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Press Pass: Justin Allgaier
Justin Allgaier talks about finishing third in the Dollar General 200 Fueled By AmeriGas and how this is his strongest start of any season.
Sprint All-Star format puts emphasis on tires, intrigue
RELATED: Vote now in Sprint Fan Vote Rules outlining the 2016 versions of the Sprint All-Star Race and Sprint Showdown at Charlotte Motor Speedway were announced Friday, and NASCAR's annual All-Star Race will once again include a dramatic final segment to determine a $1 million prize winner. There are three segments in this year's Sprint All-Star Race -- a 50-lap opening segment, a 50-lap second segment and a 13-lap final dash to the finish with a unique rule. For the first time in the event's history, the starting order for the final segment will be determined following a random draw that decides if the top running nine, 10 or 11 cars have to pit for a mandatory four-tire stop between Segment 2 and Segment 3. Pit road will be closed for all other cars, and those for which pit stops were mandated must resume position for the final sprint, lining up behind the cars that did not pit -- creating an unpredictable, no-holds-barred rush to the checkered flag and All-Star history. "The NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race has always been a special race for our sport and I believe this year's format may offer up the best race to date," 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski said in a track release. "I hope to be the one with a million- dollar check at the end. The last segment is sure to demand the ultimate performance. Winning the last segment will require the driver to masterfully navigate traffic and hunt down the leader, or hold off the best drivers with an ill-handling car on old tires with everything on the line." The format idea came from Keselowski himself, according to Dale Earnhardt Jr . The Allstar format is all @keselowski idea. https://t.co/ClSeA3Iuz4 — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) May 6, 2016 The All-Star Race (May 21, 7 p.m., FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) features drivers who have won a race in the current or preceding year, past NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race winners and past NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champions. Winners of the three segments in the Sprint Showdown (May 20, 7 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will also line up for the All-Star Race. RELATED: See the list of eligible drivers Fans will again have the opportunity to select at least one driver through the popular Sprint Fan Vote, which will fill any remaining starting spots until the field reaches a minimum of 20 cars. "We worked with NASCAR and talked to several drivers to gather feedback for what they thought would make the very best race for the fans," Charlotte Motor Speedway President and General Manager Marcus Smith said. "The drivers don't all agree on the perfect strategy, which means some drivers will be fighting on race-worn tires to stay up front at the end, while others will be charging through the field on new tires after the final pit stop. "At the end of the final shootout, one driver will have a million reasons why '13' is a lucky number." Additional rules are as follows: • Starting order for the opening 50-lap segment for the All-Star Race will be determined by qualifying, and includes a mandatory green flag pit stop with a minimum of two tires. • A break between Segment 1 and Segment 2 includes a mandatory pit stop with a minimum of two tires. The exit off pit road following that stop sets the starting order for Segment 2. • During the 50-lap second segment, cars must make a green-flag pit stop and change a minimum of two tires prior to Lap 85. The Sprint Showdown includes three total segments of 20 laps, 20 laps and 10 laps. The winner of each of those sprints earns a start in the All-Star Race. Additional rules for the Sprint Showdown: • Starting order for the first 20-lapper will be set by practice speeds, and the winner advances to the All-Star Race (and sits out Segments 2 and 3 of the Showdown). • The second 20-lap segment starting order will be set according to pit road order after a mandatory pit stop for a minimum of two tires. Again, the winner of that segment will automatically advance to the All-Star Race and sit out the final segment. • The winner of the final 10-lapper will also advance to the All-Star Race, with the starting order if this segment again set by pit road order following a mandatory pit stop for a minimum of two tires.
Sprint Fan Vote: Current top 10 revealed
RELATED: Cast your vote now The Sprint Fan Vote is underway, and now, we have updates on (perhaps) your favorite driver. There's still plenty of time left to vote but, so far, the top-10 vote-getters are as follows, in alphabetical order: AJ Allmendinger , Trevor Bayne , Ryan Blaney , Clint Bowyer , Matt DiBenedetto , Chase Elliott , Kyle Larson , Casey Mears , Danica Patrick and Brian Vickers . Patrick, who won the Sprint Fan Vote last year and in 2013, is the first two-time Sprint Fan Vote winner. Elliott and Blaney are the current leaders in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year competition. Fans are able to vote daily by downloading the NASCAR Mobile App or visiting www.nascar.com/SprintFanVote. Votes that are shared on Facebook or Twitter will count for double, so make sure to post on your social media channels. So if you're voting for one of the 10 drivers above, get to it! If your driver isn't on the list, don't worry -- there's still plenty of time to help him or her catch up. Fans have until 5 p.m. ET May 20 to cast their votes. NASCAR will announce the winner of the Sprint Fan Vote in Victory Lane after the Sprint Showdown at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Friday, May 20 (7 p.m. ET, FS1/MRN/Sirius XM NASCAR Radio). The NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race is scheduled for May 21. If any of the Sprint Fan Vote candidates wins in the races leading up to the Sprint All-Star Race, he or she will automatically earn a spot in the race and their name will be removed from the Sprint Fan Vote ballot. To purchase ticket packages for the Sprint All-Star Race weekend -- which includes the Sprint Showdown, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series N.C. Education Lottery 200 , Andy Grammer pre-race concert powered by Rayovac and the Sprint All-Star Race and qualifying -- call Charlotte Motor Speedway at 1-800-455-FANS or visit CharlotteMotorSpeedway.com . Fans wishing to engage in the #SprintAllStar Race conversation through the #SprintFanVote window are encouraged to follow @MissSprintCup, @CLTMotorSpdwy and @NASCAR on Twitter.
Stewart embraced, supported by drivers in return
RELATED: Full Stewart coverage " Drivers react to Stewart's return RICHMOND, Va. -- The feeling around the NASCAR garage at Richmond International Raceway on Friday was both unanimous and magnanimous. Tony Stewart 's return to Sprint Cup Series competition this weekend was the big news of the week, possibly the year and he was greeted by welcome text messages, friendly pats on the back, and lots of smiles and goodwill. NASCAR legend Richard Petty, whose team's car was parked in the garage stall next to Stewart's, sought Stewart out and embraced him. By the time Stewart, 44, climbed into his No. 14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet for Friday morning's opening practice, many of his competitors had stopped by to shake the three-time champ's hand or wish him well in his first racing weekend since the 2015 season finale. Doctors cleared Stewart to compete this weekend after an eight-race absence while his body healed from a broken back -- an injury he suffered during an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) accident just before the season began. RELATED: Stewart's return is the talk of the garage Stewart broke the news of his return himself on Twitter Thursday saying, "Well the long wait is over. I'll be back in my @Mobil1 Chevy this weekend at Richmond. I can't wait to race again." Then he added, "The Dr's said my scans ‘looked much better than they thought they would after 3 months.' So they cleared me." He will start Sunday's Toyota Owners 400 from the 18th-place on the grid -- his position in the only practice on a day shortened because of rain. But the weather was the only downer on a day dominated by a warm and enthusiastic welcome back for Stewart. "I don't know about from the NASCAR standpoint, but from a competitor's standpoint Tony is one of the fiercest competitors in the sport so to have him there and have someone to battle against is fun," Carl Edwards said. Stewart's Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick won the pole for Sunday's race thanks to a chart-topping run in Friday's only practice and it certainly sets the stage for a grand return of the team's namesake. Stewart's team confirmed their leader is re-energized and enjoying the positive reinforcement throughout the garage and in the grandstands. "It's been interesting just for the fact that I came to Stewart-Haas Racing to race with Tony, and obviously it's been an in-and-out of the car situation for the last two and a half years," Harvick said. "So, to see where he was from a personal standpoint over the time from when he got hurt and everything that happened, and see his interaction from the owner's standpoint over the last several weeks has been very interesting to me, just to see how engaged he was and how excited he was and how relaxed and into what was going on." And his fellow competitors want to see "Smoke" go out strong. "This is a retirement season for him and it was a little bit delayed, but he's now going to some of the these race tracks for the final time and I know just in general , Tony has been around and traveling each week to the race and tracks and been very hands on with his race team," Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin said Friday. "It's a great season and I would love to see him make a Chase push if he can and end on a good note."
Who is eligible for Sprint All-Star Race?
The Sprint All-Star Race is scheduled for May 21 at 7 p.m. ET (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Charlotte Motor Speedway , and drivers can qualify in a variety of ways. Drivers who won a race in 2015 or so far in 2016 are in the event. So, too, are former premier series champions and former All-Star Race winners. Three drivers will be added to the field by winning one of three Sprint Showdown segments, and the Sprint Fan Vote will also add a driver into the field. If there aren't a minimum of 20 cars in the field by that point, the next highest vote-getter in the Sprint Fan Vote would be added to the field. Below is a list of drivers who meet the above criteria, according to NASCAR. Editor's note: Jeff Gordon is qualified for the event, according to NASCAR. He retired from full-time competition following the 2015 season.
Rookie of the Year gets reacquainted with NASCAR
RELATED: See more Darlington throwback schemes KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Thirty-five years after he walked away from the sport, Bruce Hill walked back in. At Kansas Speedway of all places. "If somebody would have told me back then that there would eventually be a speedway in Kansas I would have told them they needed a straightjacket," Hill said Friday. They didn't race at Kansas when Hill, now 66, debuted in NASCAR's premier series at the end of 1974. Or Las Vegas, or Texas, Chicago, Sonoma or Loudon, New Hampshire. Hill was considered an outsider, specifically a Yankee -- from Kansas. "I had to laugh," Hill said. "I had never been called a Yankee, but I was pretty far north, I guess." The 1975 Rookie of the year is on hand this weekend as a guest of Sprint Cup Series driver AJ Allmendinger and the No. 47 JTG-Daugherty team. Allmendinger will run a throwback paint scheme later this year at Darlington Raceway honoring Hill for his rookie accomplishment. The original paint scheme actually came from Johnny Ray, another name some fans might not recognize, but if you've seen the semi rig steamrolling its way around Talladega Superspeedway towing the American flag during pre-race festivities, well, tip your cap to former racer Johnny Ray. Hill made 100 starts in NASCAR's premier series from 1974 through 1981, earning three top-five and 21 top-10 finishes. "I was like a lot of guys back then that ran out of money and had to get out of it and couldn't stand to go back without being involved in it," he said. "It's been a fun experience, brought back a lot of memories." His first start came at the end of the '74 season, in a car he had purchased from owner/driver Bobby Allison. The leader of the Alabama Gang had signed on late that year to drive for team owner Roger Penske. "It was the 12 car, the Coca-Cola (sponsored) car," Hill said. "We decided since we were in Kansas it didn't matter where we were going to go race, it was going to be a long trip. We saw we could still make it to a race at the end of the year in Ontario. "So we went out there and made the field. There were 80-some cars there, that's the way it used to be with all the West Coast guys there. I thought 'Uh-oh.' We were still running the big blocks; that's when they were making the switch (to small blocks). We had to run a restrictor plate and that thing would quit running halfway down the straightaway. There was nothing you could do about it. Those small blocks were flying by me." But Hill persevered and was running inside the top 10 late in the race before blowing a tire and finishing 13th. "That's when I realized, 'I think I can do this,' " he said. His final race came at Michigan International Speedway . He finished 33rd, completing only 21 laps before being sidelined by driveshaft issues. Today, Hill stays busy raising quarter horses at his home in Topeka, Kansas. He may no longer be racing, but he's still involved in horsepower. "Part of the experience this morning has been seeing people that I haven't seen for about 35 years," he said. "... I just hadn't seen these guys in a long time. It's been a neat deal just talking about the history of the sport. Some people really follow the history and some maybe not, but there is a lot to it. A lot of people have been involved through the years that a lot of people don't know about. "This is a cool deal."
Ben Rhodes: Chasing dreams on-track and on-camera
Ask some of the people who work most closely with Ben Rhodes about him and you'll get the same sense -- that the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series rookie isn't an ordinary 19-year-old. Ask his crew chief. "I've known this kid since he was 15 years old and he was always very mature, very respectful and acts older than he is," Kevin Bellicourt says. "I mean, the way he has shown maturity in the race car and everything around that, I do forget that he is 19 years old." Ask the sports director who co-hosts Rhodes' TV show -- yes, his own TV show -- in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. "I'll look at him sometimes and I'll just be like, 'Look, stop it. Just be a kid.' But he's not," Kent Spencer says. "He's definitely wise beyond his years." The wisdom has served Rhodes well in all facets of his budding NASCAR career, which carried him to the K&N Pro Series East championship in 2014 and a stint with the NASCAR Next youth initiative that identifies the sport's up-and-coming stars. The next step is a full-season campaign this year with powerhouse ThorSport Racing in the Truck Series, which makes its next stop Friday night at Kansas Speedway . Even in casual conversation, Rhodes' composure comes through in a calm that belies his age, less than one year removed from receiving a high school diploma. It's a collected nature that helps him feel just as at home in front of a TV camera's lens as he does behind the wheel. Rhodes doesn't have to balance a racing career with schoolwork any more, but his focus is far from singular. "It's full-time racing now, and it's full-time everything that has to do with racing, not just being on the track or working on the cars, but sponsors, events, fans -- which is cool," Rhodes says. "I really like that aspect of it. You can't be on the track without that." The story of how Rhodes came to be on the track isn't unlike the tale of other youngsters with a dream and a heavy right foot. But it's the unique wrinkles of his narrative that make Rhodes' story ready for prime time. Early beginnings Around their home state, where the term "racing" is most commonly associated with Thoroughbreds, it's fitting that Rhodes' career choice was galvanized by figuratively getting back on the horse. Rhodes had barely entered grade school when the itch for speed struck him. He recalls helping his older brother, Chris, try to emulate his father's practice of removing the governor from their go-karts, much to their mother's dismay. The recreational -- and occasionally unrestricted -- karting soon led to competition. "We were having a blast around the house," Rhodes says, "but when we hit the race track, it didn't really click at first and it took awhile before I got in a wreck to figure it out." Rhodes recalls crashing his first time out -- the leader coming around to lap him, clipping one of his back wheels and landing on top of his kart. The wreck naturally made him gun-shy, but it took another altercation to set his course toward making racing a lifelong pursuit. Rhodes' family vividly recalls that incident at the Clark County, Indiana, 4-H Fairgrounds, where the 7-year-old driver was on the receiving end of an intentional wreck for the first time. His family worked to repair his kart while the youngster seethed, intent on retaliation. But as Rhodes began to furiously charge back through the pack, something changed in his demeanor. "Once I passed the other guy, I didn't even think about wanting revenge or whatever, I just started having a blast," Rhodes says. "Passing cars was a lot more fun than getting passed, and that's when it all started clicking for me. We started working on set-ups and had just an awesome time doing it. It was an awesome family experience." Into NASCAR Those first forays led to progression and an eventual place in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East at age 16. After a partial first season, his first full campaign in 2014 netted a remarkable five victories and six pole positions, with Bellicourt serving as his car chief. The performance drew the interest of JR Motorsports, which fielded Rhodes in a 10-race slate in the NASCAR XFINITY Series in 2015. After a seventh-place series debut at Iowa Speedway in May, Rhodes endured largely uneven results in the JRM No. 88, despite help from the team's fleet of Sprint Cup drivers -- Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Kevin Harvick , Chase Elliott and Regan Smith . "I learned so much from them, but the problem is it was hard to apply it," Rhodes says of his sporadic schedule. "You have to be in the car feeling it. I had a month between times (in the car) more than once before I could actually feel what they were talking about or actually apply it. All the momentum that you had was lost. It was just really hard for me to get adjusted to and just hard to keep the learning going, but the jump, I felt like if I ran the whole season, the jump maybe wouldn't have been that bad." An offseason to regroup also led to a new opportunity, as one of the newest faces at ThorSport Racing, a championship-caliber team with an evolving driver roster. In the offseason, Rhodes joined two-time Truck Series champ Matt Crafton , second-year driver Cameron Hayley and fellow rookie Rico Abreu under the watch of team owners Duke and Rhonda Thorson. The team's drivers have perennially lauded the resources that the Thorsons provide to compete at a high level. Rhodes found this out early on, when they sought his input to hire a crew chief for his No. 41 Toyota. He immediately thought of Bellicourt, who had just finished helping William Byron as crew chief for his K&N East championship run in 2015. In some respects, the job was a tougher sell than most, requiring Bellicourt to move from North Carolina to within reach of ThorSport's Sandusky, Ohio, shop. But it was also a commitment for his wife, his 11-month-old daughter and the baby the couple are expecting in early June. But the opportunity to move from the regional and touring level to a NASCAR national series was too good to pass up. After taking the leap, the driver-crew chief reunion went seamlessly. "The communication is back to where it was and it's like we never even left off," Rhodes says. "I remember the first time that he was up at ThorSport and I was there and we were having such a good time. None of the guys up there had seen us run before or work together, so when we came up there, they were like, 'We've got a feeling that you just brought your best friend in to work on these race cars.' That was kind of cool that we hit it off right away once again." Says Bellicourt: "We just have a good time. I understand what he's saying when he's talking about the truck, and he understands when I'm trying to make a point with him. His understanding of the race car has just come a long way since I first met him when he was 15. He understands that a lot, and all the set-up stuff. That just helps a lot, too, with the driver having that knowledge. We've just been able to roll with it so far this season." Rolling with it has meant gradual gains in the early stages of the year, but one accomplishment stands out -- winning the pole position last month at Martinsville Speedway . Though a late-race wreck saddled Rhodes with a midpack 16th-place result, the speed shown in qualifying and out front for 42 laps made a solid impression. "It felt really good to get the pole because it validates what we know that we have," Rhodes says. "We're trying to show others what my crew chief and I know. We have an awesome relationship and we know how to set up the race cars, we know how to get speed, it's just a matter of getting the experience together now. It just validates that." The fact that Sprint Cup star Kyle Busch was among the competitive field in qualifying that day didn't hurt the team's confidence, Bellicourt says. "You look at that and say there's no reason we can't run with any of these guys," Bellicourt says. "Now Ben knows it. We knew it before, but you always want to make it happen and then you just get that extra confidence. I know it, the guys know it, Ben knows it, and hopefully now everybody else sees what we're capable of. "We're looking to continue to do more of that to show that it wasn't just a flash-in-the-pan, one-time thing. We're going to try to do it at Kansas again." On the mic Rhodes has visions of keeping his racing aspirations going, climbing the ladder, chasing victories. But if his NASCAR dream somehow ended tomorrow, he has an entertaining backup plan -- in television. The 19-year-old is in his fifth season as co-host of "On Track with Ben Rhodes ," a 30-minute weekly show that chronicles his racing career and allows him to meet and interview personalities in the Louisville area. Kent Spencer -- the sports director at WHAS-11, an ABC affiliate in Louisville -- has served as the show's other co-host since its inception. "I'd met Ben before, but in kind of a different realm," Spencer says. "He was a young man trying to come up, went to a local high school, trying to make it in NASCAR, so we interviewed a few times there. This was obviously a different beast. He and I have a really good rapport together, we like to be around each other, so we kind of knew early on that this was going to work." The experience has allowed Rhodes to interact with community leaders from all walks of life. This season, Rhodes and Spencer have taken their show on the road, spending time with charitable organizations, returning to Holy Cross High School (the driver's alma mater), and paying visits to Churchill Downs, site of Saturday's 142nd Kentucky Derby. Rhodes' comfort on camera has grown not only in his hometown, but also during media sessions in the garage on race weekends. "I get to see and build new relationships with people, but it's also trained me to talk to the media and how to talk on camera," he says. "Before the show, I was really, really bad. Now that I've done the show for a couple seasons, I've done a lot better and it makes the job at the race track a lot easier for me." Even Bellicourt has noticed. "You give that kid a microphone and you're going to have to rip it out of his hand before he quits talking," he says with a laugh. "He's very outgoing and does a good job with that. He's kind of a total-package guy. He's got the marketing side, he's really good in front of the camera and obviously has performed on the race track great, so he's got an enormous amount of talent." It all circles back to the versatility and composure that extends beyond Rhodes' years. "I got that feeling from him back when he was 17," Spencer says. "You could definitely tell he's not a normal high school junior, not a normal high school senior. It's just the way he goes about things and the way he can communicate, and I think a large part of that is because the way that his mom and dad make him do a lot on his own. "If you want this dream, it's not easy. You're going to have to work for it. Every week, we get done taping the show and Ben helps tear down the set. He does a lot setting up his own schedule. He's out there and he's doing it, getting the job done, but there's a lot of times where it just blows me away." Several drivers with successful NASCAR credentials have made smooth transitions to the broadcasting booth for second careers after their driving days are done. Four-time series champion Jeff Gordon added his name to the list this season, joining FOX Sports for its coverage of the sport. Rhodes says he'd love to see a similar trajectory for his career, but right now he's one-upping it -- by taking on both jobs at once. "Hopefully my racing career goes on for a long time and I can build up a great reputation and go out on TV broadcasting," he says. "I think it's really cool that drivers do that once they're done, and they're able to go up in the broadcast booth and shine new light on the subject and able to give fans kind of the inside scoop on things. As things change and progress, maybe some of the other broadcasters might not be aware of it. "New drivers like Jeff Gordon and the guys that are fresh out of the race car can show them and talk about what's changing in the sport. I think that's really cool that drivers can do that." Spoken like a kid who is wise beyond his years.
Truex turns it on in final practice at Kansas
RELATED: Final practice results " Practice 1 results Martin Truex Jr . scooted to the top of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series leaderboard Friday afternoon at Kansas Speedway , leading a 1-2-3 sweep by Joe Gibbs Racing -affiliated cars in final practice. Truex powered the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota to a fast lap of 187.696 mph on the 1.5-mile Kansas City track. The speed, while quickest in the field, was significantly slower than the track record of 197.612 mph set by Kevin Harvick in October 2014. Kenseth, seeking his first victory of the season, drove the JGR No. 20 Toyota to the second-fastest lap at 187.617 mph. Denny Hamlin completed the top-three sweep for Gibbs-alliance entries, turning the third-best lap of 187.357 mph in the No. 11 Toyota. Defending race winner Jimmie Johnson (187.285 mph) and defending Sprint Cup champion Kyle Busch (187.214) completed the top five in final preparation for Saturday night's GoBowling 400 (7:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM). Johnson was initially fastest early in the 80-minute session, but slowed with smoke pouring out from under the hood of his Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet. "Uh, oh. I've got smoke out the air box, like maybe Kasey Kahne had going on?" Johnson radioed his crew, mentioning a similar problem that his Hendrick teammate had earlier this season at Phoenix International Raceway . Johnson's team cited an issue with the electronic control unit (ECU), part of the electronic fuel injection system. The crew did not have to change engines and Johnson returned to the track for the latter stages of practice. Coors Light Pole Qualifying is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. ET for the 11th Sprint Cup race of the year. Kurt Busch paces opening practice Propelling his No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet at 185.893 mph, Kurt Busch topped the leaderboard early in Friday's opening Sprint Cup Series practice at Kansas Speedway . Martin Truex Jr . came up next on the speed charts, his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota clocking in at 185.478 mph. Carl Edwards was third-fastest in the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (185.020 mph), while Richard Childress Racing 's Austin Dillon in the No. 3 Chevrolet (184.925 mph) and Roush Fenway Racing 's Trevor Bayne in the No. 6 Ford (184.811 mph) rounded out the top five. Series points leader Kevin Harvick was seventh-fastest with a fast lap of 184.565 mph in the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet. Per NASCAR mandate, Jimmie Johnson was required to sit out the first 15 minutes of the 55-minute session, due to inspection issues last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway . Johnson -- who is the reigning spring race winner at Kansas and tied for all-time leader in wins at the Midwestern track -- ended up 11th-fastest on the leaderboard after turning 32 laps in his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
Clint Bowyer to drive for JRM at Chicagoland
JR Motorsports announced Thursday that Clint Bowyer will drive the team's No. 88 Chevrolet in the NASCAR XFINITY Series this September at Chicagoland Speedway . The scheduled appearance for car owner Dale Earnhardt Jr . in the Sept. 17 race will mark Bowyer's first XFINITY Series race since 2012. The Sprint Cup regular was the XFINITY series champion in 2008. Sponsorship for the 300-mile race will be provided by Morton Buildings, an Illinois-based business 120 miles from the 1.5-mile Joliet track. "When Dale Jr. offers to let you drive his car, there's only one answer and that's 'yes,' " said Bowyer. "JR Motorsports is certainly on a roll right now and I know those guys are working hard to make the boss happy by building fast cars. It's going to be a blast wheeling that No. 88 Morton Buildings Chevrolet around Chicagoland in the XFINITY race. It's going to be even better when we can celebrate with the boss in Victory Lane." Bowyer becomes the ninth driver tapped for JRM's No. 88 seat this season, joining Josh Berry , Alex Bowman , Cole Custer , Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Chase Elliott , Kenny Habul , Kevin Harvick and Regan Smith on the roster. The car is a two-time winner this year, with Elliott securing the season opener at Daytona and Earnhardt prevailing last month at Richmond.