pick: Kyle Busch . It's one of the few accomplishments left for one of NASCAR's best. Championship 4: Kevin Harvick : Switch to Ford proves to be a non-issue for 2014 champion. Joey Logano : Simple game plan: Get to the front and stay there. Kyle Busch : Bad-fast car. Extremely talented driver and team. Martin Truex Jr .: Team makes silly speed; gotta be there at the end, though. 2017 Monster Energy Series champion: Joey Logano . Can win a slew of races or be crazy consistent. This year he could do both. HOLLY CAIN NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion: John Hunter Nemechek . My repeat pick from 2016, but hoping the right (generous) sponsor sees this young talent and he gets the backing to match his potential. NASCAR XFINITY Series champion: Elliott Sadler -- The veteran has been oh-so-close and this is the year it all comes together for him. Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year: Erik Jones . The Furniture Row Racing 's newest team member is super-talented, highly motivated and knows how to shine even among such fantastic first-year talent. Surprise playoffs qualifier: Kasey Kahne . This will be a resurgent year for the talented 17-time Cup winner who is ready to remind people of his place in the sport. Out front. Daytona 500 pick: Denny Hamlin . Daytona has been Hamlin's playground and he's poised to be the first back-to-back 500 winner since Sterling Marlin in 1994-95. Championship 4: Jimmie Johnson , Kevin Harvick , Kyle Busch and Joey Logano will decide the Cup after hugely competitive playoffs that ends in a history-making moment. 2017 Monster Energy Series champion: Jimmie Johnson . Reigning champ makes history with his eighth title. ZACK ALBERT NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion: Christopher Bell . The 22-year-old standout bookends a season that started with a Chili Bowl victory with his first national series crown. NASCAR XFINITY Series champion: William Byron . A hotshot rookie for the title? Gobs of talent and JR Motorsports resources go a long way. Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year: Daniel Suarez . First-year driver steps into a well-established team that contends for victories. Surprise playoffs qualifier: AJ Allmendinger . Planets align for the No. 47 team at one of the series' two road-course visits. Daytona 500 pick: Brad Keselowski. Team Penske 's strength shows, with one of the best in the restrictor-plate biz leading the charge in the "Great American Race." Championship 4: Kevin Harvick , Denny Hamlin , Jimmie Johnson , Brad Keselowski . The cream rises, with four organizations and all three manufacturers represented in the final bracket. 2017 Monster Energy Series champion: Denny Hamlin. He's been on the podium three times before. In 2017, Hamlin should make it to the top step. JONATHAN MERRYMAN NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion: Matt Crafton . Great, consistent racer. That style will fit the new format. NASCAR XFINITY Series champion: Elliott Sadler . Coming off of a solid 2016, the No. 1 JRM team should be in position to win it all. Monster Energy NASCAR Cup NASCAR Series Rookie of the Year: Erik Jones . Seat time in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series car in 2015 should help the rookie seal the deal. Surprise playoffs qualifier: Erik Jones . I think the rookie wins a race in 2017 clinching a playoff berth. Daytona 500 pick: Brad Keselowski , with four wins at Talladega and one win at Daytona in the summer of 2016, Keselowski has quickly become one of the best plate-racers in NASCAR. Championship 4: Kevin Harvick , Joey Logano , Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch . All four consistently finish races and have multiple win seasons. 2017 Monster Energy Series champion: Kevin Harvick . Mr. "Where did he come from?" has turned in to Mr. Consistency over the past few seasons. Consistency combined with the new points format should complement Harvick well.
RCR, Menards renew partnership in XFINITY Series
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! WELCOME, N.C. -- Looking to continue building success both on and off the track, Menards has renewed its partnership with Richard Childress Racing 's NASCAR XFINITY Series program for a fifth year. Menards will serve as a primary sponsor for select races throughout the 2017 season with Paul Menard and Ben Kennedy driving the No. 2 Chevrolet and Brandon Jones in the No. 33 Chevrolet. "We are excited that the 2017 season is upon us," said Jeff Abbott, Menards spokesperson. "We look forward to once again partnering with RCR, Paul Menard , Ben Kennedy and Brandon Jones in the XFINITY Series , and having three quality race car drivers working hard as teammates and competitors. Our tremendous group of racing partners look forward to seeing Paul, Ben and Brandon in Victory Lane." Menard will be back behind the wheel of the No. 2 Menards/Richmond Chevrolet Camaro for select XFINITY Series races during the 2017 season, while also competing full-time in the No. 27 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for RCR. The Eau Claire, Wisconsin, native has a strong history of success in the XFINITY Series , having captured three wins, six pole awards, 38 top-five and 93 top-10 finishes. Twenty-year-old Brandon Jones and the No. 33 Chevrolet Camaro also will be carrying the Menards banner again alongside the Menard's No. 2 Chevrolet. The Atlanta native qualified for the inaugural XFINITY Series Chase last season, while securing 17 top-11 finishes, to end 2016 10th in the XFINITY Series points standings and third in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings. As RCR's full-time driver of the No. 33 Chevrolet Camaro in the XFINITY Series , Jones is prepared to turn all that he learned and accomplished in his rookie year into consistently high performances throughout his sophomore season. Ben Kennedy , coming to RCR from the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series , also will pilot the No. 2 Menards Chevrolet Camaro at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 15. The 25-year-old made his XFINITY Series debut last season with RCR at Iowa Speedway , in which he secured a 10th place finish, and will compete in select races in the No. 2 Chevrolet throughout the 2017 season. "Menards continues to showcase their commitment and dedication to both RCR and the NASCAR XFINITY Series with the renewed support for Paul Menard , Brandon Jones and Ben Kennedy ," said Richard Childress, CEO and Chairman of Richard Childress Racing . "It's great to feature such a winning company and their variety of vendor-partners both on and off the track and we hope to continue their success this season." Since the 1970s, Menards has a strong history as a racing sponsor, which includes a win in the 2011 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with driver Paul Menard . A family-owned company started in 1960 and headquartered in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Menards has 305 retail store locations throughout the Midwest.
Ryan Reed wins 'Big One'-filled XFINITY Series opener
Social reaction to first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race
RELATED: Read more Inside Groove " Full race results Kurt Busch won the 59th annual Daytona 500 on Sunday in legendary fashion, coming to the lead in the closing laps of the first race under the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series banner. NASCAR Nation reacted to the truly remarkable day -- here are some of the best tweets. Wasn't our day, but the @AspenDental car was fast. IT WAS, @KurtBusch day! Congrats also to @TonyOldman41 @FordPerformance @StewartHaasRcng — Danica Patrick (@DanicaPatrick) February 27, 2017 Huge congrats to @KurtBusch and every single @StewartHaasRcng employee. @roushyates hp was the heat all week long. #DAYTONA500 — Clint Bowyer (@ClintBowyer) February 27, 2017 Way to go @KurtBusch that was cool. I thoroughly enjoyed that #Daytona500 — Regan Smith (@ReganSmith) February 26, 2017 There's a couple old DEI #8 2004 #Daytona500 guys on @KurtBusch team. Certainly happy for @TonyOldman41 @jguarneri41 and those boys! — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) February 26, 2017 How about that? @KurtBusch wins the #Daytona500 . What a crazy, crazy race! — Eddie Gossage (@eddiegossage) February 26, 2017 . @KurtBusch wins his 1st #Daytona500 after a wild final few laps. What a way to start the Monster era. @NASCARonNBC #NASCAR — Christopher Estrada (@estradawriting) February 26, 2017 Neat.... The first race for the @MonsterEnergy NASCAR Cup Series is won by the #Haas / @MonsterEnergy car. #NASCAR — Chris Knight (@Knighter01) February 26, 2017 Congrats Kurt and Ashley on the big win — Samantha Busch (@SamanthaBusch) February 26, 2017 Wow, what a way to ring in the Monster Energy era. Congrats, @KurtBusch ! #Daytona500 — Kristen Schneider (@KristenS_Writes) February 26, 2017 How fitting that the Monster car wins the first ever Monster Energy #NASCAR Cup race. #Daytona500 — Nick DeGroot (@ndegroot89) February 26, 2017 Wow, what a race?! @mattdracing runs P9 in the freaking Daytona 500 ! So happy for you my man. #timetoparty — Tanner Berryhill (@tannerberryhill) February 26, 2017 Congrats on the win @KurtBusch ! #Daytona500 — Kyle Busch (@KyleBusch) February 26, 2017 Crazy #Daytona500 ... gets me excited to get the season going! — Chad Boat (@ChadBoat) February 26, 2017 This is how Rhett watched the last laps of the #Daytona500 ! Congrats @KurtBusch and @TonyOldman41 ! #rhettlovesracing pic.twitter.com/hOQWQADXOm — Megan Smith (@megansmith1217) February 26, 2017 Congrats @KurtBusch Can't help but think about Your #Daytona500 winning story as one of perseverance at this track. — Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) February 27, 2017 &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Nationwide to give fans inside look at Dale Earnhardt Jr.
NASCAR fans will get an inside look into Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s return to racing beginning next Tuesday thanks to a six-part series provided by Nationwide Insurance. Nationwide is the official primary sponsor of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet driven by Earnhardt in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series . "Unfinished Business" documents the offseason preparation and work behind Earnhardt's return to competition following last year's injury-shortened season. NASCAR's most popular driver missed the final 18 races of the year after suffering a concussion. The series is scheduled to go live on the Nationwide 88 Facebook page each Tuesday between Jan. 24 and this year's Feb. 26th running of the Daytona 500 . Two episodes will air the week leading into the season-opening race. A preview (trailer) of the series was posted to the Nationwide 88 Facebook page Thursday just before 6 p.m. ET. "Based on everything that happened last year, we wanted to really capitalize on Dale getting back in the car and all the excitement and interest, just the fans' general hunger for as much Dale Jr. content as we could provide," Jim McCoy, director of sports marketing for Nationwide , told NASCAR.com. "Going into the offseason as we did our production shoot for 2017 as we normally do, we wanted to add on a new layer ... a behind-the-scenes unique look around Dale. The offseason processes around production shoots, around designing the car, all the things that go into getting ready for Daytona. And having a real personal view from Dale conveying that." Each segment of the six-part series is short, informative and entertaining. For 2016, Nationwide produced a successful paint scheme unveil for Earnhardt's No. 88 entry. But following his injury officials wanted to go a little deeper this year. Portions of the series include Earnhardt's wife, Amy, car owner Rick Hendrick and crew chief Greg Ives. "Just the people that are really close to everything ... that fans don't normally get," McCoy said. Earnhardt's prior medical condition didn't hinder the process, but sensitivities surrounding the issue were addressed with the Hendrick organization. McCoy said it is "a very small part of this six-episode series ." "This is truly more about getting ready for Daytona; we absolutely touch on the subject of him being out of the car because you have to," he said. "But I would say the majority of it is around what goes into the offseason preparation, why he is even more excited for this year and all that." Among the information provided to fans will be why there may be a different look to this year's No. 88 Nationwide paint scheme. Earnhardt has always been actively involved in determining the appearance of his race cars and coming up with the look for this year's car was no different. "There was a unique little nugget that came out that we'd not heard on him growing up around his grandfather and his dad racing based on the car coming back from the race track," McCoy said. "The lighter cars you could always tell how the race went based on where the tire marks were, the dirt and everything else. On a white car you always had a better sense of that and we've really transitioned to a lighter paint scheme this year with more white mixed into it. "He pulls in some of those personal stories that we hadn't heard and I think the fans will get a really big kick out of learning a little bit more about why he likes lighter paint schemes." Earnhardt has 26 career wins in NASCAR's top series , and his final three -- at Talladega, Daytona and Phoenix in 2015 -- came with Nationwide on the car in a primary role. The company, which previously was the title sponsor for what is now the XFINITY Series , has been affiliated with Earnhardt and his family for many years. McCoy said the series sponsorship, which ran from 2008-14, was crucial in helping to prepare Nationwide for its relationship with Earnhardt. "We learned a lot and we would not have been ready and in position to be able to take over as majority primary (sponsor) of the No. 1 driver in the sport, for the fans' demands and what they would want out of a sponsor," he said. "I think the Nationwide Series allowed us to really learn and do a lot of great things. "But we've taken the program to new levels and heights in partnership with Dale. He's our best customer and we can authentically connect with him and our products and services because it's real. It's been real since he was 16 years old. As we're trying to expand the message of who Nationwide is and what we do, the many sides of our company." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Larson wins first Monster Energy Series race of 2017
Coming off his XFINITY Series win, Kyle Larson took the checkered flag Sunday at Auto Club; Brad Keselowski finished second
RCR tabs Ben Kennedy for XFINITY Series races
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! WELCOME, N.C. -- Rheem, Menards and Richard Childress Racing (RCR) are committed to championing the NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) charge to be the series where "names are made," and each have long histories of supporting aspiring drivers at local short tracks to NASCAR's feeder series . Ben Kennedy will be the latest up-and-coming driver to be given that opportunity when he climbs into the No. 2 Chevrolet Camaro for nine NXS races, the first of which will be at Talladega Superspeedway this spring. Kennedy has worked his way up through the NASCAR development ladder. In 2016, he competed full-time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and secured his first NASCAR national touring series win at Bristol Motor Speedway in August. He also finished 10th in his NXS debut last season at Iowa Speedway , driving the No. 2 Ruud Chevrolet for RCR. "I am looking forward to working with Rheem, Menards and the No. 2 XFINITY Series team," said Kennedy. "I'm thrilled that well-respected brands like Rheem and Menards are willing to lend their support and provide the opportunity to prove what I can do. I may not have the experience that Cup Series drivers do, but I'm confident that I have what it takes to get to Victory Lane." RCR Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers Austin Dillon and Paul Menard understand the need to develop young talent and continue growing the sport. Both made the decision to give up seat time in the No. 2 Chevrolet Camaro to provide Kennedy the opportunity to gain valuable experience. "I cut my teeth in the XFINITY Series ," said Dillon, 2013 NXS champion. "If it hadn't been for the success I experienced in both the Truck Series and the XFINITY Series , I wouldn't be driving in the Cup Series now. I understand how important it is to give younger drivers a chance to make a name for themselves and gain valuable experience. They can't prove themselves unless someone gives them a shot, and I'm glad that Rheem and Menards want to provide Ben that opportunity." "It is great that our partners recognize the value in developing young drivers," said Menard. "They are the future of NASCAR and need to be given chances to race in good equipment at the front of the field. This is a big opportunity for Ben, and I know he's going to make the most of it with Rheem and Menards on board. He has a lot of talent and this is his chance to show everyone what he's got." Dillon, Menard and Kennedy will share the No. 2 Chevrolet Camaro throughout the 2017 season. The XFINITY Series kicks off at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, Feb. 25 on FS1. A full series schedule can be found at NASCAR.com, and tickets can be purchased at NASCAR.com/tickets .
TriStar Motorsports returns to premier series with Whitt
RELATED: See Whitt's ride for Daytona STATESVILLE, N.C. -- TriStar Motorsports announces it will return to competition in NASCAR's premier series fielding one full-time entry in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series for the 2017 season. Cole Whitt has secured the seat of the No. 72 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series . Whitt brings with him Florida Lottery to serve as the primary sponsor of the No. 72 for the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway . Additionally, Whitt will continue partnerships with RTIC Coolers, Rinnai and Carolina Skiff throughout the 2017 season. Frank Kerr has been named Crew Chief for Whitt and will oversee competitive efforts for the No. 72. Whitt's NASCAR career includes six years on the circuit and races in which he has competed in NASCAR K&N Pro Series , NASCAR Camping World Truck Series , NASCAR XFINITY Series and the Monster Energy Cup Series . "I'm looking forward to being back in the seat at TriStar Motorsports for the Monster Energy Cup Series for 2017," said Whitt. "We are glad to have Florida Lottery back with us for the season opener at Daytona and are fortunate to continue and expand our relationship with Rinnai, RTIC Coolers and Carolina Skiff throughout the year." TriStar Motorsports first competed in the NASCAR Cup Series in 1989 for the Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway and lastly in 2013 at Watkins Glen International Raceway; completing a total of 197 races. "We are taking a different approach and expanding our competitive platform for 2017," said Mark Smith, owner of TriStar Motorsports. "It is an opportunity we feel is the best direction for this season and we are pleased to have Cole and his partners involved in those efforts." &amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;gt;
Rick Ware Racing to field Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team
THOMASVILLE, N.C. -- Officials from Rick Ware Racing (RWR) announced today the team’s intent to compete in the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series as an "open non-chartered" team beginning with next month's 59th annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway . RWR's return to the elite level of NASCAR will have Timmy Hill aboard the No. 51 Chevrolet for Speedweeks with a rotating list of drivers to follow throughout the season including longtime RWR drivers Stanton Barrett , Cody Ware and road course veteran Kevin O’Connell to name a few. "We've been eyeing our return to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series since the end of last year," said RWR team principal Rick Ware. "We knew with the competition level stronger than ever, we needed to take the steps to make sure we could come to the track and be as competitive as possible, while focused on building our organization as the season presses on.” RWR also announced the team has acquired assets from Tommy Baldwin Racing (TBR) for use this season, including cars, pulldown rig and technology support. Additionally, longtime industry veteran Joe Lax, also previously with TBR will serve as crew chief, while pro-motor engineering (PME) will supply the horsepower during the season. Furthermore, Mike Hillman Sr., a longtime fixture in NASCAR joins RWR in a newly created role as team consultant. "I feel like we've done a great job getting our stars aligned for this year," Ware added. "Between acquiring cars from Tommy Baldwin Racing and having a good open relationship with them, plus being able to bring key personnel aboard who have the desire and drive to make our team the best it's ever been. "One component I'm really proud about is our initiative to bring our body work in-house. We really have hired some talented and experienced personnel overall and I couldn't be more excited to get our season underway." Hill is hopeful to make his "World Center of Racing" debut in next month's Super Bowl event. The 23-year-old hopes to make his 49th Cup race in his first ever Daytona 500 . Despite no Cup starts at Daytona, the Port Tobacco, Maryland native has four XFINITY starts at the 2.5-mile oval with two career top-10 finishes including back-to-back top-10 runs for Rick Ware Racing in 2012 with a career-best seventh in the season-opening race. "I'm thankful to continue my relationship with Rick Ware Racing for the 2017 season," said Hill. "I've always wanted the chance to compete in the Daytona 500 and thanks to Rick and Lisa (Ware), I'll have that opportunity. It won't be easy, but as a team and Joe (Lax) leading the way, we’re focused and will give it all we have and hope we’ll be one of the 40 cars running in the Daytona 500 !" In addition to their effort in the Cup Series , Rick Ware Racing will also compete in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) this season with recently announced driver Spencer Boyd at the wheel. Sponsorship for the team’s Cup entry will be announced at a later date. </p>
NASCAR reveals new brand identity, premier series name and logo
RELATED: New premier series mark, name revealed DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- NASCAR today unveiled a new official brand identity which will replace the bar mark used by the sanctioning body since 1976. The announcement was made in conjunction with the news that Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series ™ will be the new name of the sport's premier series beginning January 1, 2017. The new brand mark and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series mark, which prominently features the iconic Monster Energy logo, together represent a new era in NASCAR and were first shared today across NASCAR social and digital media channels. The NASCAR brand identity has been in development since early 2016 as part of a broader effort to refresh the NASCAR brand. It was designed to pay tribute to the storied history of NASCAR, incorporating elements of all four previous marks since the company’s inaugural season of 1948. "Our new NASCAR mark is modern, timeless, and embraces the heritage of our sport," said Jill Gregory, NASCAR senior vice president and chief marketing officer. "It was important for us to recognize our history and implement a piece of each previous mark in the new design. Our goal was to evolve the sport's visual identity to make it concise, relevant and functional, while respecting and maintaining the unique qualities of the original mark." The first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points race will be the 59 th running of the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 26 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Tickets are available at NASCAR.com/tickets .