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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
Dale Jr. emerges from concussion rehab stronger, centered and ready to win
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! RELATED: Dale Jr.'s complete Daytona 500 history NEW YORK CITY -- A production assistant pins a lavalier microphone to the lapel of Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s suit jacket in a newsroom studio inside FOX News on Sixth Avenue. "One, two, three, four, five. Hello, hello," the 14-time NMPA Most Popular Driver says instinctively, without instruction from the PA. You can tell this -- the sound test, the back-to-back-to-back-to-back (and then some) interviews, the traipsing around the "Big Apple" to promote the 2017 Daytona 500 , everything -- feels normal to him, like second-nature. Not long ago, there was no such thing as normal for Earnhardt. The Hendrick Motorsports driver will make his return to points-paying competition in Sunday's "Great American Race" (2 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) after missing the second half of last season following concussion-like symptoms from wrecks at Michigan International Speedway in June and at Daytona International Speedway in July. The road back was a lengthy, arduous, winding trail filled with uncertainty and confusion. "You'd be doing something during the day and something would happen and you'd go 'Whoa, what was that? That was weird,' " Earnhardt told NASCAR.com, who tagged along with him for the day. "Just these little moments when you might get dizzy or you might forget about something that you think you shouldn't forget about. That used to happen all the time." Dale Earnhardt Jr . gets mic'd up. Earnhardt was cleared to race in December after months of rehabilitation and doctor appointments. He says he's fully healthy and recovered from his concussion, but don't hold your breath on him throwing out that cliché preseason line about being in the best shape of his life. RELATED: Watch Dale Jr.'s full interview from Daytona Media Day "I think I was probably at my peak physical condition at … 1? But since then it's all been downhill," Earnhardt joked. "I feel healthy. Mentally, I'm always sort of self-analyzing so I'm not having these things that would bring (the concussion) to my attention anymore. "The further you get removed from that stuff, the less you even remember it happening, or the less you think about it. When you go a day or a week never even thinking about the injury or the past, you're free from it. I feel great. Like I said, the doctors have given me a lot of confidence, just talking to them. They're like, 'Man, you're good. We feel good about this. We feel good about you racing. We feel good about you crashing.' You've got to have those." To get a sign-off from his doctors on crashing -- a near-certainty to happen over the course of a 36-race season -- is massive. The risk of another concussion will always be in the back of Earnhardt's mind after this most recent one kept him sidelined for so long. But he can't let that apprehension occupy him behind the wheel. "The wrecks and stuff are inevitable and I do worry. There's been crashes that I haven't had issues with, but there's been a few wrecks that I have had issues," Earnhardt said. "I don’t know … my doctors told me basically that I was healthy and if they thought I shouldn't race, they would let me know. They said, 'Look, we feel good about you racing. We feel like anything that happens … it's a dangerous sport and you're going to be at risk no more than you were before. Anything that happens to you, we can fix.' " Dale Earnhardt Jr . signs autographs for fans on the streets of New York. Talking to Earnhardt, it's clear 2016 was a year that challenged on many levels. It was also a year of tremendous growth and reflection that culminated -- quite literally -- with a marriage to longtime girlfriend Amy Earnhardt (née Reimann) on New Year's Eve, a topic that took center stage throughout his media tour at the "TODAY Show," FOX News, "The Dan Patrick Show," Inc. Magazine and "Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen." RELATED: Dale Jr., Amy Reimann get married on New Year's Eve Even if she did miss a question or two on the unofficially official " Dale Earnhardt Jr ." quiz on The Dan Patrick Show ( watch it here ), Earnhardt touts Amy's support and gives her nearly all the credit for his transformation. "I think I feel like a stronger, more complete person thanks to her. I hope that this isn't just a mood, that it's more permanent. I think we'll find out as we just get into the grit of the season, week-to-week and going from track to track and being tugged in all kinds of different directions by my responsibilities. Hopefully this sticks." With health in hand and a family life starting to come together at 42 years old, nobody would have blamed the 26-time winner in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for walking away before the start of his 18th full-time season. RELATED: Dale Jr. regals listeners with family storytime Dale Earnhardt Jr . with Andy Cohen of 'Watch What Happens Live' But the big news of the past week was Earnhardt's looming contract extension, with his current deal set to expire at year's end and a talented replacement champing at the bit for a full-time opportunity in Alex Bowman . RELATED: Dale Jr. discusses contract status Earnhardt won't walk away "until the gas tank is on empty," but he can't quite pinpoint when that'll be. He says any extension would be "no less than two, no more than three" years, but has put off negotiations with team owner Rick Hendrick until he knows he can commit, health-wise, long term. "I don't know (how much gas is left in the tank.) If I told you, 'Man, I've got three years,' I don’t know if I'd be telling you the full truth," said Earnhardt, a two-time Daytona 500 winner. "I can't see, I can't feel it. I know I want to finish this year and if I finish … everybody keeps asking me about my goals for a successful season, and that's to finish every race. If I'm in every race, and not injured and not missing races, then that's a successful season. "I think that will propel me into a new extension. The only thing holding me up, really, is knowing that I can do it, health-wise. Knowing that I can be there every week. If I'm going to sign a deal to be there and work for my owner … I love this man like a father. And I don't want to tell him I can be there for three more years if I can't. I'm going to get a few months under my belt and get the confidence that we can start working on the extension and I think if we get there, I'm signing that extension with the intent of doing that contract. "Now, that might be the last one but I don't know. You just don't know these things. I mean, I know drivers -- and I won't say names -- but I know very, very successful drivers in this sport that five years ago were ready to hang it up, just fed up. And they're happier today than they've ever been." Earnhardt mentioned that he nearly walked away from the sport earlier this decade, but credited his support system for pulling him back. And he's thankful it did. "I've been down, down in the dumps," he said. "Hell, if I didn't have the right support system around me, I probably would've quit in 2010, 2011. I'm glad I didn't. We got this ship righted and got to winning some races and I've had the best time behind the wheel that I've ever had in my career for three or four years now. "So who says that if I stick around that it can't get even better? I want to see, I want to wait." RELATED: Dale Jr. on front row for Sunday's Daytona 500 &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;span _rtetemp=&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;spchk&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot; style=&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;background-color: #ffffaa;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot; _rtespchksugg=&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;Lt"alt"ult"flt"let"lit"lat"lot"ltd"t&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;am&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/span&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;p;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
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.
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.)
Lynda Petty named 2014 NMPA Spirit Award winner
Founding member of the Racing Wives Auxiliary honored posthumously
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.
Myers Brothers Awards: Andy Lally
Andy Lally accepts the 2011 Rookie of the Year Award.
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.
Sammy Johns joins RCR as operations director
Sammy Johns has joined Richard Childress Racing (RCR) as the new operations director for the Welcome, North Carolina, racing organization. Johns will report directly to Dr. Eric Warren, director of competition for RCR. "I have known and worked closely with Sammy since 2001 in a variety of teams and roles," said Warren. "He is well rounded and understands the sport from multiple perspectives. He has the hands-on experience of a crew chief along with the understanding of what it takes to build a modern, technical racing organization capable of winning races in today's competitive environment." Johns will take on an integral role at RCR managing and coordinating the manufacturing and car assembly processes, along with overseeing the crew chiefs and general execution of the race teams. RCR's Technical Director, Mike Coughlan, will continue to focus the engineering department on improving the performance of the cars and the ability to create and use data for a competitive advantage. The Lakeland, Florida, native began his racing career at local short tracks before being named crew chief at Andy Petree Racing. From there, Johns shifted gears and joined Evernham Motorsports as director of competition. He remained a permanent fixture within the organization through 2009 when the company officially became Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM). Johns transitioned into a new role of vice president of operations with RPM and resumed his title until earlier this year. "I am grateful for the opportunity to join such an iconic sports organization in Richard Childress Racing ," Johns said. "The level of engineering and technical expertise at RCR is second-to-none, and I look forward to contributing my knowledge and capabilities to helping this team succeed in 2017 and beyond."