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Biffle honors Kulwicki with Darlington scheme
RELATED: All the 2016 throwback paint schemes " Buy tickets " Vote now CONCORD, N.C. – NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Greg Biffle and his No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing team will honor 1992 premier series champion Alan Kulwicki during next month's Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway . Biffle, along with U.S. Congressman Richard Hudson and Andrew Collier, unveiled a Hooters paint scheme similar to the orange and white scheme featured on Kulwicki's Ford Thunderbird entries from 1991 through the first five races of the '93 season. "The sport was built on guys like that," Biffle said Tuesday. "He ran his own deal and wanted to do stuff his way. He had five career wins and a championship in 92 -- that's a really, really neat story. It's unfortunate that I never got the chance to meet him." The popular restaurant chain began its' sponsorship of the No. 7 team at the fifth race of the '91 season at Darlington. Kulwicki was both owner and driver for the single-team organization. The 1.366-mile track was also the site of Kulwicki's final start – he placed sixth in '93 TranSouth 500. Kulwicki , the series' 1986 Rookie of the Year, was killed in a plane crash in Blountville, Tenn., on April 1, 1993. To possibly win with Hooters on the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford? "How cool would that be?" Biffle asked. "Then to do an Alan Kulwicki victory lap … would be a storybook ending." Biffle will be making his 16th career start at Darlington, where he has two victories (2005, '06) and a pair of poles. His average starting position at the track is 11.1, best for the 46-year-old among the 22 venues hosting Sprint Cup Series races, while his average finish of 13.6 there is fourth overall. He has led more laps at Darlington (718) than any track other than Texas Motor Speedway , where he has led 733. This is the second season the legendary track has hosted a throwback-themed race weekend, with teams sporting paint schemes similar to those seen in the past. The Bojangles' Southern 500 is scheduled 6 p.m. ET, Sunday, Sept. 4 (NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR). Hooters isn't just on the car as part of the throwback scheme, the restaurant chain is also taking an active role with the team, helping to promote National First Responders Day. Collier, a machinist in the Hendrick Motorsports engine shop, has been a driving force in trying to establish a national day of recognition for first responders. His brother, Sean, was a police officer with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2013 when he was killed by one of two Boston Marathon bombers. "Sean was planning on going and hanging out with some friends that night," Andrew Collier said. "He had no idea … that happens to a lot of first responders every year. It's time we honor them; they are our front line here at home. You have an accident … a fire, anything, none of us ever want to see it but if it does happen to us, the first thing we do is count on them. "It's time to honor them and make this day a reality." For more information about the effort to establish a national day of recognition, visit www.firstrespondersday.org . &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;gt;
Biffle unveils a throwback Kulwicki paint scheme
Greg Biffle will be running a Hooters paint scheme at Darlington Raceway honoring Alan Kulwicki's 1992 championship season.
NASCAR Hall of Fame: Alan Kulwicki
NASCAR driver Alan Kulwicki was the 1986 Rookie of the Year and 1992 NSCS Champion. He was also famous for his 'Polish' victory lap.
Throwback Thursday: Alan Kulwicki's Final Lap
Alan Kulwicki died in an airplane crash on Thursday April 1, 1993 traveling from an appearance in Knoxville at Hooters aboard a Hooters corporate plane flight across Tennessee before the Sunday spring race at Bristol.
Nominee for the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class
Food City-Bristol partnership roots run deep
RELATED: Bristol quick facts " Full weekend schedule BRISTOL, Tenn. – It began with a promotion to help former series sponsor RJ Reynolds sell product. Today, 25 years later, the Food City sponsorship of Bristol Motor Speedway 's spring NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event is as strong as ever. It is the second-longest race entitlement in NASCAR – trailing only the Coca-Cola sponsorship of the 600-mile May race at Charlotte Motor Speedway . "We started in 1992, followed up the Valleydale 500," Steve Smith , Food City President and CEO, said Thursday at BMS. "That was back when it was still Winston Cup. We worked with RJ Reynolds on a promotion ... that was the whole genesis of us getting involved in racing." Initially, it wasn't a long-term deal, but by the time the next season had arrived, officials with the grocery chain were ready and willing to return. "We signed the (initial) agreement and we had a great first race," Smith said. " Alan Kulwicki actually won our first race in 1992; I remember that well. We were off and running." Kulwicki , an owner/driver, went on to win the series title that season. Tragically, the following year he was killed in a plane crash while en route to BMS to defend his Food City 500 title. Smith said his company, founded by his father Jack, became involved at the right time in the sport, when the fan base was on the upswing, TV coverage was gaining traction and sponsorship dollars were flowing. "What happened with Bristol was really indicative of what was happening with NASCAR, it was just growing and growing," he said. "Five years later Bruton (Smith, Speedway Motorsports Inc. founder) bought the track and things just really started to escalate here with the amenities and the things that they did for the race fans. ... Folks love coming here, they love the racing environment, and they love, I think, the southern hospitality. "We try, as a sponsor, to do a lot of things to get them in here a little bit early, whether it's Food City Race Night or other events to really make it a full week of fun for the race fan." In addition to the Sprint Cup race sponsorship, the company also sponsors the August NASCAR XFINITY Series event at Bristol. While there have been times that spending money on race entitlement rights might have been questionable, Smith said "I don't think there's ever been a time when we really thought about dropping the race. "Now, we've negotiated pretty tough with Speedway Motorsports because obviously the fan base dropped a little bit, the viewership dropped a little bit, but when you've got folks like (former BMS General Manager) Jeff Byrd and (current GM) Jerry Caldwell that you know are going to do everything they can to give the race fan, our customers, that experience, it makes it pretty easy to continue to spend the dollars and continue to keep our associates that work in our stores involved in racing, and that's a big part of it, too." The return for Food City, he said, comes in many forms. No. 1 is name recognition. "We're a relatively small regional company -- we're in four states, 135 stores, 16,000 associates," Smith said. "It sounds like a lot but in the scheme of things compared to some of our competition, it's not. But it's a sense of pride for our associates, our customers who know we sponsor racing. "NASCAR fans are very loyal, they're loyal to the brands that are involved whether it's Food City or other consumer products sponsors. We think it helps us sell more products and bring more people in to our stores." In February of 2014, Food City and BMS officials announced a five-year extension for the naming rights of the track's spring Sprint Cup race. "At the end of the day, it's hard to put a financial statement together that proves that it's a great spend, but we've been doing good ever since we been sponsoring racing so we don't want to stop there," Smith said.
Student of the sport, Ty Majeski cramming for what's Next
RELATED: NASCAR Next 2016-17 class unveiled " Meet the 2016-17 Next class When Ty Majeski got the call informing him that he'd be part of the new NASCAR Next class of up-and-coming drivers, he was actually hitting the books -- or in his words, "crunching before an exam" -- in his University of Wisconsin-Madison dorm room. For the third-year student pursuing a mechanical engineering degree, it was the perfect study break. "It kind of cut into my studying time," Majeski said with a laugh Wednesday during a gathering with his 2016-17 Next classmates. "But when they called me and said, 'We need you in Charlotte next week,' it was just very surreal." But his debut as a member of NASCAR Next wasn't the only major development in the 21-year-old Majeski's racing career this week. Monday, Roush Fenway Racing announced that they had signed the Wisconsin native to a driver development contract. MORE: Full NASCAR Next coverage The deal helped provide some direction for one of the most talked-about short track racers in the country. Even before Tuesday's announcement, Dale Earnhardt Jr . had identified Majeski as a driver to watch in a tweet, and his name came up again during an appearance by reigning Sprint Cup champion Kyle Busch on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. "It's definitely been crazy," Majeski said. "Last week at this time, I didn't think we were going to announce the Roush Fenway deal. I think there was kind of some media buzz a bit -- Kyle Busch talked about me on (SiriusXM) NASCAR Radio and I think Roush Fenway wanted to announce it, and it lit a fire under them to get that out there, which is all good. Definitely been a surreal week, and just kind of weird that it wound up panning out that way." As part of the deal, Majeski will drive five ARCA Series races for Roulo Bros. Racing, the same team that helped groom Chris Buescher for a career in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. That partial schedule will mesh with continuing school work, his Super Late Model slate and competition in the ARCA Midwest Tour, where he's won two championships. His accomplishments -- including Super Late Model triumphs this year in the New Smyrna World Series and the Rattler -- might make it tempting to forgo a college education to focus full-time on racing. But Majeski is following in the footsteps of another Wisconsonite -- former premier-series champion Alan Kulwicki -- in earning his degree. "It goes both directions," says Majeski, who participated in the Kulwicki Driver Development Program last season. "I've got to have something to fall back on. Obviously, nothing's for certain in this sport. We see it every day that things change by the day. You're never locked into anything and I need to have something to fall back on. I've always wanted to be involved in racing, so if it doesn't pan out, I'm hoping to be an engineer for a team someday and keep racing in my life."
Five legends unveiled as 2017 NASCAR Hall Of Fame Class
RELATED: See all of the nominees DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 25, 2016) – NASCAR announced today the inductees who will comprise the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2017. The five-person group -- the eighth since the inception of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010 -- consists of Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick, Mark Martin, Raymond Parks and Benny Parsons. In addition, NASCAR announced that Martinsville Speedway founder H. Clay Earles won the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. The NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Panel met today in a closed session at the Charlotte Convention Center to debate and vote upon the 20 nominees for the induction class of 2017 and the five nominees for the Landmark Award. NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France and NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton announced the class and Landmark Award winner, respectively, this evening in the NASCAR Hall of Fame's "Great Hall." The Class of 2017 was determined by votes cast by the Voting Panel, including representatives from NASCAR, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, track owners from major facilities and historic short tracks, media members, manufacturer representatives, retired competitors (drivers, owners, crew chiefs), recognized industry leaders, a nationwide fan vote conducted through NASCAR.com and, for the third year, the reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion ( Kyle Busch ). In all, 54 votes were cast, with four additional Voting Panel members recused from voting as potential nominees for induction (Ricky Rudd, Robert Yates, Waddell Wilson and Ken Squier). The accounting firm of EY presided over the tabulation of the votes. Voting was as follows: Benny Parsons (85%), Rick Hendrick (62%), Mark Martin (57%), Raymond Parks (53%) and Richard Childress (43%). The next top vote-getters were Robert Yates, Red Byron and Alan Kulwicki . Results for the NASCAR.com Fan Vote, in alphabetical order, were Buddy Baker, Alan Kulwicki , Mark Martin, Benny Parsons and Larry Phillips. The five inductees came from a group of 20 nominees that included, in addition to the five inductees chosen: Buddy Baker, Red Byron, Ray Evernham, Ray Fox, Ron Hornaday Jr., Harry Hyde, Alan Kulwicki , Hershel McGriff, Larry Phillips, Jack Roush, Ricky Rudd, Ken Squier, Mike Stefanik, Waddell Wilson and Robert Yates. Nominees for the Landmark Award included Earles, Janet Guthrie, Raymond Parks, Ralph Seagraves and Ken Squier. Class of 2017 Inductees: Richard Childress Long before he became one of the preeminent car owners in NASCAR history, Richard Childress was a race car driver with limited means. Childress, the consummate self-made racer, was respectable behind the wheel. Between 1969-81 he had six top-five finishes and 76 top 10s in 285 starts, finishing fifth in the NASCAR premier series standings in 1975. Having formed Richard Childress Racing in 1972, Childress retired from driving in 1981. He owned the cars that NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt drove to six championships and 67 wins between 1984-2000. In addition to Earnhardt’s championships, Childress drivers have given him five others. Childress was the first NASCAR owner to win owner championships in all three of NASCAR’s national series, and his 11 owner titles are second all-time. Childress also owned the vehicles driven by NASCAR XFINITY Series driver champions Clint Bowyer (2008) and Austin Dillon (2013), as the 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver champion Austin Dillon . Rick Hendrick The founder and owner of Hendrick Motorsports , Rick Hendrick’s organization is recognized as one of NASCAR’s most successful. Hendrick Motorsports owns an all-time record 11 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car owner championship titles -- six with Jimmie Johnson , four with Jeff Gordon and one with NASCAR Hall of Famer Terry Labonte . Hendrick also has 14 total NASCAR national series owner championships, most in NASCAR history. Gordon and Labonte combined to win four consecutive titles from 1995-98. In 2010, Johnson won a record-extending fifth consecutive championship. Hendrick also owned the car driven by 2003 NASCAR XFINITY Series driver champion Brian Vickers . Hendrick’s 242 owner wins in the premier series rank second all-time. Mark Martin He is often described as the "greatest driver to never to win a championship," but Mark Martin 's legendary career is so much more than that. He came incredibly close to that elusive title many times -- finishing second in the championship standings five times. Over the course of his 31-year premier series career, Martin compiled 40 wins (17th all time) and 56 poles (seventh all time). Martin saw success at every level of NASCAR. He won 49 times in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, holding the series wins record for 14 years. He retired with 96 wins across NASCAR’s three national series, seventh on the all-time list. In 1998, Martin was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers. Raymond Parks Raymond Parks is one of stock-car racing’s earliest -- and most successful -- team owners. Funded by successful business and real estate ventures in Atlanta, Parks began his career as a stock-car owner in 1938 with drivers Lloyd Seay and Roy Hall. His pairing with another Atlantan, mechanic Red Vogt, produced equipment good enough to dominate the sport in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Red Byron won the first NASCAR title (modified, 1948) and first premier series title (1949) in a Parks-owned car. Parks’ team produced two premier series wins, two poles, 11 top fives and 12 top 10s in 18 events. Benny Parsons Benny Parsons won the 1973 NASCAR premier series championship and could be called an everyman champion: winning enough to be called one of the sport’s stars but nearly always finishing well when he wasn’t able to reach Victory Lane. He won 21 times in 526 career starts but finished among the top 10 283 times -- a 54 percent ratio. One of Parsons’ biggest victories came in the 1975 Daytona 500 . He was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. Parsons also was known as a voice of the sport making a seamless transition to television following his NASCAR career. He was a commentator for NBC and TNT until his passing in 2007, at the age of 65. Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR: H. Clay Earles One of the original pioneers of stock car auto racing, H. Clay Earles played an integral role in the early years of NASCAR's development. Earles built and opened Martinsville Speedway in 1947, and the short track remains the only facility to host NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races every year since the series’ inception in 1949. The speedway held its first race on Sept. 7, 1947 -- three months before the creation of NASCAR. That initial race drew more than 6,000 fans to the track, which had just 750 seats ready. In 1964, Earles decided it was time for a "different" type of trophy for his race winners. He gave winners grandfather clocks, a tradition that continues today.
Hall of Fame preview: Mark Martin among contenders
RELATED: Meet 2017's nominees " Live stream of reveal, 5 p.m. ET Mark Martin will be one of 20 people considered for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame when the Voting Panel convenes in Charlotte on Wednesday to determine the 2017 class. (TV coverage: NBCSN, 5 p.m. ET) Three of those on the ballot are former premier series champions -- Red Byron, NASCAR's first Strictly Stock champion in 1949; Benny Parsons, the 1973 winner who went on to enjoy a successful second career in the broadcast booth; and Alan Kulwicki , killed in a plane crash just four-and-a-half months after capturing the 1992 crown. There was no championship trophy for Martin, who retired from competition at the end of the 2013 season. But that doesn't diminish the accomplishments the Batesville, Arkansas, native garnered during a career that spanned more than three decades. Martin, 57, won 40 times in the premier series, with victories coming at 21 different tracks. He finished 10th or better 453 times, in more than half of his 882 career starts. He also won 56 poles. RELATED: Live stream, 5 p.m. ET, Wednesday In the battle for the championship, Martin placed second five times, a mark he shares with current Hall of Fame member Bobby Allison, and he scored 17 top-10 points finishes during his career. "It makes me proud I was able to be as successful as I was and grateful for the opportunities I had," Martin told Little Rock, Arkansas, radio station KABZ-FM recently. "To be real honest I didn't enjoy a … significant part of my career because I was trying so hard to get that championship because I wanted it, and even more than that, the people who supported me wanted it for me so badly. I saw time running out. "I spent too much of my time focused on that and not enjoying the opportunities I had. Today, when I look back on it I wish I hadn't done that." Martin lost the 1990 title by 26 points to Dale Earnhardt and finished second to the Richard Childress Racing driver again four years later. Other runner-up finishes through the years came against Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson . "My life would not be different one bit had I won one of those or not," Martin said. "I had a great career. … I don't think it would have changed a thing in my life had I won one of those trophies. I was very close. I got beat by only four of the greatest of all time in NASCAR in my opinion. … "I'm not embarrassed." Earnhardt was one of five members inducted into the Hall’s inaugural class in 2010. Gordon, a four-time series champion with 93 career victories, retired from driving at the end of 2015 and won't be eligible for Hall of Fame consideration until 2018 and possible induction until '19. Stewart, winner of three premier series titles and co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing , will cease to compete full time in the series following the 2016 season. Johnson is a six-time champion and boasts 77 career wins, including two thus far this season. In addition to his premier series exploits, Martin held the XFINITY Series record for career wins for 14 years and is also a seven-time winner in the Camping World Truck Series. It is his second consecutive appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot. First-year nominees for the 2017 ballot are former Camping World Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday Jr ., team co-owner Jack Roush, driver Ricky Rudd, noted crew chief and engine builder Waddell Wilson and broadcaster Ken Squier. Rounding out the list of nominees are Buddy Baker, Richard Childress, Ray Evernham, Ray Fox, Rick Hendrick, Harry Hyde, Hershel McGriff, Raymond Parks, Larry Phillips, Mike Stefanik and Robert Yates. Also to be determined by the Voting Panel is the 2017 recipient of the Landmark Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to NASCAR. The five nominees are Martinsville Speedway track founder H. Clay Earles, driver Janet Guthrie, team owner Raymond Parks, former RJ Reynolds executive Ralph Seagraves and Squier. The Voting Panel is scheduled to begin the selection process Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. ET at the Charlotte Convention Center. The announcement of those chosen will take place in the NASCAR Hall of Fame's Great Hall (5 p.m. ET, NBCSN). NASCAR.com will also live stream the event: You can watch it live here.
Regan Smith's Darlington look honors past champion
RELATED: Buy Darlington tickets " '16 throwback schemes " SHOP: Smith gear Regan Smith and Tommy Baldwin Racing have unveiled the throwback paint scheme that Smith's No. 7 Road Rippers/Toy State Chevrolet will sport at Darlington Raceway over Labor Day weekend. The paint scheme is a tribute to 1992 premier series champion Alan Kulwicki , who passed away in an airplane crash in 1993. From 1987 until his passing, Kulwicki drove the No. 7, earning all five of his wins with that number. In a team release Smith said of honoring Kulwicki with the paint scheme, "It is a neat deal for me, I grew up watching him, Davey (Allison) and Bill (Elliott) battle it out for the '92 championship. I am really looking forward to getting the No. 7 Road Rippers/Toy State Chevrolet on track Labor Day weekend." The Bojangles' Southern 500 is set for Sept. 4 at 6 p.m. ET (NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).