Carl Edwards' exit could put Christopher Bell on fast track to XFINITY
How long do you think it took Christopher Bell to do the math? Carl Edwards ' announcement of his abrupt exit from the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota has had a ripple effect that could go far beyond the promotion of Daniel Suárez to a full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series ride. Because Suárez will fill Edwards' seat in NASCAR’s premier series, he won't defend his NASCAR XFINITY Series title. Bell will be one of the beneficiaries of the changes in Suárez's schedule. "Right now, we have a solid plan for Christopher," said Dave Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development (TRD) USA. "He exceeded our expectations. He got all the way to Miami (the championship race of the inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase at Homestead-Miami Speedway ). This year, we expect him to get to Miami and win. "And if circumstances play out, we really would like to get him into an XFINITY car for a couple of races. We're working hard on that, and we're optimistic, but that could very well be a domino that falls. Those are helpful -- those couple of races where there's zero pressure, but it gives you a look at the next step." Last week at the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the 22-year-old Bell wasn't thinking about the next step. He was contemplating the next race, trying to become the first native Oklahoman to win the marquee event of midget racing since Andy Hillenburg accomplished the feat in 1994. (And, no, the Andy Hillenburg in question is not the Indiana-born driver who ran NASCAR races and later bought Rockingham Speedway . The Andy Hillenburg who won the Chili Bowl is a sprint car racer from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.) Bell was also thinking about the upcoming season in the Camping World Truck Series, where his own expectations mirror those of the Toyota brass. "I guess it could open it up for me," Bell said of Edwards' departure. "But, honestly, I haven't even really thought about it, because my schedule's already set, obviously, with Kyle Busch Motorsports. That's where my focus is, and we're going to aim really hard to win races this year. "We came close on the championship last year, but we didn't win many races -- we won one time. My goal is to win races with KBM." That doesn’t mean, however, that Bell wasn't enthused about the prospect of getting his first taste of the XFINITY Series. "That's great," he said during a break between features at the Chili Bowl. "That's good that I might get a couple of races -- that's really good." The extent of Bell's participation in XFINITY races depends to some degree on sponsorship. Wilson said Suárez's primary sponsor, Arris, which also sponsored Edwards, will be confined to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup car, even though Suárez will still run between eight and 12 XFINITY races. "If he (Bell) does what he should do in '17, then, naturally, we would love to get him into an XFINITY ride in '18," Wilson said. "Yes, this could play into Christopher's further development and get him one or two more XFINITY races that we may not have foreseen prior to the news (about Edwards)." Last Saturday night, Bell fulfilled his long-standing dream of winning the Chili Bowl, noting that competing in the Truck Series had informed his approach to dirt-track racing. Biding his time in the 55-lap "A" Main, Bell started on the front row and passed polesitter Justin Grant on Lap 26. He stayed out front the rest of the way. "In years past, it's been attack, attack, attack," Bell said. "This year, it didn't have to be that way. I just ran hard enough to stay in position but not get into trouble. I was able to ride behind Justin there for a while. I knew the bottom was slowing down quite a bit and I kept trying the top. I tried it two times and I almost got passed, so I knew it was going to be a matter of too early or too late at the top. "I started to watch the big screen. (Eventual runner-up Daryn) Pittman was running the top at the time. I knew he was in eighth, and I looked up and he was third or fourth so I knew I had to go. Once I went, I was able to squeak by Justin on the straightaway, and then it was a matter of just not screwing up." That sort of patience is emblematic of Bell's maturation as a driver. Early last season, he didn't look like a championship contender. In the second race of 2016, at Atlanta, his aggressiveness led to a wreck that collected Suárez, his teammate, and fellow Toyota driver and two-time series champion Matt Crafton . But Bell won at Gateway Motorsports Park nine races into the schedule, and he finished outside the top 10 just twice in the last 16 events.
NASCAR.com's Holly Cain wins NMPA Spirit Award
DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Veteran motorsports writer Holly Cain has been chosen as the recipient of the National Motorsports Press Association’s annual Spirit Award for 2015. A resident of Lakeland, Fla., Cain has covered motorsports for more than 25 years during which time she has worked for numerous publications, including the Tampa Tribune, Dallas Morning News, Seattle Post-Intelligencer as well as AOL.com and FOXSports.com. Currently a senior writer for NASCAR.com, she has been recognized for her reporting on multiple occasions, earning awards from the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) as well as the NMPA. Diagnosed with breast cancer in July of 2014, Cain has shown tremendous courage and an incredibly positive attitude while engaged in her difficult battle. She has been a long-time supporter of the Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and continues to participate in fundraising and other efforts to bring awareness to the fight against breast cancer. The NMPA Spirit Award is designed to recognize character and achievement in the face of adversity, sportsmanship and contributions to motorsports. Each year, the NMPA membership selects four quarterly winners, with an overall winner chosen from the four candidates. Cain was the second quarter recipient of the award. Others recognized with quarterly awards this past year were NASCAR television broadcaster Steve Byrnes (first quarter), IndyCar driver Justin Wilson (third quarter) and four-time premier series champion Jeff Gordon . Cain was presented the award Jan. 17 during the NMPA’s annual convention and awards dinner in Concord, N.C. Overall winners of the NMPA Spirit Award: Year – Recipient 2015 – Holly Cain 2014 – Lynda Petty 2013 – Marcy Scott 2012 – Andy Hillenburg 2011 – Jeff Gordon 2010 – Jim Hunter 2009 – David Poole 2008 – T. Taylor Warren 2007 – Bill France Jr. 2006 – Benny Parsons 2005 – Morgan Shepherd 2004 – Kyle and Pattie Petty 2003 – Bob Latford 2002 – Larry Hicks 2001 – Ricky Craven 2000 – Kyle Petty 1999 – Clay Earles 1998 – Mark Martin 1997 – Dave Marcis 1996 – Dale Earnhardt 1995 – Ernie Irvan 1994 – Ernie Irvan 1993 – Davey Allison and Alan Kulwicki 1992 – Davey Allison Family
Gordon, Ganassi teams headline stout field at Roar Before the 24
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Four-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon will headline the list of drivers participating in this weekend's Roar Before the 24 on Daytona International Speedway 's road course. And the traditional three-day test for IMSA's WeatherTech SportsCar Series' season-opening Rolex 24 once again features a talented and diverse driver lineup. For only the second time in his renowned career, Gordon will be among those testing at Daytona in preparation for the Jan. 28-29 race, widely seen as the traditional start to America's big league motorsports season. Gordon will co-drive the No. 10 Konica Minolta Business Solutions USA Cadillac DPi-V.R prototype for Wayne Taylor Racing -- the same team he finished third overall with in his only other Rolex start in 2007. The laps this weekend will be crucial for the team -- which also includes drivers Ricky Taylor, Jordan Taylor and Max Angelelli -- since it got limited time on track in a less formal test session at Daytona in December. "I had so much fun the first time I did this," Gordon said. "And at this point of my life and career (winning the Rolex 24) would be huge. When I came here in 2007 I was just kind of along for the ride. When you really realize how important this race is, is on race day when you see the hype and buildup and then the challenges you face over 24 hours. That's what makes this race so thrilling. I'd be very proud (if we won)." This year's Rolex 24 will mark the debut of new racing classifications for IMSA. Gordon's car will be among 12 vying in the headline Prototype class. In all, 50 cars representing four classifications are expected at Daytona this weekend and later this month competing in the twice-around-the-clock race. Some of NASCAR's other big name drivers who previously competed in the Rolex -- Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson , for example -- are not participating. However their NASCAR team owner Chip Ganassi still has three cars entered in the GT LeMans (GTLM) class. This team won in class at LeMans last year, and Chip Ganassi Racing is already the most decorated team in Rolex history with six overall victories. Former NASCAR Cup Rookie of the Year Andy Lally as well as popular drivers Boris Said and Scott Pruett will be competing alongside IndyCar greats such as Scott Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais. Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay and IndyCar championship contender Graham Rahal will team up as well. Five-time Rolex champion Pruett will be steering the new Lexus in the 25-car GT Daytona class. A sixth Rolex watch would make him the winningest driver in the great race's history, breaking a tie with the legendary Hurley Haywood. The traditional Roar Before the 24 gets underway Friday. Teams return to the World Center of Racing on Thursday, Jan. 26 for practice and pole qualifying in preparation for the green flag at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 28.
The Chili Bowl has a way of reeling us in
TULSA, Okla. -- Justin Allgaier drove his race car to his hauler after being eliminated at the Chili Bowl one Saturday years ago and was met by his questioning father. His dad wanted to know what had happened out on the race track. Justin had driven a conservative race, never challenging for position, and allowing, it appeared, other cars to pass him without putting up much of a fight. He had missed transferring to the next race by one spot. With even a little bit of aggression, Justin would have certainly finished higher and gone on to the next race. What, his dad wanted to know, had happened? Still in the cockpit, Justin explained to his dad that the steering was out. To prove it, he spun the wheel. The tires stayed locked, pointed straight ahead. His dad was baffled then, and he remains so today. The question changed from why had Justin driven such a timid race to how had he driven at all? The Allgaiers set up their midget car to drive in a circle if he holds the wheel straight. They hang the body closer to the left-side tires and use smaller tires on the left than on the right -- a configuration for the Chili Bowl's quarter-mile banked track. In the 10-lap race, Allgaier was involved in an accident on the first lap. As he pulled away from the wreck, he realized the steering was broken. He also discovered that if he feathered the brake and the throttle just right, he could circumnavigate the track anyway. For the final nine laps, Allgaier did exactly that. He didn't do well, not by a long shot. But he did well enough that his dad did not know he had no steering until he said so. All of which leaves still one more question -- why did Allgaier stay in a race in which the steering didn't work? "Because it's the Chili Bowl," Allgaier said.
Lynda Petty named 2014 NMPA Spirit Award winner
Founding member of the Racing Wives Auxiliary honored posthumously
Interviewing Andy Lally ... using voice-to-text
@nascarcasm chats with XFINITY Series driver, gets interesting results RELATED: All content from @nascarcasm " Follow @nascarcasm 2011 Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year Andy Lally returns to the NASCAR circuit this weekend, driving the No. 90 Anderson’s Maple Syrup Chevrolet for King Autosport/SS-Greenlight Racing in the XFINITY Series race at Road America . A veteran sports-car driver with an impressive resume that includes multiple wins in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Lally hope to improve on last year’s seventh-place finish at at the Wisconsin road course. In the rare moments when he’s not behind the wheel of a race car, Lally trains in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and is a practicing vegan. We had the opportunity to speak with Andy Lally using only the voice-to-text feature on our smartphones. (NOTE: Unlike previous fictitious text conversations from the author, what follows is the actual exchange with Mr. Lally.)
NASCAR Illustrated Champions Tour: Andy Seuss
NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour Champion Andy Seuss talks about his climb to the top of the Whelen Southern Modified ranks.
Watch the full Carl Edwards press conference as he steps away from NASCAR
Carl Edwards announced he is stepping away from NASCAR, before the start of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.
Myers Brothers Awards: Andy Lally
Andy Lally accepts the 2011 Rookie of the Year Award.
McDowell to return to Leavine Family Racing full time in '17
CONCORD, N.C. (January 5, 2017) -- Leavine Family Racing (LFR) is excited to announce the return of veteran NASCAR driver Michael McDowell for the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. McDowell will once again pilot the No. 95 Chevrolet SS and is signed on to be the primary driver for LFR in all 36 races next season, making the team Chase eligible for the first time since its inception in 2011. Additionally, LFR is excited to welcome back championship winning NASCAR crew chief Todd Parrott for the 2017 season. Parrott, who took on the crew chief responsibilities for the team full time in October of the 2016 season with only seven races remaining, led the No. 95 to earn six Top-25 finishes. "With both Michael and Todd returning to the team this season we are looking to maintain the consistency we found towards the end of last year and continue to push forward and build off the positive momentum," said Jeremy Lange, Vice President of Leavine Family Racing . "We had great performances on the track last year and we're hoping that continuing in that direction will lead to more sponsorships for the team. We do have some partner renewals that we will be announcing soon and are excited to add more." McDowell, who is entering his 10th year competing in NASCAR, earned his first NASCAR national touring series win last year at Road America in the XFINITY Series and recorded 16 Top-25 finishes with LFR in 2016. "I'm excited to be returning full time with LFR for the 2017 season," stated McDowell. "I look forward to continuing to work with Todd as well and kicking off our season with a strong start at the Daytona 500 in February." Crew Chief Todd Parrott echoed his driver's thoughts about the upcoming season. "I can't wait for the 2017 season to get here and look forward to having a great year with Michael and the team," said Parrott. "I'm appreciative of the opportunity LFR has given me to once again assume the crew chief role for the team and am ready to get started on the upcoming season." LFR will kick off the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season with the 59th running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday, February 26. For real-time updates on and off the track, fans can follow @LFR95 on Twitter and Leavine Family Racing on Facebook.